The Prodigal Returns. And wins.

6/1/2003 – Ivan Sokolov picked up the biggest check at the 2003 Bosnia tornament, leaving big names like Shirov and Bareev in the dust. Sokolov long ago left his native Bosnia for the Netherlands, although he continued to play for the Bosnian team until last year. In 2002 he played for the Dutch squad in the Olympiad but in 2003 he came back to Sarajevo to win clear first in the annual supertournament. Crosstable, games to replay online, and key positions with diagrams and notes here.

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Ivan Sokolov wins Bosnia 2003 on home turf


Official siteGame selection replay/download page

Sokolov prepars to eat up the competition in Bosnia.

He had a near miss in the 2002 edition, when he finished a half a point behind winner Movsesian. This year there was nothing near about it and Ivan Sokolov returned to his home soil with a convincing +4 (6.5/9) victory.

Sokolov has been living and playing in the Netherlands for several years. Until last year he and his countryman Predrag Nikolic were answers to the trivia question, "Name someone who played on the Olympiad team of one country and in the national championship of another in the same year." In Bled 2002 Sokolov represented the Netherlands for the first time and had an excellent performance. (Nikolic continues to play for Bosnia.)

No matter what flag is on his table the 34-year-old Sokolov has become one of the top pros. He'll play anywhere, anytime, and the number of games he plays in a year would make those elite top ten guys blanche. He has already played 46 tournament games in 2003. From the Swedish team championship to the French and German leagues to another team championship, this time Spain's, with a few category 15-16 round-robins tossed in.

In Sarajevo Sokolov started strong and stayed solid and won just the way a pro is supposed to win, by beating up on the tail-enders and getting a key win against a co-leader. Shirov, Bareev, and Radjabov got the attention but they couldn't keep up with Sokolov. The regional representatives turned in a dismal result and unbalanced the crosstable. The top four finishers were undefeated, and there were no decisive games between them.

The critical game was Sokolov's win over Radjabov in round five when they were tied for first. The Azerbaijani teen went to the well one too many times by trying his King's Indian for the third black in a row.

On the other hand, KID players live for positions like this so they can't complain too much when they occasionally die by them. Sokolov navigated the complications to come out with a better endgame.

21.Bxg7 Nxf1+ 22.Rxf1 Rxe4 [22...Kxg7 23.Qc3+ f6 24.N2g3] 23.Bxe4 Kxg7 24.Qc3+ Qf6 25.f5 Qxc3 26.Nxc3 Re8 [26...f6] 27.f6+ Kf8 28.Bb1 b6 29.a5 bxa5 30.Ne4 a4 31.Nxd6 The d-pawn falls and Black resigned on move 38.

Uzbek GM Rustan Kasimdzhanov had a final chance to upset the Sokolov Express when they met in the final round. A win would mean clear first for Kasimdzhanov. He had the white pieces and there was no wimping out. They played a complex Ruy Lopez that went 57 moves and only ended in a draw when the material was almost exhausted.

Shirov and Movsesian both won in the last round to make the race for first place look closer than it really was. Shirov won his last two games to salvage a decent result and a few rating points. These two fighters played some of the most entertaining chess and Movsesian's games in particular were often wild affairs. His draw against Damljanovic had more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie story. In the first round he hung in against Bareev to win when the Russian overpressed.

Damljanovic built up a crushing position and then tried to cash in too early with a dubious knight sacrifice. Movsesian defended well and White was struggling to find compensation. He got some in time trouble and was looking for more when Movesian pushed his f-pawn at just the wrong time with 39...f3??.

Here Damljanovic played 40.Ree8 and Black's counterplay arrived just in time after 40...fxg2 41.Qh4 Qd1+ and they agreed on a draw. White could have ended things immediately with 40.Qh4 and Black has no reasonable way to escape mate.

40.Qh4!+- Rf8 (40...g5 41.Qh8+ Kg6 42.Rg8+ Kf5 43.g4+ Kf4 44.Qc3! Ne4 45.Qe3+ Ke5 46.Qxe4+ Kf6 47.Qf5#) 41.Re7+

It was another mark of steady progress for Teimour Radjabov, now all of 16. He was one of the early leaders and his losses to fine play by Sokolov and Shirov were nothing to be ashamed of.

The only real disaster of the event was Bareev's even score. The second seed couldn't back up his top-ten status and lost too much ground when he started the event 0/2.

Shirov got off to a good start by beating Kozul with the black pieces in round one. In the below position he picked off the d-pawn with 21...Nc5! and the knight is immune. All the kingside pawn pushing by White has left his king open and Shirov is just the guy to take advantage. Shirov later pushed through his a-pawn (!) and won convincingly.

21...Nc5! 22.Bc4 [22.dxc5?? Bxc5+ 23.Be3 Qxd3 24.Rf3 ( 24.Rae1 Nd5 25.Rf3 Nxe3 26.Rfxe3 Qxb3) 24...Bxf3 25.Bxc5 Rfc8 26.Bb6 Nd5 27.Qxf3 Qxf3 28.Nxf3 Nxb6]

22...Bxb5 23.axb5 Qxd4+ 24.Be3 Qe4 25.Qf3 Nd5 26.Ng2 Rfd8 27.Kh1 Qxf3 28.Rxf3 Nb6 29.Bg1 a4 30.Ne3 axb3 31.Rb1 Ra3 32.Bf1 Nba4 33.Ng4 b2 34.Rf2 Bc3 0-1

Photos from official site © S.Bicevic


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