Friday, May 6, 2005

Dutch GM Jan Timman was one of the West’s best in the decades after U.S. world champ Bobby Fischer fled the scene in 1975. Overshadowed a bit by the long dominance of the Russian Ks — Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov — Timman still was a top-five grandmaster and nearly became the first Dutchman in a half-century to play for a world title, losing to England’s Nigel Short in the match to challenge Kasparov in 1993.

Thanks to his fine career and a host of Dutch chess sponsors, Timman was invited to top-level events long after his skills had declined, leading to a recent string of poor finishes.

But the 55-year-old Timman last month schooled a younger field of grandmasters and IMs in what he could do, tying for first with young Indian star Krishnan Sasikiran in the Category 13 Sigeman & Co. Tournament, split between Copenhagen and the Swedish city of Malmo.

Finishing a half-point back was new U.S. champ Hikaru Nakamura, who at 17 is less than a third Timman’s age.

The Dutchman’s vast experience came into play in his win over Danish master Davor Palo, as Black converts the slightest of advantages — a better pawn structure and an outside passed pawn — into a full point, capped by a very attractive winning motif.

The upshot of White’s positional break 17. c5! is that, after 22. Re3 Bb7 23. h5 Rfd8 (Bxd5?? 24. Rd1 e6 25. h6 f6 26. Rxe6! Qxe6 27. Bxd5 and wins) h6, Palo feels compelled to bust up his pawn majority with 24…Qf6 25. Qxf6 exf6, as 24…f6 25. Re6 Qd7 26. Rd1 Ra8 27. Qe2 leaves White firmly in charge.

After 26. Rd1 Kf8 27. d6 Bxf3 28. Rxf3 f5, Black’s king-side majority is crippled, while White has real assets at d6 and h6. White may not have a won game, but Black is one defensive lapse away from a lost one.

The error comes on 34. Rb5 Rxa2 35. Rxb4, when it appears that Black holds the draw with 35…Ke7! 36. Rb8 (Rb6 Rb2 37. b4 g5 38. b5 g4 39. Rb8 Kf6 40. b6 Kg6 is even better for Black) Rb2 37. Rh8 Rxb3 38. Rxh7 Rb8. Instead, on the game’s tempo-losing 35…Ra6? 36. Rb8+ Ke7 37. Rh8 Kf6 38. Rxh7, Black can’t collect the h-pawn as 38…Kg5 39. Rxf7 Kxh6 40. Rb7 wins for White.

Black’s rook faces a Hobson’s choice on 40. b5 Rf8 41. Rg7 g4 (Rh8 42. b6 Rxh6 43. Rg8!) 42. b6 Rh8 43. b7, unable to contend with both the h- and b-pawns. Timman needs only to free his rook along the g-file to win, a problem he solves neatly with a pawn sacrifice: 45. f3! gxf3 46. g4! fxg4 (no better if 46…f4 47. g5+ Kf5 48. h7 Rh8 49. Rxf7+ Kg6 50. Rc7 Kxg5 51. Rc8) 47. Rxg4, and Black resigns as 47…Kf5 48. Ra4 Rb8 49. h7 Kg6 50. Ra8 will lead to a new queen for White.

• • •

Tomsk-400, anchored by super-GM Alexander Morozevich, took the 12th Russian team championship, an event that rivals the German Bundesliga for the strongest team competition in the world. Among those competing in the event were Russian stars Alexander Grischuk and Peter Svidler, Israeli GM Boris Gelfand and Ukraine’s Vassily Ivanchuk.

In one of the event’s sharper efforts, GM Alexander Lastin outslugged GM Alexander Onischuk, a recent emigre to the United States, in a seesaw tactical battle.

Both sides pursue their plans with single-minded intensity in this Semi-Slav, with material considerations pushed aside: 23. Nxb5 Bxe4 (Qxb5?? 24. Qh6 is trivial, but Black is looking to give up a piece to break White’s attack) 24. Qg5 (keeping up the pressure; an alternative was 24. Rxe4 Nf6 25. Re7 Qxb5) Qg6 25. Qf4 (Qxg6? Bxg6 26. Nxa7 Rde8 27. Bxc4 Bh5 and Black gets the edge) Qf6 26. Qxe4 Rfe8 27. Qc2 Ne5 28. Rg5 d3.

Onischuk’s 30. Qxc5 d2 31. Nc7 (see diagram) looks nasty, as 31…Re7 runs into 32. Nd5, but Lastin was ready with a thunderbolt of his own: 31…Nf3+!! 32. gxf3 Re2+, when the critical variation seems to favor Black on 33. Kh3 Qxf3 34. Qg1 (Black threatened 34…Qg2+ 35. Kg4 Re4+ 36. Kf5 Qf3+ 37. Bf4 Qxf4 mate) Re4 35. Qf1 (Nd5? Rxd5! 36. Rxd5 f5 37. R1xd2 Rxh4+ 38. Kxh4 Qg4 mate) Qxf1+ 36. Rxf1 d1=Q 37. Rxd1 Rxd1 38. Nd5 Kf8 39. Bd6+ Ke8 40. Rxg7 Rxd5, keeping a material plus.

White’s 33. Bf2?! is even more brutally dismissed after 33…Qxf3 34. Rg2 Kh8! (with the idea of 35…Be5+ 36. Kg1 Rxf2 37. Qxe5+ f6 38. Rxf2 Qxd1+ 39. Rf1 Qxf1+ 40. Kxf1 fxe5, winning) 35. Qg5 Rg8, when suddenly all Black’s forces are perfectly lined up for the final attack.

There is no defense. After 36. Bd4 Rxg2+ 37. Qxg2 Qxd1 38. Qg5 (with the tiny threat of 39. Qh6 mate) Qe2+!, White resigns as his cheapo is turned aside after 39. Kh3 Qd3+! 40. Kh2 Bxd4, when 41. Qh6+ is blocked by 41…Qh7.

13th Sigeman & Co. Tournament, Copenhagen/Malmo, April 2005


1. c4c525. Qxf6exf6

2. Nf3Nc626. Rd1Kf8

3. Nc3Nf627. d6Bxf3

4. g3g628. Rxf3f5

5. Bg2Bg729. Rc3Rbc8

6. d4cxd430. Rd5b4

7. Nxd40-031. Rcxc5Rxc5

8. 0-0Ng432. Rxc5Rxd6

9. e3d633. Kg2Ra6

10. b3Nge534. Rb5Rxa2

11. Bb2Nxd435. Rxb4Ra6

12. exd4Nc636. Rb8+Ke7

13. d5Ne537. Rh8Kf6

14. h3a638. Rxh7Ra8

15. Qe2Rb839. b4g5

16. Rfe1b540. b5Rf8

17. c5dxc541. Rg7g4

18. Nxb5Nf3+42. b6Rh8

19. Bxf3Bxb243. b7Rb8

20. Qxb2axb544. Kf1Re8

21. h4Qd645. f3gxf3

22. Re3Bb746. g4fxg4

23. h5Rfd847. Rxg4Black

24. h6Qf6resigns

Russian Team Championships, Sochi, Russia, April 2005


1. d4d520. Rf4e5

2. c4c621. Rxg4exd4

3. Nc3Nf622. Qc1c5

4. Nf3e623. Nxb5Bxe4

5. Bg5h624. Qg5Qg6

6. Bh4dxc425. Qf4Qf6

7. e4g526. Qxe4Rfe8

8. Bg3b527. Qc2Ne5

9. Be2Bb728. Rg5d3

10. h4g429. Bxd3cxd3

11. Ne5h530. Qxc5d2

12. 0-0Nbd731. Nc7Nf3+

13. Qc2Nxe532. gxf3Re2+

14. Bxe5Bg733. Bf2Qxf3

15. Rad10-034. Rg2Kh8

16. Bg3Nd735. Qg5Rg8

17. f3Qb636. Bd4Rxg2+

18. Kh2Rad837. Qxg2Qxd1

19. fxg4hxg438. Qg5Qe2+

White resigns

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

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