Saturday, February 23, 2008

The U.S. Amateur Team East, the Parsippany, N.J., tradition that usually is one of the year’s most popular and spirited events, left an unpleasant aftertaste this year.

The East event, held last weekend, once again set an attendance record, with more than 1,200 players competing on 291 teams from up and down the Atlantic Coast. There were the usual outlandish team names (No Longer Searching for Bobby Fischer took top honors) camaraderie and competition.

However, this year’s winner, GGGg, won all six matches employing a lineup of three grandmasters (Zviad Izoria, Eugene Perelshteyn and Roman Dzindzichashvili) and 5-year-old (yes, that’s right) Stephen Fanning. Young Fanning’s microscopic 178 rating helped get the squad below the mandatory maximum team average rating of 2200, but the whole setup simply is not in the spirit of such a populist event.

No one broke the rules, but it would be nice to see some changes next year (just two GMs per team, perhaps) to keep the event competitive for those without international titles.

For a taste of what can happen when equals collide, we go today to the Amateur Team West event, held in Los Angeles. IMs Kong Liang Deng and Jack Peters, the legendary chess columnist for the Los Angeles Times, squared off in a short, brutal affair capped by a string of sacrifices.

Both players must be tactically alert almost from the starting gun of this sharp Sicilian. Black snatches a gambit pawn, but after 7. d5, the normal-looking 7…Ne5? already loses a piece to 8. Qa4+. A few moves later, after 11. Qd4 Rg8 12. Re1, Black can get into big trouble with the casual 12…Bg7 13. Qh4 Bf6?! 14. Bb5+! Ke8?? (Qxb5 is also better for White) 15. Bh6+ Rg7 (Bg7 16. Qxe7 mate) 16. Qxf6! exf6 17. Re8 mate!

Deng gives up a second pawn to keep his attack alive, and by 14. Qa4!? Qxd5 15. Ba3 Kd8 16. Rad1, the open central files and the diagonals for his two bishops give him real compensation. Peters dodges a bullet after 16…Qf5 17. Nd4 Nb6!, when the immediate 17…Qf6? would have opened the floodgates on 18. Qa5+ b6 (Ke8 19. Bxd6! Qxd6 20. Nb5 Qb6 21. Qxb6 axb6 22. Nc7+ wins material) 19. Qd5 Rb8 20. Nc6+ Kc7 21. Rxe7 Bxe7 22. Nxe7 Re8 (Qxe7 23. Bxd6+ is crushing) 23. Bxd6+ Kd8 24. Nc6 mate.

But White’s steady pressure soon forces a critical defensive lapse: 19. c4! Bd7 20. Nb5 Bg7? (Nc8 21. c5 a6 looks tougher, but Black’s game already is very hard to hold together) 21. c5 Be6 (see diagram) 22. cxd6!, and the White queen is immune because of 22…Bxb3? 23. dxe7+ Kc8 (Ke8 24. Nc7 mate) 24. e8=Q+ Rxe8 25. Rxe8+ Qd8 26. Rexd8 mate.

Deng wraps up in sacrificial style: 22…exd6 23. Rxd6+ Nd7 (Kc8 24. Qc2+ Nc4 25. Bxc4 26. Bxe6 wins) 24. Rexe6! fxe6 25. Rxd7+ Kxd7 26. Qd3+ Kc8 (Ke8 27. Nc7+ Kf7 28. Qd7+ Qe7 29. Qxe7 mate) 27. Qc4+, and Black resigns as all roads lead to regicide after 27…Kd7 (27…Kb8 28. Qc7 mate, while White also answers 27…Kd8 with 28. Qc7+) 28. Qc7+ Ke8 29. Nd6+ Kf8 30. Nf5+ Ke8 31. Bb5 mate.

n n n

The big boys are at it again.

Just weeks after the close of the Category 20 Corus tournament in Wijk aan Zee, some of the world’s very best are back in the ring at the 25th SuperGM Tournament, split between the Mexican city of Morelia and Linares, Spain.

Russian former world champ GM Vladimir Kramnik is not in the Category 21 field, but top rivals Viswanathan Anand of India, Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria and Corus co-champs Magnus Carlsen of Norway and Levon Aronian of Armenia are back in action after having just left Holland.

By Round 5 in Morelia, every player in the eight-man field had at least one loss, with Anand holding a half-point edge on Aronian at 3½-1½.

Ukrainian star GM Vassily Ivanchuk was not at Corus, but he was one of the world’s hottest players in the last months of 2007. He hasn’t cooled down much, to judge from his tough win over the hard-to-beat Hungarian star Peter Leko in Morelia. The two players negotiate one of the trickiest Ruy Lopez lines, but Ivanchuk proves tougher at the critical moments in the middle game.

White’s 18. Qa7 is the first new move in this line (18. Qxf8+ Bxf8 19. Nd2 led to a draw in a game last year) but the game’s best move may be Ivanchuk’s 19. Qxa8+ Bxa8 20. Be3!, firmly blockading the e-pawn and muffling the power of Black’s two bishops. The long diagonal remains blocked for the remainder of the game.

If White can maneuver his two rooks into the Black position, he wins. After opening a breach on the queen-side, White benefits from a Black error to achieve his strategic goal: 38…Qf6? (Bh3 39. f4 Qh5! would force Ivanchuk to keep his king secure) 39. Rb6! Qf5 40. Nb3!. When the knight gets to d2, Leko’s attack is over.

After 42. Ra1 Bd8 43. Rb8, the White rooks come into their own in lines such as 43…Bf6 44. Ra5 Be7 45. Ra7 Bf6 46. Rb6 Be8 47. Rc7; Leko resigned.

U.S. Amateur Team West, Los Angeles, February 2008


1. e4c515. Ba3Kd8

2. Nf3d616. Rad1Qf5

3. c3Nf617. Nd4Nb6

4. Be2Nc618. Qb3Qf6

5. d4cxd419. c4Bd7

6. cxd4Nxe420. Nb5Bg7

7. d5Qa5+21. c5Be6

8. Nc3Nxc322. cxd6exd6

9. bxc3Nb823. Rxd6+Nd7

10. 0-0g624. Rexe6fxe6

11. Qd4Rg825. Rxd7+Kxd7

12. Re1Nd726. Qd3+Kc8

13. Bf1Qc527. Qc4+Black

14. Qa4Qxd5resigns

25th SuperGM Tournament, Morelia, Mexico, February 2008


1. e4e523. Nd2Qe5

2. Nf3Nc624. g3h6

3. Bb5a625. a4Bc6

4. Ba4Nf626. axb5axb5

5. 0-0Be727. Nb3Bf8

6. Re1b528. Red1Bd5

7. Bb30-029. h4Kg8

8. d4Nxd430. Nc1g5

9. Bxf7+Rxf731. hxg5hxg5

10. Nxe5Rf832. Ra5Qc7

11. Qxd4c533. Ra6Qf7

12. Qd1Qc734. Rb6Be7

13. Ng4Nxg435. Rxb5Be6

14. Qxg4d536. Rb8+Kg7

15. Qh5dxe437. Rb7Kh6

16. Qd5+Kh838. Re1Qf6

17. Qxa8Bb739. Rb6Qf5

18. Qa7Ra840. Nb3Kh5

19. Bf4Qc641. Nd2Bd7

20. Qxa8+Bxa842. Ra1Bd8

21. Be3Qf643. Rb8Black 22. c3Bd6resigns

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

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