- The Washington Times - Friday, March 18, 2005

As hard as we tried to avoid it on occasion, we couldn’t help writing about Garry Kasparov.

His fierce determination to win, his dynamism at the chessboard, his outsize role as a force in chess politics, his oxygen-draining charisma for more than two decades as the face of top-level chess to the outside world — all come flooding back as we digest the announcement by Russian former world champion Kasparov in Spain last week that he was giving up professional chess at the age of 42.

Kasparov explained he felt no more challenges in competition and was frustrated by the inability of rival chess factions to organize a new world-championship cycle. Still the world’s top-rated grandmaster and still perhaps the strongest player the game has ever known, Kasparov would desperately love to reclaim the classical title he lost to Russian rival Vladimir Kramnik in 2000.

The former champ said he wanted to devote much of his time to his political activities back home, where he is a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin’s and perhaps the most famous of Russia’s embattled band of political liberals.

For the chess world, there is both bad and good in Kasparov’s decision.

The bad — the tragic — is all the games the world will never get to see. As he proved in his win over yet another elite field in Linares, Kasparov is still the chess jungle’s alpha male, a combination of intense preparation, over-the-board imagination and a will to win that his top rivals cannot match.

A string of pretenders — England’s Nigel Short, India’s Viswanathan Anand, Hungary’s Peter Leko and a passel of younger Russians — have challenged Kasparov’s dominance, but none has come close to supplanting him. Kramnik has his title, but Kasparov remains the planet’s best and most-feared player.

Chess also loses a magnetic ambassador, a multimedia star with a column in the Wall Street Journal. Just one of Kasparov’s matches with computer programs such as Deep Blue got more ink and air than all of FIDE’s sad world-title knockout tournaments put together.

The silver lining is that a huge obstacle in the road to a more rational chess world has suddenly been removed.

Putting aside who is at fault, efforts to reunify the chess world have always foundered on the question of how to accommodate Kasparov. His feud with FIDE has drained any legitimacy from the organization’s world title, and negotiations for a candidates’ cycle with Kasparov for Kramnik’s crown always seem to come up short.

Kasparov’s huge shadow also has stunted the growth of a generation of younger players, who may emerge now. We’ll see.

In the eternal search for the “next Garry,” today’s first game features GM Artyom Timofeev, who earlier this month won Russia’s under-20 championship in Nojabrsk. In his win over GM Igor Kurnosov, Timofeev shows a Kasparov-like ability to weave his way through a tactical minefield to victory.

Both players strive for a wide-open game in this Ruy Lopez Bogolyubov, though Timofeev as White sidesteps one particularly wild idea that Kasparov would have loved: 14. Nxd4!!? (instead of the game’s 14. Ng3) Bxd1 15. Nxc6, although it looks only equal on 15…Nxe4! (15…Qe8? 16. Nxe7+ Qxe7 17. Nxf6+ Qxf6 18. Bxf6 Bxb3 19. Be7 Be6 20. Bxf8 is great for White) 16. Nxe7+ Kh8 17. Ng6+ hxg6 18. Bxd8 Bxb3 19. Rxe4 Raxd8 20. axb3 Rd2 21. h3 Rxb2 22. Rxa6 Rxb3 23. Rc6.

But White does rise to the challenge on 23. Qd3 Qf5 24. g4!?, aiming at the queen-bishop battery on the b1-h7 diagonal at all costs.

The tension boils over on 28. Qb3+ Kh8 29. Ne5! Qe8 (Qe7 30. Nxc6 Rxc6 31. Bxf5 Rcd6 32. Qe3! Qxe3 33. fxe3 wins a pawn) 30. Rxf5!. Now 30…Rxf5 31. Bxf5 Nxe5! (Nxd4? 32. Nf7+ Kg8 33. Nxh6+ Kf8 [Kh8 34. Nf7+ Kg8 35. Rxd4 Rxd4 36. Nd6+] 34. Qg8+ wins) 32. dxe5 Bd4 offers some drawing chances, but Kurnosov is fatally tempted by a triple knight fork.

Thus: 30…Nd4? (see diagram) 31. Rxf6! Qxe5 (Nxb3 32. Rxd8 Qxd8 33. Nxf7+ Kg8 34. Nxd8 gxf6 35. Bxb3+ wins) 32. Qd3 Ne2+ 33. Kg2. Black resigns, as it’s over on 33…Nf4+ (Qd5+ 34. Qxd5 Rxd5 35. Rf8 mate) 34. Rxf4 Rxd3 35. Rf8+ Kh7 36. Bxd3+ g6 37. Bxg6+ Kg7 38. Rf7+ Kg8 39. Rd8+ and mate next move.

An Oxbridge pedigree doesn’t guarantee that you can play highbrow chess. Cambridge defeated Oxford 5-3 March 5 in the 123rd annual match between the two bitter rivals, extending Cambridge’s lead in the series to 55-50, with 18 ties. Cambridge expert Richard Mycroft upset higher-rated expert David Shaw on Board 4 in a game that contained, as the old-school analysts liked to say, “many vicissitudes.”

First, Shaw as Black gets a strong initiative out of this Giuoco Piano, only to see Mycroft turn things around with 25. Re1 Qf5 (Bxg3 26. Rxe4 Bxf2+ 27. Kg2 dxe4 28. Qd5+ Rf7 29. Qxa8+) 26. Bd4!, an excellent practical decision to sacrifice the exchange to stop Black’s attack.

Black finds it hard to switch to defense and lands on the ropes on 30. Qxa7 Qf3? (Qh5! 31. Rxf7 Rxf7 32. Qb8+ Rf8 and the queen guards the e5 square) 31. Rxf7 Rxf7 32. Qb8+ Rf8 33. Qe5!, and the Black king is in the crosshairs.

White in turn misses a crusher — 42. Be3! g5 (43. Bf4+ has to be stopped) 43. a4! Qf5 44. Qg7 Rg6 45. Bc5+ Kc6 (Ke6 46. Qe7 mate) 46. b5+! Kxc5 47. Qc7+ Rc6 48. Qxc6 mate — and throws the win away entirely with 47. Qf4+ Qxf4 48. gxf4.

But having labored to reach a drawn ending, Black returns the favor one last time: 54. Bc5 Rb1?? (Rb5! 55. Kd4 Ke6 56. c4 dxc4 57. Kxc4 Rb1 holds the draw) 55. Bb4! Re1+ 56. Kd4 Re8 (Re6 57. Bc5) 57. Kxd5. The passed pawn will cost Black his rook; Shaw soon resigned.

Russia Under-20 Championship, Nojabrsk, Russia, March 2005


1. e4e518. h4h6

2. Nf3Nc619. Bxf6Qxf6

3. Bb5a620. h5Bh7

4. Ba4Nf621. Ne4Bxe4

5. 0-0Be722. Rxe4Rad8

6. Re1b523. Qd3Qf5

7. Bb30-024. g4Qd7

8. d4d625. Bc2f5

9. c3Bg426. Rf4Bb6

10. Be3Bh527. Rd1Rf6

11. Nbd2d528. Qb3+Kh8

12. Bg5dxe429. Ne5Qe8

13. Nxe4exd430. Rxf5Nxd4

14. Ng3Bg631. Rxf6Qxe5

15. cxd4Bb432. Qd3Ne2+

16. Re2Qd633. Kg2Black

17. a3Ba5resigns

123rd Oxford-Cambridge Varsity Match, London, March 2005


1. e4e532. Qb8+Rf8

2. Nf3Nc633. Qe5Kf7

3. Bc4Nf634. Qc7+Ke6

4. d4exd435. Qe5+Kf7

5. e5Ne436. c3Re8

6. 0-0d537. Qg7+Ke6

7. Bb5Bg438. Qxh7Qe4

8. Qd3Bxf339. Qh3+Kd6

9. gxf3Ng540. Qh7Re6

10. f4Ne441. Qb7Qf3

11. Nd2Nxd242. Qb8+Kd7

12. Bxd2Bc543. Qb7+Ke8

13. b4Be744. Qb8+Kf7

14. Bxc6+bxc645. Qc7+Ke8

15. Qxd4Qd746. Qb8+Kf7

16. Kh1Qe647. Qf4+Qxf4

17. Rg1g648. gxf4Ra6

18. Rg30-049. Kg2Ke6

19. Qd3f550. Kf3Kf5

20. exf6Qxf651. Ke3Rxa2

21. Bc3Qf552. b5Ra3

22. Qa6Qxf453. b6Rb3

23. Qxc6Qe4+54. Bc5Rb1

24. Kg1Bh455. Bb4Re1+

25. Re1Qf556. Kd4Re8

26. Bd4Bxg357. Kxd5Kxf4

27. hxg3Rad858. b7Kf3

28. Re7Rf759. Bd6Kxf2

29. Qxc7Rdf860. b8=QRxb8

30. Qxa7Qf361. Bxb8g5

31. Rxf7Rxf7and Black resigns

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

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