Friday, May 14, 2004

The New York Masters, a game/30 competition held at the famous Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan, passed a milestone earlier this month with the 100th running of the weekly event. Limited to players rated 2200 and above, the daylong tournament routinely attracts some of the country’s top grandmasters and IMs.

Israeli GM Leonid Yudasin won the May 5 tournament, going a perfect 4-0 and taking home the $1,000 top prize. Yudasin earned his pay with a dramatic last-round win over reigning U.S. champion Alexander Shabalov of Pittsburgh.

Given the stupefying complications here, it is remarkable that Yudasin and Shabalov had just 30 minutes apiece for the entire game. Black’s 14. Ne1 Bg6 15. f4 Nxc5!? initiates a tactical battle that doesn’t let up for another 25 moves.

With 16. dxc5 d4 17. g4!, White shows he has no intention of sitting back passively as Black pursues his central plans. Defending by counterattacking is a constant motif in the game, as in Shabalov’s 20. gxf5 Bxc5!, inviting either 21. fxg6?? e2+ or 21. Qxd8 e2+ 22. Rf2 Rxad8 23. fxg6 Rxf4, both winning for Black.

Black is at it again a move later on 21. Kh2 Bd4!?, when stronger might have been the more straightforward 21…Bxf5 22. Qxd8 Raxd8 23. Bxf5 Rxf5 24. Ng2 g5 25. fxg5 Rxe5.

The exchange of queens three moves later does nothing to simplify the position, and Black just manages to hold onto the advanced e-pawn with the intricate 24…Rd2+ 25. Kg3 e2 26. Rff3 Bh5 27. Rfd3 Rd1!. But White’s passive rooks are given new life on 28. Kf2 Nd4?! (Rd8 28. Rxd8+ Rxd8 30. Rc2 Rd4 31. Rc4 Rxc4 32. Bxc4 Nd4 33. Bd3 Nxb3 34. Bxe2 Bxe2 35. Kxe2 Nd4+ 36. Kd3 Nxf5 leaves Black with the only winning chances) 29. Rxc7 h6 30. Bd7 Kh7 31. f6, and Shabalov’s king starts to feel the heat.

Amazingly, after 37. Bxf7+ Bxf7 38. Kxe2?! (the pawn isn’t going anywhere, so 38. Rb8+ Kh7 39. b4 Rf5 40. Rb5 axb4 41. axb4 might be preferable) Re4+ 39. Kf2 Rxe5 40. a4 Rf5+ 41. Kg3 Rxf6, the players have shot the combinational rapids to reach an ending where the material is dead equal.

Shabalov’s bishop is stronger than Yudasin’s knight, but the outside passed pawn and White’s stronger king prove crucial in the end.

In a position studded with land mines, Black finally puts a foot wrong: 53. Ke5 Kg7? (Ra3, freezing the pawn, would have spared Black a lot of grief) 54. a5 Ra3 55. a6 h5 56. Ra4 (see diagram) Rxa4?? (the jury remains out on 56…Re3+ 57. Kd6 Re8 58. a7 Ra8, when Black can even dream of winning in likes such as 59. Nd7 Bb3 60. Nb6 Rd8+ 61. Kc7 Bxa4 62. Kxd8 Bc6 63. Kc7 Bf3 64. Kb8 g4 65. Nc4 g3 66. Ne5 Bd5 67. a8=Q Bxa8 68. Kxa8 h4 69. Nf3 h3) 57. Nxa4 Be8 58. Kd6!.

In a problemlike finale, the Black bishop can’t get to the long diagonal to stop the pawn; e.g. 58…Bg6 (Bxa4 59. Nc5) 59. Nc5. Shabalov resigned.

The willingness to give up the exchange — rook for bishop or knight — is a defining feature of the modern game. It sometimes seems that modern grandmasters would rather lose the exchange than win it.

Danish GM Peter Heine Neilsen tied compatriot Curt Hansen for first in the just-completed Category 13 Sigeman & Co. invitational tournament in Malmo, Sweden. In his game against Swedish GM Evgeny Agrest, Nielsen sacrificed a rook for bishop on move 28 and offered up his second rook five moves later. Agrest refused the second offer but was unable to hold off White’s imaginative attack.

After the oddly played opening (Black develops and undevelops his queenside in the space of 10 moves), White’s 27. Qc3 b2 28. Rb1! Bxb1 29. Rxb1 grabs the b-file, and his follow-up 32. a5 Nc7 33. Rb6! undermines the logic of Black’s defense. Grabbing the second rook would give White unstoppable passed pawns, but the pressure of the rook on b6 and the opening of the center and the kingside with 36. e4! Rd8 37. exd5 exd5 38. g5 prove too much.

After 38…Kd7 39. Bxd5! (winning a pawn) cxd5 40. Qxb5+ Ke7 41. Nb4, there’s no adequate defense to the fork at c6.

Agrest’s 41…Kf8 42. Nc6 Qc8 is pure desperation, as the rook is still untouchable on 42…Bxb6 43. cxb6 Rad7 44. Nxd8 Rxd8 45. a6. Black’s hopes for perpetual check fizzle quickly, and the final position is unsustainable in lines such as 52…Qe6 53. Rxc7 Rxc7 54. a8=Q+. Agrest resigned.

100th New York Masters Rapid, New York, May 2004

Yudasin Shabalov

1. e4 Nf6 30. Bd7 Kh7

2. e5 Nd5 31. f6 Rf7

3. d4 d6 32. Rxd4 Rxd4

4. Nf3 Bg4 33. Bf5+ Kg8

5. Be2 e6 34. Be6 Rxf4+

6. c4 Nb6 35. Ke3 g5

7. 0-0 Be7 36. Rxb7 Bg6

8. Nc3 0-0 37. Bxf7+ Bxf7

9. h3 Bh5 38. Kxe2 Re4+

10. Be3 a5 39. Kf2 Rxe5

11. b3 d5 40. a4 Rf5+

12. c5 N6d7 41. Kg3 Rxf6

13. a3 Nc6 42. b4 Re6

14. Ne1 Bg6 43. Kf2 Re4

15. f4 Nxc5 44. Nd3 Bc4

16. dxc5 d4 45. Nc5 Re2+

17. g4 f5 46. Kf3 Rc2

18. Bc4 dxe3 47. Ke4 Bf7

19. Bxe6+ Kh8 48. Kd3 Rc1

20. gxf5 Bxc5 49. Ne4 Ra1

21. Kh2 Bd4 50. Nc5 Ra3+

22. Rc1 Bxc3 51. Kd4 axb4

23. Qxd8 Raxd8 52. Rxb4 Rxh3

24. Rxc3 Rd2+ 53. Ke5 Kg7

25. Kg3 e2 54. a5 Ra3

26. Rff3 Bh5 55. a6 h5

27. Rfd3 Rd1 56. Ra4 Rxa4

28. Kf2 Nd4 57. Nxa4 Be8

29. Rxc7 h6 58. Kd6 Black


12th Sigeman & Co. Tournament, Malmo, Sweden

Nielsen Agrest

1. d4 d5 27. Qc3 b2

2. c4 c6 28. Rb1 Bxb1

3. Nf3 Nf6 29. Rxb1 Rd7

4. Nc3 a6 30. Rxb2 Qa8

5. c5 Bg4 31. Nd3 Bd8

6. Ne5 Bf5 32. a5 Nc7

7. f3 Nbd7 33. Rb6 Nb5

8. g4 Be6 34. Qb4 Ra7

9. Nd3 Nb8 35. Bd2 Bc7

10. Be3 Bc8 36. e4 Rd8

11. Bg2 e6 37. exd5 exd5

12. Qd2 Be7 38. g5 Kd7

13. Rc1 Nfd7 39. Bxd5 cxd5

14. 0-0 a5 40. Qxb5+ Ke7

15. Na4 b5 41. Nb4 Kf8

16. Nc3 b4 42. Nc6 Qc8

17. Nd1 Ba6 43. Qb4 Qg4+

18. N1f2 Bc4 44. Kf2 Qh4+

19. f4 Na6 45. Ke2 Qg4+

20. Ne5 Nxe5 46. Kd3 Raa8

21. fxe5 Bxa2 47. Nxd8 Rxd8

22. Nd3 Qc7 48. Rb7 Rc8

23. Nf4 0-0-0 49. a6 Qe6

24. Qd3 Qb7 50. a7 Qa6+

25. b3 a4 51. Qb5 Qg6+

26. bxa4 b3 52. Kc3 Black


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

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