- The Washington Times - Friday, June 3, 2005

The much-anticipated HB Global Chess Challenge last month in Minneapolis produced a local hero, as Arlington Chess Club expert Alex Barnett (rating: 2193) took home the Under-2200 Open section prize and a $20,000 paycheck for his efforts.

The richest Swiss event in U.S. history attracted one of strongest open fields in memory, making Barnett’s 6-3 score all the more impressive. Georgian GM Zviad Izoria was the event’s surprise winner at 7-1, and among those at Barnett’s plus-three score were such top players as GM Loek Van Wely of the Netherlands; Indonesian GM Utut Adianto; and American stars Alex Onischuk, Varuzhan Akobian and Alexander Wojtkiewicz.

Barnett started slowly, with just 1 points in the first four rounds. But he scored 4 points in the final five rounds, including wins over three IMs. His last-round victory over IM Ron Burnett was an impressive positional domination of a veteran competitor.

Black may have thought he would have the advantage against his lower-rated rival with the positional Modern Defense, but Barnett proved more than equal to the strategic tasks posed here.

The battle really takes shape after 17. Bxg7 Kxg7 18. exd5 exd4 19. c4, when both sides obtain a protected passed pawn. White’s light-squared bishop is blocked behind his pawns, but it is Black’s pawn center that proves more vulnerable. White pretty much parks his bishop in the rear for defensive duty while his other pieces go marauding.

With the bishop standing guard, Black’s b-file counterplay never gets going, and White takes control of the position with 29. Bc2 Kg8 30. Nd3! (an excellent redeployment that pressures Black’s center and clears e5 for the big guns) Qc7 31. Rxe8 Bxe8 32. Qe1 Kf7 33. Qe5!, a very strong centralization as Black folds on 33…Qxe5? 34. fxe5 Nd7 35. e6+.

Black is reduced to plugging the growing number of leaks in his defenses: 34. Qh8 Nd7 (Qd6 35. Ne5+ Ke7 36. Qg7+ Kd8 37. Qa7! puts Black in near-zugzwang; e.g. 37…Qc7 38. Qa8+ Ke7 39. Qa6 and Black is completely tied up) 35. Qxh7+ Kf8 36. h3 (remarkably, Black still has no entry points on the wide-open b-file) Qa6 37. Bb3 Qb6 38. Ba2.

When Burnett finally gets his queen behind enemy lines, he ends up losing his king after 42. Ne5 Qb2? (hardier was 42…Qf6 43. Nc6+ Kd7 44. Qxf6 Nxf6 45. Nxa5 Ne4, with some drawing chances) 43. Kh2! d3 (Qxa2 44. Nc6+ Kc7 45. Qe7+ Bd7 46. Qd8+ Kb7 [Kd6 47. Qb8 mate] 47. Qxd7+ Ka6 48. Qa7 mate) 44. Nc6+ Kc7 45. Qxe8 Qg7 46. Qb8+, and Black resigned before Barnett could deal out 46…Kd7 47. Qd8 mate.

Our second game is another last-round drama, this one taken from the 35th Bosna International GM Supertournament, held late last month in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Dutch GM Ivan Sokolov needed a win to catch front-runner Viktor Bologan of Moldova, while the ever-enterprising Spanish GM Alexei Shirov was a half-point back. The two produced a wild and wacky clash that may defy both our space limitations and our poor powers of analysis.

We can say the two players dispute one of the sharpest lines in the game, with Sokolov as White offering a promising piece sacrifice as early as Move 13. Black is wise to refuse, as 13…bxc4? 14. Qa4+ Kd8 (Ke7 15. Qb4+ and 16. Qxb7) 15. Qa5+ Kc8 16. Ra4! looks like a winning attack.

Shirov is incapable of passive defense, and things only get woollier on 14. Nxb5!? axb5 15. Bxb5+ Kd8 16. Rxa8 Bxa8 17. Qa4 Bd6! (Bxg2 18. Qa7 Bd6 19. Nxf7+ Qxf7 20. Qxf7 Rf8 21. Qxe6 Bb4+ 22. Ke2 Bf3+ 23. Kd3 Bxh1 24. Qb6+ and White’s attack is too strong) 18. Nc4 (Qxa8!? Bxe5 19. dxe5 Qxe5+ 20. Be2 Ke7, and somebody probably has a slight edge) Bc7 19. Qxa8 Qg5! (see diagram).

Black hits the bishop on b5 and also threatens check at c1. In the next tactical frenzy, neither rook will survive, and Sokolov’s king (barely) finds shelter at h3. Shirov jettisons his rook because 22…Rf8? would lose to 23. Nc6+ Nxc6 24. Qxc6 Ke7 (Kc8 25. Qa8+ Bb8 26. Bc6! Kd8 27. Qxb8+ Ke7 28. Qb4+ Kf6 29. Qxf8) 25. Qxc7+.

Remarkably, on 26. Kg4 Qxd4+ 27. Kh3 Qb6, material is once again dead even, but White keeps things razor-sharp with 28. Qc8! (the queen is vital to Sokolov’s hopes, as 28. Qxb6 Bxb6 29. f3 Kf6 30. Bd3 Nd7 31. Ng6 looks drawish) Qxb5 29. Qxc7+ Nd7 30. Ng6+.

Black’s more exposed king costs Shirov in the end: 34. Qb2+ e5? (Ne5 leaves the Black king less vulnerable to checks) 35. Qb6+ Kg7 36. Kg3 Qc4?! (Ng5 37. h3 Ne4+ 38. Kh2 Ng5 looks tougher) 37. Qg6+ Kf8 38. Qf6 Kg8 39. Ng6 e4 40. Nf4 exf3? (the final mistake, but Black faces a grim ending on 40…Kf8 41. Ne6+ Ke8 42. Ng7+ Kf8 43. Nf5 exf3 44. gxf3 Qc5 45. Qg7+ Ke8 46. Qg8+ Qf8 47. Qxf8+ Kxf8 48. f4) 41. Ne6, and Black can only stop mate on g7 by giving up the queen; Shirov resigned.

HB Global Chess Challenge, Minneapolis, May 2005


1. e4g624. Ng5Nf8

2. d4Bg725. Rxe8Rxe8

3. Nc3d626. Re1Qd8

4. Be3c627. Nf3Bc8

5. Qd2b528. Ne5Bd7

6. a4b429. Bc2Kg8

7. Nd1a530. Nd3Qc7

8. c3Nf631. Rxe8Bxe8

9. f3bxc332. Qe1Kf7

10. bxc3Nbd733. Qe5Qb6

11. Bd3e534. Qh8Nd7

12. Ne20-035. Qxh7+Kf8

13. 0-0d536. h3Qa6

14. Nf2Qc737. Bb3Qb6

15. Bh6Bb738. Ba2Nf6

16. Ng3c539. Qh8+Ke7

17. Bxg7Kxg740. Qg7+Kd8

18. exd5exd441. Qf8Ne4

19. c4Rfe842. Ne5Qb2

20. Nfe4Nxe443. Kh2d3

21. Nxe4Ba644. Nc6+Kc7

22. Rae1Rab845. Qxe8Qg7

23. f4f546. Qb8+Black


Bosna International GM Supertournament, Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, May 2005


1. d4d522. Ne5Qc1

2. c4c623. Nxf7+Ke7

3. Nf3Nf624. Nxh8Qxb2+

4. Nc3e625. Kf3Qc3+

5. Bg5dxc426. Kg4Qxd4+

6. e4b527. Kh3Qb6

7. e5h628. Qc8Qxb5

8. Bh4g529. Qxc7+Nd7

9. exf6gxh430. Ng6+Kf6

10. Ne5Qxf631. Nxh4Qd3+

11. a4Bb732. f3Ne5

12. axb5cxb533. Qc1Nf7

13. Bxc4a634. Qb2+e5

14. Nxb5axb535. Qb6+Kg7

15. Bxb5+Kd836. Kg3Qc4

16. Rxa8Bxa837. Qg6+Kf8

17. Qa4Bd638. Qf6Kg8

18. Nc4Bc739. Ng6e4

19. Qxa8Qg540. Nf4exf3

20. Qb7Qc1+41. Ne6Black

21. Ke2Qxh1resigns

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

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