World Cup, Day 10 — Good Day for the K’s

by admin on August 21, 2013

As you can see from the photograph, I am not the only creature in my household who has been following the World Cup with fascination! Ginger Snap is one of our temporary visitors, a foster kitten whom we are taking care of until she is old enough for someone to adopt her.

Queen to Cat's Paw 5

Now let’s get to today’s events. As the title suggests, four players in the World Cup advanced to round five today, and as luck would have it, the winners were four of the five players whose name begins with “K”… if I’m allowed to treat Fabiano Caruana as an honorary “K”. His name does begin with a “K” in Russian.

So the four winners were Vladimir Kramnik, Gata Kamsky, Fabiano Caruana (Karuana?) and the big surprise of the round, Anton Korobov. The #22 seeded Korobov beat Hikaru Nakamura, so the U.S. is now down to its last player, Kamsky.

But what a thrill Kamsky gave us! His battle with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was, on paper, the most evenly-matched one of the round, with Gata being the #8 seed and Mamedyarov being #9. Kamsky is known as a very solid, sound player, but both games were wild nail-biting adventures.

In the first game, Kamsky was White and showered the board with brilliant sacrifices — first a piece, then a rook, then another rook! (Well, actually he didn’t get to play the second rook sacrifice because his opponent resigned first. But he had to see it.) Lawrence Trent and Susan Polgar called it “the game of the tournament” so far, and Trent even went so far as to call it “Kamsky’s Evergreen game.” Kamsky himself seemed far less impressed. He noted that he was forced into the piece sacrifice, which did not really lead to any advantage for him, and it was only because of Mamedyarov’s mistakes that the other two sacs came about. Even so, it’s clear Kamsky was in peak tactical form in this game, which was good to see after his botched game against Shimanov a couple rounds earlier.

Today’s game was brilliant in a completely different way. Kamsky appeared to be completely lost (though Houdini said not so… more on that below) but came up with another utterly stunning idea, allowing Mamedyarov to queen a pawn (although “Shakh” did have to give up his first queen to accomplish this, so the net sacrifice was a rook) and then playing a quiet move that left Mamedyarov no way out of perpetual check. This quiet move was so subtle that Polgar and Trent were left completely agog. Even Peter Svidler, who came in the studio for his interview a few minutes later, was under the impression that Mamedyarov must have been winning, and he was just as surprised as Trent and Polgar.

I think that the second game may have been an even more fantastic and original game than the first. You don’t see defensive brilliancies nearly as often as attacking ones. Anyway, the result was a draw for Kamsky, and he is moving on.

Of course, I’ve got to show you the two crucial positions, in case you haven’t seen them.

First, let’s tune in on yesterday’s game at move 27.

Position after 27. ... Be7. White to move.

FEN: 1r3r2/2q1bPkp/p3P1p1/1p1b4/7R/P2B4/1PP3PP/4QR1K w – – 0 28

Here, interestingly, there are two winning moves. The one that I would have played, if I had real guts, is the direct 28. Rxh7+ Kxh7 29. Qe2 (threatening Qh5+) Kg7 30. Qg4, which makes the unstoppable threat of 31. Qxg6+ and also, by the way, defends against the desperado bishop check on g2.

However, Kamsky was a little bit more devious and played 28. Qe3! instead, threatening mate in two different ways (Qh6 and Qd4). Mamedyarov’s response was basically forced: 28. … h5 29. Qd4+ Kh6. And now Kamsky ends the game not with one rook sacrifice, but two.

Position after 29. ... Kh6. White to move.

FEN: 1r3r2/2q1bP2/p3P1pk/1p1b3p/3Q3R/P2B4/1PP3PP/5R1K w – – 0 30

Here, Kamsky played 30. Rxh5+! and Mamedyarov resigned. The main point is that 30. … gh would be met by 31. Rf6+! Bxf6 and 32. Qxf6 mate. The other move is 30. … Kxh5, after which I think that 31. Qg7 is winning. However, it’s a little bit messy after 31. … Bxg2+ followed by … Qc6+ and … Qxe6. I don’t see a completely clear win for White here (although he can win the Black queen), but maybe I’m missing something. If I were Mamedyarov, I would have given this a try.

It was fun to show this to the kids at the Aptos chess club. I asked them if they saw any checks or captures, and they said, only “dumb” ones. I think they were as amazed as Trent and Polgar were to see that these “dumb” moves actually led to a checkmate!

Now let’s catch our breath for a second, and move on to today’s game.

Position after 27. d8Q. Black to move.

FEN: 3Q4/p3ppk1/8/4Pp2/8/2p5/P4nP1/2R1KB1q b – – 0 27

White has just queened his pawn, and stands a rook up. Kamsky was down to about three minutes for 14 moves (plus the 30-second time increment each move). Trent was already starting to speculate that Kamsky had overlooked the fact that White, by queening on d8, was defending against 27. … Nd3+. (Three moves earlier, White’s pawn, which was then on d6, had the option of capturing on e7 and then queening on e8, and in that case 27. … Nd3+ would have been a possibility.

If it were me playing Black, of course I would have overlooked something like this. But not Kamsky. He not only had to foresee this position three moves earlier, he had to find the following amazing quiet move and then analyze it to a depth of five moves. That’s an eight-move combination, in time trouble, with a lot of side variations too.

Have you found the saving move for Black yet? It’s the quiet 27. … Qh4!! This sets up a devastating discovered check. And on the most obvious defense, 28. Rxc3, Black wins either a rook or a queen with 28. … Nd3+ 29. Kd2 Qe1+ 30. Kc2 Qc1+ 31. Kb3 Qb2+ 32. Kc4 Nxe5+ and now, if 33. Kd4 Nc6+! takes advantage of the pinned rook to fork White’s king and queen.

Instead, Mamedyarov played the more prosaic 28. Ke2 Qe4+ 29. Kxf2 Qf4+ 30. Ke2 Qxc1, when material is back to even and White’s king still has no way out of the checks.

So tell me the truth. Did you see all of this? In 30 seconds? Didn’t think so. This is Awe. Some.

Afterword about Houdini: If you watched this game on the official website with Houdini turned on, I think you missed the fun. One viewer tweeted that Kamsky was never losing, according to Houdini. Maybe that’s true. But  I think that Trent was absolutely correct when he called Kamsky’s save a “miracle.”

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Splane August 24, 2013 at 9:07 pm

In the second diagram, after 30 Rxh5+ Kh5 I think the win is 31. Qxd5+ instead of 31. Qg7.

If 31 … g5 32. Qf5
If 31 … Bg5 32. Qe4 Rg8 (looks forced.) 33. fxg8=Q Rg8 34. Qf3+ Kh6 35. Qh3+ Kg7 36. Rf7 #.
If 31 … Kh4 32. Qe4+
If 31 … Kh6 32. Qe4 Rg8 33. fxg8=Q Rxg8 34. Qe3+ Bg5 35. Qh3+ Kg7 36. Rf7+ Qxf7 37. exf7 Kxf7 38. Qd7+ picking up the g6 pawn with check and a quick mate to follow.


admin August 25, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Looks good. The key thing is the move Qe4 in the above lines. White just needs to threaten mate on g6 in a way that doesn’t allow the desperado bishop check on g2.


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