For to­day’s jet-set­ting GMs, there’s no rest for the weary

The Washington Times Daily - - LIFE - DAVID R. SANDS David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at dsands@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

Time was when the world’s great­est play­ers could go for a good long spell with­out do­ing bat­tle against their peers. Elite events, where the en­tire field con­sisted of the best of the best, tended to be held months, even years apart, tak­ing on leg­endary sta­tus in short­hand like Hast­ings 1895, New York 1924 or Moscow 1935.

To­day’s jet-set­ting grand­mas­ters, by con­trast, are likely to be in near-con­tin­u­ous com­bat, flit­ting from Biel to Dort­mund to Khanty-Man­sisyk to Wijk aan Zee for one Cat­e­gory 22 tour­na­ment af­ter an­other. Case in point: Hav­ing just butted heads in the re­cent U.S. na­tional championship in St. Louis, the Amer­i­can “top three” — GMs Fabi­ano Caru­ana, Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So — were all back in ac­tion last week, with mixed re­sults.

Caru­ana fin­ished a cred­itable sec­ond at the just-com­pleted Grenke Chess Clas­sic in the Ger­man city of Karl­sruhe, tied with Nor­we­gian world cham­pion Mag­nus Carlsen 11/2 points be­hind Ar­me­nian star Levon Aro­nian. But play­ing in Ger­many just five days af­ter the U.S. ti­tle fight con­cluded, Caru­ana stum­bled out of the gate, up­set by an in­spired China’s Hou Yi­fan, the world’s strong­est fe­male player.

The once-dreaded Ruy Lopez Berlin De­fense is not so feared these days as a draw­ing weapon, as White has found ways to keep the po­si­tion alive while keep­ing the queens on the board. Black seems to tog­gle be­tween two strate­gies — the break 17. Re2 c5?! 18. dxc5 Bxc5 19. Bf4 Rc8 seems to give Caru­ana no com­pen­sa­tion for this iso­lated d-pawn.

Af­ter 20. Rae1 g5?! 21. Ng3! Nxg3 (gxf4 22. Nxf5 Kh5 23. h4, and Black’s pawn struc­ture is in ru­ins) 22. Bxg3 a5 23. Qd2 a4 24. b4! axb3 (Bb6 25. Bd6 puts heavy pres­sure on the e-file) 25. axb3 Ng6 26. h4!, Black’s queen­side demon­stra­tion has gone nowhere while Hou is primed to ex­ploit her bet­ter-de­vel­oped pieces on the king­side.

White smoothly con­verts her po­si­tional ad­van­tage on 30. Qd4 Rd8? (Qg7 31. g3 [Qxd5? Bc6 32. Re8+ Rxe8 33. Rxe8+ Bxe8 34. Qxd6 Qh6 throws away White’s edge] Bc6 32. f4 is not great for Black, but puts up tougher re­sis­tance) 31. Re3! Bc8 (Bc5 32. Rg3+ Kh8 33. Qxd5 is very strong) 32. b4 Kg7 (Be5 runs into 33. Rxe5 fxe5 34. Rxe5 Re8 35. Rxd5 and Black’s king can’t sur­vive for long) 33. Bb5 Bc7 34. Re8 (also strong was 34. Be8 Qd6 35. Rg3+ Kf8 36. Bxf7) Qd6 35. Bg3 Qb6 36. Qd3 Bd7 (the threat was 37. R8e7 Bxg3 38. Qxg3+ Kf8 39. Re8+ Rxe8 40. Rxe8 mate) 37. Bxd7 Rdxd7 38. Qf5!, and White’s dom­i­nance is com­plete.

Af­ter 38...Bxg3 39. Qg4+ Kh6 40. Qh3+, the Black king will soon be mated; Caru­ana re­signed.

So also ex­pe­ri­enced some Round 1 blues at the Shamkir Chess tour­na­ment, an an­nual event hon­or­ing the late Az­eri GM Vu­gar Gashimov. The 2017 U.S. champ’s im­pres­sive 67-game un­beaten streak was abruptly ter­mi­nated by Az­eri GM Shakhri­yar Mam­e­d­yarov in a time-trou­ble scram­ble we pick up from to­day’s di­a­gram.

So as White has just played 38. Rd1-d2 and should have held the draw in this dou­ble-edged bat­tle but for the pres­sures of zeit­not: 38... gxf3+ 39. Qxf3+?? (it’s still equal af­ter 39. gxf3) 39... e4!, and White is toast 40. Qxf4 Qxc4+ 41. Kc1 Rb1+; So re­signed.

Nakamura did the best of the peri­patetic Amer­i­can stars, winning his third straight Korch­noi Zurich Chess Chal­lenge while fin­ish­ing first in both the clas­si­cal and blitz por­tions of the event. Hou-Caru­ana, Grenke Chess Clas­sic, Karl­sruhe, Ger­many, April 2017 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. Re1 Nd6 6. Nxe5 Be7 7. Bf1 O-O 8. d4 Nf5 9. Nf3 d5 10. c3 Bd6 11. Nbd2 Nce7

12. Qc2 c6 13. Bd3 g6 14. Nf1 f6 15. h3 Rf7 16. Bd2 Bd7 17. Re2 c5 18. dxc5 Bxc5

19. Bf4 Rc8 20. Rae1 g5 21. Ng3 Nxg3 22. Bxg3 a5 23. Qd2 a4 24. b4 axb3

25. axb3 Ng6 26. h4 gxh4 27. Nxh4 Nxh4 28. Bxh4 Qf8 29. Qf4 Bd6 30. Qd4 Rd8 31. Re3 Bc8 32. b4 Kg7 33. Bb5 Bc7

34. Re8 Qd6 35. Bg3 Qb6 36. Qd3 Bd7 37. Bxd7 Rdxd7 38. Qf5 Bxg3 39. Qg4+ Kh6 40. Qh3+ Black re­signs

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