Pursuits: Chess

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The Independent Culture
IN THE old Soviet Union, if the stories are true, there used to be an unknown and potentially lethal chess player under practically every stone.

The recent fourth stage of the Russian Cup (annual Grand Prix circuit) in Novgorod showed that Russian - and Kazakh - stones, too, are magical, as a horde of lesser-known players swarmed ahead of the big names. The 10-round Swiss, held 19-27 March, comprised no fewer than 27 grandmasters and 19 international masters in the field of 76.

A splendidly consistent six wins and four draws gave Pavel Kotsur from Kazakhstan - rated just 2,511 - clear first place on 8/10. He was followed by Mihail Kobalija and Alexander Volzhin, who were also both unbeaten on 7.5, and Sergei Volkov on 7.

None of the five 2,600-plus players was in the top four though Vladimir Akopian from Armenia (rated 2,640), and Andrei Kharolov (2,600), were in the group of nine on 6.5; and Alexei Dreev (2639) headed the 10 who scored 6; while Ildar Ibragimov (2,602) made 5.5 and poor Alexander Nenashev (Uzbekistan, 2,616) just 5.

To beat a player rated well over 100 points more than you as Black, you usually need the run of play; this the tournament winner certainly got in this penultimate round encounter.

4 ...Ng8!? - rather than 4 ...Nd7 - is provocative. Dreev got a powerful position with a strong queenside majority and, after ...f5, pressure against e6. The exchange sacrifice 20 Rxd7!? was quite consequent though then the immediate 21 Rd1+ was much simpler.

Unfortunately for White, if 22 Rd1+ Kc8 23 Bxe6+? Rxe6 24 Nxe6 Re8 wins material. Kotsur defended with 22 ...Bxc3 and 23 ...Rh6! but White still had enough for the exchange which he could have regained with 32 bxa6!? bxa6 33 Ba4! though e5 34 Bxd7 Kxd7 isn't too clear. But only with 35 Ra1? did Dreev get into trouble - 35 Nc5 Nb7 36 Nxa6+ Kc8 37 Nb4 Rxa5 38 Nxc6 looks fine. After 36 ...N8b7! 37 Nxa6+ Kc8 White couldn't defend the a pawn; his position imploded.

White: Alexei Dreev

Black: Pavel Kotsur

Pirc Defence

1 d4 d6

2 e4 Nf6

3 f3 d5

4 e5 Ng8!?

5 c4 dxc4

6 Bxc4 e6

7 Ne2 Ne7

8 Be3 c5

9 dxc5 Qxd1+

10 Kxd1 Nd7

11 Bb5 Nc6

12 Nbc3 Ndxe5

13 Kc2 Bd7

14 Rhd1 Rc8

15 a3 Be7

16 b4 f5

17 Kb3 Bf6

18 Nf4 h5

19 Rd6 Nf7

20 Rxd7!? Kxd7

21 Bc4?! Rce8

22 Bf2 Bxc3!

23 Kxc3 Rh6!

24 h4 Nfd8

25 Rd1+ Kc8

26 b5 Ne5

27 Bb3 Nef7

28 Bc2 Re7

29 a4 Rd7

30 Re1 Kc7

31 a5 a6

32 c6 bxc6

33 b6+ Kb8

34 Nd3 Rd5!

35 Ra1 Nd6

36 Nc5 N8b7!

37 Nxa6+ Kc8

38 Bg3 e5

39 Nb4 Rc5+

40 Kb3 Nxa5+

41 Ka4 Nac4

42 Kb3 Ra5

43 Rxa5 Nxa5+

44 Ka4 Nac4

45 Nxc6 Nxb6+

46 Kb4 f4

47 Bf2 Nd5+

48 Kc5 Ne3

49 Ba4 Nb7+

50 Kb4 Rd6

51 Nxe5 Rd4+

52 Ka3 Nc5

53 Bb3 Rd2

54 Be1 Re2

55 Bc3 Nxb3

56 Kxb3 Nxg2

57 Ng6 Re3

58 Kc4 Rxf3

59 Bxg7 Ne3+

60 Kd4 Rg3 0-1