Independent Pursuits: Chess

GARY KASPAROV'S extraordinary run of victories in Wijk aan Zee came to an end on Tuesday with a bump, as he was summarily dispatched by Ivan Sokolov in just 28 moves - the first game of the round to finish. Meanwhile Anand and Kramnik were engaged in a tough theoretical battle in the Petroff defence as the latter successfully

improved on the loss to Alexei Shirov in the European Club Cup which I examined a week ago today; that game an unsuccessful attempt to improve on Kramnik's loss to Anand, himself, at Tilburg

last November.

Following the rest day yesterday, the scores are now Kasparov 7.5/9, Anand 6.5, Kramnik 5.5, Ivanchuk and Svidler 5, Piket, Shirov, Topalov and Timman 4.5, Sokolov and Van Wely 4, Kasimdzhanov and Yermolinsky 3, Reinderman 1.5.

So the gap is down to a single point and today the top two face each other in a potentially decisive encounter; but with Kasparov White, it's pretty unlikely that Anand will win to draw level.

This is how Sokolov, with his first win at Wijk(!), ended Kasparov's seven-game winning sequence. In a venerable line of the Nimzo-Indian, Ivan entered a somewhat unusual forcing line, not highly regarded by theory.

The critical position arose in the diagram, where Kasparov's 21 ...Rxh7 left his king highly exposed. Instead the Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings gives 21 ...Kf8! 22 Qe4 (22 Bxd4 Rxd4 23 f4 Rxf4 is simply good for Black) when:

A) 22 ...f6 23 Bxd4?! Rxd4 24 Qg6 Rxh7 25 Qxf6+ Qf7 gave Black the edge in B Vladimirov vs Lisitsyn USSR 1955; but White can do better with 23 Qg6 Rxh7 24 Qxf6+.

B) But 22 ...f5! looks like an improvement since if 23 Qh4 Rxh7 24 Qf6+ Ke8 is tremendous for Black, in view of the threat on h2.

The big question is whether Sokolov, not in great form, was intending to force a draw somehow; or perhaps there's a depth charge hidden somewhere?

24 ...Qh5, which had been played before, may be an improvement. At the end, the tripled major pieces on the g file were murderous since both 28 ....f6 and 28 ...f5 are killed by 29 Rh3!

White: Ivan Sokolov

Black: Gary Kasparov

Wijk aan Zee 1999 (Round 9)

Nimzo-Indian Defence

, b , b

nhx ,hzD

, , , ,

, n , ,

, v , ,

N , ,H,

CS, N N

B , ,F,A

1 d4 Nf6

2 c4 e6

3 Nc3 Bb4

4 e3 0-0

5 Bd3 d5

6 Nf3 c5

7 0-0 Nc6

8 a3 Bxc3

9 bxc3 Qc7

10 Qc2 dxc4

11 Bxc4 e5

12 Bd3 Re8

13 e4 exd4

14 cxd4 Bg4

15 e5 Bxf3

16 exf6 Nxd4

17 Bxh7+ Kh8

18 fxg7+ Kxg7

19 Bb2 Rad8

20 gxf3 Rh8

21 Kh1 (see

diagram) Rxh7?

22 Rg1+ Kh8

23 Rg3 Qe5

24 Rag1 Rh4

25 Qc1 Kh7

26 Qb1+ Kh8

27 Qf1 Qe6

28 Qg2 1-0

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