25 June 2015

The Najdorf – a Weapon of Choice Against the Young

Round Two review of the Russian Championship Higher League by Eteri Kublashvili.

Prior to round two many of those attending the Higher League were looking forward to the game between Artemiev and Khalifman, because it's not every day that the renowned master and the young talent meet each other over the board. However, the game ended peacefully: Alexander Valerievich obtained a comfortable game playing Black and was putting pressure on his opponent, but Vlad succeeded in solving all of his problems.

The battle on the first board between Mikhail Kobalia and Vladimir Fedoseev turned out to be a lot more sanguinary. The intrigue of the game was that Mikhail has for several years now been heading the junior team of Russia and our young players have won many medals under his leadership. Vladimir has more than once successfully played for the team, and now he had to be faced off with his former trainer. In this case the more experienced player prevailed, having managed to gain the advantage since the early stage of the game.

Mikhail Kobalia explained his victory by the opening part of the game having worked out well for him:

“We have played out the Najdorf Variation where anything can happen. To my mind, the entire operation undertaken by Black in order to transit into the opposite-color bishop middlegame was unsound. The setup with the white knight on d5, which holds everything together, is strategically bad for Black. Perhaps Vladimir could have played more accurately, but the evaluation of the position is still in White’s favor as Black experiences a lot of problems in general and with his king in particular. As you know, in a bad position good moves are virtually non-existent.”

Kobalia – Fedoseev 

Black pieces are clearly lacking coordination, whereas the position of the king leaves much to be desired. Mikhail highlights the shortcomings of his opponent's position with the help of the thrust on the kingside.

19. f6 Qb7

Now White flattens out the shelter of his opponent’s king. 

20. fxg7+ Kxg7 21. 0-0 Ra7 22. Kh1 Kf8 23. h4 Rh6 24. Qf5

Black is unable to defend his h-pawn, and White went on to win the game shortly. 

A confident win was also scored by Daniil Dubov playing White. The first key moment of the game occurred on move fifteen, as was explained by the Moscow grandmaster. 

Dubov – Rozum 

Daniil Dubov: "I cannot figure out whether it was necessary for Black to opt for 15...g6, because if you refrain from this move, there is no threat of e5 by me. Therefore, had Ivan played differently, the position would have remained unclear.”

“After 15...g6 I am forced to play 16. e5, if I am to claim anything at all in this position. There followed 16...dxe5 17. fxe5, and then I could not evaluate what was going to be there for me upon 17...Qxe5 18. Qxe5 Nxe5 19. Rxf6 Ng4.”

“We discussed this position with Ivan after the game and came to the conclusion that White should be OK, but I could not get at the exact move order that I was to follow up with. I decided that I would be able to uncork the correct move order by looking at this position from a closer distance. Initially I could see that I would be able to equalize in different ways, which, in principle, was not so bad for starters.”

“The game saw 17...Nh5 18. Be4, when I was evaluating this position as extremely unpleasant for Black. The computer might find the precise defensive formations, but White has a simple plan: I am going to trade the strong bishop to be followed by g4 and Ne4-Nf6. It is also important that by 18. Be4 I defend the pawn on e5 quite unexpectedly.”

“After 18...Bg7 I was on the brim of going along with 19. g4 when I realized that Black had an idea of meeting it with 19...f5, after which, in my opinion, it was not altogether clear who was better.”

“Therefore I went for 19. Ndb5 as I had seen this move in my advanced calculations; it was initially the plan "B", which has become the plan "A".”

19…axb5 20. Nxb5 

“Up to a certain point it seemed to me that Black was lost. Maybe, instead of 20...Qd8 more stubborn would have been to go for 20...Qb8, which I intended to meet by 21. Rxd7 Bxe4 22. Qxe4 Rxa2 23. Bd4, but objectively speaking Black is in a bad shape in this position.”

21. Bxb7 Rxa2 22. Bc6 Qh4 23. Qf2 Qxf2 24.Rxf2 Bxe5


25. Bxd7 Rd8 26. Bxe5 Rxf2 27. Kg1 Rc2


“When I played 28. g4, I was well aware of the position being absolutely winning. This was followed by 28...Ng7 29. Bf6 Rb8. After 30.Nd4 I decided that I was winning nicely and went on to spend another 10 minutes on calculating variations. Somehow in a completely winning position I made up my mind to count as far as up to the point of actual winning rather than just playing it out gradually up to this very point.”

“The knight maneuver Nd4-Nc6-Ne7+ is probably inaccurate. 30...Ra2 31.Nc6 Rba8 32.Ne7+, and here at first I believed that after 32...Kf8 I am winning by 33. Bc6, but then I realized that after 33...Ne8 my position is not better at all. I was upset and went for 33. Nc8. Here Black could play 33...Rc2 34. Nxb6 Raa2, and despite the fact that the engine’s evaluation of this position would probably be "+5", from the human point of view it seemed to me that things were far from being so clear. It seemed to me that the last time Black stood that good was at the moment when they moved 15...g6.

However, Ivan resigned in this position much to my surprise and my great joy.” 

In general, the overwhelming majority of the games of this round were won by White, the fact which the online spectators could have witnessed in the course of the online broadcasting. In the women’s section the number of victories by first and second players is almost equal with very few draws.

A very creative trap was in store for the Kaliningrad chess player Ekaterina Ustich by Alina Kashlinskaya. 

Kashlinskaya – Ustich 

Black’s position is no bowl of cherries as her pieces are tied up to defensive assignments, while the weakness of the back rank looms treacherously in various lines. Nevertheless, the outcome of the game was settled after the poisoned pawn was captured.

26…Nxc4? 27. Nc7! 

Lack of luft had its say at last as now Black has to face losing material and the game shortly after.

Marina Guseva has literally managed to get Marina Baraeva confused just out of the blue.

Baraeva - Guseva 

59. Qg1?!

It is better to defend the bishop with the king, as is going to be seen a little bit later.

59...f6 60. Nd7 Ng6! 61. Kh3 Nf4+ 62. Kh2 Nd3 

The knight continues his winning race and will soon be joined by his fellow colleague.

63. Bg3 Ne3 64. Kh3 Nf1

65. Nb6 f5! 66. d5 f4, and White resigns.

After two rounds the men’s section sees Ivan Popov, Aleksandr Rakhmanov, Mikhail Kobalia, Dmitry Bocharov, and Dmitry Frolyanov continuing with the perfect score, same as Anastasia Savina, Daria Pustovoitova, Anastasia Bodnaruk, Marina Guseva, Baira Kovanova, Alina Bivol, and Oksana Gritsaeva in the women's event.

In the third round we are looking forward to even more uncompromising encounters and, perhaps, both sections of the tournament will find their sole leaders.