11 MARCH 1995, Page 50


Absent friends

Raymond Keene

AFTER HIS TRIUMPH in Sanghi Nagar the indefatigable Karpov travelled directly to the tournament in Linares, Spain. Traditionally, Linares is the world's strongest annual competition but this year Kamsky and Anand are absent, contesting their PCA qualifier in Las Palmas, while Kasparov has also withdrawn. One would have expected that Kasparov would wish to gain his revenge for Karpov's superlative performance in Linares last year. Still, even this lure was insufficient to tempt Achilles from his tent and dark reports are circulat- ing in Spain that the additional absence of Kramnik from the lists stemmed from pres- sure exerted by Kasparov. Of course, it is difficult to establish the veracity of such reports but there is clearly a feeling preva- lent in Spain that Kasparov, piqued by Karpov's victory last year, is not trying to win this year's Linares but prefers to undermine it more subtly.

As it is, Karpov is unlikely to repeat last year's tour de force. After four rounds he has drawn every game and the lead is held by Topalov and Beliaysky. Nigel Short is back in action and has been involved in some sharp and interesting games of which the following is an example.

Short–Ljubojevic: Linares, March 1995; Sicilian Defence.

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Bel a6 7 0-0 Nf6 8 Khl b5 1 have doubts about this move. If Black is given time to follow up with ... B67 his prospects will be fine, but he does not have this luxury at his disposal. I believe that 8 ... Bb4 and 8 ... d6 are probably safer alternatives. 9 Nxc6! This cuts across Black's plans. He would prefer to capture now on c6 with his queen but after 9 ...Qxc6 10 e5 Bb7 (threatening checkmate) 11 Bf3 Nd5 12 NxdS exd5 his position is strategically wrecked. Therefore he must make the more modest recapture with the pawn. 9 ...dxc6 10 14 Black already faces a growing White initiative. If Black seeks to stem the tide of White's central advance with 10 ... e5 then after 11 fxe5 Qxe5 12 Bf4 White's pieces stream out to the attack. Alternatively 11 ...Nd7 12 Nd5 cxd5 13 Qxd5 Bb7 14 Qxf7+ Kd8 15 Bg5+ winning. This varia- tion shows the perils which have already accu- mulated over Black's head after his inaccurate handling of the opening. 10 ...b4 11 e5 bxc3 12 ex16 gxf6 (Diagram) It is amazing that Ljubojevic

Position after 12 . . gxf6

has chosen a line which is condemned by theory, one in which his pawns are so broken up that his king lacks any permanent shelter. White can either sacrifice material for open lines, or simply take back his pawn. In all cases, he is better. 13 Qe1 Two excellent alternatives, both of which resulted in White wins, are 13 bxc3 as played in the game Luther—Varga, Hungary 1991 (which continued 13 ...c5 14 Bf3 Rb8 15 Be3 Bd6 16 Qd3 0-0 17 Radl Rb6 18 f5 with a powerful attack) and Ricardi—Sunye Neto, Buenos Aires 1994, which saw 13 Qd4 Be7 14 Qxc3 Bb7 15 f5 e5 16 Be3 c5 17 Radl h5 18 Bf3 with obvious advantage to White. Black's pawns are simply too scattered. 13 ... Qa5 Black is anxious to pre- vent White playing Qxc3, as in the previous example. Meanwhile, if 13 ... cxb2 14 Bxb2 with a colossal lead in development for the sacrificed pawn. 14 bxc3 Rb8 15 Bd2 White is still seeking to reposition his bishop along the al-h8 diagonal from where it stabs fiercely against Black's king- side pawns. 15 ...Rb2 Realising that his long- term prospects are not rosy Ljubojevic decides to grab a hot pawn so that at least he will have some compensation for his generally miserable condition. If White does not prosecute the attack accurately then the pawn will come in use- ful. 16 Bd3 Rxa2 17 Rbl Now Black's rook is stranded on a2 while White controls a vital open file preparatory to the invasion of the black fortress. 17 ...Qc7 18 c4 h5 19 Bc3 Rh6 20 Qh4 Be7 21 15 The thematic advance which restricts the scope of Black's pieces. 21 ...e5 Black strives at all costs to keep central lines closed. 22 c5 A fine move planning to refute 22 ... BxcS with 23 Qc4. Black's rook on a2 has now been cut off and trapped, so Ljubojevic decides to sacrifice it for one of White's bishops in the general hope of stemming White's offensive. 22 ...Ra3 23 Qb4 If now 23 . „ Ra2 24 Qb3 terminating the rook's career. 23 ... Rxc3 24 Qxc3 Qa7 25 Rb6 11d8 26 Rb3 White avoids 26 Rxc6 Bb7 27 Rd6 Bc7, although even in this case White should still win. 26 ...Bc7 A last gasp might have been the retraction of his previous move with 26 ... Be7, hoping to distract White by pressurising his pawn on c5. In that case, though, White will win easily enough with 27 Be4 Bd7 28 Rfbl followed by Rb8+. 27 Be4 Qa8 Black has been driven into a spectacular state of helplessness. 28 Qf3 Kf8 29 Bxc6 Qa7 30 Qd5 Kg7 31 Be8 Black resigns (Diagram) The coup de grace. If 31 ... Bb8 32 Rxb8 QxbB 33 Qxf7+ Kh8 34 Qf8+ Kh7 35 Bg6+, or if 31 ... Ba5 White can still play 32 Rb8 since 32 ... Oxb8 33 Qxf7+ Kh8 34 Qf8+ Kg7 35 Bg6+ Rxg6 36 fxg6 Kxg6 37 Qg8+ Kh6 38 Rxf6 still forces checkmate.