d5 or not d5, that is the question

5/9/2007 – You probably know Levon Aronian. Well, how about Gabriel Sargissian, a 24-year-old countryman of Aronian, who recently won an eight-player round robin by an absurd 2½ point margin, with a a 3021 performance rating. In his Thursday night lecture our Playchess trainer Dennis Monokroussos looks at a key game in which Sargissian answers the time-honored Ruy Lopez Marshall question.

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Dennis Monokroussos writes:

Armenia has been a chess power for many years, and if anything their future looks even brighter than its illustrious past. Tigran V. Petrosian has been dead for more than 20 years, sadly, but Levon Aronian is a major threat to the title (as evidenced by his big rating and his 4-2 victory in rapid chess over Vladimir Kramnik this past week). Another very promising young star is Gabriel Sargissian, and he’ll be the subject of this week’s show.

Sargissian is 24 and 2651 – very impressive by almost any standard, but not quite world-class. He seems, however, to be on the rise, perhaps in part thanks to his close working relationship with Aronian. This work culminated in a dominating performance earlier this year in the Ruy Lopez memorial event in Zafra, Spain. He won the tournament, an eight-player round robin, by an absurd 2½ point margin, scoring 6.5/7 and achieving a 3021 performance rating. While it’s practically impossible for him to maintain such a standard, that he’s even capable of such a performance bodes well for his future. Will he give Aronian a run for his money, as the strongest Armenian player? Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, we’ll have a look at a game from this Ruy Lopez memorial event, appropriately enough, a Ruy Lopez. Sargissian was Black against Indian GM Krishnan Sasikiran, and played the now almost obligatory Marshall Gambit threat. Sasikiran chose 8.h3, and the game went down more classical channels. As anyone knows who has studied the classical Ruy, one of the key issues concerns the d5 advance – for both White and Black! As we’ll see, the question ‘d5, or not d5?’ proved crucial in this game. White first rejected the d4-d5 option, probably mistakenly, and then Black faced the …d6-d5 option himself on more than one occasion. We’ll delve more deeply into this thematic question this Thursday night (9 pm ET, as usual), and in the process enjoy seeing Sargissian quickly and convincingly outplay his 2700 opponent, and with the black pieces.

It’s must-see chess for fans of the Ruy Lopez – see you there!

Dennis Monokroussos' Radio ChessBase lectures begin on Thursdays at 9 p.m. EDT, which translates to 01:00h GMT, 02:00 Paris/Berlin, 12:00h Sydney (on Friday). Other time zones can be found at the bottom of this page. You can use Fritz or any Fritz-compatible program (Shredder, Junior, Tiger, Hiarcs) to follow the lectures, or download a free trial client.

You can find the exact times for different locations in the world at World Time and Date. Exact times for most larger cities are here. And you can watch older lectures by Dennis Monokroussos offline in the Chess Media System room of Playchess:

Enter the above archive room and click on "Games" to see the lectures. The lectures, which can go for an hour or more, will cost you between one and two ducats. That is the equivalent of 10-20 Euro cents (14-28 US cents).


Dennis Monokroussos is 40, lives in South Bend, IN, and is an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.

He is fairly inactive as a player right now, spending most of his non-philosophy time being a husband and teaching chess. At one time he was one of the strongest juniors in the U.S., but quit for about eight years starting in his early 20s. His highest rating was 2434 USCF, but he has now fallen to the low-mid 2300s – "too much blitz, too little tournament chess", he says.

Dennis has been working as a chess teacher for seven years now, giving lessons to adults and kids both in person and on the internet, worked for a number of years for New York’s Chess In The Schools program, where he was one of the coaches of the 1997-8 US K-8 championship team from the Bronx, and was very active in working with many of CITS’s most talented juniors.

When Dennis Monokroussos presents a game, there are usually two main areas of focus: the opening-to-middlegame transition and the key moments of the middlegame (or endgame, when applicable). With respect to the latter, he attempts to present some serious analysis culled from his best sources (both text and database), which he has checked with his own efforts and then double-checked with his chess software.


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