- The Washington Times - Friday, October 31, 2003

Some of the game’s top stars assembled in the French Mediterranean town of Cap d’Agde this week for one of the strongest rapid tournaments of all time.

Of the world’s 12 highest-rated players, only Garry Kasparov did not compete in the event — played at a time control of 25 minutes with a 10-second increment. The 16 players were divided into two groups, with the top four finishers proceeding to a knockout tournament.

Indian GM Viswanathan Anand took the title, defeating FIDE world champion Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine in the quarterfinals, red-hot Russian national champ Peter Svidler in the semifinals and top-seeded Vladimir Kramnik of Russia, who holds the rival world title belt, in Thursday’s two-game final.

Some of the world’s strongest grandmasters didn’t even make it out of the qualifying rounds, including Peter Leko of Hungary, Alexei Shirov of Spain and England’s Michael Adams.

Until his loss in the final, Kramnik had been his rock-solid self in Cap d’Agde, dismissing Hungary’s Judit Polgar and Russian Alexander Grischuk in the first two knockout rounds without a loss. The deciding game in the Polgar match was a sharp Queen’s Indian, in which the two players engaged in a fierce fight for the initiative and a loose king sent Polgar packing.

The line 7. cxd5 exd5 8. e4!? cxd4 9. Bb5+ Nbd7 10. e5 (Nxd4 dxe4 11. Nc6 Qc7 12. Nxe4 also leads to a wide-open game) dxc3 11. exf6 Qc7!? which is typical of rapid chess, where being able to dictate the tempo of the game often is worth a pawn or two. Polgar’s last move is especially provocative, costing her the right to castle in the search for attacking counterchances.

After 15. Bg5+ f6 16. Be3 a6 17. Bxd7 Kxd7 (Qxd7 18. Bxb6+) 18. Nd4 Re4, Black has the early makings of a king-side attack, but her king subsequently proves to be much more exposed. Black’s last move was needed to counter the threat of 19. Qg4+, but the beautifully posted knight at d4 will anchor White’s game for the rest of the contest.

Kramnik shows his own aggressive side with 20. Rfb1 b5 21. a4! Bh6 22. axb5 a5 (the shaky Black king is exposed in lines such as 22…Bxe3 23. fxe3 Rxe3? 24. Qg4+ Kc7 25. bxa6 Bxa6 26. Nf5 Re4 27. Qg7+ Kc6 28. Rxa6+! Rxa6 29. Qb7+ Kc5 30. Qb5 mate) 23. Qf3!, when the White queen, knight and rooks combine to harry the Black king.

On 26. Rxa5 Kd6 27. Ra2, the Black rook battery looks menacing, but the White knight both defends and prevents the Black bishop from joining the action. Before Polgar can add fresh fuel to her attack, Kramnik strikes first.

Thus: 30. b6! Rxe3 31. b7! Re1+ (pretty much forced, as 31…Rxf3 32. b8=Q+ Ke7 [Kc5 33. Qb4 mate] 33. Ra7+ Bd7 34. Rxd7+! Kxd7 35. Rb7+ Qc7 36. Qxc7+ Ke8 37. Qe7 is mate) 32. Rxe1 Qxe1+ 33. Kg2 Bxb7 (Bd7 34. Qxf6+ Kc7 35. Rb2 Qe4+ 36. Kf2 Qg6 37. Qe5+ Qd6 38. Qxd6+ Kxd8 39. b8=Q+, winning) 34. Qxf6+, and the Black king can find no shelter.

The White forces close in for the kill on 35. Re2 Qb1 (Qxc3 36. Rc2 pins and wins) 36. Ne6+ Kb5 (Kc4 37. Qd4+ Kb5 [Kb3 39. Qb4 mate] 38. Qc5+ Ka4 39. Qa7+) 37. Qf7 Ka5 (desperation; 37…Rb8 38. Qd7+ Kb6 39. Qc7+ Ka7 40. Nd4 Qb6 41. Ra2+ Qa6 42. Nc6+ Ka8 43. Qxb8 mate is no better) 38. Qc7+.

As 38…Ka6 (Qb6 39. Ra2+ Kb5 40. Nd4+ Qxd4 41. Ra5 mate) 39. Nc5+ Ka7 40. Nxb7 Qxb7 41. Ra2 is mate, Polgar resigned.

The Russian city of St. Petersburg celebrated its tricentennial this month with a strong open tournament. GM Vladimir Burmakin and master Dmitry Bocharov shared top honors at 7-2.

We make no claims that the miniature won by Russian master Aleksandr Loukachouk over Class A player Vlas Shpagin at the event has any claim to immortality, but the winning position is so piquant that we can’t resist presenting it here.

The Alekhine Defense is an increasingly rare visitor in top-flight chess these days, and Shpagin’s (mis)handling of the opening is perhaps one reason why. Black in this defense all but invites White to establish a massive pawn center, and if the counterattack is late in arriving, what you are about to witness tends to happen.

The Black bishop is already out on a limb on 5…Bf5 6. Qf3 Qc8 7. a4 dxe5?! (Nc6, attacking the pawn on d4, or even the humble 7…e6 would have put an instant stop to the nonsense that follows) 8. a5 e4?! (Nc6! is probably the best practical chance — 9. axb6 Nxd4 10. Qd5 [Ba4+ c6 11. Qc3 axb6 is unclear] Nxb3 11. Qb5+ c6 12. Qxb3 axb6 13. Rxa8 Qxa8 gives Black some compensation for the lost piece) 9. Qf4.

Now a retreat of the knight on b6 hangs the bishop on f5, so Black resorts to increasingly dubious tactical remedies: 9…g5?! 10. Qxg5 f6 11. Qf4 h5 (hoping to maintain material equality by picking off the bishop on c1) 12. axb6 Bh6 13. Qxc7 Bxc1 14. Qxc8+ Bxc8.

This exceedingly odd position is worth a diagram. Black’s only developed piece sits on the home square of its White counterpart, while White has only one piece off the first rank to show for 14 moves of opening sparring. Fortunately for Loukachouk, he also has an instant win.

With 15. Rxa7!, Black is forced to concede. The rook on a8 can’t be defended and 15…Rxa7 16. bxa7 results in a new queen for White. Shpagin gave up.

Sixth World Rapid Chess Championship, Cap d’Agde, France, October 2003

Kramnik Polgar

1. d4 Nf6 20. Rfb1 b5

2. c4 e6 21. a4 Bh6

3. Nf3 b6 22. axb5 a5

4. a3 Bb7 23. Qf3 Bxe3

5. Nc3 d5 24. fxe3 Rg8

6. Qc2 c5 25. Qh3+ Reg4

7. cxd5 exd5 26. Rxa5 Kd6

8. e4 cxd4 27. Ra2 Bc8

9. Bb5+ Nbd7 28. Qf3 Rh4

10. e5 dxc3 29. g3 Re4

11. exf6 Qc7 30. b6 Rxe3

12. Qe2+ Kd8 31. b7 Re1+

13. fxg7 Bxg7 32. Rxe1 Qxe1+

14. 0-0 Re8 33. Kg2 Bxb7

15. Bg5+ f6 34. Qxf6+ Kc5

16. Be3 a6 35. Re2 Qb1

17. Bxd7 Kxd7 36. Ne6+ Kb5

18. Nd4 Re4 37. Qf7 Ka5

19. bxc3 Qe5 38. Qc7+ Black


“300 Years of St. Petersburg” Open, St. Petersburg, October 2003

Loukachouk Shpagin

1. e4 Nf6 9. Qf4 g5

2. e5 Nd5 10. Qxg5 f6

3. d4 d6 11. Qf4 h5

4. Bc4 Nb6 12. axb6 Bh6

5. Bb3 Bf5 13. Qxc7 Bxc1

6. Qf3 Qc8 14. Qxc8+ Bxc8

7. a4 dxe5 15. Rxa7 Black

8. a5 e4 resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at [email protected]

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