Chess: Polgar profits from her apprenticeship

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The Independent Online
JUDIT POLGAR has been scoring remarkable results for so long it is sometimes difficult to remember that she is still only 17. The world's youngest grandmaster at 15 (a record recently broken by Peter Leko), she was expected by many to storm straight through to the world championship. Yet even the most outstanding players need a few years' apprenticeship before they attain mega-grandmastery.

In recent months, young Judit (currently just in the top twenty) has shown signs of improvement again. She scored a convincing victory in a strong tournament in Madrid last month, and is currently doing well at Las Palmas.

Yesterday, we gave her loss to Michael Adams, but she bounced back with a fine win in round five. Alexei Shirov is one of the most imaginative players in the world, but on this occasion he was out- imagined. Polgar's 4. Qxd4 makes a change from the well-analysed lines with 4. Nxd4. White has to surrender knight for bishop, but her centrally placed queen cuts down Black's options. Just as White's knight has replaced the queen on d4 and the game seems to be settling back into conventional paths, the tactics erupt.

White's 12. f4 and 13. f5 are designed to take advantage of the black bishop's absence from d7. Neither 13 . . . exf5 14. Nxf5 nor 13 . . . e5 14. Nb3 followed by Bxf6 and a quick Nd5 give Black much joy, but rather than do anything so mundane as defending e6, Shirov embarked on a sacrifical adventure. First the e-pawn went, then, with 17 . . . Be5 he offered the exchange. After 18. Ne7+ Kf7 (Kh8 is also possible) 19. Nxc8 (Nxc6 may be better) Kxe6 the game is completely unclear.

Instead of this, Polgar played the calm 18. Kb1, encouraging Shirov's adventurism. His 18 . . . Bb5 was brilliantly refuted by 19. Ne7+ Kf7 (Kh8 is met by the cheeky, but effective, 20. Ng5]) 20. Qd5]] The knight on e7 is sacrificed, but after 21. Ng5 Black is strangely defenceless. The threats are 22. Qf7+ Kd8 23. Ne6 mate, and 22. Qe6+ Kd8 23. Qxe5. Shirov's 21 . . . Re8 met both of these, but 22. Rhf1] increased the strain on his defences intolerably. White's obvious threat is 23. Rf7+ Kd8 24. Qxa8 mate, but she also has the beautiful idea of 23. Qxe5+] dxe5 24. Rf7 mate.

Black had to surrender his queen to fight on, but his king remained too exposed for him to have much hope of avoiding defeat. Polgar's 30. Rxe5] was the quickest way to finish things off.

White: J Polgar

Black: A Shirov

1 e4 c5 19 Ne7+ Kf7

2 Nf3 d6 20 Qd5 Kxe7

3 d4 cxd4 21 Ng5 Re8

4 Qxd4 Nc6 22 Rhf1 Bxf1

5 Bb5 Bd7 23 Qxa5 Be2

6 Bxc6 Bxc6 24 Rd2 Bg4

7 Nc3 Nf6 25 h3 Rf8

8 Bg5 e6 26 a4 Rf1+

9 0-0-0 Be7 27 Ka2 Bd7

10 Qd3 0-0 28 Rd5 Kf6

11 Nd4 Qa5 29 Nxh7+ Kg6

12 f4 Rfc8 30 Rxe5 dxe5

13 f5 b5 31 Qa6+ Kxh7

14 fxe6 fxe6 32 Qxf1 Bxa4

15 Nxe6 b4 33 Qf5+ Kh8

16 Bxf6 Bxf6 34 Qh5+ Kg8

17 Nd5 Be5 35 Qxe5 1-0

18 Kb1 Bb5