SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Well, Canada vs Bulgaria wasn’t the match of the day, nor was Mark Bluvshtein’s brilliant upset win over the Bulgarian superstar V.Topalov very much reported in the world chess press, but back home in the Canadian chess community it was BIG news! Congrats to Mark and to the rest of the Canadian team!
This is not the first time that Mark took off a ‘top-10’ player, having already crushed Alexi Shirov at the Canadian Open in 2005. With Mark it does not seem to matter much what colour he has, as long as he is in his ‘element’ and feels comfortable with his position. Today Mark was no doubt super-motivated, especially since he knew the significance of this encounter not just for himself, personally, but especially for the morale of the team. Bulgaria is one of the strongest teams in the world, but seems to be struggling to find its rythm in Khanty Mansiysk. Bulgaria very much needed to win today!
Topalov decided to play the King’s Indian , an opening that he knows quite well and shows that he was in a fighting mood. Mark played the h3 and Bg5 system (I call this the Suba-system, after the Romanian GM who did so much to popularize the line) that he tried out in Barcelonal last month. Topalov was no doubt aware of this game…
POSITION AFTER WHITE’S 10th MOVE (10.Be3)
In this position Kasparov once played 10…cxd5 11. cxd5 Nh5!? with interesting play. However, Topalov tried an idea that is played less frequently but has been scoring quite well: the immediate 10…Nh5!? Bluvshtein then played a new idea, taking on c6. I like this idea as it leaves Black with a number of pawn targets in his position (d6, h6). Play then proceeded normally….with both sides concentrating on development.
POSITION AFTER WHITE’S 16th MOVE (16.Rad1)
This is the first position that I saw when I connected to the Olympiad website to follow the Canadian games. My first impression is that this is not the kind of position Black would want to play against a strong GM: Black may have the 2 Bishops, but good moves for White are not hard to find and he has a number of ways of increasing the pressure against Black’s d-pawn. Essentially White is playing risk-free.
However, Topalov’s style of play does not preclude playing this kind of position. Topalov is known for his tactical ingenuity and rock solid nerves. He , more than any other active player in the world, is capable of walking a tight-rope and living to laugh about it later!
We will have to wait to see what Mark himself says about this position when he updates his excellent blog (http://www.markbluvshtein.wordpress.com/
) , but at first sight I would think that Black is ok. White has the initiative, but Black has resources.
For the next phase of the game both players brought into play their other pieces, reaching the following position below
POSITION AFTER WHITE’S 23rd MOVE (23.Rfd1)
Clearly the d-pawn is tied down, but it is hard for White to make any real progress, especially since the White Queen is awkwardly placed on e2. Had Black now played 23…Be6!? it would still be a tough struggle. Incredibly, Topalov now made what appears simply to be a miscalculation (23…Bf5?), allowing Mark the surprising and very strong 24.Nxd6!, which not just wins a pawn cleanly, but gives White a huge positional advantage. Topalov could find nothing better than give up his 2 Rooks for White’s Queen, but Mark’s pragmatic play never let Topalov off the hook. Topalov resigned on move 42.
(from Mark’s blog)
So how is Canada doing after 7 rounds? As we can see from the classification, Canada is presently in 36th position, a respectable result considering that Canada is ranked 53rd before the competition began. Tomorrow they will play against a relatively weak country, Mongolia. So far the Canadian team has performed more solidly than I would have expected, only losing 1 match in 7 rounds. However, the team has only won 3 matches, and one of them against a really weak team .
The Canadian team is composed of 5 players, one of which sits out each match. Olympiads are very tiring affairs and having an extra player being able to substitute when necessary is a big help.
Mark is doing very well on first board, having played all 7 matches so far. His performance (Rp) is actually better than given here since it also takes into account the rating of his weakest opponent, driving down his average. The same can probably be said of his team mates’ Rps.
Thomas Roussel-Roozman has impressed me with his play. With 5.5 points out of 7 games , Thomas has one of the best scores in the Olympiad! I heard that he might be in line for a GM-norm, but my advice to him would be to ignore it and play for the team! Thomas is already a GM-strength player in my book…
Of the remaining 3 players, it must be noted that Samsonkin is not playing enough and perhaps Gerzhoy is playing too much! I don’t want to second guess the team Captain, but to do well in a team competition you need to have confidence in every
member of the team. Especially, when someone loses 3 games in a row, it reflects badly on the Captain.
I think that some practical difficulties are awaiting the Canadian team in the final games: fatigue especially. You may be playing well, but you still need to remember that you are not a machine! Mark and Thomas will need a break at some point, and it is impossible to give them a day off at the same time. The same goes for Nikolay, who has played 6 games so far.
SOME COMBINATIONS FROM TODAY’S GAMES
The great thing about chess is that we can learn something from every game! Combinations and tactics are especially useful for keeping in shape and training. Here are 4 examples from today’s games. Some are prettier than others, but you can rest assure that each was VERY painful for the loser! Good luck!
POSITION AFTER WHITE’S 28th MOVE
GM CORRALES JIMENEZ
A wild, wild west shoot out ! White thinks he is attacking, Black thinks he is attacking…
BLACK TO PLAY AND WIN! AN ORIGINAL FINISHING STROKE!
________________________________________________________________POSITION AFTER BLACK’S 23rd MOVE:GM GHAEM (Iran)GM JAKOVENKO (Russia)
White obviously has attacking chances, but the direct 24.Qh6 allows Black to defend with 24…Qc5. How did White win the game in just a few moves?
__________________________________________________________________POSITION AFTER WHITE’S 27th MOVE:
document.getElementById(“cwvpd_1285723775”).value=document.getElementById(“cwvpg_1285723775”).innerHTML;document.getElementById(“cwvfm_1285723775”).submit(); GM BU (CHINA)ANNABERDIEV
Another one of those wild, wild west shoot-outs! How does Black finish the game in great Morphy style?BLACK TO PLAY AND WIN!
___________________________________________________________POSITION AFTER BLACK’S 18th MOVE:GM PERALTA (Argentina)
GM HILLARP PERSSON (SWEDEN)
It is not Black’s day! Already suffering from a lag in development, Peralta quickly played 18…Bd7, planning Rd8 with a solid looking position. However, Black’s last move is a fatale blunder! Do you see it?
White played the surprising (and winning!) 19.a4!, and after some thought Peralta threw in the towel. What he had overlooked is that after 19…Qxa4 (forced) White has the clever manoeuvre 20.Ra1! Qb5(what else?) 21.Ra5!! (Peralta overlooked this!). Black must then lose his Bishop on d7.
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS