Marin on Tromso R4 – battle of the kings

by Mihail Marin
8/6/2014 – In team events often the top games end in rapid draws, while it is left to the lower-ranked players to decide the ultimate outcome of the matches. Our commentator GM Mihail Marin knows the feeling from his early youth. He prefers it when, just like medieval hero kings, the players on the top boards decide the matches – which happened in some of the top encounters of round four.

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Marin on Tromso – round four selection

When around the age of 16 I was awarded the honour of defending the junior board of the strong IT Bucharest team, I immedately felt the pressure of responsability on my (still) fragile shoulders. As a general rule, many of the top board games ended in rapid draws in the decisive matches and everybody would rush to see if I and the girl of the team (now WGM Cristina Foisor, currently playing in Tromso) could win the match. To me, this looked as if two military powers would threaten each other with their nuclear weapons (equivalent to the GMs and IMs from the team) but actually send only the infantery (us, the juniors) into the fight. Not really fair, nor relevant for the overall strenght of the teams. The picture I prefer is when, just like the medieval hero kings, the player on the top board decides the match to his team's favour. The rule "If our best player beats your best player, we are better", inspired from the David vs Goliath fight, sounds a bit simplistic, but applies on many occasions, involving all kind of psychologycal aspects.

For today, I have picked up three top board games illustrating this situation. All the matches ended in 2.5-1.5 and in the first two cases the top game was the only decisive one. Anticipating a bit, I have discovered some further (purely chess-wise) similarities between this games. The winner always started in a slow mode, without displaying any territorial ambitions. Each time there was some discussion around the d5-square (or, in the game won by Black, the d4-square), while in the final position the vulnerability of the enemy king was the telling factor. And I hope you will forgive me for resorting to a game by Carlsen for the second time since the start of this series; he is the World Champion after all!

Magnus Carlsen, Norway, playing Radoslaw Wojtaszek, Poland, with Garry Kasparov kibitzing

The thirteenth World Champion does not seem to like the position of the fifteenth

[Event "41st Olympiad Tromso 2014 Open"] [Site "Tromsø¸"] [Date "2014.08.05"] [Round "4"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Wojtaszek, Radoslaw"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B26"] [WhiteElo "2877"] [BlackElo "2735"] [Annotator "Marin,Mihail"] [PlyCount "65"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [EventCountry "NOR"] [WhiteTeam "Norwegen"] [BlackTeam "Polen"] [WhiteTeamCountry "NOR"] [BlackTeamCountry "POL"] 1. e4 {For a moment, this move made me curious: will we see a fierce theoretical dispute in the Najdorf?!} c5 2. Nc3 {Not really! Just some complex positional struggle with mobile pawn chains and all pieces on board. In the '60s, the closed Sicilian used to be a deadly weapon in Spassky's hands. Players like Geller and Larsen (the latter also with reversed colours, 1.c4 e5) were crushed during Spassky's campaigns for the World title.} d6 ({The man who did find an antidote to Spassky's way of treatment of the Sicilian was Viktor Kortschnoj. During their 1968 Candidates final he twice answered} 2... e6 { followed by ...d7-d5. Black had some light pressure in both games but they ended in draws. In order to win the match, Spassky found no other solution than... winning with black and switching to 1. d4 when playing with white. It remains an open question what would Carlsen do against 2...e6. True, he twice faced this move, but this happened in 2002 when he was rated 2171...}) 3. g3 Nc6 4. Bg2 g6 5. d3 Bg7 6. Be3 e5 {[#]Black adopts Botvinnik's English triangle with reversed colours, a system I had praised in my comments to the first round. I have to operate a small correction: the system is good unless you face Carlsen. But does this not apply for any other opening?!} 7. Nh3 { This way of developing the knight was also one of Spassky's favourites. I must confess that when following Carlsen's play I have every time the temptation to compare him with another World Champion from the past: now Fischer, later Lasker, but today we surely have Boris Vassilievich in the background. On more concrete terms, what could be the great idea behind the last move? Shouldn't the knight (after f2-f4) go to f3, controling the important central d4- and e5-squares? Actually, it would be of little use to put pressure on such well defended squares, so it is a good idea to be heading for the only weakness in Blck's setup, the d5-square. After the planned f2-f4, the perspective of a knight jump to f4-d5 somwehat restricts Black's options.} Nge7 8. f4 Nd4 { Since the knight will be forced to retreat after only four movs, this looks like a mere loss of time.} ({But Black must have feared that after the natural } 8... O-O {hite would carry out the thematic attack} 9. f5 gxf5 10. Qh5 Nd4 11. O-O-O {(which, under slightly difficult circumstances occurred in some of Spassky's games, too!) Black is under no immediate threats, but the weakness of the light squares and of his king's position may accumulate into a promising positional white attack.}) 9. O-O O-O 10. Qd2 Bd7 11. Nd1 $1 {A multi-purpose move. White prepares to expell the d4-knight and to consolidate his h3-knight at the same time.} Qc8 12. Ndf2 Ndc6 13. c3 {[#]} b5 ({One rule I knew as a kid is that if there is some tesnion in the centre Black should consolidate his c5-pawn with} 13... b6 {In this concrete position, the idea would be meeting} 14. fxe5 {with} dxe5 {, preventing the radical activation of the h3-knight.}) 14. fxe5 $1 Nxe5 15. Bh6 {The most precise move order. Such a positive move as Nh3-f4 should not obstruct the bishop. Besides, exchanging the g7-bishop will weaken the kingside and turn Black's queenside counter-attack into something similar to an infantery assault without the support of the artilery.} N7c6 16. Bxg7 Kxg7 17. Nf4 Qd8 {After the bishop exchange, it looks natural to return with the queen on dark squares, for both defensive and offensive purposes. But I cannot help comparing the two rival Majesties, suggesting an advantage for the white queen. From d2, it also controls dark squares on both wings, but it does not prevent the rooks' connection!} 18. Rad1 Rc8 19. Qe2 {Controlling the g4square and taking the queen out of the e5-knight's range (d3-d4, ...Nc4) in order to prepare the central expansion.} h5 $6 {The final phase of the game induces the thought that Black should have abstained himself from this weakening of the kingside.} 20. d4 cxd4 21. cxd4 Ng4 22. h3 Nxf2 23. Qxf2 {[#]White's progress over the past moves is obvious, while for Black it remains difficult to formulate a coherent plan.} Ne7 24. Rd3 $1 {With thecentre firmly in White's hands, such rook lifts tend to be rather annoying. But, ironically, this move would not have been possible had Black not occupied the b5-square with the pawn!} b4 { The threat ...Bb5 arrives too late. Things will start happening on the kingside.} 25. Rf3 Qe8 ({Black needs to spend a tempo on over-defending f7, since} 25... Bb5 $2 {would allow the decisive blow} 26. Nxh5+ $1) 26. g4 $1 { Wit the black pawn on h7, this would hve been just a way to increase the positional domination by blocking the enemy structure with g4-g5. But the way it is, the open file will be opened, with fatal consequences for Black.} hxg4 27. hxg4 Bb5 (27... Bxg4 {would just open another file for White's attack:} 28. Rg3 Qd7 29. Bh3 $1 {Attacking the main defender of the g-file.} f5 (29... Bxh3 30. Nh5+ {is curtains.}) 30. d5 {with such threats as Qd4+ and Ne6+.}) 28. Re1 Qd8 {This queen surely has moved a lot. And it did it ith short steps, as if it was the least mobile piece on board, the king.} 29. g5 Qb6 $2 {The first relatively long queen move loses by force, but it is hard to give an advice for Black. Apart from the game manoeuvre he threatens Rh3 with combined threats along the h-file and on f6.} 30. Bh3 Rcd8 {[#]} 31. Be6 {Quite a nasty visit!} Be8 32. Nd5 (32. Rh3 {with the threat Nh5+ followed by Qf6+ and Rxh5 is more spectacular. Had Black retreated his rook on b8 rather than d8, this might have been Carlsen's choice. But with the d8-square unavailable to the black queen, his solution is simple and effective.}) 32... Nxd5 33. Bxd5 { Black resigned... in what looks a "normal" position. It would be so with the h-file closed. Under the given circumstances, the threat Rh3 followed by Qf6+ is decisive.} 1-0

Maxim Vachier-Lagrave, board one for France

[Event "41st Olympiad Tromso 2014 Open"] [Site "Tromsø¸"] [Date "2014.08.05"] [Round "4"] [White "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Black "Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E68"] [WhiteElo "2768"] [BlackElo "2743"] [Annotator "Marin,Mihail"] [PlyCount "96"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [EventCountry "NOR"] [WhiteTeam "Frankreich"] [BlackTeam "Aserbeidschan"] [WhiteTeamCountry "FRA"] [BlackTeamCountry "AZE"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. c4 O-O 5. d4 d6 6. Nc3 Nbd7 7. O-O e5 8. e4 exd4 {I have always felt a great relief when facing this move over the board. By giving up the tension so soon, Black simplifies White's choice of plans. And in order to occupy the "weak" d4-square, Black needs a lot of cooperation from White's part.} ({I find} 8... c6 9. h3 Qb6 {favoured by Tal, Fischer and Kasparov, more challenging.}) 9. Nxd4 Re8 10. h3 a6 {Very straightforward. Black intends to prepare ...b7-b5. But the last move is also very committal and White has all the time he needs to take preventive measures.} 11. Re1 Rb8 12. Rb1 Ne5 13. Bf1 {Played after 18 minutes, this rare move kind of puzzles me. The bishop retreat does not prevent Black's queenside expansion in any way. Later, White will need spending another tempo on returning with the bishop on the long diagonal.} ({I have always played} 13. b3 {, with a stable advantage each time. The main point is that} c5 14. Nc2 b5 15. f4 {loses either the d6-pawn or, if} Nc6 $6 {a piece to} 16. e5 {I may have to check everything again... A good area for investigating in CBM 162!}) 13... c5 14. Nc2 b5 15. cxb5 axb5 16. b4 {Practically admitting the failure of his initial plans. Vachier might have thought he could take on b5 unpunished, but in view of the hanging h3-pawn, the weak f3-square and the possibility of a central break with ... d6-d5, White'd underdeveloped army would be in big danger.} c4 {The f1-bishop is just passive now.} 17. Nd4 d5 $1 {The most energetical way to take over the initiative. WHite is in big trouble already.} 18. Bg5 dxe4 19. Nxe4 Bb7 20. Bg2 Bxe4 21. Rxe4 Qb6 22. Bxf6 Bxf6 23. Qe2 Re7 24. Nc2 Rd8 25. Re1 Rdd7 26. Ne3 Kg7 {[#]To a certain extent, the position looks symmetrical, but Black has a huge advantage. The c4-pawn is much stronger than the a2-pawn and the control over the d3-square offers hopes for setting up a global domination.} 27. Rd1 Nd3 $6 {This offers WHite chances to kick for his life. Let us remember the moment of Carlsen's Be3-h6 from theprevious game. It is good, of course, to occupy a good square with the knight (f4 and d3, respectively), but it would be better not to obstruct any of our pieces!} ( 27... Rd3 {followed by ...Qd6}) ({or} 27... Qd8 {planning ...Rxd1 followed by . ..Rd7 would have been more convincing.}) 28. a4 {At last some white activity.} Rxe4 29. Bxe4 Rd4 {Black has finally occupied this square, meaning that White has really provided some help. The last move attacks the bishop and over-defends c4, threatening ...bxa4.} 30. a5 Qd6 31. Qg4 {And now he strikes on the opposite wing.} Kh6 32. Nc2 {[#] With his rook trapped in the centre, it almost looks as if Black had been tricked, but...} Nxf2 $1 {The start of a spectacular mutuaal blows.} 33. Rxd4 Bxd4 34. Qh4+ Kg7 {And now, we should not hurry to call it a day the other way around...} 35. Bxg6 $1 {Hitting h7 and d4 simultaneously.} Ng4+ 36. Kf1 hxg6 37. Nxd4 Qxd4 38. Qxg4 Qd3+ {[#]It may seem that the worse is off for White. In queen endings the pawn number is less relevant than the rank of the passed pawns. Isn't the a5-pawn just as good as the c4-pawn? Well, almost, because a third element interfers, the king's safety. Thisdetail alone, clearly favouring Black, decides the game.} 39. Qe2 ( {If} 39. Kf2 c3 {Black would soon deliver mate witb four queens on board.}) 39... Qxg3 40. a6 Qxh3+ {The pawns are not that important, but their absence is... There is no shelter avalable for the king.} 41. Kg1 Qg3+ 42. Kf1 Qc3 43. Qa2 Qh3+ 44. Kg1 c3 45. Qa1 ({White had no time for advancing his pawn:} 45. a7 Qe3+ 46. Qf2 (46. Kf1 Qc1+ 47. Ke2 c2) (46. Kg2 Qd2+ 47. Qxd2 cxd2) 46... Qxf2+ 47. Kxf2 c2 48. a8=Q c1=Q {We have transposed to another queen ending without any counterplay for White. And the extra pawns finally do count!}) 45... Qg4+ 46. Kf1 Qf3+ 47. Kg1 Qe3+ 48. Kf1 Kh7 (48... Kh7 {Unpinning the pawn. If} 49. Qa2 Qc1+ 50. Ke2 Qb2+ {with a familiar transposition to a simple pawn and then again queen ending.}) 0-1

Top board for Azerbaijan: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

A uniquely imagnitive and exciting player: Baadur Jobava, who features in this Daniel King interview

[Event "41st Olympiad Tromso 2014 Open"] [Site "Tromsø¸"] [Date "2014.08.05"] [Round "4"] [White "Jobava, Baadur"] [Black "Leon Hoyos, Manuel"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A37"] [WhiteElo "2713"] [BlackElo "2517"] [Annotator "Marin"] [PlyCount "71"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [EventCountry "NOR"] [WhiteTeam "Georgien"] [BlackTeam "Mexiko"] [WhiteTeamCountry "GEO"] [BlackTeamCountry "MEX"] 1. Nf3 g6 2. c4 c5 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 Nc6 5. Nc3 d6 6. O-O e6 7. a3 Nge7 8. b4 O-O 9. Rb1 b6 {[#]From the today's selection, this game had the most peaceful (and, if I had not been playing the English for a dozen of years, I would add "boring") start. But the end will be by far the most exciting one!} 10. Nb5 $5 {An interesting move. Black has developed very flexibly, but there is a hidden weakness in his camp on f6. The last move prepares Bb2, which will confront Black with a difficult choice.} ({The alternate move order based on} 10. Bb2 { hoping for Nb5 actually loses a pawn to} cxb4) 10... Bb7 ({If} 10... a6 11. Nc3 {Black may later regreat having weakened the b6-square.}) 11. Bb2 e5 $6 {It is understandable that Black does not wish to exchange the bishop, since this would only increase the weakness of the f6-square. But in this case the remedy is worse than the problem itself, because the d5-square becomes chronically weak.} 12. bxc5 bxc5 13. d3 Qd7 14. Nd2 f5 15. Ba1 Rab8 16. Qa4 Ba8 17. Nc3 Rbc8 18. Nd5 {[#] If we were to predict the future course of events, the most plausible description would be: White attacks on theueenside and in the centre, Black prepares his counterplay on the opposite wing. Well, this is correct... up to a certain point only! The strong outpost on d5 allows White playing on the whole board.} g5 (18... f4 {would prematurely weaken another light square:} 19. Nxe7+ Qxe7 20. Bd5+ Kh8 21. Ne4 {With strong pressure.}) 19. e3 Ng6 {[#] And now we might think that Black's play acquires more effective forms thaan White's... This must be what Baadur felt, too since he now completely changes the direction of his attack.} 20. Qd1 $3 {Threatening the nasty Qh5.} g4 21. f3 h5 22. fxg4 hxg4 23. h3 Nce7 24. hxg4 fxg4 25. Qe2 {Black has managed to keep a pawn on g4, but has weakened the e4-square and his king's position.} Kh8 $6 { Leon prepares some unclear attack involving the g-file, but overloks that his king is vulnerable on the open h-file.} 26. Be4 $1 {Threatening Qh2+ followed by Kg2 and Rh1.} Bxd5 27. cxd5 Rxf1+ 28. Nxf1 $1 {Bringing the knight closer to the weak g4-pawn.} Bh6 29. Nh2 Rg8 30. Nxg4 Nh4 {[#] A desperate atempt to complicate matters. Black might have planned all this attack when putting his king in the corner. There should be more than one winning moves by now, but Jobava's is the most elegant and probably strongest, too.} 31. Nxe5 $1 {Until now, Black might have hoped that the a1-bishop would stay out of play. Not any more!} Rxg3+ (31... dxe5 32. Bxe5+ {leads to decisive attack:} Rg7 (32... Bg7 33. Qh5# {leads to a nice mating pattern.}) 33. Rb8+ Nc8 34. Qh5 {Black's helplessness is illustrated by the fact thaat he cannot defend the h6-bishop!!} ) 32. Kf2 Qh3 {Black has managed to mass up an impressive number of pieces around the white king. By contrast, White will atack the enemy king with checks from the distance.} 33. Rb8+ Nc8 34. Rxc8+ Kg7 35. Nc6+ Kf7 36. Qh5+ 1-0

About the author

Mihail Marin

Born in 1965, GM Mihail Marin has several times been Romanian champion and first made the leap over the Elo barrier of 2600 in 2001.

Marin possesses a rare gift for a grandmaster – he is able to explain in readily comprehensible terms the ideas behind moves, variations and positions. This ability is there for all to admire in his contributions to ChessBase Magazine.

Marin has written some books which have earned the highest of praise, among which are "Secrets of Chess Defence" and "Learn from the legends".

Marin lives in Bucharest and is married to women's International Master Luiza Marin.

ChessBase DVDs by GM Mihail Marin

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GM Mihail Marin, born in 1965, has several times been Romanian champion, played in 12 Olympiads (earning an individual bronze medal in 1988) and first made the leap over the Elo barrier of 2600 in 2001. Marin possesses a rare gift for a grandmaster — he is able to explain in readily comprehensible terms the ideas behind moves, variations and positions. This ability is there for all to admire in his contributions to ChessBase Magazine.


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