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Varuzhan Akobian is lucky in Las Vegas

Position No. 6089: White to play and win. From the game Dariusz Mikrut-Maria Gosciniak, Warsaw 2009.

Solution to Position No. 6088: Black wins with 1 . . . Qxf2+! 2 Kxf2 Re2+ 3 Kxf3 (or 3 Kg1 f2 mate) Bg4+ 4 Kf4 Bh6 mate.

The North American Open, one of the Continental Chess Association’s largest annual tournaments, attracted 613 players to Las Vegas Dec. 26 to 29. The 99-player Open section, featuring nine grandmasters, ended in a five-way tie at 5 1/2 -1 1/2 among GMs Varuzhan Akobian (Glendale), Josh Friedel (Richmond, Calif.), Victor Mikhalevski (Israel), Alexander Shabalov (Pennsylvania) and Alex Yermolinsky (South Dakota). On tiebreak, Akobian, who drew three of his rivals, received the first prize of $3,990.

Southern California master David Zimbeck tied for sixth place at 5-2 despite facing higher-rated opponents in his final five games. Zimbeck drew against three grandmasters.

International news

Alexander Grischuk, ranked 15th in the world, scored an undefeated 6 1/2 -2 1/2 to win the Russian Championship in Moscow. Peter Svidler, ranked 10th, finished second at 6-3 in the round robin.

Two stars of an earlier generation, Boris Spassky, 72, and Viktor Korchnoi, 78, tied a match, 4-4, in Elista, Russia. Each won two games.

Magnus Carlsen, 19, of Norway is officially the world’s highest-rated player. The World Chess Federation’s January list puts Carlsen at 2810, five points ahead of Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria. World champion Viswanathan Anand of India, who will play Topalov in the 2010 world championship beginning April 23, is third at 2790. Next are former champion Vladimir Kramnik (Russia), 2788; Levon Aronian (Armenia), 2781; and World Cup winner Boris Gelfand (Israel), 2761.

The top U.S. players are Hikaru Nakamura of Seattle, 28th at 2708; Gata Kamsky of New York, 40th at 2693; and Alexander Onischuk of Maryland, 57th at 2670. All declined slightly from the November list.

Local news

Expert Konstantin Kavutskiy upset IM Tim Taylor to win the 27-player New Year’s Open at the Los Angeles Chess Club. Taylor and Josh Gutman tied for second. Ezekiel Liu led the under-1800 section.

The chess program at the Fairview library in Santa Monica has been discontinued, but the Ocean Park branch, at 2601 Main St. in Santa Monica, now welcomes chess players of all ages from 3 to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Call (310) 458-8683 for more information.

Henry Miskaryan of Burbank has published “Armenian Chess in the XXI Century,” a collection of 311 combinations by leading Armenian players and emigres. The book includes examples from Southern Californians Akobian, GM Melikset Khachiyan and IM Andranik Matikozyan. Call Miskaryan at (323) 913-9501 to buy a copy.

Sakshi Walia (on tiebreak over Eli Minoofar) and Corwin Cheung led their sections in the Holiday Hexes scholastic tournament at the Beverly Hills Chess Club. For more about the club, call Robert Minoofar at (888) 912-4377.

The Exposition Park Chess Club’s January tournament drew 26 players last Sunday in Los Angeles. Juan Munguia, Marc Conde, Luis Brioso, Manuelito Pascua and Benito Flores led their sections, while Michael Magturo and Luis Moreno tied for first in another section. You can register for the club’s next tournament at chess.expoparkla.com.

Today’s games

GM Alexander Grischuk (Russia)-GM Sanan Sjugirov (Russia), Russian Championship, Moscow 2009: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 e5 7 Nb3 Be6 8 Qd2 Be79 f3 The English Attack against the Najdorf Sicilian. 0-0 10 0-0-0 Qc7 11 g4 Rc8 12 g5 Nh5 13 Kb1 Nd7 14 f4! A strong novelty in a heavily-tested position. Black had scored acceptably with 14 Nd5 Bxd5 15 exd5 Nb6 and 14 Qf2 b5 15 h4 b4. exf4 15 Bxf4 Nxf4 16 Qxf4 Ne5 A terrific Knight. However, Grischuk demonstrates that White’s possible Knight outposts at d4, d5 and f5 are more important. 17 h4 Qb6 To prevent 18 Nd4. In the critical line 17 . . . b5 18 Nd4 b4 19 Nd5 Bxd5 20 exd5 a5 21 h5 a4 22 Bh3 Re8 23 g6!, White’s attack arrives first. White would meet 23 . . . hxg6 24 hxg6 Nxg6 powerfully by 25 Qh2 Nh4 26 Nc6. 18 Nd5 Bxd5 19 Rxd5! a5 Accentuating his light-square woes in a futile bid for activity. 20 Rb5 Qc7 21 Nd4 a4 22 a3 Ra5 23 h5 White has guarded his only target, c2, and can proceed to demolish Black’s Kingside. Bf8 24 g6! Rxb5 Obviously bad is 24 . . . h6 25 Rxa5 Qxa5 26 Bh3 Rc7 27 gxf7+ Nxf7 28 Be6, and 24 . . . fxg6 25 hxg6 h6 (after 25 . . . Nxg6 26 Qf5!, White threatens 27 Qh5) 26 Rxa5 Qxa5 27 Bh3 Re8 doesn’t help, as 28 Be6+ Kh8 29 Bf7 Rc8 30 Ne6 sets up 31 Rxh6+. 25 Bxb5 Qb6 Against 25 . . . h6, White can win the endgame after 26 gxf7+ Qxf7 27 Qxf7+ Nxf7 28 Rf1 or continue attacking with 26 Rf1 fxg6 27 Bxa4! g5 28 Qf5. 26 gxf7+ Kh8 Avoiding 26 . . . Nxf7 27 Rf1 Ne5 because 28 Bc4+! leads to mate. 27 h6! As 27 . . . gxh6 28 Ne6 prepares 29 Qf6+. Qxd4 28 hxg7+ Bxg7 After 28 . . . Kxg7 29 Qh6+ Kxf7 30 Qxh7+ Bg7 31 Qf5+ Ke7 32 Qxc8, Black cannot exploit his lineup against b2. 29 Qf5 Ng6 30 Qxc8+ Nf8 31 Qc3 Not 31 c3?? Qxe4+. Qxe4 32 Rg1!, Black Resigns.

Steven Zierk-GM Josh Friedel, North American Open, Las Vegas 2009: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Nf6 4 Ng5 d5 5 exd5 b5!?The wild Fritz-Ulvestad variation of the Two Knights Defense. Normal is 5 . . . Na5 6 Bb5+ c6. 6 Bf1 Allegedly best, although 6 . . . Nd4 7 c3 Nxd5 is unfathomable. h6?! Good for shock value only! 7 Nf3 Not bad, but 7 Nxf7! Kxf7 8 dxc6 Bc5 9 Be2 leaves Black little compensation. Qxd5 8 Nc3 Qe6 9 Bxb5 Glenn Flear, as Black, defeated two GMs after 9 Nxb5 Qe7. Bb7 10 0-0 0-0-0 11 Re1 Bc5 Black has adequate compensation for the pawn. 12 Qe2 Nd4 Not 12 . . . e4?!, as 13 Ba6! favors White. 13 Nxd4 Bxd4 14 Nd1 Avoiding tricks such as 14 d3?? Bxc3 15 bxc3 Qd5. Nd5 15 Bc4 More natural is 15 d3, but 15 . . . Qg6 16 Qf1 Nf4 17 Bxf4 exf4 18 c3 Rd5! (heading for g5) would annoy White. Qg6 16 Bxd5 Bxd5 17 Ne3 Bxe3 Cashing in. Also attractive is 17 . . . Bb7, keeping pressure after 18 d3 Rhe8 or 18 Qg4+ Qxg4 19 Nxg4 e4. 18 fxe3 Qxc2 19 d4 The d-pawn would fall after 19 d3 Qxe2 20 Rxe2 Bb7 21 Rd2 Rd7, but 19 b3 may improve. Qe4 Black’s pieces work well, especially on the light squares. The shocking opening has succeeded. 20 b3 Rhe8?! One lazy move throws away most of Black’s advantage. He should gang up on g2 by 20 . . . h5! 21 Bb2 h4 22 h3 Rh5! 23 Rf1 Rg5 24 Rf2 Rd6. 21 Bb2 Re6 22 Qd2 Bb7 23 Rac1 Rdd6 24 Rf1 Rf6 25 Rfe1 Satisfactory. Even better is 25 Rxf6 Rxf6, if White spots the danger in the plausible 26 Rf1? Rc6 27 Rc1 Rg6 28 Rc2 Qf5! 29 Qc1 Qf3. Instead, he can survive 26 dxe5! Rg6 27 Rc2 Qf5 thanks to the resource 28 Qd1 Qh3 29 Rxc7+! Kxc7 30 Qd6+! Rxd6 31 exd6+ Kxd6 32 gxh3. Rc6 26 dxe5! Rxc1 27 Bxc1 Rg6 28 Re2 Rc6 29 e6! Less appealing is 29 Qe1 Ba6. Rxe6 Black has nothing after 29 . . . Qxe6?! 30 e4. 30 Qc2? Dropping at least a pawn. The right way is 30 Bb2 Rc6 31 h3 (not falling for 31 Bxg7?? Ba6) Rg6 32 Qc2, with a likely draw. Rc6! 31 Qb2? Disastrous. After 31 Qd1 Ba6!, White cannot stand 32 Rb2 Rf6 33 Rf2 Rxf2 34 Kxf2 Bb7, but 32 Rd2 Qxe3+ 33 Kh1 Bd3 34 h3 keeps a little hope. Qd3 Threatening 32 . . . Rxc1+. 32 Rf2 Ba6! 33 Bd2 Or 33 Qd2 Qb1. Rc2 34 Qd4 Rxd2!, White Resigns.


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