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John Henderson
By John Henderson

Amidst all the media exposure and interest shown during the inaugural World Fischer Random Chess Championship recently in Norway, some argue that the future for chess could well be with FR. But there are some exciting young players showing there’s plenty of room for originality, creativity and entertainment that can still be found in the game as we know it – and leading that charge is Russia’s Daniil Dubov!

Dubov, whom we featured with a swashbuckling new idea in the Anti-Marshall that proved to be the highlight of the opening round of the European Team Championship in Batumi, Georgia, is now being hailed by commentators and fans alike as a ‘modern-day Mikhail Tal’ following his standout performance in the team tournament, as top seeds Russia struck double gold by winning both the open and women’s titles.

The young 23-year-old Russian proved to be the undisputed star performer, and if his opening game against Jonas Bjerre wasn’t enough entertainment for his ever-growing fan-base, then there was more excitement to come as the Muscovite continued to sacrifice pieces all over the board in a Tal-like fashion – the highlight being a very a spectacular king hunt in the Russia vs Germany encounter in round 7 (see below), which many are already nominating as ‘Game of the Year’, where he dragged his opponent’s king from g8 to a3 to deliver mate.

Russia, after surprisingly being held to an opening round 2-2 draw against Denmark, managed to hang on in a nail-biting final round battle with Poland, as they took gold and the title ahead of Ukraine (silver) and England (bronze). And it proved to be double joy for Russia, as their women’s team also hung on to clinch gold as they edged out hosts Georgia (silver) and Azerbaijan (bronze) to take the title.

Open:
1. Russia, 15/18; 2. Ukraine, 14; 3. England, 14; 4. Armenia, 13; 5. Croatia, 12; 6-10. Azerbaijan, Spain, Germany, France, Czech Rep., 11.

Women’s:
1. Russia, 16/18; 2. Georgia, 15; 3. Azerbaijan, 14; 4-5. Ukraine, Netherlands 12.

Photo: Daniil Dubov, the exciting new star of Russian chess | © Dr. Mark Livshitz / Russian Chess Federation

GM Daniil Dubov – GM Rasmus Svane
22nd European Team Ch., (7)
Queen’s Gambit Declined
1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.Bf4 A Carlsen favourite – and as one of Carlsen’s “secret seconds” for his match last year against Caruana, Dubov will have a big insight into this opening. 5…0-0 6.e3 b6 7.Qc2 Ba6 8.0-0-0!? One of the main reason why this line in the QGD became popular during the mid 1980s and through the early 1990s, was the discovery that White could castle queenside to generate more dynamic play – and Dubov quickly steers the game in this direction. 8…dxc4 9.Ng5 Nc6 Of course, the engines will all tell you that Black stands well here, full-developed and with an extra pawn. But long-term, there are major strategical problems Black needs to solve, namely that White is going for the all-out attack on his opponent’s king! And this answers what happens when Black tries to kick the attack back with the immediate 9…h6 only to discover that there comes 10.h4! Nbd7 11.Nce4 with a very murky and complicated game – and that is right up Dubov’s alley. 10.a3 g6 11.h4 Bd6 Alarm bells were probably beinging to ring for the young German player, who perhaps suddenly realises that 11…Nd5 is going to be answered by 12.Nxh7!? Kxh7 13.h5 and total mayhem on the board. 12.g3 Qe7 13.h5! e5 14.hxg6! hxg6 The bishop is taboo. After 14…exf4 15.g7! h5 16.Rxh5! soon crashes through for mate. 15.Bg2 exf4 16.Bxc6 fxg3 17.Kb1! A remarkably move amidst the tempest swirling on the board, as Dubov very calmly just moves his king away from the possibilities of an awkward …Qxe3+. 17…Rad8 18.f4 It’s hard to critical here, and I can see Dubov’s rationale for wanting to play this move, but the clinical kill was 18.fxg3! with the simple plan of Qh2 and carnage down the h-file; and if Black tries to thwart this with 18…Bxg3 now 19.Nge4 Nxe4 20.Nxe4 Bd6 21.Nc3! Kg7 (There’s no alternative. If 21…Qxe3? 22.Nd5! Qg5 23.Qf2 and now the only way to stop Nf6+ is the weakening 23…f5 allowing 24.Rdg1 and a crushing attack.) 22.e4! Bc8 23.Qc1! Rh8 24.e5 and Black is in trouble. 18…Bc8 19.Rde1 Kg7 Svane is ready to fully defend with …Rh8, given half a chance – but Dubov isn’t even going to give him the opportunity! 20.Nd5! Nxd5 21.Rh7+ Kg8 The only possible move, as 21…Kf6? 22.Bxd5 Bf5 23.Be4! Bxe4 24.Nxe4+ Ke6 25.Qxc4+ Kd7 26.Ng5 and Black is dead in the water. 22.Rxf7!? Dubov continues to ‘mix it up’, and avoids 22.Bxd5?! which after 22…Bf5! allows Black to unravel to fight for the initative with 23.e4 Bxf4 24.Bxf7+ Rxf7 25.Rxf7 Qxg5 26.Qxc4 Rxd4 27.Qxd4 Kxf7 28.exf5 Qxf5+ 29.Ka1 Bd6 where Black is the only one with the genuine winning chances, but more than likely there will be a perpetual here, as the Black king is badly exposed. 22…Rxf7 In the maelstrom unfolding, Black also had 22…Nc3+!? 23.bxc3 Rxf7 24.Qxg6+ Kf8 25.Qh6+ Rg7 26.Bd5 Bf5+ 27.e4 Ke8! 28.Bc6+ Bd7 29.Qh5+ Kf8 which pans out to a forced perpetual after 30.Qh6 Bxc6 31.Qh8+ Rg8 32.Qh6+ Ke8 33.Qh5+ Kd7 34.Qh3+ Ke8 35.Qh5+ etc. But then again, unlike this correspondent, Svane didn’t have the back-up of an engine guiding his way through the storm! 23.Qxg6+ Kf8 24.Qh6+ Rg7 25.Bxd5 Ke8?! It looks as if we are heading for the same unescapable perpetual we noted above – but alas, the young German has missed something. He simply had to be brave here and play 25…Bf5+! 26.Ka2 Ke8 27.e4 Rxg5! 28.exf5 Qxe1 29.Bc6+ Rd7 30.fxg5 g2 31.Qh7 Qe7 32.Qg8+ Qf8 33.Qe6+ Qe7 34.Qg8+ etc. 26.Qh5+ Kd7 27.Qh3+ Ke8 28.Qh5+ Kd7 29.Be6+! With 4 minutes left on his clock, Dubov is not interested in a a draw with the perpetual – he continues to push the envelope! 29… Kc6?! And Dubov’s bravery now pays off, as Svane loses the plot – and with it, his king is going for a long, long walk. He simply had to play 29…Qxe6!? 30.Nxe6 Kxe6 31.e4 Rf8 32.f5+ Ke7 33.Qh4+ where it looks as if he can hold this doubly dangerous position for both sides. But at least with his mistake, we get to enjoy the coming fun! 30.Qf3+ Kb5 31.Bxc4+!! Dead man walking! 31…Ka5 The Black king has to take the long walk to avoid the quick mate after 31…Kxc4 32.Qc6+ Bc5 33.Rc1+ Kd3 34.Rc3+ Ke2 35.Qg2+ Ke1 36.Rc1#. 32.Qd5+ Bc5 33.b4+ Ka4 34.Qg2! [see diagram] A retreating winning moves is notoriously difficult to find at the board, and even more difficult here with the queen backtracking to the opposite wing away from all the action! But kudos to Dubov, as he has it all worked out with the mating threat being Qc2+-b3 mate. 34…Bxb4 35.Qc6+! Now he finds another imaginative mating net for his opponent. 35…Kxa3 36.Bb3! Bd7 The alternative to stopping Qa4 mate was 36…Kxb3 37.Qc2+ Ka3 38.Qa2# – but now we get a variation on the same theme. 37.Qc1+ Kxb3 38.Qc2+ Ka3 39.Qa2# 1-0

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