Friday, September 28, 2012

A Day Off in Sao Paulo

I also had a day off which I spent with my lovely wife, Caroline.It isn't often that we get days off together, and chess tournaments seem to be the same. Because as Sao Paulo had a day off, the men's Grand Prix in London and the women's Grand Prix in Ankara were in full swing. The London Grand Prix is struggling through mid tournament and has seen a lot of draws so far. It's a big shame that 2 of the tournament's young stars, Nakamura and Giri,  seem to be in terrible form. However, the tournament leader, Boris Gelfand is only at +2 so a lot could happen yet with 5 rounds still to go.

The women's tournament has created far more exciting chess, with top seeds Muzychuk and Koneru leading the way on 7.5 from 10 games. With just one round to go these 2 lead by half a point from Xue Zhao, and one of these 3 will be the winner. They have all played each other so it is anyone's tournament. In the last round, the most fascinating game to my mind was the continuation of the theoretical duel between Tatiana Kosintseva and Wenjun Ju in the main line of the Sicilian Najdorf. This was an opening that was all the rage when I was young. I remember buying a book on the Najdorf by John Nunn in about 1982 and being enthralled with it. Nunn then revised his book and updated it and when it was published I became disillusioned with the Najdorf and opening theory in general due to the increase in size of the book and the knowledge needed to play this sharp opening.

Before looking at this game, yesterday I set this puzzle:
This was from the game Nedezhda Kosintseva-Vojinovic Gaziantep 2012. What move did black miss here? If black had found the amazing 30..Qe4! white could have resigned. Black threatens 31..Qxg2 mate and if 31.Qxe4, then 31..Rxf1+ leading to mate as well. The Kosintseva twin was lucky that her opponent missed 30..Qe4 and after an eventful rest of the game, it ended in a draw.

After the move1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Be7 8. Qf3
Qc7 9. O-O-O Nbd7 10. g4 b5 11. Bxf6 Nxf6 12. g5 Nd7 13. f5 a critical position in the Najdorf has arisen.
I remember looking at this position in some detail in my teens and thinking deeply about the options 13..Bxg5, 13..Ne5 and 13..Nc5, the last of which was always seen as the mainline. A couple of years ago, the move 13..O-O appeared, and has proved a favourite of Chinese player Wenjun Ju. She has played it a number of times, including games against both Kosintseva sisters at the Nalchik women's Grand Prix in 2011 and Russian women's legend Alexandra Kosteniuk in a rapid event in 2011.

Nedezhda Kosintseva played very conservatively with 14.fxe6 fxe6 15.Qe3 when confronted with this move and lost. Two days later, Tatiana played more aggressively with 14.Rg1, though black proved to have adequate counterplay and the game ended in a hard fought draw. Kosteniuk followed the same plan as Tatiana, and again the game ended in a hard fought draw. The soundness of the move 13..O-O was given a big boost by its employment by 2700 super GM David Navara earlier this year.

Obviously this line was expected by Tatiana Kosintseva as she came out with the novelty 14.Qh5. The idea seems very simple, trying to prove that 13..O-O is too risky to play and going straight for the black king. The Russian seemed to be in charge of the tactics, and 10 moves later was completely won, with black resigning on move 30. A great attacking game, and perhaps the last time the Chinese player will venture the risky 13..O-O for a while.

I can't remember who said chess is 99% tactics but openings like the Najdorf certainly bring out the truth of this statement. Another opening that does is the King's Gambit which is where the other position from yesterday originated. You see, I had a look at Marin's book, "Beating The Open Games" and after reading the introduction and first chapter on the King's Gambit, decided to look at some games in the King's Gambit. I had just downloaded the latest TWIC, and the only game starting with 1.e4 e5 2.f4, was between 2 club players. However, just because games aren't between top players, it doesn't mean that interesting positions can't be reached and analysed, like the one from yesterday.
White has so many tempting moves, and sometimes when there are a number of choices, it makes it difficult to find the right choice. White here played 16.Neg5, no doubt heading for f7, but perhaps would have struggled if black had taken on g5. The first move which tempted me was 16.Ne5 heading for g6 instead. After 16..Nxe5 17.dxe5 Qe7 I really would have liked to have opened the h-file but I can't see how to do it. White's position looks promising, but no more. So, how about opening the h-file straight away? Black has real problems after 16.Bg5!! as 16..hxg5 loses to 17.h4!, and 16..Ne7 and 16..Qd7 lose to 17.Ne5. So I guess that leaves 16..Nf6, but white can just take 17.Nxf6 leaving black in a hopeless position.

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