Friday, February 6, 2004

Norwegian wunderkind Magnus Carlsen may yet turn out to be the real thing, although predicting greatness from early success always has been a hazardous enterprise in chess.

The 13-year-old Carlsen was the sensation of last month’s Corus Chess Tournament in the Dutch town of Wijk aan Zee, earning a 2702 performance rating and a grandmaster norm by going 101/2-21/2 to win the C Group over a host of more experienced grandmasters and international masters.

Bobby Fischer and Sammy Reshevsky fulfilled the early promise they showed in chess, but other prodigies have flamed out. None of the children in “Searching for Bobby Fischer,” including those in the book and the movie’s star, Josh Waitzkin (portrayed by Max Pomeranc), has ever come close to duplicating Fischer’s achievements.

One young star who never fully got the chance to exploit his immense talents was the Hungarian Rudolf Charousek, who died of tuberculosis in 1900 at age 26 after a brief but brilliant career. One of the great “what ifs” in chess is how far Charousek would have gone had he enjoyed better health.

Fred Reinfeld and Irving Chernev, in their book “Chess Strategy and Tactics,” see Charousek as an important transitional figure, often using the swashbuckling openings of the 19th century to play for strategic and positional advantages characteristic of modern chess. In both of today’s games, the Hungarian uses the venerable King’s Gambit to strikingly original effect.

Charousek’s first international triumph was a tie for first with Russian great Mikhail Tchigorin in Budapest in 1896. Charousek would lose a four-game playoff for the tournament title but beat the Russian in their match-up during the regular tournament.

Tchigorin himself was one of the last great exponents of the King’s Gambit, but here he loses his way early in the sharp tactical play. Black’s overambitious 10. 0-0 Be2? (c6 11. Nxf4 Nc7 12. Nxh5 Bxh5 13. Nd2 is playable for Black) allows White a vicious attack on 11. Ba4+ c6 (b5 12. Qc6+ Ke7 13. Re1 Nb4 14. Qc3 bxa4 15. Rxe2 is much better for White) 12. Bxc6+! bxc6 13. Qxc6+ Ke7 14. Nxf4.

The pressure on Black’s d-pawn undermines all hope of a counterattack; e.g. 14…Nb4 15. Ng6+! hxg6 (fxg6 16. Bg5+ Nf6 17. exf6+ Kf7 18. fxg7+ Bxf1 19. Qb7+ Kg8 20. Bxd8 Rxd8 21. gxh8=Q+ Kxh8 22. Kxf1 wins) 16. Qb7+ Qd7 (Ke6?? 17. Qxf7 mate) 17. Rxf7+! Kxf7 18. Qxd7+ picks off the queen.

But on 14…Nxf4 (Bxf1 15. Nxd5+) 15. Bxf4 h6 16. Nc3, a second knight comes out to menace the d-pawn. The last hope for Black may have been now 16…Qc8! 17. Qxc8 (Nxd5+ Kd8 18. Qa4 Qc4 holds) Rxc8 18. Nxe2 Rxc2 19. Nc3 Nb4 20. a3 Nd3 21. Nxd5+ Ke6 22. Ne3 Rxb2, with a lot of play left in the position.

Tchigorin’s idea to defend d5 with a bishop ends badly, however, on 16…Bc4 17. e6! Rc8 (fxe6 18. Rae1 Qc8 19. Bd6+ Kd8 20. Rxf8+ Rxf8 21. Qxc8+ Rxc8 22. Bxf8, and White should win the ending) 18. Bc7!! fxe6 (Rxc7 19. Rxf7 mate; or 18…Qxc7 19. Rxf7+ Kd8 20. Rd7+ Ke8 21. Rxc7+ Kd8 22. Qd7 mate) 19. Bxd8+ Rxd8 20. Qb7+ Rd7 21. Rf7+ Kxf7 22. Qxd7+.

Black has only two minor pieces for the queen. Tchigorin plays a few moves more and then resigns.

Charousek’s win over English master Amos Burn at the Cologne tournament of 1898 is analyzed extensively in the Reinfeld-Chernev book. It once again features Charousek beating the tournament winner, as he would finish in a tie for second behind Burn in the event.

With 10. c3 Bg7 11. Ne3! (a highly annoying redeployment that hits at d5 and f5) Qe6 12. g3!, White embarks on an unorthodox plan to develop his bishop along the long diagonal after first inducing Black to play the cramping 13…f5. With 16. Qxd2 Nc6 17. Rae1 Qf7 18. Bg2!, Charousek has a strong attacking position.

Chernev and Reinfeld mistakenly assert that 18…Be6 can be met by 19. Nxf5 Qxf5 20. Rxe6? Qxe6 21. Bd5, overlooking the clever 21…Bd4+, winning for Black. Burn instead tries 18…Kh8?, and finds himself under heavy pressure on 19. Nd5 Ne5 20. Bg5! c6 21. Nf4. Kicking the bishop with 21…h6 exposes Black to 22. Be7! Qxe7 23. Rxe5! Qd8 (Qf7 24. Re7 Qf6 25. h5) 24. Ng6+ Kg8 25. Re2 Rf7 26. Rfe1, with positional domination.

On the game’s 21…d5 22. h5 Bd7 (playing for the block with 22…h6 allows 23. Rxe5! hxg5 24. Re7 Qf6 25. Ng6+ Kg8 26. Rfe1 Rf7 27. Bxd5! cxd5 28. Qxd5 Bf8 29. Re8 Kg7 30. Nxf8 Rxf8 [Qb6+ 31. Kf1 Qa6+ 32. c4 Rxf8 33. R1e7 wins] 31. R1e7+ Kh6 32. Rxf8 Qxf8 33. Qd6+ Kxh5 34. Rh7+ Kg4 35. Qd1+ Kxg3 36. Qd3+ Kg4 37. Kg2! and White will mate) 23. h6 Bf6 24. Bxf6+ Qxf6, the loss of the dark-square bishop proves disastrous for Burn.

The finale: 25. Nh5 Qd6 (see diagram; 25…Qg6 26. Qd4 Qxh5 27. Qxe5+ Kg8 28. Qg7 mate) 26. Rxe5! Qxe5 27. Re1. If the queen retreats off the long diagonal, 29. Qd4+ wins easily. Black resigned.

In other news:

• Russian Vladimir Kramnik will defend his half of the disputed world crown against Hungary’s Peter Leko in a 14-game match in Brissago, Switzerland, starting Sept. 25, organizers announced late last month. There’s still no word yet from FIDE, the international chess federation, on when it will determine its own champion and set the stage for a much-needed reunification of the world championship.

• Closer to home, the annual George Washington Open is being played this weekend at the Holiday Inn Express at 6401 Brandon Ave. in Springfield. Call 703/644-5555 for directions. Play continues through tomorrowevening, and spectating is free.

Budapest, 1896


1. e4e514. Nxf4Nxf4

2. f4exf415. Bxf4h6

3. Bc4Nc616. Nc3Bc4

4. d4Nf617. e6Rc8

5. e5d518. Bc7fxe6

6. Bb3Bg419. Bxd8+Rxd8

7. Qd3Nh520. Qb7+Rd7

8. Nh3Nb421. Rf7+Kxf7

9. Qc3Na622. Qxd7+Be7

10. 0-0Be223. Re1Re8

11. Ba4+c624. b3Kf8

12. Bxc6+bxc625. bxc4Black

13. Qxc6+Ke7resigns

Cologne, 1898


1. e4e515. Nd2Nxd2

2. f4exf416. Qxd2Nc6

3. Nf3g517. Rae1Qf7

4. h4g418. Bg2Kh8

5. Ne5Bg719. Nd5Ne5

6. d4Nf620. Bg5c6

7. Nxg4Nxe421. Nf4d5

8. Bxf4Qe722. h5Bd7

9. Qe2Bxd423. h6Bf6

10. c3Bg724. Bxf6+Qxf6

11. Ne3Qe625. Nh5Qd6

12. g30-026. Rxe5Qxe5

13. Bh3f527. Re1Black

14. 0-0d6resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at

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