SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
I have found a new pgn-viewer for this blog ( courtesy of http://www.caissa.com/
) that I think is a bit more sophisticated than the chessflash viewer that I had been using for the past year. I hope that my readers will find this a move in the positive direction!
As the summer quickly approaches, the number of tournaments seems to increase exponentially. Summer-time tradition, I suppose! Is there a logical reason to explain why most tournaments take place in the summer? In anycase, it is hard to keep up with everything–the ‘net can sometimes be so annoyingly immediate(!)…today I pick at random a number of games/positions from tournaments taking place right now that have caught my interest. There is something to be learned from every leaf that is turned…
The fourth Kings Tournament takes place in Medias, Romania from June 14 till 25. Once more it is a 6-player, double round-robin, with two rest days. This year Carlsen, Gelfand, Nisipeanu, Ponomariov, Radjabov and Wang Yue play. The rate of play is 2 hours for the first 40 moves, one hour for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes plus an increment of 30 seconds per move.
Only a few rounds have taken place as of this writing, and world number one rated player Carlsen has yet to win a game. Infact, he has even bit a bit lucky to have made 3 draws so far…The quality of play has been mixed thus far. Even so, most of the games have ended in draws.
Round 3 saw Ponomariov (as White) matched against Radjabov.
This opening was interesting both from a pyschological point of view as well as a sporting point of view. Everyone knows that Radjabov is a big King’s Indian Defence player and so when Ponomariov opened with 1.d4 there was no one who doubted that we would see this defence. The only question was what particular
variation Ponomariov would choose. He chose the Saemisch .
In Radjabov’s games we have always seen counter-attack lines based on …c5 (the most popular lines today). Infact, the few times that Ponomariov has himself played the Black side of this position he had always played the …c5 lines!
The …c5 lines are so popular these days because the …e5 lines–which had been very popular between the 1950’s and 1980’s– had been studied very thoroughly and they were found wanting: Black was suffering and scoring miserably. My own games can testify to this!
Anyway, the curious thing is that Radjabov decided to avoid Ponomariov’s pre-game preparation (which was no doubt focused on the expected…c5 lines) and instead risked playing the older …e5 lines. Radjabov–like any true King’s Indian player–is not averse to gambling and taking a chance in one game that his opponent will be surprised and caught unprepared. Sure enough, this is what happened!
POSITION AFTER BLACK’S 11th MOVE
This position (most often seen with the Black pawn on h7 instead of h6) was quite popular for a while until Karpov showed the correct plan:
12.g4! h5 13.g5! Nh7 (sometimes …Ne8 is seen, with similar results) 14. Rg1! (Diagram,right) Now since any …f6 will lead to serious problems of how to defend the g-pawn, Black has to find counter-play on the Queen-side. But praxis has shown that White has the advantage on the Queen-side! Practical results have been miserable for Black and most Kings Indian players have given up on this line. White has been scoring between 65% and 80% here!
However, here is where Radjabov’s gamble paid off: Ponomariov did not know this! Instead he played the sedate 12.Nc1
and Black got a reasonable game without any trouble, giving him about equal chances. And in the end, after Ponomariov made several imprecisions, Black even succeeded in winning the game.
And this raises some interesting observations about the differences between how the young generation today prepares their openings compared to how the opening was prepared before the advent of computer databases. Ponomariov must have been well prepared for the exact variation that Radjabov usually always plays, but clearly he was not prepared for a theoretical fight in the Saemisch, in general.
Databases: handle with care!
In my days, when I was at the age of Ponomariov, if a grandmaster wanted to play the Saemisch (for example), then he would do his homework BEFORE the tournament and learn all of the principal lines of this opening, and especially be well versed in its history. Finally, at a tournament, he would do some pre-game preparation against the specific, favourite line of his adversary.
Then,should his opponent try to surprise him by playing a different line, the grandmaster would not be caught surprised for very long! Infact, playing an inferior line would back-fire very quickly since the grandmaster had already studied it at home!
Today, however, the modern player relies so much on computer databases that he has reduced the amount of deep opening study that he does at home before a tournament. Almost all of his opening preparation is done in the pre-game stage, against one particular line (the favourite line of his next opponent).
Could it be that today’s younger generation of masters is not as well prepared in the opening as he would like to think he is?
This reminds me of a story of the trainer who tried to convince his student to study the games of Alekhine. The student resisted for a long time and finally the trainer sat down with him and asked why he thought he would not gain anything from studying the games of such a great champion as Alekhine. The student replied that he saw little point in playing over Alekhine’s games because… he was never going to play Alekhine in a tournament!
This year’s Dutch championship, taking place in Eindhoven from June 11 to June 20, 2010, promises to be an intriguing one to say the least, with several players vying for the claim to best Dutch player. At the top of the list is Jan Smeets, 2008 Dutch champion, and top-rated at 2659, followed very closely by six-time champion, Van Wely. I recommend the reader to visit the link given above …it has a wealth of interesting videos, photos and other stuff.
The number one Dutch start, GM Van Wely, has had a bad start.with 4 draws and 1 loss in the first 5 games! Perhaps he is not motivated enough? Or maybe he is not used to being probed like he is in this tournament?
In one of the rounds an experiment was conducted on Van Wely, to test his vitals during a game of chess. Perhaps if the researcher was not so pretty he would have not been so cooperative….
POSITION AFTER WHITE’S 13th MOVE (13.Be2)
In round 4 Van Wely’s game established some sort of world record (!), unlikely to ever being beaten. His young opponent, Bok, who with some luck had qualified for the championship, sacrificed a pawn in the opening (it is a known sacrifice) to reach an unclear and messy position. The Black Queen has little space to move in, but fortunately can not be trapped. If White wants he has a perpetual against the Black lady (Be2-d3-e2 etc), but one would think that an ambitious youngster like Bok would try for more and build up some pressure on the Queen-side.
But no…infact, all Bok wanted to do was make a draw with his famous opponent. So he repeated moves, Van Wely repeated moves…and did so 13 times!! Yes, that is right! The rules say that if the position is repeated 3 times a draw can be claimed…but on this day, bizarrely,both players seemed quite content to merely repeat the position until one of them got tired (or bored)…
This is what Van Wely said after the game (that ended in a draw on the 37–with the same position as on the 13th move:
“It made me very angry because I understood that he (Bok) had gone for a draw from the start. As a wildcard he should play sharp and gain experience; instead he goes straight for the draw like an idiot.”
Afterwards Bok said that he offered van Wely the draw twice, but his opponent simply didn’t accept it. For those of my readers with courage, here is the game to re-play:
GM Wouter Spoelman, born 1990, with 50% after 5 rounds is responsible for Van Wely’s only loss so far.
POSITION AFTER BLACK’S 20th MOVE
In this complicated position Van Wely overestimated his chances, or perhaps he simply overlooked his opponent’s next move.
He should play 21. Bc3! and make a draw: after 21… Qxd3 22. Qxf6 ef 23. Kh1 Diagram,right 23… Kf8 24. Qh8 Ke7 25. Qf6 Kf8 26. Qh8 with a repetition.
INSTEAD, VAN WELY PLAYED 21.Qe3?? WHERE UPON FOLLOWED 1… Ng5!!
All of a sudden it must have dawned on the 6-time Dutch champion that his Queen had no good move!
Play continued 22. Rd1!? but after 22… Rxe3 23. Bxe3 Ne6 24. Bxh7 Kxh7 25. Rxd8 Rxd8
With White’s Q-side pawns weak, Black has an elementary win. White struggled on until move 33.
Here are two videos , courtesy of the official website of the championship, that the reader might find interesting even if he does not speak dutch!
The 45th (!) Capablanca Memorial is taking place in Havana as I write ( 9th-22nd June 2010). In total there are 2 strong tournaments as well as an open. The Elite Group sees Vassily Ivanchuk, who won the event three times in a row 2005-7, back alongside Evgeny Alekseev, Ian Nepomniatchi, Nigel Short and Leinier Dominguez and Lazaro Bruzon. At present Ivanchuk seems well on his way to to securing his 4th consecutive victory!
There are many very interesting games in these tournaments, and I hope to analyze several of them in depth on this blog later this month. For now, just a few short snapshots from the open…
POSITION AFTER WHITE’S 21st MOVE (21.Rd1)
BLACK TO PLAY AND LOSE!
Black has a good position, his pieces are all active and White has no threats. He should now consider doubling on the c-file (21…Rc7), improving his position and awaiting further developments. Instead, he halucinated–thought he saw a brilliant win– and resigned the very next move!!
Black thought that if White takes the Rook then 22…Ng4! would win the Queen (23.PxN QxQ). But as White was pondering his move, Black realized that he had just blundered and resigned immediately!
Black had overlooked that after 22…Ng4 White has 23.Qc7 defending mate! If then 23…Rd6 (what else?) simply 24.PxN leaves White a Rook and a Bishop up with the better position!
POSITION AFTER WHITE’S 19th MOVE (19.Rd2)
Black has a good game. His counter-attack is way ahead of White’s initiative against the Black King. With White’s Knight sleeping on b1 and with every one of Black’s pieces in play, Black finds a tactical solution and forces a pretty break-thru.
This forcing move opens up the long diagonal. White’s play is now forced…
20. Qxe4 Qa1!
Threatening to take on b2, then take the Knight with check and finally take the White Rook on h1. White’s next move is virtually forced
21. g3!? d5 !
One shot after the other! Now the White Queen has nothing better than to retreat and defend the White Rook on h1
22. Qg2 Rxc2 !
Ouch! Now if White takes the Rook Black wins the house starting with …Qxb2 ch. White resigns. Very pretty!
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS