- The Washington Times - Friday, September 26, 2003

Yasser Seirawan, the three-time U.S. champion who helped transform Seattle into an unlikely hotbed of American chess, apparently is retiring from the game at the tender age of 43.

The strongest player of his generation and still the sixth-highest-rated player in the country, “Yaz” made his mark both on the board and away from it, where he has performed yeoman’s work as a chess journalist, publisher, organizer and diplomat. Inside Chess, the biweekly he founded and for which he wrote before its untimely demise, was the finest American chess magazine for the serious player ever published.

He has been a tireless — and unpaid — emissary seeking to end the disastrous division in the chess world. His Unity Plan, designed to end the organizational split that has produced dueling world champions, remains the simplest and sanest blueprint out there for repairing the sagging fortunes of the professional game.

At the chessboard, Seirawan notched victories over world champions Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov as well as virtually every other top player of the 1980s and early 1990s. He won the world junior title in 1979 and played on 10 U.S. Olympiad teams.

In what appears to have been his last competitive event, Seirawan scored three wins and a draw against four top Chinese female players at the Three Arrows Cup in Ji Nan earlier this month.

On top of all that, Seirawan is one of the game’s great annotators, both of his own games and of those of his compatriots. The notes to today’s first game, a win over IM Pablo Zarnicki of Argentina from a 1993 event, rely heavily on Seirawan’s analysis and insights.

In a Queen’s Indian, Zarnicki thought he had an improvement in a line from a 1990 game Seirawan played against Dutch GM Jan Timman: 9. d5 Be5 10. dxc6 Qc7? (banking on 11. e3, when White’s slow-developing game gives Black no problems) 11. g3! Bd6 (Qxc6 12. Nxe5 Qxh1 13. Nf3 Bb7 14. Bh3 Bxf3 15. Rxh1 Bxh1 16. f3 traps the bishop) 12. Bg2, and “the f1-bishop will find a hero’s welcome on the long diagonal,” Seirawan notes.

Woozy, Black walks into a pair of exchange sacrifices that render him helpless: 12…dxc6 13. Rxd6! Qxd6 14. Rd1 Qc7? (Nd5 is better, but White gets his material back with a strong edge on 15. e4) 15. Bf4 Qb7 16. Ne5 Bd7 17. Rxd7!. “It’s a pity I have only two exchanges to sacrifice,” the winner notes. “The rest is a massacre.”

White misses a quick knockout (20. Nb8+, winning a full rook, is resignable for Black), but his positional edge still proves overwhelming on 21. Qd3! f6 22. Qd6+ Kf7 23. Ne5+! fxe5 24. Bd7 Qd8 25. Qxe6+ Kf8 26. Bxe5 g6 27. Bf6. Black must surrender his queen, and even then, mate isn’t far off. Zarnicki resigned.

Seirawan was an anchor for the U.S. Olympiad teams, winning a number of individual board prizes. He polished off strong English GM Jon Speelman in their match from the 1998 Olympiad in highly entertaining fashion in Elista, Russia.

Speelman, a highly original player, omits the signature … Nf6 in this King’s Indian, and the resulting wide-open position is fiendishly tricky for both sides. By 17. fxe4 Nxe4 18. Nxe4 Qxe4 (see diagram), both kings are caught in the center (19. 0-0-0?? Qb1 mate) with the e-, f-, and g-pawns for both sides off the board.

White bravely castles right into the maelstrom and bests his opponent in the ensuing complications: 19. 0-0! (Rf1?! Rhe8 20. Bh5+ Kg8 21. Bxe8 Rxe8 is too murky) Rhg8? (GM Zoltan Ribli, annotating this game, gives 19…Rag8! as mandatory, with a sample line 20. Bh5+ Kf8 21. Rxf5+ Qxf5 22. Bg5 h6 23. Rf1 Qxf1+ 24. Kxf1 hxg5 25. Qxg5 [Qf2+? Ke7 26. Qf7+ Kd8 27. Bg4? Rg8 wins for Black] Be5! 26. Qf5+ Ke7 27. Qe6+ Kd8 28. Bg4 Rxg4 29. Qxg4 Bxb2, and Black can at least fight on) 20. Bh5+ Kf8 21. Rxf5+ Qxf5 22. Bg5! (and not 22. Rf1?? Be4+, winning for Black).

Both the Black king and queen are caught in no-man’s land, and White must win material.

Having won the queen, Seirawan zeroes in on the Black king with 25. Be7! Kh8 26. Qh6 Bg7 27. Be6 Bxb2 28. Bf7 Rg3, forcing resignation. Even here, the winning line requires a little discretion: 29. Bf6+ Bxf6 30. Qxf6+ Rg7 31. Be6!, sidestepping 31. h5? Rf8 32. h6?? Rfxf7 33. hxg7+ Kg8, and White actually loses.

The only bright side to the Seirawan retirement: It might leave him with more time to pursue organizational reform of the game’s badly mismanaged governing bodies.

One result that might change Seirawan’s mind was the recent Abe Yanofsky Memorial Tournament in Winnipeg, Manitoba. GM Arthur Bisguier, 74 years young, was the surprise winner with a fine 5-1 score, besting a strong field that included U.S. GM John Fedorowicz and Canadian GM Kevin Spraggett.

At the other end of the chronological spectrum, 17-year-old Aaron Pixton is the new New York state champion, taking the title in the 125th running of the oldest tournament in the country. Pixton tied for third but won his crown because tournament winners Jaan Ehlvest and Ildar Ibragimov are not state residents.

Fourth Miguel Najdorf International, Buenos Aires, April 1993


1. d4Nf615. Bf4Qb7

2. c4e616. Ne5Bd7

3. Nf3b617. Rxd7Nxd7

4. Nc3Bb418. Bxc6Qa6

5. Qb3c519. Nxd7Qc8

6. a3Ba520. Ba4Ke7

7. Bg5Nc621. Qd3f6

8. 0-0-0Bxc322. Qd6+Kf7

9. d5Be523. Ne5+fxe5

10. dxc6Qc724. Bd7Qd8

11. g3Bd625. Qxe6+Kf8

12. Bg2dxc626. Bxe5g6

13. Rxd6Qxd627. Bf6Black

14. Rd1Qc7resigns

Olympiad, Elista, Russia, October 1998


1. d4g615. Ng5Qe7

2. e4Bg716. Nxf7Kxf7

3. c4d617. fxe4Nxe4

4. Nc3Nc618. Nxe4Qxe4

5. Be3e519. 0-0Rhg8

6. d5Nce720. Bh5+Kf8

7. g4f521. Rxf5+Qxf5

8. f3Nh622. Bg5Be5

9. Be2Nf723. Rf1Qxf1+

10. h4Ng824. Kxf1Kg7

11. exf5gxf525. Be7Kh8

12. Qd2Nf626. Qh6Bg7

13. gxf5Bxf527. Qe6Bxb2

14. Nh3e428. Bf7Rg3

and Black resigns

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

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