Before anyone gets the idea that it is a great thing to move your knight into the opponent's corner without a capture, here are a couple of examples of the knight gone terribly wrong. In the 1990 Iron Horse Festival Open I had Black against Jim Mills after 38. Ke3
38... Nh1?? I have know idea what I was thinking about here. Obviously some complete hallucination. The knight ending after 38... Nd1+ is somewhat interesting, maybe I'll publish some analysis of it at a later time. 39. Kf3 h5 40. g3 I'm pretty sure I know what I was thinking at this point, but it is not suitable for a family website [1:0]
Another errant knight is found in my game with Black against Adam Caveney in the 1999 Tennessee Open. I had sacrificed a pawn and held an initiative for much of the game. However, when I finally got the pawn back, I didn't have much advantage left since my king was out of the action. After 51. Ke2
It was time to abandon playing for the win and head towards the draw with 51... g4 52. Ke3 gxh3 53. gxh3 Nxh3 54. Nxh4 Rxh4 55. Re4+ Rxe4+ =. I found it quite humorous that the computer suggests Black play the other side of R+N vs. R with 51... Nxh3!? 52. gxh3 g4. Add that one to the ever growing list of bizzare computer analysis. Instead, perhaps fueled by his time pressure I went 51...Nh1?! After 52. Ne3 Ng3+ 53. Kd3 White is much better since Ne3 defends g2 and the Black pawns are terribly weak, not to mention the king still off in right field. The game went on much longer, but I stopped shortly after this point. White eventually won Q+N vs R+N with no pawns and each player having less than 1 minute (with delay) when I hung my rook.
The final move in my game against Pheo Patterson in the Knoxville City Championship was very unusual. He resigned after I played Na8. Putting a knight in the opponent's corner isn't terribly rare, but usually when it goes there it is capturing a rook! I did find a few other examples of this move in my practice that I'd like to discuss. In the final round of the 1991 Hammond Summer Open I had Black against Ron Yoder after 34. Bg3
34...Nh1 The only move, but the key element in the position is the exposed position of the White king 35. Qxa7 Qb5 36. Be1 Bf8 37. Qb8 Qf1 38. Kd1 Qd3+ better is 38... Rd6 cutting off the b8-h2 diagonal so as to prepare the extraction of the knight via g3 39. Bd2 Rc3?! now 39... Rd6 40. Ke1 is a bit unclear, so Black should just enter the previous variation with 39...Qf1+ 40. Be1 Rd6 40. Ke1 Rc4 41. Qh2 Ba3 it looks like Black is just winning, but White finds a resource. 42. Nc5! Rc1+ 42... bxc5?? 43. Rb8+ Kh7 44. Qc7 Qf5 45. Qc8 with a mating attack 43. Bxc1 Qc3+ 44. Bd2 Qxb2 45. Ne4 45. Qxh1?? Qb1+ is the recurring tactical theme that keeps the knight indirectly defended. 45... Bb4!? playing for more than the immediate draw that could be had with 45... Qb1+ 46. Ke2 Qb5+= but this entails some risk because of the off-side position of the Nh1, but Black should be able to use the first rank skewer along with perpetual check threats to avoid any danger. 46. Bxb4 Qxb4+ 47. Ke2 Qc4+ 48. Ke1 Qc1+ 49. Ke2 Qc2+ 50. Ke1?! maybe not losing, but it can't be right to let Black win the a-pawn with check. Better was 50. Nd2 Nf2 and the knight escapes but the position is still about equal. 50... Qb1+ 51. Ke2 Qxa2+ 52. Ke1 Qb1+ 53. Ke2 Qb5+ 54. Ke1 h5 once again the knight is defended tactically 55. Nd2 Qa5 56. Ke2 Qa6+ 57. Ke1 Qa1+ 58. Ke2 Qc1 59. Ne4 59. Qb8+ Kg7 60. Qxb6 Qg1 59... Qc2+ 60. Ke1 Qb1+ 61. Ke2 Qb5+ 62. Ke1 Kg7 63. Nd2 Qa5 64. Ke2 Qa6+ 65. Ke1 h4 66. Qc7?? letting the knight out without a struggle 66. Qxh4 Qa1+ 67. Ke2 Qg1 and Black continues the attack but if he had taken a pause on the way to c7 with 66. Qe5+ Kh7 67. Qc7 the threat of perpetual check should let White hold the draw. e.g., 67... Qa1+ 68. Ke2 Ng3+ 69. Kf2 Qd1 70. Qxf7+ 66... Ng3 now the threat of mate on e2 doesn't give White any time for Qe5+ 67. Qc4 Qa1+ 68. Kf2 Qd1 69. Qd3 Nh1# The triumphant return! [0:1]
The annual Linares superGM tournament finished a few weeks ago, so it is once again time to take stock of who's hot and who's not in the chess world. In order of finish:
1. Peter Leko - In the past year, the Hungarian has finally started living up to his billing. Another great result, punctuated by taking the title on tiebreak over Kramnik on the basis of most wins. I think the Kramnik-Leko match will be very interesting if they manage to bring them together. I'll disagree with my readers who would seem to make Leko a heavy favorite. I still think Kramnik will be a formidable adversary.
2. Vladimir Kramnik - Big Bad Vlad had an uncharacteristic tournament at Wijk aan Zee in January, losing 3 games. I think that his Linares performance showed that WaZ was a hiccup caused by lack of play in 2002. At Linares the old Kramnik was back with a steady +2 with no defeats.
3. Vishy Anand - The Indian has always been a puzzling player to me. He obviously has great talent, but when he wins it looks so effortless that it leaves you wanting more. He seems to have a psychological problem vs. Kasparov since their 1995 match. After taking the lead by winning game 9 in their World Championship match, he collapsed only gaining a single draw in the next 5 games. His record in classical chess against Kasparov hasn't been much better in the 7 and a half years since then. He still hasn't beaten Kasparov in a game and the losses have slowly piled up, especially at Linares. However, through all of this he has managed to remain #3 in the world and could have been the clear winner here except for some bizzare play in rook endings vs. Kasparov and Leko that turned two draws into two losses.
4. Garry Kasparov - The long winning streak for the Boss finally came to an end. I don't think it is the end of an era though. Early in the tournament he committed a terrible blunder in a very strong position vs. Radjabov. He didn't really seem to recover from that blow, but still only finished a half point off of the pace.
5. Ruslan Ponomariov - Another disappointing result for the FIDE champ. At Wijk aan Zee he had the distraction of negotiations with his match with Kasparov, but at Linares he didn't have this excuse and still had a minus score. Despite the poor showing, he did show a lot of resiliency bouncing back from a 1-4 start (which could have easily been 0.5-4.5) to go an undefeated +2 the rest of the way. However, I wouldn't recommend a slow start when he plays his match with Kasparov in June.
6. Francisco Vallejo Pons - Once again the young Spaniard had a respectable showing in this strong field. He scored 5/12 for the second straight year and tagged Leko with a late loss to effect the race for first.
7. Teimour Radjabov - Although he finished last, Teimour provided the shock of the tournament when he joined very exclusive company by beating Kasparov with the black pieces in Round 2. Despite finishing last he gained rating point and we have to remember that he just turned 16 years old.