God save the chess Queen! Yes, we've got a Queen: the game Rizza-Olivieri, played in Catania about two months ago. This game won the contest "Vota la Regina del 2007 - Aprile" ("Vote for the 2007 Queen - April"), hosted on www.messaggeroscacchi.it (sorry, only Italian players can take part in it). Young Francesco Rizza from Catania, Sicily - even if he has a low rating, about 1660 points -, played like Topalov to outplay his opponent Lucio Olivieri in a rapid (!!) competition: yes, because he sacrificed the exchange as Veselin did in his game against Alexei Shirov last January, in the Wijk aan Zee supertournament. The second most voted game was Palazzo-Della Rocca, played in Gallipoli (not far from Lecce, in Southern Italy), where White sacrificed a piece on "b5" for a mating attack... on the other side! You can download all games taking part in this contest at this address: http://www.messaggeroscacchi.it/regina2007/index.html.
After speaking about queens, now is kings' turn... Many exciting battles took place today in Elista, where the 2007 Candidates tournament are in progress. Hungarian Peter Leko and American Gata Kamsky (our two kings) both won their third game in a row to adjudicate (3.5-0.5!) their matches against Turkish Mikahil Gurevich and French Etienne Bacrot, respectively. I predicted (see my post of May 24) Peter would have won 3.5-1.5 and Gata 3.5-2.5: I was wrong about the result, but not about the winner of each match :-)
Alexander Grischuk and Evgeny Bareev won as well against Vladimir Malakhov and Judith Polgar, respectively, to each lead 3-1: now they need only a draw in the last two games. It's obvious I was completely wrong about the Polgar-Bareev match: the Hungarian will never win 3.5-2.5 or 3.5-1.5 :-(. Levon Aronian and Michael Adams also won over Magnus Carlsen and Alexey Shirov, respectively, to lead 2.5-1.5. Sergei Rublevsky drew with Ruslan Ponomariov to lead 2.5-1.5 as well, while Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Boris Gelfand drew again to remain tied 2-2. Official site: http://globalchess.eu/main.php. You can find a WCM section on my Italian site, www.messaggeroscacchi.it (direct link: www.messaggeroscacchi.it/mondo/candidati07.html).
Top seed Todor Todorov leads by half a point in the 1st "Perini Memorial", which is taking place in Senigallia, Italy. Bulgarian GM has 4.5 points after 6 rounds (two games were played today in the main A1 section); Italian GM Igor Efimov, French IM Vladimir Okhotnik and Serbian GM Sinisa Drazic all have 4 points, while Fide masters Patrick Van Hoolandt from the Principality of Monaco and Marc Geenen from Belgium are on 3.5. Note that Todorov has already played against all his closest rivals and tomorrow will face Van Hoolandt with Black pieces. Official site: http://digilander.libero.it/dragonscacchicv/festivalS07.html. You can download some games from the competition by clicking here.
Our game of the day is (obviously) Rizza-Olivieri. My annotations are based on Francesco's comments (note that he spent only 3 minutes of his time for the whole game!).
Rizza,F (1653) - Olivieri,L (1659) [D89], Catania 29.4.2007
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 Nc6 9.Be3 0–0 10.0–0 Bg4 11.f3 cxd4 12.cxd4 Na5 13.Bd3
13.Bxf7 is also playable. Karpov and Kasparov had a very hard duel on a very similar variation in their 1987 World championship match, but Garry played the immediate 11...Na5 without exchanging the central pawns.
13...Be6 14.d5 Bxa1 15.Qxa1 f6
Rare is 15...Bd7: after 16.Bh6 f6 17.Bxf8 Qb6+ 18.Nd4!? (18.Qd4!? is perhaps even stronger) 18...Rxf8 19.Rb1 Qd6 20.Qc3! Qe5!? 21.Qb4 White has some pressure.
Francesco was watching the game Topalov-Shirov (Wijk Aan Zee 2007) on line when Veselin played this smart move; this is an exchange sacrifice in pure Petrosjan's style.
Shirov played 16... Bf7 and after 17. Bh6 Re8 18. Bb5 e5 19. Qf2 Re7 20. f4 exf4 21. Qxf4 Qb6+ 22. Kh1 Bxd5 23. exd5 Qxb5 24. Qxf6 Qe8 25. Qd4 Topalov got a strong initiative in return for the exchange.
The first mistake and it is a bad one. 17...e6!? or 17...fxe5 18.Qxe5 Qb8 19.Qxe7 Re8 20.Qc5 b6 21.Qc1, with an unclear position, would have been better alternatives.
18.e6 Bc8 19.Bh6 Re8
19...Bb7!? looks more stubborn, but after 20.Nf4! Nc6 (20...Qd6 21.Nxg6! hxg6 22.Qg4!) 21.Qf2 Ne5 22.Qg3 g5! (22...Nxd3 23.Nxg6) 23.Bxg5! Kh8 24.Bb1! Rg8 25.Qh3 Rg7 26.Bh6 Qf8 27.Rc1! White has a decisive advantage.
20.Bb5 was strong, too, but White wants to crash his enemy castle.
If 20...Qc7 then 21.Nxg6!
After 21.Nxg6 Qc5 or (even better) 21...Bxe6!? Black can hold on.
The second and last mistake! Better was 21...Qe5!, although White would have won anyway, e.g.: 22.Qxe5 fxe5 23.Nh3! Bb7 24.d6!! (the key move) 24...exd6 (24...Red8 25.Rc7!+-) 25.Rc7 Rxe6 26.Ng5 Rf6 27.Rg7+ Kh8 28.Rxh7+ Kg8 29.Rg7+ Kh8 30.Nf7+ Rxf7 31.Rxf7 Bd5 32.Rd7 Bxa2 33.Bxg6+-. If 21...Kh8 then White wins easily: 22.Bxg6 hxg6? (22...Rg8) 23.Nxg6+ Kh7 24.Qg4 Kxh6 25.Nh4 Rg8 26.Nf5+ Kh7 27.Qh5#
22.Bxg6! hxg6 23.Qe4 f5 24.Qd4 1–0
Congratulations, Francesco! I'm sure you will become a master class player very soon!