As chess grandmasters go, Timur Gareyev may not be as strong as Carlsen and Caruana et al., but when it comes to showmanship to help promote the game, he’s right up there alongside the great P.T. Barnum himself. The Uzbekistan-born 30-year-old now lives in Kansas and represents the US, and back in 2016, he set a Guinness World Record playing 48 games simultaneously while blindfold, breaking a landmark achievement famously once held by Miguel Najdorf. Oh, and he did it while also riding an exercise bike!
In August, this column reported on Gareyev, aka the “Blindfold King”, beating rising star GM Awonder Liang in the crunch, winner-takes-all final-round decider to clinch the $6,000 top prize in the 119th US Open, a venerable event on the USCF tournament calendar that has been staged annually since 1900, and with a Roll of Honor that includes legends Samuel Reshevsky, Reuben Fine, Bobby Fischer, Bent Larsen and Viktor Korchnoi.
But rather than be content with his winner’s check, trophy and his name alongside all the above-mentioned icons, Gareyev wanted to celebrate his famous victory in Middleton, Wisconsin by doing something a little out of the ordinary for his commemorative Chess Life cover photo for the November edition of the USCF magazine – and who else but the chess world’s answer to “The Greatest Showman” could come up with the first known skydive while carrying a chessboard with a game in progress!
Thankfully, Gareyev is a skydiver with close to 150 jumps to his name, so it wasn’t such a crazy idea as many might have first thought. The stunt was all done in coordination with his manager, Jennifer Vallens, with the cover and video shoot taken by Joe Jennings of www.skydive.tv, who is experienced in filming stunt dives with everything from snowboards to bikes, all-terrain vehicles, and even jeeps – but this was a first with a chessboard and with a grandmaster “flying the board” while plummeting at 120mph!
The featured position Gareyev selected, with the pieces firmly attached by superglue to the 64 squares, came from an alleged 1760 game between the great Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Prince de Conti, played in Montmorency, France. This is a game that has widely been seen in the anthologies over the years, but has now long since been debunked by leading chess historian Edward Winter, quoting research by HJR Murray of The History of Chess, who firmly believes it to be one of the many fakes from the past that have involved eminent thinkers, politicians and leading military figures.
Well, that famous game may well have been a fake, but this game today from Gareyev, while firmly on terra firma, and en route to his exhilarating – in more ways than one! – US Open Championship victory in August certainly isn’t!
Photo: Timur Gareyev knows how to celebrate in style! | © Joe Jennings / www.skydive.tv
GM Timur Gareyev – GM Andrey Stukopin
119th US Open, (8)
Queen’s Gambit Accepted
1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.e4!? Ultimately, this line in the QGA will see White sacrificing one of the central pawns for some optimistic piece-play. 5…Bb4 6.Bxc4 Nxe4 7.0-0 Nxc3 8.bxc3 Be7 This is correct, as Black is able to keep his dark-squared defender and he also has the luxury of being able to use the f6-square for defence. 9.Qe2 0-0 Usually here you see 9.Ne5 followed by Qe2 for White and Black follows up with …0-0 and …Nd7. And, perhaps thinking he was just going to transpose into this, Black continues as usual – but Gareyev has another cunning plan in mind. 10.Rd1 Nd7 11.Rd3!? As ever, Gareyev is in an adventurous mood by going for the direct kingside attack with this sudden rook lift and looking for a quick switch to g3 or h3. 11…b5?! Plain and simple, Black panics over the direct caveman attack and comes up with a flawed plan. He has to consolidate with 11…Nf6 and now after 12.Ne5 c5 13.Rh3 cxd4 14.Bd3 g6 15.cxd4 Qd5! White has the more space and the attack, but Black is solid and looking to continue with …b6, …Bb7 and …Rfd8 or …Rad8. 12.Bxb5 Rb8 13.Rd1 The all-seeing, all-knowing playing engine thinks White has a big advantage after the immediate 13.c4! – and it is hard to see why Gareyev rejected this simple option, as now, after 13…Bb7 14.Ne5 it becomes clear White has a big advantage. 13…Bb7 14.Ne5 Nf6 15.c4 Qc8?! Black is in full panic mode now. I imagine he was probably relying on playing 15…Ne4 with the threat of …Nc3. 16.Bb2 Qd6 A resourceful defence that looks to offer Black saving resources, but it comes unstuck after 17.Nd7 c6 18.Nxb8 cxb5 19.d5! with a massive advantage. 16.Bg5 Gareyev really has a free rein now for his attack, as all of Black’s pieces are awkwardly placed. 16…Rd8 17.c5 Bd5 18.Ba6 Bb7 19.Bd3! Bd5 20.c6 Our hero takes the “scenic route” to victory – but the position was crying out for a tactical strike such as 20.Bxh7+! Nxh7 (Black will quickly get mated after 20…Kxh7? 21.Bxf6 Bxf6 22.Qh5+ Kg8 23.Qxf7+ Kh8 24.Rd3!) 21.Bxe7 Re8 22.Bh4 where White has won a pawn and keeps the attack. Now either Gareyev overlooked the thematic “Greek gift” sacrifice, or perhaps his reason for rejecting it was that Black could have some hopes of survival with the opposite-coloured bishops? 20…Rf8 21.Nd7 Nxd7 22.Bxe7 Bxc6 23.Bxf8 Kxf8 24.Rdc1 The game is effectively over now, with White having a big material plus. The rest of the game is just Black “padding” his position with moves to the time control to make it look like a respectable defeat. 24…Bd5 25.Qc2 c5 26.dxc5 Qc6 27.a4 a6 If 27…Bxg2?? 28.Bb5 wins quickly. 28.Bf1 Rb4 29.Qxh7 Rg4 30.h3 Rg6 31.Qh8+ Ke7 32.Qh4+ f6 33.Ra3! [see diagram] The second rook lift seals the deal now, as Black can’t just sit back and allow an easy Rg3 liquidating down to an elementary win. 33…Bxg2 34.Rg3 Rxg3 35.Qxg3 Bxf1 36.Qxg7+ Ke8 37.Qg8+ Ke7 38.Qg7+ Gareyev repeats the position a couple of times to get closer to the time control – a good tip for any level of play, be it from grandmasters to tournament novices. 38…Ke8 39.Rxf1 Ne5 40.Qg8+ Ke7 41.Qg7+ Ke8 42.Qh8+ Kf7 43.Qh5+ Covering the f3 square deals with the final Black threat in the game. 43…Ke7 44.f4 Qxc5+ 45.Rf2 Qc1+ 46.Kh2 Nf7 47.Qe2 a5 48.Qc2 Qe3 49.Qc7+ Kf8 50.Qb8+ Ke7 Black gets mated quickly after 50…Kg7 51.Rg2+ etc. 51.Rc2 The Qb8 defends f4 and there are no checks in the position for Black, so the rook is footloose and fancy-free to move in for the kill. 51…f5 52.Qc7+ Ke8 53.Rb2 Kf8 54.Rc2 Ke8 55.Qc8+ Nd8 56.Qc4 Kf7 57.Kg2 1-0