Saturday, January 12, 2008

Eat chocolate, sip mineral water, swim for exercise and skip breakfast — and you might become a grandmaster.

Just in time for the late New Year’s resolution season, an Argentine nutritionist has compiled an extensive survey on the dietary and exercise regimens of the world’s top players. Seventy-two male and female grandmasters participated in the survey, conducted by Roberto Baglione of the National Sport Higher Performance Center in Buenos Aires.

Actually, the dietary doctor concludes that ambitious players should eat breakfast, which “has a direct effect on the glucose concentration in the brain and liver.” However, his survey found that about 36.1 percent of his sample did not eat a morning meal — and still ranked among the game’s elite.

An overwhelming 95.8 percent of those surveyed said they ate or drank something during games, with chocolate (80.5 percent) swamping fruits (14.6 percent) and cereal bars (9.8 percent) as the preferred munchie. Nearly 90 percent of the GMs said they engaged in physical activity at least three times a week, with swimming edging out jogging and working out in the gym by a small margin.

Other gustatory gems to help your game:

• The last “main” meal should be eaten at least three hours before the clocks are started. Closer to game time, players should limit themselves to snacking on fruits, pretzels, yogurt or sports drinks.

• “The best [in-game] hydration strategy is to drink small quantities at regular intervals instead of greater quantities at fewer intervals, and to avoid being thirsty.”

• The abuse of dietary supplements can lead to other health problems and put the player afoul of new chess anti-doping rules.

• Avoid heavy foods at the pre-game training table, which can draw oxygen from the brain and leave a player tired and unfocused during play.

The French got toasted in the Eastern.

The French Defense (1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5) has a reputation as one of Black’s more dogged openings, establishing a cramped but sturdy pawn center that the first player must work to break down. But the opening came up short in two key games from last month’s 34th annual Eastern Open, the premier D.C. Swiss event, won by Massachusetts GM Alexander Ivanov.

In the tournament’s money game, Virginia NM Anton del Mundo’s queen appears to be auditioning for the next “Girls Gone Wild” video, grabbing a dangerous pawn on Move 15 and finding herself trapped behind enemy lines just five moves later.

With moves like 7…Nb4!? and 9…Bxc5, del Mundo tries to sharpen the play from the outset, but aggressiveness comes back to haunt him on 14. Rfc1 Qb5 15. a4 Qxb2?! (Qb6 16. b4 f6 17. a5 is a less risky road, though White’s space advantage is clear) 16. Rab1 Qa2 (Qa3? 17. Bb4) 17. Qd1!, guarding the a-pawn and closing off a key escape route for the queen.

It’s not clear what Black missed, but after 17…d4 18. Rc4 a5 19. Qc1, he had to try something like 19…Re8 20. Nxd4 (Ra1 Qb3 21. Ra3 Qb6 and the queen wriggles free) Nxe5 21. Ra1 Nxd3 22. Rxa2 Nxc1 23. Rxc1 Ra6, with some chances to survive. Instead, Black closes his own escape hatch with 19…b6?? 20. Ra1, when 20…Qb3 21. Ra3 runs Her Majesty to ground. Del Mundo resigned.

Maryland expert Scott Low tied for the top Under-2300 prize in the Eastern’s Open section, upsetting master Yu Zhong Lu along the way. A timely piece sacrifice demolishes Zhong Lu’s vaunted French center, and after some tactical vicissitudes, Low manages to snare the point.

Both players bypassed some promising alternatives in a game featuring sharp tactical play from the outset. White’s speculative piece sacrifice — 15. g4! Nxd4 16. gxf5 Nxf5 17. Bxf5 gxf5 18. Ncxd5! exd5 19. Nxd5 — gives him excellent practical chances, as the obliteration of Black’s pawn center leaves Zhong Lu’s king badly exposed.

But White misses a shot as Black scrambles to cover up (21. Nb6! Rb8 22. Nc4! looks close to winning, as in lines such as 22…Ke7 [Qe7 23. Nd6+ Kd8 24. Nf5+] 23. Nd6 Qf8 24. Qh4+ Kd7 25. Nb5+ Ke8 26. Nc7+! Nxc7 27. Rd8+ Kf7 28. Qf6 mate), and Zhong Lu misses his own potential equalizer after 21. Nf6+?! Ke7 22. Qh4 Kf8 23. Ng8?! (right idea, wrong square; 23. Ne4! is the right way, with the brutal threat of 24. Rd8+ Nxd8 25. Qxd8+ Qe8 26. Qf6+ Qf7 27. Qxh8+ Ke7 28. Nd6 Qf8 Rg7+, winning), when 23…Qxg8! 24. Rxg8+ Rxg8 25. Qxh7 leaves matters unclear.

Low gets back on track after 23…Bd7? 24. Qh6+ Ng7 (see diagram) 25. Rxd7! Qxd7 26. e6!, putting excruciating pressure on Black’s position. There followed 26…Qd4 (Qxe6 27. Qxg7+ Ke8 28. Nf6+ Kd8 29. Qxh8 wins) 27. Nf6 Rg8 28. Rd1, when 28…Qe5 29. Nxh7+ Ke7 30. Rd7+ Ke8 31. Qg6 is mate. Black gives up his queen, but on 32. Qg6+ Kd8 33. Qf7, he must lose more material. After 34. Qxg7 Rexe6 35. b3, Black is out of tricks and resigned.

34th Eastern Open, Washington D.C., December 2007

IvanovDel Mundo

1. e4e611. Bd2Qxc5

2. d4d512. e5Nd7

3. Nd2Be713. 0-00-0

4. Bd3c514. Rfc1Qb5

5. dxc5Nf615. a4Qxb2

6. Qe2Nc616. Rab1Qa2

7. Ngf3Nb417. Qd1d4

8. Nb3Nxd3+18. Rc4a5

9. cxd3Bxc519. Qc1b6

10. Nxc5Qa5+20. Ra1Black


34th Eastern Open, Washington D.C., December 2007

LowZhong Lu

1. e4e619. Nxd5Ne6

2. d4d520. Rhg1c6

3. Nc3Nf621. Nf6+Ke7

4. Bg5Be722. Qh4Kf8

5. e5Nfd723. Ng8Bd7

6. h4Bxg524. Qh6+Ng7

7. hxg5Qxg525. Rxd7Qxd7

8. Nh3Qe726. e6Qd4

9. Bd3a627. Nf6Rg8

10. Qg4f528. Rd1Qxd1+

11. Qh5+g629. Kxd1Rd8+

12. Qh6Nc630. Kc1Rd6

13. Nf4Nf831. Nxh7+Ke8

14. 0-0-0Qf732. Qg6+Kd8

15. g4Nxd433. Qf7Re8

16. gxf5Nxf534. Qxg7Rexe6

17. Bxf5gxf535. b3Black

18. Ncxd5exd5resigns

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

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