SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
The annual Corus chess tournament is heating up. The leader, Alexy Shirov, has finally lost a game, and this was to the American star Nakamura. Fortunately for Alexy, the loss still keeps his first place secure! But now both Nakamura and a hot Carlsen (having won an easy point against Ivanchuk’s bad opening play) are just one half point behind.
The tournament is wide open, and anyone of the players in the top half can still walk away with first prize! An exciting tournament in every way. My money is still on Shirov!
Nakamura, Hi – Shirov, A
Shirov is an excellent psychologist, usually able to pick exactly the right opening against each player. He has a keen 6th sense of how his opponent is feeling and what he does or does not want to play. However, against Nakamura (who always just wants to play chess ), Shirov took a big risk playing a position where his opponent can just sit back and wait for him to do something…and in the end it was Shirov who over stepped.
Position after White’s 18th move (18.Be2)
This sharp postion, in my opinion, is quite satisfactory for Black. All of Black’s pieces are active and if he can get his centre pawns moving then he could have a great game. White’s position, on the other hand, is without weaknesses and therefore must be treated with respect.
Note that Black should not take the b-pawn with his Queen as White will develop a very strong attack (if not winning) by the simple Qxd6.
My choice for Black here is the centralizing: 18… Qc6!? (diagram right)
Black lines up his Queen on a critical diagonal and, if he can soon follow up with …Rg8, he will have very dangerous counterplay.
After the logical 19. Bf3 e4 20. Be2 O-O-O (diagram right) a hard fought game follows. Both sides have chances. If White then tries
21. g3 then Black simply plays …Nd3 .
I await to hear what the opening theoreticians have to say about this line!
The move Alexy played is also reasonable:
Undoubtedly Black wants to follow up with …Qc6 as in the last note. However, Nakamura stops this with a fine move
19. Bf3 !
Now Black has to be careful not to play 19… Bd3 as White gets the advantage after 20. Nd5!Here, in my opinion, Shirov must play 19… O-O-O!
and he has enough counterplay to keep the game balanced.
If now 20. Nd5 ( not 20. Qd2 d5 21. Rfd1 Be4!; or 20. g3 Kb8 21. Kh1 Nd3!) 20… Nxd5 21. Qxd5 (21. Bxd5 Qxb2) 21… Qxb2! (diagram, below right)
It is ofcourse very risky to take the b-pawn, but Black has no choice but to take it! The Black Bishop on g6 prevents Rb1, so White will not have any immediate knock out blow. And in the meantime Black will bring his Queen back and try to consolidate his King position.
It is possible that White has somewhat better chances, but Black is very much in the game.
Instead, Alexy lost control of the position and soon found himself in a clearly worse position:
19… Nh3 ?!
20. Kh1 Nxf2 21. Rxf2 Qxe3 22. Bxb7 Rb8 23. Re2 Qb6 24. Bd5 Rg7 25. Qd2 f5 26. Rf1 Kd7 27. b4 f4 28. a4 a5 29. b5 Rd8
Alexy is trying to sneak his King over the Queen-side, where White has no open lines for his pieces. But Nakamura plays a simple but brilliant pawn lever on the other side of the board….
30. g3 !
…that allows his Rooks to flood into the Black position , ending the game brilliantly some 10 moves later
And with this important victory, Nakamura keeps himself in running for first place!
“In fact,” Nakamura told reporters after the game, “Alexei picked the wrong opening. He’d probably done better trying 1. …e5.” Nakamura explained that Shirov ended up in a slightly worse position under time pressure. “All I had to do was make a few waiting moves,” the American said, “and see if he caved in.”