- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 19, 2008

Caissa and Bacchus make for an ill-matched couple.

The goddess of chess and the god of alcoholic indulgence have just never hit it off. Chess is a game of the coffeehouse; in the tavern, the games of choice are dominos, darts and backgammon.

Fresh proof of the old antagonism comes in the dismal performance of the Tomsk-400 squad at the Russian Team Championships that concluded this week in the city of Dagomys. The event’s defending champion, the Tomsk team, also took first in the two most recent European Club Cups.

However, Tomsk-400 finished ninth in the 12-team field this week and was fined by the chief arbiter in mid-tournament for “breaching sporting discipline” — apparently an old Soviet euphemism for excessive imbibing. In the round in which the fine was levied, Tomsk-400 managed just one draw and five losses in its match against TPS-Saransk.

While Tomsk faltered, the Ural-Ekaterinburg team won the event, the strongest team competition in the world. U.S. GM Gata Kamsky held down third board for the winners, whose six-man squad sported an average rating of 2702.

Sober or not, Tomsk-400 top board Alexander Morozevich had a tough time in Dagomys. Two rounds after his team was fined, he was thoroughly outclassed by Ukrainian GM Ruslan Ponomariov, a former FIDE world champion, on the White side of a Sicilian Najdorf.

The uncharacteristically timid 10. g4 b4 11. Ne2?! gives Black an easy game, and by 17. Bg2 Rc8 18. Nd3 d5!, Ponomariov has gotten in the classic Sicilian freeing move for Black and already stands better.

It’s clear it is not Morozevich’s day, as he almost immediately overlooks a relatively simple tactic: 19. exd5 Nxd5 20. f4? (better, though not good, was 20. Bf2 Qc7 21. Rc1 g6, when White faces the annoying idea of 22…Bh6) Rxc2!, when 21. Qxc2 Nxe3 22. Bxb7 Nxc2+ 23. Kf2 Nxa1 24. Rxa1 Rxh2 is just winning for Black.

After the nearly forced sequence 21. Bxd5 Rxd2 22. Bxd7 Rxd3 23. f5 (Ke2 Bc4 24. Rac1 exf4 25. Bxf4 Rc3+ 26. Kf2 Rxc1 27. Rxc1 Bxa2 28. Rc8+ Ke7 29. Nf5+ Kf6 30. Nd4 Be6 and Black consolidates) Rxe3+ 24. Kd2 Rxg3 35. fxe6 Rgh3 26. exd7+ Kxd7, the fireworks show is over. Black is two pawns up and about to win the h-pawn. Morozevich gave up soon after.


Chess history offers numerous cautionary tales about the ill effects of tippling on talent. Many blame the great Alexander Alekhine’s heavy drinking for his stunning loss of the world title to Dutch challenger Max Euwe in 1935. A sobered-up Alekhine easily reclaimed his crown in a rematch just two years later.

Also, 19th century Irish-born American star James Mason was said to have lost many games while in a “hilarious condition.” A “jolly good fellow first and a chess player afterwards, he never fulfilled the promise of his early years,” according to the “Oxford Companion to Chess.”

Still, Mason for a time ranked among the half-dozen best players in the world, wrote a number of widely admired chess manuals, and managed to leave behind masterpieces on the level of his win over Polish star Simon Winawer at the great 1882 Vienna international tournament. Mason would finish third in the event behind Winawer and co-winner Wilhelm Steinitz.

The early play in this Giuoco Piano is dynamically balanced, but Black’s 28. Be2 Kc7?! (Rc8 29. d4 c4 deadens the impact of White’s central play) 29. d4! c4 30. Rb1 g5 31. bxc4! bxc4 underestimates that impact the open b-file will have on his defense.

White soon wins a pawn but must find a brilliant combination to seal the win: 39. Qh5 Rf6? (overlooking White’s idea, but it’s hard to save the h-pawn in any case) 40. Rxg5!! hxg5 (Rxb4 41. Rg7+) 41. Qh7+ Nd7 (Kd8 42. Qh8+ Ke7 43. Qg7+ Kd8 44. Qxf6+ Kc7 45. Qe7+ wins) 42. Bxd7 Qg8 (see diagram), and now Mason finds a stunning tactical idea.

Thus: 43. Rb7+!! (the most beautiful and efficient path to victory) Kxb7 (Rxb7 leaves the Black queen on g8 hanging) 44. Bc8+!, a double check that also interferes with the connection between the Black major pieces. Black cannot capture the bishop as he loses a rook after 44…Kxc8 45. Qxg8+ Kb7 46. Qg7+ Kb6 47. Qxf6, and so must give up his queen.

With the White bishop covering a2 and g2, Black’s rooks on the seventh rank can do no damage. In the final position, 56…Ka6 57. Bc4+ Rb5 58. Qc6+ is crushing; Winawer resigned.

Russian Team Championships, Dagomys, Russia, April 2008


1. e4c518. Nd3d5

2. Nf3d619. exd5Nxd5

3. d4cxd420. f4Rxc2

4. Nxd4Nf621. Bxd5Rxd2

5. Nc3a622. Bxb7Rxd3

6. f3e523. f5Rxe3+

7. Nb3Be624. Kd2Rxg3

8. Be3Nbd725. fxe6Rgh3

9. Qd2b526. exd7+Kxd7

10. g4b427. Rhf1Rxh2+

11. Ne2h628. Kd3f6

12. g5hxg529. Kc4Rxb2

13. Bxg5a530. Kb5b3

14. Ng3a431. a3Bd6

15. Nc1Qb632. Bc6+Ke7

16. Be3Qb733. Kxa4Rc2

17. Bg2Rc8White resigns

International Tournament, Vienna, May 1882


1. e4e529. d4c4

2. Nf3Nc630. Rb1g5

3. Bc4Bc531. bxc4bxc4

4. d3d632. Rb4Qe6

5. Be3Bb633. d5Qc8

6. Nbd2h634. Bxc4Na4

7. Nf1Nf635. Bb5Nc5

8. h3Ne736. Qe2f5

9. Ng3c637. exf5e4

10. Bb3Bxe338. Bc6Rb8

11. fxe3Qb639. Qh5Rf6

12. Qd2a540. Rxg5hxg5

13. c3a441. Qh7+Nd7

14. Bd1Be642. Bxd7Qg8

15. 0-0Qc743. Rb7+Kxb7

16. Nh4b544. Bc8+Ka8

17. Bc2c545. Qxg8Rxf5

18. Ngf5Bxf546. Qd8Rxd5

19. Nxf5Nxf547. Qd7Rb1+

20. Rxf5Nd748. Kh2Rd2

21. Raf1f649. Qc6+Kb8

22. Bd1a350. Qxe4R1b2

23. Bh5+Ke751. Be6Kc7

24. b3Rhf852. Qc4+Kb6

25. R5f3Nb653. Bd5g4

26. Rg3Kd854. hxg4Rf2

27. Bg4Qe755. Qc6+Ka7

28. Be2Kc756. Qc7+Black


David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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