Games: Chess

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Anatoly Karpov has been having a jolly time in the run-up to the Fide world championship. In the knowledge that his rivals will have to work hard for a month to earn the right to meet him in the final, he has been engaged in a whistle-stop world tour, promoting a new Walt Disney chess book for children (of which more at a later date) and playing exhibition games. His two half-hour games against Eric Lobron played in Germany last week may be his last before he has to defend his title. He won them easily enough, displaying an unusually entertaining style rather than the sombre positional stuff we have come to expect.

In the first, Karpov accepted the Blumenfeld Gambit. Since the 1920s, this has been considered a risky course of action, with 5.Bg5 the preferred move. Lobron obtained the usual impressed array of centre pawns, but Karpov broke it up in interesting fashion by giving the pawn back with 13.e4.

Black played an imaginative piece sacrifice with 17...Nxc5!? and after 18...Bb6 White seemed to be in trouble. If he retreats his rook, then 19...e3 unleashes a terrific attack on the white king. Karpov, however, launched an equally imaginative counter-attack with 19.Nxe4.

After 21.Qg4, neither 21...Bxe4 22.Rxe5 nor 21...Bxc5 22.Nxc5 appealed to Black, so he tried 21...h5 22.Qg5 Bxc5, perhaps expecting 23.Nxc5 Bxg2! when the threat of Nh3+ puts him back in the game. But after 23.Bxe5! he was dead. The obvious threat was Qxg7 mate, which Black spotted, but he overlooked something just as deadly.

White: Anatoly Karpov

Black: Eric Lobron

1 d4 Nf6 13 e4 dxe4

2 c4 e6 14 Nh4 Bc7

3 Nf3 c5 15 Rc1 Rd8

4 d5 b5 16 b4 Nd5

5 dxe6 fxe6 17 bxc5 Nxc5

6 cxb5 d5 18 Rxc5 Bb6

7 e3 Bd6 19 Nxe4 Nf4

8 Be2 0-0 20 Bc4+ Kh8

9 0-0 Nbd7 21 Qg4 h5

10 Nbd2 Bb7 22 Qg5 Bxc5

11 b3 Qe8 23 Bxe5 Rd7

12 Bb2 e5 24 Qh6 mate

Will Karpov still be champion a month hence? While several players would have a chance to defeat him in a six-game match, perhaps the only one who would be favourite to do so is Viswanathan Anand - but Anand must first overcome the obstacle course of the preliminary rounds to earn the chance to try.

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