- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

With world champion Magnus Carlsen and challenger Viswanathan Anand prepping furiously for their title match in Sochi, Russia, starting a week from Friday, some of their top peers are already battling for a chance to play in the next title match two years from now.

An intriguing field topped by Italian superstar Fabiano Caruana and American No. 1 Hikaru Nakamura has been assembled for the second stage of the 2014-2015 FIDE Grand Prix tournament series in the Uzbek capital city of Tashkent. The top two finishers in the four-tournament series earn guaranteed spots in the 2016 Candidates’ Tournament.

The shifting Grand Prix fields have allowed a number of lesser players to shine at the game’s highest level. Georgian GM Baadur Jobava has acquitted himself well in Baku, rebounding from a Round 1 loss to Nakamura with nice wins over local Uzbek hero GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Russian GM Sergey Karjakin. Jobava’s clever win over the Uzbek is a great illustration of the maxim that some of the best moves in chess can be found not on the board but in the analysis notes.

White gambits a pawn with 10. d5!? exd5 11. Re1+ Kf8 12. cxd5 Bxd5 13. Qc2, not afraid of 13…Bxf3 14. gxf3 c6 15. f4 Kg8 16. f5, with a strong initiative. White gets good pressure, but his attempt to win back the sacrificed pawn leads to the game’s critical sequence.

Thus: 22. Nxf6+ Bxf6 23. Be4 Kg7 24. Bxa7? (GM Dejan Bojkov, analyzing the game for Chessvibes.com, writes that White thought he had found a clever drawing line, only to discover Black had a hidden resource; tougher was 24. Rd2, but then White is simply a pawn down and fighting for the draw) b6 25. Bxd5 Nd4! (Rxd5 26. Rxd5 cxd5 27. Qxc7 Nxc7 28. Bxb6 holds for White) 26. Qa4 (as Bojkov notes, 26. Rxd4 Bxd4 27. Bb3? allows 27…Qxg3) Rxd5 28. Qa6! Qd7!! — the tiny finesse that White overlooked when playing his 24th move.

It won’t show up in the score sheet, but Kasimdzhanov had banked here on the ingenious 27…Ra8?! 28. Bxb6! Qb3 (Qxg3 29. Qxa8 Nf3+ 30. Kf1 Nh2+ is also good only for a draw) 29. Bc7!, a clever deflection using his trapped bishop. But Black’s 28…Qd7 wins a tempo by threatening 29…Nf3+, and White now must lose material.

In the final position, 34. Bxd4+ Rxd4 35. Qxc5 Rxe3 36. fxe3 Rd1+ 37. Kh2 Qd6 gives Black a winning endgame. Kasimdzhanov resigned.

Through Monday’s play, Nakamura and Russia’s Dmitry Andreikin were setting the pace at 4-2, with Caruana, who had been red-hot recently, struggling at 2½-3½. Play will conclude Monday.

The termination of the New York Times column has sparked a lively debate (online, of course) over the role of a chess column in this relentlessly digital age. One clear use for a chess column, we like to think, is to highlight stories and games that otherwise might be overlooked.

Take, for example, this little gem we stumbled on from the recent Belgian team championships. FM Koen Leenhouts’ little brilliancy deserves a wider audience, and we’re happy to provide the forum. Against fellow master Francois Godart’s French Defense, White adopts a King’s Indian Reversed setup, leading to some exciting, unbalanced play.

Black’s queenside expansion has assumed menacing proportions after 11. Nf1 a5 12. Bf4 Ba6, and White correctly initiates operations on the other side with 13. h4. After 15. Ng4 Bf8?! (every tempo is precious in these positions, so better was 15…c4, when 16. Ng5? Nd4 17. Qd1 cxd3 18. cxd3 Qc2 leads to a big Black edge) 16. Ng5 Nd4 17. Qd1 h6 (c4 18. dxc4 Qxc4 19. Bf1 Qxc2 20. Bxa6 Qxd1 21. Raxd1 Rxa6 22. Rxd4 wins material), Leenhouts rolls the dice with 18. Nxf7!? Kxf7 19. c3.

White’s boldness is rewarded after 19…Nb6? (Godart had to test the soundness of the sac with 19…bxc3 20. bxc3 Nb5) 20. cxd4 cxd4 21. Bh3, when already Black cannot play 21…Qc2 because of 23. Nxh6+! gxh6 23. Qh5+ Ke7 24. Bxe6! Kxe6 25. Qg6+ Kd7 26. e6+ Kc6 27. e7+ Kb5 28. exf8=Q Rxf8 29. Rac1 Qxb2 30. Qc6 mate.

The defender tries 21…Qd7 (see diagram), but is mowed down after 22. Nf6! Qb5 (gxf6 23. Qh5+ Kg8 [Ke7 24. exf6+ Kxf6 25. Qe5+ Kg6 26. Bxe6 Qg7 27. Qf5 mate] 24. exf6 Rc6 25. Qg6+ Kh8 26. f7 Bg7 27. Be5 and wins) 23. Qh5+ g6 (Ke7 24. Ng8+! Kd7 [Kd8 25. Bxe6 Rc7 26. Bf7 Qxd3 27. e6] 25. Qf7+) 24. Bxe6+!, and Black’s pieces are useless spectators on the queenside as his king comes under withering fire.

White brings home the point after 24…Kxe6 (Kg7 25. Qxh6 mate) 25. Qxg6 Be7 (blocking the e7-square as an escape hatch for the king, but White was threatening 26. Qg8+ Ke7 27. e6 Ra7 [Re8 28. Qf7+ Kd8 29. Qc7 mate] 28. Qf7+ Kd8 29. Qxf8+ and mate next) 26. Qg4+ Kf7 27. e6+!, and Black will be mated if he takes the knight after 27…Kxf6 (Kf8 28. Bxh6 mate) 28. Be5 mate; Godart resigned.

Kasimdzhanov-Jobava, FIDE Grand Prix, Tashkent, October 2014

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bd7 5. Nf3 Bc6 6. Bd3 Nd7 7. O-O Ngf6 8. Ng3 g6 9. c4 Bg7 10. d5 exd5 11. Re1+ Kf8 12. cxd5 Bxd5 13. Qc2 c6 14. Ng5 Kg8 15. Bf4 Nf8 16. Rad1 Qa5 17. a3 Rd8 18. Bd2 Qb6 19. Be3 Qc7 20. h3 h6 21. N5e4 Ne6 22. Nxf6+ Bxf6 23. Be4 Kg7 24. Bxa7 b6 25. Bxd5 Nd4 26. Qa4 Rxd5 27. Qa6 Qd7 28. Rxd4 Bxd4 29. Bxb6 c5 30. Ba5 Bxb2 31. Qc4 Bd4 32. Bc3 Ra8 33. Re3 Rxa3 White resigns.

Leenhouts-Godart, Belgian Interclubs Championship, September 2014

1. e4 e6 2. d3 d5 3. Nd2 Nf6 4. Ngf3 c5 5. g3 Nc6 6. Bg2 Be7 7. O-O O-O 8. Re1 Qc7 9. e5 Nd7 10. Qe2 b5 11. Nf1 a5 12. Bf4 Ba6 13. h4 Rfc8 14. N1h2 b4 15. Ng4 Bf8 16. Ng5 Nd4 17. Qd1 h6 18. Nxf7 Kxf7 19. c3 Nb6 20. cxd4 cxd4 21. Bh3 Qd7 22. Nf6 Qb5 23. Qh5+ g6 24. Bxe6+ Kxe6 25. Qxg6 Be7 26. Qg4+ Kf7 27. e6+ Black resigns.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at [email protected]

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