- The Washington Times - Friday, January 26, 2007

There is a time-tested strategy for winning a world-class event like the Category 19 Corus “A” Tournament, coming to a close this weekend in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands: Draw with your peers and rack up the points against the pretenders, even if those pretenders sport ratings just shy of 2700.

But the giants apparently are out for blood in Holland. GM Viswanathan Anand of India, the world’s second-highest-rated player, has lost twice at Corus, to world No. 1 GM Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria and No. 3-ranked Vladimir Kramnik of Russia, who also happens to be the reigning world champion.

With five wins and five draws in the first 10 rounds, Topalov was cruising toward the title until a loss yesterday to Russian GM Peter Svidler left him just a half-point in front with two rounds to go. The tournament, the first superelite event of 2007, could be decided by today’s penultimate-round showdown between Kramnik and Topalov.

Kramnik, who married French journalist Marie-Laure Germon at the end of 2006, has shown no honeymoon hangover in his play at Corus. He is undefeated, and his win over the Indian superstar is his first at classical time controls against Anand in six years.

Tactical fireworks are unlikely among two top grandmasters, and this Catalan turns on tiny positional subtleties like 17. Nbd2 Bd5 18. Qf1!, with the idea of Ne1-d3-c5, a bit of Kramnik home cooking. Black’s 18…Nbd7 (Nc6 19. Bc3 was also suggested) 19. b4 e5?! was a bid to open the position before White’s strategic clamp became unbearable.

But Kramnik keeps an enduring edge with 22. f3! (trades only ease Black’s problems) Nc4 23. Nxc4 Bxc4 24. Qf2, with White enjoying a strong pawn center, the bishop pair, and control of the most useful open lines. White’s bishop at a5 looks out of play but performs the essential task of keeping Black’s rooks out of d8.

White may have gotten a little too cute with 33. Qd8 Rd7?! (another hasty decision by Anand, when 33…Be6 hunkers down) 34. Rxd7 Qxd7 35. Qxd7 Nxd7 36. e5?! (simply 36. Bh3 and 37. Bc8, collecting the Black a-pawn, was the more direct and better course) fxe5 37. Bxc6 Nf6, when 38. fxe5 Bd5! leads to an almost-certain draw.

Luckily for White, his two bishops and Black’s weak queen-side give him a clear endgame edge, which translates into material gain on 41. Ke3 g5 (Nd5+ 42. Kd4 Nf4 43. Bxa6 Kf7 44. a4 is winning) 42. Bxa6 Kf7 43. a4!. Even though the extra pawn is doubled, White’s bishop clearly outclasses the knight in the ensuing play.

Anand’s problem is that even sacrificing the knight for the b-pawn falls short, as the White bishop is the right color to help the h-pawn queen. It’s over on 48. Bf2 Nc3+ 49. Kf5! Nxb5 50. Kxg4 Ke6 51. Kg5 Kf7 52. Kf5 Ke7 53. Bc5+, and Kramnik will win the knight by pushing the b-pawn, or win the Black h-pawn if Anand’s king heads for the queen-side.

Facing lines like 53…Kf7 (Kd7 54. Kf6 Nc3 55. Kg7 h5 56. Kg6 h4 57. h3 Ne4 58. Kh5) 54 Ke5 Nc3 55. Kd6 Ne4+ 56. Kc6 Ke8 57. b5, Anand resigned.

The 14-grandmaster Corus A tournament is just one of three strong invitationals under way in the Dutch coastal city. Some of the sharpest play has come in the lower-rated tournaments, including today’s second game from the Corus “C” bracket, a Category 10 tournament.

Anand’s young compatriot, 13-year-old GM Parimarjan Negi, improves on his mentor in a sacrificial demolition of rising Dutch star Wouter Spoelman.

The Moller Ruy Lopez actually follows a 1997 Anand game against Ukrainian star Vassily Ivanchuk. Anand as White played 13. axb3 in that game, and Black held the draw after 13…h6 14. Bh4 g5 15. Nxg5 Nxe4! 16. Nxe4 Qxh4.

Negi here varies with 13. Qxb3!? and his opponent does not react well to the novelty: 13…h6 14. Bh4 g5? (see diagram; after White’s 13th move capture, Black’s best now was the hard-to-find 14…d6!, when he holds after 15. e5 dxe5 16. dxe5 g5 17. Nxg5 [Bg3 Ne4] hxg5 18. Bxg5 Bxf2+!) 15. Nxg5 Nxe4 (hxg5? gives White an overwhelming edge on 16. Bxg5 Bxd4 17. Qg3 Kh8 [Nh5 18. Qg4] 18. e5!) 16. Rxe4!!.

With Black’s indispensable defender rudely dismissed, White ensures that his attack will break through, even if the denouement takes a few moves.

There followed 16…Bxe4 (hxg5 17. Rg4, and 17…f6 is impossible because the queen pins the f-pawn) 17. Qg3 hxg5 (Bg6 18. Nxf7! Qe8 19. Qxg6 mate) 18. Bxg5 Qe8 19. Bf6+ Bg6. A curious position: Spoelman is a rook up and threatens mate on the move to boot, but White still has the won game because of the weak squares around the Black king.

Thus: 20. Nc3! Qe6 21. Qh4 Bh7 (Bh5 22. Qxh5! Qxf6 23. Nd5 Qd8 24. Re1 Bxd4 25. Ne7+ K-g7 26. Qg5+ Kh7 27. Re4 and mate to come) 22. Qg5+ Bg6 23. Nd5 Bxd4 (Rae8 24. h3 stops the back-rank tricks and leaves Black still facing 25. Qh6) 24. Bxd4 c5 25. Nf6+ Kg7 26. Ne8+ Kg8 27. Qh6.

Whether Black takes the knight on e8 or the bishop on d4, White still can deliver mate with the queen on g7. Spoelman resigned.

We’ll have a full wrap-up of the action at Corus next week.

Corus A Tournament, Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands, January 2007


1. d4Nf628. Rd1Qb7

2. c4e629. Rd6f6

3. g3d530. f4Re6

4. Bg2Be731. Rd2Re7

5. Nf30-032. Qd4Nf8

6. 0-0dxc433. Qd8Rd7

7. Qc2a634. Rxd7Qxd7

8. Qxc4b535. Qxd7Nxd7

9. Qc2Bb736. e5fxe5

10. Bd2Ra737. Bxc6Nf6

11. Rc1Be438. Bb7exf4

12. Qb3Nc639. gxf4Nd5

13. e3Qa840. Kf2Nxf4

14. Qd1Nb841. Ke3g5

15. Ba5Rc842. Bxa6Kf7

16. a3Bd643. a4Ke7

17. Nbd2Bd544. Bxb5Bxb5

18. Qf1Nbd745. axb5Kd7

19. b4e546. Ke4Ne2

20. dxe5Bxe547. Bb6g4

21. Nxe5Nxe548. Bf2Nc3+

22. f3Nc449. Kf5Nxb5

23. Nxc4Bxc450. Kxg4Ke6

24. Qf2Re851. Kg5Kf7

25. e4c652. Kf5Ke7

26. Rd1Rd753. Bc5+Black

27. Rxd7Nxd7resigns

Corus C Tournament, Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands, January 2007


1. e4e515. Nxg5Nxe4

2. Nf3Nc616. Rxe4Bxe4

3. Bb5a617. Qg3hxg5

4. Ba4Nf618. Bxg5Qe8

5. 0-0b519. Bf6+Bg6

6. Bb3Bb720. Nc3Qe6

7. Re1Bc521. Qh4Bh7

8. c30-022. Qg5+Bg6

9. d4Bb623. Nd5Bxd4

10. Be3exd424. Bxd4c5

11. cxd4Na525. Nf6+Kg7

12. Bg5Nxb326. Ne8+Kg8

13. Qxb3h627. Qh6Black

14. Bh4g5resigns

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

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