- The Washington Times - Friday, September 24, 2004

A world-championship duel that’s all steak and no sizzle gets under way today as Vladimir Kramnik of Russia defends his classical chess title against GM Peter Leko of Hungary in a 14-game match in Brissago, Switzerland.

Both are super-solid players, but neither Kramnik nor Leko moves the charisma needle the way ex-champs Garry Kasparov and Bobby Fischer can, and general public interest in the match has been muted. But for genuine lovers of the game, there’s a lot to be said for the Brawl in Brissago: no computers, no funky time controls, no silly knockout formats, and two world-class contestants.

There was sizzle aplenty last week in New York as Irina Krush, the top-rated U.S. female player, took on French women’s No. 1 Almira Skripchenko in a two-game rapid match in heart of Times Square. Krush was a very fortunate 11/2-1/2 winner, taking the first game after her opponent repeatedly missed ways to close out a brilliant attack.

Skripchenko as White meets Krush’s Sicilian with a King’s Indian Reversed-type setup and builds up a strong advantage on the kingside. After 25. Rxb7 Rxb7 26. Qf3 Rb3 27. Bd2 Qa6?!, Krush has bet too many chips on the open b-file, and White offers a dangerous piece sacrifice to get at the Black king.

Thus: 28. Nh6+!! gxh6 29. Qg4+ Kh8 30. Bxh6 Bf8 31. Bxf8 Nxf8 32. Nf6 Ng6 33. Qh5!, and White’s pieces buzz around the king while Black’s major forces watch the action from afar. But the tight time controls — 25 minutes for the game with a 10-second increment — badly handicap Skripchenko, who misses several easy put-away volleys standing right at the net.

Pushing the h-pawn is attractive, but 40. Qf6+! seems a cleaner win; e.g. 40…Kd7 41. Qxf7+ Ne7 42. h7 Qc8 (Rb8 43. Nf6+) 43. Nf6+ Kc6 44. Qxe7 Rxf2+ 45. Kg1, winning, or 40…Kf8 (Ke8 41. Nd6+ Kd7 42. Qxf7+ Ne7 43. Qe8+ Kc7 44. Qxe7+) 41. Ng5 Qd7 42. Qg7+ Ke8 43. Qg8+ Ke7 (Nf8 44. h7) 44. Qxf7+ Kd8 45. Nxe6+ Kc8 46. Qg8+ Kb7 47. Nxc5+, and wins.

The tragedy deepens on 42. Nd6?! (Nxc5+ Kc7 43. Nxa5 is a safer plus for White) Qf8 43. Nxf7 Nh8! (Krush, a fine attacker herself, makes the most of her defensive opportunities) 44. Qxh8?, when there was a pretty problem-like win to be had on 44. Rb1!! (Nxh8? Rxf2+ 45. Kg1 Rxf6) Rxb1 45. Nxh8 Rb8 (Qxf6 46. exf6 Rb2 47. Ng6 Rxf2+ 48. Kg1 Rxf6 49. h8=Q) 46. Nf7 Qe7 48. h8=Q Rxh8+ 48. Nxh8 and White should win.

The win is irretrievably booted away on 44. Qxh8 Rxf2+ 45. Kg1 Qxf7 46. Qa8?? (Qb8!, threatening both the seventh-rank check and 47. Qd6+, was the right square: 46…Rb2 47. Qd6+ Kc8 48. h8=Q+ Qe8 49. Qxe8+ Kb7 50. Qeb8 mate) Rb2! 47. Rf1?? (going from a win to a draw to a loss in two moves; 47. Qa7+ Nb7 48. Qxb7+ Rxb7 49. h8=Q Qg6 is equal) Qxh7 (suddenly threatening mate beginning with 48…Qh2+) 48. Qa7+ Nb7 49. Qxa4+ Kc7.

The remaining moves were lost in a time scramble, but White’s cause is hopeless. A sample line: 50. Rf2 Rb1+ 51. Rf1 Qxd3 52. Rxb1 Qxb1+ 53. Kf3 d3, winning.

• • •

English GM Luke McShane won the Lausanne Young Masters knockout tournament in Switzerland earlier this week, defeating favorite Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan in the final. McShane nearly didn’t make it to the finals, dropping the first of his two-game semifinal match with White to Czech GM David Navara. But the English junior star used the Modern Defense and some nice tactics to even the match, and he won the playoff to advance.

Ironically, Black’s winning blow comes just as White achieves his primary strategic objective with a kingside pawn break: 19. N5e4 Qa4 20. Kb1 (removing the dangerous bishop right away with 20. Nxf6 Nxf6 21. h3 Qxa2 22. Bxb4 Nfd5 23. Ba3 has its points, but it does give Black the powerful central break 23…e5!) Bh8 21. f5?! (the thrust of all White’s previous play but premature, as Black demonstrates) exf5 22. gxf5 gxf5 23. Nxf5 (see diagram).

White’s pieces are poised to flood the kingside, but Black has readied a nasty counter — 23…Rxe4! 24. Bxe4 Nc3+! 25. Bxc3 (bxc3 Bxe4 26. Ne3 b3! 27. axb3 Qxb3+ 28. Ka1 Qa3+ 29. Kb1 Na4 30. Nc4 Qb3+ 31. Ka1 Qxc4 snares the piece) bxc3 26. Rd3 (there’s no time to save the bishop as 26…Qb4 27. b3 Qa3 was threatened, while 26. bxc3 Nc4 27. Ka1 Qa3 28. Rb1 Qxc3+ 29. Rb2 Qxb2 mate is also out) Bxe4 27. Rxc3 Rf8, and the pin on the f-file wins decisive material.

The finale: 28. Qh4 Qb5! (Bxf5? 29. Rxf5! Re8 Qxd4 31. Qxh7 and White has some slight hopes) 29. Rxf4 Bxf5, and Black has three minor pieces for the rook. Navara resigned.

Accoona French-American Match, Game 1, New York, September 2004

SkripchenkoKrush

1. e4 c526. Qf3Rb3

2. Nf3e627. Bd2Qa6

3. d3 Nc628. Nh6+gxh6

4. c3 d529. Qg4+Kh8

5. Qe2Nf630. Bxh6Bf8

6. g3 Be731. Bxf8Nxf8

7. Bg2b632. Nf6Ng6

8. 0-0Ba633. Qh5Qc6+

9. e5 Nd734. Kh2Kg7

10. c4d435. Qxh7+Kf8

11. Re1Bb736. h5Rb2

12. h4Qc737. Ne4Ne7

13. Nbd2a638. h6Ng6

14. Nf1b539. Qg7+Ke7

15. b3bxc440. h7Qe8

16. bxc4a541. Qf6+Kd7

17. Bf4a442. Nd6Qf8

18. a3Na543. Nxf7Nh8

19. Rab1Rb844. Qxh8Rxf2+

20. N3d2Bxg245. Kg1Qxf7

21. Kxg20-046. Qa8Rb2

22. Nh2Rb747. Rf1Qxh7

23. Ng4Qc6+48. Qa7+Nb7

24. Ne4Rfb849. Qxa4+Kc7

25. Rxb7Rxb7and Black won

Lausanne Young Masters, Lausanne, Switzerland, September 2004

NavaraMcShane

1. d4 g616. Ng5Ned5

2. e4 Bg717. Bd2Rhe8

3. Nc3d618. Qf2b4

4. Be3Nd719. N5e4Qa4

5. f4 a620. Kb1Bh8

6. Nf3b521. f5exf5

7. e5 Bb722. gxf5gxf5

8. Bd3e623. Nxf5Rxe4

9. Qe2Ne724. Bxe4Nc3+

10. 0-0-0Nb625. Bxc3bxc3

11. g4Qd726. Rd3Bxe4

12. Ne40-0-027. Rxc3Rf8

13. Rhf1Kb828. Qh4Qb5

14. Ng3f529. Rf4Bxf5

15. exf6Bxf6White resigns

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

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