- The Washington Times - Friday, June 18, 2004

Armenia vs. the world — it hardly sounds like a fair fight.Yet a group of top-flight grandmasters from around the globe barely scraped past the Armenian team in a fascinating six-round Scheveningen match that ended Tuesday in Moscow, holding off a late charge for an 181/2-171/2 victory.

Evening the odds greatly was the fact that the three native Armenians in the event — Vladimir Akopian, Smbat Lputian and Rafael Vaganian — were joined by three superstars with national connections: former world champ Garry Kasparov (Armenian mother), Hungarian super-GM Peter Leko (Armenian wife) and Israel’s Boris Gelfand (a student of the late Tigran Petrosian, Armenia’s greatest player).

The Moscow event was held in honor of the 75th birthday of Petrosian, world titleholder from 1963 to 1969.

Indian GM Viswanathan Anand anchored the world team, which included fellow 2700-plus stars Peter Svidler of Russia and Michael Adams of England. Rounding out the squad were GMs Etienne Bacrot of France, Francisco Vallejo Pons of Spain and Dutchman Loek Van Wely.

Kasparov scored just one win and six draws in Moscow, his only full point coming in the first round in an English Opening against Van Wely.

Under heavy pressure throughout the encounter, Van Wely is faced with a nasty choice when White gives up material for a dangerous attack: 29. g4 Ba4 30. g5! Bxd1 31. gxf6. With the threat of 32. Qg5 and a quick mate on tap, it turns out the scariest-looking defense would have been best.

Thus, Black survives on 31…gxf6!, as both 32. Rg2+ Kf8 33. Qh6+ Ke7 34. Nxf7 Bxf3 35. Nxd8 Bxg2 36. Ne6 Qc4 and 32. Bxd1? Rxd6 33. Rg2+ Kf8 34. Bb3 Qc1+ 35. Kh2 Rc8 leave Black in charge. White’s best option would be to grab the perpetual check with 32. Qxf6 Rxd6 33. Rxd6 Bxf3 34. Qg5+ Kf8 35. Qh6+ Ke7 36. Qf6+ Kf8 37. Qh6+.

Black tries instead to play it safe and ends up sorry after 31…Rxd6? 32. Rg2! g6 33. fxg6. Now Kasparov mates after either 33…fxg6 34. Rxg6+ 35. Kf8 Qh8+ or 33…Rxf6 34. g7!. Black resigned.

The game between Gelfand and Vallejo Pons featured an equally tricky ending and provided an unexpectedly easy point for the World squad.

Gelfand, on the White side of a Queen’s Indian, gambits a pawn early and is pressed to show any compensation. It’s an odd gambit, indeed, when, after 12. h4 gxh4 13. Rxh4 Be7 14. Rh5 Bd6, the player with the extra pawn also has two strongly posted bishops.

Black’s 17. Qxg3 Na6 is another annoying move, forcing White to give up a bishop for a knight to win back the c-pawn and restore material equality.

The resulting unbalanced position brings with it some fascinating tactical tricks in which the Spaniard emerges the winner.

After 20. cxb6 axb6 21. Rxc7 Rxc7 22. Qxc7!? (blamed by some as the losing move, but things don’t appear so simple) Qg6! (see diagram), Black has a nasty double threat, attacking the rook and threatening to invade on the light squares with 23…Qd3. Insufficient now is 23. Qe5 Rf8 (Qc2? 24. Qxh8+ Ke7 25. f3 Qc1+ 26. Kf2 Qxd2+ 27. Kg3 escapes, while 23. Qxg2 24. Ne4 Qf1+ 25. Kd2 Qe2+ 26. Kc1 is only good for equality) 24. Rh2 Qd3 25. Qh5 Ke7 26. Qh4+ f6 27. Qg4 Rc8! and Black wins.

But very intriguing from the diagrammed position would have been 23. d5! 0-0 (Qxg2?? 24. Qb8+ Ke7 25. d6+ Kf6 26. Qxh8+ Qg7 27. Rxh6+ Ke5 28. Qxg7+ is crushing; while 23…Qd3 24. Qb8+ Ke7 25. d6+! Qxd6 26. Qxd6+ Kxd6 27. g4 is still a tough ending for Black to win) 24. Qg3 Qxg3 25. fxg3 Rc8 and White is still fighting.

But White just overlooks a finesse on 23. Rh3? (the real losing move) Qd3 24. Kd1 Ke7! (0-0 doesn’t work because of 25. Qg3+ Kh7 26. Qf3 Rc8? 27. Qxf7+ Kh8 28. Rxh6+), clearing the back rank for the rook and forcing instant resignation. After 25. d5 Rc8 26. d6+ Kf8 27. e4 Qe2+ 28. Kc2 Rxc7+ 29. dxc7 Qxf2, Black cleans up.

• • •

Two Marylanders distinguished themselves in the U.S. Senior Open earlier this month in Boca Raton, Fla., limited to players 50 and older. IM Larry Kaufman of Potomac finished in a tie for first with FM Fabio La Rota of Florida and IM Victor Adler of Minnesota, all at 5-1. La Rota took the title on tie-breaks.

Maryland master Denis Strenzwilk, a good friend of this column, finished a half-point back but is the U.S. champ for the 60-to-64 age bracket. The event was held in conjunction with the 90th birthday celebration for legendary U.S. GM Arnold Denker.

Speaking of old friends, Brooklyn GM Gata Kamsky, once one of the highest-rated players in the world, emerged unexpectedly this week after years of inactivity to tie for first in the regular rapid-chess tournament staged weekly at the Marshall Chess Club.

Kamsky, still just 30, had not played since the 1999 FIDE world championship knockout tournament. At 2717, he remains by far the country’s highest-rated player.

Armenia vs. the World Match, Moscow, June 2004

KasparovVan Wely

1. Nf3Nf618. 0-0Nf6

2. c4c519. Rd2Rfd8

3. Nc3Nc620. Rfd1Bc6

4. d4cxd421. f4h5

5. Nxd4e622. Bf3Qc7

6. a3Nxd423. h3e5

7. Qxd4b624. f5h4

8. Qf4Be725. Qf2Bb7

9. e4d626. Nb5Qxc4

10. Qg30-027. Nxd6Qc7

11. Bh6Ne828. Qxh4Bc6

12. Bf4Bb729. g4Ba4

13. Rd1Bh430. g5Bxd1

14. Qh3Qf631. gxf6Rxd6

15. Be3Bg532. Rg2g6

16. Be2Bxe333. fxg6Black

17. Qxe3Qe7resigns

Armenia vs. the World Match, Moscow, June 2004

GelfandVallejo Pons

1. d4Nf613. Rxh4Be7

2. c4e614. Rh5Bd6

3. Nf3b615. Qg4Qf6

4. Nc3Bb416. c5Bxg3

5. Bg5Bb717. Qxg3Na6

6. e3h618. Bd3Rc8

7. Bh4g519. Bxa6Bxa6

8. Bg3Ne420. cxb6axb6

9. Nd2Nxc321. Rxc7Rxc7

10. bxc3Bxc322. Qxc7Qg6

11. Rc1Bb423. Rh3Qd3

12. h4gxh424. Kd1Ke7

White resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at dsands@washington times.com.

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