- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Don’t write off the ex-champ so fast.

GM Viswanathan Anand is a distinct underdog as he tries to reclaim the world title he lost last year to Norwegian star Magnus Carlsen, with the rematch set for November in Sochi, Russia. The 23-year-old Carlsen captured the crown without dropping a game in their first match 10 months ago, as even so astute an observer as ex-champ Garry Kasparov gives Anand little chance of victory this time around.

But the 44-year-old Indian superstar surprised many by winning the candidates’ tournament earlier this year, and he has just scored another fine result by dominating the 2014 Bilbao Masters Final, a Category 21 four-GM double round robin that concluded just last week. Even a last-round loss to Armenian GM Levon Aronian couldn’t derail Anand, who clinched the event with a round to go.

Couple that with some un-Magnus-like recent results — two losses in the August Olympiad and a distant second-place finish to Italian GM Fabiano Caruana in the recent Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis — and Carlsen may be in for a tougher fight to defend his crown than he faced when he won it.

The crazier the position, the easier the combinations are to spot.

One major problem with those tactical quizzes and instructional manuals is that the reader knows to look for a winning combination in the position given. Discovering a brilliant sacrifice or game-winning tactic when all seems placid on the board — finding something when nothing’s going on — is a much harder proposition.

GM Andrey Stukopin of the Rio Grande Ospreys showed how it was done in the stunning finale of his U.S. Chess League Round 3 game against IM Kassa Korley of the Carolina Cobras earlier this month. Just when Black appears to reach a safe harbor, a lightning bolt leaves his facing instant checkmate.

Carlsen may have given new life to the rare Bishop’s Opening (2. Bc4), dusting it off for his game against Caruana in St. Louis — even though the champ ended up losing the game. Here the air seems to come out of the tires of White’s initial attack after 10. dxe4 Qf6 11. Qh5 Qg6 12. Qxg6 hxg6, but Korley still faces nagging developmental issues and can’t evict the annoying White knight on g5.

Black targets the knight in the ensuing play: 14. Be3 Be7 15. h4!? (very tempting was 15. Ne6!? fxe6 16. Bxe6+ Rf7 17. Bxd7, when White has a clear edge after 17…Bg5 18. Be8 Rf8 19. Bxg5 Rxe8) Nf6 16. f3 Nh7 17. a4 Nxg5 18. Bxg5 Bxg5+ (Bf6 19. c3 Re8 20. Kc2 and Black still has trouble developing his queenside as his bishop has no good square) 19. hxg5 Re8 (see diagram; White had threatened 20. Rh4 and 21. Rdh1, mating along the h-file). Here Black no doubt looked forward to finally unwinding his game after lines such as 20. c3 Be6 21. Bxe6 Rxe6 22. Rd7 Rb8 23. Kc2 Ree8, with a defensible position.

But something lethal lurks in this innocuous position, and White spots it — 20. Rh8+!!, and Black’s resignation was instantaneous in light of 20…Kxh8 21. Bxf7 and mate by the White rook via h1 can’t be prevented.

Perhaps an even more remarkable instance of lightning from a clear blue sky comes from an amazing game won by Peruvian star Julio Granda Zuniga over American GM Yasser Seirawan at a 1993 tournament in Buenos Aires.

What inspired White to sacrifice an entire piece barely out of the opening in this English is one of those divine mysteries, but Granda Zuniga does get two tempi with the push of his central pawns and establishes a bind that Black can never quite break. White even disdains a perpetual check with 16. Nf6+ Ke7 17. g4!, and what follows in a master class in offensive and defensive tactics by two grandmasters in top form.

The soundness of the sacrifice is disputed to this day. Black may have missed his best chance to hold after 22. Bf6 Ncd8 23. Re7!? (Rxd7 Kxd7 24. Bxh8 Nf7 25. Bf6 Bc6 26, a4 gives White a slight edge), when he can finally untangle his game with 23…Bxd5! 24. cxd5 Bxe7 25. Bxh8 Nf4 26. Qe4 [d6 Bg5] Nxg2 27. Qxg2 Bg5.

After the game’s 23…Rg8?! 24. Re8! (threatening 25. Bxd8 Nxd8 26. Qh4 g5 27. Qxh7 Rg7 28. Qh8 Bxd5 29. cxd5 and wins) Bc6 25. Bxd8 Nxd8 26. Nf6 (e6! was also strong) Rh8 27. Bxc6 dxc6 28. Qe4 Qc7 29. e6 Bg7 30. e7, the White pawn can’t be stopped from queening, as 30…Bxf6 31. exd8=Q Bxd8 32. Rxh8 is winning for White.

Seirawan continues to battle, even down a queen for two minor pieces, and Granda Zuniga doesn’t fully seal the deal until 54. Rd8 Bg7 55. Qe8! (Black is in virtual zugzwang) Bf6 56. Rxc8, and Black gave up because lines such as 56…Rxc8 57. Qf7+ Rc7 58. Qxf6 Rd7 59. Qe5 Rxd3 60 Qg7+ Ka6 61. Qxh7 Rd2+ 62. Kf3 Rxa2 63. Qxg6 are hopeless.

Stukopin-Korley, Rio Grande vs. Carolina, U.S. Chess League, September 2014

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Nf3 d5 5. Bb3 Bb4+ 6. Bd2 Bd6 7. Nc3 dxe4 8. Ng5 O-O 9. Ncxe4 Nxe4 10. dxe4 Qf6 11. Qh5 Qg6 12. Qxg6 hxg6 13. O-O-O Nd7 14. Be3 Be7 15. h4 Nf6 16. f3 Nh7 17. a4 Nxg5 18. Bxg5 Bxg5+ 19. hxg5 Re8 20. Rh8+ Black resigns.

Granda Zuniga-Seirawan, Buenos Aires, 1993

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. Nc3 e6 4. g3 b6 5. Bg2 Bb7 6. O-O Nc6 7. e4 e5 8. d3 g6 9. Nxe5 Nxe5 10. f4 Nc6 11. e5 Ng8 12. f5 Nh6 13. Ne4 Nxf5 14. Nf6+ Ke7 15. Nd5+ Ke8 16. Nf6+ Ke7 17. g4 Nfd4 18. Qe1 Qb8 19. Nd5+ Kd8 20. Bg5+ Kc8 21. Rxf7 Ne6 22. Bf6 Ncd8 23. Re7 Rg8 24. Re8 Bc6 25. Bxd8 Nxd8 26. Nf6 Rh8 27. Bxc6 dxc6 28. Qe4 Qc7 29. e6 Bg7 30. e7 Rxe8 31. Nxe8 Bd4+ 32. Kh1 Qd7 33. Nd6+ Qxd6 34. e8=Q a5 35. Rf1 Ra7 36. Rf8 Rd7 37. Q4e6 Qxe6 38. Qxe6 Kc7 39. Qe2 Bg7 40. Rf2 Bd4 41. Rf3 Nf7 42. Rf4 Nd6 43. Kg2 Nc8 44. b3 Re7 45. Re4 Rf7 46. Qe1 Rd7 47. Qg3+ Kb7 48. h3 Rf7 49. h4 Rd7 50. Re6 Bc3 51. Qf3 Nd6 52. Qf8 Nc8 53. Re8 Rc7 54. Rd8 Bg7 55. Qe8 Bf6 56. Rxc8 Black resigns.

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

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