A GOOD coach is as vital in chess as in any other sport. For next month’s Istanbul Olympiad, Scotland had planned to have English GM Keith Arkell as our coach or, as chess jargon has it, non-playing captain. Sadly, Keith had to withdraw for personal reasons, but a rapid search by the team of friends and contacts found an excellent replacement in Lithuanian grandmaster Sarunas Sulskis.
A few months ago Sulskis visited Scotland and won the Prestwick Open. Now he will share his expertise with the national team. He is superbly qualified for the role, having been trained at the most famous chess school ever – the Botvinnik-Kasparov school. The two World Champions did not just lend their names to the institution, but instead played active teaching roles.
It is slightly curious that Scotland’s non-playing captain is a significantly stronger player than those of us who will actually be making the moves. The following recent game shows Sulskis’s creativity and flair, as he bamboozles his opponent from what appears a simple position.
White: S. Sulskis; Black: M. Schaefer. Opening: Sicilian Defence.
1 f4 Sulskis often uses unusual openings to force his opponents out of their pre-game preparation. 1...c5 2 e4 d5 The game has transposed to a more normal Sicilian Defence, but White immediately finds a way to reach an unexplored position. 3 Bb5+ Normal is 3 exd5. 3...Bd7 4 Bxd7+ Qxd7 5 d3 dxe4 6 dxe4 Qxd1+ 7 Kxd1 The exchange of queens seems to have killed all possible danger, but Sulskis shows that is not so. 7...Nf6 8 e5 Nd5 9 Nf3 Nc6 10 Ke2 f6 This threatens nothing, so 10...e6 was more productive. 11 Rd1 Nc7 12 Be3 e6 13 c4 Be7 14 Nc3 Rd8 15 Ne4 b6 16 Rxd8+ Nxd8? Black had to play 16...Kxd8 so that after 17 Rd1+ Kc8 the rook on h8 has a chance of joining the action. 17 Rd1 Nf7 18 Rd3 f5 19 Nd6+ Bxd6 Black has to allow a far-advanced passed pawn since 19...Kf8 would lose a pawn to 20 Nc8. 20 exd6 Na8 21 d7+ Ke7 At first the pawn on d7 looks more of a weakness than a strength, but White has prepared a devious trick. 22 Bf2! h6 23 Bh4+ g5 24 fxg5 hxg5 25 Nxg5! Nd6 After 25...Rxh4 26 Nxf7 the pawn would promote. Now h4 and d7 are both attacked, but Sulskis has one final punch. 26 Nf7+! Now 26...Rxh4 27 d8Q+ is hopeless and so is 26...Kxf7 27 Rxd6 so Black resigned.