- The Washington Times - Friday, April 21, 2006

Don’t book your plane tickets just yet, but the international chess federation FIDE says it has nailed down commitments for a world title reunification match in September between rival claimants Vladimir Kramnik of Russia and Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, FIDE’s mercurial president, announced that the 12-game match will be held in his native city of Elista, Russia, with the winner to be seeded into the next world championship tournament FIDE is organizing in Mexico City for next year.

Some skepticism is in order: Reunification matches have been announced regularly since the disastrous split in the championship cycle 13 years ago, and Ilyumzhinov himself has a bad habit of confirming events before clearing them with the participants. FIDE says Kramnik and Topalov will both get $500,000 from the match in addition to “certain revenues from possible commercial sponsorships.”

We will see.

• • •

New York GM Hikaru Nakamura is slowly getting used to his status as a marked man.

After zooming up the rating charts and winning the 2005 U.S. chess championship, the 18-year-old Nakamura is finding that opponents are bringing their A-games to the board against him, seeking a now-famous scalp. He stumbled early and failed to defend his U.S. title in San Diego in January, and he came up short again at the just-concluded Foxwoods Open in Ledyard, Conn.

Nakamura could only manage a 41/2-41/2 result, good for a tie for 49th place. A late-round loss to Colombian GM Alonso Zapata killed his chances for a top result.

Nakamura, usually the aggressor, gets no traction from the White side of this Najdorf Sicilian, as Black’s queen-side play overwhelms White’s king-side attack. White is on his heels after 19. Ne2 d4! 20. Rhe1 Ne3!, when it would be over on 21. Bxe3 dxe3 22. Qxe3? Rxd3! cxd3 Qc2+ 24. Ka1 Qxd1+! 25. Rxd1 Nc2+, forking king and queen.

White keeps the material balance (barely) on 21…Nexc2 (Nxd3 may be stronger) 22. Bxc2 d3 23. Bd1 dxe2 24. Rexe2 Rbc8 25. Qe3 Bd5, but has major problems dealing with the pressure along the c-file. Already, Zapata threatens 26…a5 27. a3 a4 28. axb4 axb3, winning.

White seeks to simplify, but his pinned rook on c2 allows Black to finally break on top materially: 39. Bc1 Rxc2!? (Zapata said later 39…Bd4!, with the idea of pushing the b-pawn, was even stronger; e.g. 40. b3 Rc3 41. Bb2 Rxb3) 40. Qxc2 Bf2, picking off the h-pawn.

Nakamura struggles hard in the bishop-and-pawn ending but cannot prevent Black from engineering the winning pawn break: 50. g6!? (the best chance, but not good enough) fxg6 51. Bh4 Kd5 52. Bg5 (Be7 Bc5 53. Bxc5 Kxc5 54. Ke3 Kd5 55. Kf3 g5!) Bc5 53. Ke2 Ke6, and White resigned before seeing 54. Bh4 Be7 55. Bg3 g5, and the Black pawns roll.

Dutch GM Loek Van Wely, Israeli GM Ilya Smirin and University of Maryland-Baltimore County IM Eugene Perelshteyn tied for first at 7-2, with Van Wely winning a blitz playoff for the title.

• • •

The Sicilian defensive setup has proved over the years to be surprisingly resilient in the face of White king-side attacks — except when it isn’t.

The dangers of allowing such a menacing White buildup were on vivid display in French GM Laurent Fressinet’s win over Croatian GM Ognjen Cvitan at the recent 7th European Individual Championship in Turkey. Cvitan’s compatriot, GM Zdenko Kozul, was the surprise winner of the strong Swiss event, edging Ukraine’s Vassily Ivanchuk by a half-point.

It’s not surprising Cvitan refuses the poisoned rook after 16. Rad1 Nxd4 17. Rxd4!, as his fianchettoed bishop is worth much more to the Black defensive scheme, but White’s follow-up — 17…Nb6 18. e5 d5 19. Bf2 Bd7 20. f5! — clears the way for all kinds of mayhem along the h-file.

White’s attack grows overwhelming on 20…gxf5 (exf5 21. a5 Nc8 22. Nxd5) 21. Rh4 Nc8? (tougher was 21…Nc4 22. Rxh7 Qxe5 23. Re1 Qf4) 22. Rxh7 Ne7 23. Bd4 Qc4 24. Rf4! (another rooks joins the attack, using the square cleared by White’s 20th move) Ng6 (see diagram) 25. Rxg7+!, removing the key defender once and for all.

Fressinet’s follow-up is relentless, offering material repeatedly for a chance to have at the Black king: 27. Nxd5!! Qxd5 (forced, as 27…exd5 28. e6 wins) 28. Bxd5 Nxf4 (Black has two rooks for the queen, but White is not done) 29. g6! Nxg6 (Nxd5 30. Qh7+ Kf8 31. Qxf7 mate) 30. h4! Rad8 (exd5 31. e6 is a quick mate) 31. h5 Nf8 32. Bf2!, switching to the h4-d8 diagonal with lethal effect.

The finale: 32…Bc6 (exd5 33. Bh4 Re6 34. Qg5+! [Bf6?? Rxf6 35. exf6 Ne6 holds] Kh7 35. Qxd8) 33. Bh4 Rxd5 34. Bf6 Rd1+ 35. Kf2! (Kh2?? Rh1+ 36. Kg3 Rg1+ 37. Kf2 Rg2+ and Black wins), and Cvitan resigns as mate on g7 or h8 can’t be stopped.

Foxwoods Open, Ledyard, Conn., April 2006


1. e4c528. Bxb3Rd3

2. Nf3e629. Qe4Rxb3

3. d4cxd430. axb4Rxb4

4. Nxd4Nc631. Qa8+Bf8

5. Nc3Qc732. Qxa6Qc4

6. Be3a633. Rc2Qd3

7. Qd2Nf634. Qc6Rc4

8. 0-0-0Be735. Qg2h6

9. f30-036. h4h5

10. g4Rd837. Qe2Qf5

11. Qf2b538. Be3Bc5

12. g5Ne839. Bc1Rxc2

13. Nb3Rb840. Qxc2Bf2

14. f4Nd641. Qxf5exf5

15. Bd3Nb442. Kc2Bxh4

16. Kb1Nc443. Kd3Bf2

17. Bc1d544. Ke2Bd4

18. e5Bb745. b3Kf8

19. Ne2d446. Bd2Ke8

20. Rhe1Ne347. Be1Kd7

21. Rd2Nexc248. Kd3Bg1

22. Bxc2d349. Bg3Kc6

23. Bd1dxe250. g6fxg6

24. Rexe2Rbc851. Bh4Kd5

25. Qe3Bd552. Bg5Bc5

26. a3Bxb353. Ke2Ke6

27. Rxd8+Rxd8White resigns

7th European Individual Championship, Kusadasi, Turkey, April 2006


1. e4c519. Bf2Bd7

2. Nf3d620. f5gxf5

3. d4cxd421. Rh4Nc8

4. Nxd4Nf622. Rxh7Ne7

5. Nc3a623. Bd4Qc4

6. g3e624. Rf4Ng6

7. Bg2Be725. Rxg7+Kxg7

8. 0-0Qc726. Qh6+Kg8

9. Be30-027. Nxd5Qxd5

10. g4Nc628. Bxd5Nxf4

11. g5Nd729. g6Nxg6

12. f4Re830. h4Rad8

13. Qh5g631. h5Nf8

14. Qh3Bf832. Bf2Bc6

15. a4Bg733. Bh4Rxd5

16. Rad1Nxd434. Bf6Rd1+

17. Rxd4Nb635. Kf2Black

18. e5d5resigns

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

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