- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 12, 2019

It’s been hailed as a way to teach our youth math, pattern recognition and good sportsmanship, but has anyone ever touted chess as an aid in learning geography?

New York, London and Moscow all have deep links to the game, but so do some more obscure places. For a fan of U.S. chess fan history, Lone Pine, California, and Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania, loom much larger than Chicago or Seattle. Overseas, Linares is a bigger deal than Madrid, Wijk aan Zee than Amsterdam, Khanty-Mansiysk than St. Petersburg, San Remo than Rome, and Baguio City than Manila.

A quick scan of recent editions of Mark Crowther’s comprehensive “The Week in Chess” finds tournaments being played in such Prichovice (Czech Republic), Larnaka (Cyprus), Bac Giang (Vietnam), Mutxamel (Spain) and Feffernitz (Austria).

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And aside from boosting your AP scores, there’s some good chess being played out there in the provinces. Check out a pair of games by Ukrainian IM Li Min Peng at a recent Category 6 invitational in the southeastern Swedish city of Uppsala (home to Scandinavia’s largest cathedral and the birthplace of the Celsius temperature scale, FYI).

In a wild game with Swedish FM Tom Rydstrom in Round 6, Peng steers through some fantastic complications on his way to checkmate. It’s deeply unbalanced in the Classical French after 19. h7 Rh8 20. Rh6!? (Qg6! might be the better try; e.g. 20…Nxf4 21. Qg7 Qe5+ 22. Kf2 d3 23. Bxd3 Nxd3+ 24. cxd3 c2 25. Rb3 Qd5, with a very murky position) e5 21. Qg6 exf4 22. Ne4 Ne3 23. Bxe3 dxe3 (see diagram).

Both sides have some far advanced pawns after just 23 moves, though Black’s king is much better placed. White now errs with 24. Bd3? (keeping it wild was in order with 24. Qg7!? Qa5 25. f7 Nd4 26. Bd3 Nf5 27. Rh5!? Nxg7 28. Rxa5 Rxh7, with a long fight in store) Ne5 25. Qg7 Nxd3+ 26. cxd3 Qa5!, with the deadly threat of 27…c2+.

White’s advanced pawns prove irrelevant as his king is hunted down: 28. Ra1 Qb5 29. f7 Qxd3+ 30. Kf3 Qd1+! 31. Kxf4 c1=Q 32. Rxc1 Qxc1 33. Kf3 (walking into mate, but also hopeless was 33. Qc3 Qxc3 34. Nxc3 Rdf8 and wins) Qf1+ 34. Kxe3 (Kg2 e2 35. Qe5+ Ka8 36. Nc5 e1=Q+ and wins) Rd3 mate.

It was just as wild three rounds later, when Peng dusted off a King’s Gambit against Russian GM Igor Naumkin. Despite Black’s prudent opening play, White gets the half-open f-file so coveted in this opening, and blows up the Black defense with 14. Rad1 d5?! (too ambitious in a position where White seeks open play) 15. e5 Nh7 16. Bxh6!?.

White gets a raging attack, but Naumkin also puts out a stout defense. Peng misses a shot (19. Nxe6! Rxe6 20. h4 looks unstoppable), but Black returns the favor on 21. Rf6 Bg7 22. Rdf1 Nd8?, when instead the crafty 22…Bxf6! 23. Rxf6 Qf8 24. 24. Rxh6 Qg7 25. Rh7 (Ne2 Nxd4 26. Nxd4 Rxe5 27. Nf5 Rxf5 28. Bxf7 Re8 holds) Qxg2+! 26. Kxg2 Nf4+ is equal.

Instead, it’s another mate for Peng after 23. Qf5 (Rxh6! Bxh6 24. Qxh6 is also very strong) Nd7 (if 23…Kf8, White has 24. Qh7 Qb4 25. Ne2 [Rg6?? Qxd4+ 26. Kh1 Qxh4+] Re6 26. R6f3, winning) 24. Qh7+ Kf8 25. Rg6! Ne6 26. Rxg7!, and Black resigns just ahead of 26…Nxg7 27. Qh8 mate.

Rydstrom-Peng, Uppsala GM Tournament, Uppsala, Sweden, October 2019

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 Ne7 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 c5 7. Qg4 cxd4 8. Qxg7 Rg8 9. Qxh7 Qc7 10. Ne2 Nbc6 11. f4 dxc3 12. h4 d4 13. h5 Bd7 14. Qd3 O-O-O 15. h6 Kb8 16. Rb1 Bc8 17. Ng3 f6 18. exf6 Nd5 19. h7 Rh8 20. Rh6 e5 21. Qg6 exf4 22. Ne4 Ne3 23. Bxe3 dxe3 24. Bd3 Ne5 25. Qg7 Nxd3+ 26. cxd3 Qa5 27. Ke2 c2 28. Ra1 Qb5 29. f7 Qxd3+ 30. Kf3 Qd1+ 31. Kxf4 c1=Q 32. Rxc1 Qxc1 33. Kf3 Qf1+ 34. Kxe3 Rd3 mate.

Peng-Naumkin, Uppsala GM Tournament, Uppsala, Sweden, October 2019

1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Nc3 c6 5. Qf3 d6 6. d4 Be7 7. Nge2 O-O 8. Bxf4 Be6 9. Bd3 Nbd7 10. h3 Nb6 11. b3 a5 12. a4 Re8 13. O-O h6 14. Rad1 d5 15. e5 Nh7 16. Bxh6 gxh6 17. Nf4 Ng5 18. Qh5 Bf8 19. h4 Qe7 20. Nxe6 Nxe6 21. Rf6 Bg7 22. Rdf1 Nd8 23. Qf5 Nd7 24. Qh7+ Kf8 25. Rg6 Ne6 26. Rxg7 Black resigns.

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

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