CBM 205: A Question of Strong Will and Cool Nerves

by Nagesh Havanur
2/1/2022 – ChessBase Magazine offers a window to the world of professional chess and it also provides arsenal for the tournament player. Issue 205 offers games from several major events, FIDE Grand Swiss Tournament, USA and Russian Championships and European Team Championship, 2287 games (21 annotated), 11 opening surveys, lectures and exercises for training. Annotators include Alireza Firouzja, Anish Giri and Nikita Vitiugov among others. The icing on the cake is the Robert Hübner Special, a tribute to a great player who crossed swords with the best of them all, from Bobby Fischer to Garry Kasparov. Our columnist Nagesh Havanur takes a look. | Photo: Magnus Carlsen vs Alireza Firouzja, Norway Chess 2021 | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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ChessBase Magazine 205: A review by Prof. Nagesh Havanur

Firouzja has a long way to go

Even as I write these lines, the Tata Steel International Tournament has concluded and  Carlsen has won the event with a round to spare. In retrospect one player who would have posed a challenge to him was missing in this event. It’s Alireza Firouzja. Apparently he and the organizers could not reach an agreement on his participation. It’s rather late in the day to go into the merits of the issue. I shall only mention what is common knowledge to the readers here.  Recently Carlsen declared, he would like to meet a member of the younger generation like Firouzja in a world championship match. But how good is Firouzja? This issue offers a few clues. For starters, it offers all the games from the FIDE Grand Swiss Tournament that he won ahead of Caruana and Oparin by half a point. Firouzja himself annotates his victory over Abasov in this issue. A different way of gauging his play is his game with Caruana, a game that he lost. He fought back from a bad position and kept on pressing forward till his youthful impatience cost him the game.

In this issue the game is annotated by Anish Giri:


Another player who was in form in this tournament was Alexei Shirov. He played his usual brand of "Fire on Board" chess. It was only appropriate in Riga to which he and his great predecessor, Tal belonged. He remained unbeaten with a score of (+3 = 8 -0) and qualified for the next FIDE Grand Prix series. Here is his sixth round clash with Firouzja:


A dangerous game in which experience helped Shirov to survive in the end.

So what can one say about Firouzja? He is still young and his play is evolving. It’s too early to predict how he would perform in the Candidates’ Tournament this year. He has a long way to go.

As for Caruana and Oparin, both played well and remained unbeaten. However, they were dogged by draws. In terms of creative play two other games deserve mention. One is the game, Sjugirov-Vitiugov annotated by Vitugov. The other is Predke-Yakubboev annotated by the winner. The first is a crazy draw and the second features an important TN in the King’s Indian.

This issue also has games from two important national championships from the USA and Russia. Both were hard-fought.

Caruana’s misfortunes

As is known, the USA Championship was won by Wesley So winning a tie-break match with Fabiano Caruana and Samuel Sevian.

Wesley So modestly attributed his victory to the misfortunes suffered by Caruana. The latter missed a win against Sam Shankland who sacrificed his queen for inadequate compensation:

Caruana –Shankland, USA Championship 2021:

Here is the position for young players to solve. Black has boldly played ….c6-c5 daring White to capture the pawn. So what is White supposed to do?


White to play and win

Solution: Next time

Caruana missed his way here. Be that as it may, worse was to follow in the game with Wesley So in which he missed a problematic win and lost.

Caruana-Wesley So, U.S. Championship 2021 :

In this issue under review we have the same game without annotations. However, the News Page here did publish a report highlighting the critical moment in the game:

Wesley So’s modest claims notwithstanding this championship was no cakewalk for anyone. Instead of this trio, So, Caruana and Sevian, any of the others could also have taken the first three places.

Vitiugov survives and wins the Russian Superfinal:

The 74th Russian Superfinal was a modest affair, partly on account of Covid-19 restrictions in place. Gone are the days of the USSR Championships with crowded halls and hundreds of fans waiting outside for the next move to be shown on the demonstration board.

In fairness to the organizers they made it an elegant and comfortable event for players:

Here Nikita Vitiugov won the Championship ahead of Matlakov and Fedoseev. As he mentioned, this was his 15th consecutive attempt since 2006 in which he finally succeeded. In his view his best game was the encounter with Andreikin in which he outplayed his opponent. However, as he himself acknowledged later, he also had his share of his luck. At the end of the day, it was his self-confidence that prevailed and he was able to emerge a winner even in desperate positions. A case in point is his game with Alekseenko:

The challenge for young players is to find a win for White in the following position. Alekseenko who had a football line-up in this position rushed and lost.

Can you do better?


White to play

Solution Next time  

This championship also saw some creative efforts by other players. A case in point is Rakhmanov-Andreikin, a game that was widely discussed in the Russian chess press.

On occasion one also saw a rare opening line in a game that did not realize its full potential. Here are the initial moves from the game, Vitiugov-Fedoseev:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0–0 6.Be2 e5 7.0–0 b6!? 8.Re1 exd4 9.Nxd4 Bb7 (E94)


In this position Vitiugov played 10.f3 and Fedoseev responded with 10…Ne8?! Although he went on to lose with a blunder after a hard battle, it’s no reflection on this line. In the above position he would have done better with 10…Nd7.  There are only a handful of games with this line in databases. It still needs more tests over the board.

For reasons of space I shall have to do without the treatment of other tournaments in this DVD, especially, European Team Championship. They deserve better than a mere mention.

A Robert Hübner Special

This issue also offers a tribute to grandmaster Robert Hübner. There are 17 games annotated by a team of CBM experts. The names of opponents reads like The Who’s Who of modern chess, Spassky, Korchnoi, Portisch Gligoric, Hort, Unzicker and Beliavsky, to mention a few. Here I would single out one particular game, Najdorf-Hübner from Wijk aan Zee.


Bobby Fischer was so impressed by this variation that he employed it in the 5th game during the World Championship 1972 and won against Boris Spassky.

There are more than 3500 games played by Robert Hübner in the MegaBase alone and one can take a look.

Young readers may still wonder, "Why all this "fuss" about an old grandmaster?"

In a review of this length I cannot do justice to this player. No one can. Still let me give it a try. The chess world "discovered" Robert Hübner when he played in the 1970 Interzonal at Palma de Mallorca.


Robert Hübner in play against Lev Polugaevsky at the 1970 Interzonal, (Chess Life & Review, March 1971, USCF Chess Archives)


That was the return of Bobby Fischer to the world championship cycle. Hübner trapped Bobby in their game and won a piece. It was good enough for a draw, though.  The young talent qualified to become a candidate and played the quarterfinal match with Petrosian, an encounter that he lost by a narrow margin. In the decades that followed he qualified for Candidates’ time and again. He was to play tough matches with Portisch, Korchnoi, and Smyslov. I think, only the match with Portisch was free from "incident". Not the matches with Petrosian, Korchnoi and Smyslov. Each was marked by controversy. While one may or may not agree with Hübner, it should be appreciated that he has taken an uncompromising stand on everything related to chess.

He also has extraordinary standards by which he judges his own play and that of players, past and present. From my experience I can say, they are impossible to meet. Arguably, he is the most erudite among grandmasters today and his powers of analysis are incomparable. Ideally, that should be seen in his books* rather than databases.

Opening videos and surveys

There are 3 opening videos in this issue. The first features a lecture on a rare Variation of the Grünfeld Defence (5.Bd2 c5) by Markus Ragger. The second offers a lecture on the aforesaid  Hübner Variation of the Nimzo-Indian Defence by Mihail Marin. The third is a lecture on the French Advance Variation by Rustam Kasimdzhanov.

Take your pick.

What is more, there are 8 opening surveys ranging from the Sicilian to the King’s Indian. Among them I would single out Krisztian Szabo’s analysis of the Sicilian Nimzowitsch Variation, 1. e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 (B29) and Petra Papp’s investigation of the 5.b6 line of the Benko Gambit (A57).

Beside these surveys, this issue has standard features on opening traps, tactics, strategy and the endgame.

Summing up

The main database of the issue has 2287 recent games of which 21 are deeply annotated.

Commentators include Anish Giri, Peter Heine Nielsen and Alireza Firouzja among others. It may be noted that there are more annotated games in the sections on opening theory and training.

Well, practice makes perfect.

More information about CBM #205


1) The allusion is to Alexei Shirov’s two-volume work, Fire on Board

(EveryMan Chess) that reflects his attacking style.

2) Wesley So has offered detailed annotations to his game with Caruana in New in Chess Magazine, 08/ 2021.  The American Magazine, Chess Life, January 2022 issue also offers a detailed report on this championship.

3) The 74th Russian Chess Championship received good coverage on the official web site of the Russian Chess Federation: https://rb.gy/nifipk

A detailed report also appeared in the Russian Chess Magazine, 64 шахматы Oбозрение (64 Chess Review), 11/2021 issue.

4) Vitiugov has annotated his game with Andreikin in both New in Chess Magazine, 08/2021 and also the aforesaid 64 шахматы Oбозрение (64 Chess Review), 11/2021.

5) Vitiugov Interview : https://rb.gy/mxrrhc (Russian), https://rb.gy/tb8chr (English)

6) An introduction to the CBM feature on Robert Hübner

7) For the English language readers, the  USCF "Chess Life & Review" Archives are the right place to trace the path of Robert Hübner’s rise to the top. In particular the volumes for the years 1971, 1980 and 1984 offer an account of his play in world championship cycle: https://new.uschess.org/chess-life-digital-archives

8) Dr. Robert Hübner is a scholar and he served as a papyrologist in the University of Cologne, Germany. Two of his chess books deserve mention:

Twenty-five Annotated Games (Edition Marco 1996)
Der Weltmeisterschaftskampf Lasker-Steinitz 1894 (Edition Marco 1996)

The second book includes games from Lasker-Schlechter 1910 and also a few short matches before 1894.

ChessBase Magazine #205 in the shop...

Prof. Nagesh Havanur (otherwise known as "chessbibliophile") is a senior academic and research scholar. He taught English in Mumbai for three decades and has now settled in Bangalore, India. His interests include chess history, biography and opening theory. He has been writing on the Royal Game for more than three decades. His articles and reviews have appeared on several web sites and magazines.


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