The th World Senior Chess Championship results in Americas latest GM and world champion GM Larry Kaufman

By GM Larry Kaufman

In recent years, when asked whether I still aspired to the grandmaster (GM) title, I would reply that I was too old to make three norms (not to mention hit ting 2500 FIDE) without playing full time in Europe, which was not practical, but that when I reached age 60 I would try to win the world senior championship, which carries with it an automatic GM title. I knew that this was no easier than mak ing a normal GM norm, but at least I'd only have to do it once. Still, in view of the famous names of past winners (Smyslov, Geller, Taimanov, Korchnoi), I thought of it as a long shot. But dreams do come true; in my first year of eligibility, I won the championship and the GM title!

By winning the U.S. Senior last May, I won most of my expenses to the World Senior in Bad Zwischenahn, Germany, held from October 28 November 8. Hav ing read favorable write ups of this event in Chess Life in the past I might have played anyway, but after my U.S. Senior win I didn't hesitate. I decided to go all out for first place, although I had no real expectation of victory. After all, I was only 17th rated, and the field included ten GMs! Based only on the ratings, my chances of victory were probably only 1%, but I knew that they were much greater than this in actuality.

Here is why: there are two types of FIDE rated chess tournaments; one round a day events where there is plenty of time to prepare for each opponent, and two or three round a day events where prepara tion is generally impractical as you learn your pairing only shortly before the round. Living in the U.S., most of my events are necessarily of the second type. However I have always done much better in the events where preparation is possible, because I can prepare for my opponents who often have narrow, predictable open ing repertoires, whereas they can hardly prepare for me, because I play almost all GM approved openings. Probably my rat ing in one round a day events would be about a hundred ELO above my rating in other events. Furthermore my work on Rybka has made me an expert in the proper use of computer programs for preparation, and has apparently also helped my basic playing level, as my rat ing has been rising steadily since I started this work. So, while any one player's chances of winning such an event are not good, I felt that my chances were at least on a par with most of the other top players.

To maximize my chances, I spared no expense. I bought a faster laptop. I stayed five days in Bonn prior to the tourney to get over jet lag, to watch the Anand Kramnik match, to get used to Germany, and to prepare my openings without dis traction. Finally, I paid the difference in cost to get a hotel with both Internet service and a swimming pool, on the the ory that exercise might help. It was a fairly long walk to the tournament site, but that just meant more good exercise. I also ate a lot of fish. Maybe all of this would only add a half point to my score, but that's the difference between suc cess and failure!

Bad Zwischenahn is a small town, very nice and safe, where many elderly and ill people go to recover from serious ill nesses. It's mostly a summer town; in November it was not very crowded. There are plenty of nice restaurants and places to shop. The opening ceremony featured a dance by some local children, and the closing ceremony had live music. Maybe there wasn't so much to do there, but I hardly noticed; my routine was the same almost every day, namely play my game (at 10 a.m.; I'm usually awful at morning play, but here I adjusted my routine for it), have lunch, review my game and answer e mails, check the pairings, go swimming, eat dinner, and prepare! I did play in the World Senior blitz one evening (tied for third), and went on an excursion

WIM Esther Epstein at the 2008 U.S. Championship

GM Larry Kaufman at the 2008 U.S. Championship

WIM Esther Epstein at the 2008 U.S. Championship

GM Larry Kaufman at the 2008 U.S. Championship on the free day. On that excursion, some one asked me if I was a GM, and I replied, "No, IM." Not being a native English speaker, he thought I said, "I am." After we realized this and laughed, I said that now I'll have to win the tournament so that what he thought I said would be true!

There were eight other players in the event representing the U.S., but many of them I knew only slightly, and I hardly knew anyone else in the event except for three players I had met at student olympiads in 1967 and 1972 and an Israeli tournament in 1973 (GM Vlas timil Jansa and IMs Mikhail Podgaets and Ole Jakobsen). IM Albert Kapengut and Jude Acers scored a respectable 7 4, and WIM Esther Epstein tied for second in the women's section. By a quirk of fate, the only player I met and spent much time with there was top seed GM Mihai Suba, with whom I ultimately tied for first. The tournament was an 11 round open (except for age) Swiss, separate for the 300 men and 36 women (though one or two women were allowed to play in the men's event, only because of their low ratings according to the organizer). The organizer, Jurgen Wempe, did a splendid job and is a very friendly and generous host; I highly recommend any event he runs. I note that the midpoint of the tournament was over 2050 rating, vastly higher than a U.S. Open, probably because there were no class prizes.

Strangely enough, the only game in the whole event where I was clearly losing was in round one, against a "mere" 2044 rated player, after I adopted a faulty late opening plan. OK, he made mistakes and lost, but in round two, after winning a pawn with the better position, I care lessly allowed my 2166 rated opponent to simplify to a pawn down but drawn end ing with all pawns on one wing. This was a severe blow, because the Internet site of the tournament listed "progressive" (sum of scores after each round) as the tiebreak, so an early loss or draw would likely be fatal even if I managed to tie for first. I was discouraged, but I did not alter my routine. In round three I won quite easily in 23 moves against a 2172 rated player who didn't know the opening, although it was a normal enough Nimzo Indian.

Round four was my first titled oppo nent, FM Boris Gruzmann. I noted that he always played the Advance Variation against the French, and I expected that he would follow my preparation until move 11, where I prepared and played a novelty proposed by Rybka. It led to a pleasant game for me, which became a winning one after some errors, though he lasted 80 moves. Then as white against Viachesiav Agzamov, I achieved a huge edge against his off book King's Indian, won a pawn, and soon won more pawns, while his only trump was an advanced, passed, edge pawn. I missed multiple easy wins and finally had to settle for perpetual due to his threats. Now I was really discouraged; my 4 1 score wasn't so bad, but it should have been 5 0.

In round six I faced FM Christian Clemens, who always opens 1. g3 and plays for c4 and a double fianchetto against 1. ... d5. Here my preparation could only get me an equal game. We had a very complex game, where I missed an easy win at one point (spotting it right after hitting the clock), again reached a won position and finally won a long endgame. So I went into the free day with a decent 5 1 score, half a point off the lead, but had yet to play up. I could hardly imagine that I was going to score 4 1 in the remaining games despite being paired up in every round!

Finally I met my first GM, defending World Senior Champion Algimantas But norius. He played a not recommended Nimzo line, but I met it imprecisely and he was fine. Then he went after a "poi

2008 World Senior

Does Kaufman Deserve the GM Title?

Do I really "deserve" the GM title? I never reached the normally required 2500 FIDE rating. My peak was 2445 (though I reached 2538 USCF in 1997), but in 1979 and 1980 I performed well above FIDE 2500 level but didn't play enough FIDE rated events for my rating to reach it. Now at least I'll be back over 2400 FIDE, and I believe that if only one round a day events were rated, I would be near 2500 now. I've won the American Open (1966) and two Eastern Opens, tied for sec ond in the U.S. Open twice, qualified for the U.S. Championship four times, and won about 15 state cham pionships. I know I'm not as strong as most active grandmasters (GMs) in the U.S., who are usually over 2500 FIDE, but in Europe there are many active GMs below or around 2400, as it's much easier to earn the title there, and having scored 3% out of 4 against GMs above 2400 in the Senior I feel I earned it. ~LK

soned" pawn, clearly hoping for the full point, but I got both an attack and my pawn back, and by move forty he was two pawns down and soon resigned. Then I was paired with three time senior cham pion GM Janis Klovans. I saw in my preparation that he had hardly any expe rience against the French line I was playing, and although I could not predict his choices after move eight, I was pre pared with the help of Rybka for all reasonable continuations. He followed my analysis (after using half an hour) until his 14th move, when he attacked a rook rather than moving his attacked knight as I had expected.

Since it was clear that his queen move was helpful if I saved my rook and since I knew that Rybka had not suggested the queen move, I reasoned that Rybka must have planned to sacrifice the Exchange for a pawn or two, and after some calcula tions convinced me that the "sac" was at least reasonable so I played it. But after the obvious captures he retreated his attacked knight to a square that took away his queen's retreat, a move that I had dismissed (correctly) as an obvious blunder. I was soon up by two pieces for a rook and won in just 25 moves. I later learned that the correct knight retreat had been played in a GM game shortly before my own, and the drawn result confirmed Rybka's evaluation of equality.

So with this point, I was tied for the lead at 7 1! My reward for this was to play the top seed, GM Suba (2531). He followed my earlier win over Butnorius until move 13, and although I did not expect this I was at least reasonably comfortable due to the time I spent on the post mortem of that earlier win. Still, I played impre cisely and he chose the sharpest line, forcing me to sacrifice a pawn for a nasty looking pin. It did net me the Exchange, but as he had a pawn and much better pawn structure for it in the endgame we agreed to a draw.

Suddenly victory no longer seemed like a pipe dream. I was tied for first, and I was given the good news at this point that the website was in error (it quoted an obsolete FIDE rulebook), and that FIDE rules (posted on the FIDE website) actu ally mandate average of opponents' ratings (except the worst) as the tiebreak for this title. I looked much better on this tiebreak than on progressive. Still, I had to play Black against the #2 GM, Miso Cebalo (2493). I felt that if I could draw, I would "only" have to win in the final round, most likely with the White pieces, to have good chances to win the event. I chose the Slav. On move 12 he varied from an earlier game with a move still known to theory. My prepared reply sur prised him, as after long thought he played a most unexpected surrender of the bishop pair. Still, he reached an equal position, but I was starting to get an edge when I made a serious mistake on move 24, which fortunately he did not punish. After making a natural but bad move shortly after this, he was forced to choose between an awful position and a risky knight placement on the edge. This knight was doomed and I soon won it, and while his resultant attack looked scary I was able to defend and force resignation after move 40. I now had a half point lead over the field.

In the final round I faced Russian IM Alexander Zakharov (2413). The previ ous night, organizer Jurgen Wempe carefully did and redid the tiebreak cal culations (which being based on average ratings didn't depend on the final round outcome) and told the interested parties that in the event of a tie, 73 year old Wolfgang Uhlmann would be first, I would be second, Suba third, and the other candidates below that. So I didn't know whether a draw would be enough or not, as an Uhlmann victory over Cebalo would make him the winner if I drew. Still, Uhlmann was black and lower rated, so the odds were in my favor. I decided to play for advantage without taking much risk, by choosing a line (against my oppo nent's expected Grunfeld) that often leads to an early queen trade and a slightly more pleasant but drawish endgame for

White. He avoided the trade but soon was in a noticeably worse position, and after 16 moves offered a draw. Although I was better, I could hardly play for a win without risk. I decided to consider his offer at length as I had far more time than he. I kept an eye on the Uhlmann game, and when it became clear that Uhlmann was much worse, I shook hands and accepted the championship and grandmaster title which were mine when Uhlmann resigned, although I could not be certain as Suba had stated his inten tion to protest the failure to use the incorrectly announced tiebreak if he should tie with me. At this point it looked like I would be a clear winner or tied with FM Jefim Rotstein who had poor tiebreaks since Suba was much worse against Rot stein, but eventually Rotstein missed first wins and then draws.

So I was tied with Suba at 9 2, but was declared the winner by four Elo points dif ference in average opponents' ratings. Ironically, I would not have won the tour nament and the GM title if my own rating had been fifty points higher, as Suba would have had higher average oppo nents! Suba did protest the failure to use the tiebreak listed on the tournament website, and the Romanian Chess Feder ation on his behalf asked FIDE to "award the World Senior Title 2008 for both Suba and Kaufman" based on this. I don't know how FIDE will rule on this, but it should have no practical significance for me if they do decide to call Suba co champion due to this error, as FIDE has officially given me the GM title and I've already received the first place trophy and gold medal (prize money was shared). Third thru sixth place at 8% were GM Cebalo, FM Boris Khanukov, IM Zakharov, and GM Klovans.

To what do I owe my new titles? I would not say I was lucky in my games, as although I did get some breaks I should easily have won the two early draws and if needed perhaps the final game. Of course I was lucky in the tiebreak, though I did play the second, third, fifth, and sixth place finishers, but unlucky in that Suba should never have won his final game. I would say that my superior prepa ration, due in part to my ability to play new openings, helped both in getting familiar positions and in giving me time advantages. My relative youth (I turned 60 just a month and a half before the Decem ber 31, 2007 deadline) surely helped, though of my opponents only Klovans at 73 was much older than I. My opening choices proved to be excellent. But above all, I think that it was the time spent teaching and observing the world's best player, Rybka, and her grandmaster oppo nents in her many official handicap matches at my home (Ehlvest, Benjamin,

A Double World Champ?

The Championship may have given me two world records. My son Raymond Kaufman officially received his international master (IM) title just a few days after I received my grandmaster (GM) title, making us perhaps the only father/son GM/IM pair in the world, though Thomas and Elizabeth Paehtz are such a father/daughter pair. Also, since Rybka is the reigning computer world chess champion and I am listed as co author, I may be the first player in chess history to hold two official world chess champi onships at once. ~LK

Dzindzichashvili, Perelshteyn, and Milov) that really made the difference.

The site for next year's event has not been chosen at this writing, but I'm told it will probably be in Austria or Italy. I hope to play, and recommend playing to those eligible.

Here is my game with bronze medal ist GM Cebalo, which effectively won the tournament for me.

Slav Defense (D17)

GMMiso Cebalo (FIDE 2493) IM Larry Kaufman (FIDE 2391) World Senior Championship, 11.7.08

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. Ne5 Nbd7 7. Nxc4 Nb6 8. Ne5 a5

"Play the Slav" by James Vigus has excellent coverage of this line.

12. 0 0 is well met by ... Nfd5. Cebalo previously played 12. Nf3, when ... Nbd5 aiming to go to b4 Black equalizes.

12 Nbd5

Which knight? 12. ... Nfd5 is more common as it forces a retreat, but the text has been played at top level and also has a threat (... Nxc3 and ... Ne4). It has the advantage that it does not leave a poorly placed knight on b6. Still, I suspect the text move may be a bit weaker if White replies 13. Rc1. I was still playing from my preparation, but Cebalo took a long time here.

(see diagram top of next column)

I would not even consider such an unprovoked loss of the bishop pair.

13 Bxf6

After 13. Bxf6

Rybka would take with the pawn, so that a later Bg4 can be met by ... f6 f5. I doubt that many GMs would do this, as it looks ridiculous, but Rybka is usually right.

14. Nd3 0-0 15. 0-0 b6 16. Rc1 Rc8 17. Bg4 Bxg4 18. Qxg4 Nb4 19. Nxb4 axb4 20. Ne4 Bg7 21. Qe2 e5 22. dxe5 Bxe5

So half my bishop pair has been traded away, but my bishop still looks a bit bet ter than the knight, while White has slightly better major pieces. The game is even.

This is slightly suspect, as it leaves a weak "e" pawn behind.

This is a serious error; now I can't expel the knight from d6 by ... Rcd8 due to Rxc6. Correct was 24. ... Qc7 with a slim edge for Black.

I have no idea why he retreated instead of playing the natural 26. e4 and 27. e5, with a plus. Now I'm again slightly better.

Rybka prefers 26. ... b5 directly.

This obvious move loses, due to allow ing Black a decisive rook invasion to the c3 square.

After 27. ... b5

The knight now gets trapped, but after the better 28. axb5 cxb5 29. Nd2 Rc3 White will surely lose a pawn or more with no counterplay, as a capture on c3 would be disastrous.

28 Bc3! 29. Qf3 Qc5 30. axb5 cxb5 31. f5 Qb6 32. f6 Qxa5 33. Qf4

He threatens 34. Rxc3 and 35. Qh6.

33. ... Qb6 34. Rd6 Be5! was a quicker and prettier win.

34. Rd5 Rc6 35. Rcd1 Bxf6 36. Rd7 Rb7 37. Qe4 Rxd7 38. Qe8+ Kg7 39. Rxd7

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