- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2019

It’s the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen, dominating on land, sea, air, cyberspace and even outer space. But the U.S. military still can’t seem to break through on the most important battlefield of all — the chessboard.

Actually, things are looking brighter for the American side, to judge from last month’s 30th NATO Chess Championships. The U.S. squad once again failed to medal, finishing seventh in the 21-team field, but was in the hunt for a bronze team medal right up to the final round.

And FM Eigen Wang, a second lieutenant in the Air Force, made his first foray into the NATO competition a memorable one, finishing in a tie for second behind Germany’s Elijah Everett and taking home the silver medal for individual play on tiebreaks. It’s the first individual medal for a U.S. service member in the history of the event.

The traditional powers made it to the podium again last month in Berlin, with Germany taking the gold, Poland the silver and Greece the bronze.

Retired Army Col. David A. Hater, a longtime friend of the column and now a fine chess writer in his own right, has a fine account of the tournament on Chess Life Online. He notes that, at least in this theater, the U.S. military faces some logistical and financial hurdles in fielding a strong team: “The tournament is almost always in Europe, so we have increased costs and time zones to deal with. There is no longer any funding from the U.S. government. And the demographics of an all-volunteer force, coupled with more than a decade of post 9/11 wars and deployments, make for significant challenges” in fielding a strong lineup.



Perhaps we should embark on a second Manhattan (Chess Club) Project, recruiting some of the best young minds — and highest ratings — of this generation to give our troops in the field the tools they need to get the job done.

Wang displayed some fierce attacking chops in his games at the NATO event on his way to a 5½-1½ result. In a tense struggle with Polish expert Daniel Michalski, White breaks down Black’s dogged resistance in a solid Philidor Defense with the help of a couple of timely pawn sacrifices.

After 17. c4 bxc4 18. Bxc4 exd4 19. Nxd4 d5!, Black has achieved his equalizing break in the center, but Wang keeps his initiative alive with the aggressive 20. Bd3 c5 21. Nfd5! (21. Nde2 dxe4 22. Bc2 Rad8 is just better for Black) — the only realistic attempt at a win. There followed 21…d4! (a prudent response; it gets very messy on 21…gxf5!? 22. Nxf5 Re5 [h6 23. exd5 Kh8 24. Nxh6 Bxd5 25. Nf5 with a powerful attack] 23. exd5 Rxf5 24. Bxf5 Bxd5 25. Re3 Nf8, with chances for both sides) 22. Nxg7 Kxg7 23. Bc1 Kh8 24. Qg5 Nd5 25. Bc4 f6, with both sides acquitting themselves well in a complicated position.

White’s pressure finally forces a Black misstep: 28. Rac1 Qb6 29. a5! Qxa5? (the Black queen should have resisted the temptation — it’s still balanced after 29…Qd6 30. f4 d3 31. Red1) 30. e5! (the open lines are well worth a second pawn) Rxe5 (Qd8 31. e6! g5 32. Qg4 Ne5 33. Rxe5! fxe5 34. Nf5 Re8 35. Bxg5 Rg8 36. Bxd8 Rxg4 37. Bf6+ Rg7 Bxg7+ and wins) 31. Rxe5 fxe5 32. Be6 (Black’s defense is under enormous strain) Qd8 33. Bg5, and now even the best defense — 33…Qf8 34. Rxc5! Nd3 (Nxc5 35. Bf6+) 35. Rc2! (Bxd7?? Qxf2+ throws the win away) Nf4 36. Bxd7 — leaves Black with a decisive material deficit.

Instead, Black puts a quick end to his suffering with 33…Qe8? 34. Bf6+ Nxf6 35. Qxf6 mate.

Wang apparently has a penchant for picturesque mates. He fashioned another one in his Round 1 victory over Belgian Class A player Stephane Glibert, which we pick up from today’s diagram, where Glibert as White has just played 20. Rd1-e1.

With Black’s pieces trained on the White king, Wang wrapped things up with 20…Nc4! 21. Nb3 (dxc4 bxc4 and the White king’s defenses break down) O-O 22. Nfxd4 Nxb2 23. Nxe6 c2+ 24. Kc1 fxe6 25. Qe3 Qa6 26. Bg4 Kh8 27. Bxe6 Qa3! 28. Kd2 Bc3+ 29. Ke2 Bxe1 30. Bxc8 Nd1 31. Qc1 Rxf2+! 32. Kxe1 Qe7+, and White resigned instead of playing out 33. Be6 Qxe6+ 34. Qe3 Qxe3 mate.

Azerbaijani GM Teimour Radjabov survived a grueling blitz playoff with top-seeded Chinese GM Ding Liren to capture the finals of the 128-player FIDE World Cup knockout tournament last week in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. Ding has already qualified, but Radjabov’s upset win earns him a slot in the 2020 candidates cycle for a chance at a title match with Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen.

American GM Fabiano Caruana, who lose a close match to Carlsen last year, is also already guaranteed a slot in the 2020 candidates fight.

Wang-Michalski, 30th NATO Chess Championship, Berlin, September 2019

1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 e5 4. Nf3 Nbd7 5. Bc4 Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. Re1 a6 8. a4 b6 9. b3 c6 10. Bb2 Bb7 11. Bd3 Qc7 12. Ne2 Rfe8 13. Ng3 Bf8 14. Qd2 g6 15. Rad1 b5 16. Ra1 Bg7 17. c4 bxc4 18. Bxc4 exd4 19. Nxd4 d5 20. Bd3 c5 21. Ndf5 d4 22. Nxg7 Kxg7 23. Bc1 Kh8 24. Qg5 Nd5 25. Bc4 f6 26. Qh4 Re7 27. Bd2 Nb4 28. ac1 Qb6 29. a5 Qxa5 30. e5 Rxe5 31. Rxe5 fxe5 32. Be6 Qd8 33. Bg5 Qe8 34. Bf6+ Nxf6 35. Qxf6 mate.

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

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