- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 29, 2020

October will be a month of championships for American chess.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still shutting down most over-the-board events, U.S. Chess officials have announced the 2020 open and women’s national championships, as well as U.S. junior and senior title tournaments, will be held online next month, starting with the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship Oct. 9-11.

All events will be played at rapid time controls, unfortunately.

The 12-player 2020 U.S. Championship, to be played Oct. 26-29, will go ahead without U.S. No. 1 GM Fabiano Caruana, who will be taking part in the FIDE Candidates Tournament — suspended at the halfway point in March — that resumes Nov. 1 in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

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It’s a good rule of thumb that the best parts of any autobiography are the first chapters — before the famous author grew into the public person who did whatever it was he or she became famous for.

The same often goes for game collections, such as the just-released “Timman’s Triumphs” (New In Chess, 349 pp., $32.95) by the great Dutch GM and writer Jan Timman. Dubbed the “Best of the West” in the post-Bobby Fischer era, Timman, now 68, won the Dutch national championship nine times, lost a FIDE world title match with Russia’s Anatoly Karpov in 1993, and defeated virtually every great player of the era in his 50-year career.

But among the 100 games superbly analyzed by the author, there’s a real piquancy to the earliest efforts, when a fresh-faced Timman in the Ringo Starr haircut first burst on to the scene. Among the collection’s best games was his brilliancy prize win over Estonian master Boris Rytov from the 1973 Tallinn International Tournament, where the rising star recalled he first clashed with such giants as Boris Spassky, Mikhail Tal, Paul Keres and David Bronstein among them.

White’s 10. b4? proves to be a never-to-be-repeated novelty, and Timman recalls the great Tal stopping by his board and flashing a smile when the young Dutchman found the dazzling riposte: 12. Qe2 (trying to recover what White thinks is a temporarily sacrificed pawn) b5! 13. Nxb5 Qd5! 14. Nxc7 Qxg2 15. Qf1 Qf3!!, disdaining the queen trade and letting the rook fall.

White’s position crumbles after 16. Nxa8 (Timman notes that 16. Rg1 Nxd4 17. Qxc4 Rfc8 18. exd4 Nd5 wins for Black as well) Nxd4! 17. exd4 (Ra2 Nb3 18. Bd2 Rd8, with 19…c3 on tap; or 17. Bb2 c3 18. Bxc3 Nc2+ 19. Kd2 Nxa1 20. Bxa1 Ne4+ 21. Kc2 Rc8+, with a crushing attack) Qc3+ 18. Ke2 Qxa1 19. Qg2 Qa2+ 20. Ke1 Qb1 21. Kd2 Ne4+, and the king hunt begins in earnest.

Black brings home the point after 22. Ke3 Qd3+ 23. Kf4 g5+ 24. Qe5 Rd8, and White resigned as mate is not far off.

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I spent an enjoyably frustrating — or frustratingly enjoyable — hour-plus before finally cracking the problem in today’s diagram this weekend, and thought you might enjoy wasting time as well.

The two-mover by British composer H.D. O’Bernard was printed in the Jan. 16, 1904, edition of the first incarnation of The Washington Times. My long-ago predecessor, W.B. Mundelle, who wrote the “In the Chess and Checker World” column, calls the key first move “ingeniously hidden.”

“Many solvers gave it up in despair, while others claimed that it could not be done,” he wrote. “While it is given for the benefit of the student, it ‘stumped’ many of the older players.”

I spent a good while wondering the old Times’ typesetters had perhaps left a piece off the diagram before finally hitting on the mating idea. (Your computer can solve it in a button-push, but where’s the fun in that?) We’ll have the answer here next week.

Rytov-Timman, Tallinn International, Tallinn, Estonia, February 1973

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 b6 5. Nge2 Ba6 6. a3 Bxc3+ 7. Nxc3 d5 8. b3 O-O 9. Be2 Nc6 10. b4 Bxc4 11. Bxc4 dxc4 12. Qe2 b5 13. Nxb5 Qd5 14. Nxc7 Qxg2 15. Qf1 Qf3 16. Nxa8 Nxd4 17. exd4 Qc3+ 18. Ke2 Qxa1 19. Qg2 Qa2+ 20. Ke1 Qb1 21. Kd2 Ne4+ 22. Ke3 Qd3+ 23. Kf4 g5 24. Ke5 Rd8 White resigns.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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