V. Belov – A. Grischuk
Russian Team Championship 2009 was one of the most successful tournaments in my career: I managed to achieve the best score on board 1 in the Premier League!
My best game in the tournament was definitely the following encounter. It was also voted the game of the month at Chesspro.ru.
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7. This opening choice indicated Aleksander’s fighting mood. However, I was glad to face King’s Indian defence, as I got a possibility to test an interesting plan against an elite Grandmaster.
4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.0-0 Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.Ne1 Nd7 10.f3 f5 11.g4!?
The idea of this move, as well as of the whole system, is prophylaxis: White wants to avoid standard King’s Indian pawns race. Instead he tries to freeze the kingside, in order to comfortably develop an offensive at the queenside, where he is stronger. This system leads to very complex play, in which the better understanding of the positional subtleties is essential.
The reader might think that the whole line is dubious for White if he had a chance to see Tejmour Radjabov’s annotations to his victory against Pavel Eljanov in the Russian magazine 64. Curiously, my annotations can convince in the opposite. However, only the future practice can give the real answer to the question “who is better here?”.
I should add that 11…f4? will be greeted by White, since after 12.h4! he immediately solves his main strategic problem.
12.Nd3. In the above-mentioned game vs Radjabov, Eljanov played 12.h4. I believe that this is premature, as the kingside remains open, and Black can obtain fine counterplay by means of 12…c6! 13.Kg2 Nf6 14.Nd3 b5!
12…Ng8. Black has various plans and concepts here, for example, Radjabov’s idea 12…c6!?.
13.Kh1! White regroups his pieces, preparing to play g4-g5 if needed.
13…f4. Grischuk decided to clarify the situation on the kingside. The alternative was 13…Bh6.
Alexander criticized this move after the game, but, as the analysis shows, his criticizm was not fully justified. In Cheparinov-Fedorov, Khanty-Mansiysk 2005 Black opted for 14…g5, which, in my opinion, is worse and gives White initiative for free. This evaluation wasn’t confirmed in the game, but White’s play could be improved many times: 15.Bd2 (15.b4!?) 15…h5 16.h3 Rf6 17.Rc1 Rh6 18.Kg2 Bf8 19.b4 Ne7 20.c5 Ng6 21.cxd6 Bxd6 22.Nb5 Nf6 23.Nf2 Bd7 24.a4. 1/2-1/2.
White’s plan can be, for example, h3, Kg2 and Rh1 (also Nf2, if there is a need to prevent the sacrifice on e4), and it’s unclear what Black should do, while White will gradually step up the pressure on the kingside.
In case of 15…a5 16.Ba3 (or 16.bxa5 Rxa5 17.a4) White easily opens up the queenside. Worthy of consideration is 15…h5!?, and now White has a choise:
1) 16.gxh5 g5 with the following natural continuation: 17.c5 Rf7 18.Bb2 (18.Ba3!?) 18…Rh7 19.Rc1 a6 20.Nb1 Qe8 21.Rg2 Qxh5 22.Nd2 Nf8 23.Nc4 Bh3 24.Rf2 Rd8 25.Na5 Bc8. I think that White’s chances are preferrable.
2) 16.g5 (a temporary pawn sacrifice) 16…Bxg5 17.Nb5 (it is also interesting to play for initiative, ignoring the material disbalance – 17.c5!?) 17…Bh4 18.Rxg6 a6 19.Nc3 Ndf6 with the unclear play.
16.c5 Ndf6. Probably better was 16…a6 17.Bb2 h5 18.gxh5 g5. Black’s threats are rather dangerous from the human point of view (Qe8-h5, Rf7-h7, Bg3 and so on), even though the computer laughs at it.
17.Bb2! An excellent square for the bishop: now White can consider the positional sacrifice on e5, using the fact that the black bishop left the a1-h8 diagonal.
17…Bd7. Nb5 was a serious threat.
18.a4. White renews his threat because the exchange of Black’s light-coloured bishop for a knight is in White’s favour.
More cautious 18…g5 has its minuses: 19.Nb5 Bxb5 20.axb5 h5 (after 20…Qe8 21.Ra2 h5 22.gxh5 Qxh5 23.Nxe5!? dxe5 24.Bxe5 Rf7 25.Bd4 the army of white pawns is ready to rush forward) 21.Nxe5!
The best continuation. After the game Grischuk said that 21.h3 was also possible, but in my opinion it doesn’t look safe for White. One of the Black’s knights goes to h4, while another can be sacrificed on g4, and the white king can be easily reached: 21…Bg3 22.Kg2 Ne7 23.Ra2 Ng6 24.Qa1 Qe7 25.b6 Qh7 26.Rh1 Nh4+ 27.Kg1 hxg4 28.hxg4 Nxg4. The possible continuation is 29.Bxe5+ Kg8 30.bxc7 Bh2+ 31.Rxh2 Nxh2 32.Ne1 g4 with chaotic play and probably bad consequences for White.
21…dxe5 22.Bxe5 hxg4 23.Rxg4 Nh6 24.Rxh4! Wide play is absolutely relevant here.
White’s chances are better, despite he is a rook down.
I should add that in case of 18…a6 White has a strong reply – 19.b5, with the idea of ramming Black’s pawn chain by b5-b6.
19.Nxf4!? I considered this idea on the previous move and at that moment realized that here it was much stronger. However, I had even more convincing way: 19.g5! Nh7 20.cxd6 cxd6 21.Nb5 Bxb5 22.Nxe5! dxe5 23.Bxe5+ Ngf6 24.Bxb5 Bxg5 (maybe Black should agree to a difficult endgame after 24…Nxg5 25.Rxg5 Bxg5 26.Qg1 Kh7 27.Qxg5 Nxd5 28.Qxd8 Raxd8 29.exd5 Rxd5 30.Re1+/-) 25.Qd4!
Nice play. By the way, White has only a pawn for a piece!
25…a6 (if 25…Qb6 then 26.Qxb6 axb6 27.Rac1 with total domination) 26.Bc4 Kg7 27.Ra2! Kh6 28.Rag2 h4 29.Bxf4 Bxf4 30.Rxg6+ Kh5 31.e5 Nd7 32.Bd3!
And now a beautiful mating finale might follow: 32…Nxe5 33.Re6! Ng5 34.Rxe5 Bxe5 35.Qg4+ Kh6 36.Qxh4+ Kg7 37.Rxg5+ Kf6 38.Qh6+ Kf7 39.Qe6#!
19…exf4 20.g5 Kh7. If Black tries to keep his material advantage he can get into a rather dismal situation: 20…Ne8 21.Nb5+ Kh7 (21…Ng7 22.cxd6 [worse is 22.Qd4 Rf7 23.cxd6 in view of 23...Bxb5! 24.dxc7 Bxe2! 25.cxd8Q Bxf3+ 26.Rg2 Rxd8] 22…Bxb5 23.dxc7 Qxc7 (23…Bxe2 24.cxd8Q Bxd1 25.Qc7+-) 24.Bxb5) 22.Qd4 Ne7 23.cxd6 cxd6 24.Nxd6 Qb6 25.Nc4 Qxd4 26.Bxd4. This endgame is clearly better for White, despite Black’s extra piece.
21.gxf6. There was a curious alternative which was rejected by me because of its complexity: 21.Qd4 a6 (21…Qe7 22.Nb5 Bxb5 23.axb5+/-) 22.Bd3! Ne8 23.Ne2 Ne7. The superiority of quality over quantity is obvious here; moreover, after, for example, 24.а5 Black is almost in zugzwang.
21…Bxf6 22.Qd2 Nh6 23.Bb5. For the first time I thought that my opponent had missed 23.Qxf4 Bxc3 24.Qg3! However, after some minites of thinking I saw a better reply for Black: 23…Ng4 (also 23…Be5 24.Qg5 Qxg5 25.Rxg5 Nf7 26.Rgg1 a5 is sufficient for equality) 24.fxg4 Bxc3 25.Qc1 Bxb2 26.Qxb2 Qh4, and Black is obviously back in the game.
23…Bh3. The exchange of the bishops would allow White to take control over the important e6-square: 23…Nf7 24.Bxd7 Qxd7 25.Nb5 Bxb2 26.Qxb2 Ne5 27.Nd4.
24.Bf1 Bd7 25.Bb5 Bh3 26.Rac1.
I decided to continue fighting, despite the coming horrors of a mutual time-trouble. Of course White has a comfortable edge.
26…Be5?! After this inaccuracy Black will have to lose additional tempos. Correct was 26…a6 27.Bf1 Bd7.
27.Nd1! a6 28.Nf2! Bc8. After 28…axb5? the white knight would reach the desirable square by force: 29.Nxh3 bxa4 30.Ng5+ Kh8 31.Ne6+-.
29.Bf1 Nf7 30.Nd3 Bd7. Black’s light-coloured bishop moves too much; at the same time, I have managed to reach a comfortable set-up. Now it is time for a tactical operation which proves almost decisive.
31.cxd6 cxd6 32.Nxe5 dxe5. In case of 32…Nxe5 I intended to play 33.Bxe5 dxe5 34.Qg2 Be8 35.Qg5 with the overwhelming advantage.
33.d6 Bxa4? Too brave. Probably this move is based more on Black’s dissatisfaction with his position than on precise calculation. Correct was 33…Rc8 with the following nice point: 34.Bc4 Nxd6! I missed this move, but, luckily, White still retains serious advantage after 35.Bb3! (not 35.Qxd6? Bg4!).
35.Rxf7?! It seemed to me that this consistent sacrifice would end my previous diligent large-scale play in a nice and logical way. However, in fact it just complicates matters. White had calmer and easier ways to a victory (as it often happens). I didn’t pay attention to them because of time-trouble and too much excitement. The simplest was 35.Bc4 Qxd6 (or 35…Nxd6 36.Rxg6+! Kxg6 37.Qg2+ Qg5 38.Rg7+) 36.Qxd6 Nxd6 37.Bxe5, winning. Another convincing way is 35.Re7.
35…Rxf7 36.Bxe5 Bb5! 37.Bxf4+. This capture gives Black counter-play on the f-file. Only 37.Bxb5 axb5 38.Qd5 would retain the advantage.
37…Kh7 38.Bg2 Qd7?! The whole picture could be seriously changed if Alexander found the best continuation: 38…Qf8! 39.Be3 Rxf3. Still, I have a weak hope that after 40.e5 some edge for White remains…
39.Bg5 Bc6 40.Qd4 a5. Here I was happy to realize that the time-trouble horrors are over and that I can deeply investigate the position.
41.Bc1! Unpleasant visitors are ready to come to the black king via the c1-h6 diagonal. Then White will get a variety of attacking ideas: Bg2-f1-c4, Bg2-h3 and so on.
41…Qe8. The “human” defence. Rybka prefers dispassionate 41…axb4, though even here White’s attack is almost decisive: 42.Qe3 Kg8 43.Qh6 (43.Bf1 Qe6!) 43…Rg7 44.Bb2 Qf7 45.Qe3!
42.Qe3 Qf8 43.b5!?
Yet another sacrifice. Objectively, the exchange on a5 was better, but I think that my move is stronger from the practical point of view, as it makes Black to find very unobvious moves.
43…Bd7? Of course Black had to take the pawn: 43…Bxb5 44.e5, and here I considered only 44…Bc6 45.e6 Rxf3 46.e7 Qf6 47.Qh6+ Kg8, after which 48.Bb2! wins. However, Black could create many problems for my passed pawns by the computer move 44…Rd7!, for example: 45.f4 (the alternatives are 45.Ba3 Re8 and 45.Bh3!?) 45…Qf5 46.Re1 Bc6 47.Bxc6 bxc6 48.Qe4 Qxe4+ 49.Rxe4 c5 50.Ba3 Rc8 51.Kg2 Kg7 52.Kg3. The endgame is extremely complicated, though I believe that White’s chances are still better.
Another rook move – 44…Rg7 – is worse in view of 45.Qh6+ Kg8 46.e6! Qxd6 47.Bb2 Qe7 48.Bf1 Be8 49.Bd3 Qf8 50.Be4! Rd8 51.e7 Qxe7 52.Bb1! (White’s bishops dominate the board!) 52…Bc6 53.Ba2+ Bd5 54.Bxd5+ Rxd5 55.Bxg7+-.
44.e5 Re8 45.f4 Bxb5 46.Be4 Rf5. If 46…Bc6 then 47.Rxg6+-.
47.Qb6 Bc6?! After the exchange of the bishops White’s passed pawns are unstoppable. More stubborn was 47…Bd7 48.Qxb7 Qf7.
48.Bxc6 bxc6 49.d7 Rd8 50.Qxc6 Qf7 51.e6 Qe7 52.Re1?! Finally I decided to make a reliable move, but in fact it complicates the win again! The decisive blow was rather easy to find: 52.Ba3! Qxa3 53.e7 Rf6 (if 53…Qxe7 then 54.Qxg6+ Kh8 55.Qxf5 with a quick mate) 54.exd8Q Rxc6 55.Qh8+! Kxh8 56.d8Q+ Kh7 57.Qd7+ +-.
I can’t deny the fact of being lucky that day! After 52…Rc5! the winning continuation is rather unobvious: 53.Qe4! (53.Ba3 Qh4 54.Qe4 Rc2! is what I missed) 53…Rxd7 54.Ba3 Rdc7 55.Rg1 Qe8 56.Bxc5 Rxc5 57.e7 Rf5 58.Rd1 Rf7 59.Rd7!+-.
53.Qe4 a4 54.Bb2. There are already many ways to victory. Curiously enough, I managed to avoid any mistakes in the end.
54…Rf5 55.Qxa4 Rdf8 56.Qd4 Rxf4 57.Qg7+! Qxg7 58.Bxg7 Rd8 59.Be5. Black resigned.
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V. Belov – E. Najer
Moscow Championship, 2004
The following game is one of the most perfect and most spectacular in my career.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Nbd7 8.Qf3 Qc7 9.0–0–0 b5 10.Bd3 Bb7 11.Rhe1 Be7 12.Qg3 b4.
The most principled continuation.
13.Nd5! A standard sacrifice in such positions – this is all theory so far.
13…exd5 14.exd5. 14.e5 does not provide an advantage:
14…dxe5 15.fxe5 Nh5 16.Qh4 (for those who appreciate beauty in chess one could recommend the queen sacrifice 16.e6?! Nxg3 17.exf7+ Kxf7 18.Rxe7+
Kg8 19.hxg3) 16…Bxg5+ 17.Qxg5 g6 18.e6, and now both the sharp 18…Nc5 and the simple 18…Qf4+ are sufficient to equalize.
14…Kd8 15.Nc6+. The alternative is 15.Nf5 Bf8 16.Qe3.
15…Bxc6 16.dxc6. In this position White has only a pawn for a piece, but Black’s insecure king
and kingside weaknesses provide sufficient compensation.
16…Nb6!? Other possible continuations are 16…Qxc6 and 16…Nc5.
17.Bh4. Immediately aiming at the kingside pawns.
17…Rg8. Not 17…g6 in view of 18.Rxe7+-.
18.Re2! 18.Bxh7? Rh8 19.Qxg7 Rxh7 20.Qxf6 Rxh4.
18…d5! Bad is 18…Qxc6 because of 19.Bxh7 Rh8 (19…Re8 20.Rxe7 (20.Rde1; 20.Qxg7 Nxh7 21.Rde1 Ra7 22.Qxf7 Nd5 23.Qxh7) 20…Rxe7 21.Qxg7 Nxh7 22.Qxf7 Raa7 23.Qxh7±) 20.Rxe7 Kxe7 21.Qxg7 Nbd5 22.Bxf6+ Nxf6 23.Re1+ Kd7 24.Qxf7+ Kc8 25.Bf5+ Nd7 26.Be4+-.
19.Bxh7. Now Black faces a difficult choice. Less critical is 19.Rde1 Nc8 20.Bxh7 Nxh7 21.Rxe7 Nxe7 22.Rxe7 Qxe7 23.Bxe7+ Kxe7 24.Qe1+ Kd6 25.Qxb4+ Kxc6 26.Qa4+=.
19…Rh8? The only mistake in the game and it proves decisive, which is common in such sharp positions. Black should have played 19…Re8! with the following variations: 20.Rde1 Qd6 (weaker is 20…Qxc6 21.Qxg7 Ne4 22.Rxe4 dxe4 23.Bxe4 Qb5 24.Bxa8 Bxh4 25.Qd4+ Kc7 26.Rxe8 Qxe8 27.Qc5+ Kb8 28.Qxb6+ Kxa8 29.Qxa6+ Kb8 30.Qb6+ Kc8 31.Qc5+ Kd8 32.Qxb4+- and there are too many white pawns) 21.Re5 (21.Kb1 Ne4 with a slight plus for Black) 21…Qxc6 22.Qxg7 Nbd7 23.R5e2 Rc8 24.Qxf7 Ne4 25.Bxe4 dxe4 26.Qh7 Bxh4 27.Qxh4+ Qf6 28.Qxf6+ Nxf6 29.h3 Rc4 30.g4=.
20.Rde1 Nc8 Here I managed to find a few tactical blows that finish the attack in a spectacular manner.
21.Qxg7! Qxf4+. Если 21…Rxh7, то 22.Qf8+!! Bxf8 23.Re8#.
22.Kb1 Rxh7.Or 22…Qxh4 23.Qxh8+ Kc7 24.g3!+-.
23.Rxe7!! Nxe7. 23…Rxg7 24.Rd7#.
24.Qf8+ Kc7 25.Qxa8 Rxh4. After 25…Qxh4 White wins by 26.Rxe7+ Kb6 27.Qd8+ Kb5 28.a4+ bxa3 29.Rb7+ Kc4 30.c7.
26.Qb7+ Kd6 27.Qxe7+ Kxc6.
28.g3! A very important nuance for the entire combination!
28…Qf2 29.gxh4 Ne4 30.Qe8+ Kc7 31.Qe5+ Kb6 32.Rd1. Black resigned.