Chess: Armenia takes on the world

Washington Times, DC
June 19 2004

Armenia takes on the world

By David R. Sands

Armenia vs. the world — it hardly sounds like a fair fight. Yet a
group of top-flight grandmasters from around the globe barely scraped
past the Armenian team in a fascinating six-round Scheveningen match
that ended Tuesday in Moscow, holding off a late charge for an
181/2-171/2 victory.
Evening the odds greatly was the fact that the three native
Armenians in the event — Vladimir Akopian, Smbat Lputian and Rafael
Vaganian — were joined by three superstars with national connections:
former world champ Garry Kasparov (Armenian mother), Hungarian
super-GM Peter Leko (Armenian wife) and Israel’s Boris Gelfand (a
student of the late Tigran Petrosian, Armenia’s greatest player).

The Moscow event was held in honor of the 75th birthday of
Petrosian, world titleholder from 1963 to 1969.
Indian GM Viswanathan Anand anchored the world team, which
included fellow 2700-plus stars Peter Svidler of Russia and Michael
Adams of England. Rounding out the squad were GMs Etienne Bacrot of
France, Francisco Vallejo Pons of Spain and Dutchman Loek Van Wely.
Kasparov scored just one win and six draws in Moscow, his only
full point coming in the first round in an English Opening against
Van Wely.
Under heavy pressure throughout the encounter, Van Wely is faced
with a nasty choice when White gives up material for a dangerous
attack: 29. g4 Ba4 30. g5! Bxd1 31. gxf6. With the threat of 32. Qg5
and a quick mate on tap, it turns out the scariest-looking defense
would have been best.
Thus, Black survives on 31…gxf6!, as both 32. Rg2+ Kf8 33. Qh6+
Ke7 34. Nxf7 Bxf3 35. Nxd8 Bxg2 36. Ne6 Qc4 and 32. Bxd1? Rxd6 33.
Rg2+ Kf8 34. Bb3 Qc1+ 35. Kh2 Rc8 leave Black in charge. White’s best
option would be to grab the perpetual check with 32. Qxf6 Rxd6 33.
Rxd6 Bxf3 34. Qg5+ Kf8 35. Qh6+ Ke7 36. Qf6+ Kf8 37. Qh6+.
Black tries instead to play it safe and ends up sorry after
31…Rxd6? 32. Rg2! g6 33. fxg6. Now Kasparov mates after either
33…fxg6 34. Rxg6+ 35. Kf8 Qh8+ or 33…Rxf6 34. g7!. Black
The game between Gelfand and Vallejo Pons featured an equally
tricky ending and provided an unexpectedly easy point for the World
Gelfand, on the White side of a Queen’s Indian, gambits a pawn
early and is pressed to show any compensation. It’s an odd gambit,
indeed, when, after 12. h4 gxh4 13. Rxh4 Be7 14. Rh5 Bd6, the player
with the extra pawn also has two strongly posted bishops.
Black’s 17. Qxg3 Na6 is another annoying move, forcing White to
give up a bishop for a knight to win back the c-pawn and restore
material equality.
The resulting unbalanced position brings with it some fascinating
tactical tricks in which the Spaniard emerges the winner.
After 20. cxb6 axb6 21. Rxc7 Rxc7 22. Qxc7!? (blamed by some as
the losing move, but things don’t appear so simple) Qg6! (see
diagram), Black has a nasty double threat, attacking the rook and
threatening to invade on the light squares with 23…Qd3.
Insufficient now is 23. Qe5 Rf8 (Qc2? 24. Qxh8+ Ke7 25. f3 Qc1+ 26.
Kf2 Qxd2+ 27. Kg3 escapes, while 23. Qxg2 24. Ne4 Qf1+ 25. Kd2 Qe2+
26. Kc1 is only good for equality) 24. Rh2 Qd3 25. Qh5 Ke7 26. Qh4+
f6 27. Qg4 Rc8! and Black wins.
But very intriguing from the diagrammed position would have been
23. d5! 0-0 (Qxg2?? 24. Qb8+ Ke7 25. d6+ Kf6 26. Qxh8+ Qg7 27. Rxh6+
Ke5 28. Qxg7+ is crushing; while 23…Qd3 24. Qb8+ Ke7 25. d6+! Qxd6
26. Qxd6+ Kxd6 27. g4 is still a tough ending for Black to win) 24.
Qg3 Qxg3 25. fxg3 Rc8 and White is still fighting.
But White just overlooks a finesse on 23. Rh3? (the real losing
move) Qd3 24. Kd1 Ke7! (0-0 doesn’t work because of 25. Qg3+ Kh7 26.
Qf3 Rc8? 27. Qxf7+ Kh8 28. Rxh6+), clearing the back rank for the
rook and forcing instant resignation. After 25. d5 Rc8 26. d6+ Kf8
27. e4 Qe2+ 28. Kc2 Rxc7+ 29. dxc7 Qxf2, Black cleans up.
• • •
Two Marylanders distinguished themselves in the U.S. Senior Open
earlier this month in Boca Raton, Fla., limited to players 50 and
older. IM Larry Kaufman of Potomac finished in a tie for first with
FM Fabio La Rota of Florida and IM Victor Adler of Minnesota, all at
5-1. La Rota took the title on tie-breaks.
Maryland master Denis Strenzwilk, a good friend of this column,
finished a half-point back but is the U.S. champ for the 60-to-64 age
bracket. The event was held in conjunction with the 90th birthday
celebration for legendary U.S. GM Arnold Denker.
• • •
Speaking of old friends, Brooklyn GM Gata Kamsky, once one of the
highest-rated players in the world, emerged unexpectedly this week
after years of inactivity to tie for first in the regular rapid-chess
tournament staged weekly at the Marshall Chess Club.
Kamsky, still just 30, had not played since the 1999 FIDE world
championship knockout tournament. At 2717, he remains by far the
country’s highest-rated player.

Armenia vs. the World Match, Moscow, June 2004
Kasparov Van Wely
1. Nf3 Nf6 18. 0-0 Nf6
2. c4 c5 19. Rd2 Rfd8
3. Nc3 Nc6 20. Rfd1 Bc6
4. d4 cxd4 21. f4 h5
5. Nxd4 e6 22. Bf3 Qc7
6. a3 Nxd4 23. h3 e5
7. Qxd4 b6 24. f5 h4
8. Qf4 Be7 25. Qf2 Bb7
9. e4 d6 26. Nb5 Qxc4
10. Qg3 0-0 27. Nxd6 Qc7
11. Bh6 Ne8 28. Qxh4 Bc6
12. Bf4 Bb7 29. g4 Ba4
13. Rd1 Bh4 30. g5 Bxd1
14. Qh3 Qf6 31. gxf6 Rxd6
15. Be3 Bg5 32. Rg2 g6
16. Be2 Bxe3 33. fxg6 Black
17. Qxe3 Qe7 resigns

Armenia vs. the World Match, Moscow, June 2004
Gelfand Vallejo Pons
1. d4 Nf6 13. Rxh4 Be7
2. c4 e6 14. Rh5 Bd6
3. Nf3 b6 15. Qg4 Qf6
4. Nc3 Bb4 16. c5 Bxg3
5. Bg5 Bb7 17. Qxg3 Na6
6. e3 h6 18. Bd3 Rc8
7. Bh4 g5 19. Bxa6 Bxa6
8. Bg3 Ne4 20. cxb6 axb6
9. Nd2 Nxc3 21. Rxc7 Rxc7
10. bxc3 Bxc3 22. Qxc7 Qg6
11. Rc1 Bb4 23. Rh3 Qd3
12. h4 gxh4 24. Kd1 Ke7
White resigns
David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at