- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2018

From Hannibal on down, the great military strategists have appreciated the utility of mobility.

When evenly matched armies face off, the victor almost always is the one who can get the right forces to the right sector of the battlefield at just the right — or the most unexpected — moment, say, by marching your squadron of elephants through an “impassable” Alpine range to break the enemy’s defenses.

It’s no less true of chess, a game of war par excellence where the two commanders start out with a perfect equilibrium of forces. Many of the game’s great masterpieces hinge on the ingenious mobilization of an unlikely piece or pawn to overwhelm the opponent’s position at what the football coaches call the “point of attack.”

A great and instructive example can be seen from the U.S. Women’s Championship tournament now underway at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. Belarus-born WGM Anna Sharevich upset seven-time U.S. women’s titleholder GM Irina Krush in Round 3 last week using a seemingly closed-off path to add a rook to the decisive assault.

Sharevich’s London System is a nice, solid choice against a higher-rated opponent, and Krush seems to go awry early in her search for dynamic play. It’s not clear 6. Nc4 d5?! 7. Nce5 Bd6 8. Bb5+ Ke7 was the position Black was aiming for, but unfortunately the more natural 8…Nbd7?? 9. Nxd7 Nxd7 10. Bxd6 hangs a piece.

Still, Black survives several waves of pressure from the White camp, retreating her pieces to the back row to keep her defenses intact and prepare to push back the invaders. After 21. Nh4 Bxe4 22. Nxe4 dxe4 23. Qxe4, White’s pieces remain far better placed, and the game turns on whether she can add more fuel to the fire before Krush consolidates.

On 31. R3e2!? (stronger was the immediate 31. Qg6+! Kf8 32. R3e2, with 33. f4 on the way) a5? (tougher was 31…Kg8 32. Qg6 Qe8 33. f4 Qf7 34. f5 Re8), it appears Black has finally found the time to launch operations of her own, but White has a surprise in store.

There followed: 32. Qg6+! (leading to a winning attack, but only because the White queen and knight will soon have some company) Kf8 33. f4 (with threats such as 34. Qh7 Rad8 35. f5 exf5? 36. Ng6+ Kf7 37. Re7+! Nxe7 38. Rxe7 mate) Ne7 34. Qh7 Re8 35. g5 hxg5 36. fxg5 Qd5 37. gxf6 gxf6 38. Re5!!, heading for the kingside via a square Black thought she had covered.

The rook helps in the final attack after 38…Qc6 (fxe5? 39. Rf1+ Nf5 40. Ng6 mate is the point) 39. Rh5 (good enough but there was some satisfying symmetry in 39. Rg5! fxg5 40. Rf1+ and mate once again) Rd5 40. Qh8+ Ng8 41. Ng6+ Kf7 42. Qh7 mate.

A corollary to the Hannibal rule warns against pressing for a victory when the facts on the ground/board do not warrant it.

In the concurrent U.S. Championship, top-seed GM Fabiano Caruana took a hard loss to GM Zviad Izoria trying to squeeze out a win in a long, tough rook-and-knight ending. Caruana, fresh from qualifying to a title match with world champion Magnus Carlsen last month, hopes to push his c-pawn through to victory in the position from today’s diagram, after Izoria has just played 66…Ng6-f4.

Play continued: 67. c4!? (Rb5+ or 67. Rb2 were safer choices) Nxg2 68. Kd5 Rc8 69. Nb6? (trying to keep alive his hopes for a passed c-pawn; it’s still drawn in lines such as 69. Kxd6 Rxc4 70. Rb5+ Kh6 71. Nf6 h4 72. Ng8+ Kh7 73. Rg5 h3 74. Nf6+ Kh6 75. Rg3 Rh4 76. Ng8+, and the Black king can’t escape the checks) Ne3+!, when the White king is cut off the defense after 70. Kxd6 Nxc4+ 71. Nxc4 Rxc4, while Black wins a pawn on 70. Ke4 Re8+ 71. Kd3 h4 72. Rg7+ Kf6 73. Rh7 Nf5.

After the game’s 70. Ke6 Rc6?! (more accurate was 70…Rh8! 71. Kxd6 h4 72. Rg7+ Kf5 73. Rf7+ Ke4 74. c5 Nf5+ 75. Kd7 h3 and wins) 71. Kd7 Nxc4 72. Kxc6 a5+ 73. Kxd6 Nxb7+ 74. Kd5 Kf4, Caruana’s king is stranded too far from the action. The game concluded 75. Nc4 h4 76. Nd2 h3 77. Nf1 Nd8! 78. Kd4 Nf7 79. Kd5 Ne5 80. Kd4 Ng4 81. Kd3 Kf3 82. Kd4 Kg2 83. Nd2 h2, and White resigned as the pawn cannot be stopped.

Through Monday’s sixth round of play, GM Sam Shankland leads the national title hunt with 4 1/2 points, followed by Caruana and GM Wesley So at 4-2. In the women’s tournament, FM Annie Wang is the surprise leader at 5-1, followed by WGM Nazi Paikidze at 4½-1½ and Krush at 4-2.

Sharevich-Krush, U.S. Women’s Championship, St. Louis, April 2018

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. Bf4 b6 4. e3 Bb7 5. Nbd2 c5 6. Nc4 d5 7. Nce5 Bd6 8. Bb5+ Ke7 9. c3 Qc7 10. Ng5 Rf8 11. Qc2 h6 12. Ngf3 c4 13. Qe2 Nc6 14. Bxc6 Bxc6 15. g4 Be8 16. Nd2 Ng8 17. Bg3 f6 18. Nef3 Bg6 19. e4 Bxg3 20. hxg3 Kf7 21. Nh4 Bxe4 22. Nxe4 dxe4 23. Qxe4 Ne7 24. O-O Qc6 25. Qe2 b5 26. Rae1 Nd5 27. Qe4 Ne7 28. Qc2 Rfd8 29. Re3 Rd6 30. Rfe1 Nd5 31. R3e2 a5 32. Qg6+ Kf8 33. f4 Ne7 34. Qh7 Re8 35. g5 hxg5 36. fxg5 Qd5 37. gxf6 gxf6 38. Re5 Qc6 39. Rh5 Rd5 40. Qh8+ Ng8 41. Ng6+ Kf7 42. Qh7 mate.

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

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