Saved by the flu – literally

by ChessBase
1/18/2004 – Normally influenza viruses bring pain and exhaustion to the afflicted, with no mitigating circumstances. Except in this one case, where they saved the life Jamshid Begmatov, the moderator of our chess game against Uzbek GM Yuldashev, who was prevented from taking an ill-fated plane trip by a flu. Here's the harrowing story.

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Usbek TV audience vs Saidali Yuldashev

By Jamshid Begmatov

Warm greetings from Tashkent!

You can’t imagine how much I have missed you all and again I have got a few interesting things to share with you. But first of all I would like to thank those hundreds who sent me their wishes of good health. I finally got rid of that terrible flu I had last week which chained me to bed for nearly two weeks.

But that very flu actually saved my life! You will have heard about that plain crash in Tashkent on Tuesday night, which killed 37 people. It was one of those YAK-40s inherited by Uzbekistan Airways from Aeroflot after the fall of the Soviet Union. I was to go to Termez on Monday to conduct a two-day training workshop for college teachers. The previous week I had booked a ticket for Monday morning plain and a return ticket for exactly that Tuesday night flight!

In the late afternoon of Sunday I decided I could not go because of my high temperature and cancelled my tickets. I have a bunch of strange feelings after that. On the one hand, I have to be grateful to my flu because of which I didn’t go, on the other hand, I do feel very sorry for the one who bought my seat.

But now to the good news. I have fully recovered, and on Thursday and Friday I went to conduct the next in my series of workshops, and it was in the ancient city of Khiva, the City of Thousand Domes as we call it. The details of the workshop will not be interesting for you, but I have brought some beautiful pictures of this wonderful historical city.

According to archeological data, Khiva had already existed in the 6th century. During 11th and 12th centuries, Khiva was a small fortress town. Like many other towns of Central Asia, Khiva was destroyed by the Mongolian invasion.

Khiva is now one of the most remote of Central Asia's Silk Road cities, a fascinating desert town, preserved in its entirety since medieval times. It came to prominence in the 16th century as the capital of the Khanate of Khiva whose territory stretched from the Caspian Sea to India and was known for its religious fervour and slave markets.

One of many madrassahs, Islamic schools, where religion and science were taught up until early 20th century

In Khan’s era this minaret was the place of execution. Those sentenced to death would be thrown down from the top.

In the 18th century, Khiva was again ruined by nomads’ forays and ruinous internal wars. But at the beginning of the 19th century, a new dynasty of rulers came to power. This period is characterized by great construction works. Majolica, marble, paintings, and carving were widely used in construction.

Khiva is divided into the inner town, Ichan-Kala, often described as an open-air museum, which consists of a maze of narrow medieval streets lined with madrassahs, mosques, caravansarays and palaces

…and Dishan-Kala - the outer town where people of Khiva live and work. The inner town is surrounded by a high clay fence with four gates pointing to the four sides of the Universe.

The city of Khiva is now part of the Khorezm province, which is very different from the rest of Uzbekistan in terms of culture, people, and even the language they speak. The dialect of Uzbek spoken here is very different from standard Uzbek, and sounds more like Turkish and Azerbaijani. Dancing is different, music is different, traditional clothes are different, and they even cook a different plov!

Khiva is one of the biggest tourism centres of Uzbekistan, with a very well-developed service infrastructure and hospitable people.

I could go on with Khiva, but it’s time to go back to our game against Grandmaster Saidali Yuldashev, which for the first time since it began saw a 100% vote for the same move, 27.Re1. The GM goes 27…f3 after which the White King is locked in for the rest of the game. Now White has a rook, a bishop and four pawns against Black’s king, rook and three pawns. It will be very interesting to see whether this gives Black a real advantage and whether he will be able to convert it into a win.

According to many of your messages, I forwarded our opponent the last move and offered him a draw, but he apologized and said it’s too soon to seal a draw. Personally I entirely agree with him and think we are going to have an extremely interesting and unusual endgame, which is definitely worth spending a few more weeks to see. So we go on.

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 25.Rd8 Rxf1+ 26.Rxf1 Rxd8 27.Re1 f3

Now you know the grandmaster has rejected our draw offer, so please think well and submit what you think is the best white move here,

After Frederic Friedel’s wonderful article about the Russian language and names, some of you asked me what my patronymic is. Ok, my father’s name is Abdulla, so my patronymic will be Abdullaevitch and formally I would be called Jamshid Abdullaevitch. But I am too young for this, and would like everybody to simply call me Jamshid. Frederic also mentioned the three genders in the Russian language. I just wanted to add one interesting detail: there is only one word in Russian that has synonyms in all three genders, and that is queen (not king’s wife but the chess piece). In the masculine gender it’s ‘ferz’, in the feminine ‘koroleva’ and in neuter it’s ‘garde’.

And as usual, we will now look at a small selection of your wonderful comments on the game. Thanks for sending them in! Please remember that we treat each and every of your entries with a great deal of respect, but are not in a position to publish them all as it would occupy for the whole week. And please be more tolerant to comments that don’t match your opinion, we are playing the most democratic game of chess ever played!

Alonzo McCaulley, Antelope, Ca, USA
27. Re1. Well we have made it to an endgame. Now long term (strategic) planning must be our focus. I would suggest we have to now evaluate the position to find goals and objectives and then try to find moves to accomplish those ideas. To that end I will try to break down the position as I see it.

Evaluation: White has an extra pawn and control of the only open file (presuming 27. Re1). We still have to be aware of potential back rank mates if other files open up. Black has more space and an active R to compensate for the pawn deficit.

White Goals/Objectives: 1. Free our self of the back rank mates threat immediately. Moves like f3 and Kf2 come to mind 2. Activate our pieces. Moves like Ba3/Kf2 are the only obvious moves so far. Where to place the R depends on future play. 3. Create a passed pawn and push, push, push.

Black Goals/Objectives: 1. Maintain or increase space advantage moves like ...f3 and ...Rc8 (pressuring c3) come to mind. 2. Activate his K. At this point he may be needed on either Q/K-side but most likely will travel towards K-side since the R on e1 prevents him from getting to Q-side. 3. Win back or blockade position to prevent us from getting a passed pawn. If that fails exchange into a known drawn endgame.

Keep in mind one of Black's main advantages is that he is playing against many people. That works in his favor if we do not have a plan and all work on it together. The Nd2 move earlier is an example--many people did not want that move but it won in the voting. This is why we must give our IDEAS along with the moves and typical variations. Even if we have the wrong idea, we may inspire one another to find the right one. It will also help us play better together if we all have the same objectives. If we fight each other, our votes will be divided and inferior move may be chosen. This happened in the Kasparov vs The World game, but I hope it will not happen here.
One more thing, several people have suggested we offer a draw. I do not want to do this purely because the chance to play a slow game against a GM is a valuable learning experience. Win, lose or draw we get a lesson on how to play this game. While a draw would be great, wouldn't we all feel better if we knew we earned that draw? Think of what a thrill a win would be. I respectfully ask that we all play the game out until the position is won, lost or drawn on the board. I don't know if a GM has ever lost a battle like this but I sure would like to say I played on the winning side! Good chess to all.

Susan Pick, Washington, USA
Jamshid, I wish you a speedy recovery. Frederic did great as your stand-in, but I really enjoy your stories about life in Uzbekistan. I am looking forward to next week.

Carl Reynolds, Christchurch, New Zealand
White is in deep trouble. Black will play f3 in reply to Re1, threatening g4, locking White's king in forever. If this is allowed, Black's rook and king will easily overpower White's rook and bishop, particularly with the constant threat of back rank mates restricting the scope of White's rook. White's extra pawn counts for little here – I slaughtered the computer as black in this position. I think White's only chance of survival is to meet f3 with g4! and after Bxg4, h3! releasing his king from its tomb at the cost of two pawns. At least after that we should be able to hold the draw, with correct play.

Raymond Jose, Dallas, Texas, USA
By taking the space that is left by Black's rook, we release the threat on White's rook and having it on its strong position by taking the open file that would create threat as a possible offensive position. Thus the exchange pawns f4xg3 to pressure white's king side can be countered by h2xg3!. Now this is a fabulous position for white because he should get his offense swiftly to a possible mate and avoid black to pursue a drawish position. I know GM Yuldashev has a lot of tricks to complicate things for white to regain position. I congratulate Chessbase for a wonderful game you provide to chess enthusiasts like me. Good luck guys! Hello to all Texans, my wife Neribelle, Dallas Pinoy Basketball Boys...

Steven, Tam, Plainsboro, NJ, USA
This is obvious, for the white rook was being attacked by the black bishop, and has to guard the e-file. I don't understand why you put forward someone's comment to resign! This is both illogical and discouraging. The GM is good, but judging from the position, the game is far from definite conclusion yet.

Charles Hall, Orlando, FL, US
Re1. No other moves make sense at first glance. White's king is irrevocably trapped, and holding will be very difficult once Black is able to open a line for the rook.

Tobias Nordquist, Sandviken, Sweden
Before the holidays I thought that this game was lost for White. Now I can see that I was wrong. What I didn't see was of course the strong rook move Rd8! Is 2004 the year of the rooks!? Look at Kramnik's game in round 1 and 2 in Wijk aan Zee! It should be interesting to see and maybe participating in this endgame:

Pol Zantua, Paracale, Philippines
I suggest we resign! Nothing will save White here. At best White should grab the open e-file, then pray for salvation! White could achieve no more than a draw because its King is in prison and would be there reclusion perpetual. If White could lock the position and could swap the remaining pair of rooks, some possibility of draw could result. White can’t give up rook for the bishop by playing f3, for black can open up both the king and queen-sides for his rook. Since there are still pawns in both sides white will not be able to use his bishop effectively to defend against the rook. So, even in this variation, white should pray for a miracle. If White let Black's rook set foot on the 2nd rank, then the end would be swift. I’m an amateur, have not participated in any tournaments but from this position, with me as Black, even against a grandmaster of below 2600 rating, I will not lose. This is not bragging but here a grandmaster is manning the black position and has plenty of time to spare. I just want to suggest that resignation is not bad, as it would save time and give our sick correspondent an early rest.

Leo Vinci Bravo, Pasig , Philippines
Of course Re1 moving the rook away from attack and also controlling the open e file. We are up a pawn but the GM can immobilize the white king and his more mobile black king can decide the game. The endgame will also be an advantage for the experienced grandmaster. I think he saw this in advance but I really want to see what happens.

Victor Grove, Rialto, Ca. USA
And now we reach the draw position I previously described. I hope that all those following White's play will now note that only by playing precise defense in the exact move sequence ordered was white able to eliminate the mate threat and get back to a draw position. Any other move order other than 21:Nd2 was a loss for white. If you don't think so, just ask the GM; it was the mistake he was hoping for. White must be careful here to see this and not play anything foolish. White has just dodged a huge bullet and has escaped; let's play f1-e1 and offer a draw and be happy. We just drew a GM in a great position for him; we should feel proud! Thank you Saidali Yuldashev. Can we play Garry next?

Manuel Macapinlac, New York, USA
I suggest the move: Re1
Comments: This has to be the next logical move or else black will control the e file. But the question is whether white has enough of an advantage to convert this endgame into a win.

John, Crrooks, Stilwell, KS, USA
Obviously it makes sense to activate the rook while saving it from the bishop. It is unclear to me who has the advantage here. White has a pawn for sure and control of the open file for now. Black has White's king penned up on the back rank and has the ability with f3 and then g4 later if needed to lock him in permanently. In exchange he would be locking up his bishop. So what is stronger in the endgame? The king or the bishop? I have to think that Black is at worst even here in spite being down a pawn, and could perhaps still be able to manufacture a win. Can White make any progress with his rook and bishop versus rook and king while constantly needing to defend against mate on the first rank? I think not, and I fear that we will find the pressure too great. Black just needs to keep his rook on the board and proceed to open lines. White will eventually be in a position where his rook is forced to stay on the back rank to defend against mate and then our game will be lost. Can we build a fortress to keep the rook and king out?! If not I fear we are in for some trouble.

Jeremy Shatka, Sioux City, IA USA
In this position, it is White who will have to fight for the draw. The White king is imprisoned and will remain so for the entire endgame at Black's discretion. Since the king is worth roughly 2.5 points as a fighting unit in this relatively unsimplified ending, if Black has to lock his own bishop in via f3 and g4, so be it. He would be losing about 5.0 points of force (the bishop -3.0, and the f and g-pawns, 1.0 each) in order to incarcerate 5.5 points of White's forces (the king and the f, g and h-pawns). Black would also have the benefit of a fully mobile King, for a gain 2.5 points of force, while White has a bishop that is not particularly effective since all of Black's queenside pawns are on opposite colors, and since it is of opposite colors with Black's bishop, whether or not that Bishop imprisons itself behind the g-pawn. Therefore these two cancel each other out. White has an extra pawn on the board, but his structure is less advanced and therefore the pawn 's value is demoted somewhat. Overall, I believe the position to be in a dynamic balance, with a slight edge going to the grandmaster for two reasons: 1. He has more options, including creating an impenetrable fortress at his own leisure, and 2. His experience. He has outplayed the audience thus far and we should offer the draw, which he would most likely accept courteously.

Ken Benton, Albany, GA. USA
I would think that Re1 would be the unanimous choice here. The only question in my mind is what will the best way to further activate the rook after the GM plays 27)...Kf7 (to prevent Re7). I wonder also if a pawn sac with the move c4 to create a passed d pawn will be possible at some point.

Joel Murang, Kuching, Malaysia
This move besides being obvious (controlling the open file, and on a second note it is attacked by an annoying bishop) is needed so that we can plant a rook on e5 before Black can succeeds in closing in our bishop. On d5 we are limiting the play of his king and attacking his pawns. I don’t think Black's bishop has a future. Eventually we will put our bishop on c5 via a3 etc. and the win should prove fairly straight forward due to Black's weaknesses. Maybe it is Black and not White who should resign? Patzers on Chessbase unite! We are beating a GM!

Julien Scharl, Ashburn, VA
Not much to think about here. Get the rook out of danger and grab the only open file. White is a pawn up but the bishops of opposite colours make it look drawish. If anything white should strive to keep the rooks on the board. The pawn situation looks a little better for white both on the queen and kind side of the board. White's active rook makes me believe white's slightly ahead but endgames can go on forever...

Shreesh, India
Re1, what else? Only a demented person or a patzer would allow the rook to be taken. Come on, we aren't that bad! We've given the GM a run for his money. Now time to make him pay. I predict 1-0, a great win for white in the face of all odds. Play on! No draw!

Licai Yeo, Singapore
Although White is a pawn up, it seems that black has good chances with f3, followed by g4. Yes, it locks in the black bishop on h3 completely, but in turn the white king is imprisoned. White must then take care to maintain control of the open e-file. Black can then attempt to trade rooks, where white's weaknesses on the light squares should lead to a lost endgame. After Re1 f3, White should straight away play Bc1, to prepare for Be3, preventing an exchange of rooks. I think the line 1.Re1 f3 2.Bc1 Rc8 3.Bd2 b4 looks very good for black. Kudos to the GM for his strong novelty! I am also very happy to see everyone chipping in with their two cents worth! Its great to see worldwide enthusiasm in chess.

See you next week!

Jamshid Begmatov

I was born in 1974 in Andizhan, easternmost city of Uzbekistan, into a family of university teachers. Nothing significant happened during my school years except, maybe, that I learnt to smoke, drink beer and vodka, and others useless things. But undoubtedly, one positive thing I gained from school is the knowledge that then allowed me to enter university, in the English Language Faculty. However, after completing the first year, I came to a conclusion that there was nothing left for me to study at this faculty, and I decided to change my field of study. In 1992 I entered the University of Istanbul, International Economy. Then, in 1994, for reasons unknown to me, almost all Uzbek students studying in Turkey were drawn back to Uzbekistan and placed in different local universities. So I had to transfer to Tashkent University of Economics, International Economic Relations, from which I graduated in 1997.

How do you think heavy rain can drastically change someone's life? That's exactly what happened to me in 1997 summer. I just went out to have an evening walk in the fresh air when it suddenly started raining. Well, that was a lucky evening, because there was a pretty girl walking by near me and she had an umbrella. I politely asked her to share her umbrella as I was getting wet through to my bones. She agreed. I'm sure you can guess the end of the story. Today she is my wife, and we have two nice children, both boys! My elder son is five and is already learning to play chess.

After graduation I tried several jobs as a civil servant, wasn't quite happy though. Then I just accidentally happened to participate in the Soros Foundation's competition for English-Uzbek translation of a university textbook on Sociology, which I won. I translated several books since, including Economics, Financial Management, Economics Teacher's Guide etc. At the present I work as an interpreter for Cambridge Education Consultants project in Tashkent. However, I view myself as an economist and since last year I'm conducting my PhD research in Economics. My thesis is "Economic Globalization and Its Impact on Free Trade Issues in Uzbekistan".

As a chess player I am not that strong, but I really love this game. My Elo rating is 2150 (according to Fritz 6). As I have no human opponents available when I have time, I love playing correspondence chess via email. Currently I have a number of opponents throughout the world and would be delighted to play some email games with ChessBase readers too.

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