Game of the Month January 2012

Welcome to this year’s first GOTM! This was a tricky one to choose as so many tournaments are being played currently. I was also not very up to date as had not been online for ten days or so over Christmas. However I found the following very interesting.

Before we move on to the game I’ll just mention a few of the tournaments ongoing. In Italy the Reggio Emilia round robin is very strong and sees an in-form Hikaru Nakamura on 5/6 ahead of Alexander Morozevich on 3.5, Vassily Ivanchuk and Anish Giri on 3/6, Fabiano Caruana 2.5/6 and lastly Nikita Vitiugov on 1.

Meanwhile over in Spain the San Sebastian tournament is back with a very strong field and a twist. The organisers have chosen the top section to be a knockout of 64 players with those knocked out playing in an Open. However the interesting bit is that the two game matches are played simultaneously; one game with White and one with Black against the same opponent at the same time. At the time of writing Mamedyarov is the highest rated casualty, losing his round four match to the top Peruvian GM Granda Zuniga.

Back in England we have the Hastings Congress. Top seed Wang Yue’s rating has fallen in the past year from a huge high of 2756 but his 2694 rating is still impressive. He’s leading on 5.5/6 ahead of a strong Indian contingent on 5/6. With all this chess being played it’s hard to focus on annotating games and packing for New Zealand!

###pgn### [Event “54th Reggio Emilia”]
[Site “Reggio Emilia ITA”]
[Date “2011.12.31”]
[Round “5”]
[White “Caruana, Fabiano”]
[Black “Giri, Anish”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “C42”]
[WhiteElo “2727”]
[BlackElo “2714”]
[Annotator “GJ”]
[PlyCount “66”]
[EventDate “2011.12.27”]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 {With so many games to choose from it might strike you as
odd that I’ve selected a Petroff – the opening with perhaps the most drawish
reputation – but I was very impressed by Giri’s play. Caruana doesn’t make any
obvious mistakes but is soon left in a horribly passive position.} 3. Nxe5 d6
4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 d5 6. Bd3 Be7 7. c4 $5 {An unusual try.} (7. O-O {is by far
the most common route.}) 7… Bb4+ {Giri immediately exploits the delay in
kingside castling.} (7… Nc6 {is in fact more common but less testing.}) 8.
Nbd2 {After this White doesn’t appear to have any realistic tries for an
advantage.} (8. Kf1 {looks ugly but is more ambitious. A few games have
continued:} c6 (8… Bf5 $6 {looks too early as} 9. Qb3 $1 {puts pressure on
d5 and b7 via x-ray.} Qe7 $6 10. a3 Bd6 11. c5 (11. Qxb7 {also looks very
strong.}) 11… Bxc5 12. Qxb7 c6 13. Qxa8 Bd6 {should not have yielded Black
sufficient compensation in Tseshkovsky,V (2505)-Rozentalis,E (2465) Barnaul
1984.}) (8… O-O 9. Qb3 Be7 (9… a5 10. cxd5 Nf6 {is an alternative way of
playing.}) 10. cxd5 Nf6 11. Nc3 {This is an interesting position. White has
succeeded in winning a pawn but is left with a misplaced king and his
structure isn’t so good. In the only game to reach this position Black tried
to open the position before White could get his pieces developed with} c6 {but}
12. Bg5 $1 cxd5 13. Bxf6 Bxf6 14. Nxd5 Nc6 15. Nxf6+ Qxf6 16. d5 Nd4 17. Nxd4
Qxd4 18. Rd1 Qh4 19. h3 {saw White consolidating his extra pawn. Slobodjan,R
(2516)-Schumacher,O (2233) Germany 2003.}) ({My Rybka recommends starting with
} 8… Be6) 9. cxd5 (9. Qb3 {is probably better although I doubt} Be7 10. cxd5
cxd5 11. Nc3 Nxc3 12. bxc3 O-O {as played in Babula,M (2321)-Bartos,J (2196)
Marianske Lazne 2006 should really be too challenging.}) 9… cxd5 10. Nc3 Bxc3
11. bxc3 O-O 12. Qc2 Nc6 13. Rb1 Re8 14. h3 b6 15. Bf4 Qf6 16. Bd2 Bf5 {And
Black was very comfortable. Ricardi,P (2527)-Mellado Trivino,J (2447) Malaga
1999. White’s passivity here is mirrored in the game.}) 8… O-O {It seems
sensible to keep the pin for as long as possible.} (8… Nxd2 {is also
playable and was the choice of a strong GM in 2010.} 9. Bxd2 Qe7+ 10. Be2 (10.
Qe2 {as played almost 100 years ago might well be better:} Qxe2+ 11. Kxe2 Bxd2
12. Kxd2 Be6 13. cxd5 Bxd5 14. Rhe1+ Kd8 15. Be4 Bxe4 16. Rxe4 Re8 17. Rae1
Rxe4 18. Rxe4 {saw White clearly better thanks to his more active pieces and
saw the future World Champion triumph in Alekhine,A-Marshall,F St Petersburg
1914.}) 10… Bxd2+ 11. Qxd2 O-O 12. O-O-O $5 Bf5 13. g4 $5 {Very aggressive
but bear in mind it was a rapid game.} Bxg4 14. Rhg1 Qe4 15. Rxg4 $5 Qxg4 16.
Rg1 Qe6 17. Bd3 {and it’s doubtful White really does have enough for all the
sacrificed material but he managed to hold onto the draw. Edouard,R (2636)-Bu
Xiangzhi (2695) Cap d’Agde 2010.}) 9. O-O Bf5 {This looks like an improvement
over exchanging on d2. Surprisingly it becomes hard for White to develop.} ({
A game between the two English players who have dominated the last two years
continued:} 9… Bxd2 10. Bxd2 Bg4 11. Be3 Nc6 12. h3 Bh5 13. Rc1 Re8 14. a3
dxc4 15. Bxc4 Qf6 16. Be2 h6 17. Qb3 Rab8 18. Rfe1 Nd6 19. g4 Bg6 20. d5 Ne5
21. Nxe5 Qxe5 22. Rxc7 {and White had a very good position but later erred and
lost. Short,N (2683)-Adams,M (2715) Wijk aan Zee 2000.}) 10. Nb3 $6 {But I
don’t like this as now White’s pieces are rather uncoordinated.} (10. c5 $5
Bxd2 (10… Nxd2 11. Bxf5 Nxf1 12. Qxf1 {gives White good compensation for the
exchange as Black’s bishop is so offside.}) 11. Bxd2 Nc6 {1/2-1/2 Schmittdiel,
E (2435)-Keitlinghaus,L (2500) Germany 1995 doesn’t tell us very much.}) (10.
a3 {could be White’s best but then Black has definitely gained over not
capturing on d2 immediately.} Bxd2 11. Bxd2 Nxd2 ({There was also nothing
wrong with keeping the tension with} 11… Nc6) 12. Qxd2 Bxd3 13. Qxd3 dxc4 14.
Qxc4 Nd7 15. Rac1 c6 16. Rfe1 Nb6 17. Qc5 Nd5 {and Black had comfortably
equalised. Petrenko,S (2240)-Ionescu Brandis,I (2345) Bucharest 1998.}) 10…
dxc4 $1 11. Bxc4 Nc6 12. Bd3 (12. Ne5 {would at least utilise the b3 knight
and seems to keep the position roughly level.}) (12. d5 {should also have been
considered although} Na5 13. Nxa5 Bxa5 {feels more comfortable for Black as
White has to watch out for threats along the g1-a7 diagonal.}) 12… Bg6 {Giri
drops his bishop back to a defended square so he won’t have to worry about any
pins on the e4 knight.} 13. a3 Bd6 14. Re1 ({The computer prefers} 14. Qc2 f5
15. g3 {with the idea of Nh4 to try and dismantle Black’s control of the e4
square.} Qf6 (15… Bf7 16. Nbd2 {is a little better for White.}) 16. Nh4 Kh8
17. Nxg6+ Qxg6 {with rough equality.}) 14… f5 $1 {Giri goes on the offensive.
Proof that the young Dutchman wasn’t playing the Petroff merely to draw.} (
14… Nf6 15. Bxg6 hxg6 16. Bg5 {is a tiny bit awkward.}) 15. Qc2 ({The plan
to force the bishop either to leave the h7-b1 diagonal or be exchanged with}
15. g3 {is no longer good as} Bh5 $1 {exploits the fact the queen is still on
its starting square.}) 15… Kh8 {Sidestepping with the king.} ({It was also
possible to start off with} 15… Qf6 {immediately.}) 16. Be3 Qf6 17. Nc5 {
Making use of the offside knight.} ({However} 17. d5 Ne5 18. Nxe5 Qxe5 19. f4
Qf6 20. Nd2 {was a lot safer.}) 17… Bxc5 18. dxc5 Rae8 19. Rad1 {Caruana
continues to ignore the knight on e4 which will become a big problem.} ({White
should have opted for} 19. Nd2 {putting the question to that knight. This is a
rather unambitious approach but White should be careful. Following} Nd4 20.
Bxd4 Qxd4 21. Nb3 Qa4 22. Na5 $5 Qd4 (22… Qxa5 $4 23. b4 {traps the Black
queen.}) 23. Nb3 Qa4 {would be an amusing draw.}) 19… Bh5 $1 {White does
have the bishop pair which traditionally should give him an edge but the
problem here is that he can’t find a way to coordinate his pieces while Black
is very active.} 20. Be2 f4 21. Bc1 $6 {Again the American-Italian is too
optimistic. If he gets time to play b2-b4 and Bc1-b2 then suddenly his bishop
becomes active and he would even be better but Giri is in time to prevent
White’s counterplay.} (21. Bd4 {was to be preferred.} Qg6 (21… Nxd4 22. Nxd4
Bg6 23. Bf3 {and White holds.}) 22. Ne5 $1 {An easy move to suggest with the
computer running but rather harder to analyse in a game.} Nxe5 (22… Rxe5 23.
Bxh5 Rxh5 24. Qxe4 Nxd4 25. Rxd4 {liquidates to a drawn double rook endgame.})
23. Bxh5 Qxh5 24. Rxe4 Qg6 (24… Nc6 25. Rxe8 Rxe8 26. Bc3 f3 27. Qd3 fxg2 28.
Qd5 {and White has any winning chances going in the endgame as bishops are
better than knights in endgames with pawns on both sides of the board.}) 25.
Bxe5 f3 $1 26. Bxg7+ Kxg7 27. Rd7+ Kg8 28. Qc4+ Kh8 29. Qd4+ Kg8 30. Qd5+ Kh8
31. Qd4+ Kg8 {is another fascinating computer draw line.}) 21… a5 $1 {Cooly
done. Now what’s White to do?} 22. Qc4 (22. b3 {is impossible due to} Qc3 $1 {
when White has too many loose pieces (and pawns).} 23. Bd3 (23. Qxc3 Nxc3 24.
Rd2 Bxf3 25. gxf3 Nd4 $1 {wins material.}) (23. Qb2 Qxc5 {is a clear pawn.})
23… Qxc2 24. Bxc2 Nc3 25. Rxe8 Rxe8 26. Rf1 Ne2+ 27. Kh1 Bxf3 28. gxf3 Ncd4 {
and the knights totally dominate the bishops.}) 22… Re7 23. h3 $6 {I don’t
really like this as it weakens the g3 square.} ({Perhaps} 23. Kf1 {was better
but a horrible kind of move to have to play.}) 23… Rfe8 {Calmly doubling
rooks. Giri’s patience really makes an impression in this game.} 24. Kf1 {
Allowing a very strong shot.} ({In fact, as ChessVibes observed} 24. Rf1 {is
White’s only move not to lose immediately but still} Ng5 ({or the game’s} 24…
h6) 25. Qxf4 Qxf4 26. Bxf4 Nxh3+ 27. gxh3 Rxe2 28. Rd3 Rf8 29. Nd4 Re4 (29…
Rxf4 30. Nxe2 Bxe2 31. Re1 {isn’t so clear as Black has to defend against back
rank threats.}) 30. Nxc6 Be2 $1 31. Rd2 Bxf1 32. Bxc7 Re1 {and Black has
successfully won material.}) 24… h6 {Not spoiling much but also not
necessary. It was better playing the winning shot at once.} 25. Qc2 Nxf2 $1 {
And now Giri sees it. The White king is stripped bare and a sad illustration
of Caruana’s failed strategy.} 26. Kxf2 Bxf3 27. gxf3 Qh4+ 28. Kf1 Qxh3+ 29.
Kf2 Qg3+ 30. Kf1 Re5 31. Bxf4 {Sadly forced to prevent the mates arising from .
..Rg5 or …Rh5 but even so resigning was probably a better move.} Qxf4 32. Qc4
Re4 33. Qb5 Qg3 0-1

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