Canberra Times Chess Column for January 9

New Year Cheer for Short

As the Australian Championship reached its concluding stages this week, the season of European Grandmaster tournaments was beginning in earnest. With traditional tournaments in Hastings and Reggio Emilia no longer aspiring to elite status, the strongest of the New Year round-robins was in Pamplona, Spain, where a storming finish saw England's Nigel Short outdistance a classy field.

Short has kept a relatively low profile since his world title match against Garry Kasparov in 1993 which split the chess world and is now well known in England, his country of origin, as a chess columnist. However Short remains a top 20 player and even at age 34 can produce attacking gems such as the following effort.

Pamplona 2000
White: M.Illescas Cordoba
Black: N.Short
Opening: Queen's Gambit Declined

#1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 0-0 7.e3 b6 8.Be2 Bb7 9.Bxf6 Bxf6 10.cxd5 exd5 11.0-0 Qe7 12.Qb3 Rd8 13.Rfd1 c6#

Short understands these position extremely well. He does not try to play the ...c5 break quickly but trusts that he has time to manouevre his pieces to good posts before commencing active play. In contrast, over the next few moves Illescas seems planless.

#14.Bf1 Na6 15.Rd2 Nc7 16.a4 Ne6 17.a5 b5 18.Qa2?!#

18.a6 was the consistent follow-up.

#18...a6 19.Rc1?#

19.Rad1 would have avoided the ensuing assault, although Black's position remains very comfortable after 19...Rac8, as ...c5 will come soon.

#19...c5! 20.dxc5 d4! 21.Nxd4 Bxd4 22.exd4 Nxd4 23.Kh1#

Avoiding 23...Nf3+, but even so the move comes almost as strongly without check.

#(Diagram) 23...Nf3!! 24.Rxd8+ Rxd8 25.c6 Bxc6 26.Ne2 Qh4! 27.gxf3#

If 27.h3, Qxf2 is again decisive.

#27...Qxf2! 28.Nf4 Bxf3+ 29.Bg2 Rd2 30.Rg1 Be4! 0-1#

The knight on f4 cannot be saved.

Final scores:
1.Short(Eng) 7/9;
2eq.Gelfand(Isr), Almasi(Hun) 6;
4eq.Vallejo(Spa), Lautier(Fra) 5.5;
6eq.Polgar(Hun), Timman(Ned) 4;
8.Illescas(Spa) 3;
9.De la Villa(Spa) 2.5;
10.Magem(Spa) 1.5.

Next week, one of the tournaments of the year will begin in Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands, featuring the world's top two players, Kasparov and Viswanathan Anand, back in action after a six month lay-off. At the end of February these two will travel to Linares, Spain, for another battle, this time with FIDE World Champion Alexander Khalifman joining the six-player field.

Khalifman is currently playing and losing a six game match in Budapest against world number six Peter Leko, although part-timer Khalifman has not been disgraced.

Negotiations for a visit by Khalifman to Australia in June appear to have collapsed, with financial considerations the main sticking point.