Snapshots of the 2009 World Junior
This prestigious annual world championship has a long and colourful history dating back more than half a century (1951). The names of the participants of this championship would make a ”who’s who” list of modern world chess. With the exception of Bobby Fischer, I can think of no other big name who never participated in a World Junior. Anatoli Karpov, Garri Kasparov and Vishy Anand won this championship when their respective turn came. As did Boris Spassky, and all went on to win the World Championship later in their adult years!
This year’s event took place in Puerto Madryn, Province of Chubut, in southern Argentina, between the 21st of October (first game October 22) and the 4th of November. In total, 52 different countries were represented, including the tradtional powerhouses Russia, India, China, USA, Israel, France and the Ukraine. No Canadian participation, however, as has been the sad case for the past number of years.
And the winners are …
Sergei Zhigalko, Max Vachier-Lagrave and Michal Olszewski
Max Vachier-Lagrave (FRA) and Sergie Zhigalko (BLR) stormed ahead of the field and finished tied for first with 10.5 points. The Frenchman won the title of World Junior Champion on tiebreak (congrats!) and in third place was the Pole Michale Olszewski with 9 points.
In the top 20 finishers, only one player was less than 2500!
The championship was extremely difficult this year. Zhigalko was in the lead for most of the event , including going into the final round, but he could only draw in the last round whereas Vachier-Lagrave managed to win, allowing him to catch up in overall points.
I have never liked tie-break schemes–mathematical formulas should not replace hand to hand combat in my opinion– and so I will limit myself to making the observation that both Zhigalko and Vachier-Lagrande deserved to tie for first place!
In the case of the Frenchman, who declined participating on the French National Team participating in the European Team Championship that took place in Novi Sad at the same time so that he could play in Argentina, this world title brings one more laurel to an already brilliant career!Undoubtedly we will hear much more in the future from both young champions!
Three-way tie for first: Deysi Cori Tello, Swaminathan Soumya and Betul Cemre Yildiz
Soumya and Vachier-Lagrave together for the gold medal picture
One of the most anticipated match-ups was between the English grandmaster David Howell (18 years old and with an elo of 2624) and the French grandmaster Max Vachier-Lagrave (19 years old and with an elo of 2718 (!)). This game was critical in deciding the final places.
What better way to show how much the chess world has changed since my times as a junior than by saying that both teenagers already have their own WIKIPEDIA entries!
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nd4!?
This appears to be new. Known are 7… Ne7 (8. Bg5!), 7… c6 (8. Qh5!) and 7… Nf6.8. Bg5 h6 9. Bh4 g5 10. Bg3 Bg4 11. f3 Be6 12. Bxe6 fxe6 13. f4! with an attacking position for White. In as much as Black soon finds himself with an inferior position, we might conclude that Howell’s opening surprise was a bluff…
8. f4 Nf6 9. f5!?
A surprising and committal move! I suppose that Vachier-Lagrave wanted to stop …Ng4 and …Ne3.
9…Nd7?! [9… h6!] Black wants to put this Knight on d7, but it costs time
Two photos taken of the same position. ”What is Max thinking of?”
10. Qh5! The sharpest continuation. 10… Ne5 11. Bg5 Qf8 12. Nd2
Something has gone very wrong with Black’s opening. White is fully developed and Black’s position looks so dismal. At this point Black must find a safe haven for his King. Howell comes up with a real shocker!
12… Kd7!!?? A courageous decision! The King wants to move to c7.
Black reckons that after …c6 and …Kc7 his King will be ok. He can also play …f6 defending e5.
13. Be6!? Kc6! Ofcourse Black can not take the Bishop!
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave can hardly believe his eyes! Staring at Black’s exposed King on c6, he soon comes to realize that there is no direct refuation! He now decides to repeat the position several times so as to demonstrate who is boss…
14. Bd5 Kd7 15. Be6 Kc6
David Howell stares at his opponent. ”Will he take a three fold repetition?”
16. Bd5 Kd7 17. f6! The Frenchman has regained his balance and finds the weakness in Black’s position.
White forces a weakening in the Black position. If instead 17. Bf4 then Black would play 17…f6 fortifying the Knight on e5. The next few moves are all logical…
17… g6 18. Qh3 Kd8 19. Qg3 c6 20. Bb3 Kc7
So Black has succeeded in achieving his goal: his King is safe, atleast for the time being. But now White increases the pressure on Black’s insecure centre.
21. Bf4! Qe8 22. Bxe5! Qxe5 23. Qxe5 dxe5 24. Nf3 Bd6 25. Ng5
The Frenchman has played excellently and now wins a pawn. Faced with a difficult position, Howell finds an ingenius manoeuvre with his King that makes it difficult for Vachier-Lagrave to win.
25… Be6! 26. Nxe6 fxe6 27. Bxe6 a5 28. a4 Bf8 29. Rf3 Kd6! 30. Bb3 Kc5 31. c3 Bh6 32. cxd4 Kxd4! 33. Kf1
The active position of the Black King as well as the presence of opposite coloured Bishops makes it difficult for White to make progress. Vachier-Lagrave limits himself to slowly improve his position, bringing his King into the centre before deciding on further action.
33… Ra6! 34. Bc4 Rb6 35. b3 Rb4 36. Ke2 b5 !
Howell refuses to sit still and just wait for his opponent to beat him! With nothing to lose, Black takes the initiative on the Queenside, trying to create a passed pawn and to confuse the issue. Unfortunately for Howell, Vachier-Lagrave can also play resourcefull chess!
37. axb5 cxb5 38. Rxa5!? A surprisingly strong move!
Now it is time for White to start beating the drum!
41. Rxe5! Rxb3 (what else?) 42. Rxb3 Kxb3 43. Kd3 Rf8 44. Rb5 Ka4 45. e5!
And that is that! These centre pawns now decide the game. Excellent play by the Frenchman!
45… Bf4 46. Ke4 Bxh2 47. Rb7 h5 48. f7!
There is no stopping the White pawns. Black resigns! Despite a horrible opening by Black, a wonderful struggle by both players.
Grandmaster Ray Robson (born October 25, 1994) is another of those up and coming superstars that is only 15 years old and already has his own WIKIPEDIA entry!
6. Bg5! sharpest 6… e6 7. f4 Qc7!?
8. Qf3 b5 9. Bxf6 gxf6 10. a3 Nc6 11. Nxc6 Qxc6 12. f5 Qc5!? (…Ra7) 13. O-O-O Bb7 14. Be2 h5 15. Kb1 Ke7 !?
16. Rhf1 Qe5 Defending against the immediate threat
Black has two Bishops and a nice pawn centre. White, to compensate, has more development and attacking chances against the Black King in the centre. The position is very dangerous and one false step can mean disaster.
17. fxe6?! [ It appears that this exchange should be delayed a bit. Better is the immediate 17. Qf2!, limiting Black’s counterplay. The exchange can be played later.] 17… fxe6 18. Qf2
18… Rd8 19. Qb6 Rd7
Black has defended against the immediate danger. If he has time, Black will try …Bg7, move his other Rook to the Queenside and commence a counterattack with …f5 at some point. Sensing the lack of a clear plan of attack, Robson forces the issue with a sharp sacrifice that is good enough for a draw with perfect play on both sides.
20. Nxb5!? A sensible practical decision! And good enough for a draw
20… Bxe4? A very risky decision by the French superstar!
Vachier-Lagrave gambles and tries to avoid the drawish positions that would result after accepting the piece: 20… axb5 21. Bxb5 Bxe4 22. Bxd7 Kxd7 (diagram, left, below) At first sight it appears that the King is in trouble, but Black can slip his King over to the Kingside quickly. For example, 23. Rd4!? Ke8! 24. Rxe4!? Qxe4 25. Rxf6 (diagram, right, below) The game should end in a draw: Black has lots of weaknesses and difficulty getting his pieces coordinated, and White has enough threats to compensate his slight material disadvantage.
It was better to eliminate the Black Bishop immediately with 23. Bf3, not fearing 23… Rhb8 24. b4 Rb6 25. Qa7 R8b7 26. Qa4 and White maintains excellent chances of eventually converting his extra pawn.
23… Rhb8 Black has all of his pieces mobilized and has dangerous threats. However, White’s position is solid and healthy. Unfortunately, young Robson panics
24… Rxb5! 25. Nc6 Bxc6 26. Rxe5 White wins the Queen, but at too high a price
26… Rxb2 27. Ka1 R2b6! A fine consolidating tactic.
Black needs only avoid making a terrible blunder and his sizeable advantage must decide the game.
28. Qd3 Only optically good is 28. Rxe6 Kxe6 29. Qc4 Ke7 30. Re1 Kf8 and White can resign.
28… dxe5 29. Qd6 Kf7 30. g4 A good alternative is to resign. White only has spite checks.
30… hxg4 31. Qc7 Kg6 32. h4 gxh3 33. Rg1 Bg2
Robson resigns. There are no more threats for White to make. An important game for deciding the tournament classification, and probably a lucky extra half point for the Frenchman!
Maxim Rodshtein , 20 years old, is an Israeli grandmaster born in Leningrad. In January of this year his elo was 2650. In 2006 Maxim won the Israeli Championship. I have played Maxim several times, and I can assure you that he is always a dangerous player. While he could only finish with 8 points this year, Max played some excellent chess, as the game below attests to.
Rodshtein, M – Diamant, A
All theory. Even so, this line is so complex that many experts simply avoid it!
13. Qf4 !? A typical manoeuvre to create threats on the King side
13… Bb7 [13… Ra7 14. Rad1 Bb7 15. d5! was Kramnik vs Anand 2001] 14. Qh4 g6
15. d5!? This is the key idea for White in this line. Now Black must play precisely
White’s idea is blitz the Black King. By jettisoning the d-pawn, White hopes to place a rook on the d-line and create a second flank for his attack. Theory is still out on a verdict, but results have been fantastic for White.
15… b4? The losing move! Clearly, Black did not know the theory. Black has to walk a tight rope with 15… Bxd5 16. Rad1 Ra7! (16… Nc6 17. Rfe1 Re8 18. Bb3 Kg7 19. Bxd5 Nxd5 20. Qh6 Kg8 21. Bxe7 Rxe7 22. Ng5 f6 23. Nxe6 Qd6 24. Nxd5 Rxe6 25. Nxf6 1-0, Korobov A – Nyzhnyk I , Poltava 2008 Ch Ukraine ) with a tough fight.
16. Rad1! White plays with great energy
16… exd5 If instead 16… h6 then White wins with 17. Qxh6 bxc3 18. d6 Bxd6 19. Rxd6 Qe7 20. Rd7 1-0, Korobov – Rasmussen , Beijing 2008 World Mindsports Games. 17. Rfe1 bxc3 [17… h6 18. Qxh6 Ng4 19. Qh4] 18. Rxe7 ! Ouch!
18… Qxe7 [ No better is 18… Nh5 19. Rxb7 Qc8 20. Rb4 and White must win easily enough!] 19. Bxf6 Qd6 20. Ng5 ouch!
If now 20…h5 then White wins with the brilliant Queen sacrifice 21.Qxh5 mating quickly
In the final round Vachier-Lagrave was paired against the 19 year old Russian grandmaster Dmitry Andreikin (elo 2659). Trailing Zhigalko by half a point, the Frenchman needed to think only about victory.
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 Ne7 6. O-O Nbc6 7. c3 e5 8. Nf3 d6 9. Be3 h6 10. c4 g5 11. Nc3 Bg7 12. Nd5 O-O 13. Bb6 Qd7 14. Rc1 Ng6
Something seems to have gone wrong with Black’s opening, and White finds himself with a clear plus in the centre and on the Queen’s side. Black’s counterplay lies on the King side, and still quite a bit off.
15. c5! Maxime strikes the first blow
White threatens to just take on d6 and then play Bc5.
15… dxc5 [ no better is 15… g4 16. Nd2 Nce7 17. Nc4!] 16. Bxc5 Rd8!?
Vachier-Lagrave decides to maintain the initiative and instead to be satisfied with a small positional advantage. This reminds me of the famous Fischer vs Petrosian match from 1971, where Petrosian offered an exchange under similar circumstances, only to see Fischer refuse and play for the better endgame!
17… Rf8 18. Bc4 Nf4 19. Ne3! It now appears that Black cannot avoid the exchange
19… Re8 20. Qxd7! Bxd7 21. Rfd1 Be6 22. Kf1! Avoiding any forks
Vachier-Lagrave plan is to slowly exchanges pieces and increase his positional plus
22… Rac8 23. Bxe6 Nxe6 24. Nf5 mission accomplished
The Frenchman has achieved a tight grip on the position; the control of the d-line , the wonderful outpost on f5 and the better Bishop guarantee Black a very painful and difficult defence. Maxime converted these plusses with confidence and precision. I give the rest of the game without comments.
24…Bf8 25. g3 g4 26. Nd2 Nb4 27. Rxc8 Rxc8 28. Ne3 h5 29. Ndc4 Bc5 30. Nf5 Nd4 31. Nxe5 Nxf5 32. Rc1 Nd6 33. Rxc5 Re8 34. Nd7 Nxe4 35. Rxh5 Nd3 36. Bd4 f6 37. Nxf6 Nxf6 38. Bxf6 Re1 39. Kg2 Kf7 40. Bc3 Re2 41. Rd5 Rxf2 42. Kg1 Rf3 43. Rg5 Nf2 44. Kg2 Ne4 45. Rxg4 Rf2 46. Kg1 Re2 47. Bd4 Nd2 48. Rf4 Ke6 49. Rf2 Re1 50. Kg2 Nc4 51. h4 Re4 52. Bc3 b5 53. h5 b4 54. Bxb4 Ne5 55. Bc3 Nd3 56. h6 Re2 57. Rxe2 [1:0]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. d4 Nxe4 4. Bd3 d5 5. Nxe5 Nd7 6. Nxd7 Bxd7 7. O-O Bd6 8. Nc3 Nxc3 9. bxc3 Qh4 10. g3 Qh3 11. Rb1 O-O-O 12. c4 dxc4 13. Qf3 c6 14. Bxc4 Be6 15. d5 cxd5 16. Bxd5 Bxd5 17. Qxd5 Rd7 18. Qa5 a6 19. Qc3 Kb8
The opening has not gone well for the chinese grandmaster, and White has a very strong attack on the Queen side. Black’s counterplay is on the Kingside, and for this reason Li Chao does not worry about White taking the pawn on g7.
20. Be3! A fine move that brings into play the last piece.
Now clearly Black can not play 20…Rc8 because of 21. Ba7 ch. White also has a little threat that Black does not see…
Black must be asking himself ”What have I done to myself??”
Finally Li Chao resigned without making another move!
In round 10 Zhigalko was the recipient of some good fortune against the polish star Olszewski. Though the russian had gained the advantage earlier and held on to it for quite a while, as time trouble reared its ugly head the game became chaotic and Zhigalko let his opponent off the hook. You will not believe how things turned out!
Olszewski and Zhigalko can be seen on the front table, on the left.
38. Nf6 ! A nasty tactic in time trouble!
38… Kg6! forced Black loses after 38… gxf6?? 39. Rc7 Kg6 40. Qd7 with mate soon
White now has a draw, but will he see it?
39. Qc7?? Ouch! The wrong square!
White can force a draw after 39. Qd7! Qxc2 40. Nxd5 Rb2 41. Qxe6 Kh7 42. Nf6 etc. Now Black wins!
39… gxf6! 40. exf6 Qb7 stopping any more nonsense
41. Qd6 Rc8
There is no more fight left. White resigns! An unfortunate incident that had a great impact on the final results.
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS