SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
(photos by Fred Lucas)
The 2012 edition of this famous Dutch resort tournament came to an end this past weekend with Armenian superstar Lev Aronian putting in another solid performance to take first place with 9 points in 13 games.
Playing his usual super-solid , well-prepared opening repetoire, Lev never the less lost 2 games. One of them against second place finisher Carlsen of Norway, who is probably the most consistent player on the circuit these days: Carlsen usually either wins the tournament or finishes in second place!
Not to diss the Armenian star’s success, I think that none of Aronian’s games in Wijk Aan Zee will be included in his best game collection. Rather, his success is more due to his off-form opponents: for example, amongst others, former world champion Topalov was unrecognizable with 4 losses and only 1 win; world champion contender Gelfand fared even worse: 5 losses (!) and just 1 win.
PERHAPS THE MOST MEMORABLE GAME OF THE EVENT TOOK PLACE IN Rd 11
POSITION AFTER WHITE’S 20th MOVE (20.Nf5):
This game generated a lot of interest in the on-line chess world. In the position before White’s 20th move (20.Nf5?!) Topalov even stands a bit better (normally Black is not permitted to play his Knight to c4 with such ease). Everybody was amazed at how the game continued…many thinking that it was just 2 geniuses clashing and therefore quite natural that the goddess of chess–Caissa–would bless us with a masterpiece. The truth is quite different, however.
Hence the rational course of play would have been 20.Rc1, preventing Black’s next move.
As natural as a baby’s smile! Everyone was wondering what was going on in Carlsen’s mind…after all, he is a genius, no? (But then again, so is Topalov!)
”I was over optimistic in the early middle game. I missed his Nxb2 and (then) hallucinated about a mating attack …”–Carlsen on his blog
It is nice to see a great player admit this kind of thing. White is lost. But not simply, and what follows is Carlsen’s attempt to go down fighting. The spectators must admire the Tal-like chaos that the Norwegian is able to drape the board with!
One of the great moves of chess! Too bad it is wasted on a lost position…there followed:
21… Nxd1 22. Bxf6 Nxc3 23. Qg4 Bxe4 24. Nxh6 Kh7!
”I missed his Nxb2 and hallucinated about a mating attack only to find out that he had a safe haven on h7 in the critical variations…”
Being a whole Rook down and with his attack coming to a full stop, Carlsen had only one move if he did not want to resign:
Topalov should play 25…Bd3! and White has no threats and no good continuation. INSTEAD, NOW SOMETHING AMAZING HAPPENED: a miracle!
Topalov saw that White threatened nothing concrete, but his confidence left him and he started to see ghosts! He decided to give up his Queen to stop the phantom attack with 25…Qxf7, after which the game becomes equal once more.
”Fortunately for me he missed a critical line of defense and when surrounded by four of my pieces he lost patience and went for a queen sacrifice resulting in an imbalanced ending with my queen and four pawns against his rook, two bishops and two pawns.”
In the end, with both sides trying to win a level position, Topalov rejected a forced draw and instead blundered. A great fight that does merit to both champions!