SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
The last and decisive round produced some wonderful games that will live long in the memory– not just of chess history–but with the gladiators who participated in these historic encounters. The first game I give some annotations and for the next 2 games I simply give the moves. The reader will be well served to play over these games several times…I hope they give as much pleasure to you as to me!
POSITION AFTER 15 MOVES:
gm WANG, HAO
I don’t like Black very much here. The Chinese superstar tried an unusual idea in the opening , probably hoping that his Knights would begin to dominate on the Queenside, especially on c4. Combined with the open semiopen c-file, it has potential-it must be admitted– but is a bit optimistic from my perspective.
HERE Ivanchuk showed what a practical player he has become by choosing a plan that can not be the best , but one that gives absolutely no chances to his opponent for active counterplay. Given the importance of this match, Ivanchuk must have felt this was the best course of play.
I can not help but think that a Botvinnik –at his best–would have played the logical 16.Qc2! provoking an awkward weakness on the Kingside. Clearly 16…h6 is bad (17.Bh7-ch! and Black can resign). The move 16…f5 is a bit committal and would soon see White play for g4. That leaves 16…g6 as the most flexible move. Then 17.e4! follows, threatening amongst other things, 18.Bxd6, 19.Ng4! and 20.e5 securely anchoring the square f6 for the White Knight.
Black could not allow that to happen, and so it appears to me that after 16.Qc2! g6 17.e4 Black should play 17…Ndc4!?, when after 18.BxN NxB 19.NxN PxN , though after 20.Qd2 it becomes apparent that the dark squares in Black’s position can not be easily defended. Note also that Black’s Bishop is useless.
Black would have had a painful defence in front of him.
INSTEAD, Ivanchuk continued:
16. Bxd6!? Qxd6 17. f4!
Perhaps the multiplicity of direct threats had attracted Ivanchuk to this position.
Indeed, Black must be careful: 17… f6? loses immediately to 18. Qh5!; 17… h6? is only slightly better: after 18. Qh5 Re7 19. Rf3 it is not easy to see how Black can stop the decisive build-up of troops in front of its Monarch; finally, ofcourse 17… Rac8? goes off the Classic Bishop Sacrifice: 18. Bxh7 Kxh7 19. Qh5 Kg8 20. Qxf7 Kh7 21. Rf3.
The alternative to Wang’s move in the game was 17… f5, though such a committal move is difficult to make in a key game.
THE GAME CONTINUED:
17… g6 18. Qg4!
Ivanchuk has ideas such as f5 and h4-h5 in mind.
Here Black can now play the prudent 18… Qe7!? , readying …f6 if need be. Then White must not play the impatient 19. f5?! (19. Rf3!? Nc6!) 19… exf5 20. Bxf5 (20. Rxf5 Bc8!) 20… Nc6! and Black gains the upperhand.
An understandable attempt to get some counterplay. Clearly taking twice of c4 would please only Black: 19. Nxc4?! dxc4 20. Bxc4 Rac8 21. Qe2?! Bxg2 22. Kxg2 Qc6 etc.
HOWEVER, Ivanchuk can now get a comfortable edge with the simple 19. Bxc4!? dxc4 20. Qg5! Qe7 21. Ng4! when after the exchange of Queens White has considerable pressure on the f-file, especially on f6 and h6. The Knight would be superior to the Black Bishop.
It appears that Ivanchuk wanted more…
Defending the threatened pawn on e3 and threatening to play Bxc4 and f5 in some circumstances.
Here Black has no choice but to play the precise 19… Qe7! to defend against White’s immediate ambitions. If then 20. Bxc4 dxc4 21. f5?! exf5 22. Rxf5 f6 23. Nxc4 Rad8 Black gets an excellent game. Probably Ivanchuk would have continued with 20. h4!? , with creeping pressure but still far from clear.
INSTEAD, the Chinese star’s sense of danger fails him:
Seemingly the same thing as 19…Qe7, but infact the decisive mistake. The Queen on c7 fails to control the f6 square, something that the Ukrainian star does not hesitate to exploit with great energy.
20. Bxc4 dxc4 21. f5!
Probably now Black realized that after the relatively best 21… exf5 22. Rxf5 Re7 23. Raf1! Bd5 White continues unrelentlessly with 24. e4! Be6 25. Rf6 Rf8 26. h4 and it is just a question of time before Black’s position collapses.
So Wang gambles desperately….
This loses immediately, though it is difficult to fault Black’s reasoning: he is lost in anycase! Atleast now White might be sidetracked by the win of a mere pawn after 22.Ng4 QxQ 23.Nxf6-ch!…
BUT Ivanchuk plays for the jugular:
22. fxg6! fxe5 23. Rf7!
Ivanchuk at his ruthless best! The end is not just quick, it is bloody as well!
23… Qc6 24. gxh7!! Kxf7 25. Rf1
Black could resign right now, but he was probably thinking of his team mates….
POSITION AFTER 19 MOVES:
Nakamura must have thought that he had everything undercontrol and would be able to make a draw with reasonable play. BUT the Polish superstar uncorked a viscious move: 20.Nh4!!, threatening a sacrifice on g6, tearing open the King position. Should Nakamura continue 20…Nc6, then 21.Nxg6! PxN 22.Bxg6 gives a decisive attack to White.
After some thought, Nakamura played the concession 20…f5, preventing the sacrifice but decisively weakening e5 and g5. The Polish grandmaster replied with 21.Nf3!! (mission accomplished) and never gave the American an chance. He won in fine style. Definitely worth close study!
Kramnik applied pressure from the very beginnin of the game to the end!