Eighteen of the country's top players are battling it out this month in the US Championship at the University of California in Berkeley. The 10 grandmasters and eight international masters are vying not only for the championship title but also for the top three spots that will qualify for next year's Interzonal, the second step in the elimination procedure leading to the world championship.
As a result of action taken at the last International Chess Federation general assembly, the world championship cycle is now on a two- rather than three-year basis. The condensed timetable means that the qualifiers will be entering a cycle in hopes of eventually playing a world champion who will not be known until the end of the long-awaited match later this summer between world titlist Anatoly Karpov and Gary Kasparov, both of the Soviet Union.
Among the top favorites in the US Championship, which began July 9 and continues through July 30, are last year's three co-champions: Walter Browne of Berkeley, Roman Dzindzichashvili of Corona, N.Y., and Larry Christiansen of Los Angeles. Also given a fair chance of winning are former champions Yasser Seirawan of Seattle and Lubomir Kavalek of Reston, Va., neither of whom took part in last year's event.
Today's game, from last year's championship, features the ever-tough Walter Browne (US champion 1974, '75, '77 and co-champion 1980, '81, '83) defeating highly rated IM Sergey Kudrin of Stamford, Conn., in a critical encounter.
Sicilian Defense, Najdorf Variation Kudrin Browne 1. P-K4 P-QB4 2. N-KB3 P-Q3 3. P-Q4 PxP 4. NxP N-KB3 5. N-QB3 P-QR3 6. P-QR4 P-K3 7. B-QB4 (a) N-B3 8. O-O B-K2 9. B-K3 O-O 10. K-R1 (b) R-K1 11. B-R2 (c) N-QN5 (d) 12. B-N3 P-K4 13. N(4)-K2 (e) B-K3 14. N-Q5! (f) N(N)xN 15. PxN B-B4 16. P-R5! N-Q2 17. B-R4 R-KB1 (g) 18. P-QN4 R-B1 19. B-N3 B-N4! (h) 20. Q-Q2 BxB 21. PxB Q-N4 22. P-B4 N-B3 23. N-N3 B-N3 24. QR-B1 P-R4! 25. B-B2 RxP 26. BxB RxR 27. BxP ch RxB 28. QxR P-KN3 29. Q-B2? (i) Q-N5! (j) 30. Q-Q3 K-N2 31. P-N5 PxP 32. QxP P-R5 33. N-K2 Q-K5 (k) 34. N-N1 QxKP 35. P-R3 Q-K5 36. P-R6 PxP 37. QxP QxP 38. Q-R4 Q-K5 39. Q-N3 P-Q4 40. N-B3 N-R4 41. R-K1 RxN (l) 42. Resigns
A. Inconsistent: If White wanted to develop his bishop at QB4 he would have done better to avoid 6. P-QR4, since he now transposes into a variation of the Najdorf in which P-QR4 is too time-consuming.
B. Perhaps an immediate 10. P-B4 should have been played.
C. Now 11. P-B4? P-Q4; 12. PxP, PxP favors Black because of his control of the king file and possibilities of penetrating at KN5 and K5.
D. The solid 11. ... P-Q4 is also fine for Black, who instead steers for more complicated play.
E. 13. N-B5, BxN; 14. PxB, Q-Q2; 15. Q-B3, Q-B3 would favor Black.
F. This is White's best chance. He hopes to advance on the queenside, gaining space and perhaps obtaining a passed pawn.
G. Here a blunder would be 16. ... B-N4?; 17. N-N3, BxB (17. ... B-N3; 18. BxB, QxB; 19. BxN), 18. NxB, B-B4; 19. BxN, QxB; 20. Q-N4, with the twin-pronged threat of 21. QxP mate and 21. N-R6 ch, winning the queen.
H. Exchanging bishops is important for Black, since White's bishop supports a P-QB4, P-B5 advance; also, Black's queen now enters the kingside effectively.
I. Despite the simplification, White still stands worse, as his pawns are weak and his knight misplaced. But he should try 29. Q-B8 ch, K-N2; 30. P-K4, which offers some hope of salvation; e.g., 30. ... P-R5; 31. N-K2, NxKP; 32. RxR ch, KxR; 33. QxP ch, and victory is still far away.
J. A fine move which stops 30. Q-B8 ch or 30. N-K4 while also maintaining pressure against the White pawns.
K. Now Black begins to cash in on his superior position. The White QP and KP are threatened, and 34. ... P-R6 is also in the offing. White could have resigned here.
L. Black cements the victory with this win of a piece.