Opening theory may change a lot thru the years but there are some truths can never really be challenged. It has been known since the 1960’s that the Yugoslav line against the modern defence (or Pirc, depending on your book) is the strongest attacking line at White’s disposal.
Fischer, when he was younger, experimented with a number of attacking systems against the modern line , but once he discovered the Yugoslav line he stuck with it and scored a number of crushing wins with it. His games did much to popularize the variation. I personally have played this line from both sides of the board and I can tell you that one slip from Black and you not just lose, but you get crushed horribly!
This is what happened to GM Ivanchuk in his game yesterday against his compatriot GM Karjakin at the Kings tournament in Romania. Ivanchuk did not come to the game very well prepared…
Ivanchuk has elected to avoid the more popular idea of playing …c5 before castling. This has both plusses and minuses. I also prefer this continuation since it gives Black more winning chances statistically in the middlegame–but Black must first survive the opening!
6… Na6!? 7. O-O c5 8. d5 Nc7 (…Bg4! is better) 9. a4 b6?! 10. Qe1!
This is the problem for Black in this line: the manoeuvre of White’s Queen to h4 (followed by f5 and Bh6 or simply e5) is so natural (and strong) that if you play this line with Black you must really need to be prepared to play precisely.
If now 10… a6 11. Qh4 does very well in practice; OR if 10… Bg4 (a bit late here) 11. Qh4 Bxf3 12. Rxf3 a6 (12… e6 13. f5) 13. f5 and already Black is in trouble.
Therefore Ivanchuk decided to make a break in the centre:
10… e6!? 11. de fe 12. e5!
Karjakin does not miss a strong move when it is available. This move blocks the Black Bishop , prepares Ne4 and puts pressure on d6.
12… Nfd5 13. Ne4!
(Stronger than 13.Ng5 which was played once)
Again a very natural and strong move. My experience in this line is that it is very easy to play the White side: his good moves are also very strong. Perhaps Ivanchuk should not consider playing 13… Nxf4 14. Bxf4 Rxf4 15. Nxd6, even though his prospects are dim. In the game he simply gets crushed mercilessly
13… de 14. fe
Black has defended his d-pawn, but now the White Bishop will soon come to g5. Notice also that the exchange of pawns has opening the f-file: another plus for White.
14… Bb7!? 15. Bg5! Qd7 16. Qh4!
Remarkable: only 16 moves and White has a dream-like attacking position! How much has he sacrificed to obtain this? NOTHING! Score one more point for choosing the Yugoslav line!
16… Nb4!? 17. Rad1 !
Every single piece of White is optimally placed. The position is too much, even for a great defender like Ivanchuk. If now 17… Nxd3 18. Rxd3 Qc6 19. Nf6 is a winning attack as in the game.
But his speeds up Black’s loss. Better to take the Bishop on d3 first…
WHITE TO PLAY AND WIN!
18. Nf6 Bxf6 19. Bxg6!!
Karjakin deserves full credit for playing the entire game with great energy and precision. With the Black Queen over on the Queenside the King is defenceless.
19… hg 20. Bxf6 Rxf6 21. ef Rf8 22. Qg5
There is nothing Black can do to stop the attack. 22…Kf7 goes off to Ne5-ch; 22…Qe8 goes off to 23.Ne5 and 24.f7-ch; 22…Kh7 goes off to 23.Nh4! (also defending g2) 23…Rg8 24.f7.
While we can only admire this fine execution by Karjakin, we should be aware that this lesson did not come very cheap to the young Ukranian superstar. When he was much younger he also got taught a similar lesson by a relatively unknown master :Stets. Karjakin then also played the Modern and Stets played the sharp Yugoslav line.
Witness how the game developed and the pretty attacking method employed by White:
POSITION AFTER BLACK’S 18th MOVE:
Should White recapture the Knight on c3? Or can he try to take advantage of the fact that the Knight is presently pinned against the Black Queen and can not flee? Is there a way for White to take advantage of the fact that most of Black’s pieces are far away from the Black King?
Lasker advised the student of the game to search …a hundred times if necessary…and then some…Stets found a brilliant idea that allows White to win by direct attack:
A stunning move that rips open the Black King position. Black has little choice but to accept the gift: 19… Ne5 would fail after 20. Rxg7! Kxg7 21. Qh4! Qc7 22. Qh6 Kg8 23. Bxc3 e6 24. Bg4! and White just keeps on piling pressure.
When I spoke to Stets last year at the Figueira da Foz tournament (Portugal) about his game, he told me that he had spent 45 minutes before playing this move. He wanted to make sure that there was no escape for the young Karjakin.
19… Kxf7 20. Qe6 ch! Kf8
White is a Rook and a piece down and it is not obvious how to proceed with his attack; Black still has a number of minor pieces defending the Black monarch. The solution to White’s problem begins with a quiet move:
A difficult move to forsee, but no doubt Stets was guided by Lasker’s advice! White now creates threats of Bh5 and Bh6. Black must act quickly to prevent this. Giving up the Queen with 21… Nxe2 22. Bxa5 b6 does not stop White’s attack: 23. Rf1 Nf6 24. Bb4 c3 25. e5! etc
Once more the threats of Bh5 and Bh6 are in the air. If now 22… Rc7 then 23. Bh6! is curtains. Black’s only hope is to bring back the Black Queen via e8 to defend against the mate on f7:
23. Bh6 !
Stets plays with great energy and precision!
23… Bxh6 24. Bh5!
It is curious how White manages to get in both Bh6 and Bh5. Black’s next is also forced:
24… Qe8! 25. Qxh6ch Kg8 26. Bxe8
The Black Queen knew that returning to defend the Black King would mean certain death, but atleast an attacking piece perishes in the process…duty is duty! Unfortunately for Black, loyalty is not enough to save the Black monarch. White has only to find a way to bring in the White Rook to bring a logical end to this attack: if now 26… Rxe8 then 27. Qg6ch Kh8 28. Rf4! is curtains.
26… Ncxe4!? 27. Qg6ch Kh8 28. Rf4!
“Lies and hypocrisy do not survive for long on the chessboard. The creative combination lays bare the presumption of a lie, while the merciless fact, culminating in a checkmate, contradicts the hypocrite.” — Lasker’s Manual of Chess
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS