"11..Kd7! – the turning point"

by ChessBase
12/29/2021 – The new ChessBase Magazine #205 offers a variety of high-class annotated games, with a focus on the FIDE Grand Swiss 2021. Besides the winner Alireza Firouzja, Nils Grandelus, Grigoriy Oparin, Alexandr Predke, Ivan Saric, Krishnan Sasikiran, Samuel Sevian, Nikita Vitiugov and Yu Yangyi comment on their best games. The young Russian GM Oparin earned a ticket for the upcoming Grand Prix series with third place (equal on points with Fabiano Caruana). His win with the black pieces against compatriot Vitiugov is "The Analysis" of the new issue. Take a look!

ChessBase Magazine 205 ChessBase Magazine 205

"Special" on Robert Huebner with analyses and videos on strategy and endgame. Firouzja, Oparin, Predke, Sevian, Vitiugov and others comment on their games from the Grand Swiss 2021. Opening videos by Kasimdzhanov, Ragger and Marin. 11 Opening articles


"A very pleasant move to play!"

Grigoriy Oparin comments on his game with Nikita Vitiugov from the FIDE Grand Swiss 2021

Nikita Vitiugov - Grigoriy Oparin (Grand Swiss 2021 (10.3), 06.11.2021)

We approached this game half a point behind the trio of leaders, and only a win left us a chance to fight for a spot in the Candidates Tournament. Nevertheless, I thought that Nikita would try to get a position for two results, so his risky opening choice, of course, made me happy.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.a3 A little surprise. In general, I assumed that the Nimzo-Indian Defence could appear on the board, but I rather expected 4.f3 or 4.?c2, and not this relatively rare line.

4...Bxc3+ 5.bxc3 c5 I think it makes more sense to start with this pawn move. For example, 5...d6 gives White an additional option in 6.e4 .

6.f3 Last year Magnus tested 6.e3 several times, but I doubt that after 6...b6 White can fight for an opening advantage.

6...Nc6 In his preparation, Nikita apparently hoped for 6...d5 , as I recently played in online blitz. This position often arises via a different move order (4.f3 d5 5.a3 ?xc3+ 6.bxc3 c5) and is not without risks for Black.

7.e4 d6 8.Be3 b6

Black's main task is to maintain the pawn structure, so any excessive activity, for example, with 8...Qa5 is inappropriate here. After 9.Kf2! White is happy to sacrifice a pawn just to open up the game a little bit.

9.Bd3 e5?! After this typical, but here concretely quite weak move, White's entire opening concept could be justified. It's hard for me to say what Nikita's plan was after the natural 9...Na5 . Now after 10.Nh3 (And in case of 10.Ne2 we can safely continue to develop our play on the queenside 10...Qc7 with 11...Ba6 next.) it already makes sense to put the pawn on e5: 10...e5 11.Nf2 Ba6 and the knight on f2 is clearly out of place.

10.d5?! "Amnesty". The release of tension in the center unties Black's hands and gives many additional possibilities.

Much more unpleasant was the immediate 10.Ne2 and after the likely 10...Na5 11.Ng3 it feels that the move 9...e5?! brought only harm to Black due to the weakening of the f5–square.

10...Na5 11.Ne2 In my opinion, this is the critical moment of the game and the psychological turning point. My next move apparently turned out to be an unpleasant surprise for my opponent - Nikita, who had previously played very quickly, spent almost half an hour on his reply.

The main question that I had to solve in this position was how to finish the development? Obviously, castling short side is like death - the king on g8 will be hit by a very strong attack. Therefore, the king needs to be transferred to the queenside, which is a typical idea for this line. This can be done, for example, by removing the pieces from the 8th rank (?e7, ?d7) and castling long. Among the disadvantages of this plan, I can note the need to immediately determine the position of the queen and bishop, at a time when it is not yet very clear which squares these pieces should be placed on: the bishop can go to both a6 and d7, or it can stay on c8; the queen is still not too badly positioned on d8. That's why...


A very pleasant move to play! The king "on foot" goes to c7, leaving the rest of the pieces in their initial positions. The idea of 11...?d7 immediately came to my mind, and I was about to make it with my hand. Nevertheless, I still forced myself to calculate the lines a little to make sure that this somewhat defiant manoeuvre of the king had no tactical flaws.

12.0–0 Perhaps the most critical. White finishes development and intends to open the game with f3–f4.

It is obvious that the immediate 12.f4?! does not work because of 12...Ng4 ,; however, it was not necessary to go all-in and try to refute the move 11...?d7: 12.g4 Kc7 13.h4 led to a complex game in which it felt like neither side should have the resources for anything more than equality.

12...Kc7 13.f4 Again, the most concrete choice.

13.h3 gives Black time to calmly prepare for the f4–push. For example, 13...Nd7 looks great with f7–f6 to come.

13...Ng4 14.Bd2 exf4 The machine coolly notes that chess can be played in different ways, and recommends the insane 14...f5 , but a human does not even consider this move ...

15.Bxf4 f6

Now the e5–square has been taken under reliable control and Black has only to finish the development...

16.Nd4! A very standard idea for such structures, which had to be kept in mind when playing 11...Kd7. From recent examples on this topic, I recall the game Ding-MVL, Yekaterinburg 2021, but in this case it turns out to be not so effective - the only threat, 17.?b5+, is easily repelled.

16...Ne5 Safely covering the d6–pawn. 16...cxd4? , of course, cannot be advised in any way, at least because of the simple 17.cxd4+– , and Black's position is falling apart due to the lack of adequate defense against the breaks on c5 and e5.

17.Nb5+ Kb7 The king could have retreated to b8 as well, but this looks a little less natural, since then the b6–square would have to be weakened in order for the a8–rook to enter the game via a7.

18.Bxe5 dxe5 19.d6!?

Continuing an aggressive and, at the same time, risky strategy. White's concept is very interesting - he is trying to disrupt Black's coordination and his pieces and prevent the situation from being stabilised. Also, opening the d-file in the future may become an important factor for the invasion of White's rooks.

19.a4 was much calmer: 19...a6 20.Na3 Ka7 21.Nc2 Visually, Black's position seems somewhat more promising, but after the transfer of the knight to e3 and the bishop to g4, it will be very difficult for Black to make any progress.

19...Rb8!? An interesting choice aimed at the slow liquidation of the d6–pawn. Of other alternatives, I can distinguish an obvious exchange sacrifice: 19...Be6 20.Nc7 Qxd6 21.Nxa8 Rxa8 with excellent compensation, but not more than that. After 22.Qf3 White's play is quite simple: ?fd1, ?e2...; And I rejected 19...a6 because of 20.Nc7 Rb8 21.Be2 with the subsequent rook manoeuvre ?a2–?d2. Nevertheless, the computer shows that Black can fight for an advantage here too after something like 21...Qd7 22.Ra2 Rd8 23.Rd2 Ka7 and then ?b7 or ?b7.

20.Be2 Defending the d6–pawn and preparing ?g4.

20...Be6 21.Nc7 Bf7

We should keep the bishop. 21...Qd7 is noticeably weaker. For example, 22.Nxe6 (22.Rf3!? is also interesting.) 22...Qxe6 23.Bg4 Qxc4 24.Qc2 and White has fantastic piece play along the light squares and the d-file.

22.Rb1 A very natural continuation - after this rook move White gains new tactical ideas using the king's opposition along the b-file. White had a pretty way to maintain balance with 22.Rf3! Nxc4 (I can hardly recommend "playing with fire" 22...Qd7 , as White's initiative is too dangerous here. For example, 23.Rg3 Rhg8 24.Nd5 Qxd6 25.Rd3 Qf8 26.Ne7!? Rh8 27.Rd7+ Ka8 28.Nd5 Rb7 29.Nc7+ Kb8 30.Na6+ Ka8 And now, apart from the repetition of 31.?c7+, White has every reason to continue the game with 31.Ra2 , bringing the second rook to the d-file.) 23.Rd3! Nb2 24.Rd2 Nxd1 25.Ba6+ Kc6 26.Bb5+ Kb7= with perpetual check.

22...Qd7 I transfer the queen to c6 and prepare the move ?bd8/?hd8. Logical, but I could play more greedily as well. However, for this it was necessary to calculate the lines well.

22...Nxc4! 23.Bxc4 Bxc4 24.Qa4! An important nuance. (In fact, I refused the capture on c4 because of the simple 24.Rf2 , but here Black can consolidate: 24...Qd7 25.a4 Rhd8 26.Rd2 Qc6? and a pawn is a pawn...) 24...Qxd6 (It is clearly not worth taking the exchange: 24...Bxf1 25.Rxf1 Qxd6 26.Nb5 with 27.?d1 to come.) 25.Rfd1 Qc6 26.Qxc4 Qxc7 27.Qd5+ Qc6 28.Qf7+ Ka6 29.a4! (Or 29.Rd7?! Rb7 30.Rxb7 Qxb7 31.Qc4+ b5 32.Qe2 Ka5! 33.c4 a6? and the attack "drowns".) 29...Qxe4 30.a5 bxa5 31.Ra1 Qe3+ 32.Kh1 Qxc3 White is currently five (!) pawns down, but the assessment of the position is not far from dynamic equality... 33.Rdc1 Qb2 34.Qd5 Rhd8 35.Qxc5 Qd2 and the game continues with the king on a6 as if nothing had happened.

23.Bg4 Other alternatives are much less attractive. For example, in the event of 23.Nd5 Qxd6 (23...Rbd8!? also deserves attention.) 24.Nxf6 Qxd1 25.Rbxd1 Bxc4 26.Bxc4 Nxc4 27.Rd7+ Ka6 28.Rxg7 the game turns into a complex endgame, in which Black's chances are slightly higher due to the more active position of the king.; While after 23.Rb5 Black has a strong reply 23...Rhd8! (23...Nxc4 also makes sense, but here the engine demonstrates fantastic resourcefulness: 24.Qa4 Nxd6 25.Rxb6+ Kxc7 26.Qxa7+ Rb7 27.Rxb7+ Nxb7 28.Rb1 Qc6 29.a4! c4 30.Kf1! and despite the absence of a full piece, the usual 0.00 is on the display ...) 24.Qa4 Qxd6 25.Nd5 Ka8? and White does not have enough resources to continue the attack.

23...Qc6 24.Be6!

The exchange of the light-squared bishops in order to gain control over the d5–square plays a key role in preserving the attacking potential.

24...Bxe6 24...Rhf8? is clearly not good. After 25.Qd3? Black is unable to create sufficient pressure on the d6 and c4 pawns.

25.Nxe6 Nxc4 26.Qg4 Rhg8

In no case should you give up the key pawn on g7.

27.d7? The first really serious mistake that decides the outcome of the battle. At first the move looks quite promising, but the concrete lines turn in Black's favour...

It was very important to immediately bring the last piece into the game: 27.Rfd1! Ne3 (I like 27...Nxd6 much less, because after 28.Rd5 White has a very powerful compensation for two sacrificed pawns.) 28.Qh5 Qe8 It looks like I would have to play this way. (28...Nxd1 is much weaker from a practical point of view: 29.Qf7+ Ka6 30.Rxd1 Qa4 31.Rd5 with an unpleasant initiative.) 29.Nxc5+ Ka8 30.Qxe8 Rgxe8 31.d7 Nxd1 32.dxe8Q Rxe8 33.Rxd1 bxc5 34.Rd7= with a more or less equal rook endgame.

27...Ne3 28.Qh3 Forced retreat.

It may seem that White has a nice resource at his disposal 28.d8N+ , but I had everything calculated: 28...Rbxd8 29.Nxd8+ (29.Qxg7+ leads to similar consequences: 29...Rxg7 30.Nxd8+ Kc7 31.Nxc6 Nxf1 32.Nxa7 (32.Rxf1 Kxc6 33.Rxf6+ Kb5–+) 32...Nd2 33.Re1 Nf3+–+) 29...Rxd8 30.Qxg7+ Rd7 31.Qxf6 Nxf1 32.Qxf1 (Or 32.Qxc6+ Kxc6 33.Rxf1 Kb5–+ with an easy win.) 32...Qxe4 33.Re1 Qf4–+ and the activity of the black king predetermines the outcome of the game.

28...Nxf1 29.Rxf1 Qxe4

In this case, greed has no drawbacks. It was also possible to start with 29...Rbd8 and after 30.Rd1 it would most probably lead to some kind of transposition.

30.Qh5?! Makes my conversion much easier. It was necessary to play 30.Rd1 , supporting the passed pawn as much as possible. Most likely Nikita refused this continuation due to 30...Qe2 , using the weakness of the 1st rank. (After 30...Rbd8 31.Nxd8+ Rxd8 32.Qe6 Qc6 33.Rd6! Black's task is also not trivial.) But unexpectedly White goes into the endgame with 31.Qf3+! Qxf3 32.gxf3 Rbd8 33.Rd6! , severely restricting the black pieces. I saw this idea at the board and, frankly, I was a little worried, since the only reasonable plan - to push the pawns - did not seem so promising to me.

30...Rgd8 31.Rd1 g6

The clearest solution here was a cute geometric resource 31...Qa4! , and White is unable to keep the d7–pawn.Nevertheless, the move in the game does not spoil anything either. I distract the queen from the d1–square, knock the rook off the d-file and calmly take on d7.

32.Qxh7 Qe2 33.Rb1 Or 33.Rf1 Qe3+ 34.Rf2 Qd3–+

33...Qc2 34.Rf1 Qd3 35.Nxd8+ Rxd8 36.Qe7 Rxd7 37.Qxf6

The rest is simple. Black's plan is to push the c-pawn, while White is unable to create any counterplay due to the weakness of his king.

37...Qxc3 38.Qxg6 Qe3+ 39.Kh1 c4 40.Qe6 Qd3 41.Kg1 c3 42.Qxe5 c2 43.Rc1 Qd1+ 44.Kf2 Qd2+ 45.Kg3 Rd3+ It is absolutely impractical to calculate how the black king escapes from the checks after the capture on c1.

46.Kh4 Qxg2 White resigned. A high-quality game, and a very important victory for me in terms of the tournament result. 0–1

Oparin's full analysis and 19 other extensively commented games can be found in the new ChessBase Magazine #205!

ChessBase Magazine #205

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