Throwback Thursday: Morozevich astonishes in Pamplona

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
4/24/2020 – At the end of 2006, the capital city of Navarre in Spain organized the 16th edition of the "Magistral Ciudad de Pamplona". The eight-player single round-robin featured a mix of fearless tacticians and rising stars. Top seed Alexander Morozevich — number five in the world at the time — won the event after scoring five wins and two draws. Dmitry Jakovenko and Alexei Shirov finished second and third in a tournament filled with exciting tactical battles. | Pictured: Morozevich in Biel, 2017. | Photo: Pascal Simon

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A tactical slugfest

Alexander MorozevichIt was not all about the rating average. The Pamplona Masters organizers put together an attractive line-up for the 16th edition of the event. Well-known tactical wizards Alexander Morozevich and Alexei Shirov headed the field, which had in 23-year-old Dmitry Jakovenko a third seed that fought for tournament victory throughout.

Two young grandmasters that would later become familiar names for chess fans were also included: Radoslaw Wojtaszek (aged 19 at the time) and Viktor Laznicka (18). Among the local representatives, besides Shirov, we count Miguel Illescas and Oleg Korneev, who still represented Russia at the time but would later change federations to represent Spain. A 29-year-old Christian Bauer from France completed the line-up.

Top seed Morozevich drew his games from rounds one and five, and won the rest. Rated 2747 at the time, he finished the event with a 2951 Tournament Performance Rating. Moreover, he could have got an astronomical 3085 TPR had he managed to win a queen v rook endgame over second-placed Jakovenko.

Out of the 28 games played, no fewer than 18 finished decisively, with plenty of them featuring fearless attacks and remarkable tactical skirmishes.

[Pictured: Morozevich in Biel, 2003]

A technical miss

Let us start with the one that got away for 'Moro'. The Russian star had first gained a pawn and then traded down to a won queen v rook ending in round five against Dmitry Jakovenko. Morozevich started trying to convert the technical endgame on move 72 and missed more than one win. On move 111, he fell prey to a picturesque drawing method:


White's 111.Kf3 allowed 111...Rf2+ 112.Ke3 Re2+ 113.Kd3 Rd2+ 114.Kxd2 stalemate — if the king does not capture, the rook will keep giving checks. 

Jakovenko and Morozevich were sharing the lead on 4 out of 5 after this draw. Jakovenko drew his two remaining games, while Morozevich finished the event with two consecutive wins.


Winning à la Moro

Morozevich at his best showed an astounding tactical alertness. His key round-three encounter against Shirov saw the latter getting out-calculated in a complex position:


White has a couple of positional advantages — a centralized queen and rooks on the open files. Shirov faltered with 29...Nd7 and his position completely collapsed all of a sudden. There followed 30.Bxd7 Bxd7 31.Ne4 (with a discovered attack along the e-file) fxe4 32.Rxd7+ Kh8 33.Rg6 and Black resigned, as the rook on f6 is pinned.

In round seven, Korneev blundered the game away in one move, and the eventual champion, clearly in good form, had no problems finding the winning combination:


White demonstrated 31...Qxd5 had been a mistake by showing 32.Rxa6+ Kb8 33.Qf4+ Rd6 34.Rxb7 Kxb7 35.Rxd6 Qxb3 36.Qf7+ and Black resigned. Morozevich's pieces seem to be perfectly placed, ready to jump in whenever the opponent makes a false move.


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The ever-entertaining Shirov

The author of the acclaimed "Fire On Board" books only drew one game in Pamplona, winning four and losing two to finish third. In round two, he found himself on the wrong side of a deadly attack against Wojtaszek:


The Polish grandmaster provoked his opponent to open up the c-file with 27...Bb6. The idea is that after 28.cxb6 Nc3+ White has no good way to respond to the check — 29.Kc1 runs into 29...Nxa2+ forking, while 29.Kb2 runs into 29...Rxa2+ 30.Kc1 Rxc2+ 31.Kxc2 and 31...Nxd5+ wins the queen. Shirov gave up his queen with 29.Qxc3 and resigned two moves later.

In the last round, Shirov also gave up his queen, but this time he had a wonderful combination that justified his decision. He was playing white against Illescas:


Shirov correctly calculated that 22.d5 was better than the also strong 22.Qe2 — but, of course, you do not need to ask Shirov twice to sacrifice his queen! After 22...Rxd1 23.Raxd1 e3 24.Rfe1 b5 White has 25.dxe6 bxa4 26.Rd7:


The active rook combined with the connected passers eventually gave white the win.


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Fine combinations by Bauer and Jakovenko 

Apparently playing next to creative aces inspired other participants. Bauer finished fourth on 4 out of 7 and showed great calculation abilities to take down Laznicka in round six:


There followed 32...Ne1 33.Rxd6 Nxf3+ 34.Kf2 Rxd6 35.Rxd6 Rxg2+ 36.Kxg2 Bxd6 37.Kxf3:


Bauer had foreseen this position, knowing that 37...Nd7 is winning here. Black threatens to capture on f6, and in case of, for example, 38.Bg5 the light-squared bishop attacks the queenside weaknesses via d3-c2. White played 38.Kg4 and resigned after 38...Nxf6 39.Kg5 Be7.

In round two, Jakovenko crashed through Illescas' defences. The Spaniard was playing black and riskily left his king uncastled:


25.Nxf7 Rxd3 26.Rxe6 Qd4+ 27.Kh2 Bxg2 28.Qe7+ Kg8 29.Nh6+ Kh8 30.Qf8+ Kh7 31.Qg8+ and mate next move. (You can try your own variations on the diagram above.)


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Dmitry Jakovenko

Dmitry Jakovenko in 2006 | Photo: Official site 

Final standings - Ciudad de Pamplona 2006

Ciudad de Pamplona 2006

All games



Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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