MVP of the Week: Non-Draws and Blunders

I’m sure you’ve heard the big headline this week from the Grand Chess Tour … 23 draws out of 25 games in the London Chess Classic: Snoozefest 2K17. While frustrated chess fans discuss ways to kill the draw offer in chess, its our job here at Chess^Summit reassure you that top-level chess isn’t dead, and that strong players do make mistakes!

Let’s start in London – where alongside the London Chess Classic is the British Knockout Championship and the London FIDE Open. In round 4 of the London FIDE Open, Swedish GM Nils Grandelius tricked his younger opponent into snacking on b2 before completing his development:

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Grandelius–Henderson de la Fuente, position after 11…Bxb2

With his queenside still undeveloped, grabbing on b2 was proved to be an invitation for White to attack Black’s king after 12. Ng5!. Without the use of all of his pieces, Black’s position began to crack: 12… Rf5 13.Rb1 Rxg5 14.Rxb2 Rf5 15.Qc2 Rf8 16.Be4

 

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Grandelius–Henderson de la Fuente, position after 16. Be4

Both of White’s bishops are now primed to attack the monarch, and Black has yet to make any progress developing his queenside. Black decided to give up the exchange after 16…h6 17.Bc3 Na6 18.Bh7+ Kh8 19.Qg6 Rf6 20.Bxf6 Qxf6 21.Qxf6 gxf6 22. Be4, and resigned shortly after.

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Grandelius–Henderson de la Fuente, position after 22. Be4

Where else is chess happening right now? St. Petersburg! The Russian Men’s and Women’s Championship Superfinal are just four rounds in, with a gold mine of decisive results. WGM Olga Girya smashed IM Anastasia Bodnaruk in today’s round using a popular move order trick in the London System:

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Girya–Bodnaruk, position after 5. h4!

Using the move order 1. d4 Nf6 2. Bf4 g6 3. Nc3!, Girya had tricked her opponent into a less flexible set-up and began her kingside assault early. Trying to refute the attack, Black held her breath and played 5…0-0, encouraging White to go on the offensive with the famous exchange sacrifice, 6.h5 Nxh5 7.Rxh5! gxh5 8.Qxh5.

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Girya–Bodnaruk, position after 8. Qxh5

It may not have been wise to enter into White’s preparation, but Black’s next few moves were puzzling, as she failed to bring her queenside pieces to aid her king: 8…f5 9.Nf3 c6 10.Bd3 Nd7 11.O-O-O Nf6 12.Qh4 Qe8 13.Rh1

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Girya–Bodnaruk, position after 13. Rh1

 

Maybe it was now that Bodnaruk realized that g2-g4 is a serious threat because after 13…h5, Black’s position was in shambles. With dark squares e5 and g5 both being weak, Black was too undeveloped to stop the infiltration.

The assault continued with 14.Ne5 Ng4 15.Nxg4 fxg4 16.Qg5 Rf6 17.Be5 Qf7 18.Rxh5, and with the kingside exposed, Black was left with a completely lost position! Black tried to generate counterplay, but to no avail and had to resign.

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Girya–Bodnaruk, position after 18. Rxh5

You might be picking up on a theme here, but let’s look through one more game for good measure…

Do you know where the Faroe Islands are? In a last round clash between two FMs at the recent Runavik Open, Black found himself pawn-grabbing before tucking his king away after 11…Bxe5?

Screen Shot 2017-12-07 at 00.30.53
Bjerre–Karason, position after 11…Bxe5

White was quick to punish Black, and there was no time to scramble after 12. Re1 d5? 13. Nxd5 cxd5 14. Qxd5 O-O 15. Rxe5

Screen Shot 2017-12-07 at 00.34.14
Bjerre–Karason, position after 15. Rxe5

White’s now regained his material and picked up an extra pawn, and meanwhile Black has failed to fix his development problem. The pair of bishops alone were enough to discourage Black from getting back in the game. 15…Be6 16. Qe4 Nf6 17. Qe1 Rfe8 18. Bxe6 fxe6 19. h3 Nd7 20. Re4 Qf6 21. Bxh6 1-0

Screen Shot 2017-12-07 at 00.37.23
Bjerre–Karason, position after 21. Bxh6

Black resigned here. Arguably premature, but with a material deficit and four isolated pawns, Black decided that it was not worth playing on.

What do these three recent games tell us about chess? Here are some key takeaways:

  1. Develop your pieces! Even strong players mess this up, and the consequences can be lethal.
  2. Take the initiative! If you’re opponent is not developing, see if you can prevent your opponent from getting back into the game by forcing them to respond to threats instead.
  3. Keep that king safe! Just because your king is castled, doesn’t mean it’s safe. As we saw in Grandelius’ game, a king is weak without sufficient protection.

Maybe this theme of development is what Levon was getting at after all…

Maybe the London Chess Classic will pick up now that Caruana is at +2, but if not there are plenty of other great games happening across the world!

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