Game of the Month – November

Lots of interesting chess this month so it was a tough decision what to examine. I considered a game of Kramnik’s as he has had some good results recently and is 2800 on the list published yesterday. However in the end I decided to examine this game between two players who always produce exciting encounters. Alexei Shirov is a Grandmaster from Latvia who now plays for Spain. He has inherited the playng style of former World Champion, Mikhail Tal, also from Riga. It can best be summed up in the title of his best games’ collection: Fire on Board. Alexander Morozevich is a Russian Grandmaster who is famous for his creativity, often playing offbeat openings to try and create as complex a position as possible. Both players are crowd favourites and indeed when I was growing up I tried to emulate Morozevich’s style as much as possible. These days, though, I’m trying to be a bit more of a universal player. After lengthy inactivity since falling from number two in the world to below 2700, Morozevich has just returned to the top ten scoring some great results. Both players strive for the initiative at all costs (in someways rather similar to my own games against Simon Williams!) and thus the games are always fascinating.

EDIT After some technical difficulties I’m using new software to show the pgn, hopefully it won’t distract you too much.

[pgn height=500 initialHalfmove=16 autoplayMode=none]

[Event “Governor’s Cup”]
[Site “Saratov RUS”]
[Date “2011.10.13”]
[Round “6”]
[White “Shirov, A.”]
[Black “Morozevich, A.”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[ECO “C11”]
[WhiteElo “2713”]
[BlackElo “2737”]
[Annotator “GJ”]
[PlyCount “195”]
[EventDate “2011.10.08”]
[EventRounds “11”]
[EventCountry “RUS”]
[EventCategory “19”]
[Source “Mark Crowther”]
[SourceDate “2011.10.18”]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 Be7 8. a3 {
White used to play 8.Qd2 automatically but this year this modest pawn push has
had some outings.} b6 (8… O-O 9. Qd2 {had transposed to a slightly more
theoretical position. A game between two elite GMs continued:} ({Perhaps
Shirov intended to continue with} 9. Bd3 $5 {although the computer prefers
Black after} f6) 9… b6 10. g3 Kh8 11. h4 f6 12. exf6 Nxf6 13. Bh3 Bd7 14. Rd1
cxd4 15. Nxd4 e5 16. Nxc6 Bxc6 17. fxe5 d4 18. exf6 Bxf6 19. O-O dxc3 20. Qxd8
Raxd8 21. Rxd8 Rxd8 22. b3 $2 {An incorrect decision. Now the c3 pawn is too
strong.} Re8 23. Bf2 Be4 24. Re1 Re7 25. Rc1 h5 26. Bg2 Bf5 27. Bf3 g6 28. a4
Kh7 29. b4 g5 30. a5 g4 31. axb6 axb6 32. Bc6 Re2 33. Bxb6 Be5 34. b5 Kg7 35.
Ba5 Rxc2 36. Rxc2 Bxc2 37. Kf2 Bd3 38. Ke3 Bg6 39. Be4 c2 40. Bd2 Bxg3 41. Bxg6
Kxg6 42. Kd3 Bf2 43. Kxc2 g3 44. Bf4 g2 45. Bh2 Kf5 {0-1 Ivanchuk,V (2765)
-Carlsen,M (2823) Sao Paulo Bilbao 2011.}) ({Shirov has played this move
earlier this year. That game continued:} 8… Qb6 9. Na4 $5 Qa5+ 10. Bd2 Qc7 (
10… Qxa4 $2 11. b3 {was of course his idea, trapping the queen.}) 11. dxc5
Nxc5 12. Nxc5 Bxc5 13. b4 Bb6 14. c4 dxc4 15. Rc1 Qd8 16. Rxc4 h6 {with a
roughly level position. The rest of the game was interesting so I’ll leave it
in.} 17. a4 a6 18. Qc2 Bd7 19. Qe4 Rb8 20. Bd3 Ne7 21. a5 Ba7 22. Ke2 Bb5 23.
Rc3 Bc6 24. Rxc6 bxc6 25. Rc1 Qd7 26. Bxa6 O-O 27. g4 Rfd8 28. f5 exf5 29. gxf5
Nxf5 30. Rxc6 Rxb4 31. Bc4 Rb2 32. Bd3 Nd4+ 33. Nxd4 Qxd4 34. Qxd4 Bxd4 35. e6
fxe6 36. Bc2 e5 37. a6 Rb6 38. Be4 Rxc6 39. Bxc6 Rc8 40. Bb7 Rc7 41. Be3 Rc2+
42. Kd1 Bxe3 {1/2-1/2 Shirov,A (2713)-Vitiugov,N (2726) Saratov 2011.}) 9. Bd3
O-O 10. O-O a6 {And this seems to be a new move.} ({Oddly Morozevich has also
had this opening earlier this year too, although that time on the White side.
That was also against the young Russian Vitiugov and continued with} 10… f5 {
However this looks rather weakening and after} 11. exf6 Nxf6 {I don’t like
this either, Black’s taking away more pieces from the important e5 square.} 12.
Ne5 $1 Bb7 13. Qf3 Bd6 14. Nb5 Be7 15. Qh3 Qc8 16. c4 $5 Ne4 17. dxc5 Nxe5 18.
fxe5 Bxc5 19. Rxf8+ Qxf8 20. Bxe4 dxe4 21. b4 Bxe3+ 22. Qxe3 {and White had a
clear positional advantage which he converted easily. Morozevich,A (2737)
-Vitiugov,N (2726) Saratov 2011.}) 11. Ne2 $5 {Provoking chaos!} (11. Bxh7+ $2
{would be premature} Kxh7 12. Ng5+ Bxg5 13. fxg5 cxd4 {and White’s centre
collapses.}) 11… c4 {Of course Shirov didn’t overlook this move and he’s
ready to sacrifice a piece to wrench open Black’s king.} 12. Bxh7+ Kxh7 13.
Ng5+ Bxg5 (13… Kg8 {is possible but looks very dangerous. Following} 14. Rf3
{the plan of Rh3 and Qe1-h4 leaves White with a very strong initiative, i.e.}
Bxg5 (14… Ndb8 15. Rh3 f6 {is another attempt at defence although definitely
not what you’d want against the 2nd Lativan Wizard. Certainly} 16. Nh7 {gives
White strong pressure.}) 15. fxg5 g6 16. Qe1 Ne7 17. g4 $1 {Preventing the
knight jumping to f5 and keeping Black passive.} Kg7 18. Qh4 Rh8 19. Qf2 Qg8
20. Rf1 {and the f7 pawn falls while White’s attack continues.}) 14. fxg5 Rh8
$5 {Giving back a second pawn to try and activate his pieces, a sensible
decision in practical terms.} ({Instead he could have prepared …Rh8 by
defending the f7 pawn.} 14… Qe8 {looks critical to me.} 15. Ng3 (15. Rf4 Rh8
{defends}) (15. Nf4 Ne7 16. Qg4 Rh8 {and again I can’t see a breakthrough.})
15… Rh8 16. h4 g6 17. h5 {and White still has some play for the piece,
although it’s debatable if it’s enough.}) ({The reason I think e8 is the best
square for the queen is seen in the variation:} 14… Qe7 15. Nf4 $1 {when
Black has no …Ne7} g6 (15… Rh8 16. g6+ fxg6 17. Qg4 {is very unclear.
White certainly has good attacking possibilities.}) 16. h4 Rh8 17. Qf3 Qe8 18.
h5 {and despite Black’s extra piece it’s hard to come up with a useful plan
while White will increase the pressure.}) 15. Rxf7 Kg8 16. g6 {This offers yet
more material but is necessary to keep up the initiative.} ({Instead} 16. Qf1
Qe8 17. Rf3 Nf8 18. Qf2 Ng6 {allows Black to start activating his pieces.})
16… Nf8 (16… Qe8 $1 {followed by …Nd8 looked a serious test of Shirov’s
opening} 17. Ng3 (17. Qd2 {defends against the threat of …Nd8 but now} Nf8 (
17… Nd8 $2 18. Raf1 {is very strong for White.}) 18. Nf4 Nxg6 19. Nxg6 Qxf7 {
is very comfortable for Black as his queen covers the kingside while White’s
is less active}) 17… Nd8 18. Rf3 (18. Rf4 $5 Qxg6 19. Rg4 Qh7 20. h4 {might
be a better way of drumming up counterplay.}) 18… Qxg6 19. Qd2 {and Black
must be better with his extra piece although the game remains complex as his
king is somewhat exposed and White’s pieces are active.}) 17. Nf4 Ra7 (17…
Nxg6 18. Nxg6 Kxf7 19. Qg4 {is exceedingly dangerous as we can see after} Kg8
20. Nxh8 Kxh8 21. Qh5+ Kg8 22. Rf1 Ra7 23. Rf3 {and Black is powerless to stop
White infiltrating on the h file, despite his extra piece.}) 18. Qf3 Qe8 ({The
computer recommends offering the exchange with} 18… Rh4 19. Rf1 Rxf4 20. Qxf4
Nxg6 {although White remains on top after} 21. Qf2) 19. Nxd5 $1 {Well
calculated!} Nxg6 ({Neither of the other captures are really possible:} 19…
exd5 20. Rxf8+ Qxf8 21. Qxd5+ {and White wins back all his sacrificed material
with interest.}) (19… Rxf7 20. gxf7+ Qxf7 21. Qxf7+ Kxf7 22. Nxb6 Ne7 23.
Rf1+ Kg8 24. Nxc4 {and White’s four pawns are worth more than the piece.}) 20.
Rxa7 Nxa7 21. Nxb6 Bd7 $1 {Wrestling back the initiative.} 22. Qb7 $6 {
Although this wins a piece it allows Black too much play.} ({Instead} 22. Nxd7
{was a much safer route.} Qxd7 23. d5 $1 {And again White will win back his
piece:} exd5 (23… Nxe5 24. Qe4 Qxd5 25. Qxd5 exd5 26. Bxa7 {leaves White
with a clear extra pawn in the ending.}) 24. e6 $1 Qxe6 25. Bxa7 Rh4 26. Rf1
Rf4 27. Qe3 Re4 {and Black has some play for the pawn but White must have any
advantage going.}) 22… Bc6 23. Qxa7 Nh4 {So suddenly the material imbalance
has switched completely. White is three pawns up but his king is very
vulnerable and the queen is out of place on a7. French players like to boast
about how, if that light squared bishop ever manages to escape his own pawn
chain, it becomes a super strong piece and we see that here. Oddly White is in
a lot of trouble.} 24. Qc7 (24. Qxa6 {looks logical, picking up another pawn
and preparing to exchange queens on c8 but} Nf3+ $1 {is very strong:} 25. Kf2 (
25. gxf3 Qg6+ 26. Kf1 Rxh2 {and White cannot avoid forced mate.}) 25… Qf7 $1
26. d5 Nd4+ 27. Ke1 Bb5 28. dxe6 Qf5 {and again Black’s attack is simply too
strong; hardly surprising when you see how White’s king is left naked in the
middle of the board while the queen and rook are both sidelined for White.})
24… Nxg2 25. Bg5 Nh4 {But this is the wrong way with the knight.} (25… Nf4
$1 {would have left White with grave difficulties.} 26. Bxf4 ({Running with
the king is a better try but} 26. Kf1 Rxh2 27. Bxf4 Rh1+ 28. Ke2 Rxa1 {leaves
Black in a much better endgame after White’s forced 29.Qc8.}) 26… Qg6+ 27.
Kf1 (27. Bg3 Rxh2 $1 28. Kxh2 Qxc2+ {and despite White’s huge material
advantage he can still not prevent mate on the light squares.} 29. Kh3 Bg2+ 30.
Kh4 Qe4+ 31. Kg5 Qf5+ 32. Kh4 Qh3+ 33. Kg5 Qxg3+ 34. Kh5 Bf3#) 27… Qg2+ 28.
Ke1 c3 $1 29. bxc3 Qe4+ 30. Kd1 Qxf4 {with a decisive attack.}) 26. Kf2 (26.
Rf1 {was the minor evil although Black’s still on top:} Nf3+ 27. Rxf3 Bxf3 28.
Qe7 Qxe7 (28… Qg6 29. Nd7 {allows White some counterplay.}) 29. Bxe7 Kf7 30.
Bg5 Bd5 {and Black is better although White has some drawing chances.}) 26…
Nf5 $6 {And again a natural knight move but the wrong one.} ({Instead} 26…
Nf3 $1 {was again winning:} 27. Bf4 (27. Qd8 Rxh2+ 28. Kg3 (28. Ke3 Nxg5 29.
Qxg5 Qf8 {and White will be forced to give material.}) 28… Rg2+ $1 29. Kf4
Nxg5 {with an extra piece.}) (27. h4 {now no longer prevents the rook
penetrating after} Nxg5) 27… Rh4 28. Bg3 Rxd4 {and with all his pieces
coordinated Black will easily catch the White king.}) 27. h4 $1 {The only
defence. Shirov must stop Morozevich’s rook from getting into the game.} Kh7 $5
(27… Nxh4 {should probably have been played when the correct result appears
to be a draw.} 28. Bf6 Qg6 (28… gxf6 29. Rg1+ Bg2 30. Rxg2+ Nxg2 31. exf6 Qg6
32. Qd8+ Kh7 33. Qc7+ $11 {with perpetual.}) 29. Qxc6 Qxc2+ 30. Kg1 Qf5 31.
Qa8+ Kh7 32. Qb7 Qg4+ 33. Kf2 Rb8 34. Qxg7+ Qxg7 35. Bxg7 Rxb6 36. Rh1 Kxg7 37.
Rxh4 Rxb2+ $11 {with a drawn endgame.}) 28. Rf1 {Shirov has some ideas of Ke1,
Bf6 and Rxf5 but Black’s counterplay is fast enough to prevent that.} ({
Instead the more natural} 28. Rg1 $1 {pressurising g7 leaves White better.} Rf8
29. Ke1 Rf7 30. Qd8 Qxd8 31. Bxd8 Nxd4 32. Rg3 Nxc2+ 33. Kd2 Nd4 34. Nxc4 {and
White has an extra pawn and some advantage in the endgame.}) 28… Bb5 $5 {
Freeing up the queen and preparing c3 ideas.} (28… Nxd4 {is a draw according
to the computer. One line runs:} 29. Kg3 Qh5 30. Rf6 Kg8 31. Qd8+ Kh7 32. Qc7
$11) 29. a4 $1 {Deflecting the bishop.} Bxa4 30. Ke1 {Shirov opens the path
for his rook and gets his king to safety.} ({Instead} 30. d5 {trying to get
the knight back into the game looked strong initially but} Rf8 31. Kg1 Qh5 {
and Black’s initiative is worth at least a draw.}) 30… Rf8 {Another natural
move and the position is starting to settle into more normal waters with all
pieces developed but it is still exceedingly sharp.} ({Activating the queen
with} 30… Qb5 $1 {looks even stronger when the position is roughly balanced.
One sample line runs:} 31. Rxf5 $5 exf5 32. Nxa4 Qxa4 33. Kd1 Qa1+ 34. Bc1 Qa4
35. Qf7 Qe8 36. Qxf5+ Qg6 37. Qf4 Rb8 {with a complex position. White’s
central pawns look commanding but the weakness of his king is the more
important factor.}) 31. Nxa4 $2 {This helps Black as the queen comes into the
fold and is a big error. I imagine both players were starting to get into
heavy time trouble, hardly surprising considering the complexity of the game
thus far.} (31. Rf4 {was better than the game continuation holding onto the d4
pawn. Black’s initiative still comes very quickly but it looks possible to
hold the draw:} Qb5 32. Nxa4 Qxa4 33. Kd2 Qb4+ 34. Ke2 Qa4 (34… Qxb2 35. Qxc4
a5 {is a possible way to play on. Practically the position is much easier for
Black.}) 35. Kd2 Qb4+ $11) (31. Rf2 {defending c2 was also possible:} Nxd4 32.
Bf6 Qg6 33. Qxg7+ $1 Qxg7 34. Bxg7 Nf3+ 35. Kd1 Bxc2+ 36. Rxc2 Kxg7 37. Nxc4
Rd8+ 38. Kc1 Rd4 $11 {with a drawn ending.}) (31. Qc5 $5 Bxc2 32. Qxc4 Be4 {
looks very dangerous but is White’s best winning try.}) 31… Qxa4 32. Bf6 {
Obviously this was his idea but it fails. Already it seems too late for White.}
(32. Rf2 Qa1+ 33. Kd2 Qg1 34. Be3 Qg3 {would force White to give the exchange
as} 35. Re2 Nxe3 36. Rxe3 Rf2+ 37. Re2 Qf4+ {picks up the rook.}) 32… Qa1+
33. Kf2 Qxb2 34. Kg1 Qxd4+ 35. Kh2 Qd2+ (35… Qg4 $1 {followed by taking on
h4 was a more incisive continuation.} 36. Rg1 Qf4+ 37. Kh3 Rxf6 $1 {and White
cannot recapture due to the pin on his queen.}) 36. Kh1 Qh6 $2 {Morozevich
errs in turn.} (36… Ng3+ 37. Kg1 Rg8 $1 38. Rf2 Qe1+ 39. Kg2 Ne4 {would have
been resignable.}) 37. Rg1 a5 ({And here} 37… c3 $1 {was strong so that
following} 38. Bg5 Qh5 39. Qxc3 {White isn’t defending the h4 pawn and so} Nxh4
{should be winning.}) 38. Bg5 Qh5 39. Qxc4 Qf3+ 40. Kh2 Qf2+ (40… Rb8 $1 {
was a strong idea but tough to see at move 40. The point is that} 41. Qxe6 $2 {
fails to} Rb1 $1 42. Rxb1 Qf2+ 43. Kh1 Ng3#) 41. Rg2 Qe1 42. Qg4 Kg8 ({There
wasn’t anything wrong with grabbing the pawn:} 42… Qxe5+ 43. Bf4 Qd4 {and
Black’s extra pawn gives him a big advantage as his plan of pushing the a pawn
is hard to stop.}) 43. Bf6 Rf7 44. h5 Qe3 45. c3 Qxc3 {This allows White to
exchange off a pair of pawns and create some threats but Black’s position
isn’t as easy as it was.} (45… Kh8 {is possible but a line like} 46. c4 a4
47. c5 a3 48. c6 Qc1 49. Qg5 Qxg5 50. Bxg5 Nd4 51. Bc1 Nxc6 52. Bxa3 Rf5 53. h6
{gives White decent drawing chances.}) (45… Rc7 46. Qa4 (46. c4 Rd7 $1 47.
Qg5 a4 {looks very good for Black.}) 46… Kf8 47. Qg4 {and White can keep
prevent Black getting settled.}) 46. h6 $1 Nxh6 (46… Qe3 {was an alternative
plan but looks rather risky. Nonetheless} 47. hxg7 Rb7 48. Re2 Qh6+ 49. Qh3
Qxh3+ 50. Kxh3 a4 {would give Black good winning chances.}) 47. Qxe6 Kh7 48.
Bg5 $6 {This should be another losing move! It was vital to keep the g file
open.} (48. Bd8 $1 a4 (48… Rf5 $4 49. Qg6+ {would be embarrassing.}) 49. Qg6+
Kh8 50. Qg3 {and White is still on the board although of course Black has a
clear edge.} (50. e6 $5 {also looks interesting as Black’s route to victory is
hardly obvious.} Rf3 51. Qe8+ Kh7 52. Qg6+ Kg8 53. Qxh6 Qe5+ 54. Kg1 Rd3 $1 {
is winning for Black but is of course a computer line and impossible for a
human to spot.})) 48… Rf5 $1 {Now Black can activate his rook and picks up
the e pawn.} 49. Bh4 Qxe5+ 50. Qxe5 Rxe5 {With two extra pawns Black should be
winning here but Shirov keeps it tricky and with the clock running down it’s
not so easy to convert.} 51. Bd8 a4 52. Ra2 Re4 53. Kg3 Kg6 54. Kf3 Kf5 55. Rb2
Nf7 56. Bc7 Ne5+ 57. Kg2 Nc4 58. Rb8 Re7 59. Bg3 Ra7 {It looks natural to
stick the rook behind the pawn but in fact this is the start of the wrong plan
as now White can activate his bishop.} ({Instead pushing the pawn was the
cleanest win:} 59… a3 $1 60. Ra8 Re2+ 61. Kf3 Re3+ 62. Kg2 Kg4 63. Bf2 Re2
64. Ra4 Rc2 {when Black can combine mating threats and zugwang to promote his
pawn.}) 60. Rb4 Ne3+ 61. Kf3 Nd5 62. Rb5 Ke6 63. Bf2 Ra6 64. Bd4 {Now with the
bishop on the long diagonal it isn’t so trivial.} g6 65. Ke4 Nc7 66. Rg5 Kf7
67. Rg1 a3 68. Kd3 Ne6 69. Be5 g5 70. Kc4 Kg6 71. Kb3 Kf5 72. Bc3 a2 73. Ra1 g4
74. Be1 Nc5+ 75. Kc4 Ne4 76. Kb3 Kf4 77. Bh4 Nd2+ 78. Kb2 Nf3 79. Bf2 Re6 $2 {
Morozevich has made great progress but here misses something and I believe
after this it’s a draw.} ({Instead continuing to manoeuvre with the knight with
} 79… Ne5 $1 {would have won the game.} 80. Bh4 Nd3+ 81. Kc2 Ke3 82. Kb3 Ke4
$1 83. Kc4 Nc1 $1 84. Kb5 Ra8 85. Kc4 Rb8 $1 {and White will have to give his
rook to prevent the a pawn queening.}) 80. Rxa2 Re2+ 81. Ka3 Rxa2+ 82. Kxa2 {
it seems impossible to shift the bishop now. Morozevich tries in vain.} Ne5 83.
Kb3 Kf3 84. Be1 Nd3 85. Bh4 Nf4 86. Kc2 Ng2 87. Be7 g3 88. Kd2 Nf4 89. Bc5 g2
90. Ba7 Ng6 91. Ke1 Ne5 92. Bg1 Nd3+ 93. Kd2 Nf2 94. Ke1 Nh3 95. Ba7 Nf4 96.
Kd2 Kg3 97. Ke1 Nd3+ 98. Ke2 {A very interesting game between two players who
always focus on the initiative. There are points where their play could be
improved but such positions are impossible for us mortals to navigate and are
the reason both players score so heavily. This type of game keeps the fans
much more interested than a dry Petroff or Queen’s Gambit Declined and they
should be encouraged as much as possible.} 1/2-1/2

3 Responses to “Game of the Month – November”