Crossing the mountains to meet the girls

1/4/2004 – Today our roving reporter Jamshid Begmatov traverses the treacherous Kamchik mountain pass to visit two young girls who are the Uzbekistan champions in their age groups. Meanwhile GM Saidali Yuldashev seems definitely to be gaining the upper hand against the Uzbek TV audience + ChessBase visitors. Here's our pictorial report.

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Usbek TV audience vs Saidali Yuldashev

By Jamshid Begmatov

Warm greetings and best wishes for 2004 from Grandmaster Saidali Yuldashev and Jamshid!

Today I want to take you for a virtual trip to the city of Kokand, an ancient Silk Road city situated in Fergana Valley in 250 kilometers east of Tashkent, to visit the family of my friend called Alisher whose two daughters, Nafisa and Hulkar, are Uzbekistan Champions in their age groups.

The road from Tashkent to Kokand lies through a huge 90-kilometre-long mountain pass Kamchik, with unbelievably beautiful views of the mountains.

Great Rabindranad Tagore once said “Only mountains can be nicer than mountains”. I am sure he didn’t drive there, otherwise he would have added “Nothing else feels like driving in the mountains”. It’s really a great feeling.

Important since the 10th cent., Kokand became the capital of an Uzbek khanate which became independent of the emirate of Bukhara in the middle of the 18th century and flowered in the 1820s and 30s. Kokand was taken by the Russians in 1876 and became part of Russian Turkistan. It was the capital (1917-18) of the anti-Bolshevik autonomous government of Turkistan. It has a ruined palace of the last Khan, working mosques, and royal mausoleums.

The palace of XIX century Kokand Khan Khudayarkhan

Alisher is a great chess fan, who has also managed to develop a great love for chess in his daughters.

How important it is for young players, especially girls, to have a father who understands and loves chess.

Hulkar and Nafisa spend six to ten hours a day over the chessboard – analysis, opening variations, and sometimes a couple of blitz games.

Alisher and I have played blitz and kept score for many years. You will never guess the score – 335:351 in favour of Alisher.

The father is not limited to chess. He owns a turkey farm, plays many national musical instruments and even sings. Here he is playing dutar which translates as “two strings” (du – two, tar - string).

A dutar and tanbur from Alisher’s collection

The girls have played in many youth tournaments, including two world championships. On the picture is Nafisa playing Natalia Buttner from Argentina in the World Youth Championship in Greece.

Hulkar (left) at the same championship in Greece

A farewell dinner with delicious beshbarmak, which actually belongs to the Kazakh cuisine, and I am already thinking of our game against GM Yuldashev.

And this is what the weather in the mountains was like on my way back to Tashkent

So we are back from the ancient city of Kokand and snowy mountains to our game against GM Yuldashev. It looks like many of you had no problem finding the only (again!) move for White, which is 23.b3, and even suggested the next move to come after grandmaster’s most likely reply – 23…Bh3 24.Bb2, and now our opponent goes 24…Rfe8.

Uzbek TV+ChessBase Audience – Saidali Yuldashev
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0–0 8.c3 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 c6 12.d4 Bd6 13.Re1 Qh4 14.g3 Qh3 15.Re4 g5 16.Qe2 f5 17.Bxd5+ cxd5 18.Re6 f4 19.Rxd6 Bg4 20.Qf1 Rae8 21.Nd2 Qxf1 22.Nxf1 Re1 23.b3 Bh3 24.Bb2 Rfe8.

Again, I will make no comments and judgments, because the position is highly critical. Please think very well and proper, and submit what you think is the best white move here,


Now, according to our tradition, let’s look at what our faithful commentators say. And again, I am addressing those of you who are unhappy with our selection of the comments, and want theirs to be posted: first of all, we highly appreciate all your submissions on which the game is actually based, we carefully read all of them and count the suggested moves. I am repeatedly saying that it’s not physically possible to publish all the comments that come in. Ok, here’s the deal: you come up with an unusual and interesting comment and we definitely publish it. And if you have an extraordinarily interesting material with nice pictures that you want to share with all ChessBase readers, please write to me.

Eric Smith, Republic, Mo, USA
First of all, I'd like to say that some of these other comments are laughable. These people are maligning a Grandmaster? We sit at home with Fritz cranking away on our computers and say that GM Yuldashev doesn't know what he's doing? There's not a single one of us that wouldn't be completely lost if we were playing him over the board. Wow, how arrogant! Looks to me like he's in a tactical position and has a draw, at least, against all of our computer analyses, and that being a piece down. I, for one, think he's kicking our collective behinds. Anyway, let's try to get our a1-rook out before we get checkmated and then try to make it into an endgame. Alas, since there will be more than five pieces on the board, we'll be on our own and he'll show us how to outplay our computers in the endgame. My hat's off to you, GM Yuldashev.

Charles Zupanic, San Bernardino, Ca., USA
I chuckle at the commentary that questions the rating of this GM. I do not know these Marshall lines nor do I know Pono/Anand, nor do I have Fritz to help me nor am I any great player. But I do know a great position and black has it here. White's king is trapped in a box and must figure out an escape. No wonder players like Kasparov avoid this 'Marshall'. I for one believe this is a nice novelty this GM has come up with to keep the pressure on. What does white have left here? Up material but being squeezed in a losing position is no good. Is the game a draw or does white have more? I am ready to give material back and look for a draw. To draw a GM in such a strong position for him would be an honor in my mind. How will white save the knight and keep from being mated? I don't think white has much hope left but I am not ready to throw in the towel and resign either. I looked at playing either f3 or c1xf4 or g3xf4 but fear the resulting consequences of each with both black rooks on the board. White wants to win or draw, not lose. Can white play f3 and give back the knight and look to escape his king? Can playing to b3 then playing c1 to b2 save the knight or will it just lead to worse for white when black plays from f8 to e8? I think that eventually the f2 pawn must step up so the king can get out of this trap but let's try to save the knight first with b3 then c1-b2. Playing a GM without Fritz on my side leads me to play b3 and contemplate a draw offer. Thank you Yuldashev for playing and thank you chessbase for sharing this game with all of the chessbase audience.

Mike, USA
I suggest the move: resign. White's position is hopeless.

Sunny Nahata, Baroda, India
b3 seems to be the only move offering resistance to Black's plan of a mating attack against the white king. The idea is to follow up with Bb2 and attack the black rook, though I think Black will keep calling the shots by playing Bh3 or Rfe8 next. Personally, I think Black is in a better position now as most of the White pieces are either immobile or on bad squares.

Jeremy Shatka, Sioux City, Iowa, USA
I believe the luft move 23.h3! is White's last chance against Black's initiative. If White were to play the seemingly harmless doomsday move 23.b3??, then 23...Bh3 24.Bb2 Rfe8!, and there is no defense to the threat Rxa1, then after Bxa1 Re1(i.e. 25.Rxd5 Rxa1 26.Rxg5+ Kh8 27.Bxa1 Re1 and White gets mated). In my line after 23.h3!, I believe 23...Bxh3?! would be a mistake, as in 24.Rxd5! Rxf1+ 25.Kh2, when after either 25...Bf5 or 25...g4, Black has problems keeping the initiative. After 23.h3!, the toughest test is 23...fxg3! when White has 24.Be3!!, which should lead to an endgame with only slightly better chances for Black. Kindest tidings for the New Year and thanks for the interesting match.

Geoff Erickson, Lompoc, CA, USA
We must counter black's threat of Bh3. To do this without losing more material than necessary we need to get the bishop out of the way so the rook can cover the knight. However, the bishop is pinned at the moment. The only square from which the bishop can unpin itself and simultaneously protect the rook is b2. So the b-pawn has to move. 23.b4 would leave us with a terrible bishop. So 23.b3 is the logical choice.

Mike Rosensaft, Philadelphia, USA
I think Nd2 was a mistake. Don't like it at all. I have dim hopes for the future, as now we have to hold on and hope we can ride through the storm. Would offer a draw, but would rather see how things go.

Ahmed Kadaoui, Agadir, Morocco
Hmmm. I don't like White position at all. I don't think 22.Nd2 was the best move (22.Qxh3 is at least safer). Black can double rooks on the e-file now. How bad! I guess we can resist for a while.

Ralph Jackson, Adelaide, Australia
23.b3. If Black responds Bh3; white plays Bb2 then (1) ... Ra1; Ba1 Re8; Rh6! g4; gf Re1; Rh3 gh3; Bb2 and good chances of white winning endgame with knight and bishop vs rook; (2) ... Rfe8; Rd8 Rf1+; Rf1 Rd8; Re1 f3 and draw(?) - white is a pawn up but king is bound in, rook restricted to back rank and bishops are opposite colours.

Abdullah Safi, Istanbul, Turkey
I think black first will exchange the pawns: 23....fxg3 24.hxg3 and later 24....Bh3 25.Bb2 Re2 Now black threatening two pieces – pawn on f2 square and bishop on b2 square. I can't see any counterplay for white, I am afraid the move for white could be 26.f4 Rg2+ 27.Kh1 Rxb2 After that for white it is not easy to defend f pawn and also the pawns on queen side are not safe. If the white does not capture g3 pawn on move 24 and play 24.Bb2 gxh2+ 25.Kxh2 (25.Kh1 Rxa1 26.Bxa1 Rxf2)...Rxf2+ 26.Kg1 Rxa1 27.Bxa1 Rxa2- the result is destroyed king side, lost bishop and no future for whites. Happy New Year to all from Turkey :))

David Or, Hong Kong
23. b3 seems forced, the threat of Bh3 forces white to clear the back rank. Black then seems to have two tries. Bh3 Bb2 Rfe8 Rd8 Rxf1+ Rxf1 Rxd8 Re1 seems to be a favourable ending for white with a pawn up. The other try is fxg3 hxg3 Bh3 Bb2 Re2 Ba3 Rfxf2 Rh6 and then either Bxf1 which keeps Black a piece down but both his rooks are active or g4 Ne3 when the white pieces are finally starting to untangle. It seems that White should be winning!

Alonzo McCaulley, Antelope, Ca, USA
Well it looks about done. This move 23. b3 is forced and then it remains to be seen if the GM will uncork 23...f3! or allow us to fight on with 23...Bh3. Although it may be respectful to resign after 23...f3!, I would suggest to play on a few more (2-3) moves so everyone can see the end. If he plays 23...Bh3 we still have a chance to fight although black should be able to win. Here are the two lines I looked at. 23. b3 Bh3 24. Bb2 Rfe8 25. Rh6 Bxf1 26. Rxe1 Rxe1 27. f3 (forced or else black will play it) Bd3+ 28. Kg2 Re2+ winning the B, however we still have some chances to exchange off all the pawns and head for a R+B VS R endgame. I doubt if we can hold it but we can all learn from the process. However black can take us to the killing field with 23. b3 f3! 24. Bb2 Rfe8 25. Rxe1 Rxe1 With the threat of...Bh3 and...Rxf1#. We can give up the N with h4 but it is only a matter of time before ...Bg2 and ...Rh1. Even if he plays this we should go to move 27/28 just so everyone can see the end. It was a great game either way.

Akanksh Vashisth, New Delhi, India
23.b2-b4. The Grandmaster has done really well to gain the attack with such extensive consequences. It shows why he's a GM and the rest are not (most of us, voting, are not I assume). But it must be added that he's done that by giving up a piece and a pawn. Holding on the the position shall be tough, but if done, shall be have dire consequences. First objective: activate the dormant pieces, even if via excahnge. Let's see how things go from there. (I guess this happy-go-lucky attitude suggests that I am a perfect amateur).

See you next week.

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