Letters & Numbers - First Move Chess -First Move Chess


Round five of the 80th Tata Steel Masters wasn’t held in the fabled Dutch elite tournament’s ‘spiritual home’ of Wijk aan Zee, but instead moving for this round to the “Beeld en Geluid” (Institute for Sound and Vision) in Hilversum, the first stage of their now regular “Chess On Tour” initiative that takes the tournament on the road to help support the local communities and to better showcase chess to the public.  And while there, the players met up with the cast of Sesame Street!

Lots of fun was had by all, as can be seen in the official video by clicking here – and in the time-honoured fashion of the classic American educational children’s long-running television series, it could well have been a case of “This edition of Sesame Street was brought to you today by the letters M and C and the numbers 6 and 4”, with the big media highlight proving to be Magnus Carlsen’s impromptu game on the big board with street regular Bert.

There should be more elite grandmaster meetings with the regulars of Sesame Street to put the fun back into chess, that’s what I say! And if the official picture that soon went viral was anything to go by, then the World champion didn’t look all together impressed with his opponent’s stunning (and somewhat illegal) pawn push of g5-g3 – now where’s Ernie when you need him to explain to his roommate that pawns don’t move two squares after they have already moved?

And when play finally got underway sans Bert, Big Bird, Elmo, Ernie and the Cookie Monster et al, the big highlight of the round proved to be Shakhriyar Mamedyarov’s impressive power-play to beat Fabian Caruana, who crashed to a second defeat in the tournament, that not only allowed the on-form Azeri to join the leaders, Anish Giri and Vishy Anand at the top, but also leapfrogging the slumping US#1 as the new world #2 behind Carlsen on the unofficial live rating list.

1-3. A. Giri (Netherlands), V. Anand (India), S. Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan) 3.5/5; 4-6. V. Kramnik (Russia), M. Carlsen (Norway), W. So (USA) 3; 7-11. S. Karjakin (Russia), Wei Yi (China), M. Matlakov (Russia), G. Jones (England), P. Svidler (Russia) 2.5; 12. F. Caruana (USA) 1.5; 13. B. Adhiban (India) 1; 14. Hou Yifan (China) 0.5.

Photo: “You can’t play g5-g3, Bert!” | © Tata Steel Chess

GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov – GM Fabiano Caruana
80th Tata Steel Masters, (5)
Queens’ Gambit Declined, Vienna variation
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Bg5 Bb4+ 5.Nbd2 The more common 5.Nc3 would have been the Vienna variation proper, something akin to the Nimzo-Indian Defence – but here 5.Nbd2 sacrificing a pawn is something of a Shakh speciality. 5…dxc4 6.e3 b5 7.Be2 The Azeri GM diverges from 7.a4 c6 8.Be2 that led to a crushing miniature last year in the Grand Prix leg in Geneva, Switzerland in Mamedyarov-Inarkiev. 7…Bb7 8.0-0 0-0 9.b3 c3 Fully accepting the pawn sacrifice with 9…cxb3 10.Nxb3 was the alternative – but after 10…a6 11.a4! c6 12.Qc2 Nbd7 13.Rfc1 White has more than enough compensation with heavy-pressure on the queenside. 10.a3N Sometimes the best novelties can be the most natural of moves – and here, Shakh simply recaptures his pawn as he eschews the complex correspondence game that arose after 10.Nb1 h6 11.Bh4 g5 12.Bg3 Qd5 13.Qc2 Ne4 in Aker,C-Wall,W corr.1983. 10…Be7 11.Nb1 c5! This gives Caruana instant equality – and the only reason he goes on to lose from here is a self-inflicted wound later in the game. 12.Nxc3 a6 13.dxc5 Bxc5 14.Qc2 Nbd7 15.Rfd1 Rc8 16.Bxf6 gxf6 the doubled pawns is not a handicap here, as Black has the bishop-pair as compensation for the structural weakness. 17.b4 Be7 18.Rac1 Qe8 19.Qb1 Nb6 Caruana has to tread carefully here, as one obvious try is 19…f5 that can fall into a somewhat ‘adventurous’ sacrifice after 20.Nxb5!? axb5 21.Bxb5 and Black has to be creative himself to stay in the game with 21…Bd5! 22.Ne5 Rxc1 23.Rxc1 Qb8! 24.Nxd7 Qxb5 25.Nxf8 Bxf8 26.Qb2 with a complex struggle ahead for both players. 20.Nd4 Kh8 The king shuffle to the side makes way for …Rg8 targeting g2, that now forces White into exchanging of the bishops. 21.Bf3 Bxf3 22.Nxf3 Nc4 With White’s bishop exchanged, Caruana now has the c4 square for his knight – and with it should come instant equality. 23.Ne4 Qc6 24.Nfd2 Qb7?! All of Caruana’s troubles can be directly traced back to this wrong move that allows his pawn structure to be severely weakened – and it is hard to imagine just what the US #1 was thinking here, especially as the obvious way to proceed from here was with 24…Rfd8! 25.Nxc4 Rxd1+ 26.Rxd1 Qxc4 and a level game that would likely have ended soon in a draw. 25.Nxc4 Mamedyarov doesn’t even think twice over this move. 25…Rxc4 26.Rxc4 bxc4 27.Qc2 Rc8 Long-term, the weakness is clear for all to see, with Black having four pawn islands in the ending to White’s two – that’s in the distant, but the here and now also highlights two flawed pawn weaknesses for Black on c4 and f6. 28.h3 Before you go rushing in to try to win pawns, it is always wise at every level of the game to first create a little ‘luft’ for king safety. 28…Qc6 The lesser evil may well have been 28…f5 but after 29.Qc3+ Kg8 30.Ng3! White is suddenly threatening Nh5 winning, forcing Black into 30…f6 31.Rc1 Qd5 32.Nf1! and the knight is heading to d2 to simply pick-off the self-inflicted stranded pawn on c4, one possible scenario playing out being 32…Kf7 33.Nd2 Rg8 34.e4! fxe4 35.Nxc4 Qd3 36.Ne3 Black isn’t losing per say – but certainly his pawns are very weak and his king lacks cover. A good elite GM would relish torturing a rival here by relentlessly grinding away. 29.Rd4! [see diagram] White will corral the c-pawn, which can’t be defended. 29…a5 30.Nd2! Rg8 While pushing on with 30…c3 looks tempting, it simply loses to 31.Rh4! f5 32.Rc4 and White wins material. Another tempting try is 30…Qb5 31.Rxc4 Rxc4 32.Qxc4 Qxc4 33.Nxc4 axb4 but after 34.a4! White has a commanding position with the past a-pawn, the well-placed knight dominating the bishop, and his king quickly marching across to the queenside to target the b4 pawn – one example being: 34…Kg8 35.a5 Kf8 36.Kf1 Bc5 37.Ke2 Ke7 38.Kd3 Kd7 39.Nd2! Kc6 40.Kc4 Be7 41.Nb3 Kb7 42.Nd4 with a near-winning endgame. 31.g3 axb4 32.Rxc4 b3 Black has to lose a pawn anyway – so he may as well do so in a way where you activate the queen and at least have some pseudo-threats of a sacrifice for a potential repetition. 33.Nxb3 Qf3 34.a4 Bd6 35.Rc8 And if it wasn’t for this move, forcing the exchange of rooks, Black would likely have had a sacrificial hit on g3 that would have saved the day. 35…Rxc8 36.Qxc8+ Kg7 37.Qc2[All roads lead to Rome here, but a little more clinical was the immediate 37.Qc4! as the sacrifice 37…Bxg3 backfires to 38.Qg4+! Qxg4 39.hxg4 Bc7 40.a5 and a technically won ending. 37…Bb4 38.Qc4 Qb7 39.a5 The pawn can’t be stopped, and the rest is just a formality. 39…Bd6 40.a6 Qb6 41.Nd4 Qa5 There’s no way to stop the pawn rolling. If 41…Bc5 42.Nb5! is winning a piece to stop the pawn. 42.Kg2 Qa3 43.Qc6 1-0 Caruana resigns, faced with the best he could hope for here be either seeing his king being mated or the a-pawn queening after 43…Bc5 44.Nb5 Qb4 45.Qb7 Qd2 46.Nc7! Bxe3 47.Nxe6+ Kh6 (If 47…Kg6 48.Qe4+ f5 49.Qxe3 Qd5+ 50.Qf3 Qxe6 51.a7 is an easy win.) 48.Qf3! Bg5 49.Nxg5 Qxg5 50.a7 etc.


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