- The Washington Times - Friday, October 27, 2006

An intriguing controlled experiment in the art of chess preparation was conducted this

week at the Category 20 Essent Chess Tournament, a four-grandmaster double-round-robin event under way in the Dutch city of Hoogeveen.

Tuesday’s second round paired Hungarian GM Judit Polgar, just back from a year away from the game after the birth of her second child, and Bulgarian GM Veselin Topalov, just back from his grueling and unsuccessful world title match earlier this month with Russia’s Vladimir Kramnik, a contest that included 12 games at classical time controls and a tense, four-game rapid playoff.

The result: A rusty Polgar defeated an exhausted Topalov in a sharp struggle that did credit to both players.

Both players are uncompromising tacticians, and this Keres System Sicilian features a number of nice combinational ideas. In the end, however, Topalov’s counterattack as Black simply runs out of gas, leaving him at the mercy of the Hungarian’s assault.

Subtle touches abound: Polgar’s 15. Qf2! clears the e2 square for her knight to relocate from c3 to h5, pressuring the Black defense. Topalov’s obscure 17…Rh7!?, surrendering castling privileges, is designed to provide extra protection for the f7-square while giving Black’s bishop a hidy-hole on h8.

White misses one shot (20. Nf5! exf5 21. Bxe5 Bxe5 22. Qxf5, and the rook on h7 can’t retreat because of 23. Qxf7 mate), but she still emerges with a decisive attack after 27. h5 Bh7 28. Qh4! (letting the c-pawn go to keep the attack alive; Black comes close but can never mate Polgar’s king) Bxc2+ 29. Nxc2 Qxc2+ 30. Ka2 Rc4?! (my computer offers up the counterintuitive 30…Ke7!? 31. Nd5+ Kf8 32. Ne7 Nc4, though White still has the edge after 33. Rb1 Nd2 34. Qf6 Rh7 35. Nxc8, when 35…Nxb1?? 36. Qe7+ Kg8 37. Qe8+ Kg7 38. Rxf7 is mate) 31. Ne4+ Kc7 32. Nxd6!.

White now threatens a mating chase beginning with 33. Qe7+ Kb6 34. Qb7+ Kc5 35. Qa7+ Kb4 36. Qd3!, but Topalov’s 32…Rf4 33. Qe7+ still leaves the Black king in mortal danger. Polgar gives up her two rooks for the Black queen, but in the final position, Black faces three separate mates: 40. Qc5+ Ka4 41. Qc6+ Ka5 42. Nb7 mate; 40. Qc7+ Ka4 41. b3+ Ka3 42. Qa5 mate; and 40. Nb7+ Kb5 41. Qc5+ Ka4 42. Qc6 mate. Topalov resigned.

Israeli GM Victor Mikhalevski scored a first in the history of chess at this month’s GM Slugfest invitational in Seattle earlier this month, scoring 10 points in a six-round event.

In an effort to shake things up, organizer Clint Ballard introduced a scoring system in which players received three points for a win playing Black, two points for a win as White, a single point for a draw as Black, and no points for a loss or for a draw as White. Mikhalevski’s trifecta win with Black over Florida GM Julio Becerra in the final round enabled him to rocket past GMs Gregory Serper and Lubomir Ftacnik for the $5,000 first prize.

The scoring was odd, but the play at the board was rigorously logical in Mikhalevski’s last-round win. Becerra as White holds a clear material edge for much of the game, but the positional trumps of Black’s position and Mikhalevski’s imaginative endgame play bring home the three points.

Black sacrifices a pawn with 10…e5!? 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. exd5 cxd5 13. Nxd5 Be6 14. Nxf6+ Qxf6, getting two good bishops and open queen-side lines to the White king. Becerra declines to win a second pawn (16. Bd3!? e4 17. Bxe4 Qe5 18. c3 Rab8 19. Rc1 Rfc8 20. Ka1 Qa5, and Black’s pieces buzz around the White king), instead initiating a lengthy forced sequence beginning with 16. g4!? Qxf3 17. Bg2.

When the “only” moves run out on 23. Bxf8 Kxf8 24. Re1 f6, White is up a rook for bishop and pawn in a tricky ending. But Black almost immediately gains the upper hand on 25. Re3? (see diagram; White would do better to get his queen-side pawns in motion with 25. b3, as the idea of picking off Black’s a-pawn proves unexpectedly time-consuming) a6!, a clever finesse that puts the pawn on a square that can be protected by the Black bishop.

Becerra errs again with 32. Kc1? (better is 32. Kc2, as the king can better restrain the Black pawns from d3 than from f1; bad is 32. Rxa6? f3 33. Rf6 Bf5+ 34. Kc1 f2, and Black wins trivially) e4!, and suddenly the Black pawns can’t be corralled.

On 36. Ke2 Ke7, the threat of 37…Bb5+ forces Becerra to trade down to a lost pawn ending with 37. Rxd7+ Kxd7 38. h4 Kc6 39. b4 h6 40. a4 g5 41. a5 Kb5, and the advanced placement of the Black king proves decisive. White resigns, as the sequel 42. hxg5 hxg5 43. Kf1 g4 44. Ke2 g3 45. Kf1 Kc4! 46. c6 Kd3 will allow the Black pawns to queen with check.

10th Essent Chess Tournament, Hoogeveen, Netherlands, October 2006

PolgarTopalov

1. e4c521. Bxe4Bxe4

2. Nf3d622. Bh4Qc7

3. d4cxd423. Bf6Bg6

4. Nxd4Nf624. Bxh8Rxh8

5. Nc3a625. Nf6+Kd8

6. Be3e626. h4Qc5

7. g4h627. h5Bh7

8. Bg2g528. Qh4Bxc2+

9. Qe2Nbd729. Nxc2Qxc2+

10. 0-0-0Ne530. Ka1Rc4

11. h3Nfd731. Ne4+Kc7

12. f4gxf432. Nxd6Rf4

13. Bxf4b533. Qe7+Kb6

14. Rhf1Bb734. Qb7+Ka5

15. Qf2Rc835. Qa7b4

16. Nce2Bg736. Rfe1Nf3

17. Ng3Rh737. Rc1Nxe1

18. Nh5Bh838. Rxc2Nxc2+

19. Kb1Nc539. Kb1Black

20. Bg3Nxe4resigns

GM Slugfest, Seattle, October 2006

BecerraMikhalevski

1. e4c522. Rxf8+Qxf8

2. Nf3d623. Bxf8Kxf8

3. d4cxd424. Re1f6

4. Nxd4Nf625. Re3a6

5. Nc3g626. Rg3Bc8

6. Be3Bg727. Rc3Bd7

7. f3Nc628. Rc7Ke7

8. Qd20-029. c4f5

9. 0-0-0d530. c5Kd8

10. Kb1e531. Ra7f4

11. Nxc6bxc632. Kc1e4

12. exd5cxd533. Rxa6e3

13. Nxd5Be634. Rd6f3

14. Nxf6+Qxf635. Kd1f2

15. Bg5Qf536. Ke2Ke7

16. g4Qxf337. Rxd7+Kxd7

17. Bg2Qxg438. h4Kc6

18. Bxa8Rxa839. b4h6

19. Qd8+Rxd840. a4g5

20. Rxd8+Bf841. a5Kb5

21. Bh6Qb4White 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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