- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

[Breaking … American GM Hikaru Nakamura defeated Vietnamese GM Le Quang Qiem with a win and a draw in the two-game final Monday to claim the $100,000 first prize at the 2nd Millionaire Open in Las Vegas. And Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen has added the world rapid (Game/15, with 10-second increment) title to his resume, winning the Berlin event by a full point over a trio of pursuers.]


Watching the new Bobby Fischer movie “Pawn Sacrifice” as a professional writer on chess is an interesting experience. While the rest of the audience was focused on whether Fischer (played by Tobey Maguire) could overcome his personal demons and persecution complex to achieve his dream of greatness, I was far more moved when Fischer was considering whether to take that poisoned pawn with his bishop in the famous Game 1 of his 1972 title match with Boris Spassky.

Just as in those teen horror movies where you hope the young starlet has enough sense not to open the cellar door, I sat there hoping Fischer wouldn’t take the pawn, even though you know what’s coming.

Give the movie’s creative team credit: They get a lot more right than they get wrong compared to most movies that deal with chess, and they remind us again that Fischer’s paranoia — at least in matters of chess competition and organizational bias — wasn’t without some foundation. No, Game 6 in the Spassky match is not “generally considered the greatest game ever played,” and no, Game 1 didn’t end a move after Fischer took the poisoned pawn. And the idea that Fischer’s second (Peter Sarsgaard as Father Bill Lombardy) would be surprised by Fischer’s opening choices in the match is, shall we say, far-fetched.

But knowing a fair bit about our fair game usually ruins most chess movies for chess fans, and that doesn’t happen with “Pawn Sacrifice.” Catch it if you can.

Fischer’s lasting influence could be felt at the Millionaire Open wrapping up this week in Las Vegas. Fischer’s entire career was marked by a demand for just compensation for his labors (“Money is respect” he says at one point in “Pawn Sacrifice”), and the $1 million-plus prize fund is the largest for an open tournament in the world. And Fischer’s trapped bishop in that Game 1 found an echo in a queen-trapping maneuver by star Vietnamese GM Le Quang Liem in his game against U.S. GM Conrad Holt in Las Vegas.

Play sharpens considerably in this Queen’s Gambit London System after 22. Bb1 Bf6 23. Qc2 e5!? 24. Qh7+ Kf8, when it would be nice to know what Le had planned on the more patient 25. Bg3 Nb3 26. Rc2 Rd8 27. f3 Rxd1+ 28. Nxd1, and the invading White queen still has to be dealt with. Holt instead offers a piece for a promising mating attack with 25. Re1!? Qc6 26. e4 exf4 27. Nd5 (see diagram), with a little threat of 28. Qh8 mate.

Holt ends up winning the exchange, but finds his queen confined in a prison of Black bishop and pawns after 28. b4 (Qxh6+ Bg7 29. Qxf4 Qe6, and White has only two pawns for his sacrificed piece) Bg7 (closing the door on the queens’ prison cell) 29. bxc5 bxc5 30. Ne7 Qf6! (Kxe7 is only good for a draw after 31. Qxg7 Qf6 32. Qxh6 Rh8 33. e5 Rxh6 34. exf6+ Kxf6 35. Rxc5 Rc8 36. Rxc8 Bxc8) 31. Nxc8 Rxc8 32. Rcd1? (White’s first real oversight in a well-played game; better was 32. Bd3) Qe5!, and White will never get enough counterplay to rescue his queen.

The trap snaps shut on 35. Bd5? (the last hope was 35. Rb1 Bxa4 36. Bc4 Rb8 37. Rxb8+ Qxb8 38. Bxa6, getting rid of Black’s valuable rook) Bxa4 35. Ra1 Bb5 36. Bb7 Rb8 37. Bd5 Ke7 38. Bc6 Bxc6 39. Rxa6 Bd7 40. Rd1 Rh8, and the White queen is lost; Holt resigned.

Following a seven-round Swiss shootout, Le joined American GMs Hikaru Nakamura and Aleksandr Lenderman and Chinese GM Yangyi Yu in the four-man playoff for the $100,000 first prize. We’ll post the winners online at www.washingtontimes.com.

Holt-Le, 2nd Millionaire Open, Las Vegas, October 2015

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 Nbd7 7. Be2 dxc4 8. O-O c5 9. dxc5 Bxc5 10. Qc2 a6 11. a4 b6 12. Rfd1 Bb7 13. Bxc4 Qe7 14. Qe2 h6 15. h3 Rfc8 16. Rac1 Qe8 17. Ne5 Be7 18. Nxd7 Nxd7 19. Bd3 Nf6 20. Be5 Nd7 21. Bf4 Nc5 22. Bb1 Bf6 23. Qc2 e5 24. Qh7+ Kf8 25. Re1 Qc6 26. e4 exf4 27. Nd5 g6 28. b4 Bg7 29. bxc5 bxc5 30. Ne7 Qf6 31. Nxc8 Rxc8 32. Rcd1 Qe5 33. Ba2 Bc6 34. Bd5 Bxa4 35. Ra1 Bb5 36. Bb7 Rb8 37. Bd5 Ke7 38. Bc6 Bxc6 39. Rxa6 Bd7 40. Rd1 Rh8 White resigns.

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

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide