New Variations on Old Themes

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 29, 2010 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

New Variations on Old Themes

Byline: David R. Sands, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The concepts are elementary, but the execution often requires a master's degree in chess tacticology.

Two nice examples of putting new wine in old combinational wineskins come our way this week. An inspired variant on the old back-rank mate theme brought victory for Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi after British star Nigel Short at the recent Capablanca Memorial Tournament in Havana. Ukrainian GM Vassily Ivanchuk won the Category 18 event for a record fourth time.

And at the Copper State International in Mesa, Ariz., this month, it was IM David Pruess upsetting top-rated GM Daniel Fridman by exploiting the proverbial weakness of the f7-square.

In Cuba, Nepo decides to mix things up early in this Sicilian with 13. Rd1 Nb4!? 14. Rd2 Nxc2 15. Rxc2 b4 16. Bxa6 Ra8 17. Bd3 bxc3 18. bxc3; White has won a pawn, but his queen-side is weak and under siege. But it's likely neither player thought Black could whip up a deadly mating attack on the king-side in the space of just 10 more moves.

Short's determination to neutralize Black's powerful fianchettoed bishop leaves him blind to the dangerous buildup of his opponent's other pieces: 23. Bxg7 Re8 24. Qa1 Ne3, and here White could have kept the game dynamically balanced with 25. Bd4! Bxg2+ 26. Kg1 Bxf1 (Nxf1 27. Rxg2) 27. Bxf1 (Bxe3?! Rxe3 28. Bxf1 Rxf4 is a much harder position for White to hold over the board) Nxf1 28. Qxf1 Rxa2, with chances for both sides.

Instead, White walks into a startling combination in which the latent weakness of his back rank is brutally exposed: 25. Rg1? Nxg2!! 26. Rgxg2 (Rdxg2 Bxg2+ 27. Rxg2 Rxa2! mirrors the play in the game) Rxa2! 27. Rxa2 (Qxa2 Re1+ 28. Bf1 Rxf1 mate is Black's main idea; on 27. Qb1, Black wins decisive material with 27..Bxg2+ 28 Kg1 Rxd2 29. Nxd2 Kxg7) Qxa2! 28. Bf1 (again the queen cannot be taken because of 28..Re1+) Bxg2+, and White resigned facing 29 Bxg2 Qxa1+ 30. Nxa1 Re1+ 31. Bf1 Rxf1+ 32. Kg2 Rxa1 and wins.

* * *

The f7-square for Black (and the f2-square for White) is the perennial problem child in king-side opening - the only pawn along the second rank guarded only by the king. Many e-pawn openings - especially such classic Romantic-era fare as the King's Gambit and Evans Gambit - are geared toward targeting the weak point while developing one's pieces and castling.

Fridman's Caro-Kann fails to meet the defensive challenge, and an early White pawn sacrifice only increases the pressure on the weak point: 10. Nd2!? Qxd4+ 11. Kh1 b5 (on the greedy 11..Qxb2?!, very pleasant for White is 12 Rab1 Qa3 13. Rb3 Qd6 14. Rxb7 Be7 15. Bxf7+! Kxf7 17. Nc4 Qe6 17. Rxd7) 13. Rad1 Qb6 14. Qf5, and Pruess has more than enough compensation for his lost pawn.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

New Variations on Old Themes


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?