- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Our story last week on ex-world champ Garry Kasparov coming briefly out of retirement this year got us to thinking about other players who took long “vacations” from the game only to come back and enjoy fresh success.

There are all kinds of reasons why strong players have historically taken breaks from the game — a job, a war, a medical problem, even an extended time behind bars.

Some comebacks work out well. Former world champion Emanuel Lasker, forced out of Germany and out of retirement with the rise of the Nazis, scored a brilliant third-place finish in the famous Moscow tournament of 1936. Hungarian great Geza Maroczy was one of the world’s best players when he stepped away from the game in 1908 because of work demands. Virtually inactive for the next two decades, Maroczy returned to the board to lead Hungary to the gold in the first two Chess Olympiads in 1927 and 1928.

Some comebacks aren’t so impressive: The less said about Bobby Fischer’s return to the board in 1992 for an exhibition match in Yugoslavia against old sparring partner Boris Spassky, the better.

A more heartening comeback story came out of the recent Chess.com Isle of Man Masters tournament in England, won by Norwegian world champ Magnus Carlsen.

California-born GM James Tarjan was one of the strongest U.S. players of the 1970s and 1980s, winning several international tournaments, competing regularly in U.S. championships and Olympiads, and even qualifying for the Riga interzonal tournament in the 1979 world championship cycle. But shortly after finishing third in the U.S. championship in 1984, Tarjan gave up the game to pursue a career as a librarian.

Tarjan began competing again in 2014. Now 65, he caused a sensation at the Chess.com Isle of Man Masters recently by defeating Russian former world champion Vladimir Kramnik on his way to a respectable 5-4 score in the powerful event. The Californian clinched a plus result with a nice last-round upset of another Russian ex-world champ, former women’s titleholder Alexandra Kosteniuk.

The two players engage in an absorbing positional struggle out of this English, with Tarjan as White willingly giving up his strong fianchettoed bishop to break up Black’s queenside pawns. Despite the long layoff, there is no rust in Tarjan’s tactical skills, as is evident in the game’s deciding sequence.

Thus: 31. Bd4 R8b7 32. Kg2 Kb8? (see diagram; Kosteniuk walks into a tactical shot, when Black could have kept things equal with 32…Rd5 33. Bf2 Kb8) 33. Ncd6! (an unexpected fork that wins material; note that 33. Ned6? allows Black to escape with 33…Rd5! 34. Nxb7 Rxd4) Bxd6 34. Nxd6 Rd5 (the point is 34…cxd6?? 35. Rc8 is mate) 35. Nxb7 Rxd4 36. Nd8 — and the threats of 37. Nxe6 and 37. Nc6+ guarantee White will win material.

The rest is a matter of (high-class) technique, and White caps things off with another tactical flourish: 49. Rg6+ Nf6 (Ke7 50. Rxd6 Kxd6 51. Rxa6+ is equally hopeless) 50. Rxf6+!, and Black resigns facing 50…Kxf6 51. e5, forking rook and king.

North Carolina GM Elshan Moradiabadi took clear first in the 4th Washington Chess Congress, held over the Columbus Day weekend at the Hilton Crystal City in Arlington. Moradiabadi defeated GM Mark Paragua and drew GM Denis Kadric in the final two rounds to finish an undefeated 6-1, a half-point clear of Kadric, GM Timur Gareyev and Virginia IM Praveen Balakrishnan. We’ll have more details next week.

Tarjan-Kosteniuk, Chess.com Isle of Man Masters, Douglas, England, October 2017

1. c4 e5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. Nc3 Nb6 6. b3 Be7 7. Bb2 Nc6 8. Bxc6+ bxc6 9. Nf3 Qd6 10. O-O Bf5 11. d3 Qe6 12. Ne4 O-O-O 13. Qc2 f6 14. Rfc1 Kb7 15. b4 Bxb4 16. Rab1 Be7 17. a4 Ka8 18. a5 Nd7 19. Qa4 Rb8 20. Rxc6 Qb3 21. Qxb3 Rxb3 22. Nfd2 Rb7 23. Rc2 Rhb8 24. Nc4 a6 25. Rbc1 Rb3 26. Bc3 Be6 27. f4 exf4 28. gxf4 R3b5 29. Bd4 Bb4 30. Bc3 Be7 31. Bd4 R8b7 32. Kg2 Kb8 33. Ncd6 Bxd6 34. Nxd6 Rd5 35. Nxb7 Rxd4 36. Nd8 Bd5+ 37. e4 Kc8 38. Nc6 Bxc6 39. Rxc6 Rxd3 40. Rxc7+ Kd8 41. Ra7 Rd6 42. Kf3 g5 43. Rg1 h6 44. h4 Ke7 45. hxg5 hxg5 46. fxg5 fxg5 47. Rxg5 Kf6 48. Kf4 Ke6 49. Rg6+ Nf6 50. Rxf6+ Black resigns.

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

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