Short takes over first place in Budapest

4/17/2003 – We have an official Nigel Short sighting going on in Budapest. With three rounds to play the Englishman is on course for his best result in many years. A win over Boris Gelfand in round six gave him three victories against no defeats in a very tight field where wins are few and far between. Judit Polgar is in clear second despite her loss to Leko in round five. The big Short-Polgar showdown is set for Saturday. Report and games

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Don't call it a comeback!

Things are looking up for Nigel
Nigel Short has been a busy man lately. In the past year the former world championship challenger has played in China, the Dominican Republic, and Iran. The popular columnist for the Sunday Telegraph even played in his native England. This isn't exactly the supertournament circuit but the Greece-based Short is steadily moving back up the rating list and may soon crack 2700 for the first time in his storied career.

Winning first place in the Hunguest Tournament in Budapest would be a big step in that direction and Short put himself on course with a win over Boris Gelfand in the sixth round. The win gave him a half-point lead over Judit Polgar with three rounds to go.

Polgar stormed out of the gate by winning her first three games but was brought down by her countryman Peter Leko in the fifth round. That was the only win so far by the top seed but it was a critical one. Yet again Leko proved how deadly he is on the black side of the Sveshnikov Sicilian.

The most important game of the tournament is still in the future. Short has a terrible career score against Polgar and their encounter is likely to decide the tournament winner. He will have his only remaining game with the white pieces against her in the eighth round on the 19th.

A quick look at the crosstable might mislead you into thinking that there has been a lack of fighting spirit in Budapest. A whopping 74 percent of the games have been drawn, that's just eight decisive games from 30. Seven of those eight games involved Polgar or Short! There are four players with five draws and a loss. A closer look reveals that there have been very few short, boring "GM" draws. The shortest game of the tournament, Korchnoi-Movsesian, was an incredibly sharp and complicated battle that ended in a forced repetition after 22 moves!


Standings after round six

Official siteGame replay and download page

To win a tournament it can be as important to hold your bad positions as to win your good ones. Short saved a nasty-looking endgame against Acs in the fifth with some fine technique. Technique means knowing which positions to head for, not just finding the best moves one at a time. Short went down two pawns and had his king up against the wall, but the opposite-colored bishops gave him excellent chances.

In this position from that game White has to worry about the c-pawn and, not to be overlooked, the mate in one on a2! Short had it all under control and managed to trade down into a drawn bishop vs rook ending. An instructive conclusion worth learning.

63.Rb3 Re2 64.Bb6+ Ka6 65.Be3 Bxb3 66.Kxb3 c2 67.Bc1 Rxf2 68.Kc3 Kb5 69.Bd2 Rg2 70.Kxc2 Kc4 71.Kc1 Kd3 72.Bb4 Ra2 73.Kb1 Rc2 74.Be1 Re2 75.Ba5 Re5 76.Bd8 Rb5+ ½-½

Peter Leko may have other things on his mind, although he's not finding this field any easier than Linares so far. This was the week we were told we would absolutely hear something from Einstein about the Kramnik-Leko classical world championship match. Some have theorized that he might be hiding his opening preparation in Budapest, but he brought his A game for Polgar.

Leko's Sveshnikov drew yet another chalk line around a chess body when he knocked Polgar out of clear first in the fifth round. Polgar introduced a new move by grabbing a pawn on move 16 only to lose the iniative and come under a brutal counterattack. She defended resolutely until Leko's pawns smashed through in the center.

This set up a nice finish in which all of Black's pieces homed in on the white king like sharks with lasers.

39...Qc4+ 40.Rd3 [40.Kg2 Be3+ 41.Kh2 Bxb6; 40.Ke1 exf3+ 41.Re3 Rxe3+] 40...exd3 41.Qxd6+ Be7 42.Qh6+ Rg7 43.Rg3 dxc2+ 44.Kg2 Qc3 0-1

Polgar has two turns with the white pieces to try and bounce back. For Leko a +1 score after a win in Linares can't be seen as a success, so he will be trying hard to add at least one more win.

For Nigel Short it will likely all come down to his game against Polgar on Saturday. A sharp Sicilian is almost guaranteed, so let's hope the fighting spirit in Budapest continues.


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