Article by Aviv Friedman
Saint Louis, September 15, 2011 — With two rounds still to go, on a combative and draw-less day in Saint Louis, the Kings scored 3-2 both in the chess960 match and the rapid match, to secure the overall match victory. With only 10 possible points left in the kitty, today’s wins brought the margin between the two groups to a decisive 12 points.
Games begin at Noon Central today.
Just like in previous rounds, one could say once again that the final tally doesn’t fully reflect the positions the Queens have had in some of the games.
See how the chess960 position was determined for Wednesday’s match.
GM Hikaru Nakamura continued his tour de force with two wins over GM Kateryna Lahno. The chess960 game was hard fought, and the tournament leader opined that he was worse,and had to come up with the exchange sac a-la-Petrosian.
17.Re5!? completely changed the balance of the game, and maybe in hindsight black would have been all the wiser not to accept it, and instead concentrate on activating her pieces. The analysis engines liked the maneuver 17…Ra6! heading to c6, followed by …Bg6 and pressure on c2, giving the nod to black. Even after taking the offered exchange, black was fine, and even a lot more than fine, when white did not choose the best moves. Eventually the decisive factor was black’s severe time trouble, when in a slightly better position Lahno hung a rook and had to resign.
Game two showed an asymmetrical Pirc defense where, starting at the middle game, Nakamura impressively outplayed Lahno. He sacrificed a pawn and traded queens after which his active pieces and safer king guaranteed his advantage. After a few second-rate moves, white was facing a significant loss of material, gave up a piece instead and acknowledged defeat.
The first game between GM Ben Finegold and IM Irina Krush saw an early wholesale exchanges of pieces, and with a passed g-pawn and white double queenside pawns black, had nothing to complain about. At the critical moment of the game …
… everyone expected the drawing line 28…Qxf5 29.Qxf5 Rxf5 30. Bxe5 dxe5 31.Rxg4 with a smile and a handshake. After spending much of her remaining several minutes, Krush went for the seemingly similar but very wrong 28…Rxf5?? 29.Qh8+ Qc8, but now instead of the expected simplification came the stinging 30.Ba7+, winning. Krush blurted out, “Oh my god,” played two moves out of inertia, but had to stop the clock. A tough loss indeed!
Krush got her revenge in the rapid game. She enjoyed a slight plus from the get-go and pushed for most of the game thanks to her pair of bishops and black’s weak a-pawn. At one moment, after white’s overcautious 25.g3, black had an opportunity to trade off one of white’s bishops and exchange his weak pawn on a7 for white’s b-pawn. That was his best chance to hold the position, and when the chance was gone, his position was beyond salvage.
GM Alexandra Kosteniuk bounced back from a lukewarm performance with a 2-0 win against IM Jacek Stopa. Their chess960 game was a wild street fight, with both opponents trading punches. Black sacrificed a pawn to open lines in front of his opponent’s king, and Kosteniuk dynamically counter-sacrificed her king’s sheltering pawns to push the menacing black pieces back. In the heat of the battle, Stopa should have gone for a strong queen sac …
… 20…Qxd5! 21.exd5 Bxe5 where the white pawns are blocked, and black has a lot of compensation. The actual game saw the opening of the position in white’s favor, and she finished in aesthetic style …
… 25.Rd8+! Kxd8 26,Qb8+ Kd7 27.Rd1 mate.
The second game was no joy either for the Polish IM. He once again tried his Sicilian Smith-Morra gambit, but didn’t get much for his pawn. He tried regaining his pawn for the cost of an exchange and some initiative, but black was in command of the game. In the diagrammed position time trouble reared his ugly head, and both sides missed a good chance …
… 27…Nge5! simultaneously defending f7 and attacking f3 would have been hard to meet. Instead 27…Qxb2? was played, and had white played 28.Ra2! the battle would have started anew. White actually played 28.Rd1? and after 28…Nce5 white’s initiative had been squashed, and he had to resign only a handful of moves later.
Interview with GM Alexandra Kosteniuk
Another 2-0 winner was IM Marc Arnold against IM Martha Fierro. Black’s over-provocative play in the chess960 game allowed white to build a very strong center, and a considerable space advantage. A petite combination earned him a pawn, while maintaining a large edge.
17.Nxd6+! cxd6 18.Qxd5 and white won easily.
The rapid encounter between the same two opponents saw Arnold playing his best game of the event. In a great version of a reverse Benoni, black answered white’s premature aggression 17.f4 with a shot his own 17…g5!. We arrive at our diagrammed position after white, in an already worse position, blundered with 19.Qe2? …
… and black pounced with 19…Nxh2!. Perhaps white counted on the game’s 20.Bxc6 but after 20…Bxg3! white had to declare bankruptcy in a few more moves.
Finally the Kings’ last minute addition, 14-year-old local Master Kevin Cao, split the points with IM Anna Zatonskih. The first game was all Zatonskih, as when black castled too early, white gave a knight for some pawns, and a ‘traveling black king’ …
… 10.Nxd5 Nxd5 11.Qxa7!. White’s continuous attack bore further fruit in the shape of a minor piece, and black threw in the towel.
Cao evened the score in the rapid game. The opening did not hint at the final result of the game, as black was the one who came out of it smelling like roses. As a matter of fact …
… 15…R8c8! should have been played, and the pressure against c4 and c2 was nearly winning. Our actual game saw several trades that led to a rook-plus-minor-piece endgame, where white had the better side of a draw. Zatonskih could have picked up a pawn, which would have forced white to give a perpetual check, but wanted more against her young opponent. Eventually we reached the following position.
Surely the spectators, and also Zatonskih, must have assessed this as good for white, and so she opted for the losing 38…Nf5? 39.Bxf5 gxf5 40.Ke3 Kf6 41.Kd4 Ke6 42. Kc5 Kd7 43.Kd5 f6 44.a4 zugzwang, and white wins. Had she played 38…Nd5 she might have realized that black has little to fear.
Today is the event’s last day, and while the match result is known, and the first individual place prize is all but clinched, there is still a battle for the rest of the place prizes.
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Recognizing the cognitive and behavioral benefits of chess, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center is committed to supporting those chess programs that already exist in area schools while encouraging the development of new in-school and after-school programs. For more information, visit www.saintlouischessclub.org.