Iranian Championship: Youngster beats GM for lead

by Albert Silver
1/27/2016 – In the previous report, a couple of youngsters were in the lead together with the top-seed GM Maghami, well over 100 Elo above the pack. One would have expected a few more rounds would allow him to establish his authority, but instead, a huge win by Alireza Firouzja in round nine, has now placed the 12-year-old in sole first! Report, games, positions.

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Before anything, it needs to be noted that although the Iranian championship is not teeming with 2600 players, it certainly won’t be long before it happens. Consider that at least four of the players are just adolescents who took part in the World Youth Championship, with no small success (one gold and one bronze medal), and are putting on Elo faster than they are growing.

GM Ehsan Ghaem Maghami, twelve-time Iranian Champion

After the sixth round, the lead was taken by 15-year-old Parham Maghsoodloo, who was on a hot streak that yielded him five wins at 6.0/8. Right behind him was 12-year-old Alireza Firouzja and GM Ehsan Ghaem Maghami, the twelve-time title holder, both with 5.5/8.

Round nine turned out to be pivotal as Maghsoodloo lost badly after missing a tactic in a much superior position.

White seemed to be holding all the cards, but a careless Qh3? opened
him up to a counter blow. Can you see what White missed? Black to play
and get an advantage.

The game on board two was no less essential as the grandmaster faced his young rival. Playing black, Alireza chose to play a Benoni in which the two players followed theory for roughly 14 moves. The adolescent showed fine understanding as he built up play on the queenside, while stifling any ambitions White might have. After maneuvering and piece play, it was clear the action was a make or break situation on the queenside, and Black managed to slip in his dream breakthrough. White collapsed quickly and a series of blows culminating in a very elegant win put the young Firouzja in sole first.

Readers may recall FM Alireza Firouzja came very close to a GM norm
at the Qatar Masters, and made news when he defeated GM Pavel
Tregubov in the first round. That wouldn't be the last we would hear
of him. (Photo by Amruta Mokal)

Black had calculated this position three moves earlier, with the winning
shot and sequence already planned out. There might be more than one
way to win, but after the tales of "Black was winning (as in no longer is)"
from Tata Steel, one develops a finer appreciation of the precise knockout
blow. Black to play and win.

Ehsan Ghaem Maghami - Alireza Firouzja

[Event "IRI-ch Men Final 2015"] [Site "Tehran"] [Date "2016.01.26"] [Round "9"] [White "Ghaem Maghami, Ehsan"] [Black "Firouzja, Alireza"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A50"] [WhiteElo "2594"] [BlackElo "2455"] [PlyCount "84"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [EventCountry "IRI"] [TimeControl "40/5400+30:1800+30"] 1. c4 {0} g6 {0} 2. d4 {268} Nf6 {33} 3. Bg5 {26} Bg7 {539} 4. Nc3 {16} O-O { 226} 5. e4 {32} d6 {45} 6. Qd2 {355} c5 {370} 7. d5 {21} e6 {194} 8. f3 {542} exd5 {409} 9. cxd5 {553} a6 {129} 10. Nge2 {72} b5 {132} 11. Ng3 {36} Re8 {124} 12. Be2 {60} Nbd7 {108} 13. O-O {35} Rb8 {745} (13... Qc7 14. Rac1 b4 15. Nd1 a5 16. Bh6 Bh8 17. Ne3 Nb6 18. Kh1 Ba6 19. Bxa6 Rxa6 20. f4 Raa8 21. e5 dxe5 22. fxe5 Qxe5 23. Rxc5 Nfd7 24. Rc2 Rac8 25. Rxc8 Rxc8 26. d6 Qe6 27. b3 Be5 28. Bf4 Bxf4 29. Rxf4 f5 30. Rf1 Re8 31. Nexf5 gxf5 32. Nxf5 Kh8 33. Ne7 Ne5 34. h3 Nbd7 35. Qd4 Kg7 36. Nf5+ Kg8 37. Ne7+ Kg7 38. Nf5+ Kg8 39. Ne7+ { 1/2-1/2 (39) Dreev,A (2711)-Khairullin,I (2642) St Petersburg 2011}) 14. Kh1 { 823} (14. b3 Qa5 15. Rac1 c4 16. Nb1 Qxd2 17. Nxd2 c3 18. Rxc3 Nxd5 19. Rxc8 Rbxc8 20. exd5 Rc2 21. Nde4 Rxa2 22. Nxd6 Rexe2 23. Nxe2 Rxe2 24. Rd1 f5 25. Kf1 Ra2 26. Rc1 Ra1 27. Rxa1 Bxa1 28. Nb7 Bd4 29. Ke2 Nc5 30. Nxc5 Bxc5 31. Bd2 Kf7 32. b4 Bd6 33. g3 Ke7 34. Kd3 Kd7 35. Kd4 h5 36. Be1 h4 37. Ke3 h3 38. f4 Bf8 39. Kf3 Kd6 40. g4 Kxd5 41. gxf5 gxf5 42. Kg3 Kc4 {0-1 (42) Atalik,S (2535) -Gufeld,E (2445) Beijing 1996}) 14... Qe7 {401} 15. a4 {863} b4 {828} 16. Nd1 { 118} Qf8 $1 {120 Not only preventing White from exchanging off the monster bishop on g7, but prepares an h6-h5 of his own to force White's pieces back.} 17. Nf2 {319} h6 {108} 18. Be3 {47} h5 {21} 19. Rfe1 {90} a5 $6 {681 A strange decision. On the one hand, Black wants to secure the b6 square for his knight where it will have a good range of action, but on the other, it gives White's (very) bad bishop a lovely square on b5.} 20. Bb5 {251} Bb7 {51} 21. Nf1 {80} Rec8 {170} 22. Rac1 {528} Nb6 {69} 23. Qc2 {400} Nfd7 {75 Black's plan is clear and White seems to have given up on his central expansion, usually prepared via f4-e5. Instead Black has the initiative now and is threatening ... c4 after which he will be doing very well.} 24. Nd2 $2 {54 Quite simply a mistake. Yes, it aims at the c4 square, but not it does not prevent ...c4 from being played.} (24. b3 $1 {was obligatory, after which it would be a complicated struggle still, with a small edge for White thanks to his space advantage.}) 24... c4 $1 {93 Now, not only has Black equalized, he is probably a bit better.} 25. Qb1 {103} c3 {104} 26. bxc3 {70} Bxc3 {44} 27. Nd1 {26} Bxd2 {119} 28. Bxd2 {16} Rxc1 {33} 29. Bxc1 {83 In spite of having played his dream breakthrough with ...c4, White is still fine, and mostly because of that bishop on b5. It shows how a small mistake can still have long reaching consequences.} Nc5 $1 {7 The purpose of ths move is not simply to plant the knight on a nice square, but to prepare Ba6 and trade off that bishop on b5. If it goes down, the a4 pawn may also fall.} 30. Nb2 $2 {123 White is clearly rattled at the way he lost control of the game. This is not how the top-seed 2600 player envisioned it at the start of the day.} (30. Be3 {was the only move to prevent an immediate ...Ba6.}) 30... Ba6 {66} 31. Bxa6 {11} Nxa6 {4} 32. Be3 {22} Nc5 {43 Simply put: White is in a world of pain.} 33. Qd1 {107} Qe8 {168} 34. Bxc5 $2 {153 This only forestalls the loss of the pawn for a couple of moves, and instead brings in new issues, such as two monster connected passed pawns. White is panicking.} dxc5 {4} 35. Qb3 {49} Qe5 {85} 36. Rd1 {93} Qc3 $1 {77 Black has now calculated the win to the end.} 37. Qxc3 {25} bxc3 {4} 38. Nd3 {17} c2 {70} 39. Rc1 {7 [#] Black had foreseen this next shot already when he played 36...Qc3.} Nxd5 $3 {27} 40. Rxc2 {27} ({After} 40. exd5 Rb1 41. Rg1 {Forced since the threat was ...c4, evicting the knight from the rook's protection.} Rd1 $1 42. Nc1 h4 $1 {and White will soon be in complete zugzwang.}) 40... Nb4 {14} 41. Nxb4 {135} (41. Rc3 Nxd3 {and White cannot take due to the back rank mate.}) 41... axb4 {0} 42. Rxc5 {207} b3 {3 White resigned.} (42... b3 $1 {the game would conclude with the very elegant} 43. Rc1 b2 44. Rb1 Rc8 $3 {and there is no defense against ...Rc1}) 0-1

Current standings after nine rounds

Answer to position: After 1...Rxf4! 2.exf4 Bf2+! 3.Kh2 Qxh3+ 4.Kxh3 Bxd4 Black gets ahead.


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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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