13 January 2016

There is no Mating Without Sacrificing Pawns

Day two of the Paul Keres Memorial – ACP Open in the review of Vladimir Barsky.

It should be mentioned that in round five there happened a small incident when the St. Petersburg grandmaster Maxim Novik failed to appear for his game against Boris Gelfand. Boris was upset that he had come to collect a point without having to play his game, "Max was there at breakfast, I saw him from afar. He obviously got it wrong about the round starting time. First and foremost, we have had good relationships with him since childhood: we used to share same room back in 1981 when studying at the Petrosian School in Tarasovka."

I beg your pardon, but 1981 happened to be as far back as 35 years ago! By the way, "Boris has featured an excellent memory since childhood. When we used to forget a phone number of one of our friends or family members, we would then apply to Boris... Walking down the street, our eyes would scan the license plates of vehicles passing by. I would then commit one of the numbers to memory. When I later asked Boris, he would correctly spell out this number for me. Boris was 4 years then." This is a quote from the book "Passion and Profession" (Minneapolis, USA, 2006), written by Abraham Gelfand, father of the famous grandmaster. Boris presented this rare book in Moscow to his friend Mark Glukhovsky, but I will not give it away to anyone until I finish reading it over! However, we have somewhat sidestepped from the main topic of the tournament.

After completion of round five the Tallinn tournament has received its first sole leader: the young Polish grandmaster, Vice-champion of the World U20 Championship Jan-Krzysztof Duda turned out to be the only one who has managed to win all five games in a row. Duda has already become a renowned expert of the rapid format of play, having won the European rapid championship a year ago.

Duda – Fridman

When paying attention to the pawn structure, one is likely to guess at once that the position has emerged from the famous line of the Queen's Gambit, in which Black allows doubling of his pawns after piece exchanges on f6, thus transiting into a somewhat worse endgame where his position is very solid at that.

Should White succeed in mounting his knight on f5, Black’s situation is going to worsen markedly as he will always need to reckon with the g4-g5 breakthrough, followed by the offensive along the g-file. Therefore, Daniel Friedman tries to obtain his counterplay in the center.

29…c5!? 30.dxc5 Bxc5 31.Nh1!

This dismal-looking move is a shortcut to f5!


31...d4 32.exd4 Rxe2 33.Kxe2 Bxd4 doesn’t work in view of 34.Rc8+ Kg7 35.Ng3, resulting in the black king getting under attack. 

32.Ng3 d4 

This move is now a pawn sacrifice rather than a trade. 

33.exd4 Rxe2 34.Nxe2 Bf8 35.Rc2 f5 36.gxf5 Rxf5 37.Ke4

White managed to keep his extra pawn while continuing to deploy his pieces to more active positions. 

37…Rb5 38.Nc3 f5+ 39.Kd3 Ra5 40.Kc4 Bd6 41.Rf2 Ra6 42.d5 Ra8 43.Kb5 a3 44.b4 Re8 45.Ka4 Re3 46.Nb5 Bf8 47.Rd2 Kf7 48.d6 Ke8 49.Rd5 Bg7

50.d7+ Kd8 51.Nd6! Black resigns. 

A nice win was scored by the 2014 European Champion Alexander Motylev. 

Motylev – Goganov

27.Nd5! Nf3+ 28.Rxf3! gxf3 29.Nxe7 Rxg3+ 30.Kf2 Rxh3 31.f5, and the connected passed pawns sealed the fate of the game. Meanwhile, it should be added that White went on to convert his advantage not in the best possible manner, which, however, is not at all unusual for the rapid type of chess. 

Luck turned its back on the young St. Petersburg grandmaster Alexei Goganov, who had scored 4 of the 4 at the start, when in the next round he had to play with the black pieces for the second time in a row, this time against his renowned countryman at that.

Svidler – Goganov

17.c4! c6 18.dxc6 Bxc6 19.axb5 axb5 20.Rxa8 Qxa8 21.cxb5 Bxe4 22.Nc4 Bxf3 23.Qxf3

The iron friend feels no fear leaving the queens on the board, just grabbing everything that comes his way: 23.gxf3 Rd8 24.Nxd6 Nf5 25.Bxf7+ Kh8 26.Bxe5. A human player, however, is obviously willing to assure as much safety for his king as possible, compelling Svidler to transit into an ending. 

23...Qxf3 24.gxf3 Nf5 25.Rd1 Bf8 26.b6 


Goganov missed the following tricky rejoinder of his opponent. After 26...Rb8 27.Bc2 Nxg3 28.fxg3 it would have been White’s turn of needing to be careful about maintaining the balance. 

27.Ba4! Re7 28.Bxe5 dxc4 

Since White’s bishop has timely sidestepped to а4, Black is now capturing the knight without gaining a tempo. 

29.Bxf6 Rb7 30.Bd8, and White went on to win the game. 

Romanov – Gelfand

Being in mutual time trouble, Boris Abramovich sacrificed an exchange for a pawn and cleverly outfoxed his young opponent in the subsequent play.


This sudden stab is delivered on that side of the board at which it was least expected to take place. Meanwhile, Black is thus luring the enemy rook onto d2 for falling victim of the pre-intended knight fork.

37.Rd2 Qd5+ 38.Kf2

Being pressed for time, one is unlikely to immediately figure out that giving back the exchange was the best idea in this position: 38.Kg1! Nf3+ 39.Rxf3 Qxd2 40.Qxe5 Rd8 41.Rf2, and White goes on to maintain equality.


The fact of the black rook and the white king being lined up against each other is going to tell in the near future. 


The computer-suggested resource 39.Qf3! Qxf3+ 40.Rxf3 Nxf3 41.Kxf3, with drawing chances, undoubtedly belongs to the category of “undetectable” for a human player. 

39...f4 40.Qg5. White lost on time, although his position was defendable neither after 40…Qf3+, nor after 40…fxg3+. 

We are going to wrap up our review with an effective attack carried out by the young English grandmaster, who finished his second game day on a clean first place.

Howell – Jumabayev

1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.g3 Qb6 7.Ndb5 Ne5 8.Bg2 a6 9.Na3 Bxa3 10.bxa3 Nxc4 11.0-0 0-0 12.Bg5 d5 13.Rc1 Nxa3

Black handled the opening in a quite risky fashion. While being in pursuit of the white pawns, Black neglected the issue of his king safety. Who on earth is going to stand up for the black king now, when half his army is still undeveloped, whereas the other half is deeply bogged down on the queenside? 

14.e4! d4

Black cannot afford having the center opened up: 14...dxe4 15.Bxf6 gxf6 16.Qg4+ Kh8 17.Qh4 Kg7 18.Rfe1, with decisive threats. 

15.e5! Nd7 16.Ne4 Nxe5

The "material-oriented" person could be positively swayed by the following option: 17.Be7 Nb5 18.Bxf8 Kxf8 19.a4 Na7 20.Qh5 etc., but David definitely calculated as far as the mate. There is none to fend off White’s penetration along the black squares as the f8-bishop was traded off for the sake of winning a pawn as far back as move 9...

17...gxf6 18.Bxf6 Ng6 19.Qh5 e5

It was this resource that Black was pinning his hopes on, however…


Howell immediately executed the move on the board and, judging by the reaction of the Kazakh grandmaster, it became evident that he had overlooked this interference idea.

20…Qd8 21.Qh6 Qxf6 22.Rxf6 Bg4 23.Bd5 Be2 24.Rxg6+ hxg6 25.Qxg6+ Kh8 26.Qh6+ Kg8 27.Be4. Black resigns.