Championship cycle still muddled

International Master

Position No.5930: Black to play and win. From the game Takashi Kurosaki–Ike Miller, Ileto Memorial, Monterey Park 2006.

Solution to Position No .5929: Black wins with 1 … Rxa3! 2 Qxa3 Qe1+. A classic back rank combination.

The October match between Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov healed the 13-year laceration in the chess world by proclaiming one undisputed champion, Kramnik. However, the recovery period may be rocky.

The World Chess Federation (FIDE) has announced that two rounds of Candidates matches will begin May 26 in Elista, Russia, the home of FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. FIDE had planned to hold the matches in October, but could not find a sponsor. When Ilyumzhinov announced that he would conduct a tournament instead, players protested. Now FIDE has returned to the original format, seven months late.

The matches are supposed to determine four qualifiers for FIDE's 2007 world championship tournament, scheduled in September in Mexico City. Four others, including Kramnik, have already qualified for the eight-player double round robin.

Ilyumzhinov revealed that Kramnik has agreed to participate in Mexico, a mild surprise. Kramnik had supported the 120-year tradition of a two-player match for the championship.

Topalov issued a challenge to Kramnik, promising a purse of $1.5 million for a 12-game match in March or April. It's unlikely that Kramnik will want to risk his new title twice next year.

Topalov, still the world's highest-rated grandmaster, deserves an invitation to the Mexican tournament, but forfeited his spot when he lost to Kramnik. Will FIDE alter its plans again?

Scholastic news

The 2006 National K-12 Championship in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., brought together 1,519 young players. Southern California was ably represented by Michael W. Brown, tied for third place in the Grade 4 section; Jared Tan, tied for third place in Grade 9; and Derek Tan, tied for fourth place in Grade 11.

A famous name led the Grade 2 section. Tom Polgar-Shutzman, the elder son of former women's world champion Susan Polgar, took first prize.

The U.S. Chess Federation selected 43 players with exceptional ratings for its 2007 All-America team. Local standouts Joel Banawa, 16; Christian Tanaka, 12; Eric Zhang, 9; and Danil Fedunov, 8, earned recognition.

Local news

The New Year Open, a five-round tournament of 45-minute games, will be held Jan. 1 at the Los Angeles Chess Club, 11514 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. For details, call Mick Bighamian at (310) 795-5710.

Christian Tanaka and Miguel Cayetano led their sections in the December Octos, Dec. 16 in Costa Mesa. The next Octos are scheduled for Jan. 20. Call Takashi Iwamoto at (949) 689-3511 or see members.cox.net/octochess.

Sharon Burtman, the 1995 U.S. women's co-champion, will give a simultaneous exhibition to raise funds for Villa Park Elementary School. The simul begins at 2 p.m Thursday in the City Council chambers, 17855 Santiago Blvd. in Villa Park. Call Sheryl Amick at (714) 654-8684 for more information.

Today's games

IM Jack Peters--Ron Hermansen, Ileto Memorial, Monterey Park 2006: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Rossolimo's line against the Sicilian Defense. d6 4 0-0 Bd7 5 c3 Nf6 6 Re1 a6 7 Ba4 b5 8 Bc2 e5 Also good is 8 ... g6. 9 d3 Harmless, but 9 d4?! cxd4 10 cxd4 Bg4 favors Black. Be7 10 Nbd2 0-0 11 Nf1 The position resembles a Ruy Lopez. Black has equalized. Re8 12 h3 Bf8 13 Ng3 d5? Premature. After 13 ... h6, White has nothing better than 14 d4, but 14 ... cxd4 15 cxd4 exd4 16 Nxd4 d5 17 Nxc6 Bxc6 18 e5 Ne4 is fine for Black. 14 exd5 Nxd5 15 Bb3 To meet 15 ... Nc7? with 16 Ng5 Ne6 17 Qh5, invading at h7 or f7. Nf4 16 d4 c4 17 Bc2 Ng6 18 d5 Na5 19 Ng5! The penny-pinching 19 Bxg6?! hxg6 20 Nxe5 lets Black off too easily. Be7 Black cannot survive 19 ... h6 20 Nxf7 Kxf7 21 Qh5 Qf6 22 Ne4 or 21 ... e4 22 Rxe4. 20 Qh5 Bxg5 21 Bxg5 f6?! Necessary is 21 ... Qc7 22 Rad1 Nb7. 22 Be3 Nf8 23 Bc5 Inducing another loosening. g6 24 Qh6 Nb7?! "Best" is jettisoning a pawn by 24...f5 25 Bxf8 Rxf8 26 Rxe5. 25 Nh5!, Black Resigns. After 25 ... gxh5 26 Bxf8, Black must cede the exchange by 26 ... Re7.

GM Eugene Perelshteyn - GM Alex Yermolinsky, American Open, Los Angeles 2006: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Nc6 6 Bg5 The Richter Rauzer Attack against the Sicilian Defense. e6 7 Qd2 Be7 8 0-0-0 Nxd4 9 Qxd4 0-0 10 f3 Alternatives include 10 f4 and 10 e5. a6 11 h4 b5 Each player dreams of attack. The most important battle, though, is for control of the center. 12 Kb1 Bb7 13 Qd2 Rc8 14 Bd3 Qc7 15 Ne2 Rfd8 16 Nd4 To meet 16...d5?! powerfully with 17 e5! Nd7 (not 17...Qxe5?? 18 Bf4 Qh5 19 g4) 18 f4. However, 16...e5 17 Nf5 d5 is reasonable. Qb6 17 Be3 Qc7 18 g4 e5? Too late. Either 18...Nd7 19 g5 d5 or 18...d5 19 e5 Nd7! 20 f4 Nb6 is satisfactory. 19 Nf5 Rd7 Already Black is in trouble, as 19...d5? 20 Bb6! and 19... Bf8 20 Bg5 d5 21 Bxf6 gxf6 22 Qg2 are miserable. 20 Bg5! Bd8 Now 20...d5? loses quickly to 21 Nxe7+ Rxe7 22 Bxf6 gxf6 23 exd5 Bxd5 24 Bf5 Be6 25 Qh6. 21 Bxf6 Bxf6 22 g5 Be7 23 h5 d5 24 g6 Giving White an unstoppable attack. Bf6 Clearly 24...h6? 25 Nxh6+ gxh6 26 Qxh6 Bf6 27 Rdg1 is fatal, and 24...fxg6 25 hxg6 h6 26 Nxh6+ gxh6 27 Qxh6 Bf6 offers few chances of survival after 28 g7! Bxg7 29 Rdg1 Kf8 30 Qe6 or 28 g7! Kf7 29 Qh5+ Kxg7 (worse is 29...Ke7 30 Qh7) 30 exd5. 25 gxh7+ Kh8 Forced, as 25...Kxh7 26 exd5 sets up a discovery. 26 Qg2 dxe4 27 fxe4 Qd8 To defend g7. If 27...Kxh7 28 Rdg1 Rg8, White mates artistically with 29 Qg6+! Kh8 30 h6!. 28 Rhg1 Qf8 29 Rdf1 Threatening Rf1-f3-g3. Rcd8 Setting the trap 30 Rf3?? Bxe4. 30 Nh6! With the new idea of 31 Rxf6 gxf6 32 Qg8+. Rd6 31 Ng4 Bc8 32 Nxf6 Rxf6 33 Rxf6 gxf6 34 Qf3 Qe7 A bit tougher is 34...Qh6, although 35 c4! should win. 35 Qg3 Qf8 36 Qf2 Qe7 Only 36...Qh6 37 Qa7 Rf8 resists. 37 h6 The threat of 38 Rg7 and 39 Qg3 compels Black to capture one of the pawns shielding his King. Kxh7 38 Rg7+ Kh8 Or 38...Kxh6 39 Rg1, mating. 39 Qg1 Threatening 40 Rh7+. Qf8 40 Rg2 Kh7 Else 41 h7 breaks through. 41 Rg7+ Kh8 42 a3 Be6 43 Qf2 Qe7 44 Qg3 Qf8 45 b3 Black is helpless, so White fortifies his King's defense before his Bishop enters the attack. Rb8 46 Kb2 Rc8 47 Bf1 b4 48 axb4 Rb8 49 Bh3, Black Resigns. Black foresees the end by 49...Rxb4 50 Bxe6 fxe6 51 Qg6 or 49...Bxh3 50 Qxh3 Qxb4 51 Qf5 Qd4+ 52 Ka2. Nor will 49...Rb6 50 Bxe6 Rxe6 51 Qg4 f5 52 Qxf5 Rxh6 last long after 53 Rxf7.

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