Friday, December 16, 2005

Countryman against countryman. Father against son. Today’s column does little to spread pre-holiday good will.

The FIDE World Cup Championship knockout tournament in the Siberian city of Khanty-Mansyisk has reached its final pairing, with former FIDE champ Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine and Armenia’s Levon Aronian battling it out for the title. Ponomariov defeated Russian GM Alexander Grischuk, and Aronian dispatched France’s Etienne Bacrot in semifinal action this week.

American GM Gata Kamsky, who lost to Grischuk earlier, still looks set to qualify for the next FIDE world championship cycle, if we read the complicated scoring system right. Kamsky, who at deadline was locked in a losers’ bracket match with Norwegian 13-year-old prodigy Magnus Carlsen, will finish no worse than 10th and thus earn a spot in the candidates’ matches next year.

In one of the more intriguing pairings in Siberia, Bacrot eliminated fellow GM Joel Lautier in a match-up of France’s two premier grandmasters. Lautier has long dominated his country’s chess scene, but now Bacrot appears to be France’s new “grand fromage.”

The pair drew their two games at the longer time control, but Bacrot won the rapid-chess playoff with a dominating attacking game. After Black weakens his king-side in this Najdorf Sicilian, a series of hammer blows brings Bacrot the win.

Lautier is holding his own until 19. Nf2 Nh5 20. Qe3 f6?! (not 20…Nxf4 21. Qxf4 e5 22. Bxe5 dxe5 23. Qxe5 Bxa3 24. Ng4 f6 25. Nxf6+, but 20…Rfb8 21. Ng4 Bf8 looks plausible), creating a number of targets.

White reacts energetically with 25. Rf3 Rb8 26. Re1 Qd7 27. Rh3 d5 (g5 28. fxg5 fxg5 29. Rh6 e5 30. Bxe5! dxe5 31. Nxe5 Qc7 32. Ng6 mate) 28. f5!, when sealing the position with 28…g5 allows 29. exd5 Bxd5 30. fxe6 Qc6 31. Bxd5 Qxd5 32. c4 keeps Bacrot in charge.

But opening up the game with 28…fxe5 29. Qh6 Nh5 (this stopgap move can’t hold together Black’s rickety defense) 30. exf5 doesn’t work, either, for Lautier, whose king is flushed out of the pocket by the swarming White pass rushers.

With Black woozy on his feet, White delivers the TKO: 34. Rg3 Rg8 (see diagram) 35. Ne5+! (Bxf6 also works — 35…Bxf6 36. Qg6+ Kf8 37. Qxf6+ Qf7 38. Qd6+ Qe7 39. Qxe7 mate) fxe5 36. Qg6+ Kf8 37. Rf1+, and Lautier resigns facing 37…Bf6 38. Bc5+ Qe7 39. Rxf6 mate.

• • •

For whatever Oedipal reasons one might offer, dynasties are exceedingly rare in chess.

Strong chess-playing parents rarely pass on their skills and lofty ratings to their progeny. For strong bloodlines, we have had the Byrne brothers (Donald and Robert) and the Polgar sisters (Susan, Sofia and Judit) but almost no intergenerational tag teams.

A local exception to that rule, however, is the Kaufman father-and-son team, IM Larry and his son, Ray, a national master. The senior Kaufman has won the championship of the Arlington Chess Club, the area’s strongest, four of the past five years. The one year he didn’t — 2004 — Ray won the title.

By a cruel twist of fate, this month’s 2005 club championship came down to a Kaufman civil war. Both were 3-0 going into the last round and were paired in the event’s deciding game. Age and guile won out over youth and enthusiasm in a taut struggle.

In another Najdorf Sicilian, the players castle on opposite wings, virtually obliging both sides to launch all-out attacks. Ray Kaufman, playing White, offers a very attractive exchange sacrifice with 19. f5 Nd4 20. Nb4!? (20. Bxd4 exd4 21. Ne2 d5 22. Nxd4 dxe4 23. Nf4 Rd8, is also double-edged but opens the game for Black’s two bishops) Nf3 21. Qf2 Nxg1 22. Rxg1.

For his pains, White gains a lot of time and full control of the critical d5 square for his knight. Already, Black must deal with forcing lines like 23. Nbd5 Bxd5 24. Nxd5 Qd8 25. f6 Bf8 26. fxg7 Bxg7 27. Qf5! Kh8 (Qf8 28. Nf6+ Bxf6 29. gxf6+ Kh8 30. Rg7, winning) 28. Rg3 Rc4 29. Rh3.

Black responds with an exchange sac of his own, and White stumbles when he can’t switch quickly enough from offense to defense: 27. h4?! (already the preventative 27. a3 might have been in order) Rxd5! (well-judged, as the White knight was worth at least as much as a rook) 28. exd5 a3 29. b3? (this opens too many holes around the king, and 28. Qd2! looks close to mandatory; lines like 28…axb2 29. Qd3 Qxh4 31. Qb5 Bc7 32. Qd7 Ra8 33. Qg4 [Qxc7 Qa4] Qxg4 34. Rxg4 h5 35. gxh6 look playable for White) Qc1 30. Bc1 Bb6!, and the dormant Black bishop awakens with powerful effect.

White’s resignation here looks a little premature, as there are some survival chances on 31. Rd1 Bd4 32. Rxd4 Qxd4 33. Bxa3, but 33…Rc3 34. Bb2 (Bxd6? Re3 35. Qf1 Qc3 wins) Qd1+ 35. Bc1 Rc5 36. c4 b5 looks pretty grim. Especially against your father.

FIDE World Championship Cup, Khanty-Mansyisk, Russia, December 2005


1. e4c520. Qe3f6

2. Nf3e621. Bc4Ng7

3. d4cxd422. Rb1Qc8

4. Nxd4Nc623. Bb3Kh8

5. Nc3Qc724. Nd3a5

6. Be2a625. Rf3Rb8

7. 0-0Nf626. Re1Qd7

8. Be3Be727. Rh3d5

9. f4d628. f5exf5

10. Kh10-029. Qh6Nh5

11. Qe1Nxd430. exf5Kg8

12. Bxd4b531. fxg6hxg6

13. a3Bb732. Qxg6+Ng7

14. Qg3Bc633. Qh7+Kf7

15. Rae1Qb734. Rg3Rg8

16. Bd3b435. Ne5+fxe5

17. Nd1bxa336. Qg6+Kf8

18. bxa3g637. Rf1+Black

19. Nf2Nh5resigns

Arlington Chess Club Championship, Arlington, December 2005

R. KaufmanL. Kaufman

1. e4c516. Nc1Qc7

2. Nf3d617. Nd3Nc6

3. d4cxd418. f4Rfc8

4. Nxd4Nf619. f5Nd4

5. Nc3a620. Nb4Nf3

6. Be2e521. Qf2Nxg1

7. Nb3Be722. Rxg1Bd8

8. g4Be623. Ncd5Bxd5

9. g5Nfd724. Nxd5Qc4

10. Rg10-025. Qg2g6

11. Be3Nb626. f6Ra5

12. Qd2Nc427. h4Rxd5

13. Bxc4Bxc428. exd5a3

14. 0-0-0a529. b3Qc3

15. Kb1a430. Bc1Bb6

White resigns

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

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