Wijk aan Zee 2000
e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 de4 5.Ne4 Be7 6.Bf6 gf6 7.Nf3 a6!?
have already condemned this, but in my view it is a quite acceptable
After the two convincing wins gained
against me by players with the letter 'L' (Leko and Lputian) in Frankfurt,
I assumed that in the very near future I would again have to encounter
this move. And indeed, I did not have to wait long.
In Pamplona 2000 Nigel Short was relatively successful with
8...f5, but I did not see any reason to deviate from my plan.
Bb7 10.Qe2 Nd7!
A more flexible continuation than 10...Bd5, as
chosen in both the afore-mentioned 25-minute games.
White had a very 'wide' choice available - beginning with
12.a4 and ending with 12.Nh4. Judit prefers play in the centre.
Reverting to the old idea, but in a more
A useful prophylactic move.
I made it without hesitation, and at the same time invited White to
declare her intentions, i.e. her choice of plan.
all appearances, White rejects the idea of exchanging the bishop
(Ne4-c3xd5) in favour of preparing c2-c4. 14...c6 15.c4
However, it transpires that preparing the desired c2-c4 is far
from easy. 15.b3 is met by the blockading 15...b4!, while if 15.c3 f5!,
and the white knight can only go to c5. Finally, in the event of 15.a3
even the impudent 15...a5 is possible, intending if 16.b3 to capture
15...bc4 16.Nc4 a5!
Cutting off for ever the
knight's route to a5. The time had come to evaluate the position. After
the game my opponent said that she had considered her position to be
better, although in my opinion it is approximately equal. Evidently as a
result of this over-estimation, Judit began operating with one-move
threats, trying to provoke at least some targets to attack, whereas more
in keeping with the spirit of the position was an unhurried plan such as
a3, Rd2, Rc1 etc., eyeing Black's queenside.
at e7 is hanging.
Dull, but effective - the bishop is
Aha! What are we up to? It appears that I
will soon have a piece sacrificed against me. (Incidentally, this type of
typical sacrifice often proves dangerous.) Let's check.
after 18...Nf8 (planning Ng6 and f6-f5) this idea would seem to work:
19.Qh5! Ng6 20.Ncd5 cd5 21.Nd5! ed5 22.Bd5, and if the rook moves, then 23
But after 18...f5 what was planned? 19.Qh5 will not do -
after 19...Nf6! 20.Qf7 Rf8 the queen is trapped, if 19.Ncd5 cd5 20.Qh5
Black has 20...Bb4, while if 19.Ned5 cd5 20.Qh5 even the primitive
20...Rf8 is possible, since White has no particular ideas. There remains
the most cunning option, 19.Bd5 cd5 20.Qh5. I analysed this position quite
carefully during the game, since I assumed that this was why 18.Ne3 had
been played. If 20...Rf8 White can make the typical piece sacrifice:
21.Ncd5 ed5 22.Nf5! (this way), and although after the possible 22...Bb4
23.Re3!? the position remains unclear, I looked for an alternative. In
the end the following idea was
discovered: 20...Nf6! 21.Qf7 Ra6!, and in view of the threat of Rf8 White
is forced to give up a piece: 22.Nf5 ef5 23.Re5!, retaining compensation
sufficient for a draw. But my opponent had quite different
After provoking f6-f5, White wants to
base her play on the e5 square. But as soon as Black's bishop goes to f6,
all the dangers will be behind him.
Just in case, Black excludes 21.Nc5, which was possible after
the immediate 20...Bf6.
21.b3 Bf6 22.Qc2 Rg8
Of course, it is
not possible to take on d4 because of 23.a3!
'Just in case' against f5-f4, but essentially a
waste of time. Nothing terrible for White is apparent after the immediate
23.Ne5 Ne5 24.de5 Be7 25.Nb2. Now, however, after the doubling of rooks on
the g-file the initiative passes to Black.
23...Rg4 24.Ne5 Ne5
25.de5 Be7 26.Rd3 Rag8 27.Red1
This doubling does not threaten
anything - it is impossible to budge the bishop from
Another delay. White could hardly have
been satisfied with variations such as 28.h3 fg3! 29.Bd5 gf2 or 28.Bd5 cd5
29.Rd4? Qb8!, taking aim at the e5 pawn. In the event of 28.Nc3,
threatening to 'speculate' on opposite-colour bishops, White has to reckon
with 28...Bc5!?, when the f2 square is weak. Therefore I think that the
immediate 28.Bd5 cd5 29.Qc7! was the best practical chance - the position
would have remained fairly tense.
probably worth trying to change the course of the play with the unexpected
29.fg3!?, although after the possible 29...R4g5 30.Rf1 Qc3 31.Nc3 Bc5
32.Kh1 Re5 33.Nd5 cd5 34.Rf7 Black's chances are undoubtedly
A perfectly concrete approach. White does
not have time to exploit the h-file, whereas after h5-h4 his g3 will be on
the point of collapse.
Following the principle 'better
late than never', White goes looking for accidental tactical
30...cd5 31.Rf3 Kg7 32.Qc7
In the endgame - 32.Qb4
ab4 - White would have had little hope of saving the game.
33.Kg2 hg3 34.fg3
A simple but spectacular move, which places
White in a critical position.
Everybody back! Other
moves would also not have saved White:
A) 35.Qe7 Qe2 36.Rf2
Rg3! 37.Kg3 Kh7;
B) 35.Rdf1 Rg3 36.Kg3 Qh4 37.Kg2
C) 35.Kf2! The toughest defence, and although
objectively Black wins here, in two ways moreover, I am not at all sure
that in the time remaining I would have managed to find at least one of
C1) 35...Rh4! (a non-trivial introduction) 36.Rf1!
Kh8!! 37.Qe7 Qc2 38.Ke1 Re4;
C2) the second way is perhaps
even more impressive: 35...Rh8 (a banal introduction) 36.Rf1 Rh2 37.Kg1.
Let us draw breath for a moment and... 37...Qe2!! 38.Rf7 Kh8! 39.Rf8 Rg8!
35...Qe2 36.Kh3 Rg5
And White resigned in view of
mate in four moves.