Troubled Grand Prix finishes

Position No. 6110: White to play and win. From the game John Daniel Bryant-Andranik Matikozyan, Memorial Day Classic, Los Angeles 2010.

Solution to Position No. 6109: White wins with 1 d7 Bc7 2 Rxc7! Kxc7 3 Rc1+ Kb8 4 Rc8+ Rxc8 5 Qa8+! Kxa8 6 dxc8Q mate. Both 3…Kxd7 4 Qd5+ Ke8 5 Rc8+ and 3…Kd8 4 Qa8+ Kxd7 5 Qd5+ lead to mate.

Ukraine grandmaster Pavel Eljanov, probably the least-known of the world’s leading players, won the sixth Grand Prix tournament in Astrakhan, Russia. Eljanov’s 8-5 score in the round robin gave him a distinct edge over his 13 rivals, who all finished between 7-6 and 5 1/2 -7 1/2.

Eljanov, who turned 27 during the tournament, won five games, mostly by superb handling of Queenless middlegames. This success unofficially boosts him to sixth in the world rankings. He modestly said, “Today I am in the top 10, and tomorrow I can be far, far away.”

Thus the trouble-plagued 2008-2009 Grand Prix cycle ends, six months behind schedule. Levon Aronian of Armenia had already clinched first place in the Grand Prix standings by winning two earlier tournaments. Second prize goes to Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan, thanks to his second-place tie at 7-6 in Astrakhan. According to the current plan, Aronian and Radjabov qualify for the eight-player competition that will determine the challenger in the next world championship match, probably in 2012.

The World Chess Federation (FIDE) designed the Grand Prix to select a challenger for the world championship, a plan which might have worked if the organization had consulted the players. Problems arose immediately when the four highest-rated stars refused to participate. Later, FIDE abruptly altered the rules, prompting young sensation Magnus Carlsen to drop out.

When sponsors in the Czech Republic, Qatar and Switzerland withdrew their promise to host a tournament, FIDE had to scramble to find replacements. Ultimately, the Grand Prix resembled a Soviet-era production, with four tournaments in Russia, one in Armenia and one in Azerbaijan.

Nevertheless, the Grand Prix was a treat for fans, providing plenty of exciting games. The more anonymous members of the world’s elite welcomed the chance to compete against their peers for substantial prizemoney. In my opinion, the Grand Prix is just the sort of spectacle that FIDE should stage. Unfortunately, FIDE has made no announcement about continuing the series.

Contest winners

Joe Gates of Los Angeles and Dr. Richard Reich of Wisconin won the world championship contest. Both predicted that Viswanathan Anand would win the match with three wins, two losses and seven draws.

Local news

Simon Kogan and Ben Nethercot shared first prize in the Santa Monica Bay Chess Club’s 19-player championship. The club runs tournaments continuously on Monday evenings in St. Andrew’s Church, 11555 National Blvd. in Los Angeles. Call Pete Savino at (310) 827-2789 for more information.

Today’s games

GM Hikaru Nakamura-GM Yury Shulman, U.S. Championship, St. Louis 2010: 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e5 c5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 Qa5 7 Bd2 Qa4 A controversial line of the Winawer variation of the French Defense. 8 Nf3 Nc6 9 h4!? Offering a central pawn. White has also tried 9 Qb1 and 9 dxc5. cxd4 10 cxd4 Nge7 Similar is 10…Nxd4 11 Bd3. 11 h5 Nxd4 12 Bd3 The originator of this sacrifice, Kasparov, obtained an overwhelming position against Anand in 1992 after 12…Nec6 13 Kf1 Nxf3 14 Qxf3 b6 15 h6. Later, Anand played White and defeated Susan Polgar with 12…Ndf5 13 Rb1 Qg4 14 Rb4 d4 15 Kf1. h6 Nakamura admitted that he was not familiar with this improvement. 13 Kf1 Threatening 14 Rh4. Nxf3 14 Qxf3 b6 15 Qg3 Ba6 Black must counterattack. The only previous master game continued 15…Rg8? 16 Rh4 d4 17 Rg4 Bb7 18 Rxg7 0-0-0 19 Bxh6, and White should have won. 16 Qxg7 Bxd3+ 17 cxd3 Rg8 18 Qxh6 Qd4 19 Re1 Necessary, as 19 Rc1 drops two pawns to 19…Qxd3+ 20 Kg1 Qe4 21 g3 Qxe5. Qxd3+ 20 Kg1 Rc8 21 Bg5?! White’s position remains promising after 21 Qe3 Qh7 22 Rh3 Rc4 23 h6, as the h-pawn limits Black’s activity. Qf5 22 f4 Rc2 23 Rh2?? Fatally restricting his King. Perhaps Nakamura foresaw 23 Rh4 d4 24 Qf6 Qxf6 25 exf6 Nd5 26 h6 Ne3 27 Rh2 and thought he could save time by putting the Rook on h2 at once. He had to settle for 23 Qf6, with nearly even chances. Qd3! Winning. Black’s chief threat is 24…Qd4+ 25 Kh1 Nf5 26 Qf6 Ng3 mate. 24 Qf6 No better is 24 Bh4, as 24…Qd2 strikes at g2. Rxg5! 25 Qxg5 Or 25 fxg5 Nf5. Qd4+ 26 Kh1 Qe3!, White Resigns. Black refutes 27 Rg1 or 27 Qh4 by 27…Rc1.

GM Ernesto Inarkiev (Russia)-GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan), Grand Prix, Astrakhan 2010: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 c4 An unusual response to the Sicilian Defense. Nc6 4 Nc3 Nd4 5 g3 Ne7 6 Nxd4?! Simply 6 0-0 maintains equality. cxd4 7 Ne2 Nc6 8 Bg2 Rb8 9 0-0 b5 10 d3 bxc4 11 dxc4 e5 White’s weak opening has left Black in command of the center. 12 b3 a5 13 f4?! Sturdier is 13 Bd2 Bb4 14 Nc1, to plant the Knight on d3. Bc5 14 Kh1 d6 15 Bd2 Bg4 16 Bf3 Reasonable, as 16 h3 h5! does not break the pin. Bxf3+ 17 Rxf3 f5! Black wants to seize the entire center. He invites 18 exf5 e4. 18 Qc2 Qe7 19 Re1 Not 19 fxe5 because 19…Nxe5 20 Rxf5 d3 gains material. 0-0 20 Nc1 Nb4 21 Bxb4 Bxb4 22 Re2 Qb7 By applying pressure to e4, Black discourages Nc1-d3. 23 Kg1 Ba3 24 Rf1 Rbe8 25 Rfe1 Offering a pawn by 25…exf4 26 exf5 Rxe2 27 Qxe2 fxg3 28 hxg3 Rxf5, as 29 Qe6+ Rf7 30 Rf1 obtains some counterplay. Mamedyarov looks for another breakthrough. Bb4 26 Rf1 Ba3 Neither 26…exf4 27 Rxf4 nor 26…Bc5 27 Nd3 fxe4 28 Nxc5 is conclusive. 27 Rfe1 d5!! Amazing! 28 cxd5?! Most critical is 28 exd5 e4. White will have to sacrifice the Knight after ...d4-d3, but it’s uncertain if Black can force a win. Rc8 29 Qb1 Rxc1? Almost spoiling his conception. Inserting 29…exf4 30 gxf4 before 30…Rxc1 would guarantee a win. 30 Rxc1 d3 31 Qxd3 Bxc1 32 fxe5 This capture is the difference! f4 33 gxf4? After 33 d6, White’s pawns give him hope. Bxf4 34 e6 Be5 Now White’s pawns cannot advance (35 d6? Qb6+), and Black can exploit his extra Bishop. 35 Qe3 Qb4 36 Kg2 h6 Also 36…Bd4 37 Qd3 Qe7! 38 Qg3 Qf6 works. 37 Qd2 Qc5 38 Qe3 Qb4 39 Qd2 Qe7 40 h3 White can thwart Black’s attack only by landing in a lost endgame after 40 Rf2 Qh4 41 Rxf8+ Kxf8 42 Qf2+ Qxf2+ 43 Kxf2 Bxh2. Qh4 41 Qe3 Rf6 42 Rf2 Rg6+ 43 Kf1 Rg3 44 Qa7 Qxh3+ 45 Ke2 Kh7 46 Qf7 Or 46 e7 Qg4+ 47 Kd2 Qxe4, and Black will checkmate. Re3+, White Resigns.