- The Washington Times - Friday, March 12, 2004

The annual Linares supertournaments in Spain have provided some of the most memorable battles of modern times.

This year’s tournament proved a distinct break with tradition.

Reverting to his old supersolid self, Russian world titleholder Vladimir Kramnik took clear first in the Category 20 double-round-robin event, coupling two wins with 10 often very short draws for an uninspired 7-5 winning score. Former champ Garry Kasparov fumbled several promising positions while recording a lone win and 11 draws, tying Hungary’s Peter Leko for second place at 61/2-51/2.

All told, the seven grandmasters produced just eight decisive games in 42 contests. The tightly bunched final scorecard: Kramnik 7-5; Kasparov, Leko 61/2-51/2; Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan), Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) 6-6; Alexei Shirov (Spain), Francisco Vallejo Pons (Spain) 5-7.

With so little from which to choose, it’s easy to pick the tournament’s decisive game: Kramnik’s round-11 win with Black over Leko, who at the time was leading the tournament. Kramnik then coasted with short draws against Kasparov and Topalov, while none of his pursuers could break through.

In a well-plumbed Sicilian Pelikan line, Kramnik’s 16. c3 Rc8!? is the first new move of the game. Black’s idea to pressure the White position along the half-open c-file gives him in due course a powerful pawn center, but Leko in turn gets a number of open lines and eventually picks off the White d-pawn.

Both kings are feeling the heat as the position reaches its critical stage: 29. Ra7 Kh8 30. Qd7 (freezing the Black bishop with the threat of Qxh7 mate) Rg8. Now, 31. Kh1! was called for, sidestepping a lot of tricks to come and preparing to meet 31…Qh4 with 32. Qg4.

Instead, Leko comes to grief on 31. Qh3?! Qg6! (a nice double-purpose move that clears the rank to permit 32…Rh5 but also prepares a decisive queen invasion along the b1-h7 diagonal) 32. Rad7 (preparing an indirect defense of the queen by counterattacking the Black queen) Rh5 33. R7d6 (see diagram; both 33. Qg4 Rg5 34. Qh3 Be5 35. Bf1 e2! and 33. R1d6 Qxd6 34. Rxd6 Rxh3 35. gxh3 Be5+ win for Black) Bf6!.

The clever part of Kramnik’s last move is that at first it appears a bad oversight after 34. Rxf6, when 34…Qxf6 35. Qxh5 wins a piece and 33…Rxh3 34. Rxg6 hxg6 35. gxh3 gives White equality. But Black had prepared instead the winning 34…Qc2! 35. Qxh5 Qxe2 (threatening not only the rook but also mate on g2) 34. g4 Qf2+.

It’s a forced mate after 37. Kh1 Qxf3+ 38. Kg1 Qxd1+ 39. Kg2 Rxg4+ 40. Qxg4 Qxg4+ 41. Kh1 Qf3+ 42. Kg1 Qf2+ 43. Kh1 Qf1 mate. Leko resigned.

• • •

With the dearth of action in Linares, we checked out some other recent events in a quest to present some actual fighting chess. We found a nice game at the recent Aeroflot Open in Moscow, a seriously strong Swiss event won by Russian GM Sergei Rublevsky in a playoff over compatriot Valery Filippov and Rafael Vaganian of Armenia.

In a short, sharp battle from the event, veteran Russian IM Yakov Meister gets the better of 21-year-old GM Pavel Smirnov, sacrificing a queen to get at his opponent’s king.

Things are sharp right out of the irregular Closed Sicilian opening. Meister’s 9. 0-0 Bg4 10. Qe1!? all but dares Black to go for the risky fork on 10…Nxc2 11. Qh4 Nxa1 12. fxe5, when White crashes through in lines like 12…h5 13. exf6 Bxf6 14. h3 Bd4+ 15. Kh1 Bxc3 16. bxc3 Be2 17. Qe4!. And a move later, 11…Nxc2 could be met by 12. Qh4 Nxa1 13. d6! Bxd6 14. Nce4 h6 15. Nxf7! Rxf7 16. Nxd6 Bh5 17. Rxa1, with the better game.

Not content with passive defense, Smirnov sends his minor pieces swarming around the White king on 13…b5!? (to draw the knight or bishop away from the action) 14. d6 Bh4 15. Nxb5 Ne2+ 16. Kh1. In the ensuing complications, though, Black relies too heavily on a pin, ignoring the danger to his own king.

There followed 16…Nhxf4 17. Rxf4 Bg5 18. Nxg5 Qxg5 19. Raf1 Rae8?. Black mistakenly believes the White rook on f4 isn’t going anywhere; much better was grabbing while the grabbing was good with the straightforward 19…Nxf4 20. Qxf4 Qxf4 21. Rxf4 Bd7, and Black has the exchange for two pawns and some chances of saving the game.

Instead, White gives up a queen to capture a king — always a good trade if you can make it: 20. Rxf7! Qxd2 21. Rxf8+ Kh7 22. Bg8+ Kg6 23. Bf7+ Kg5 24. Bxe8, collecting two rooks and a pawn for the queen and shattering Black’s defenses.

In the final position after 24…Qxe2 25. d4 Nxd4, White can play 26. Nxd4 cxd4 27. h3 Be6 28. Bd7, and the passed pawn will cost Smirnov another piece. Black resigned before his opponent could move.

Note: The Siff-Kashdan game in last week’s column came from the 1948 U.S. national championship, not from the U.S. Open as was listed above the game score.

21st Linares SuperGM Tournament, Linares, Spain, March 2004


1. e4c519. Nf50-0

2. Nf3Nc620. a4Nxf5

3. d4cxd421. Qxf5Qe7

4. Nxd4Nf622. axb5axb5

5. Nc3e523. Qxf4Rxd5

6. Nbd5d624. Rfd1Re5

7. Bg5a625. Qe3f5

8. Na3b526. Qb6f4

9. Bxf6gxf627. Qxd6Qg5

10. Nd5f528. f3e3

11. Bd3Be629. Ra7Kh8

12. 0-0Bxd530. Qd7Rg8

13. exd5Ne731. Qh3Qg6

14. Qh5e432. Rad7Rh5

15. Be2Bg733. R7d6Bf6

16. c3Rc834. Rxf6Qc2

17. Nc2Rc535. Qxh5Qxe2

18. Ne3f436. g4Qf2+

White resigns

3rd Aeroflot Open, Moscow, March 2004


1. e4c514. d6Bh4

2. Nf3Nc615. Nxb5Ne2+

3. Nc3e516. Kh1Nhxf4

4. Bc4Be717. Rxf4Bg5

5. d3Nf618. Nxg5Qxg5

6. Ng50-019. Raf1Rae8

7. f4d520. Rxf7Qxd2

8. exd5Nd421. Rxf8+Kh7

9. 0-0Bg422. Bg8+Kg6

10. Qe1exf423. Bf7+Kg5

11. Bxf4h624. Bxe8Qxc2

12. Nge4Nh525. d4Nxd4

13. Qd2b5and Black resigns

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

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide