Regular readers will recall my column of 15 April in which I speculated on the future of the eccentric Fidé president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in the face of mounting criticism from the board of the World Chess Federation. Somewhat surprisingly, Kirsan survived and has announced his intention to run yet again in the presidential election next year.
Nevertheless, mutterings are getting louder. The editorial of a lavish new periodical called the American Chess Magazine (acmchess.com) trumpeted the success of the US team in winning the Olympiad gold medals and establishing three players, Wesley So, Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana in the world’s top ten. Proudly emphasising that the USA is now the leading chess superpower, the editorial questioned Fidé’s economic health and the problematic status if Kirsan remains as president. Perhaps the glory days of Bobby Fischer are returning. I found the following game in issue no. 2 of the American Chess Magazine with notes by Alejandro Ramirez. I have based some of my comments on his.
Jobava-Ponomariov: Baku Olympiad 2016; Jobava Opening
1 d4 Nf6 2 Nc3 d5 3 Bf4 The true Veresov Opening continues with 3 Bg5 but Jobava has made a speciality of modifying this with the text move. 3 ... c5 4 e3 cxd4 5 exd4 a6 6 Bd3 Nc6 7 Nge2 e6 8 Qd2 b5 9 0-0 Be7 10 a3 Bd7 11 h3 0-0 12 Rfe1 Na5 13 Rad1 Qb6 14 Ng3 Rfc8 (see diagram 1) Incautious. With 14 ... Rfe8 or 14 ... Nc6 Black would maintain a fine position. 15 Nf5 exf5 16 Rxe7 Be6 Naturally Ponomariov had seen Jobava’s idea but thought that with 16 ... Be6 he could weather the storm and that the white rook had strayed a little too far into the black camp. However, he had overlooked Jobava’s stunning reply. 17 Bh6!! (see diagram 2) The brilliant point of this move is that, with the bishop now on e6, it is difficult for Black to get the queen across to help defend on the kingside. White threatens 18 Qg5 and also 18 Bxg7. 17 ... gxh6 17 ... Nc6 18 Bxg7 Qxd4 19 Rxe6 fxe6 20 Qh6 wins as does 17 ... Nh5 18 Qg5 Nc6 19 Rxe6 fxe6 20 Be2. 18 Qxh6 Rxc3 If 18 Ne8 19 Bxf5 and the pin against the black queen is decisive. 19 Qg5+ Kf8 20 Qxf6 Rxd3 21 cxd3 Black resigns There is no good way to stop Rxe6.
This week’s puzzle is a win by the former world champion Max Euwe — back in the days when the president of the World Chess Federation was not in constant danger of being impeached. Euwe himself went on to be Fidé president from 1974 to 1978.