- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 19, 2008

Robert James Fischer (March 9, 1943-Jan. 18, 2008).

News of Bobby Fischer’s death in Iceland comes just at our deadline. We’ll have a full appreciation — of the player, not the man — in next week’s column.


The veterans stumbled right out of the gate and a younger generation of stars took advantage at the Corus Chess Festival, the annual trio of elite invitational tournaments being held at the Dutch seaside town of Wijk aan Zee.

In the elite Corus A tournament, a Category 20 event with an eye-popping average rating of 2742, world champion Viswanathan Anand of India and Bulgarian former champ Veselin Topalov both lost their first-round games, to Azerbaijani GM Teimour Radjabov and Armenia’s Levon Aronian, respectively.

While the top seeds faltered, Norwegian 16-year-old wunderkind Magnus Carlsen, Aronian and Radjabov — who doesn’t turn 21 until March — are setting the pace, all at 3½-1½ through Thursday’s play . Also very much in the mix is another former champ, Russian GM Vladimir Kramnik, tied for fourth with Hungary’s Judit Polgar at 3-2.

Carlsen, who finished dead last in 2007 in his first go-round in the Corus A event, started this year with two wins, including an impressive positional crush of Ukrainian GM Pavel Eljanov. The game is reminiscent of countless victories by former Soviet world champ Anatoly Karpov, in which the annotator can nod off for clumps of moves at a time as the winner logically, inexorably pursues a simple plan to victory.

Very Karpovian is the cool 12. Kxf1 0-0 13. Ke2!, already positioning the king for the queenless middle game. The subtle tactics revolving around 16. c6! (cxb6?! win a pawn but leave White with glaringly weak queen-side pawns after 16…Nc5 and 17…axb6) Qxc6 17. Bxe7 Rfe8 18. Ba3 Qxc3?! (retrieving the lost pawn but giving White all the winning chances) 19. Qxc3 Bxc3 20. Rac1 Bb4 21. Bb2 Bf8 22. Nd4 Nc5 give White an ever-so-slight edge in that his king-side majority is more mobile than Black’s queen-side pawns.

The advantage becomes more apparent on 27. Rc2 Na6?! (perhaps Eljanov’s only real “blunder” of the game), when White’s pieces suddenly flood the Black defenses after 28. Bxf8 Kxf8 29. Rc6 Kg7 30. Nb5 R4e7 31. Rdd6 Nc5 32. Nc7. With Black pieces tied to the defense of his pawns, Carlsen can advance his own pawns and his king at his leisure.

Black’s h- and f-pawns need constant watching, leaving White free to feast on the abandoned a- and b-pawns. By 50 Kc5 Nd7+ 51. Kxb5 Kd6 52. Rxa7 Rf8 53. Kb4 Nc5 54. Kc4, White is two pawns ahead and still has Black tied up in knots. Eljanov gave up.

n n n

Young stars are making their presence felt in the Corus B and C invitational events. Thirteen-year-old Chinese WGM Hou Yifan, playing in the Category 15 B tournament, crushed English star GM Nigel Short, a one-time world title candidate, in just 23 moves this week. In addition, 15-year-old GM Fabiano Caruana, raised in New York but representing Italy, bolted out of the gate with three wins and two draws in the Category 10 Corus C event, including a sharp win over Dutch IM Mark Van der Werf.

In a Ruy Lopez, Black forces the play with 17. b3 d5!?, when a developing idea like 17…Bb7 might have been safer. It would be interesting to know how much the two players foresaw as things quickly grow murky after 18. e5 Ng4 19. f4!? Nxh2! 20. Ngf5! (Kxh2? Qh4+ 21. Kg1 Qxg3 just loses a pawn for White), with both players now wandering through a calculational minefield.

Now, on 20…gxf5?! 21. Kxh2 Qh4+ 22. Kg1, Black’s extra pawn is hardly worth the cost in his busted king-side, but Van der Werf can’t negotiate the tactical shoals on the game’s 20…Bxf5 21. Bxf5 Qh4?! (gxf5 22. Nxf5 Qd7 23. Nxg7 [Qh5!? Nf3+ 24. gxf3 Re6! 25. Nxg7 Rg6+ 26. Kh1 Rxg7 holds things together] Kxg7 24. Kxh2 Nc6 leaves Black with at least a playable game) 22. Bh3 Qg3 (see diagram).

Black’s last move sets up the idea of 23…h5 24. Re3 Qxf4 25. g3 Nf3+ 26. Rxf3 Qxe5 with a very unclear position, and the hasty 23. Ne2? fails to 23…Nf3+. But Caruana’s 23. Kh1! sidesteps (literally) the Black plan and raises real questions of how the knight on h2 will extricate itself.

There followed 23…Nc6 (h5 24. Ne2 Ng4 25. Nxg3 Nf2+ 26. Kg1 Nxd1 27. Rxd1 wins for White) 24. Nxc6 Nf3 25. Qxf3 Qxe1+ 26. Kh2 Qe4 27. Bd7!, and surprisingly, the Black rook has no good retreat square. Since 27…Rf8 28. Qxe4 dxe4 29. Ba3 Rfe8 30. Bxe8 Rxe8 31. Rc1 would just leave White a piece to the good, Van der Werf resigned.

Corus A Tournament, Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands, January 2008


1. d4Nf628. Bxf8Kxf8

2. c4g629. Rc6Kg7

3. Nc3d530. Nb5R4e7

4. Nf3Bg731. Rdd6Nc5

5. Bg5Ne432. Nc7Rf8

6. Bh4Nxc333. h4Rff7

7. bxc3dxc434. Nd5Rd7

8. Qa4+Qd735. Rxd7Nxd7

9. Qxc4b636. Kg3Nc5

10. e3Ba637. f3h6

11. Qb3Bxf138. Nf4g5

12. Kxf10-039. Nh5+Kg6

13. Ke2c540. f4gxf4+

14. dxc5Na641. exf4Kh7

15. Rhd1Qb742. f5Kg8

16. c6Qxc643. Kf3Nd7

17. Bxe7Rfe844. Ke4Kf8

18. Ba3Qxc345. Rc8+Ke7

19. Qxc3Bxc346. Kd5b5

20. Rac1Bb447. Rh8Nb6+

21. Bb2Bf848. Kc6Nc4

22. Nd4Nc549. Ra8Ne5+

23. g4Re450. Kc5Nd7+

24. Kf3Rae851. Kxb5Kd6

25. h3f652. Rxa7Rf8

26. Ba3Kf753. Kb4Nc5

27. Rc2Na654. Kc4Black


Corus A Tournament, Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands, January 2008

CaruanaVan der Werf

1. e4e515. cxd4exd4

2. Nf3Nc616. Nxd4Bg7

3. Bb5a617. b3d5

4. Ba4Nf618. e5Ng4

5. d3b519. f4Nxh2

6. Bb3Be720. Ngf5Bxf5

7. 0-0d621. Bxf5Qh4

8. c30-022. Bh3Qg3

9. Re1Na523. Kh1Nc6

10. Bc2c524. Nxc6Nf3

11. Nbd2Re825. Qxf3Qxe1+

12. Nf1g626. Kh2Qe4

13. Ng3Bf827. Bd7Black

14. d4cxd4resigns

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

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