- The Washington Times - Friday, November 25, 2005

Russian-born U.S. grandmaster Igor Ivanov, one of the best players on the North American scene in the 1980s and 1990s, died of cancer earlier this month at his Utah home at the age of 59.

Ivanov will be remembered as a fine sportsman and coach as well as one of the hardest-working players in the game in his prime. In the late 1980s and mid-1990s, he regularly won the season-ending U.S. Chess Federation Grand Prix award, an honor based on an accumulation of good results from big events such as the U.S. Open and the World Open down to weekend Swisses in small towns where first prize for a grueling three days of work might be a couple hundred bucks.

Before defecting to Canada in 1980, Ivanov first attracted serious notice with an upset of then-world champion Anatoly Karpov as well as a string of first-place results in strong Soviet events. He won the Canadian national title four times in his first six years in the West, and IM John Donaldson, in a recent tribute essay, noted that Ivanov simultaneously won the 1985 Canadian Closed and Open championships in Edmonton, rushing from one board to the other to compete.

Ivanov moved to the United States in the late 1980s. He won a number of strong U.S. tournaments and was a regular participant in the U.S. Closed Championship in the 1990s before he cut back on his playing to focus on coaching in the late 1990s. Long one of the world’s strongest IMs, Ivanov belatedly was awarded the grandmaster title earlier this year for norms he unknowingly had racked up more than a decade before.

One of his most famous wins was his brilliancy-prize victory over Seattle GM and multiple U.S. champion Yasser Seirawan at the 1991 U.S. championship. The final tactic, involving two consecutive queen offers, was deemed the best combination of the year by the editors of Informant magazine.

On the Black side of a Queen’s Indian, Ivanov signals his aggressive intentions early with 14. Bb2 f4!?, and gives up the exchange for the initiative with the speculative 21. Bf3 Rxf3!? (a good practical decision, as White was about to take charge positionally) 22. Nxf3 Rf8.

Seirawan, a superb defender, sidesteps an early snakepit with 23. Ra3, as the natural 23. Bb2? allows a second, winning exchange sac: 23…Rxf3! 24. gxf4 Qg5+ 25. Kh1 Nd2!, with an unanwerable attack on f3. After 23…e5 24. Re1 Nf6 25. Nh4 Ne5 26. Nf5 Qd7 27. Rh3 g6, it’s not clear whose attack will break through first.

But Black’s risk-taking is justified when White can’t work his way out of a tricky bind, allowing a spectacular finale: 34. Qe3 h5! 35. Nf2 (the rook can’t be taken because of 36…Ne2+) exf3 36. g3? (see diagram).

This move leads to disaster, as does 36. Qxf4 Ne2+ 37. Kh1 fxg2 mate. The real test comes on 36. gxf3! 37. Rxf3 (Kh1Ng5+ 38. Kg1 Nxh3+ 39. Nxh3 Rg4+ 40. Kf2 Qf5+ 41. Ke1 Qb1+ 42. Ke2 Qb2+ 43. Ke1 Qb4+ 44. Ke2 Qxc4+, and White’s game collapses) Rxf3 38. Qg5 Qe6, and Black wins a pawn but there’s still play in the position.

Ivanov finds a strikingly original mating idea, one that Seirawan sportingly plays out to the end: 36…Ne2+ 37. Kh1 Qxh3! 38. Rg1 (Nxh3 f2+ 39. Qf3 Bxf3 mate) Qg2+!!, and the Black pawn, knight and bishop are enough to run down the White king on 39. Rxg2 fxg2 mate. White resigned.

As we reported earlier this month, FM Boris Privman was one of four players sharing first place in the Northern Virginia Open, played in Springfield the weekend of Nov. 5 and 6. Privman scored a critical last-round win against master Alex Barnett, as White’s queen found itself in an embarrassing predicament.

It’s a classic, clotted French Defense battle after 13. 0-0-0 Qe7, which Barnett tries to break up with the line-opening pawn sacrifice 14. f5!? gxf5 15. Bg5 Qf8 16. Bf6 Rg8 17. Ng5, with good king-side pressure.

With Black’s forces having to keep watch on the king-side, White wins back his pawn and tries to reverse field with a queen-side attack: 22. Nxd4 Nxd4 23. Qxd4 Bc6 24. Qa7!?. White’s last move isn’t bad, but it’s the start of a misjudged foray, as the queen will exile herself in the enemy’s far corner.

Thus: 24…Nxf6 25. exf6 Bd6 26. Ng5 Bb8 27. Qa8? (Qe3 is definitely more prudent) Bxg2 28. Rhe1 Kc7!, sidestepping White’s threat of 29. Bxa6! Rxd1+ 30. Rxd1 bxa6 31. Qxg2. Already in emergency mode, White tries 29. Rxe6!? fxe6 30. f7 Qc6! (locking in her White counterpart for good) 31. fxg8=Q Rxg8. With the White queen essentially off the board, Black’s king-side pawns become a threat after 35. Rxe4 f3!, when 36. Rc4 f2 37. Rxc6+ Kxc6 leaves White helpless.

By 38. Kb2 Kb6!, Black is ready to spring the trap on the queen. It’s over after 42. a4 Bf4 (attacking all three White pieces with a single move) 43. Rd8 Qg2+ 44. Ka3 Qxg5!, when 45. Rxe8 Bc1+ 46. Ka2 (Kb4 Qc5 mate) Qd2+ 47. Kb1 Qb2 is mate; Barnett resigned.

U.S. Chess Championship, Los Angeles, 1991


1. d4Nf620. Bh5Rf6

2. c4e621. Bf3Rxf3

3. Nf3b622. Nxf3Rf8

4. Nc3Bb423. Ra3e5

5. Qb3Na624. Re1Nf6

6. a3Bxc3+25. Nh4Ne6

7. Qxc3c526. Nf5Qd7

8. b40-027. Rh3g6

9. dxc5bxc528. Nh6+Kg7

10. b5Nc729. f3Nd4

11. e3Ne430. Qd3Nh5

12. Qc2f531. Rf1Nf4

13. Be2Bb732. Bxf4Rxf4

14. Bb2f433. Ng4e4

15. exf4Rxf434. Qe3h5

16. 0-0d635. Nf2exf3

17. a4Qe736. g3Ne2+

18. Bc1Rg437. Kh1Qxh3

19. Ne1Rg638. Rg1Qg2+

White resigns

10th Northern Virginia Open, Springfield, November 2005


1. e4e623. Qxd4Bc6

2. d4d524. Qa7Nxf6

3. Nc3Nf625. exf6Bd6

4. e5Nfd726. Ng5Bb8

5. f4c527. Qa8Bxg2

6. dxc5Bxc528. Rhe1Kc7

7. Qg4g629. Rxe6fxe6

8. Nf3Nc630. f7Qc6

9. Bd3a631. fxg8=QRxg8

10. Bd2Nb632. Re1Re8

11. h4h533. b3f4

12. Qg3Bd734. Be4Bxe4

13. 0-0-0Qe735. Rxe4f3

14. f5gxf536. Rf4f2

15. Bg5Qf837. Rxf2Qh1+

16. Bf6Rg838. Kb2Kb6

17. Ng5Be739. c3Qxh4

18. Qf2d440. Rg2Qh1

19. Kb10-0-041. Rd2Qc6

20. Nh7Qe842. a4Bf4

21. Ne2Nd543. Rd8Qg2+

22. Nxd4Nxd444. Ka3Qxg5

White resigns

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

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