Saturday, December 30, 2017

Top Seed Loses

The first round of a swiss open almost always produces some shocks. Top players are held to draws, or sometimes even lose to players much lower rated. The biggest upset is when the top seed loses in the first round, and this is exactly what happened at this year's Hastings Congress.

There seemed to be an acceleration of pairings which was presumably used to enhance norm chances. In round 1, top rated Indian GM Deep Sengupta, rated 2586, was paired as black against English FM Adam Taylor, rated 2242. The opening seemed innocuous enough, a king of Reti/English opening where Black chose a Slav set up. The following position was reached:

Black had just played the novelty 10..Qd8-e7. White played the thematic central thrust 11.e4! I wonder if either player realised that this was already very good for White, maybe winning?

Black traded by 11..dxe4 [Not sure this is best, but everything else loses at least a pawn] 12.dxe4 Bg4

So far all seems to be logical, but White now launches an exchanging sequence which wins a piece. And this is the player rated 350 points lower! 13.Nxd7 Qxd7 14.Qxd7+ Kxd7 15.Bxd6 Kxd6

This little sequence was all forced and has brought Black's king into a poor position. White would like to play e5 forking king and knight, and by combining threats to trap black's bishop, he manages it. 16.h3 Bh5 [16..Be2 17.Re1 and after the bishop moves White plays e5+] 17.f4!

This leaves Black the choice of losing a knight to e5+, or losing the bishop to g4 and f5, either way, white nets a winning material advantage which he went on to win, though he missed a chance to win more easily.

It seems Sengupta had given upon this game. He played 23..Rad8?

White here played 24.Raf1, methodical and good enough to win. But he missed a good tactical shot which would have been found if he'd thought about searching for all checks and captures. 24.Nd5+! blocks the d-file interrupting the connection between Black's rooks. The same tactic could have been played on the next move as well, but wasn't. Never mind, white still went on to win and gained a great scalp.

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