- The Washington Times - Friday, December 29, 2006

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day typically ranks among the slowest news periods of the year.

The story is very different in the chess world, however, where the holidays historically have been among the busiest times for tournaments, matches and other events. The 33rd annual Eastern Open, Washington’s traditional year-end chess blowout, wraps up today, too late for our deadline, but we offer in compensation a couple of Christmas-week games played by two of the country’s greatest players.

The 1858 match between young New Orleans phenom Paul Morphy and German great Adolf Anderssen in Paris was played over the holiday break because it was the only time Anderssen could spare from his mathematics teaching duties. The 21-year-old Morphy won decisively, but the most interesting game of the match may have been the German’s victory in Game 10.

The analysis here relies heavily on Virginia master Macon Shibut’s 1992 work “Paul Morphy and the Evolution of Chess Theory” (available in paperback from Dover Books), which elevates Morphy’s standing as a player by taking him down from the pedestal on which previous authors placed him.

The positional jousting starts early as White’s 1. a3!? e5 2. c4 is a successful transposition to a reversed Sicilian, a defense Morphy heartily loathed. Black’s 11. Nd2 Rf6 12. f4 Rh6 is characteristic of Morphy’s active attacking style, but his king-side feint soon sputters, and White builds up a major positional edge on the other flank.

Time-killing moves like 21… Rb8 and 25… Be7 show a Morphy not usually seen in the anthologies, while Anderssen shows himself at least the American’s equal in close maneuvering. Black’s 29… g5? is impatient and bad, as the open diagonal will prove a major asset for White.

Anderssen probably missed a put-away on 34. Qxe8+!? (Qb7! wins a pawn, but getting the queens off against Morphy was never a bad idea) Nxe8 35. c5 Bc7 (bxc5 36. dxc5+ Kg8 37. cxd6) 36. Bc4 Kg7, when 37. d5+! wins in lines such as 37… Kf8 38. d6 Bd8 39. Rf2! Ng7 40. Ra2! bxc5 41. Ra7 Ne6 42. Ra8 Ke8 43. Ba5, winning a piece; and 37… Nf6 38. d6 Bd8 39. Ra2 Kf8 40. Ra8 Ke8 41. Bxf6 Rxf6 42. cxb6, queening a pawn.

White keeps his bind with 41. Bf8! But Morphy shows his mettle with 41… h5 42. Kf2 h4! — giving up a pawn to liberate his pieces. The extra h-pawn oddly proves almost a liability for White, as Anderssen has to devote his heavy forces to protecting it on its way.

After 54. Re7 Nd6 (the Black c-pawn is lost, but the Black knight now gets into the game; bad was 54… Nf6? 55. Rg7+ Kh5 56. h8=Q+) 55. Re6 Nc4 56. Rxc6 Nd2 57. Ke2 Rh2+ Kd1 (see diagram). Shibut’s book devotes 31/2 pages and seven diagrams to the reams of analysis generated by this position.

The author concludes that best now would have been 58… f4! 59. Rc5+! (exf4+ Kxf4 60. d5 e3) Kg4 60. Be6+! (h8=Q Rxh8 61. Be6+ Kf3 62. Kxd2 fxe3+ 63. Kc3 e2 and Black is better) Kf3 61. exf4, and it’s still not clear who’s winning.

Instead, Black’s 58… Nf3? is coolly turned aside by 59. Rc7! (opening up more checks for the rook) Kg6 (f4 60. Rg7+ Kf5 61. Rf7+ Kg6 62. Kxf4 cleans up) 60. d5 f4 61. exf4 e3 62. Re7. Morphy will win the exchange, but White’s three pawns and bishop carry the day. In the final position, Black can’t prevent White from getting a new queen; Morphy resigned.

Despite the result, this ranks “among Morphy’s most interesting games,” Shibut concludes.

Bobby Fischer also often worked the holiday shift because the U.S. Championship — which he won a record seven times — usually was held late in December. Today’s famous second game was played 43 years ago yesterday, during Fischer’s unprecedented 11-0 run in the 1963-64 U.S. title tournament in New York.

Hungarian-born GM Pal Benko’s Pirc Defense was a brave choice against the hyperaccurate Fischer, and White here finds a fatal flaw in Black’s tricky defense. Already under heavy pressure, Black banks on 16. Qg4 c6?! (Fischer called the more active 16… c5 preferable) 17. Qh5 Qe8? (Ne6 holds out longer) 18. Bxd4 exd4, when 19. e5? f5! holds things together.

But “a bolt from the blue” (in Fischer’s famous phrase) rocks Black’s world: 19. Rf6! (a brilliant blocking sacrifice, preventing the f-pawn from advancing) Kg8 (19… Bxf6 and 19…dxc3 both now lose to 20. e5) 20. e5 h6 21. Ne2! (accurate to the end; on 21. Rxd6? Qxe5, Black can fight on), and Benko resigns as 21… Nb5 (Bxf6 22. Qxh6 Bxe5 23. Qh7 mate) 22. Qf5 leads to mate.

We’ll have a full rundown on the Eastern Open and some game in next week’s column.

Match, Game 10, Paris, 1858

AnderssenMorphy

1. a3e540. Bb4Rg6

2. c4Nf641. Bf8h5

3. Nc3d542. Kf2h4

4. cxd5Nxd543. gxh4Rg4

5. e3Be644. h5Rh4

6. Nf3Bd645. h6Rxh2+

7. Be20-046. Kg1Rh3

8. 0-0Nxc347. Bf1Rg3+

9. bxc3f548. Kf2Rg4

10. d4e449. Bc4Rh4

11. Nd2Rf650. Bg8Bd6

12. f4Rh651. Bxd6Nxd6

13. g3Nd752. Rd7Ne8

14. Nc4Bxc453. h7Kg5

15. Bxc4+Kh854. Re7Nd6

16. Ra2Qe755. Re6Nc4

17. a4Nf656. Rxc6Nd2

18. Qb3c657. Ke2Rh2+

19. Be6Re858. Kd1Nf3

20. Bc4Ng459. Rc7Kg6

21. Rg2Rb860 d5f4

22. Be2Nf661. exf4e3

23. c4b662. Re7e2+

24. Bb2Qf763. Rxe2Rh1+

25. Qc2Be764. Kc2Nd4+

26. Bc3Rg865. Kd2Nxe2

27. a5Bd666. Kxe2Kg7

28. axb6axb667. Ke3Re1+

29. Ra1g568. Kd4Rf1

30. fxg5Rxg569. Ke5Re1+

31. Ra8+Rg870. Kf5Rd1

32. Qa4Rxa871. Be6Rd4

33. Qxa8+Qe872. Ke5Rd1

34. Qxe8+Nxe873. f5Rh1

35. c5Bc774. f6+Kxh7

36. Bc4Kg775. Kd6Ra1

37. cxb6Bxb676. Ke7Ra7+

38. Rb2Bc777. Bd7Black

39. Rb7Kf6resigns

U.S. Championship, New York, December 1963

FischerBenko

1. e4g612. Qxf5Nd4

2. d4Bg713. Qf2Ne8

3. Nc3d614. 0-0Nd6

4. f4Nf615. Qg3Kh8

5. Nf30-016. Qg4c6

6. Bd3Bg417. Qh5Qe8

7. h3Bxf318. Bxd4exd4

8. Qxf3Nc619. Rf6Kg8

9. Be3e520. e5h6

10. dxe5dxe521. Ne2Black

11. f5gxf5resigns

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

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