SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
The finals of the Black Sea Countries tournament came to an end on the 19th. The Bulgarian star Cheparinov finished clear first ahead of Nisipeanu and Malakhov. This interesting tournament brought together representatives from the nations surrounding the Black Sea namely Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, and Turkey. It was good to see Atalik return to competition.
There were some very interesting games played in this tournament, almost all of them fighting games right from the beginning. While Cheparinov fully deserves his victory, I was very impressed with the play of the top Romanian player, Nisipeanu. His style of play is very pleasing for the spectators…
In the game below, the Romanian star punishes some optimistic opening play by White in a Sicilian defence. The game is an instructive example of a …d5 central push trying to catch White’s pieces off side. Black’s play is exemplary. right to the very end.
POSITION AFTER WHITE’S 17th MOVE (17.Rd1):
The White Bishops are passively posted compared to most normal Sicilians. No doubt Jobava was counting on being able to soon play g4-g5 with an attack. Black never gave him the opportunity
A typical central break thru in the Sicilian. All of Black’s pieces are perfectly placed for this advance. Black must be willing to play a pawn down for a few moves, and all of this requires precise calculation. However, it is not that difficult because the White Queen is aligned against Black’s Rook on e8. This theme is the dominant factor here…
Should White capture the pawn on d5 with his Pawn or with his Knight? My preference would be for the latter, even though White’s position is a bit inferior: 18. Nxd5 Bxd5 19. exd5 Bc5! (19… Qxc2? 20. d6; though a reasonable alternative is19… e4!? 20. Be2 Bc5 21. c3 Red8 and Black should soon pick up the stray pawn with some positional advantage) 20. c3 Rcd8 21. Bxc5 Qxc5 and Black has excellent prospects If then 22. Qf2!? Qxf2 23. Rxf2 e4 24. Be2 Nxd5 White has his work cut out for him to draw this ending.
It seems as though Jobava was not interested in playing such an ending (or similar endings) in this game, and so he decided to try his luck in the murkiness of a complicated middlegame, hoping to outplay Black. However, Nisipeanu was up to the challenge!
18. exd5 e4!
Energetic! I remember first seeing this idea in the famous game of Botvinnik against Rauzer, Leningrad 1933.
White must exercise great caution here:
19. Bxe4? b4 20. axb4 Bxb4 21. Rd4 Bxc3 22. bxc3 Bxd5 and White will lose material.
Relatively best seems 19. Be2!? Bxa3 (19… Rcd8!? 20. Bd4 Nxd5 21. Nxd5 Rxd5 22. Qg3 Qxg3 23. hxg3 Bg5 is a nice ending for Black and might be the simplest way to handle the position. ) 20. Nxb5! (20. bxa3?! Qxc3 21. d6 Red8 and Black has everything under control) 20… axb5 21. bxa3 e3 22. Bxb5 Re5 and Black has the initiative. White would have to be careful: 23. d6?! Bxg2! 24. Kxg2 Qb7 with a big advantage.
19. Nxe4?! Bxd5
White absolutely must now try 20. Nxf6 Bxf6 when neither 21. Qf2 Bxf3 22. Qxf3 Bxb2 nor 21.Qb4 Bxf3 22. Rxf3 Qxc2 are easy to handle for White. The best hope for a draw is by giving up the Queen : 21.RxB! RxQ 22.RxR and now a trap would be 22…Qxc2? which loses to 23.Rc5! because of Black’s weak backrank. After the more accurate 22…Bxb2 there could follow 23.Rc5 Qmoves 24.RxR QxR 25.Bb7! trying to eliminate the Queenside pawns. White would keep reasonable drawing chances.
INSTEAD, Jobava quickly goes down hill, attracted by a phantom Kingside attack:
20… Nxe4! 21. Bxe4 Bf6!
The pin along the e-file is very nasty!
Now giving up the Queen does not work very well: 22. Bxd5 Rxe1 23. Rfxe1 Bxd4 24. Rxd4 Qxc2 25. Rde4 h6 26. Re7 Rf8 and unlike the previous Queen sacrifice, here the presence of the Queenside pawns means that Black has every chance to win.
SO Jobava decides to go for broke:
22. Bxf6!? Bxe4!
Decisive. The threat is to simply take the Queen after …Bxg2! Jobava decides to play for some tricks….
23. Qh4!? gxf6 24. Rf4
Taking the pawn with 24.Qxf6 would be met comfortably by 24…Qe5. Now what White is hoping for is to gain a tempo –hitting the Bishop– so as to bring the Rook into the attack with a check on g4. As we shall see, none of it is more than a dream…
24… Qxc2! simplest, though 24…Bg2 is good enough also 25. Rg4 Kf8
White now realizes that 26.Qh6 Ke7 27.Re1 Kd7! and not only is the Black King out of danger but Black would now have the attack! Equally useless would be 26. Rg1 Bxf5 27. Qh6 Ke7 28. Re1 Be6 and Black is simply winning.
Jobava played just one more move and then resigned:
White resigned without waiting for the simple 26…h5! which wins the house. White could not capture the piece on e4 because at the end of all the captures and recaptures there is a fatal Rook check on c1, delivering mate!
Playing on with 27.Rg3 is hopeless after 27…Rc4! and the flashy 27.Rg6 is met by 27…Qxb2.