Friday, June 16, 2006

Indian star GM Viswanathan Anand, one of the major disappointments at the recent Chess Olympiad in Turin, Italy, bounced back strongly this week by winning a strong rapid tournament held in the Spanish city of Leon. Anand dismissed chief rival Bulgarian FIDE world champ Veselin Topalov, with whom he vies for the title of the world’s highest-rated player, with a 21/2-11/2 victory in the finals Sunday.

Anand’s return to form follows a baffling performance in Turin. The Indian team entered the event seeded second but wound up in 30th place with a mediocre score of six match wins, four losses and three draws. Anand’s first board score of 41/2-41/2 was a big part of the problem: His only win was over an obscure Mongolian FM, and he was upset in the final round by Canadian champ GM Pascal Charbonneau, who ranks nearly 300 rating points below him.

Despite dominating Topalov in the finals, there were signs even in Spain that Anand is not at peak form. He was extended to a blitz playoff against Cuban GM Lazaro Bruzon in the preliminary round and lost a short brilliancy to the Cuban before finally advancing.

The ideas behind Bruzon’s Colle System are supremely simple, but Black must react energetically in this opening not to get caught in its positional coils. Anand’s 17. Rcf1 Ne4!?, redeploying Black’s most critical defensive piece, is a double-edged idea, and a move later, Black might have been better served with 18…Rfd8 19. Bxe4 dxe4, when he holds the edge after the direct 20. Qh5 Nf8 21. Ndc4 f6 22. Nxd6 Rxd6 23. Nc4 Rd5 24. Qh4 Ba6.

Anand’s defense can’t survive a third substandard move: 19. Bxe4 dxe4? (Black had to try 19…Bxe5 20. dxe5 fxe4 [dxe4 21. Qh5 Qxb6+ 22. Kh1 Kf7 23. Nc4 virtually forces 23…Rxc4], and hope to survive in lines like 21. Qh5 Kf7 22. f5 Qb6+ 23. Kh1 exf5 24. Rxf5+ Ke8 [even 24…Ke6 is possible [-] 25. Qxh7 Kxf5 26. Qh5+ Ke6 27. Qxg6+ Ke7 28. Qxg7+ Rf7] 25. e6 Qxe6! 26. Re5 Qxe5 27. Bxe5 Rxc2 28. Bd4 [Qd1 Rxd2! 29. Qxd2 Rf1 mate] Rxd2 29. Bg1 Rf1, and Black is fine) 20. Qh5 Bxe5 21. fxe5 Qxc2 22. Qxh7+ Kf7 23. Rg3 Qxd2 (Qxb2 24. Nc4 Qxd4+ 25. Kh1 Rxc4 [Nh8 27. Rxg7+ Ke8 28. Rxb7 wins] 26. Qxg6+ Ke7 27. Qxg7+ Rf7 28. Qg5+ Kd7 29. bxc4) 24. Rxg6 Rg8 (see diagram), allowing Bruzon a winning shot.

There followed 25. Rxe6!! Kxe6 (Qxb2 26. Qg6+ Kf8 27. Rxf5 mate) 26. Qxf5+ Ke7 (Kd5 27. Qd7 mate) 27. Qf7+ Kd8 28. e6 e3, and Anand resigned before White could administer 29. Qd7 mate.

• • •

Chess enthusiasts in Massachusetts today are holding a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of the great Harry Nelson Pillsbury, who died at the age of 34 on June 17, 1906. A memorial marker will be placed at Pillsbury’s gravesite at a cemetery in Reading, Mass.

Pillsbury died just 11 years after pulling off the most astonishing international debut in the history of the game. The unheralded American won the 1895 Hastings International Tournament over a world-class field that included world champion Emanuel Lasker, former champion Wilhelm Steinitz and such legends as Germany’s Siegbert Tarrasch and Russia’s Mikhail Tchigorin.

Pillsbury in his short career created a rich gallery of greatest hits — his wins over Tarrasch and Isidor Gunsberg at Hastings; his epic pair of Queen’s Gambit battles with Lasker; numerous simultaneous and blindfold brilliancies — but today we offer one of his lesser-known gems. The win over German master Rudolf Swiderski at a 1902 tournament in Germany, just before illness caused Pillsbury’s play to decline, shows the imagination and tactical alertness that made his premature death such a loss for the game.

Pillsbury was a pioneer in the handling of the orthodox QGD lines, but he shows here he also can handle more unusual sidelines. Black is already on his heels after 6. e4! dxe4 7. Ne5 Bd6 8. Qg4!, when 8…g6 9. Bc4 Bxe5 10. dxe5 followed by 11. Bg5 is pleasant for White.

Swiderski tries to counter with 10. dxe5 Qd4, only to run into the startling 11. Bd5!! c6 (Bxd5 12. Qc8+ Ke7 13. Bg5+ and 14. Rd1 wins for White) 12. Bxe4 Qxe5 13. Bf4 Nf6 14. Qh4 Qe7 15. 0-0-0, when 15…Nxe4?? allows 16. Rd8+ and mate. Reeling, Black tries a swindle after 15…Ne8 16. Qg3 Na6 17. Rhe1 Rd8!?, hoping for 18. Bxf7? Rxd1+ 19. Kxd1 Qd8+, sidestepping the attack on the queen.

Instead, the White bishop returns to its favorite square to set up a winning combination: 18. Bd5! Qc5 19. Rxe8+! Kxe8 (Rxe8 20. Bd6+) 20. Qxg7, when 20…Rf8 21. Re1+ Kd7 22. Be6+ Ke8 23. Bf5+ Qe7 24. Rxe7+ Kxe7 25. Qe5 is mate.

White emerges with a winning material edge after 22. Qxh7 Kc8 23. Qxf7!, and Pillsbury shows his tactical wit in saving his pinned knight after 23…d4 with 24. Qe6+ Rd7 25. Qg8+ Rd8 26. Qg4+ Rd7 27. Be3! (exploiting a double pin on the poor Black d-pawn) Bxg2 28. Rxd4. His entire position on the verge of collapse, Black resigns.

XIX Ciudad de Leon Rapid Tournament, Leon, Spain, June 2006


1. d4Nf615. Rc1b4

2. Nf3e616. a4Ng6

3. e3d517. Rcf1Ne4

4. Bd3c518. Rh3f5

5. b3Bd619. Bxe4dxe4

6. 0-00-020. Qh5Bxe5

7. Bb2Nc621. fxe5Qxc2

8. Nbd2cxd422. Qxh7+Kf7

9. exd4b623. Rg3Qxd2

10. a3Bb724. Rxg6Rg8

11. Ne5Qc725. Rxe6Kxe6

12. Qe2Ne726. Qxf5+Ke7

13. f4b527. Qf7+Kd8

14. Rf3Rac828. e6e3

and Black resigns

Hanover, 1902


1. d4d515. 0-0-0Ne8

2. c4e616. Qg3Na6

3. Nc3b617. Rhe1Rd8

4. Nf3Bb718. Bd5Qc5

5. cxd5exd519. Rxe8+Kxe8

6. e4dxe420. Qxg7cxd5

7. Ne5Bd621. Qxh8+Kd7

8. Qg4Kf822. Qxh7Kc8

9. Bc4Bxe523. Qxf7d4

10. dxe5Qd424. Qe6+Rd7

11. Bd5c625. Qg8+Rd8

12. Bxe4Qxe526. Qg4+Rd7

13. Bf4Nf627. Be3Bxg2

14. Qh4Qe728. Rxd4Black


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

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