- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2022

“‘Shut up,’ he explained.”

Novelist Ring Lardner’s famed, unanswerable riposte has its analog in chess. Many amateurs can’t fathom why a grandmaster would resign a game when he’s down only a pawn with rooks, bishops and queens still on the board, even when a more experienced player can quickly see the hopelessness of the situation.

But “checkmate” is the “shut up” of chess — the irrefutable sign that the game is over and the king is about to be lost. In that spirit, we offer two recent games that went the distance — or nearly so — to a no-doubt-about-it finale everyone can appreciate.



Veteran GM Gregory Kaidanov finished in a tie for fifth at this month’s strong 15th American Continental Championship in El Salvador, 1½ points behind fellow U.S. GM Timur Gareev. But Kaidanov had a major say in the final result by dealing top-seeded GM Darius Swiercz his first loss in 29 crisp moves in the eighth round, with a kingside attack in a Saemisch Nimzo-Indian that left Black’s king nowhere to hide and nowhere to run.

Although White’s king is caught in the center, it turns out the Black monarch is in a more precarious space after the pawn sac 14. e4!? (it’s usually not recommended to open the center with your king nearby, but Swiercz’s undeveloped queenside holds him back) dxe4 15. Rb5!? (Nxe4 Nxe4+ 16. fxe4 Bg4 17. Be2 Bxe2 18. Qxe2 Rae8 is only slightly better for White) Nb3 16. Nxh5 Nxh5 17. Rxh5, adding a useful piece to the kingside attack.

Black appears transfixed by his queenside counterplay and neglects White’s attack until it is too late: 22. Rh6 b5 23. h5 a5?! (Swiercz fights for the initiative, but this is a little too obtuse; the computer suggests the unexpected 23 … Na1!? 24. Rg6 Nc2 25. h6 Nxe3 26. Kxe3 Bxg6 27. hxg7, and Black barely holds on after 27 … Rb8! [Rxg7? 28. fxg6 f5 29. Qh4 f4+ 30. Kd2 Rxg6 31. Qh8+ Kf7 32. Rh7+ Ke8 33. Qxf8+ Kxf8 34. Rxc7 and wins] 28. Rh8+ Kxg7 29. Rxb8 Qxb8 30. Qxg6+ Kh8 31. Qxf6+ Rg7 32. Kxe4 Qg3) 24. Rg6!, offering up an exchange to open lines.

Black has no better alternative to keep on keeping on, but on 24 … b4 (Bxg6 25. hxg6 Rd8 26. Rh8+ Kxh8 27. Qh5+ Kg8 28. Qh7+ Kf8 29. Qh8 mate) 25. axb4 axb4 26. h6 Bxg6, White’s blunderbuss attack nails the target on 27. hxg7! Rff7 (Rxg7 28. fxg6 Qc8 29. Bxc4+! Qxc4 30. Qh5, with unstoppable mate) 28. Rh8+ Kxg7 29. Qh4, and Black resigned just before being mated along the h-file.

Bulgarian WGM Nurgyul Salimova got all the way to the mating finish line in her upset of young Belgian GM Daniel Dardha from the recent 22nd European Individual Championship in Slovenia. A quick mate doesn’t look likely in this solid QGD Closed Semi-Slav, but White unwisely and unnecessarily weakens his king’s pawn protection and, like Swiercz, doggedly posts his best pieces on the wrong side of the board.

Black takes advantage of their absence with 24. Rxc1 g5! 25. hxg5 hxg5, and breaks through after another example of defender indifference: 26. Nd3? (see diagram; the ugly 26. Nh5! Bxg3 27. fxg3 Nxg3 28. Nxg3 Qxg3+ actually offers decent survival chances after 29. Bg2 g4 30. Rf1!, though Black is still better) Bxg3 27. fxg3 (Nfe5 Nxe5 28. dxe5 [Nxe5 Bxf2+ 29. Kg2 f6] Ba6 29. fxg3 Bxd3 30. Re1 Kg7! and Black has a pawn and the attack) Qxg3+ 28. Bg2 Ba6!, targeting the d3-knight, the shaky linchpin of White’s defense.

After 29. Nc5 Qf2+ 30. Kh1 Ng3+ 31. Kh2 Kg7!, White’s king is in a cell from which there is no escape.

White sportingly collaborates for a quick finale: 32. Nxg5 Rh8+ 33. Nh3 Nf6! (ouch!) 34. Rg1 (It’s also mate after the desperate 34. Nxe6+ Kg8 35. Rc8+ Bxc8 36. Qd1 Bxe6 37. Qf3 Rxh3) Ng4 mate, creating a pretty tableau.

—-

Following a bizarre qualifying run from Chinese star GM Ding Liren, the field of eight candidate grandmasters competing next month for the right to challenge Norwegian world champ Magnus Carlsen is now set. Ding, rendered largely inactive by the COVID-19 global shutdown, had to play a frantic schedule of games last month to secure the last spot in the field after Russian GM Sergey Karjakin was barred for his outspoken defense of President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Despite barely squeaking in, Ding is one of the pre-tournament favorites along with Iranian-born French phenom Alireza Firouzja and Americans Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana, who lost a tight match to Carlsen four years ago. Rounding out the field are Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, seeking to recover his form after a one-sided loss to Carlsen in their November title bout; veteran Azerbaijani GM Teimour Radjabov; Jan-Krzysztof Duda of Poland; and Richard Rapport of Hungary.  The 14-round, double-round robin starts June 16 in Madrid. We’ll have full coverage and color here and at WashingtonTimes.com.

Kaidanov-Swiercz, 15th American Continental Championship, San Salvador, El Salvador, May 2022

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. a3 Bxc3+ 5. bxc3 c5 6. f3 d5 7. cxd5 exd5 8. e3 c4 9. Ne2 Nc6 10. Ng3 h5 11. h4 Qc7 12. Kf2 Na5 13. Rb1 O-O 14. e4 dxe4 15. Rb5 Nb3 16. Nxh5 Nxh5 17. Rxh5 Bd7 18. Be3 Rae8 19. f4 f6 20. f5 Re7 21. Qg4 Be8 22. Rh6 b5 23. h5 a5 24. Rg6 b4 25. axb4 axb4 26. h6 Bxg6 27. hxg7 Rff7 28. Rh8+ Kxg7 29. Qh4 Black resigns.

Dardha-Salimova, 22nd European Individual Championship, Terme Catez, Slovenia, March 2022

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c6 4. e3 Nf6 5. b3 Nbd7 6. Bb2 b6 7. Nf3 Be7 8. Qc2 O-O 9. Rd1 Bb7 10. Bd3 Qc7 11. O-O Rad8 12. Rfe1 Rfe8 13. Qb1 h6 14. Bf1 a6 15. g3 b5 16. cxd5 cxd5 17. Rc1 Qb8 18. Bg2 Rc8 19. Ne2 a5 20. Nf4 b4 21. h4 Ne4 22. Bh3 Bd6 23. Qa1 Rxc1 24. Rxc1 g5 25. hxg5 hxg5 26. Nd3 Bxg3 27. fxg3 Qxg3+ 28. Bg2 Ba6 29. Nc5 Qf2+ 30. Kh1 Ng3+ 31. Kh2 Kg7 32. Nxg5 Rh8+ 33. Nh3 Nf6 34. Rg1 Ng4 mate.

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

• David R. Sands can be reached at dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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