Sometimes you have games between good players that fluctuate in the objective assessment virtually from move to move. Like watching an open football game that ends up 4-3 where defense is not the priority. As the tournament gets into the later rounds you have players becoming more tired, some are coming off disappointing losses which they feel have ruined their tournaments, there are many possible factors. Sometimes it is simply mutual tactical blindness. In the seventh round it was the game of Shakh Mamedyarov versus the young Australian IM Moulthun Ly that caused the most excitement in the tournament hall and, dare i say it, in the commentary room!
In a quiet Pirc opening the higher rated Mamedyarov has been slowly making progress with the black pieces. Ly has had to resort to tactics to keep material equality. Ly has taken the pawn on d6 but has had to walk into a pin and Mamedyarov has just played the strong 33,..Qa8.
White has walked into the pin and Shakh is threatening bxc5 winning the piece on d6 so Qe2 is forced and then the Azerbajani supergm has a choice of taking on e4 with the queen or taking on c5. The bishop is protected by the white pawn on c5 so maybe no difference?
Here white could have changed the course of the game with the sacrifice 35.cxb6! It is not winning but he would have forced black to defend and this was the optimum moment to make this sacrifice. Look at the position after 35…,Rxd6 36.bxa7 it is not so easy for black.
Instead the young Australian Ly tried to consolidate his position with 35.Kh2 and after Kg6 the sacrifice on b6 is still available but Ly goes for another “safe” move in his mild time pressure, 36.Qf2 and meets 36,..h5 with 37.h4 but after 37.,,g4 feels his position is getting worse and now sacrifices under less favourable circumstances with 38.cxb6,Rxd6 39.bxa7
What is the difference? Well, instead of trying to round up and control the dangerous looking white pawns Mamedyarov could have concluded the game wth a direct attack with 39,…f5! in order to meet say 40.a4 with f4!
Now the extra moves like Kh2, Qf2 and the added h4,g4 sequence clearly favour Mamedyarov! White can only have dream that these moves had never been played!
Instead the Reykjavik open top seed plays the natural move 39,…Qa4 which wins one of the dangerous pawns but leaves Ly in the game. Now the tricky Australian resorts to tactics more reminiscent of when he used to have online battles with Mamedyarov at bullet chess when they were far both younger! The game continued 40.Rc7, Qxb5.
41.Rc8 first trick…..No problem 41,…Bd5
42.R2c5 second trick…No problem 42,..Qd7
43,Qc2+ Three moves available, e4, f5 and Kh6. Think carefully which do you choose?
43,..f5 is met by 44. Rxd5! Rxc8 (forced) 45.Rxd6+,Qxd6 46.Qxc8 and in order to not lose Mamedyarov would have to play 46,…e4+ with a perpetual check so not f5!
43,…e4 opens up the diagonal to the black king so now Queen taking on d6 will be check in the previous line. Now the best seems to 44. Rxd8, Qxd8 45 Rc8
Wherever the black queen moves white can promote and win back the piece and then grovel in a slightly inferior position with some chances for the draw. The comentaors could not help looking at the slightly looking open black king but the queen cannot enter int eh attack so ti would just be one spite check by white if he chose Rg8+ before promoting.
The critical moment of the game is about to transpire, The top seed Shakh Mamedyarov played 43,…Kh6?? and the commentators held their breath.
White has the very direct 44.Rxd8! Qxd8 45.Rc8 if Queen moves it allows 46, Rh8+ and 47.Qh7 mate. With white contemplating his move the commnetaors see 44,..g3+ as a resource but white can just play 45.Kg1 and meet 45,…Qxd8 with 46.Rc8 winning.
Sometimes tournaments can be decided on one move like a tennis playing saving match point in a early round. Somtimes games have extra meaning to certain players like the Australian Moulthun Ly who has traveled many miles to play in Europe, has two GM norms and has just drawn with the 2732 Dmitry Andrekin the previous round. A win over the supergm rated 2747 would do wonders to the needed performance rating of 2600 needed for the coveted GM norm to become Australia’s sixth homegrown grandmaster, a fact very well known to one Australian commentator and the author of these lines.
In modern times you can see the players in front of you on a screen from a camera live anywhere in the world, you have commentators telling you the critical moments, you have computer analysis showing you tactics Kasparov would have been proud of in his prime. In the 31st edition of the Reykjavik Open all these things are available to everyone for free all over the world as long as you have internet and a computer. In the first editions of this famous tournament you would have had to wait till the results were published somewhere to see who won the event much less see the games!
Like spectators watching a football match where the minnow is about to win over Manchester United you can feel and see the drama unfold. Unfortunately for the young Australian he reached up and played 44.Kg3 very calmly as Mamedyarov had left the board almost certainly knowing he had made a losing move, trying to appear calm but you could see the emotion in his face as he returned to see the white king on g3 and not the winning 44.Rxd8! One commentator could not hide his emotion, lost all professionalism and yelled quite loudly “NOOOO” like seeing a striker miss the crucial penalty in the Champions League final. Who said that chess was not exciting and dramatic!
Mamedyarov then managed to play accurately to bring the full point home and after Ly resigned he quickly shared the missed move as both players amicably discussed the game and both shaked their heads at the missed opportunity.
There were many other games that were worthy of note although maybe did not such drama. The sole leader Sergei Movsesian held the back side of a Catalan opening reasonably convincing for a draw against the Bulgarian Ivan Cheparinov. English grandmaster Gawain Jones could not make an impression on the white side of English reversed accelerated dragon position against the solid German GM Stefan Bromburger. Tania Sachdev continued her good form with a solid draw against the second seed Dmitry Andreikin and kept her GM norm chances well and truly alive and also the lead as the leading female of the 2016 Reykjavik Open. Tania has a relaltively low rating of 2370 after a disappointing 2015 but has been a normal mid 2400 IM for many years and already has one GM norm waiting for two more to come along. The necessary performance rating of 2600 is needed for the coveted norm and various players are still in reach with three rounds to go.
The impressive Indian GM Abhijeet Gupta continued his good form with an impressive win as black over the aggressive American GM Alexander Shabalov. With two losses already against Shabalov, Gupta decided meeting 1.e4 with e5 was the safer choice but even here the game still became a little sharp.
Gupta has just played 12,…g4 to force Nh4 and then win a pawn with 13,…Nxe4 followed by exchanges on h4. What is interesting is both players evaluation after 16.a4,a6
The amicable Indian grandmaster came in to the commentary room to show his game and explain his train of thought and he thought if black managed to consolidate his position and then play a later f5 he should be better with a clear extra pawn while the American GM felt that that white should have plenty of compensation for the pawn in the form of the numerous weaknesses around the black king. Maybe both grandmasters have a case since white does indeed have some compensation , a critical moment seems to be here.
Shabalov has just played 21.c4 with aggresive intentions of a rook lift via a3 and swing the rook to the kingside along the third rank but it leaves the d4 square weak and Gupta immediately played 21.,,Nc6 and headed for the valuable central outpost. After playing Knight to f5 too early it seems the Indian GM has controlled everything in his usual calm demaenour. Witness how he has placed his pieces in the following diagram.
Black has placed his king on f6 sitting behind the white f-pawn in complete safety and improved his pieces to take over the initiative. The final position with black having just played 33,…Nf3+ is pleasing to the eye since it forces mate with the help of the critical g-pawn that was destined to be the hero or the villain of this game.
They say veteran players tend to play quiet technical games with little risk. If so there is something in the Icelandic water and air that seems to have affected Alexander Beliavsky in his game with the young, talented IM Nikiata Petrov! Witness the following in a main line Slav opening.
“ I may be in my sixties but I can still play sharp modern opening theory” might have been the thoughts of the great veteran to his 19 year old opponent. This strange move has in face been played before by top GM’s with an idea to cause trouble to the black bishop on f5.
The modest looking 10,..Be7 is in fact a novelty that was played quickly but the young IM as if saying, “do you really keep up with theory my “mature” colleague?”
The game continued with the principled 11.e4 which was met by 11,…Nh5!
The main line seems to be 12.exf5,Bxh4+ 13.Kd2, Ng3 13.Rh2, Qxd4+ 14.Kc2, Qxe5 15.Rxh4 where Black is a piece down but has an open white king, a few pawns and moves like Rd8 to come. What would your assesment be?
The great veteran did not take long to decide to play more cautiously, it is very possible that since he chose the sharp move 9.h4 and the novelty 10,…Be7 is a top suggestion by the silicon monsters that both players had already analysed this position extensively in their home preparation.
The game continued and if shown the following position you might conclude it was from a beginners under 12 event! Such is modern chess that concrete lines that look “ugly” like a celeriac vegetable can still taste pleasant after a decent roasting!
The next key position occurred after 15.Qb3 attacking b6 and e6.
The key move and theme here is the move Nd5! since capturing exd5 allows Nxf1 and the capture of the loose knight on d3. Instead of the immediate 15,…Nd5 Petrov decides to throw in the extra move 15,…e5 and after 16.d5 to play 16,…Nxd5. White then replied with 17.Nxd5, and after 17,…cxd5 the following position was reached.
Three moves later Petrov decided to capture on f1 here but was met by the inbetween move Qb5+.
Aleaxander Beliavsky then decided to repeat moves for a sharing of the point after Qb3+ in the following short but entertaining game.
Maybe we have looked at too many games from the viewpoint of interesting openings,
endgames can still be instructive and entertaining with their own drama as well.
Local Icelandic GM Stefan Kristjiansson was on the white side of a Caro-Kann against Armenian GM Hrant Melkumyan and after many adventures reached the following position.
White to play on move 57. The last time control is 30 minutes to finish with 30 second increments so not too much time for a deep think over a cup of coffee! The cleanest winning move is 57.Nc2! forming a threat of Ra6 mate! but the Icelandic chose another way, Nc4+ and Rb6+ swapping off pieces and heading for an ending that looks to be winning for white with no risk of losing, always a temptation!
White to play and most players know that this type pf position usually wins for white as the rook will be sacrificed for the a-pawn and the two connected pawns plus the white king with bring the full point home, yet this position although it looks simple enough contains only one winning move for white! Combine this with both players being down to their last few seconds (30 second increments everytime they make a move) and it becomes much more difficult. Can you see the only move to win?
it is in fact the most direct move 65.g6 but when the Icelandic GM played 65.Ke4? instead most of the tournament hall assumed this was still winning but in fact black just makes it back in time.
The above position is white to move on move 70 and it is drawn with best play, we advise the readers to get out their chessboard and see how it is drawn as it is most instructive and useful!
There are times when you have lost the previous day and the only way to come back is to pick up the kitchen sink and throw it at whover is standing in your way. Popular local player IM Bjorn Thorfinnsson decided that Norwegian visitor John Kvamme would be the one having to imitate the bomb squad as Thorfinnsson threw explosive after explosive!
All quiet on the western front, no sign of enemy fire…Black decides to castle kingside, a reg rag to the bull the same as Ingvar Johannesson trying to run in the Pamplona bull run wearing his red jumper! Bjorn T. plays 9. h4!
An attack on the wing should be met by an opening up of the center, black plays 9.,,,cxd4 10.exd4, Nc6 and Bjorn T. lunges into the breach with 11.h5.
There is a glint in the Icelandic players eye that says “do you feel lucky”, I can’t help feeling that Thorfinnsson would have played 12.Rxh5 as soon as the black player had taken with his knight and then thought about his choice of replies later. The position after 12,…gxh5 12.Bxh7+, Kh8 13.d5, Ne5 14.0-0-0 with Rh1 to come does not look pleasant for the defending side.
The game continued and the Norwegian visitor Kvamme defended and counterattacked well until the following position was reached.
Black has just played 19,…Ba4 attacking the white queen but a nasty surprise awaits him with 20,Bxf6! If 20,…Bxc2 the aesthetic Rh8+!! is played with a flourish and the hope that someone would buy you a drink at the bar later in admiration!
Black was forced to play the normal capture 20,..Bxf6 and after 21.Qe4 played 21,…d5 hitting the white queen again with the motto, “if at first you don’t succeed….” but here another shot across the bows ensues, can you see it?
Bonus points if you saw 22.Rh8+!! and Ingvar Johannesson will buy you a drink later on as a prize I promise! One one condition, did you see what white had to play after the forced moves 22,…Bxh8 23.Qh4, Kg7.
Ok, if you saw 24.g4!! with the threat of 25.g5 cutting of the escape route then the esteemed long serving commentator of the Reykjavik Open Ingvar Johannesson will indeed buy that drink! I must warn you, you must have proof!
The game is not over, of course, black can defend for a few more moves and force Bjorn Thorfinnsson to be accurate. The last critical moment of the game is this following position.
Here white played the clean 29.Nxg6+! to meet 29,…fxg6 with 30.Qxg6 and inevital mate. Black tried to run with 29,…Ke8 but after 30Qxg8+ white is attacking withouth any loss of material. An excellent attacking game by the popular local IM Bjorn Thorfinnsson!
To see the full list of results of round seven results please click here.
Going into the eighth round of the Reykjavik Open there are two leaders in the form of Sergei Movsesian and Abhijeet Gupta on 6/7 who will clash on board with a large chasing pack only a half point behind, tune in at 3:00 pm local time to see the next rounds drama play out.
To see the round eight pairings please click here.