By FM Craig Mar

The Masters Tournament, nicknamed the Linklater Memorial, ended with Izumikawa and Cartagena tying for 1st with 4.5 out of 6. This author finished at 3.5 while Silman finished with 2.5. Let me confess several things; before the game I intended to beat Jeremy, especially because I had White and because I thought he had lost a bit of his strength, due to being older, taking up the writing profession, and his marriage, which are all distractions. Our game almost ended up in a fistfight, and the story somehow got onto the Net! The true story later!

For psychological reasons, I selected a double-edged line where one of us had to die. I castled Q-side, and Jeremy castled K-side, and a fight was in store. The nature of the game mirrored how badly I sought a battle, to avoid what I thought was Silman's greatest strength; quiet positions with positional advantage. Silman's time trouble hastened his position's collapse, as he lost on time.

But inadvertently, I had awakened the "bear" in Jeremy. I had reawakened his passion for the game which had made him a great player at one time. After a terrible start, Silman crushed the tournament leader Cartagena and finished well.

Date: 1/14/96
Linklater Memorial (SF)
White: C. Mar (2471) Black: J. Silman (2490)

1 d4 d6

2 c4 e5

3 Nf3!

For psychological reasons, the Queen trade would be inferior, as too much tension leaves the board.

3 ... e4

4 Nd2 f5

5 e3 Nf6

6 Nc3 g6

7 Be2 Bg7

8 h3!?

Pure bluff, "threatening" 9 g4, but Silm an doesn't care.

8 ... 0-0!

Black isn't afraid of ghosts.

9 Qc2 c5

10 d5 Nbd7

I also liked 10 ... Na6 with the idea of Nc7 and b5.

11 b3 Ne5

12 Bb2 Qe7

13 0-0-0 Bd7

14 Rde1

White played quickly to avoid time pressure.

14 ... Rae8

15 f4!?

White is already a little worse, but I thought this would liven things up a bit. Your opponent may be aware of many different things during the game; of your confidence, your respect of him, and how badly you want to win. I felt a strong passion to beat Silman here, and perhaps he felt I wasn't showing him enough respect. But times change; I remember how strong Silman was about 15 years ago when he beat me in San Jose, and used that game in one of his books!

15 ... exf3

Black must respond in this manner, else a later g4 break will be strong.

16 gxf3 Nf7

17 Bd3 f4!?

The fork in the road. Silman, as always, looked confident. 17 ... Nh5 would lead to a black edge also. The text leads to a pitched battle.

18 exf4!

I mulled this decision over for a long time. Bad is the obvious 18 e4? Which closes all lines to the King-side.

18 ... Qxe1ch

19 Rxe1 Rxe1ch

20 Nd1

Who's better? Black seems to be better with his 2 rooks vs. Queen, but appearances can be deceiving.

20 ... Bxh3?

Overoptimistic, better was the simple retreat 20 ... Re7, avoiding complications. Now, I sensed a chance to gain an advantage.

21 Bxf6!?

A radical solution, but logical. The natural move was Ne4 but the master almost instinctively rejects "obvious" moves.

21 ... Bxf3

22 Ne4 Bd4

Forced. On 22 ... Bg7 23 Qh2 and 24 Kd2 puts the rook in peril.

23 Qh2 Bf1?

This second lemon, puts Black in danger.

24 Bc2

Keeps it complicated.

24 ... Re2

25 Qh4!

A nice little dual purpose invasion, eyeing Black's King yet affecting white's half of the board.

25 ... Rg2

26 Ndf2

At this point, I had about a half hour left, to Silman's 10 minutes.

26 ... Kg7

27 f5!

A good psychological time to strike, as time pressure approaches.

27 ... gf

28 Ng3

Played quickly, for psychological value. With the initiative, complications, and the clock in my favor, White is better.

28 ... Ne5

29 Qe7ch

"When I check, I fear no one!"

29 ... Kg8

Another important decision, should White capture on f5 with his knight or bishop? Both moves look good.

30 Nxf5

I aggressively captured the pawn making a clicking sound which deeply bothered Silman, which I learned later. It was passion, not some intent to humiliate him. This was exactly the type of game I was aiming for, a little wild and complicated.

The time situation got worse, Silman had about 3 minutes left, while I had about 10 left.

30 ... Rf7

Not bad, considering the time situation.

31 Nh6ch

White cannot resist the material.

31 ... Kg7

32 Nxf7 Nxf7 33 Ne4 Be3ch

34 Kb2? Bd4ch

In severe time trouble, Silman misses 34 ... Bd3! Winning a piece.

35 Ka3!

I spent about a minute on this move, to see it he could protect the N on f7. Now if 35 ... Rxc2 36 Nxd6! and there's no way to guard the N.

35 ... Rg6

Silman used about 30 seconds of the 1 minute he had left to find this clumsy defensive try.

36 Nd2

Played quickly.

36 ... Rg1

Also played very quickly. The time scramble is on!

37 Bf5

I found this strong move with about 2-3 minutes left on my clock.

37 ... Bf6

Now comes the move which helped start the fight. To add insult to injury, I now descended upon the pawn on b7 with the might of Thor, and captured it with an audible 'crack' sound. I was so excited that I couldn't help myself.

38 Qxb7! 1-0 (time)

At this point Silman thought for about 20 seconds and said very quietly, "My flag is down."

My next comment really started the fight, and yet was heard only by 2 people, me and Silman. I said, "Does it matter?"

Silman got up, his face turned red, and he said, "You don't slam the pieces, you didn't keep score when you had more than 5 minutes. That's like a slap in the face, you don't do that."

I got up, so did the TD Mike Goodall, and we both tried to calm him down, but the verbal assault continued, "...you jerk, you idiot, you are such a jerk."

Silman knocked the pieces off the board and stormed out of the room.

And that's what really happened at the "Greatest Chess Fights of '96."

Copyright 5/10/96 Craig Mar (Printed with Craig Mar's permission - KHL)

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