SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
The 26th edition of Cappelle (!) saw 562 players compete during the weeklong chess festival. Considered the 3rd most prestigious open chess tournament in the world each year (after Aeroflot and Gibraltar), a total of 82 grandmasters and 61 international masters participated.
57 countries were represented, including Canada (J.Hebert
). Montreal resident, and the highest rated player living in Canada these days, 17 year old grandmaster Anton Kovalyov
, also participated. Anton was born in the Ukraine but plays for Argentina.
GM Anton Kovalyov scored 6 points, losing to the tournament winner. He was one of the pre-tournament favourites.
But the surprise winner was another youngster from the Ukraine, Yaroslav Zherebukh (born 1993), who defeated veteran grandmaster Mikhail Gurevich in the decisive game of the tournament (analyzed below). It appears that the Ukraine continues to produce one star after the other….
Yaroslav Zherebukh scored 7.5 points
The decisive game of the tournament between veteran GM Misha Gurevich and Yaroslav Zherebukh
POSITION AFTER BLACK’S 7th MOVE (7…Be7!?)
An old move that has seen a rebirth in recent years! For decades Black’s main lines were either 7…cd4 or 7…Qb6. While neither choice is inferior, the text move leads to less analyzed play. Black’s key idea is to delay exchanging pawns in the centre until he has more development.
8. Qd2 O-O 9. Be2 a6 10. O-O Castling long walks into an attack 10… b5
Black plans to rapidly gain territory on the Queenside at White’s expense. One of the ideas that both sides have to watch out for is Black playing …b4 and …a5 and …Ba6, exchanging the dangerous White square Bishop. White’s next move anticipates this idea…
11. a3 !?
Praxis has shown that this is the best way to slow down the Black pawn offensive. Now …b4 is less effective because of 12.ab4 cb4 13.Na4! and White even has the better chances on the Q-side!
Karjakin opted for a somewhat less effective mixture of strategies against Carlsen at the recently completed Corus tournament: 11. Kh1 Qc7 12. a3 Bb7 13. Rad1 (diagram right) White develops all of his pieces before beginning anything active.
13… Rac8 14. Qe1 cd 15. Nxd4 Nxd4 16. Bxd4 Bc5 17. Qh4 Bxd4 18. Rxd4 f6! (diagram right)
It appears that underestimated this fine move.
19. Bd3 h6 20. ef Rxf6 21. f5 Rcf8 22. Rg1 Nc5 (diagram) and Black is better. White’s pieces find themselves on poor squares.
See complete game below in the pgn-viewer.
RETURNING TO THE GAME PLAYED:
11… Qc7 12. Nd1 !?
This Karpovian retreat has become the most popular (and successful!) idea for White in recent praxis. White transfers his Knight over to the Kingside (where he wants to attack with f5 at some point). However, this costs White some time and allows Black to react directly.
It should be mentioned that if White can now play c3 , reinforcing his centre, then Black will find it difficult to get much play. For instance, 12… f6!? 13. c3!? was seen in Vitiugov vs Lysyj ,2008, and can be seen in the pgn-viewer below. Or 12… Rb8 13. c3 a5 14. Bf2 b4 15. ab ab 16. Ne3 was tried in Alekseev vs Riazantsev, 2008. Both games White won and are instructive to play over.
FOR THIS REASON, GUREVICH (A LIFE-LONG ADEPT OF THE FRENCH) EXCHANGED IMMEDIATELY IN THE CENTRE:
12… cd 13. Nxd4 Bb7
Black’s ideas include playing a Rook to the c-file and the annoying …Nc5-e4. To counter-balance this, White wants to get in f5 at some near point and begin active play against the Black King. White’s next moves are therefore easy to understand
14. Nxc6!? Qxc6 15. Bd4
White defends his e-pawn and makes room for Ne3, supporting the advance of his f-pawn.
Looking at the diagram above, we can see that Black is quite ok. He might even be a bit ahead of White with respect to implementing his plan. He has a number of options to try to increase his play on the Queen-side. However, we must realize that while Black may be very comfortable on the Queen-side, he will have to play very accurately because White’s King-side play (once it gets going) will always be more dangerous: after all, Black’s King resides on that side of the board!
One reasonable plan for Black is now 15… Nc5 16. Ne3 Ne4 17. Qd3 Rfe8!?
Black’s last move is very Nimzovitchian, anticipating White’s f5 advance18. f5
(18. c3 is a serious option) 18… ef 19. Nxf5 Bc5
A sharp position, very sicilian-like
. Both sides have chances.
GUREVICH CHOSE A DIFFERENT PLAN, ALSO ADEQUATE:
15… a5 !?
Black does not want to touch his pawns on the King-side and prefers to immediately advance on the Queen-side (…b5 and …Ba6 at some point, exchanging the White square Bishop)
Taste is a funny thing. I have never been a big fan of the French defence (preferring the Sicilian) and so I would feel a bit uncomfortable with Gurevich’s plan here (even though it is excellent!). And I am certain that Gurevich (who never liked the Sicilian) would have felt uncomfortable with the sicilian-like plan mentioned above!
I suppose that is one of the appealing qualities of our noble game: we can have different opinions about the same position and still be correct!
Logical play up to now. Black should not play 16… g6 (trying to discourage f5) because 17. Ng4!. Likewise, …f5 would allow White to develop threats with g4, which also opens up the g-file for White.
16… b4 17. f5
A critical position. Both sides have crossed the Rubicon at the same time (16…b4 and 17.f5) Gurevich defends very calmly
Gurevich not just fights for control of the d4 square, but anticipates White’s f6. Playing …Ba6 can wait!
18. f6 Logical
Less effective is 18. Bg4?! ba 19. ba Ba6; or if instead 18. ab ab 19. Bg4 then 19…Rxa1 20. Rb1 Re8 and everything is in order in Black’s position.
18… gf Black anticipates sliding his King into the corner and playing …Rg8
Worse is 18… Qc7!? as after 19. fg Kxg7 20. Ng4 Bxd4 21. Qxd4 Qc5 22. Qxc5 Nxc5 23. Nf6 Rfc8 24. Rf4! White builds up strong pressure on the Kingside despite the Queen exchange.
19. ef Kh8 !
A double edged position has arisen, and one that is difficult to correctly evaluate. What is easier to understand is that one false mistake by Black will lead to disaster as the open position of the Black King as well as the White pawn on f6 can both lead to mating attacks.
But is White better in this position? Black has a number of important strategic trumps here: his center is stronger and about to get moving (…e5 and …d4); plus he can use the g-file to put pressure against the White King. As for White, his chances lay in moving his Knight to g4 and then possibly h6 or e5.
I consider the position roughly equal.
If now 20. Bxc5 Qxc5 21. Kh1 (threatening Ng4) 21… d4! 22. Ng4 Rg8 (diagram, right) Black has counterplay and it is not easy to see how White can make progress.
If then 23. ab ab 24. Rxa8 Bxa8 25. h3! Ne5 26. Rf4 Qd5! Black is not the least bit worse. His control of the centre limits White’s attacking chances.
And if White takes the time to prepare his Kingside attack Black will take the initiative: 20. Rf2 ba 21. ba Bxd4 22. Qxd4 e5 (diagram , right)
THEREFORE, WHITE DECIDED TO EXCHANGE ONE ROOK BEFORE PROCEEDING WITH HIS ATTACKING HOPES
20. ab ab 21. Rxa8 Rxa8
Ofcourse, taking back with the Bishop is possible, but Gurevich wants to keep the option of playing …Ba6.
22. Kh1 getting out of the pin along the a7-g1 diagonal
Note that 22. Bh5 would backfire after 22… Bxd4 23. Qxd4 e5!
22… Ba6 ?! Consistent, but not the best.
Black should have played to transpose into positions similar to a previous note: 22…Bxd4 23.Qxd4 Qc5! and if 24. Qd2 d4! 25.Ng4 Rg8!
Now White should play 23. Bxa6! Rxa6 24. h3!? (diagram) with advantage. If then 24… Ra2 25. c4! is very strong. And should Black try to get back into something similar to the previous note with 24…Ra8!? then White follows up strongly with 25. Bxc5 Qxc5. 26.Ng4 d4 27. Nh6 Rf8 and now 28.Rf5!! is winning.
Probably Black would have nothing better than 26….Qc4!?, limiting White to a small advantage.
23. Bxc5?! White throws away the advantage!
Now Gurevich must play 23… Bxe2! 24. Qxe2 Qxc5 25. Ng4 Qc4!
(diagram,right) when , if anyone is better, it is Black! Note the difference between this note and the last note (the White Queen was on d2)
23… Nxc5?! Returning the favour! Probably both players were short of time
Gurevich must have thought that the Knight would be strong on e4, for otherwise he would have left it on d7. Now White manages to develop an initiative. Black must play carefully now.
24. Ng4! This move is always part of White’s attack.
Now if Black takes the Bishop on e2, White will have the pleasant choice of either 25.Ne5 or 25.Nh6 before recapturing.
24… Ne4 25. Qh6
Forcing Black’s move. White has some chances here, but Gurevich should be able to hold with a calm and unhurried defence.
25… Rg8 26. Ne5! threatening mate in one move!
26… Qc7! Leaves the Bishop undefended on a6, but attacks the Knight on e5
Now 27. Nxf7 Qxf7 28. Bxa6 leads to nothing special after 28… Rg6 29. Qe3 Rxf6 regaining the pawn.
27. Qh5!? Defending the Knight and threatening f7
Now Black must play 27… Ng5! and if White proceeds 28. Nxf7 Nxf7 29. Bxa6 Qxc2 30. Qe2 Qxe2 31. Bxe2 Nd6 (diagram) we would have a very interesting ending that is probably quite drawable for Black.
INSTEAD, GUREVICH MUST HAVE EITHER THOUGH HE WAS NOW WINNING OR HE PANICKED AND DECIDED TO GIVE UP HIS QUEEN!
27… Bxe2?? 28. Nxf7! Qxf7 forced 29. Qxf7 Bxf1
At first sight Black seems to be doing well: he has three pieces for his Queen. But it only takes a few seconds to realize that the White pawn on f6 will regain a piece, leaving Black with only minimal material for his Queen.
30. g3! Simple and strong.
White threatens simply Qe7 and f7.
30…Bh3 31.Qf7 Ng5 Setting a clever trap! Do you see it?
Now if White rushes things with 32.f7?, Black draws after 32…Nxf7 33.Qxf7 Ra8! and the mating threats on the first rank (either on a1 or f1) leave White with nothing better than taking a perpetual check!
INSTEAD, Zherebukh calmly played 32. Kg1!! (getting the King out of the corner) , and maintaining the threat of f7. The rest is technique. I suggest the readers to play over the rest of the game with the pgn-viewer. It is still instructive to see how the Queen dominates.