SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Toronto GM Mark Bluvshtein faced the strong Russian GM Alexander Riazantsev
in the first round with the Black pieces. Not an easy task by any means, especially as Riazantsev has been showing signs of improving in recent times.
Alex, born in 1985, is no stranger to Portuguese players, having played for several years in the 1st Division Team Championship. We played on the same team Diana (Evora) when we won the championship in 2008. Riazantsev is a serious student of the game and has been working very hard to crack into the 2700 club.
POSITION AFTER WHITE’S 19th MOVE (19.a5):
A super sharp line of the Queens Gambit Accepted (QGA) with opposite side castling, clearly indicating the ambitions of both grandmasters. The question is whether Black has enough compensation for White’s bishop-pair. In my assessment of the position, Black must not under any circumstances break his blockade of the d-pawn.
I think that 19…a6!, stopping White’s Queenside expansion, would keep the game unbalanced. If then 20. Na4 !? then the active 20…Rg4! 21.Nc5 Qd6 would be correct. With the possibility of counter attack with …Nc6 in the air, Black would very much be in the fight.
INSTEAD, Mark chose a different plan (and weaker ), involving surrendering his blockade on d5.
19…Nxc3 (?!) 20.bxc3 Be4 21.Re1 Bd5 22. Rb1 Nf5
I think that the Toronto GM misjudged his chances here. White has all the positional assets in the position: stronger centre; bishop-pair. And in positions with opposite side castling , the initiative is often a decisive factor. Riazanstev did not need to be asked twice:
23.c4! Bc6 24.d5!
Black is busted and Riazantsev went 1-0 in 38 moves.
Alberta’s Eric Hansen must have had no illusions about what he was facing as he sat down to play super-GM Gashimov
in his first appearance at a world class knock out championship. One of the lowest rated players in Khanty Mansiysk (FIDE rated 2449), the 19-year old Canadian is there to learn, gain valuable experience and to have fun at the same time.
His game today was a chaotic affair where both players sought complications right from the start:
Gashimov, a big fan of the super-sharp Benoni Defence, has just played 11…g5, allowing his Knight on e5 to set root. The negative side is that he weakens his Kingside. However, all Benoni players feel that the plusses outweigh the down side. In praxis , they are right most of the time…
A few moves later Eric decided to castle Kingside:
Gashimov has just played 16…g4, provoking a clash. Objectively, White stands better after the straight forward 17.hxg4 N(f)xg4 18.Nf5! BxN 19.exf5 Re8 (19..Qh4 20.Bf4!) 20.g3. However, Hansen must have felt he would come out on top with the brave 17.Rae1!? gxh3 18.f4!
In the hair raising complications that ensued the struggle seemed to be balanced, and had Hansen played 27.Bf2 he might have held Gashimov’s initiative at bay.
POSITION AFTER 26 MOVES:
Eric played the very imprecise 27.Kh2 and lost in 42 moves.
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS