- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The plague of draws continues as FIDE candidates-match finalists Alexander Grischuk of Russia and Boris Gelfand of Israel battle for the right to take on reigning champion Viswanathan Anand of India next year for the world title.

The first four games of the six-game finals match were all drawn, including a 14-move peace offer from Grischuk after Gelfand surprised him with an opening novelty in Sunday’s Game 3. Monday’s Game 4 lasted just four moves longer before the two agreed to yet another draw. In two prior knockout matches this month and so far in the finals, Grischuk has drawn every contest at classical time controls, advancing only in the rapid and blitz playoffs, while Gelfand has notched a single victory and 11 draws in his 2 1/2 matches so far in Kazan, Russia.

FIDE organizers may want to consider going back to the drawing board - so to speak - for a new format or perhaps adopting the “Sofia rules” barring draw offers before Move 30. For his part, Anand can’t be too intimidated about his potential challenger next year, given the uninspired play so far in Kazan.

Assuming we get a little action, we’ll pass it along in next week’s column.

If we’re forced to cover draws, we might as well pick a fun one. Young GM Le Quang Liem, Vietnam’s best player, continues to impress on the international circuit, tying for first last week in the 46th Capablanca Memorial Tournament with veteran Ukrainian star Vassily Ivanchuk. Ivanchuk, a multiple winner of the double-round-robin event, needed a last-round win over the Vietnamese star to claim a share of first with a 6 1/2-3 1/2 result.

Le Quang and Czech GM David Navara staged an epic drawn battle in Havana, a clash of wills that ended with a final flourish and an honorably split point. In a Najdorf Sicilian, Le Quang’s king gets caught in the center of the board and barely survives a vicious White onslaught.

The adventure begins on 19. f4! Nf6 20. fxe5 dxe5 21. Qg5 a4!? (Black has little choice but to keep plugging ahead) 22. Rxe5 axb3 23. Rxe6+! Kxe6 (fxe6 24. Qxg7+ Ke6 25. Bc4+ weaves a mating net) 24. Qe3+ Kd7 25. cxb3. White is down a rook, but the Black king is totally exposed to Navara’s remaining forces.

But the king weaves and dodges, and Le Quang finds a miracle defense with 29. Qc6+ Kb8 30. Rd4 Nd5!! (defending - for a move - the pawn on b4 and buying just enough time to organize a defense) 31. Qxd5 Qb6. White has to settle for winning the queen for two rooks on 33. Qe7+ Kxa6 34. Rd6 Rab8 35. Rxb6+ Rxb6, and spends the next 30 moves probing for a way to break through Black’s turtle-like defensive shell.

In the end, the two Black rooks can’t be evicted and White is in danger of pressing so hard he winds up losing. Navara forestalls that possibility and calls it a day with the emphatic 62. Qd7 Rb7 63. Qd8+ Ka7 (see diagram) 64. Qxa8+! Kxa8, and a rare stalemate in top-level play ensures the draw.

While Grischuk and Gelfand shadowbox, American star Hikaru Nakamura and Russian former FIDE world champ Ruslan Ponomariov have been going at it in their own non-title match at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center in St. Louis, which is quickly becoming a major hub of American chess. In the classical portion of the match, Nakamura lost Game 1 but bounced back with two wins to prevail 3 1/2-2 1/2, including a come-from-behind win in Game 3.

Black’s 7…Na6?! was a spur-of-the-moment inspiration in this King’s Indian that doesn’t turn out well. With a well-timed break (12. c5!), Ponomariov initiates a string of exchanges that leave Black’s pawn structure in tatters, and by 15. Bxa6 bxa6 16. Qd6, White is dominating the play. But a questionable exchange sacrifice gives Black new life, and after he turns back the attack with 24…Bxe4 25. Rxe4 Re8 26. f3 Rxf6! 27. exf6 Rxe4 28. fxe4 Qd4+, it is Nakamura who has the winning chances in the queen-and-pawn ending.

Having regained his bearings, the U.S. star plays the final phase flawlessly, never giving the White queen a clear shot at his king as he scoops up the vulnerable pawns left and right. In the end, after 43. Kh3 Qe3+, Black can force a queen trade down to a won pawn ending after 44. g3 Qe6+ or 44. Kh4 Qf4+ 45. Kh3 Qf5+; Ponomariov resigned.

With the rapid portion of the match now under way, we’ll update the action here next week.

Navara-Le Quang, Capablanca Memorial, Havana, May 2011

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. Qd2 Nbd7 9. f3 h5 10. O-O-O Be7 11. h3 b5 12. Kb1 Qc7 13. Bd3 b4 14. Nd5 Nxd5 15. exd5 Bxd5 16. Bg5 a5 17. Rhe1 Be6 18. Bxe7 Kxe7 19. f4 Nf6 20. fxe5 dxe5 21. Qg5 a4 22. Rxe5 axb3 23. Rxe6+ Kxe6 24. Qe3+ Kd7 25. cxb3 Qa7 26. Ba6+ Kc6 27. Qf3+ Kb6 28. Rd6+ Kc7 29. Qc6+ Kb8 30. Rd4 Nd5 31. Qxd5 Qb6 32. Qe5+ Ka7 33. Qe7+ Kxa6 34. Rd6 Rab8 35. Rxb6+ Rxb6 36. Qxf7 g6 37. Qc4+ Kb7 38. Qd5+ Ka6 39. Qd3+ Ka7 40. a4 Rhb8 41. Qd4 Ka6 42. Qc4+ Ka7 43. Qc5 Ka6 44. Kc2 R8b7 45. Kd3 Rb8 46. Qc4+ Ka7 47. Ke4 Ra6 48. Kf4 Rb7 49. Qc5+ Ka8 50. Kg5 Kb8 51. Kh6 Ka8 52. g4 hxg4 53. hxg4 Kb8 54. Qd5 Ka8 55. Qd8+ Ka7 56. g5 Rb8 57. Qd4+ Ka8 58. Qd5+ Rb7 59. a5 Ka7 60. Qd8 Rb8 61. Qd4+ Ka8 62. Qd7 Rb7 63. Qd8+ Ka7 64. Qa8+ Kxa8 Stalemate.

Ponomariov-Nakamura, Match, Game 3, St. Louis, May 2011

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 O-O 6.Be2 e5 7.O-O Na6 8.Re1 c6 9.Be3 Ng4 10.Bg5 f6 11.Bh4 Qe8 12.c5 dxc5 13.dxe5 Nxe5 14.Nxe5 fxe5 15.Bxa6 bxa6 16.Qd6 c4 17.Rad1 Be6 18.Bg3 Rf7 19.Bxe5 Bg4 20.Bxg7 Bxd1 21.Bf6 Bg4 22.e5 Qd7 23.Ne4 Bf5 24.Qb4 Bxe4 25.Rxe4 Re8 26.f3 Rxf6 27.exf6 Rxe4 28.fxe4 Qd4+ 29.Kf1 Qxe4 30.Qb7 Qf5+ 31.Ke2 Qxf6 32.Qb8+ Kf7 33.Qxa7+ Ke6 34.Qb7 Qe5+ 35.Kf3 Qf5+ 36.Ke3 Qc5+ 37.Kf3 c3 38.Qc8+ Kd5 39.bxc3 Qxc3+ 40.Kg4 Qd4+ 41.Kh3 Qe3+ 0-1.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at [email protected] His column can also be found online at www.washingtontimes.com.

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