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Chess: Stars align in Siberia

September 26, 2010|By Jack Peters, Special to the Los Angeles Times

Position No. 6126: White to play and win. From the game Craig Clawitter-Robert Xue, Southern California Open, Los Angeles 2010.

Solution to Position No. 6125: White gains material by 1 Nb3! Qd6 2 Nxc5 Qxc5 3 Rxh6+! gxh6 4 Qxf6+ Kh7 5 Qxd8. If 5…e3, then 6 f6 e2 7 Qd7+ leads to mate.

The 39th Chess Olympiad began Tuesday in Khanty-Mansiysk, a small Siberian city in Russia. The immense tournament has attracted 146 men's teams and 114 women's teams representing 142 nations. Half of the 484 participants in the men's section hold the grandmaster title.

The ninth-seeded U.S. men's team consists of grandmasters Hikaru Nakamura ( Missouri), Gata Kamsky ( New York), Alexander Onischuk (Virginia), Yury Shulman ( Illinois) and Robert Hess (New York). That's an impressive lineup with a fair chance at a medal. They defeated Faroe Islands, 4-0, and Mongolia, 31/2-1/2, in their first two matches.

The sixth-seeded U.S. women's team is probably the best ever, led by IM Irina Krush (New York), IM Anna Zatonskih (New York) and rapidly improving Tatev Abrahamyan ( Glendale). They opened with easy victories over the Dominican Republic and Estonia.Both the men's and women's events are 11-round competitions on four boards. The U.S. took bronze medals in both sections in the previous Olympiad in Dresden in 2008.

Two Southern California grandmasters are accompanying the teams. Varuzhan Akobian will serve as coach to the men's team, while Melikset Khachiyan will coach the women's team.

Games are scheduled at 2 a.m. PDT daily, except for Sept. 26 and Oct. 2. For live games, see

International news

Ukraine grandmaster Kateryna Lahno, ranked seventh in the world, won the Women's World Blitz Championship in Moscow. The time limit was three minutes per game, plus two seconds per move.

Lahno scored 20-10 in the 16-player double round robin. Next were GM Tatiana Kosintseva (Russia), 19-11, and WGM Valentina Gunina (Russia), 181/2 -111/2.

Irina Krush finished 13th with 12-18. Krush had qualified for the tournament by taking first place in the semifinal with an outstanding 19-7 score.

Games of the week

GM Alexei Shirov (Spain)-GM Vladimir Kramnik (Russia), Shanghai 2010: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 f3 A sharp reply to the Nimzo-Indian Defense. c5 Kramnik has played 4…d5 5 a3 Bxc3+. 5 d5 b5!? A good move, but questionable psychology. Kramnik, a superb technician, invites a brawl against a great slugger. 6 e4 Naturally, White will not forfeit the initiative by 6 dxe6?! fxe6 7 cxb5 d5. 0-0 7 e5 Thematic. Much less attractive is 7 Bd3?! bxc4 8 Bxc4 Nxd5!, when 9 exd5? permits 9…Qh4+. Ne8 8 f4 exd5 9 cxd5 d6 Welcoming 10 Bxb5?! dxe5 11 fxe5? Nc7, as the d-pawn must fall. 10 Nf3 c4 The next combatants should test 10…Nc7. 11 a4 Necessary. White has no time for 11 Be2?! Nc7 12 0-0, as 12…Bb7 13 a4 a6 bolsters Black's Queenside. Bg4!? 12 axb5 Nd7 13 e6!? Also unclear is 13 Bxc4 dxe5. fxe6 14 dxe6 Nb6 Acceptable, as is 14…Bxe6 15 Nd4 Qf6. 15 Be2 Nc7 16 Ng5 Bxe2? Black will regret spurning the e-pawn. He has only a tiny disadvantage after 16…Bxe6. 17 Qxe2 d5 Against 17…Qe7, quiet methods are ineffective, but the piece sacrifices 18 Qg4 h6 19 f5! and 18 0-0 h6 19 f5! hxg5 20 Ne4 appear very promising. 18 0-0 Qf6 Black's opening has failed. Neither 18…h6 19 Nf7 Qf6 20 f5 nor 18…d4 19 Qe4! g6 20 Rd1 extricates Black. 19 f5 Rae8 20 Rxa7?? With 20 Qf2 or the trickier 20 Be3, White would maintain a winning position. Nxe6! This shot restores equality. 21 Nxe6 Rxe6 Foreseeing 22 Qxe6+?? Qxe6 23 fxe6 Bc5+. 22 Qf2 Qe5?? Only 22…Re5!, threatening 23…Rxf5 24 Qxf5 Qd4+, works. White must avoid 23 Qg3?? Nc8! 24 Bg5 Rxf5!, and 23 g4?! d4 24 Na4 Nxa4 25 Rxa4 Rxb5 cedes Black the edge. Therefore, White must head for a drawn endgame by 23 Be3! Rxe3! 24 Qxe3 d4 25 Qe6+. 23 g4! For the second time, White is winning. Rg6 24 Qg2 Rgf6 White handles 24…Qd4+ 25 Kh1 Rxg4 by 26 Be3! Qd3 27 Qxg4 Qxf1+ 28 Qg1 Qf3+ 29 Qg2, forcing a Queen trade. 25 Bf4 Qd4+ 26 Qf2 Qxf2+ 27 Kxf2 d4 28 Ne4 R6f7 29 Rxf7 Rxf7 30 Ra1 h6 31 Be5 d3 A little tougher is 31…Rd7 32 Rd1 d3, but both players were in time pressure. 32 Bd4 Rb7 33 h4 Bf8 34 Rc1 Nd5 35 Rxc4 Rxb5 36 Rc8 Kf7 37 g5?! The preparatory 37 Ra8 leaves Black no hope. Ne7?? Black nearly escapes by 37…d2! 38 Nxd2 Ne7. However, White can still win by the precise sequence 39 g6+ Kg8 40 Rc5! Rxc5 41 Bxc5 Nxf5 42 Bxf8 Kxf8 43 h5 Ke7 44 Ne4! Ke6 45 Ke2. 38 Nd6+, Black Resigns. Flawed, but very exciting!

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