John Henderson
By John Henderson

All sports have a hall of fame; the idea being to celebrate and highlight the achievements of the all-time top talents to grace the game, and rightly be remembered by a newer generation long after their careers have ended. Members of the halls of fame are chosen for their impact on their particular sport and have included players, authors, journalists, scholars, organizers and supporters of the game. And chess is no different here.

This week, the World and U.S. Chess Halls of Fame announced a new round of inductees that will see five exceptional contributors to the game – both playing and at organisational-level – of chess enter the hallowed halls in a ceremony to be held on Tuesday, April 17, at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, ahead of the opening ceremony that will kick-off the 2018 U.S. Championships also in Saint Louis.

Representatives of Fide, the game’s world governing body, nominated and selected Aron Nimzowitsch, founder of the hypermodern chess movement; Kira  Zvorykina, three-time winner of the Soviet Women’s Chess Champion and Women’s World Chess Championship challenger; and Richard Réti, renowned endgame composer, writer and GM for induction into the 2018 World Chess Hall of Fame.

The trustees of the U.S. Chess Trust have selected Alex Onischuk, former U.S. Chess Champion (2006) and head coach and director of the nationally-recognized Texas Tech University chess team, and Bill Goichberg, chess innovator and pioneer of scholastic chess tournaments, for induction into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame.

“The 2018 inductees to the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame represent distinctly different eras and areas of focus in furthering the game in the United States—Onischuk as both a player and coach, and Goichberg through his influence on tournament play,” said Harold Winston, U.S. Chess Trust Chairman.

All are indeed worthy inductees, and rightly should be recognized – but it was particularly nice to see Alex Onischuk included on the list this year. He’s played in every U.S. Championship since 2004, with his one and only U.S. Championship title coming in 2006 in San Diego, and that being the final U.S. Championship organized and sponsored by America’s Foundation for Chess.

Photo: GM Alex Onischuk | © Lennart Ootes (WCHOF)

 

 

GM Sergey Kudrin – GM Alex Onischuk
2006 U.S. Championship, (6)
Two Knight’s Defence
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d3 This slower option, which normally takes the appearance and characteristics of a Ruy Lopez, is preferred by many players over the very wild complications that can arise in the Two Knight’s Defence after 4.Ng5; the most famous key game being the 1965 World Correspondence Championship encounter Estrin-Berliner. 4…Be7 5.0-0 0-0 6.Bb3 d6 7.c3 Na5 8.Bc2 c5 9.Re1 Re8 10.d4 exd4 11.cxd4 Bg4 12.d5 Nd7 13.Nbd2 Bf6 14.Rb1 b5 15.h3 Bxf3 16.Nxf3 Nc4 Black has managed to get a good Chigorin-like Lopez position – but there’s nothing much in the position, and White’s position becomes all the easier the more pieces that are exchanged. 17.Bd3 Rb8 18.a4 a6 19.axb5 axb5 20.Qe2 Qa5 21.Bxc4 bxc4 22.Bf4 White can’t grab the pawn, as after 22.Qxc4 Ne5! 23.Qe2 Nxf3+ 24.gxf3 Rb3! Black’s pieces are very active, and the pressure on the b-pawn will be too much for it to be defended. 22…Be5 23.Bxe5 Nxe5 24.Nxe5 Rxe5 25.Qxc4 f5 We basically have here an equal ending that should just be a draw – but at the critical moment, Kudrin errs to allow Onischuk to seize his big chance. 26.Qc3 Qxc3 27.bxc3 Rxb1 28.Rxb1 Rxe4 29.Kf1? Calamity! I don’t know what a player of Sergey Kudrin’s talent and vast experience was doing playing this move – a move so bad that, when I saw it firsthand in the playing hall TV monitor, I simply thought it was a relay error. In a rook and pawn ending, the key to success (either winning or, more likely or not, drawing) is to activate your rook – and here, Kudrin had to play 29.Rb6! where after 29…Rc4 30.Rxd6 Rxc3 31.Rc6 the game should end peacefully in a draw. 29…Kf7! The hesitation from Kudrin allows Onischuk to seize his big chance, as his king comes over to protect the d6-pawn. And from here, Onsichuk gives a masterclass in rook and pawn endings, converting it for a crucial win that helped his cause in winning the 2006 US Championship title. 30.Rb7+ Kf6 31.Rd7 Ke5! [see diagram] Black’s kingside pawns are irrelevant here. With White’s king cut off from crossing to the queenside, Black will soon be playing …Kxd5, gang up on c3, and then push home the passed d- and c-pawns with mating threats. 32.Rxg7 Kxd5 33.Rxh7 Rc4 34.Rh5 Rxc3 35.Rxf5+ Ke4 Despite being a pawn down, Onischuk has a won ending with his active rook, king and passed c- and d-pawns creating a mating net. 36.Rf6 d5 37.h4 Kudrin’s only hope is to try to push his h-pawn – but Onischuk has the ace up his sleeve of a mating net with his active pieces. 37…d4 38.h5 d3 39.Ke1 Rc1+ 40.Kd2 Rc2+ 41.Kd1 c4 42.h6 c3 43.Re6+ Kd5 44.Re5+ It’s the last roll of the dice for Kudrin, hoping for 44…Kxe5 allowing the h-pawn to pass with check to save the game. But Onischuk has it all worked out. 44…Kc4 45.Re4+ Kb3 46.Re3 Rd2+ 0-1 And White resigned, not wishing to play out either: 47.Ke1 (The alternative quickly falls into a mate: 47.Kc1 Ra2 48.Kb1 c2+ 49.Kc1 Ra1+ 50.Kd2 Rd1#) 47…Kc2 48.f4 Rxg2 49.Kf1 Rh2 easily winning as the h-pawn falls.

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