The king hunt is dead! Long live the king hunt!

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.

‘To me, the term ‘king hunt’ in­vari­ably con­jures up an im­age of a by­gone era, when chess was played over cof­fee and ci­gars at theCafe de la Re­gence,” U.S. GM Daniel Nar­o­dit­sky wrote on chess. com. Mod­ern chess, by con­trast, “is all about gritty de­fense and pre­cise cal­cu­la­tion, and such lop­sided dis­plays of at­tack­ing mas­tery are ex­ceed­ingly rare.”

Rare, per­haps, but, as Nar­o­dit­sky was quick to note, not ex­actly ex­tinct. For all the ad­vances in open­ing the­ory, king safety con­cepts and de­fen­sive tech­nique, ev­ery so of­ten even a top player finds his one in­dis­pens­able piece chased and har­ried across the board, a for­lorn Louis XVI (with­out his queen!) be­ing pur­sued by mur­der­ous sans-cu­lottes far from his cozy cham­bers in Ver­sailles. Had the king hunt dis­ap­peared from the mod­ern game, Nar­o­dit­sky ob­served, “Mikhail Tal would have never be­come world cham­pion.”

The fine Ukrainian GM Oleg Ro­man­ishin — who had a ca­reer plus score against Tal, for what it’s worth — re­mains a dan­ger­ous at­tacker at the age of 65. At the 9th Lublin Union Memo­rial tour­na­ment ear­lier this month in the south­east­ern Pol­ish city, Ro­man­ishin fin­ished a cred­itable sec­ond be­hind Pol­ish GM Marcin Dz­i­uba and of­fered up a nice vari­a­tion on an an­cient theme with a royal run­down of Pol­ish FM Marcin Molenda’s king in their fi­nal-round game.

The drama in many king-hunt games comes when one side sac­ri­fices heavy ma­te­rial to flush the op­pos­ing king out into the open. Here in a Sym­met­ri­cal English fea­tur­ing an early queen trade, Ro­man­ishin as White finds an­other way to get the Black king out of his com­fort zone. The un­for­tu­nate po­si­tion of the Black king on the open d-file puts Molenda in an un­com­fort­able spot af­ter 11. Rd1+ Nd7?! (bet­ter to clear out with 11… Kc7 12. Nc3 Bf5 13. Be3 Nd7) 12. Na3 Rb8 13. Bf4 e5 14. Bg5+ f6 15. Be3 Ke7 16. Nb5 b6 (a6 17. Na7 f5 18. Rd2 e4 19. Rad1 is also strong for White) 17. Nxa7 Bb7 (see diagram), and White finds a clever way to force the Black king for­ward.

Thus: 18. Bc6! (much less con­vinc­ing is 18. Bxb7 Rxb7 19. Nb5 Ra8 20. Nd6 Rbb8) Nf8 (both 18…Bxc6 19. Nxc6+ and 18…Rhd8 19. Bxb7 Rxb7 20. Nc6+ drop the ex­change) 19. Bxb7 Rxb7 20. Nc8+! Ke6 (there’s no re­treat — both 20…Ke8 and 20… Kf7 run into 21. Nd6+) 21. Rd6+ Kf5 (Kf7 22. Rc6 Ke8 [Rd7 23. Nxb6 Rb7 24. a4 is very strong] 23. Rd1 Rd7 24. Rc1 b5 25. Bxc5 is dom­i­nat­ing), and the Black king has be­come a gen­eral un­will­ingly lead­ing his troops from the front.

If Molenda’s king could ever find shel­ter, per­haps he could rally the troops, but White never re­ally gives him the chance — 23. f3+ Kh5 24. g4+ Kh4 25. Kg2 (threat­en­ing 26. Bf2+ Kg5 27. h4+ Kh6 28. Nd6 Rd7 29. g5+ fxg5 30. Nf5+ Kh5 31. Ng3+ Kh6 [Kxh4 32. Rh1 mate] 32. hxg5+ Kxg5 33. Be3+ Kh4 34. Rh1 mate) h5 26. h3 f5 27. Nd6, and the noose is in place.

The trap­door drops with the ef­fi­cient 27…Rd7 28. Nxf5+ gxf5 29. Bf2+ Kg5 30. h4+ (the point of the knight sac­ri­fice is re­vealed: the White rook now pre­vents the king from re­treat­ing to the sixth rank) Kf4 31. e3 mate.

Ro­man­ishin-Molenda, 9th Lublin Union Memo­rial Tour­na­ment, June 2017

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 c5 5. O-O cxd4 6. Nxd4 Nc6 7. c4 Nxd4 8. Qxd4 d6 9. c5 dxc5 10. Qxd8+ Kxd8 11. Rd1+ Nd7 12. Na3 Rb8 13. Bf4 e5 14. Bg5+ f6 15. Be3 Ke7 16. Nb5 b6 17. Nxa7 Bb7 18. Bc6 Nf8 19. Bxb7 Rxb7 20. Nc8+ Ke6 21. Rd6+ Kf5 22. Rc6 Kg4 23. f3+ Kh5 24. g4+ Kh4 25. Kg2 h5 26. h3 f5 27. Nd6 Rd7 28. Nxf5+ gxf5 29. Bf2+ Kg5 30. h4+ Kf4 31. e3 mate

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