Chess

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The Independent Culture
MICHAEL ADAMS'S splendid run at the Fide World Championships in Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, sadly came to an end on Tuesday - early Wednesday morning, London time - as he crashed to a second defeat against the Armenian Vladimir Akopian.

Following his fine victory in the Quickplay tie-breaker against the tournament favourite Vladimir Kramnik on Saturday, the English number one had taken over the burdensome mantle of favourite himself; moreover, I suspect that Michael was still reeling from the excitement of defeating Kramnik when he started against Akopian on Sunday. The Armenian wound him up a treat as Black in a Modern Defence, inducing Adams (quite soundly) to sacrifice a piece and then exploiting every small error to rein in a priceless victory.

The second game of their four game semi-final ended in a fairly harmless draw, leaving Adams with everything to prove on Tuesday. He arguably got a small edge against Akopian's French Tarrasch, but the position became murky and when Adams avoided a repetition the ending turned out to be in his opponent's favour.

Akopian's opponent in the final which starts on Sunday will be decided on Thursday - early this morning, London time - by the quickplay tie-break between Alexander Khalifman and the Romanian Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu.

Michael Adams (White to play) vs Vladimir Akopian

This was the critical position in their first game. It continued:

25 Be4 Nf7 26 Qg7 Raf8 27 Bg6 Rhg8 28 Bxf7 Rxg7 29 fxg7 Ra8 30 Bxe6 Qe7 31 g8Q Rxg8 32 Bxg8 Qg7 33 e6 c5! 34 g3 Qxg8 35 e7 Bc6 36 cxb5 Bxb5 37 Rad1 Qf7 38 Rd8? Be8 39 h4? c4 40 Re3 Kb7 41 a3 c3 42 Rxc3 Qxe7, and Akopian eventually mopped up, 44 moves later.

Although 25 Be4 looked good, I suspect that 25 cxb5 was better and if cxb5 26 Rac1+ Kb6 27 Red1, when any exchange of rooks will make White's f pawn a monster, but with the rooks on Black's king is in danger.

30 g8Q Rxg8 31 Bxg8 Qd3 32 Re3! was safer. After 30 ...Qe7! Akopian won the bishop but White was still OK after, eg, 38 Re5! Be8! (not 38 ...Kb6? 39 Rb1 Qe8 40 Rc1!) 39 Rc1 Qxa2 40 Rcxc5+ Kb6 41 Rb5+ with perpetual check.

39 h4? was bad. I suspect that 39 Re3 still holds, eg c4 40 g4! hxg4 41 hxg4 a3 42 g5 Kb7 43 Rxe8 Qxe8 44 Kf1 c3 45 Ke1 Kb6 46 g6 c2 47 Kd2 Qc6 48 Kc1 Qd5! 49 Kxc2 Qxa2+ 50 Kd3 Qb3+ 51 Ke2 Qc2+ 52 Kf3 Qf5+ 53 Ke2 Qb5+ 54 Kf3 a2 55 e8Q Qxe8 56 Rxe8 a1Q 57 Re3 and White's king retreats, after which the rook can oscillate between e3 and g3 with a dead draw.

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