Game 2

After losing the first game, I needed to win the second one to take the match into overtime. Playing in these all-or-nothing situations is somewhat of an art. Historically, my must-win results are quite good. I clinched my first GM norm by winning the last three games of a Round Robin event. I clinched my last GM norm by beating GM Novikov (at the time rated over 2600) with the White pieces in what must be considered one of my best games ever.

This was a different story. Both players are extremely motivated at the World Cup. The goal was to seriously complicate the matter without going overboard crazy. The first task was choosing the opening. Realistically speaking, it’s more pleasant to play for the win with White than to play for a draw with Black in this situation. Pleasantness is not really a decisive factor though.

While preparing for the match I shortly considered playing 1.e4, but decided against it in consideration that my opponent is a Caro Kahn specialist. I have alternated my first move only once over the last year. Against 1.d4 my opponent usually plays the Nimzo Indian. So preparation should be easy, right? Not so much. It’s important to consider all of the enemy’s cards.

My opponent had been around a lot of Gruenfeld in recent times during his role as Grischuk’s second. Riazantsev used to play the opening himself and I have shown little to demand fear against it. Another potential weakness he could try to exploit was the Queen’s Gambit Declined. Everybody has been playing it recently. Fortunately for the liveliness of chess, Aronian-Harikrishna (2011), as well as some other games that followed succeeded in throwing more wood into the fire. I have shown “softer” preparation against this opening. It was about covering all bases. Considering the match situation, I was quite sure the Gruenfeld was not a serious option.

The Nimzo had more than a 50% chance of appearing on the board. That’s exactly what happened. So what was the plan?

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.08.29”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Riazantsev”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “154”]
[EventDate “2011.08.28”]
[SourceDate “2011.08.29”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 c5 5. g3 Ne4 6. Qd3 Qa5 7. Qxe4 Bxc3+ 8.
Bd2 Bxd2+ 9. Nxd2 Qb6 10. dxc5 Qxb2 11. Rb1 Qa3 12. Qd4 O-O 13. Bg2 Na6 14. Ne4
Qa5+ 15. Qd2 Qc7 16. Rb5 Rb8 17. Qd4 b6 18. cxb6 Rxb6 19. Rg5 e5 20. Qxe5 Qxe5
21. Rxe5 d6 22. Re7 Be6 23. O-O Bxc4 24. Nc3 Rb2 25. Rxa7 Rc2 26. Bd5 Rxc3 27.
Bxc4 Rxc4 28. Rxa6 Rc2 29. e3 Rb8 30. Rd1 g6 31. Raxd6 Rxa2 32. Rd8+ Rxd8 33.
Rxd8+ Kg7 34. g4 Ra5 35. h4 h5 36. g5 Ra4 37. Rd4 Ra2 38. Kg2 Kf8 39. Kg3 Ra3
40. Kf4 Ra2 41. f3 Ra3 42. Ke4 Ra1 43. Ke5 Ra3 44. Ke4 Ra1 45. Rb4 Kg7 46. Kf4
Ra3 47. Rb1 Ra2 48. e4 Re2 49. Rb7 Ra2 50. Rb3 Rg2 51. Rb1 Re2 52. Kg3 Ra2 53.
Re1 Ra3 54. Kf4 Ra2 55. Re3 Rg2 56. Re1 Ra2 57. Kg3 Ra3 58. Kf2 Ra2+ 59. Re2
Ra1 60. Kg2 Ra3 61. f4 Ra4 62. Kf3 Ra3+ 63. Re3 Ra1 64. Kg2 Ra4 65. Kg3 Rb4 66.
f5 gxf5 67. exf5 Rg4+ 68. Kh3 f6 69. Re6 fxg5 70. Rg6+ Kf7 71. hxg5 Rf4 72.
Rf6+ Kg7 73. Rg6+ Kf7 74. Ra6 Rxf5 75. Kh4 Rf1 76. g6+ Kg7 77. Kxh5 Rf5+
1/2-1/2

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 This was supposed to be a semi-surprise. I played this move in a few games without much success. 4.f3 and e3 have been my main weapons for a lot of years. My opponent did not have many games in this line and I did not know what to expect. He never played the next move before. 4… c5 5. g3 Ne4 6. Qd3 Qa5 7. Qxe4 Bxc3+ 8. Bd2 Bxd2+ 9. Nxd2 Qb6?! This move was made famous by the game Kasparov-Karpov in 1985. However, it’s dubious. 9…Nc6 has become the main move where 10.dxc5 b6! leads to rather balanced positions, but 10.d5!? Nd4 11.Bg2 Nb3! 12.Rd1 leads to a very interesting position where White sacrifices a pawn or two for optimal piece activity, as in Moiseenko-Bluvshtein, 2004.

I knew that this move is not supposed to be very good and I remember looking at it. Just didn’t remember why. I reacted well. 10. dxc5 Qxb2 11. Rb1 Qa3 Taking the a2 pawn is dangerous because White places his Queen on c3. 12. Qd4 O-O 13. Bg2 This much was all in the notes. 13… Na6 13…Nc6 leaves Black with some serious problems after 14.Bxc6, after which the White Knight gains supremacy over the Bishop. 14. Ne4 Black is running into some difficulties. Even though White’s pawns are scattered, Black’s forces are currently immobile. 14… Qa5+ The greedy 14…f5 15.Nd6 Qxc5 16.Qxc5 Nxc5 17.Rb5! lands Black in trouble 15. Qd2 Qc7 16. Rb5! The Rook will be useful on that square. 16… Rb8 16…f5 17.Nd6 Nxc5 18.Qd4 Na4 19.g4! leaves Black’s forces immobile once again, as White prepares an offensive.

If Black can peacefully play b6 and regroup his position will be fine.17. Qd4 White prepares against b6. 17… b6 18. cxb6 Rxb6 19. Rg5! The idea of it all, the rook lift. Black’s choices are limited. 19… e5 20. Qxe5 Qxe5 21. Rxe5 d6 21…Rb1+ 22.Kd2 Rb2+ 23.Kc3 Rxa2 24.Kb3! traps the Rook, as 24…Rxe2 will be answered by 25.Nf6+ 22. Re7 Gotta keep that Rook active and creating problems. 22… Be6 23. O-O Bxc4 24. Nc3! The ideal square for the Knight, from where it controls everything. 24… Rb2 Black stays aggressive.

25. Rxa7? A rushed decision. Much stronger was 25.Rc1! (stopping Rc2) 25…Bxa2 26.Nxa2 Rxa2 27. Rxa7, where Black will not have any choice but to go for a Rook+Bishop+4 VS Rook+Knight+3 on the same side, giving White good winning chances. I was looking for something more straightforward. 25… Rc2 26. Bd5 Rxc3 27. Bxc4 Rxc4 28. Rxa6 Rc2

This is a tough nut to crack. 29. e3? 29.Rd1! Rxe2 30.Rdxd6 would have offered White better winning chances than the text, but with careful play from Black it feels like the game should still end in a draw. 29… Rb8 30. Rd1 g6 31. Raxd6 Rxa2 32. Rd8+ Rxd8 33. Rxd8+ Kg7 34. g4 White tries to gain a preferable pawn structure, as Black ideally plans to play h5. I will not go into analyzing this endgame in-depth. The position is a draw and Black stays alive with accurate defense. 34… Ra5 35. h4 h5 36. g5 Ra4 37. Rd4 Ra2 38. Kg2 Kf8 39. Kg3 Ra3 40. Kf4 Ra2 41. f3 Ra3 42. Ke4 Ra1 43. Ke5 Ra3 44. Ke4 Ra1 45. Rb4 Kg7 46. Kf4 Ra3 47. Rb1 Ra2 48. e4 Re2 49. Rb7 Ra2 50. Rb3 Rg2 51. Rb1 Re2 52. Kg3 Ra2 53. Re1 Ra3 54. Kf4 Ra2 55. Re3 Rg2 56. Re1 Ra2 57. Kg3 Ra3 58. Kf2 Ra2+ 59. Re2 Ra1 60. Kg2 Ra3 61. f4 Ra4 62. Kf3 Ra3+ 63. Re3 Ra1 64. Kg2 Ra4 65. Kg3 Rb4

No more progress can be made before advancing the f-pawn. 66. f5 gxf5 67. exf5 Rg4+! 68. Kh3 f6! Black forces the fixing of the pawns. 69. Re6 fxg5 70. Rg6+ Kf7 71. hxg5 71.Rxg5 Rf4 72.Rxh5 Kf6 is drawn as well. 71… Rf4! 72. Rf6+ Kg7

White is in zugzwang. 73.Kh2 Rh4+ 74.Kg3 Rg4+ allows Black to take the pawn. The rest is just an attempt at a fighting spirit. 73. Rg6+ Kf7 74. Ra6 Rxf5 75. Kh4 Rf1 76. g6+ Kg7 77. Kxh5 Rf5+ 1/2-1/2

Wrap-up

I lost my match to GM Riazantsev by a score of 1.5-0.5. I won both opening battles but lost the fight in both games. In the first game I equalized with Black and was crushed in the middle game. In the second game I gained an advantage with White and failed to convert. I out-prepared my opponent but was outplayed over the board, which is what is most important in the end of the day…

In general, results are not everything. The process is very important. In my scenario, however, results are everything. I can’t say that I will dwell on the result for too long. Other things await. Non-chess related things.

The World Cup continues. In the second round, my opponent drew both games against GM Nepomniachtchi (rated 2718) but then lost the playoffs in active games.

A very positive note on the tournament is GM Moiseenko, who used to be an annual visitor to the Canadian chess scene. His current rating is 2725 and he is on to the third round. I had a brief chat with him during the tournament and he appears to be extremely determined. Good luck to him for the rest of the tournament!

Another interesting note, there is an open tournament in KM for those eliminated in the first round. I have still not seen the tournament advertised, but one hears rumors.

Below are some more photos from the event. Next article will be a concluding article on my year as well as general thoughts.

Not all signs from the 2010 Olympiad are down

Local old-fashioned restaurant

Eric and Yuan

Friendly ogre in a mall

We really looked like tourists here

Favourite restaurant in KM: “Night City Restaurant”. If you are in the area, stop by. Probably not worth 30 hours of traveling though

 

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