Becalmed seas (10-16 September, №37)


It seemed that after the storms of the Olympiad the chess world had been given a week’s break. No, life went on: a short match was played between the Peruvian Grandmaster Granda Zuniga and the legendary Brazilian Henrique Mecking, the Women’s Grand Prix started in Ankara and a tournament took place in Italy… But if it wasn’t for the battle between the pirates of the “Black Sea Countries” I’d say that total calm prevailed last week on the chess seas.

Read on

Author: Alexey Kuzmin

The Burgas tournament: Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, Georgia, Turkey and Ukraine – one grandmaster from each of the Black Sea countries. A double round-robin. Eight rounds have been played and almost 60% of the games have been decisive. The organisers didn’t go far wrong with their choice of players!

Two miniatures

Vladimir Malakhov isn’t a fan of sharp forced variations in the opening, so the first move 1.c2-c4 fully corresponds to his tastes. He’s drawn towards positional play, preferring to shift the brunt of the struggle to the late middlegame or even the endgame. In Burgas, however, he managed to beat Nisipeanu and Jobava after barely crossing the twenty-move mark…

Malakhov,V (2700) - Nisipeanu,L-D (2648)

Black Sea Countries Burgas BUL , 14.09.2012

1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 e6 4.e4 Nc6 5.Be2 Qb6 6.0–0 d6 7.a3 Be7 8.d3 0–0 9.b4 a6 10.Rb1 Qc7 11.Bf4 b6 12.Qd2 Bb7 13.Rb2 Rab8 14.Rfb1 Nd7 15.b5 Nd4 16.bxa6 Nxf3+ 17.Bxf3 Bxa6 18.Rb3 Bf6 19.Na4

This calm variation of the English Opening in no way foretold a rapid denouement. White has generated some pressure on the b-file, but the b6-pawn is reliably defended. Now it would seem natural to play the prophylactic 19…Rfc8 or 19…h6, but Nisipeanu decided to “draw fire upon himself”. And he did it amazingly unsuccessfully.

19...Qc6??

20.e5! Qxa4 21.exf6 e5 22.Bh6! This move – the last of the variation – is the one the Romanian grandmaster hadn’t taken into account!

After 22…Nxf6 there’s the immediately decisive 23.Bxg7, so Black resigned.

Vladimir Malakhov won his second miniature only a couple of days later.

Malakhov,V (2700) - Jobava,B (2734)

Black Sea Countries Burgas BUL, 16.09.2012

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 g6 3.e4 d6 4.d4 Bg7 5.Bd3 0–0 6.Nge2 a6 7.0–0 c6 8.a4 a5 9.h3 Na6 10.Be3 Nd7 11.Qd2 e5 12.Rad1 exd4 13.Nxd4 Ndc5 14.Bb1 Qb6

15.f4! Black’s pieces have been distracted by operations on the queenside, so Vladimir starts an attack on the kingside.

15… Qb4?! 16.f5! Nxa4? Each of them played his last two moves on “his own” part of the board. Black’s problem is that his main fighting unit, the queen, is hopelessly tangled up in the nets of white pieces. It was essential to retreat - 16...Nd7.

17.f6! First the bishop is cut off.

17... Bh8 18.Nc2! Now it’s time to hunt the queen.

18... Qb3 After 18…Qxc4 19.Ba2 the trap snaps shut immediately.

19.Ba2 Qxb2 20.Nxa4 Qxa2 21.Nb6 Be6 22.Ra1 Qb3 and without waiting for 23.Ra3 or 23.Rfb1 capturing the queen, Black resigned.

New in the opening

Among the opening battles the one which struck me as the most original took place in a sharp variation of the Caro-Kann Defence.

Areshchenko,A (2702) - Jobava,B (2734) [B12]

Black Sea Countries Burgas BUL, 17.09.2012

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 c5 6.Be3 Qb6 7.Nc3 Qxb2 After accepting the pawn sacrifice White has two options: the move which occurred in the game and 8.Qb1.

8.Nb5 c4 9.Rb1

9...Qxa2!?N

A risky move. Previously in this position Black picked up a different pawn 9...Qxc2, but that didn’t insure him against all problems. 10.Qxc2 Bxc2 11.Rb2.

10.Nc7+ Kd8 11.Nxa8 Bxc2 12.Rxb7! Areshchenko got to the bottom of the complications brilliantly. After 12.Ra1 Qb2 13.Qc1 Qxc1+ 14.Bxc1 Nc6 Black’s chances would have been no worse.

12...Bxd1 13.Rxb8+ Kd7 14.Bxd1 Ne7 15.0–0

A queen and two pawns against a rook, bishop and the knight stuck on a8 – a complex position. However, I’m convinced that due to the insecure position of the black king the majority of players would prefer to play White.

15...h6 16.Bd2! Nc6 17.Rb7+ Ke8 18.Bc3 Be7 It was worth taking on the danger head-on - 18...Kd8!?, using the incidental resource 19.Rc7 Bb4! But making such a move without the support of computer analysis would be almost impossible.

19.Nc7+ Kf8 [19...Kd8] 20.Nd2 and White has a big edge.

Another interesting idea was demonstrated in a solid variation of the Exchange Slav.

Cheparinov,I (2689) - Malakhov,V (2700) [D12]

Black Sea Countries Burgas BUL, 14.09.2012

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bf5 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4 Be4 7.f3 Bg6 8.Qb3 Qc7 9.g3 Be7 An alternative is – 9…Nbd7.

10.cxd5N White usually continues 10.Bd2, or pre-emptively exchanges on g6. The pawn exchange in the centre played by Cheparinov in no way heralds simplifications.

10...cxd5 11.e4!?

11... Nc6 Malakhov chooses the most reliable path. Opening the centre would have given White a dangerous initiative.

12.Bf4 Qd7 13.Nxg6 hxg6 14.0–0–0 Rd8! Another accurate choice. It’s important for Black to reinforce the d5-point.

15.Be3 Qc7 16.Kb1 a6 17.Bf4 Qd7 18.h4! Objectively the chances of the players are roughly even, but Cheparinov continued to look for means of complicating play. In a double-edged struggle success shined on the Bulgarian grandmaster…1–0

The decisive “blunder”

Last week in Italy there was a Swiss tournament that was small by European standards – only 50 players. The fate of first place was decided in a last-round game due to a tragicomic “blunder”.

David,A (2599) - Kravtsiv,M (2581)

3rd Livigno Open A Livigno ITA, 17.09.2012

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.d3 b5 6.Bb3 Be7 7.a4 Bb7 8.0–0 0–0 9.Re1 d6 10.c3 Rb8 11.d4

On the board is a perfectly normal position that’s typical of the Ruy Lopez. And Black made what was also “a perfectly normal” move, preparing the typical manoeuvre Re8, Bf8.

11...h6??

The Ukrainian grandmaster simply didn’t stop to think that the inclusion of the moves a4 and Rb8 might play such a nasty trick on him.

After 12.axb5 it turned out you can’t play 12...axb5 because of 13.d5 and the knight doesn’t have a single square to retreat to!

There followed 12... Na7 13.dxe5 dxe5 14.Qxd8 Bxd8 15.bxa6 Bxe4 16.Bc4 1–0

It’s annoying to lose a deciding game like that. The winner of the tournament in Livigno was Alberto David, who now plays for Italy.

And that, it seems, is all…