Match made in heaven won’t come off in Bei­jing

The Washington Times Daily - - Life - DAVID R. SANDS

For one brief, shin­ing mo­ment last week, the im­pend­ing world cham­pi­onship fight be­tween In­dian ti­tle­holder Viswanathan Anand and Is­raeli chal­lenger Boris Gelfand was shap­ing up to be the sec­ond most in­ter­est­ing match of the year.

Anand-gelfand, which starts May 10 in Moscow, prom­ises to be an ab­sorb­ing fight for hard-core chess junkies, but it’s also a pair­ing with prac­ti­cally zero sport­ing in­ter­est for the broader viewing public, at least for those out­side of the con­tes­tants’ re­spec­tive home­towns.

By con­trast, the of­fi­cial-sound­ing an­nounce­ment that Hun­gary’s Ju­dit Pol­gar — the great­est fe­male player in the his­tory of the game — had agreed to take on China’s Hou Yi­fan — the 17year-old reign­ing women’s world cham­pion and a ris­ing su­per­star — in an eight-game, mixed clas­si­cal and rapid match in Bei­jing start­ing Sept. 26 had an elec­tri­fy­ing ef­fect.

Pol­gar was for a decade one of the top 10 play­ers in the world — man or woman — and even now ranks in the top 30. Hou, who de­fended her ti­tle last year against In­dian Humpy Koneru and started 2012 with fan­tas­tic re­sults at open events in Gi­bral­tar and Reykjavik, has shot up the rat­ings charts (she was just out­side the top 100 in FIDE’S March list) and is ready to emerge as the first fe­male player able to give Pol­gar a tough fight. The fact that Hou de­feated Pol­gar in their game at Gi­bral­tar only added to the an­tic­i­pa­tion.

Alas, re­ports of the match, which first ap­peared on Chi­nese chess blogs, ap­pear to have out­paced re­al­ity. Pol­gar put out a state­ment last week that the Bei­jing match was news to her and de­nied even dis­cussing a con­tract to play.

“If there is a real de­ter­mi­na­tion for such a his­toric clash, then I wait to hear about it in an ap­pro­pri­ate way. Un­til then, I just en­joy time with my fam­ily!” she wrote.

Still, in the in­ter­est of gin­ning up pres­sure to make the match a re­al­ity, we present here a sam­ple of what might have been and still may be, with games from both play­ers early in their ca­reers that gave a prom­ise of great­ness.

Like Hou, the 35-year-old Pol­gar was a prodigy back in the day, ris­ing with and even­tu­ally out­strip­ping her el­der sis­ters, Sofia and Su­san. One of the first games to demon­strate her mag­nif­i­cent tac­ti­cal abil­i­ties came at a tour­na­ment in Ice­land when she was just 11, fac­ing es­tab­lished English GM Jonathan Tis­dall.

In the Keres At­tack line of the Si­cil­ian Schevenin­gen, Pol­gar as Black takes the un­usual tack of castling queen­side, putting both kings on the same flank. A nice fi­nesse is 15. Kb1 Nh5! 16. f5 (Bg4!? f6 17. f5 fxg5 18. hxg5 exf5 19. Bxh5 Ne5 is prob­a­bly equal) Ng3, get­ting White’s use­ful light-squared bishop off the board.

With 22. Rd4 Be7 23. Rb4?!, White clearly is dream­ing of a di­rect as­sault on the Black king, but Pol­gar proves that the far­away h-file is ac­tu­ally a more use­ful po­si­tional as­set: 23. . . . Bxg5 24. hxg5 Ka8 25. a4?! (still pur­su­ing the at­tack­ing mi­rage, this move cre­ates an un­ex­pected tar­get) Rh3 26. Re4 Rch8! 27. a5 Rh2 28. Rg2 Rh1+ 29. Ka2 Qd7 30. Nd2 R8h4, and the un­usual pres­sure from the edge of the board leads the grand­mas­ter into an er­ror.

Thus: 31. Nf3? (los­ing bril­liantly, but Black was also bet­ter on 31. Rf2 Qd8!, hit­ting a5 and g5 and win­ning a pawn) Nxf3 32. Qxf3 R1h3 33. Qe2 (see di­a­gram) Qa4+!!, a Fis­cheresque “bolt from the blue” that forces in­stant res­ig­na­tion, since 34. Kb1 (Rxa4 Rxa4+ 35. Kb1 Rh1+ 36. Rg1 Rxg1+ 37. Qe1 Rxe1 mate) Rh1+ 35. Qe1 Qxe4 is crush­ing.

Hou, then 14, schooled savvy Rus­sian GM Alexan­der Beli­avsky in a 2009 tour­na­ment in Am­s­ter­dam fea­tur­ing a team of “ris­ing stars” tak­ing on some well-trav­eled vets. Beli­avsky’s rare Phili­dor’s De­fense does not throw the young Chi­nese GM, who pounces when Black ap­pears to un­der­es­ti­mate the power of her at­tack­ing forces.

Thus: 23. Rxf4 Ng5 24. h4! Ne6 25. Nf5+! gxf5 26. exf5, when Black faces se­vere peril in lines such as 26. . . . Kg8 27. f6 Qd8 28. Bxe6 fxe6 (Bxe6 29. Rg4+! hxg4 30. Qg5+ and mate to come) 29. Rg4+! hxg4 30. Qg5+ Kf7 31. Qg7+ Ke8 32. Qg6+ and wins. Beli­avsky gives up his queen for a rook and a knight, but his hopes to set up a de­fen­sive shell are quickly dashed.

Hou strips away the de­fend­ers shield­ing Black’s king, and fin­ishes things off with a pleas­ing tac­ti­cal flour­ish — 37. Rf1 Rg7 38. Rxf7+! Rxf7 (Kb6 [Kc8 39. Qd7+ Kb8 40. Qxb7 mate] 39. Qxd6+ Kxb5 40. Rf5+ Kc4 41. Qd5+ Kb4 Tis­dall Pol­gar 1. Nf3 c5 18. Rhg1 Nxe2 2. e4 e6 19. Qxe2 Ne5 3. d4 cxd4 20. Nd5 Bxd5 4. Nxd4 Nf6 21. exd5 Qc7 5. Nc3 d6 22. Rd4 Be7 6. g4 h6 23. Rb4 Bxg5 7. g5 hxg5 24. hxg5 Ka8 8. Bxg5 Nc6 25. a4 Rh3 9. h4 a6 26. Re4 Rch8 10. Qd2 Qb6 27. a5 Rh2 11. Nb3 Bd7 28. Rg2 Rh1+ 12. 0-0-0 0-0-029. Ka2 Qd7 13. f4 Kb8 30. Nd2 R8h4 14. Be2 Rc8 31. Nf3 Nxf3 15. Kb1 Nh5 32. Qxf3 R1h3 16. f5 Ng3 33. Qe2 Qa4+ 17. fxe6 Bxe6 White re­signs Hou Beli­avsky 1. e4 d6 21. Rf1 h5 2. d4 Nf6 22. Rde1 Bxf4 3. Nc3 e5 23. Rxf4 Ng5 4. Nf3 Nbd7 24. h4 Ne6 5. Bc4 Be7 25. Nf5+ gxf5 6. 0-0 0-0 26. exf5 d5 7. Re1 c6 27. f6+ Qxf6 8. a4a5 28. Rxf6 Kxf6 9. Ba2 h6 29. c4 dxc4 10. h3 Nh7 30. Bxc4 Rg8 11. Be3 Ng5 31. Qf2+ Ke7 12. Qe2 Nxf3+ 32. d5 cxd5 13. Qxfbg5 33. Qc5+ Kd8 14. Rad1qe7 34. Qxd5 Kc8 15. Ne2 g6 35. Bb5 Bxb5 16. Ng3 Kg7 36. axb5 Kc7 17. Qe2 Nf6 37. Rf1 Rg7 18. Qd2 Nh7 38. Rxf7+ Rxf7 19. f4 exf4 39. b6+ 20. Bxf4 Bd7 Black re­signs

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