The recently concluded European Team Championship in Greece saw the traditional pre-event Russian team favourites only finish in 5th position. What can one say? Russia played very well and with a bit of luck could have easily won the event. Fate would have it that Germany pulled off one surprise after another and deservingly took the gold medal! Russia could only sit back and dream…
A lot of great chess was played in the event. Among one of the most interesting games was the final round encounter between Grischuk (Russia) and Lenic (Slovenia). Grischuk played his favourite Spanish Opening and soon built up an attacking position. However, what should have been a relatively clean win turned into a roller coaster ride as Grischuk allowed his clock to run into its last seconds before making some of his moves!
Taking the pawn on e4 is very risky, to say the least. After 9.Qe2 Black finds himself facing a number of pins and will have to play with great precision to avoid falling victim to any number of traps the position holds.
Black is better advised to complete his development, but even here he must exercise caution. For example, the game Chadaev vs Krylov from earlier this year in a Moscow tournament saw Black fall victim to a cunning trap:
8… Bg4!? 9. c3 Nxd5 10. Bxd5 Qd7 11. h3 Bxf3?! 12. Qxf3 O-O 13. Qg4!! (DIAGRAM,right) White wins material. Probably the most pragmatic thing to do now is to simply give up the exchange, but instead Black tried to hang on and in doing so jumped from the pan into the fire: 13… Qe8?! 14. d4! h5 15. Qg3 ed 16. Bh6! Qe5 17. f4! and Black goes down in flames
In the GRISCHUK vs LENIC game Black played much better in opening, concentrating on development, and achieved a reasonably solid position after 15 moves or so. Then he seemed to not quite find the right plan… and soon things began to look up for Grischuk after 17 moves of play:
WHITE TO PLAY
18. dc! Bxc5 ( necessary, as 18… dc is met with 19. Qxd8 Rfxd8 20. Ne5!)
Grischuk commented in an interview given on WhyChess?
”…at first he (Lenic) got a good position from the opening, then either he blundered, or didn’t blunder, but allowed 18.dxc5, after which he has to take on c5 with the bishop. The thing is that if 18…dxc5 19.Qxd8 Rfxd8 20.Ne5 the f7-pawn is lost, because the c5-pawn is pinned (there’s no c5-c4). After that I think I’ve got a big edge and Black’s position is very dangerous….”
It is interesting how the game develops from here on. Grischuk decided to play for a direct attack against the Black King with his pieces:
Also interesting is the preparatory 19. Rc3. Grischuk’s move allows for the White Queen to enter the right field of play, via either g4 or h5, depending on how Black plays. I think the Knight move is a very natural way for White to build up threats (Black has no real counterplay yet). I also want to point out that Nh4 is a very ‘human’ move: most computer engines put this move lower on the list of potential candidates!
However, we humans are taught very early on in the formative years of our chess playing about the importance of bringing in the Queen for the attack, even if one must put offside a piece or two in the process. We are also taught that the Knight manoeuvre to f5 can lead to big dividends…such concepts are difficult for a computer to grasp, let alone be programmed into one…
In the position above, simplifying with 19… Bxe3 20. Rxe3 Rxc1 21. Qxc1 d5 runs into some awkward problems after 22. e5! Qb6 23. Qd2 Rd8 24. Rd3! when Black finds himself having to assume the role of the defender.
INSTEAD, Lenic played more naturally:
19… Qb6!? 20. Rc3!
Now Black should probably seek some counter-play with 20…a5 (threatening a4). Instead, he wastes some time trying to get in …d5, which does not cause White any real problems in pursuing his attacking ambitions
20… Rcd8 21. Qh5
Mission completed! Black must now be very careful because a lot of firepower is being massed near his majesty….Black now tries to take the steam out of Grischuk’s ambitions:
A CRITICAL POSITION.
WHICH ROOK SHOULD TAKE THE BISHOP? THE ‘HUMAN’ 22.Rce3 or the ‘COMPUTER’ 22.Ree3 ?
GRISCHUK IS HUMAN AND SO YOU CAN GUESS HIS MOVE!
The natural move (should Black break later with …d5 the White Rooks will be doubled on the file!) but infact a slight inaccuracy that throws away a good part of White’s advantage.
Grischuk said in the interview above: ”… I got confused; I think I should have won more easily, but it didn’t work out.”.
It was around here that Grischuk started to eat a great deal of his time, and soon found himself in serious time trouble…
The correct idea is not to double his Rooks vertically, but horizontally! After 22. Rexe3! should Black play as in the game 22… d5!? 23. Rg3 Rfe8 24.Rcf3! (23… Kh8?? 24. Qe5; 23… de? 24. Qe5!) and Black is busted.
THIS GAVE LENIC A CHANCE TO RESIST:
22… d5! 23. Rg3 Kh8!
Having missed the earlier opportunity, White now finds it not so easy to make progress. If 24. Qe5 then 24…Ng6! 25. Nxg6 fg 26. ed Bxd5 and Black is fine. Grischuk found the best line but left himself with just seconds on the clock, desperately needing the 30 second increments to make time control.
24. ed Nxd5 25. Nf5
A very tricky position that never the less is better for White. After the clever 25… Qf6!? only 26. Re4! is the path. (26. Nxg7?! Nf4 27. Qf5 Qxf5 28. Nxf5 Rd2 gives considerable play for Black) 26… Bc8 (26… Rde8 27. Rxe8 Rxe8 28. Rxg7 Nf4 29. Qxf7) 27. Nxg7 Nf4 28. Qc5 with a clear advantage.
25… Nf4!? 26. Qg4
Threatening mate in 1 move. The only good move now is 26…g5!. Grischuk had this to say of …g5:” With a very sharp position.”
Sharp it is true, but White is comfortably on top: after 26… g5 27. h4! Nxg2 (what else?) 28. Rxg2 Bxg2 29. Kxg2 Rg8 (29… Rd2 30. Qf3) 30. h5 the 2 pieces are clearly better than the Rook. However, to be fair, it is still a tough fight…
HOWEVER, BLACK PLAYED WEAKER, GIVING GRISCHUK THE CHANCE TO WIN!
Here Grischuk can end the game with the pretty 27. Re6!! Qc7 (27… fe?! 28. Qxg6 Rg8 29. Nxg7) 28. Re7! Qb6 29. Bxf7 and it is all over… However, the Russian star had no time left to calculate accurately and he became confused:
GRISCHUK: ”I saw that move, but I didn’t understand a thing!”
27. Nh4?! Rd6?
Black misses his chance: After 27… Bc8! 28. Nxg6 fg 29. Qxg6 Qxf2 30. Kh2 Qf6 31. Qxf6 Rxf6 the worse is over for him!
HERE Grischuk waited until he had just 2 seconds left on his clock (!) before making the winning move
Grischuk: ”I’m embarrassed about what happened at this point. I ended up in some kind of inertia and it was only when I had 2 seconds left that I decided to play 28.Bxf7. Moreover, I did it with a somewhat awkward swing of my hand. I saw that I wouldn’t be in time to make a normal move so I had to knock over my opponent’s piece. I apologized to him both immediately and then after the game, and I’m ready to apologize again in the press. I really am embarrassed.”
Question: Ok, that was an exceptional circumstance. But when you’ve got 2-4 seconds remaining, what do you feel? A rush of adrenaline?
Grischuk: ”No, that’s absolutely normal. An everyday situation.”
Question: Trainers and fans rushed up from all sides…
Grischuk: ”Really? I don’t know as I don’t look to the side.”
The game ended quickly now with a direct attack against the Black King:
28… Rxf7 29. Nxg6 Kh7 30. Nf8 Kg8 31. Re8!
Black’s counterplay is an illusion. If now 31… Qc6 then 32. Qe2! Rxf8 33. Qe7 is curtains. So Lenic tried his last check: 31… Qxf2 32. Kh2 g5 33. Ne6 Kh7
Now the most accurate move is 34.Qh5 when Black can resign. Grischuk played 34.Nxg5 the second best move, which also leaves no doubt about the result. I invite the reader to see how the game concluded in the pgn-viewer below.