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Iran’s Parham Maghsoodloo scores breakthrough win at junior world chess championship

September 18, 2018

It may have a few problems on some other fronts, but Iran’s chess future looks bright these days. Already the strongest chess-playing nation in the Middle East, Iran now has a bona fide world champion junior division.

GM Parham Maghsoodloo proved the class of the field in winning the 57th World Junior Championship that ended Sunday in Manavgat, Turkey, a full point ahead of Indian GM Abhimanyu Puranik. Four former junior champs went on to win the grown-up version as well Boris Spassky, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov and Viswanathan Anand.

The 18-year-old Maghsoodloo, the 2017 Iranian national champion, was so dominant that he took his first loss of the tournament in the in the final round against Russian Andrey Esipenko and still finished at 9-1. He clinched the title with a tough Round 10 win over Russian IM Maksim Vavulin in which the young Iranian showed both steady nerves and attacking skills in the game’s critical phase.

In a Najdorf Sicilian, after 27. Rxg8+ Qxg8 28. Rg1 Qf8 29. Ng3, Maghsoodloo has invested a pawn to build up a strong kingside attack, but Black is not without resources in the tense position.

There followed: 29...Rb7?! (tougher was 29...Qg7 30. b3 Bf4 31. Nxf4 exf4 32. Ne2 Qe5) 30. Nf6?! (cornering the Black king, but stronger might have been 30. Nxh5 Bxd5 31. exd5 Rf7 32. Ng7!, and Black faces an awkward defense in lines such as 32...Rf6 33. b4 Na4 34. Ne6 Qf7 35. Rh1 Nb6 36. Qe3 Qh7 37. Qxb6 Qxf5 38. Qd8+ Kh7 39. Qe7+ Rf7 40. Qxf7+! Qxf7 41. Ng5+ Kg6 42. Nxf7 Rxf7 43. Rxh6 and wins) b4? (and now 30...Qg7! 31. Nhxf5 Qg5 32. Rh1 d5 at least keeps Black in the game) 31. Ngxh5 a5 32. Nh7!, when 32...Qe7 33. N5f6 Bg7 34. Nf8+ Bh6 35. Qxh6 is mate.

Black tries 32...Bxa2+ 33. Kxa2 Rxh7 34. Bxh7 Kxh7, netting bishop and pawn for the rook, but White’s dominance of the g-file proves decisive on 35. Qg4 (threatening 36. Nf6+ Kh8 37. Qg8+ Qxg8 38. Rxg8 mate) Qf7+ 36. Kb1 Ne6 37. Nf6+!, and Black resigned ahead of 37...Qxf6 38. Qg8 mate.

On the women’s side, the Russians can claim another crown as Aleksandra Maltsevskaya took gold on tiebreaks ahead of WGM Tokhirjonova Gulrukhbegim, both a 8-2. In the final round, Maltsevskaya scored a critical point against compatriot WFM Margarita Potapova. We pick it up from the diagrammed position, where Maltsevskaya is trying to mate on the kingside before Black’s passed pawns decide things on the queenside.

Play continued: 37. Rg6!? (unclear was 37. Qxh5+ Rh7 38. Qd1 Qf7 39. Qc2 Rg7) Rh7 (Nxg6 38. fxg6 Qc5 39. Qf3 Kg7, and the White attack is stymied) 38. R6g3 Qd7 39. Qf2 Nxf5 40. Rg6 Bg7 41. Bc1 a4 42. Bb2 White’s pieces are all trained on the Black king, but the breakthrough is still elusive.

A tactical shot decides the contest: 42...Ne3 43. R6g5 Bf6?? (an oversight under pressure; it’s still a game after 43...Qc7 44. Rxg7 Rxg7 45. Bxd4 Ng4+!! 46. hxg4 Rxf4 47. Bxg7+ Kg8! 48. Qg3 h4! 49. Qxh4 Rxg4+ 50. Be5 Qxe5+ 51. Kh1 Rxg1+ 52. Kxg1 a3 53. Qh7) 44. Qxe3! a3 (dxe3 45. Bxf6+ Rg7 [Rxf6 46. Rg8 mate] 46. Rxh5+ Kg8 47. Bd5+ Rff7 48. Rxg7+ Kf8 49. Rh8 mate) 45. Qg3! Qe6 (Bxg5 46. Qxg5 axb2 47. Bxh7 Qg4 48. Rxg4 hxg4 49. Bg6 b1=Q 50. Qh6+ Kg8 51. Qh7 mate) 46. Bd5! Bxg5, and Black resigns not needing to see 47. Qxg5 Qe2+ 48. Kh1 axb2 49. Qg8+ Rxg8 50. Rxg8 mate.

Maghsoodloo-Vavulin, 57th World Junior Championship, September 2018

1. Nf3 c5 2. e4 d6 3. d4 Nf6 4. Nc3 cxd4 5. Nxd4 a6 6. h3 e5 7. Nde2 h5 8. Bg5 Be6 9. Bxf6 Qxf6 10. Nd5 Qd8 11. Qd3 g6 12. O-O-O Bh6+ 13. Kb1 Nd7 14. Qa3 Nc5 15. Nec3 O-O 16. h4 b5 17. f3 f5 18. Be2 Bg7 19. g4 hxg4 20. fxg4 fxg4 21. Rhg1 Rb8 22. Bxg4 Bf7 23. h5 gxh5 24. Bf5 Kh8 25. Ne2 Bh6 26. Qh3 Rg8 27. Rxg8+ Qxg8 28. Rg1 Qf8 29. Ng3 Rb7 30. Nf6 b4 31. Ngxh5 a5 32. Nh7 Bxa2+ 33. Kxa2 Rxh7 34. Bxh7 Kxh7 35. Qg4 Qf7+ 36. Kb1 Ne6 37. Nf6+ Black resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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