- The Washington Times - Friday, January 12, 2007

Space may be the final frontier, but it often is the first factor a strong player takes into consideration in evaluating his position.

Controlling more of the board gives your pieces greater freedom to maneuver, cuts down on your opponent’s options and provides the flexibility to attack on either flank or to switch abruptly from one battlefield to another. Defenders in cramped positions must show inordinate patience and often are tempted to break out prematurely in ways that only damage their prospects.

An instructive and well-played illustration of the idea comes from the just-concluded Hastings International Chess Congress, the storied year-end tournament at the British seaside town. GMs Merab Gagunashvili of Georgia and Valerij Neverov of Ukraine shared first with 7-2 scores.

Previous winners of the Hastings Premier event, once one of the biggest draws on the international circuit, include the great American Harry Nelson Pillsbury and world champions such as Alexander Alekhine, Vassily Smyslov, Mikhail Tal and Boris Spassky.

In his fine positional win over Ukrainian IM Petr Marusenko, English IM Stewart Haslinger showed the multiple benefits of a pronounced advantage in space. In this Caro-Kann Advance, White first grabs a dominating pawn center, probes Black’s game to force more weakness and adroitly trades in one advantage for another to collect the point.

White wins the early strategic skirmish after 8. Nc3 Bf5?! (pushing back with 8…a6 9. f4 Ng6 10. Bd3 e6 was already called for) 9. Bb5+ Kd8 10. Be3 Nf6 (Nd3+ 11. Bxd3 Bxd3 12. Nf3 Nf6 13. Ne5 Bg6 14. 0-0-0 is very pleasant for White) 11. f4 Ned7 12. Nf3 Ne8 13. Ne5 Nd6 14. g4!, and the ensuing trades will give White a powerful pawn phalanx.

After 14…Nxe5 (a6 15. Ba4 Nxe5 16. Bb6+ Kc8 17. fxe5 Nc4 18. gxf5 Nxb6 19. Rc1 Nxa4 20. Nxa4+ Kd8 21. Nc5 b5 22. Nb7+ Ke8 23. Rc7 is very powerful) 15. fxe5 Nxb5 16. gxf5 Nxc3 17. bxc3, Black has turned back the immediate threats to his king and his weak f7 and d7 squares, but he can only hunker down as White decides when and where to strike.

On 21. Rb2 gxf5 22. Rg2!, the bishop is trapped after 22…Bh6? 23. Rxf5 Ke8 24. Kd1! Rc8 25. Rh5 Bf4 26. Rg4. But on the game’s 22…Bh8 23. Rxf5, Black already faces threats like 24. Rxf7! Rxf7 25. Rg8+ Kc7 26. Rxa8 Bg7 27. d6+ exd6 28. Rxa7+, winning.

Growing impatient, Black opens himself up to new problems with 25. e6 Bxd4?! (Bf6 was tougher, though White keeps the clamps on after 26. exf7+ Rxf7 27. Rg8+ Kd7 28. Rxd8+ Kxd8 29. Kd3 Ke8 30. Ke4) 26. exf7+ Kd7 (Rxf7?? 27. Rg8+ Kd7 28. Rxd8+ Kxd7 29. Rxf7) 27. cxd4 (White’s extra pawn is nice, but his real edge lies in Black’s immobilized rook on f8) e6 28. Re5! exd5 (Rxf7?? 29. dxe6+) 29. Rg7, and Haslinger has an overwhelming game despite the balanced material.

With White’s king free to join the fray, Black packs it in after 37. Rxe6+ Kxe6 38. Kg6, when 38…a5 39. Kg7 Kxf5 40. Kxf8 Kf6 41. Kg8 allows the pawn to queen.

Winning the space race also played a critical role in New York IM Fabiano Caruana’s last-round victory in the 33rd annual Eastern Open, the annual Washington year-end event we wrote about last week. Caruana’s last-round win over FM Ralph Zimmer vaulted the 14-year-old IM into a four-way tie for first in the Open section.

The fight for greater operating space helps explain Caruana’s unusual early king walk — 12. Ke2 Ba6 13. Kf3!? — as he tries to avoid piece exchanges that would ease Black’s game. White ends up with an enduring hold on the d-file and an open door into the Black position via the d6-square.

Another unexpected king move prepares the decisive assault on Black’s cramped position: 22. a3 Qc7 (see diagram) 23. Kg3!, clearing a path for the bishop to h5 and setting up the positional threat of 24. b4 cxb4 25. axb4 Bxc4 26. Rac1, and Black has no queen check to escape the pin.

White’s edge becomes decisive on 25. Nh3 gxf4+?! (tougher was 25…g4, trying to cover up) 26. Nxf4 Bb7 27. Nxg6 Rg8 28. Qg5 hxg6 (the pinning 28…Rxg6 is met by the counter-pin 29. Bh5) 29. Bh5 f4+ 30. Kf2 (Kxf4? Rf8+ 31. Kg3 gxh5 forces White to settle for the draw with 32. Qxh5+ Ke7 33. Qg5+) Be4 31. Rad1 Rb8 32. R1d2 Rb6 33. Kg1 Qb7 34. Bg4 Rxd6 35. exd6, and the d-pawn and Black’s weak dark squares spell Zimmer’s doom.

Two Black pawns fall to the marauding White queen and by 42. Qd4 Bc6 43. Qc3 Qb8 44. c5, Black could resign with honor. In the final position after 57. Ke2 Qe4+ 58. Kd2, Black has no more checks and White’s two queens are poised to deliver checkmate. Zimmer gave up.

Hastings International Chess Congress, Hastings, England, January 2007


1. e4c620. Rb1b6

2. d4d521. Rb2gxf5

3. e5c522. Rg2Bh8

4. c4cxd423. Rxf5Ke8

5. Qxd4Nc624. Kd2Rd8

6. Qxd5Qxd525. e6Bxd4

7. cxd5Nxe526. exf7+Kd7

8. Nc3Bf527. cxd4e6

9. Bb5+Kd828. Re5exd5

10. Be3Nf629. Rg7h6

11. f4Ned730. Rh7Kc7

12. Nf3Ne831. Ke3Rd7

13. Ne5Nd632. Rf5b5

14. g4Nxe533. Kf4Re7

15. fxe5Nxb534. Kg4b4

16. gxf5Nxc335. Kh5Re6

17. bxc3g636. Rxh6Kd6

18. Rf1Bg737. Rxe6+Kxe6

19. Bd4Rf838. Kg6Black


33rd Eastern Open, Washington, D.C., December 2006


1. e4c530. Kf2Be4

2. Nf3e631. Rad1Rb8

3. d4cxd432. R1d2Rb6

4. Nxd4Nf633. Kg1Qb7

5. Nc3Nc634. Bg4Rxd6

6. Nxc6bxc635. exd6Rg7

7. e5Nd536. Rf2Qb3

8. Ne4Qa5+37. Qxf4Bf5

9. c3Qc738. Qe5Kf7

10. f4Qb639. Be2Kg8

11. c4Bb4+40. g4Bb1

12. Ke2Ba641. Qxc5Be4

13. Kf3f542. Qd4Bc6

14. Nf2Ne743. Qc3Qb8

15. Be3Bc544. c5Rf7

16. Bxc5Qxc545. Rxf7Kxf7

17. Qd6Qa546. Bf3Bxf3

18. Be2Rd847. Qxf3+Kg7

19. Rhd1Nc848. Qc3+Kh7

20. Qd3c549. b4Qb5

21. Qe3Ne750. c6dxc6

22. a3Qc751. Qd2Qc4

23. Kg3g552. h3Qe4

24. Rd6Ng653. d7Qe5

25. Nh3gxf4+54. d8=QQg3+

26. Nxf4Bb755. Kf1Qf3+

27. Nxg6Rg856. Qf2Qh1+

28. Qg5hxg657. Ke2Qe4+

29. Bh5f4+58. Kd2Black


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

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