SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
The FIDE World Chess Cup is taking place in Khanty-Mansiysk from November 20th to December 15th 2009.
It is a seven-round knockout event with six rounds of matches comprising two games per round, with the winners progressing to the next round. The final seventh round consists of four games. The time control is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an addition of 30 seconds per move from move one. Games start at 15:00h local time
The World Chess Cup is an integral part of the World Championship Cycle 2009-2011. (What ever that means, since FIDE has an annoying habit of changing rules mid-stream!)
So far 2 rounds have been completed, and many surprises have been seen. Amongst others, fourth seed Alexander Morozevich, whom many consider the best player in the world today, lost 2-0 against underdog Czech GM Viktor Laznicka; fifth seed Teimour Radjabov went down against Konstantin Sakaev, and Vassily Ivanchuk was eliminated by 16-year-old sensation Wesley So.
A future World Champion?
I think such surprises are normal in short knock-out tournaments such as FIDE has imposed since Kirsan became FIDE president in 1995. Besides, there are so many relatively young and unknown chess players out there who are ignored by chessbase reports, tournament organizers and the general chess public because of one simple reality: we are prisoners of ELO’s rating mind-set and can not see the trees for the forest!
Be that as it may, I have not been paying much attention to the games so far, and have instead focused my attention on the play of some of my favourite players. Of Boris Gelfand, in particular. Boris is definitely one of my favourite players, and should be considered one of a small handfull of contenders to win this tournament!
Boris Abramovich Gelfand (24 June 1968) was born in Minsk, Belarussia, and emigrated to Israel in 1998, and now lives in Rishon LeZion, and is Israel’s number 1 ranked chess player. Boris has been a World Championship contender most of his adult life.
Gelfand was Junior Champion of the Soviet Union at 17, and European Junior Champion two years later. In 1988 he tied for first in the World Junior Championship, the title however going to Joel Lautier. The next year he earned the GM title. He has won about 30 tournaments, and Gelfand appeared in a total of 8 Chess Olympiads, representing Soviet Union once, Belarus twice, and Israel five times. In 1990, he won the team gold medal playing board 2 for Soviet Union.In 2008, he won the team silver medal and also individual silver medal playing board 1 for Israel.
So far in Kanty-Mansiysk, Gelfand’s play has been marred by both tactical oversights and good fortune. Boris appears to be a bit nervous, playing below his usual confident top-class chess, but seems to be protected by the Gods….he has made it to the third round of this elimination tournament, and I believe that Boris will soon find his form.
Some one up there is looking out for Boris,and he knows it!
saw Boris paired with Grandmaster Obodchuk, and Gelfand quickly got the upperhand:
Gelfand, B – Obodchuk, A
1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 d5 3. cxd5 Nxd5 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Nb6 6. Nf3 Bg7 7. O-O Nc6 8. d3 O-O 9. Be3 e5 10. b4 Re8 11. b5 Nd4 12. a4 Be6 13. Ng5 Bb3 14. Qb1 Bd5 15. Nge4 c6 16. Qb2 Nc8 17. Nxd5 cxd5 18. Nc3 Ne7 19. Qa2 Rc8 20. Rac1 Qd7
Black has been completely outplayed from the opening, and now Boris can win the d-pawn by first taking on d4 and then on d5. However, realizing that even then there would be much work cut out for him to bring in the whole point (because of the opposite colour Bishops, mostly), Gelfand allows himself to be drawn into a trap!
21. Bg5? A blunder that should allow Black to gain the advantage!
How good are your tactics? Do you see why this last move is a mistake?
”What have I just done??”
21… Rxc3? Clever, but wrong! Black mixes up the move order..The right way is to play first 21… Qg4! (attacking the Bishop on g5) and THEN play …Rxc3. After 22. Bxe7 Rxc3! 23. Bf3 (23. Rxc3 Nxe2 24. Kh1 Nxc3 is even worse) 23… Qc8 Black is simply better!
22. Rxc3 Qg4 Black’s idea. He thinks that this is just a transposition of moves…
But Black has overlooked something! Gelfand is not obliged to defend his Bishop!
23. Rc7! A wonderful move that turns the table and restores White’s advantage.
This move Obodchuk simply did not take into account. Now White’s Rook will clean up the Black pawns on the Q-side and the rest is not very difficult for a grandmaster of Gelfand’s class. The two minor pieces that Black will have in exchange for his Rook and pawns can not create enough threats to stop White from pushing forward on the Q-side.
23… Qxg5 24. e3! Ne6 25. Rxb7
Black is lost.
I give the rest of the game without commentary….25… d4 26. e4 Nc8 27. Bh3 Bh6 28. Bxe6 fxe6 29. a5 Qd8 30. Rb1 Bf8 31. b6 axb6 32. a6 Bc5 33. a7 Nxa7 34. Qxa7 Qf6 35. Rb8 Rxb8 36. Qxb8 Kg7 37. Ra1 Kh6 38. Ra7 b5 39. Rd7 Bf8 40. Qb7 [1:0]
”Thankyou, God! Don’t go away…”
In the 2nd round
of this mini-match, Gelfand made a quick grandmaster draw against the dejected Obudchuk. Ofcourse, this meant the end to the match, but under the circumstances Obudchuk just wanted to go home and forget about the first game…chess can be such a cruel game!
Obodchuk, A – Gelfand, B
½:½, 22/11/2009. 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. d4 Nxe4 4. Bd3 d5 5. dxe5 Be7 6. O-O Nc5 7. Be2 O-O 8. Be3 c6 9. h3 Nbd7 10. Nbd2 f6 11. exf6 Nxf6 12. Nb3 [½:½]
In the first game of the next match
against Grandmaster Amonatov
, both players seemed quite happy to make a grandmaster draw:
Amonatov, F – Gelfand, B
½:½, 24/11/2009. 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 O-O 10. Qh5 f5 11. Re1 c6 12. Bg5 [½:½]For the readers who might seem perplexed (to say the least!) about making fast draws in such important tournaments, and especially where both players have to travel thousands of kms just to reach the tournament site, let me explain this with just one word: psychology! In two game mini-matches, it is easy to try to push too hard simply because you are White, and then you might even get the worse of it and maybe even lose.So what the weaker players often do (in this case Amonatov is a clear underdog to Gelfand) is let their opponents know before hand that they are not even going to try to win and would be perfectly happy to make two draws! They are saying, in effect: ‘You try to beat me!”. In this way they put all the pressure on the stronger player…should the match be level after two games, then the rules are that the tie-break is decided by fast games. At this rate, the difference between the favourite and his adversary becomes reduced and in some cases the underdog even becomes the favourite!I personally do not like this kind of reasoning, and I am certain that Bobby Fischer would be horrified by important games being drawn without a fight, but what can the players really do? FIDE believes that the public’s interests are more important than the players’…
In the second round Gelfand had the White pieces and built up a strong, almost winning, position very quickly.
Gelfand, B – Amonatov, F
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. O-O c6 8. d5 Na6 9. Be3 Ng4 10. Bg5 f6 11. Bh4 c5 12. Ne1 Nh6 13. Nd3 g5 14. Bg3 f5 15. exf5 Bxf5 16. f3 Bg6 17. Be1 Nf5 18. Bd2 Nd4 19. Nf2 Nxe2 20. Qxe2 h6 21. Nfe4 Nc7 22. Rab1 b6 23. a3 Ne8 24. b4 Nf6 25. bxc5 bxc5 26. Rb7 Rf7 27. Rfb1 Rxb7 28. Rxb7 Rb8 29. Rxa7 Rb2 30. Qd1 Qb6
White is a pawn up and his pieces are all well posted, especially his Rook. Black’s only chance is for counterplay and hoping that his opponent will blunder.
31. Nxf6!? Even better is 31. Ra8! Kh7 32. Bc1 Rb3 33. Na4 Qb7 34. Nxd6 etc. , but Boris’ move is ok.31… Bxf6 32. Qa4 Qd8
It is a good sign for White that Black’s Queen is pushed back.33. Ne4
Again, better is 33. Ra8! Rb8 34. Rxb8 Qxb8 35. Qb5 with a dominating position that should win without any trouble.33… Bxe4 34. fxe4
Gelfand intends to simplify with Ra8 and win with his extra pawn and better Bishop. Black can only give some random checks and hope that Gelfand goes wrong….
34… Rb1 35. Kf2 Qf8
Hardly even a threat, but atleast Black gives White something to worry about: ghosts! Now White should play 36. Kg3 Rf1 37. h3
and then his King can retreat to h2, in saftey. In this case Gelfand would have won easily enough.
Gelfand is too confident that his position will win by itself, and let’s his guard down
36. Ra8? A horrible blunder that loses all of White’s advantage
36… Bd8! At this point Gelfand must have realized that he had screwed up with his last move!
Where does the White King go? Black has atleast a draw here!
”What am I doing to myself?”
37. Kg3?? Gelfand loses his head! He had to give his opponent a perpetual check:37. Ke2! Qf1 (37… Rg1 38. Kd3) 38. Ke3 Qg1 39. Kd3 Qd4 40. Ke2 Qxe4 etc.
Boris must have overlooked the next move, when White’s King finds itself in a mating net
37… Rf1! Threatening mate in 2 moves . The next few moves are all forced
38. Be3 forced 38…Re1 39. Qb3 If instead 39. Bd2 Re2 ! 39… Re2 40. h3
Black is now winning! Can you see it?
Helpless! Time for the man upstairs to intervene…
40… Qf1?? Horrible! Black thinks that Gelfand must resign, but he has overlooked that he gets mated himself!!
Black could have won with the precise 40… Kg7! (getting out of check) and then …Qf1!
41. Rxd8 Ofcourse! It is check!
Black had seen this move, but probably thought that his King can escape to h5. He was mistaken, as he gets mated when his King gets to h5! Realizing this, he resigned! A lucky escape by Gelfand…
”All is well that ends well…”
Capablanca said that good players make their own luck. Such is the case of Boris Gelfand! A perfect gentleman, I hope that this tournament will see him score his greatest success!