Akopian wins fantastic endgame against Khalifman

by Sam Sloan

LAS VEGAS: August 24: Akopian drew equal in his match for the World Chess Championship against Khalifman by winning a fantastic 84 move endgame. This game had been pronounced a draw by grandmaster commentators, but Akopian avoided numerous stalemate traps and squeezed out a fantastic win. This was the first time that Akopian has ever defeated Khalifman.

Grandmaster Amador Rodriguez of Cuba, who is present at the match as a reporter for the Olé web site, said that during the game he was always convinced that Akopian had a win, but now he believes that with best play it was a draw.

Position after Black played 66. .... Kd6. Now, White cannot play 67. Kb5, because then Black forces a draw with 67. ... Rxh7 followed by stalemate!

At a press conference after the game, the first press conference Akopian has given thus far, Akopian said that indeed Khalifman had a draw until near the end of the game. Khalifman could have drawn with 71. .... Kf6. Instead, Khalifman played 71. .... Rh8 and Akopian won through a squeeze play.

Khalifman's defense was based on the fact that if Akopian had played 67. Kb5, Khalifman could force stalemate by sacrificing his rook with 67. .... Rxh7. Therefore, Akopian had to maneuver his king slowly to avoid this stalemate possibility.

Akopian said at the press conference that instead of 29. Ra5, he should have played 29. g3, followed later by Kh2 and f4. Akopian also said that instead of 30. Qb5, he should have played cxb4.

Interestingly, the opening of this game followed the last game which Tal ever played in his life, which was against Akopian in Barcelona, 1992. Tal won. However, colors were reversed and Akopian was black in that game. This coincidence was discovered during the game by National Master Ronnie Gross doing a database search. At the press conference, Akopian answered a question by Gross, saying, "As Black, I was completely winning against Tal." Akopian also said that the move Khalifman played, 9. .... Ne5, was stronger than e6, the move he had played against Tal. The Tal - Akopian game had started 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 d6 4. O-O Bd7 5. Re1 Nf6 6. c3 a6 7. Ba4 c4 8. d4 cxd3 9. Bg5 e6 10. Qxd3 Be7 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. Bxc6 Bxc6 13. c4 O-O 14. Nc3 Kh8.

At the press conference, Akopian defended his decision to play 17. Nxe4 in the first game of the match, which many have characterized as a blunder. Akopian admitted that 16. Ng5 would have been better than what he played, but said that Khalifman could then play 16. .... Kh8, and the position is not so clear. Akopian said that he was sure that in the game position, 17. Nxe4 was his best chance for a draw and that he could have drawn in several ways, including by playing Rb1 instead of Re1 later on.

Grandmaster annotations of this third game of the match will soon become available on the following three web sites: http://www.chessclub.com/event/fide99/fidewcg3.html http://www.clubkasparov.ru/news/lasvegas/g18_e.htm http://deportes.ole.com/espdep/ajedrez/portada.cfm


[Event "FIDE World Chess Championship"]
[Site "Las Vegas USA"]
[Date "1999.08.24"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Akopian,Vladimir"]
[Black "Khalifman,Alexander"]
[Result "1-0"]
[Opening "Sicilian: Nimzovich-Rossolimo attack (without ...d6)"]
[ECO "B30"]
[NIC "SI.31"]
[Time "17:38:53"]
[TimeControl "6000+30"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 d6 4. O-O Bd7 5. c3 Nf6 6. Re1 a6 7. Ba4 c4 8. d4 cxd3 9. Bg5 Ne5 10. Nbd2 Bxa4 11. Qxa4+ b5 12. Qd4 h6 13. Bxf6 gxf6 14. a4 Rb8 15. Nxe5 dxe5 16. Qa7 Ra8 17. Qb7 Qc8 18. Qd5 Rb8 19. axb5 axb5 20. Qxd3 h5 21. Nf1 Qd7 22. Qe2 e6 23. h4 Bc5 24. Ng3 Ke7 25. Red1 Qc6 26. Rd3 Rbd8 27. Rxd8 Rxd8 28. Nxh5 Rg8 29. Ra5 b4 30. Qb5 Rc8 31. Ng3 bxc3 32. bxc3 Qxb5 33. Rxb5 Ba3 34. Ne2 Bc5 35. g4 Kd6 36. Kg2 Kc6 37. Rb2 f5 38. f3 Rh8 39. Kg3 Be7 40. h5 fxe4 41. fxe4 f5 42. Kf3 fxg4+ 43. Kxg4 Rg8+ 44. Kh3 Rh8 45. Ng3 Bg5 46. Rh2 Kc5 47. Kg4 Bf4 48. Rh3 Kc4 49. Nf1 Rf8 50. Nh2 Rg8+ 51. Kf3 Bxh2 52. Rxh2 Kxc3 53. h6 Kd3 54. h7 Rf8+ 55. Kg3 Rh8 56. Rh4 Ke3 57. Kg2 Kd3 58. Kf3 Kd4 59. Ke2 Kc5 60. Kd3 Rd8+ 61. Kc3 Rh8 62. Rh5 Kd6 63. Kb4 Rb8+ 64. Kc4 Rh8 65. Rh1 Kc6 66. Rh2 Kd6 67. Kb4 Kc6 68. Kc4 Kd6 69. Ra2 Ke7 70. Kc5 Rc8+ 71. Kb6 Rh8 72. Rh2 Kd6 73. Rd2+ Ke7 74. Kc7 Kf6 75. Rh2 Kg5 76. Kd6 Kf6 77. Kd7 Kf7 78. Rh3 Kf6 79. Rh1 Kf7 80. Rh4 Kf6 81. Rh1 Kf7 82. Rf1+ Kg7 83. Ke7 Ra8 84. h8=Q+ {Black resigns} 1-0

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