Robert Ris: The pearl of Wijk aan Zee

by Robert Ris
1/9/2024 – Almost 30 years ago, at the 1995 edition of the Hoogovens Tournament in Wijk aan Zee, Roberto Cifuentes and Vadim Zvjaginsev played an astounding game. Known as the ‘Pearl of Wijk aan Zee’, the encounter features a number of sacrifices, including a successful queen sacrifice. Zvjaginsev went all-in for the attack once Cifuentes made an innocent-looking move. Unmissable!

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Cifuentes v. Zvjaginsev

With a 2585 rating, Russian GM Vadim Zvjaginsev was among the top 100 players in the world in January 1995. His opponent in this memorable game, Chilean-born Roberto Cifuentes, had a 2535 rating at the time.

In the first round of the Hoogovens Tournament in Wijk aan Zee, Zvjaginsev obtained an attacking win which, according to GM Zenón Franco, is reminiscent of Bobby Fischer’s victory over Rene Letelier in 1960.

The fireworks came to be after the innocent-looking 24.Bg2

Zvjaginsev found 24...Nxf2, which is justified by 25.Kxf2 Rxe3, decisively opening up the white king’s position.

The winning continuations are not obvious at all, though. But Zvjaginsev, both a graduate in Economics and a fan of Vladimir Nabokov, was evidently inspired, and later found the beautiful 31...Qe3+

Not even after playing this remarkable sacrifice was Black winning trivially, as Zvjaginsev found a couple more nice touches before Cifuentes resigned the game four moves later.

Full analysis of the game

Cifuentes v. Zvjaginsev

Calculation Training for 1400-1600 players

Mastering these tactical motifs is essential to deepen your understanding of the game and become a better player. After all, you neither want to overlook the given chances by your opponent, nor blunder yourself!


Robert is an International Master who mostly spends his time training and coaching talented youngsters. On the PlayChess server The Fast and the Furious is a popular show where he explains sharp opening lines for a wider audience. He is also a well-known ChessBase author who produced numerous DVDs and regularly contributes to ChessBase Magazine as well. Since 2015 he is the organizer of the Dutch Rapid Championships in his home town Amstelveen. He has started a YouTube channel with chess analysis as well.
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