- The Washington Times - Friday, March 31, 2006

As a slew of so-so Super Bowls can attest, the best players do not always produce the best


Championship matches rarely make for champion-quality chess. The players typically are too good and evenly matched to allow brilliant sacrifices or stunning combinations, while the pressure of the moment often means the winner is the player who avoids the most blunders.

The 1927 Capablanca-Alekhine world title match, featuring two of the greatest players ever to push a pawn, produced barely one memorable effort in the 10-week, 34-game ordeal.

So we should perhaps cut new FIDE women’s world champion WGM Xu Yuhua of China a break if her victory earlier this week over Russian IM Alisa Galliamova was something less than scintillating. Xu — who is 29, not 19 as we had here last week — took the best-of-four final in Ekaterinburg, Russia, by winning the first and third games, both times with Black and both times after overcoming an early disadvantage.

In the very first game, Xu admitted she was unhappy with her game coming out of a French Defense, but a string of trades culminating in 23. g4 Rxd3 Qxd3 produced a result probably neither player really wanted: a queen-and-pawn ending with multiple opportunities for both sides to blunder.

In ordinary circumstances, Galliamova might have taken a draw and prepared for the next game, but in a short match, she may have felt pressure to press for the win with White. By 36. Kb2 Qd4+ 37. Ka2 Qc3, however, it is Black who clearly is better, with the White king in a box and Xu’s king-side pawns far more dangerous.

White gives up a pawn with 38. Kb1 g5 39. Qd8!? Qxe5, and may have missed a good drawing chance a few moves later with 42. a7!? g2 43. Qg8+! (a8=Q?? g1=Q+ 44. Ka1 Qea1 mate) Kxg8 44. a8=Q+ Kh7 45. Qxg2 Qe1+ 46. Kb2, and the exposed Black king offers chances for a perpetual check.

Instead, Xu skillfully retains her advantage while nursing her pawn down the board. It’s over on 60. c6 Qe1+ 61. Kc2 Qf2+ 62. Kc1 e2 63. Qd3+ f5 64. Qd6+ Kh5!, and White is out of checks. Galliamova resigned as the finale might be 65. c7 Qe3+ 66. Kb2 Qc3+ 67. Ka2 Qc2+ 68. Ka1 e1=Q+ and wins.

• • •

In a very welcome comeback, fiery Spanish GM Alexei Shirov bounced back from some recent indifferent results to win the Category 18 Karpov Poikovsky Tournament in Russia late last month, a point ahead of Russians Evgeny Bareev, Alexey Dreev, Vadim Zvjaginsev and Ukraine’s Ruslan Ponomariov.

American GM Alexander Onischuk could not repeat his triumph at the recent U.S. Chess Championship in San Diego, finishing ninth in the 10-player field at 31/2-51/2. The U.S. GM had barely a break between the two events, and that might have affected his play.

Shirov, a crowd-pleaser with an audacious risk-taking style, showed solid form and good tactical imagination in his win over tail-ender GM Viktor Bologan of Moldova from the Poikovsky event.

In a Najdorf Sicilian, Shirov voluntarily surrenders his two bishops in return for a lock on the key d5-square. Though it appears Bologan’s bishops are on the verge of breaking out for the rest of the game, White’s strategic decision pays off handsomely.

Under pressure, Black slips on 22. Rg4! (classic Shirov aggressiveness) Bc8 23. Rg3 Bf5 24. Qa3 Rf7?! (Rb8! 25. Ne3 Qc7 is more solid and preserves the latent power of the bishops), and White bores in with 25. Ng5! Rd7 26. Ne3 (threatening already 27. Nxf5 gxf5 28. Rxd6!, and if 28…Rxd6 29. Nf7+) Qe8!? (seeking counterchances) 27. Rxd6 e4 28. Nxf5 gxf5 (see diagram) 29. Ne6!.

The bishop skewer proves toothless after 29…Be5 30. Qc5! Bxb2? (taking a rook actually was better, but White still appears on top after 30…Bxg3! 31. Qd4+ Be5! [Kg8? 32. Rxd7 Qg6 33. Rg7+ and wins] 32. Qxe5+ Kg8 33. c5, and the White rook, knight and c-pawn trio are hard to contain) 31. Qb5!, winning at once.

Black’s bishop and rook are under attack, and 31…Rxd6 allows 32. Qxb2+ Rd4 33. Qxd4 mate. Bologan resigned.

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


1. e4e633. Qxc5hxg4

2. d4d534. hxg4Qxg4

3. Nc3Nf635. Qxa5Qd1+

4. Bg5dxe436. Kb2Qd4+

5. Nxe4Nbd737. Ka2Qc3

6. Nxf6+Nxf638. Kb1g5

7. Nf3h639. Qd8Qxe5

8. Be3Nd540. a5g4

9. Qd2Bd641. a6g3

10. 0-0-0Qe742. Qd2Kg6

11. Ne5Bd743. a7Qe4

12. f4Bxe544. Qd8g2

13. dxe5Nxe345. Qg8+Kf6

14. Qxe3Bc646. a8=QQxa8

15. Be20-047. Qxa8g1=Q+

16. Bf3Bxf348. Ka2Qg4

17. Qxf3b649. Qd8+Kg7

18. Rd3Rad850. Qd3e5

19. Rhd1Rxd351. c4Qg2+

20. Rxd3Rd852. Ka1Qg1+

21. g3a553. Ka2Qf2+

22. b3g654. Kb1Qe1+

23. g4Rxd355. Ka2e4

24. Qxd3Qh456. Qd4+Kg6

25. h3Kg757. c5Qe2+

26. Kb2Qf258. Kb1e3

27. Qc4c559. Qd6+f6

28. Qe4b560. c6Qe1+

29. a4b461. Kc2Qf2+

30. Qc4h562. Kc1e2

31. Qb5Qd4+63. Qd3+f5

32. Kb1Qxf464. Qd6+Kh5

White resigns

7th Karpov Poikovsky Tournament, Poikovsky, Russia, March 2006


1. e4c517. c4bxc4

2. Nf3d618. bxc4f5

3. d4cxd419. Rfe1Kh8

4. Nxd4Nf620. Rad1fxe4

5. Nc3a621. Rxe4a5

6. Be3e522. Rg4Bc8

7. Nf3Be723. Rg3Bf5

8. Bc40-024. Qa3Rf7

9. 0-0Nc625. Ng5Rd7

10. h3b526. Ne3Qe8

11. Bb3Na527. Rxd6e4

12. Bg5Nxb328. Nxf5gxf5

13. axb3Bb729. Ne6Be5

14. Bxf6Bxf630. Qc5Bxb2

15. Nd5g631. Qb5Black

16. Qd3Bg7resigns

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



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