Winning Ways at the World Cup
Chess with Attitude
Some clever chess was seen in Friday’s first games of the 2nd round of the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk. The knockout tournament is now down to 64 players. The pressure increases as each day passes, but the players must be ready to fight with full strength to avoid being knocked out.
I would like to share with you my take on 4 of yesterday’s key games.
In 2 of the games White takes absolutely no chances and, content with the smallest of edges, instead tries to steer the game into an ending, hoping to use his greater experience to his advantage, regardless of how long it takes.
In the other 2 games, White wants nothing to do with endings! Instead, White plays to win in the middlegame and is willing to take risks in the process. White wants to win quickly and decisively.
Two very different styles of play, but both leading to the same results, atleast as far as yesterday is concerned. At such times chess can definitely be a perfect mirror image of our inner strengths.
gm Karjakin – gm Sevian
(Round 2, game 1) 13.9.2019
29-year old Sergei Karjakin needs no introduction to my readers, but probably the same thing can not be said for the 18-year old American Samuel Sevian. Let me limit myself to saying that Sevian is one of the most talented players in American chess today despite his youth, and no doubt much more will be heard from him in the future.
Could it be that Karjakin wanted to exploit his opponent’s lack of experience when he avoided playing his favourite 1.e4 ?. Perhaps he noticed Sevian’s penchant for playing a certain line against the Reti where, in return for giving the Bishop pair, Black gets a solid but passive game.
An important lesson for the young Samuel Sevian. In modern chess, any strategy of giving up the Bishop pair just to reach a solid position is frought with danger. It is better to get counterplay. True, with perfect play Black might be able to draw consistently. But who amongst us can defend perfectly, hour after hour?
This is a lesson that only an experienced player like Karjakin can give to a talented 18-year old such as Samuel Sevian. Believe me, at these tough knock-out championships, the elite grandmasters know how to grind down even the smallest of positional edges!
gm Vachier_Lagrave – gm Kovalenko
Round 2, game 1. 13.9.2019
Vachier Lagrave’s opening strategy in this game is similar (in some senses) to the previous game (obtain the Bishop pair and then try to grind down the opponent), but what is different in this game is that the pawn structure is not symmetrical and Black has very reasonable chances of counterplay.
Photo by David Llada
The next two games demonstrate an entirely different strategy of trying to win. It might be called ‘risk-management‘. Instead of playing risk-free, hoping to grind down the opposition with near-perfect technique, here White (and/or Black!) take calculated risks in order to try to bring maximum pressure onto their opponents, hoping for a momentary lapse that might bring opportunity. Sort of conjures up memories of Mikhail Tal…
The downside, of course, is that your opponent not just sees further than you…but he plays perfectly! Fortunately for our heroes today, that did not happen.
gm Nisipeanu – gm Nakamura
Round 2, game 1. 13.9.2018
Wow! What happened? Did the sky fall? This way of playing chess is how Tal revolutionized chess in the early 1960s and brought millions of new fans to the game. Excitement. Uncertainty. Intensity. The next game is typical of the Azerbaijan genius Mamedyarov…Enjoy! I give it without notes because it is impossible to understand. That is the ART of chess!
gm Mamedyarov – gm Kasimdzhanov
Round 2, game 1. 13.9.2019