23 September 2019

Persistence and Cold Blood

Maxim Notkin reviews Round 4 games of the FIDE World Cup.

The percentage of decisive games in classical chess increased, compared to the previous round, but the reduced number of participants allows us to take a look at each game that ended in someone's favor.


Vitiugov defeated a regular of super tournaments again, creating a positional masterpiece as White.


Vitiugov - So


In a relatively rare variation of the Petroff, Nikita's maneuvers seemed purposeless at first. However, as soon as Black declared his active intentions on the kingside, it turned out that the d5-pawn turned to a constant headache: 18...Kh8 19.Be2! Rg8 20.Bf3

Perhaps Black should have stuck to a more center-oriented strategy: 18...Rab8 19.Be2 Rd7 20.Bf3 Rbd8, waiting for the right moment for d5-d4 (the immediate 19...d4 deserves attention, too). It is also possible that Wesley placed a pawn on c5 prematurely.

20...Rad8 21.a5! b5. After 21...bxa5 22.Ra4 Bd7 23.Ra2 Bc6 24.Qf2 Black has to return one of the pawns (if 24...Qb6, then 25.Raa1! and Rdb1). When the position gets opened, safety of Black's king will become an important factor – same as in the game with Karjakin.



The black pawns are not fixed, but moving each of them gives white bishops dominating outposts on important diagonals (b7, d4). So tries to hold by shuffling his pieces behind the pawn chain, but he is unable to protect every weakness. Vitiugov's maneuvers leave a colossal impression aesthetically. 

22...Rd7 23.Rdb1 Rb8 24.Bf2 Rdd8 25.Qe2 Qb6 26.Rb2 Rd7 27.Qf1 Rc7 28.Be2 Bd7 29.Qd1 Qe6. Perhaps 29...Bc6 is better, though it is easy to guess that Wesley disliked piling his pieces like that. 

30.Ra5 Kg7 31.Qa1! g5 32.Bxb5 Rxb5 33.Raxb5 Bxb5 34.Rxb5 gxf4 35.Qa5


White's achievements are unquestionable. In the case of 35...Qc6 36.Rb8 he will continue to torment the opponent on many sides. Looking for counterchances, So elects a more forcing line.

35...Qxe5 36.Rb7 Rxb7? Helping the opponent create a passed pawn is just wrong. After 36...Bd6 37.Rxc7+ Bxc7 38.Qxc5 Kg6 (38...Bb6? loses to 39.Qxb6! axb6 40.Bd4) the position remains sharp, and White must choose carefully. Both 39.Bg1 f3 40.gxf3 Qg3 41.Qc6+ Kg5 42.Be3+ Bf4 and39.Qxa7 f3 lose an advantage, and he can even get checkmated after 40.g3?? (40.Bg1) 40...Qe2. 39.Qc6+ is the most accurate, but handling the resulting position in practical play is not the same as analyzing it with the computer, and it could easily go either way.

37.axb7 f3 38.gxf3 Bd6 39.Kg2. The white king now leaves a danger area, and the b7-pawn reminds a sword of Damocles. Vitiugov won the game without much trouble.


Vachier-Lagrave - Svidler


26.Nxd6 Bxd3 27.Qxd3 Bxd6 28.Bxf6. Simple tactical operation net White an extra pawn. The computer remains unperturbed, though, but Peter was unable to remain computer cool.

28...Bf4. After 28...Qb8 Black creates strong pressure on the а3-pawn, securing sufficient counterchances. After the exemplary 29.Bd4 Rd8 30.Qc3? Bxa3 it is White who has to think of survival. After 29.Ba1 Rd8 30.Qc3 Bf8 with the idea Qb3 or 29.Rb1 Qc7 30.Bb2 Rb8 31.Rc1 Qb6 32.Ba1 Bf8 Black's active major pieces fully compensate for the material deficit.

29.Rb1 Qc7 30.Bc3 Rd8 31.Qf3 Rc8?! Allowing the enemy bishop to stabilize. After 31...Bd6 32.Bb4?! Qc2 the а4-pawn could become dangerous. After 32.Rc1 Black has a choice between a simple retreat 32...Qd7 and a fortress: 32...Bxa3 33.Bb2 Qxc1+ 34.Bxc1 Bxc1 35.Qc3 Rd1+ 36.Kh2 a3.




32...Qc1+. If only there was a checkmate... After 32...Bc1 Black threatens Qc2, and the game can easily go into an ending with 4 pawns versus 3 on the same flank, i. e., 33.Qd1 Qc2 34.Qxc2 Rxc2 35.Kf1 f6, and Black responds to both 36.Ke1 and 36.Bd6 by 36...Bb2.

33.Qd1 Qc4 34.g3. 34.Qxa4 Qxe4 35.Re1 with an extra adjacent passed pawn is also good.

34...Qxe4?! Black could still fight by 34...Be5 (but 34...Bc1 is too late in view of 35.Bd6). Maxime convincingly refutes the piece sacrifice.

35.gxf4 Rc6



36.f5! Stronger than 36.f3. Black hoped for 36.Bd6? Qg6+.

36...Qxf5 37.Bd6 Qxh3. Now 37...Qg6+ is met by 38.Bg3. And if 37...Rxd6, then comes the intermediate 38.Rb8+.

38.Rb4 Rc3 39.Rd4 Kh7 40.Qxa4 Qf3 (40...Rc1+ 41.Rd1, and the g4-square is controlled) 41.Qd1 Qc6 42.Qf1. Black resigns.


Yu Yangyi - Nepomniachtchi


The computer fails to see any compensation for the two pawns sacrificed by White, and gives Black a large edge in many variations ranging from 20...Qc4 (20...b6) 21.Rb6 Rf6 22.Rxf6 Bxf6 23.e5 Bg7 24.d6 e6, passively holding to the material, to more energetic ones like 20...b5 21.Bxc5 Qc4 22.Bxe7 Rfe8 23.Bd6 Rb6 24.e5 Rxd6 25.exd6 b4. After the move chosen by Ian, Yu Yangyi wins one of the pawns back and brings his pieces on attacking positions.

20...Qa4? 21.Qxa4 Bxa4 22.Bxc5 Rf7 23.Rb6 Kh7 24.Rf3 Ba5? Bishops are not knights, but in this case staying on a rim is as dim as in Dr. Tarrasch's proverb. After 24...Bg7 the game remains double-edged.




25...fxe4? 25...Bd7 is met by 26.Bxf5! gxf5 (26...Bxe6 27.Bxe6 Rf6 28.Bd4) 27.Rh3+ Kg8 28.Reh6! (28.Bd4 Rg7) 28...fxe4 29.Rh8+ Kg7 30.R3h7+ Kg6 31.Rh6+ Kf5 32.Rxb8 with an extra exchange for White. Yet this is probably the best option for Black.

26.Rg3 Rg8. The f-pawn push is quite painful in other lines as well, for example, 26...Bd2 27.f5 g5 28.Bg4 with a decisive attack.

27.f5! g5. If 27...gxf5, then 28.Bxf5+! Rxf5 29.Rxe7+ Kh8 30.Rh3+ or 29...Kh6 30.Rxg8.

28.Bxe7 (28.Bg4 is very strong, too) 28...Bc7 29.d6 Bb6+ 30.Kh2 Bd7 31.Rg6 e3 32.R3xg5 Rgg7 33.Rxg7+ (33.Bf6! is more spectacular) 33...Rxg7 34.Rh5+ Kg8 35.f6 Bg4 (35...e2 36.Re5)



White has the last say in this tactical skirmish.

36.Rh8+! Kxh8 37.fxg7+ Kxg7 38.Bxg4, and in a couple of moves Yu Yangyi won the game and the match. 


In two matches those who lost a first game managed to come back.


Duda - Xiong



White was playing an exchange down for quite a while, and his compensation kept growing over time. After 32.Nc6 Re8 the position repeats for a second time. On 32.Ne6 Black can try 32...Rcc2, improving his position after 33.Rb1 Rab2 or 33.Qf4 g5, while 33.Rf1?, which looks like overprotection of the f2-pawn, is actually an invitation: 33...Rxf2!, and White has to part with a queen. White's best option there is forcing a draw by 33.Qd2! Rxd2 34.Rc8+ Kf7 35.Rc7+.

Duda decided to keep playing.

32.Rb1 Ra4?! The strongest piece should return to help other defenders: 32...Qd7 33.Ne6 Rac2 – a very tense position that requires accurate play from both sides.

33.Ne6 Rac4 34.Re1. Preparing to put a queen on а7. On 34...a5 35.Qa7 (35.Qf4 can be met by35...f5) 35...Qh6 the computer advises to improve a pawn structure on the kingside by 36.h4 g5 37.h5! g4 38.Kg2 and gives White an edge.

The necessary measures against trading rooks are taken, the a-pawn cannot go too far, and the white queen will soon run the show in the enemy camp. 

Xiong's reply loses by force.



35.e5! Black cannot capture with the f-pawn, so White creates a passed pawn. The greedy and rushy 35.Qa7 runs into 35...Qh6 36.Qxa6 g4 37.Qxd6? Rc1, which turns the tables completely.

35...dxe5 36.Qa7 Qh6 37.d6 Rc1 38.Rxc1 Rxc1+ 39.Kg2 g4



The only thing left for White is to parry transparent mating threats.

40.h4! gxh3+ 41.Kh2 Qg6 42.Qa8+. 42...Kf7 is met by 43.d7, and White wins. Just don't play42.d7?? Rh1+! 43.Kxh1 Qe4+, and a mate on g2 follows. Black resigns.


Xiong - Duda


The second game was basically decided in the opening.

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3 c6 4.Nf3 d5 5.Bb3 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Bxd2+ 7.Qxd2 Qd6 8.Qg5 Nbd7 9.exd5 cxd5 10.d4 e4



Apart from various earlier deviations, Duda had a chance to play 10...exd4, deviating from his recent game with Svidler at the Grand Prix in Riga, which continued 11.Nh4. 

11.Ne5 0-0 12.Nc3 Nb6 13.f3 Be6 14.0-0-0. Xiong improves White's play in Vitiugov-Zubov, European championship 2016, which went 14.Qe3 exf3 15.gxf3 Nh5 16.Qg5 f6 17.Qxh5 fxe5 18.Qxe5 Qxe5+ 19.dxe5 Rxf3 and ended in a draw. Duda is caught unprepared. 

14...Rac8 15.Qd2 a6. Having covered the b4-square, White was planning to place a knight on b5. Black's slow prophylaxis allows the opponent to increase pressure in the center. One could perhaps try 15...exf3 16.gxf3 Nc4. 15...Nbd7 is also interesting, with the idea 16.f4 Nb6. The pawn tension is relieved, and Black is going to bother the e5-knight by Ne8 and f7-f6, and then turn his attention to the queenside (а7-а5, double the rooks on the c-file, etc).

16.Rhe1 exf3 17.gxf3 Nfd7? This move makes Black's pieces less coordinated. 17...Rfd8 is better. Duda linked the knight maneuver with a regrouping plan, which ran into a powerful reply.

18.h4 f6 19.Nd3 Bf7



20.Qf4! Exchanging the queen means losing the d5-pawn. Sadly, Black has little choice.

20...Rc6 21.Qxd6 Rxd6 22.Nc5 Rb8 23.Re7 Kf8 24.Rde1, and White got an overwhelming advantage.


Grischuk - Dominguez


Grischuk's persistence yielded him gold on an almost empty board.

75.h6!? gxh6 76.f5 c2? The pawn must be used to distract the bishop. The idea is illustrated by the following variations: 76...Bg5 77.Kg4 Kf8 78.f6 Be3 79.Kf5 h5 80.e6 Bc5 81.Kg5 Be7! 82.fxe7+ Kxe7 83.Kf5 h4 or 77...Kd7 78.f6 c2 79.Bxc2 Ke6 (79...Bxf6 80.exf6 Ke6).

After the move in the game, Black's pieces get pushed to a back rank, and zugzwang decides the outcome.

77.f6+ Kf8 78.Bxc2 Bc3 79.Kf4 h5 80.Bd1 h4 81.Bg4 Ba5 82.Kf5 Bc7 83.e6 Bd8 84.Bh5 h3 85.Bg4 h2 86.Bf3 Kg8 87.Kg6 Kf8 88.Bc6



Black resigns.


In the return game a complex position arose, and Alexander delivered a tempting tactical blow.


Dominguez - Grischuk


28...Nxg2? After the correct 28...h3 29.Bxf4 Qxf4 or 29.g3 exd4 30.cxd4 Ne6 the chances are more or less equal.

29.Kh1! An excellent reply – Dominguez utilizes opening the g-file! Black expected 29.Bxg2? h3 30.Bg3 hxg2 31.Rfd1, and he has a fine position. 

29...Qxd2. Supporting the cavalry at all costs is the solution. For example, after 29...h3 30.Rad1 N2f4?, retreating the knight leads to a disaster: 31.Rg1 Qf6 32.Bxf4 exf4 33.Rxg6+ Qxg6 34.Rg1. The engines promise White a big advantage after 30...exd4 31.cxd4 Rad8 32.Nb3 N6h4 33.Qe2 or30...Bb8 31.Qxc6, but it is not so obvious for a human player.




Another strong intermediate move.

30...Ne3. After 30...Qc2 31.Bxg2 exd4 32.Rc1 Qd2 33.e5! Black has no adequate defense against e5-e6, Be4, Bxc6.

31.fxe3 Qxe3 32.Rd3 Qh6 33.Bg4 Rae8 34.Rdf3 Re7 35.Bf5. All White's pieces take part in the attack, and Black is helpless. Black resigned in a few moves.