- The Washington Times - Friday, March 24, 2006

The mainstream chess media may not be giving the event much love, but the FIDE women’s world championship tournament is quietly reaching its climax in the Russian town of Ekaterinburg.

Russian WGM Alisa Galliamova and emerging Chinese star WGM Xu Yuhua are meeting in the four-game final of the 64-player knockout event. New York’s Irina Krush, the only American woman to make the trip to Russia, was eliminated in the second round by Russia’s Tatiana Kosintseva.

The field and the format make it hard to work up a lot of enthusiasm for the event.

Hungarian GM Judit Polgar, one of the best players of either sex on the planet, regularly skips these all-women events to compete with the big boys.

The absurd two-game knockout format favored by FIDE, the international chess federation, makes the event a crapshoot, with top players regularly falling by the wayside. Favorites such as defending world champion WGM Antoaneta Stefanova of Bulgaria, India’s Humpy Koneru and Russia’s Alexandra Kosteniuk did not even make it to the semifinals.

Still, some good chess has been played in Ekaterinburg, and the 19-year-old Xu has arrived officially as the Chinese juggernaut’s latest female star. She used a classic tactic against the overworked piece to eliminate Ukraine’s Anna Ushenina in Round 2.

Ushenina as Black acquits herself well in the opening stages of this Caro-Kann despite the White pieces buzzing around her king. After 22. Bf6 Rc8 23. Rh3, Black would have been fine in lines like 23…Nc5 24. Nxc5 Qxc5 25. b3 (Bxg7? loses to 25…Bxg7 26. Rg3 Qe5, holding nicely) Qxf2 26. Bd4 Qf5+ 27. Qxf5 exf5, with full equality.

But Black gets greedy, and it costs her the one piece holding her defense together — the d7-knight. Thus: 23…Qxc4?? 24. Rc3 Qb5 25. Rxd7!, brutally undermining Black’s game.

Now both 25…Qxd7 26. Bxg7! Bxg7 27. Nf6+ and 25…Rxc3 26. Bxc3 Qxd7 27. Nf6+ win the unfortunately placed Black queen. Ushenina tries 25…Kh8, but packs it in after 26. Rxf7!, when it’s game over on 26…gxf6 (Rxc3 27. Rxf8+! Rxf8 28. Qxg7 mate) 27. Rh7+! Kxh7 28. Nf6+ Kh8 Qg8 mate.

Ratmir Kholmov, one of the great masters of the Soviet dynasty that dominated chess in the postwar period, died last month in Moscow at the age of 80, ChessBase.com reports. A pro’s pro and a feared attacker in his prime, Kholmov rarely played outside the Soviet bloc but still scored a string of notable successes.

He finished in a tie for first with Leonid Stein in the 1963 USSR championship, at a time when that event probably was the strongest annual tournament in the world. He was a 10-time champion of Lithuania, and his victory over Bobby Fischer in the 1965 Havana Cup from the Black side of a Ruy Lopez was one of the more thorough whippings the mature Fischer ever received at the chessboard.

We present here another Black Ruy triumph by Kholmov, taken from that indispensable 1958 survey “The Soviet School of Chess,” by Mikhail Yudovich and Alexander Kotov. In the 17th USSR Championship in 1949, the young Kholmov took on another future Soviet legend, GM Efim Geller.

In a rare Ruy Bird’s Defense (3…Nd4), Geller as White gets into early trouble on 8. e5?! (too aggressive; 8. c3 is safer) dxe5 9. Qxe5+ Be7 10. Re1 b5! 11. Bb3 (Bf1 Be6 and Black has an easy game) a5 12. a4 Ra7! This rook will not move from its unusual perch until Black sacrifices it 20 moves hence, but it plays a critical role in shoring up Black’s rear position and allowing Kholmov to take the initiative.

White has to be careful — after 13. axb5 0-0, getting greedy with 14. bxc6?! exposes him to lines like 14…Bd6 15. Qe2 Re8 16. Qd1 Rxe1+ 17. Qxe1 Re7 18. Qd1 Qe8, with massive threats. When Geller misses a chance to consolidate with 18. Bxf6 gxf6 19. Qg3+ Kh8 20. Na3, his game quickly grows critical.

The intricate battle after 21. Bxf6 (Bxh6?! Nh5 22. Qg5 Qxg5 23. Bxg5 f6 24. c3 dxc3 25. bxc3 Bxc3 26. Rc1 Bb4 27. Be3 Rxe3 28. fxe3 Bxd2 definitely favors Black) Rxf6 22. Ne4 Re6 23. Qh3 centers around White’s ingenious tactical attempts to preserve his knight on e4 and Black’s equally determined efforts to evict it.

Play comes to a head on 29. Rb1! (Qxh6 fxe4 30. f5 Rf6 31. fxg6 Rxf1+ 32. Rxf1 Qg7 holds) h4 30. Rb8+ Kf7 31. Qg3!? (Geller rejects passive defense with 31. Nd2, while 31. Ng5+? loses to 31…Bxg5 32. fxg5 Re3 33. Rxf6+ Kg7!) fxe4 32. f5 Rf6 33. Rh8 (see diagram), when Kholmov turns aside White’s dangerous threats with a deep and decisive exchange sacrifice.

Black counterpunches with 33…Qxd3! 34. fxg6+ Kg7 35. Rh7+ Kg8 36. Qxd3 (on 36. Qb8+, Black saves things not with 36…Rf8?? 37. Rxf8+ Bxf8 38. Rh8+!, winning, but with 36…Bd8!) exd3 37. Rxf6 Bxf6 38. Rxa7 Bd4!. White has won material, but his rook proves no match for the Black bishop and passed pawns.

By 40. Rf1 Bb2 41. Kg1 a4 42. Kf2 a3 43. Ke2 a2, Geller had seen enough and resigned.

Wrote Kotov and Yudovich: “This encounter has an interesting opening, a tense middle game, and an instructive ending — in a word, all the components that provide a chess lover with aesthetic satisfaction.”

FIDE Women’s Knockout World Championship, Ekaterinburg, Russia, March 2006

XuUshenina

1. e4c614. Kb1Qb6

2. d4d515. c4Rfe8

3. Nd2dxe416. Ne5Rad8

4. Nxe4Bf517. Bc3c5

5. Ng3Bg618. Nxd7Nxd7

6. h4h619. Ne4cxd4

7. Nf3Nd720. Bxd4Qc6

8. h5Bh721. Qg4Bf8

9. Bd3Bxd322. Bf6Rc8

10. Qxd3e623. Rh3Qxc4

11. Bd2Ngf624. Rc3Qb5

12. 0-0-0Be725. Rxd7Kh8

13. Qe20-026. Rxf7Black

resigns

17th USSR Chess Championship, Moscow, 1949

GellerKholmov

1. e4e523. Qh3Qd5

2. Nf3Nc624. c3dxc3

3. Bb5Nd425. bxc3Be7

4. Nxd4exd426. f4f5

5. 0-0c627. c4Qd4+

6. Bc4Nf628. Kh1g6

7. Qe2d629. Rab1h5

8. e5dxe530. Rb8+Kf7

9. Qxe5+Be731. Qg3fxe4

10. Re1b532. f5Rf6

11. Bb3a533. Rh8Qxd3

12. a4Ra734. fxg6+Kg7

13. axb50-035. Rh7+Kg8

14. b6Qxb636. Qxd3exd3

15. d3Bb437. Rxf6Bxf6

16. Rf1Qd838. Rxa7Bd4

17. Bg5Re839. Rf7d2

18. Qg3Be640. Rf1Bb2

19. Bxe6Rxe641. Kg1a4

20. Nd2h642. Kf2a3

21. Bxf6Rxf643. Ke2a2

22. Ne4Re6White resigns

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


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