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Blindfold battles in France

Position No. 6101: Black to play and win. From the game Zdenko Kozul-Igor Kurnosov, European Championship, Rijeka 2010.

Solution to Position No. 6100: White wins with 1 Bxf7+! Kxf7 2 Rxd6! Qxd6 3 Qxg7+ Ke6 4 Re1+ Kf5 5 Qxh7+. Neither 2 . . . Re6 3 Rxe6 nor 2 . . . Nf6 3 Bxf6 Bxf6 4 Qd5+ saves Black.

Magnus Carlsen of Norway and Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine shared first place in the 19th Amber tournament in Nice, France. Each took turns leading the double round robin, but they ended tied with scores of 14 1/2 -7 1/2 .

The duo shared first place at 8-3 in the rapid portion of the tournament, and they tied for second at 6 1/2 -4 1/2 in the blindfold portion. Yet their performances were hardly similar. Ivanchuk went undefeated (seven wins, 15 draws), while Carlsen accumulated 13 wins, six losses and only three draws.

Alexander Grischuk of Russia won the blindfold competition, scoring 8-3. However, his poor 4 1/2 -6 1/2 result in rapid play relegated him to fourth overall. Former world champion Vladimir Kramnik of Russia took third prize with a combined score of 13-9 (including 6 1/2 -4 1/2 blindfold).

Other scores: Sergey Karjakin (Russia), 12-10 (5 1/2 -5 1/2 blindfold); Boris Gelfand (Israel), 11 1/2 -10 1/2 (6-5 blindfold); Vugar Gashimov (Azerbaijan) and Peter Svidler (Russia), each 11 1/2 -10 1/2 (5 1/2 -5 1/2 blindfold); Levon Aronian (Armenia), 11-11 (5-6 blindfold); Ruslan Ponomariov (Ukraine), 9-13 (4 1/2 -6 1/2 blindfold); Jan Smeets (Netherlands), 6-16 (4-7 blindfold); and Lenier Dominguez Perez (Cuba), 5-17 (2 1/2 -8 1/2 blindfold). Aronian took first prize in 2008 and 2009.

Carlsen, now ranked first in the world, displayed remarkable equanimity. Not only did he shrug off a 0-2 loss to Ivanchuk in the first round, but he defeated Grischuk convincingly in the final round only minutes after losing track of the board and blundering his Queen to him in a blindfold game.

Such crowd-pleasing blunders contribute to the charm of the Amber tournaments. The large prize fund (216,000 Euros, about $293,000) provided by Dutch patron Joop van Oosterom assuages embarrassment.

Local news

“Team OC” (Alexandre Kretchetov, Takashi Iwamoto, Ilia Serpik and Leo Kamgar), which won the U.S. Amateur Team West in February, has earned the title of 2010 U.S. Amateur Team Champions. They defeated teams representing the North and South in playoffs March 27 on the Internet.

The AAA Chess Club will conduct a Spring Chess Festival April 10 in Adams Square (Park Avenue at Adams Street) in Glendale. There will be three nonrated sections, two for younger players and an Open section for high school students and adults. For information, call Harry Keshishian at (323) 578-0514 or see aaachessclub.com.

The Pasadena Chess Club set an attendance record with 76 players in their club championship, which finished March 26. Expert Jesse Victoria won with 6-0, ahead of Robert Xue and 2009 club champion Konstantin Kavutskiy.

The club, which meets at 7 p.m. Fridays in the Boys and Girls club, 3230 E. Del Mar Blvd. in Pasadena, will begin the six-round Pasadena City Championship on Friday. For information, call Randy Hough at (626) 282-7412.

The Santa Monica Bay Chess Club will begin a four-round tournament at 7 p.m. Monday in St. Andrew’s Church, 11555 National Blvd. in Los Angeles. Call Pete Savino at (310) 827-2789 for details.

The Los Angeles Chess Club, 11514 Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles, has added another event to its busy calendar. The club now conducts tournaments of 10-minute games on Friday evenings. Call Mick Bighamian at (310) 795-5710 for the full schedule.

Chess players are invited to the Palm Desert public library, 73-300 Fred Waring Drive in Palm Desert. A group meets at 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Call the library at (760) 346-6552 for information.

Today’s games

GM Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukraine)-GM Boris Gelfand (Israel), Amber Rapid, Nice 2010: 1 e4 Ivanchuk needed a win in this last-round game to tie for first place. e5 2 Nf3 Nf6 The solid and drawish Petroff Defense. 3 Nxe5 d6 4 Nf3 Nxe4 5 Nc3 Passing up 5 d4 d5 and gambling on asymmetry. Nxc3 6 dxc3 Be7 7 Be3 0-0 8 Qd2 Nd7 Gelfand’s favorite. Other GMs prefer 8 . . . Nc6 9 0-0-0 Ne5. 9 0-0-0 Re8 10 h4 c6 11 Kb1 When Topalov tried 11 h5 h6 12 Kb1 in Linares in February, Gelfand tried to fortify his Kingside by 12 . . . Nf6 13 Bd3 Bf8 14 Rdg1 Ng4 15 Bf4 Qf6. Qa5 12 h5 h6 13 Bd3 Now the natural 13 . . . Nf6? loses to 14 Bxh6! gxh6 15 Qxh6. White’s chief threat is 16 Rh3! Bxh3 17 gxh3, followed by 18 Rg1+. Bf8 Guarding h6 but allowing a dangerous pawn storm. Gelfand must have distrusted 13 . . . Ne5 14 Nxe5 dxe5, which he used to defeat Dominguez Perez in the fifth round in Nice. In that game, White had the edge after 15 Qe2 Be6 16 Bc4 Bxc4 17 Qxc4 Rad8 18 Qg4. 14 g4! Nf6 15 g5 Welcoming 15 . . . hxg5 16 Nxg5. Be6 Perhaps Gelfand expected 16 c4 Qxd2. 16 a3! The brilliant prelude to an all-out attack. White’s first point is that 16 . . . Qd5 17 c4 Qxf3 18 gxf6 Qxf6 loses to 19 Bd4! Qf3 20 Rdg1. A possibility is 20 . . . Bg4 21 Qc1! (preparing 22 Rg3) c5 22 Bc3 f5 23 Rg3 Qxf2 24 Rhg1, with the deadly threats of 25 R1g2 and 25 Bxf5. A second point is that 16 . . . Bd5 17 gxf6 Bxf3 fares no better after 18 Rhg1 Bxd1 19 fxg7 Be7 20 Qxd1. Ng4 17 gxh6 Qd5 White will use the g-file after 17 . . . Nxh6 18 Bxh6 or 17 . . . gxh6 18 Nd4 Nxe3 19 fxe3. 18 Qe2 Qa2+ 19 Kc1 Qa1+ 20 Kd2 Qxb2 21 Rdg1 Not so effective is 21 Ra1?! Ba2. Bd7 Black has threatened mate twice and driven White’s King back to the center, but his King is the one in trouble. The computer confirms Black’s helplessness. Two examples: 21 . . . Nxe3 22 Qxe3 Qb6 23 Rxg7+! Bxg7 24 Qg5, and 21 . . . c5 (stopping Be3-d4) 22 Ng5 Nxe3 23 Qxe3 Bd5 24 Qf3! Bxf3 25 h7+ Kh8 26 Nxf7 mate. 22 Rxg4! Bxg4 23 Ng5! Seeing 23 . . . Bxe2 24 h7+ Kh8 25 Nxf7 mate. Be6 24 Bd4 Threatening 25 Qxe6. Qa2 25 Rg1 c5 If 25 . . . f6, Black has no answer to 26 Bh7+ Kh8 27 hxg7+ Bxg7 28 h6. 26 Bh7+ Mate in nine moves! Kh8 27 hxg7+ Bxg7 28 Nxf7+ Bxf7 29 Bxg7+ Kxh7 30 Qd3+ Kg8 31 Bf6+ Kf8 32 Qxd6+, Black Resigns.

GM Sergey Karjakin (Russia)-GM Ruslan Ponomariov (Ukraine), Amber Rapid, Nice 2010: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 g6 An unusual defense to the Ruy Lopez. 5 d4 b5 Consistent. Black does not equalize with 5 . . . exd4 6 Nxd4 Bg7 7 Nxc6. 6 Bb3 exd4 7 Nxd4 Na5 Black’s risky idea is to grab White’s Bishop at the cost of lagging development. 8 a4!? Nxb3 Now or never! After 8 . . . Bb7, White preserves the Bishop with 9 Ba2, as 9 . . . Bxe4? 10 0-0 (threatening 11 Qe1) will cost Black material. 9 Nxb3 Bb7 10 0-0 Bg7 Black’s Bishops slice through the center. If he could only castle . . . 11 Na5! Rb8 12 Nxb7 Rxb7 13 axb5 axb5 14 f4!? Simply 14 Nc3 Ne7 15 Bg5 secures a clear advantage, but Karjakin wants more. He will meet 14 . . . Ne7 by 15 f5 Nc6 16 Nc3 0-0 17 Nd5. Ponomariov’s choice is even worse. d5?! 15 f5 Maybe Black can survive 15 exd5 Ne7 or 15 Nc3 Bxc3 16 bxc3 Nf6 17 e5 Ne4. gxf5 Black rejects 15 . . . dxe4 because White’s pieces rush into battle by 16 Qxd8+ Kxd8 17 fxg6 fxg6 18 Bg5+ Kc8 19 Rf7. The sturdier 15 . . . Nf6 16 e5 Ne4 17 f6 Bf8 18 Be3 is uncomfortable too. 16 Nc3! White could not calculate exhaustively in this 25-minute game, but he intuitively finds a stunning way to open the center and bother Black’s uncastled King. The quieter 16 exf5 c6 17 Nc3 was a worthy alternative. fxe4 Objectively best may be 16 . . . dxe4 17 Qxd8+ Kxd8, but White harvests a bushel of pawns with 18 Rxf5 Ne7 19 Rxf7 Bd4+ 20 Kf1 Ke8 21 Rf4. Instead, 16 . . . Bxc3 17 bxc3 will lose quickly after either 17 . . . fxe4 18 Qh5 or 17 . . . dxe4 18 Bg5! Qxd1 19 Ra8+ Kd7 20 Rxd1+ Kc6 21 Be3. 17 Nxd5 c6 Avoiding the loss of a piece by 17 . . . Nf6? 18 Bg5! Qxd5 19 Ra8+ Kd7 20 Bxf6 Qxd1 21 Rxd1+ Ke6 22 Ra6+! Rb6 23 Rxb6+ cxb6 24 Bxg7. However, Black should set his own trap by 17 . . . Ne7 18 Qg4 Bd4+ 19 Be3 Rg8, hoping for 20 Qxe4?? Qxd5 21 Qxd5 Bxe3+. White should vary with 20 Qh3! Rb8 21 Nxc7+ Qxc7 22 Bxd4 Qxc2 23 Ra7 Rd8 24 Bb6, attacking relentlessly. 18 Qg4 Or 18 Bg5. Bd4+ 19 Be3 cxd5 Weak, but 19 . . . Qxd5 20 Qc8+ Qd8 loses neatly to 21 Qxb7! Bxe3+ 22 Kh1 Qd7 23 Ra8+ Ke7 24 Rxf7+, and 19 . . . Bxe3+ 20 Nxe3 Ne7 will not last long after 21 Qg7 Rf8 22 Qe5. 20 Bxd4 f6 21 Qe6+ Re7 White can refute 21 . . . Ne7 by 22 Rxf6 or 22 Qxf6. 22 Qc6+ Qd7 23 Ra8+, Black Resigns. The prettiest finish is 23 . . . Kf7 24 Rxf6+ Kg7 25 Rg6+! Kf7 26 Rg7 mate.


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