- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Happens every year — when the rest of the world is going over the meadow and through the snow for a well-earned holiday rest, the chess world is gearing up for perhaps its busiest season.

Organizers are gearing up for another run of a great Washington tradition: the 43rd annual Eastern Open, a seven-section Swiss tournament starting Dec. 27 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Bethesda, Maryland. Some of the country’s top grandmasters and rising junior stars are expected to compete in the Open section.

And with the world chess title tilt in Manhattan between Norway’s Magnus Carlsen and Russian Sergey Karjakin barely in the rearview mirror, virtually all of Carlsen’s expected challengers in his next title defense are in the field at the London Chess Classic, including the American Big Three of GMs: Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So.

For all the attention on Carlsen’s dramatic overtime win in the Big Apple, that wasn’t the only world chess championship on the line last month. The Czech city of Marianske Lazne played host to the World Senior Championships, with separate tournaments for the over-50 and the over-65 crowns.

Some familiar names were among the over-65 winners: French GM Anatoly Vaisser won his fourth senior crown on tiebreakers, while legendary Georgian former women’s world champion Nona Gaprindashvili easily took her third straight championship and fifth overall.

There has been considerable post-match grumbling about the high number of draws in the Carlsen-Karjakin affair, with each player managing only one win in the 12 classical games before the rapid playoff.

Some of that can be credited to the Russian’s incredible defensive skills, but there were also several colorless games in which neither player generated a single respectable threat.

By contrast, there were a high number of fighting games in Marienbad. Case in point: The short, sharp battle in the over-65 championship between Russian GM Nikolai Pushkov and Czech IM Josef Pribyl. The play isn’t perfect in this QGD Semi-Tarrasch, but the fighting spirit on both sides is admirable.

Already by 16. Ng5 g6 17. Qg4 Nd8?! (see diagram; 17… Bf6 18. Be4 Na5, challenging the pressure of White’s two bishops, was more prudent, Pushkov’s attacking array looks formidable, and White doesn’t wait around to get his attack going.

Thus: 18. Nxh7!? (not winning, but Black’s defense will be very tricky) Kxh7 19. h5 Bf8!? (equally sharp was 19…Bf6 20. hxg6+ Kg8!, leading to such lines as 21. gxf7+ Kxf7 22. e4 Kf8 23. e5 Bh8 24. Bg6 Rg7! 25. Qh5 Rxg6 26. Qxg6 Qg7 27. Qxg7+ Bxg7, with rough equality) 20. hxg6+ fxg6 21. Bxg6+ Kg8 22. c4, trying to get his dark-squared bishop into the attack.

Pribyl puts up a spirited defense with 22…Bg7 23. d5!? (White pushes his attack with admirable energy) Bxb2 24. dxe6 Rg7!, sidestepping 24…Rxd1+? 25. Rxd1 Bc6 26. e7! Qxe7 27. Qxc8 Bf6 28. Rxd8+ Qxd8 29. Qxc6 and wins.

But it all goes bad for Black with one miscalculation. After 25. Rd7, Black had to try 25…Rxd7! (also muddy is 25…Qe5!? 26. Rxg7+ Qxg7 27. Rd1 Bd4 28. exd4 Nc6 29. Bf7+ Kf8 30. Qf4 Ne5 31. Bh5+ Kg8 32. d5 Rf8) and hope to hang on after 26. Bf7+ Kf8 27. Qg8+ Ke7 28. Qe8+ Kd6 29. Rd1+ Bd4 30. exd4 Qc6 (Re7?? 31. dxc5+ Ke5 32. Qh8+ Kf5 33. Qh5+ Kf6 34. Qg6+ Ke5 35. Qg5+ Ke4 36. Bg6 mate) 31. Qxd7+ Qxd7 32. dxc5+ Kc6 33. exd7 Rb8, with an unclear position.

Instead, 25…Bxc1?? leaves Black up a rook, bishop and knight but short one king after 26. Bh7+!, when it’s mate after 26…Kf8 27. Qxg7+ Ke8 28. Qe7 mate; Pribyl resigned.

Pushkov-Pribyl, World Over-65 Senior Championship, Marianske Lazne, November 2016

1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 c5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. e3 Nc6 7. Bc4 Nxc3 8. bxc3 Be7 9. O-O O-O 10. Bb2 b6 11. Qe2 Bb7 12. Rfd1 Qc7 13. Rac1 Rac8 14. Bd3 Rfd8 15. h4 Rd7 16. Ng5 g6 17. Qg4 Nd8 18. Nxh7 Kxh7 19. h5 Bf8 20. hxg6+ fxg6 21. Bxg6+ Kg8 22. c4 Bg7 23. d5 Bxb2 24. dxe6 Rg7 25. Rd7 Bxc1 26. Bh7+ Black resigns.

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

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