- The Washington Times - Friday, October 20, 2006

Having just settled the question of who is the real world champion, we immediately move on to figuring out who will be the next world champion.

Russian GM Vladimir Kramnik’s overtime win over Bulgaria’s Veselin Topalov in their reunification title match in Elista, Russia, last week was barely over when all attention turned to the next championship cycle. The hopes of FIDE, the international chess organization, to end the disastrous civil war in the game over the past dozen years may hinge on its ability to organize and run a credible and competitive process to determine Kramnik’s next challenger.

Right now, through a quirk in the qualifying process, Topalov isn’t even in the field of candidates with a shot at the next title bout, although it looks likely FIDE organizers will find a way to get him a slot.

Many of the likely challengers were in action last week at the 2006 Europe Club Cup in the Austrian city of Fuegen, won on tiebreaks by the Russian Tomsk-400 squad. Tomsk top board GM Alexander Morozevich is one of four players automatically seeded into the next candidates cycle, along with Kramnik, Viswanathan Anand of India and Peter Svidler of Russia.

Brooklyn GM Gata Kamsky, the only American in the FIDE field, plays France’s Etienne Bacrot in one of eight knockout matches for a chance to play in the candidates tournament. Hungarians Peter Leko and Judit Polgar (the only woman in the running) and budding Norwegian superstar Magnus Carlsen are among the other hopefuls.

The darkest horse in the field may be Russian GM Vladimir Malakhov, who was in action in Austria as a top member of the powerful Ural Sverdlovskaya team, which lost out to Tomsk on tiebreaks. The 26-year-old Malakhov is not well known outside Russia and is a rarity in elite chess these days in that he has a day job as a physics researcher in Moscow.

Still, the part-timer flashed some solid form in the European club event, as can be seen by his quality win over Artashes Minasian, a strong Armenian grandmaster. Biding his time on the Black side of a Maroczy Bind Sicilian, Malakhov times his break perfectly and batters White’s king with some nice tactical shots.

By 19. g4 h6 20. Bd2 e6, Black has yet to advance a piece beyond his third rank, but the bristly Hedgehog-like formation of his pawns along the third rank is famously hard to crack.

An inaccuracy leaves Minasian open to a nasty counterpunch: 21. Qe1? (a4 Qc7 22. Qe2 holds things together, although already Black is at least equal) g5! 22. fxg5?! (giving Black the critical e5-square too easily; seeking complications in lines like 22. Ned1 Nxg4 23. Qg3 Bd4+ 24. Kf1 f5 25. exf5 exf5 26. Nd5 was better) hxg5 23. Nc2 Nxg4 24. e5 Bxe5.

White’s hopes for a king-side attack are dashed on 25. Rh5 Bxh2+! (clarifying and consolidating Black’s edge with minimal risk) 26. Rxh2 Nxh2 27. Kxh2 Ne5, and Black’s liberated pieces flood the zone, with tempting targets all around the lonely White king.

It’s over on 28. Be2 (see diagram) Rxc4! 29. Kg3 (Bxc4 Nf3+) Qf6 30. Qg1 Rxc3+!, and the rampaging rook removes another critical defender. Since 31. Bxc3 (Be3 Qf4+ 32. Kh3 Qh4 mate) Qf4+ 32. Kh3 Qh4 is mate, White resigned.

• • •

Congratulations to West Pointer David Jacobs and the Army for winning martial bragging rights for the next year at last weekend’s 47th Armed Forces Open, held on the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home in the District.

Jacobs, a third-year cadet, won his third straight individual title in the all-service event with a 51/2-1/2 score, a half-point ahead of Virginia expert and Navy retiree Larry Larkins, whom Jacobs defeated in their individual encounter in the penultimate round. Among the eight players finishing in a tie for third with 41/2 points were Air Force Lt. Col. Doug Taffinder, who chaired this year’s event and held Jacobs to his only draw; and retired Air Force Maj. Zachary Kinney, a prime force behind this tournament for years and a good friend of this column.

Jacobs’ win also propelled the Army platoon to a narrow one-point victory over the Air Force squadron in the interservice team competition.

Some close-quarters maneuvering, followed by a quick artillery strike, produced Jacobs’ best win of the event, a hard-fought victory over Reserve Sailor Pete Andreas, a Class A player. Andreas’ Alekhine Defense is a nice break for the parade of Sicilians and Petroffs we see these days at the grandmaster level, and Black acquits himself well in the early going.

But White’s powerful pawn center gives him a slight pull for most of the game, and a moment’s lapse allows Jacobs to cash in: 28. d6 cxd6 29. cxd6 Ne4 30. Rd1 Rf6? (the queen is typically a poor blockader, and here White uses a queen sacrifice to illustrate what Nimzovich called the passed pawn’s “lust to expand”) 31. Qc4+ Re6 32. Qxe6+! (ouch) Qxe6 33. d7, and Black resigned as it will cost him his queen to stop the advanced White pawn.

22nd European Club Cub, Fuegen, Austria, October 2006

Minasian Malakhov

1. e4 c5 16. Rh3 Nf6

2. Nf3 Nc6 17. Bd3 Nbd7

3. d4 cxd4 18. Ne3 a6

4. Nxd4 g6 19. g4 h6

5. c4 Nf6 20. Bd2 e6

6. Nc3 d6 21. Qe1 g5

7. Nc2 Bg7 22. gxf5 hxg5

8. Be2 0-0 23. Nc2 Nxg4

9. 0-0 Nd7 24. e5 Bxe5

10. Bd2 Nc5 25. Rh5 Bxh2+

11. b4 Nd7 26. Rxh2 Nxh2

12. Rb1 b6 27. Kxh2 Ne5

13. f4 Bb7 28. Be2 Rxc4

14. Be1 Rc8 29. Kg3 Qf6

15. Rf3 Ncb8 30. Qg1 Rxc3+

White resigns

47th Armed Forces Open, Washington, October 2006

Jacobs Andreas

1. e4 Nf6 18. Nc5 Bxc5

2. e5 Nd5 19. Bxc5 Rf7

3. c4 Nb6 20. f3 Nd6

4. d4 d6 21. Ra2 b6

5. exd6 exd6 22. Bf2 e4

6. Nc3 Nc6 23. fxe4 Nxe4

7. Be3 Bf5 24. Rae2 Nf6

8. a3 Be7 25. Rxe8+ Nxe8

9. b4 a6 26. c5 bxc5

10. Bd3 Bxd3 27. bxc5 Nf6

11. Qxd3 0-0 28. d6 cxd6

12. Nf3 Qd7 29. cxd6 Ne4

13. 0-0 Rae8 30. Rd1 Rf6

14. d5 Ne5 31. Qc4+ Re6

15. Nxe5 dxe5 32. Qxe6+ Qxe6

16. Rfe1 Nc8 34. d7 Black

17. Ne4 f5 resigns

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

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