By Manny Benitez
Giant-killer Vladimir Akopian of Armenia regained his fighting form after two losses to down another titan, ex-Dutch champion and world No. 16 Ivan Sokolov, in the fifth round of the Corus chess tournament on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
Playing White, Grandmaster (GM) Akopian, who beat world No. 2 Vladimir Kramnik of Russia in the opening round, won one of only two decisive games in the fifth.
Cellar-dwelling Jan Timman, an aging ex-Dutch champion, won the other duel, with Black against Moldovan super GM Viktor Bologan, last year’s Dortmund Classic champion.
But the win — his first yet — failed to lift Timman from the cellar as he had only 2.0 points, along with Zhang Zhong of China.
All the other four games, including those of the five leading superstars (Kramnik, Viswanathan Anand of India, Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria, Peter Leko of Hungary and Michael Adams of England), ended in draws, keeping the pecking order intact.
Akopian, who lost to Anand, drawn with Timman and lost to Topalov after his stunning win against Kramnik, played aggressively but accurately against Sokolov in a positional Ruy Lopez game.
Gaining a decisive positional edge with his pair of bishops trained on Black’s king, the Armenian soon had the former Dutch champion from Bosnia fighting for survival with his king trapped in a corner.
Here is how Akopian (White) forced Sokolov’s resignation:
Hoping for 31 fxg3 Qe3+!
31 d6! Qe2 32 Bxf7+ White is winning Kh8 33 Qb1 Ne4! Threatening 34…Qxf2+ 35 Kh1 Ng3#! 34 Qxe4! Qd1+ 35 Kh2 Bxd6+ 36 f4 Qd2+ 37 Kg3 1–0.
If 37…Bxf4+ (27…Qxb2?? 28 Q e8#!) 38 Qxf4 Qe1+ 39 Qf2 Qxf2+ 40 Kxf2 and wins.
In Mumbai, India, English superstar Nigel Short, India’s Praveen Thipsay and Kazakhstan’s Marat Dumaev caught up with Russian GMs Pavel Smirnin and Alexander Fomynih in the lead of the Commonwealth Chess Championships.
The five joint leaders had 5.0 points each after six rounds.
Thipsay surprised everyone with a stunning win against his compatriot, second-seed and reigning Asian champion Krishnan Sasikiran.
Short soon joined Thipsay with a crisp win against Russian GM Sergey Iskusnyh.