- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Just because there’s this big showdown next month doesn’t mean the rest of the world is on hold until a winner is declared.

No, we (thankfully) aren’t talking politics. As Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen and Russian challenger Sergey Karjakin are holed up with their seconds prepping for their title match in Manhattan kicking off a month from Tuesday, their grandmaster peers have not been sitting on their hands, with two major international events this month and a strong open tournament wrapped up right here in suburban Washington over the Columbus Day weekend.

• It’s hard to imagine being rated 2740 and still being seeded ninth in a 10-player tournament, but Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi overcame his “handicap” to win the 10th Tal Memorial tournament in Moscow, a field that included ex-world champs Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand, Dutch star Anish Giri (who finished second) and Armenian GM Levon Aronian.

• Ukrainian GM Pavel Eljanov held off virtually the entire gold medal-winning American Olympiad team to take the Chess.com Isle of Man Masters 2016 in the middle of the Irish Sea. Eljanov, having one of the best years of his career, edged U.S. Board 1 GM Fabiano Caruana on tiebreaks in the nine-round open event, while Board 3 Wesley So tied for fourth and Board 2 Hikaru Nakamura finished in a tie for eighth.

The great attacking GM Alexei Shirov, now playing again for his native Latvia after a long sojourn in Spain, turned in a strong performance at the event, leading early in the tournament before a loss to Eljanov and finishing in a tie with So for fourth. The 44-year-old Shirov played several fine games, topped by his defeat of Indian GM Dronavalli Harika in a back-and-forth struggle.

In a main Winawer French line, Harika as Black locks up the center with 11. Bd3 c4!?, with the idea of launching a kingside attack. But her own king will find itself eventually under threat along the half-open b-file and, after 14. Bc1 Kb8 15. Ba3 Nc8 (playable was 15…Qxc3 16. a5 Nc5 17. Ba5 with a double-edged game) 16. Qd2, White’s position develops organically, and the threat to blow up Black’s overextended center comes into view.

Black laboriously pursues her attacking plans, but it is Shirov who exploits the opening of the position: 26. Rfb1 h4 27. g4 f6 28. Rf1! g5 29. f5! fxe5 30. fxe6 e4 (see diagram) 31. Bxe4!, a nice combination that will net White a pawn.

After 31…h3 32. Qe2 dxe4 33. Rf7 (the point — Black must give up a piece to save her queen) Nd7 34. Raf1 Rhe8 35. Qxc4 Nd6 36. Bxd6 Qxd6 37. exd7 Rxd7, Shirov nearly throws away all his hard work with 38. R1f6?! (R7f6! was the right rook: 38…Qc7 39. Qc5 Kb8 40 c4 is clearly winning), when Black could have made things interesting with 38…Qa3! 39. Rxc6 Rxf7 40. Qxf7 Rf8 41. Qc4 Qc1+ 42. Nf1 Kb8 43. Rb6 Qxc2, when White’s best option may be to head for a perpetual check with 44. Rxb7+ Kxb7 45. Qb4+ Kc6 46. Qxc4+.

Instead, White rights the ship after 38…Qc7? 39. Rxd7 Qxd7 40. Qc5, and Shirov’s material edge and the weak squares around the Black king decide the matter. In the final position, Harika concedes as 50…Rd8 51. Rxd7 Rxd7 52. Nb6+ Ka7 53. Nxd7+ is hopeless for Black.

• We’ll have more details next week, but GMs Julio Sadorra, Gil Popilski and Andrey Stukopin, young Texas IM Ruifeng Li and party-crasher FM David Brodsky finished in a five-way tie for first at Monday’s conclusion of the 3rd annual Washington Chess Congress played at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Alexandria. Some 15 players were within one point of the lead in the tightly contested tournament.

Sadorra took bragging honors — and a little extra cash — for having the best tiebreaks, while Brodsky claimed the Under-2300 prize in the tournament’s Premier section.

Shirov-Harika, Chess.com Isle of Man Masters, Douglas, England, October 2016

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 Ne7 7. Nf3 Qa5 8. Bd2 Nbc6 9. a4 Bd7 10. Bb5 a6 11. Bd3 c4 12. Be2 h6 13. O-O O-O-O 14. Bc1 Kb8 15. Ba3 Nc8 16. Qd2 Ka8 17. Nh4 Rdg8 18. g3 Nb8 19. f4 g6 20. Ng2 Bc6 21. Ne3 Nd7 22. Bf3 Qc7 23. a5 h5 24. Bb4 Rd8 25. Qg2 Nb8 26. Rfb1 h4 27. g4 f6 28. Rf1 g5 29. f5 fxe5 30. fxe6 e4 31. Bxe4 h3 32. Qe2 dxe4 33. Rf7 Nd7 34. Raf1 Rhe8 35. Qxc4 Nd6 36. Bxd6 Qxd6 37. exd7 Rxd7 38. R1f6 Qc7 39. Rxd7 Qxd7 40. Qc5 Qc8 41. c4 Qb8 42. c3 Rg8 43. d5 Ba4 44. Rf7 Rc8 45. Qb6 Rf8 46. Rc7 Rf3 47. d6 Bc6 48. d7 Rf8 49. Qc5 Bxd7 50. Nd5 Black resigns

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

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