In 1979 at Banja Luka, in the former Yugoslavia, the chess world was left visibly stunned by the international debut – and despite opposition to this ‘unknown’ playing in the tournament – of an untitled and unrated 16-year-old Azerbijani named Garry Kasparov, who demolished the opposition to win clear first. The rest is history – but could it be repeating itself with another ‘unknown’ Azeri wunderkind who has come out of nowhere?
Rated just 2471, and seeded a lowly 71st in a strong shark-infested 97-player marquee open field that was simply cram-packed with tough Russian Grandmasters, 14-year-old IM Aydin Suleymanli similarly stunned the chess world with what could well go on to become yet another career-defining sensational performance, as he stormed the opposition – and in much the same fashion to the young, emerging Kasparov – to win the 18th Aeroflot Open this week at the Cosmos Hotel in Moscow.
Suleymanli finished in a four-way tie with grandmasters Rinat Jumabayev, Rauf Mamedov and Chithambaram Aravindh, who all top-scored on 6½/9, a half point ahead of a six-strong grandmaster chasing pack. Although they all finished tied for first place, Suleymanli took the title and €13,875 – the lion’s share of the prize fund – with his superior final tiebreak score.
In previous junior events, Suleymanli’s performances were nothing so out of the ordinary – he was ranked 10th in the World U16 last year – that could well have been a hint for this remarkably step up to the senior level to win the Aeroflot Open. The highlight of his stunning 2791 performance that showed maturity that bellied his young age, proved to be his penultimate round powerhouse demolition of the 2018 World Junior Champion, the young Iranian GM Parham Maghsoodloo.
Final top-10 standings:
1-4. IM A. Suleymanli* (Azerbaijan), GM R. Jumabayev (Kazakhstan), GM R. Mamedov (Azerbaijan), GM C. Aravindh (India) 6½/9; 5-10. GM A. Aleksandrov (Russia), GM V. Asadil (Azerbaijan), GM B. Adhiban (India), GM M. Petrosyan (Armenia), GM M. Yilmaz (Turkey), GM D. Paravyan (Russia) 6.
Photo: Aydin Suleymanli takes the the title and the plaudits, flanked by fellow winners Rinat Jumabayev and Rauf Mamedov | © Eteri Kublashvili/Russian Chess Federation.
GM Parham Maghsoodloo – IM Aydin Suleymanli
Aeroflot Open, (8)
Queen’s Gambit, Exchange Variation
1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d4 Be7 If you are intent on meeting 1.d4 with 1…d5, then delaying …Nf6 with this, the Alatortsev variation – popularised by Soviet-era world champion legend Tigran Petrosian – is the best way ahead, as it avoids the mainline in the Exchange variation with Bg5. 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bf4 Nf6 With the bishop committed to f4, now you can continue with normal development. 6.e3 Bf5 7.Qb3 Nc6 A very tricky line that White needs to play very carefully against, otherwise Black’s active pieces will run riot – as happens in the game! 8.Qxb7 Nb4 9.Rc1 The only move. If 9.Bxc7 Qc8! 10.Qxc8+ Rxc8 11.Bb5+ Kf8 and with Bc7 hanging, nothing can stop …Nc2+ picking off the rook, the best White can hope for being 12.Be5 Nc2+ 13.Kd2 Nxa1 14.Bxf6 gxf6 15.Bd3 Be4 16.Bxe4 (If 16.f3 Rb8 17.b3 Bxd3 18.Kxd3 Nxb3 19.axb3 Rxb3 20.Nge2 Bb4 21.Kc2 Ra3 22.Nxd5 Ra2+ 23.Kd3 Rd2+ 24.Ke4 Rxe2 25.Nxb4 Rxg2 and the rooks will sweep up White’s remaining pawns.) 16…dxe4 17.Nge2 Rg8 18.g3 Rb8 and White is going to face a long and difficult defence of the ending. 9…0-0 10.Qxc7 Also seen here is 10.Bxc7 Qc8! 11.Qxc8 Rfxc8 12.Be5 Ne4 and Black’s very active pieces being more than enough compensation for the pawn. 10…Qxc7 11.Bxc7 Rfc8 12.Bf4 Ne4 13.f3? A costly slip from Maghsoodloo that the young Azeri pounces on – he simply has to play here 13.a3 a5 14.Bb5 Nxc3 15.Rxc3 Rxc3 16.bxc3 Nc2+ 17.Ke2 Nxa3 18.Bd3 with a level game. 13…Nxc3 14.bxc3 g5! The (full!) point is that Black has much better than the immediate recapturing of the pawn with 14…Nxa2 15.Ra1 Nxc3 16.Ba6! Re8 17.Ne2! Bb4 18.Kf2 Nxe2 19.Kxe2 Bc3 20.Bb7 that all seems to just fizzle out to a tame draw with multiple trades. 15.Bg3 White may well be two pawns ahead, but the problem is that he seriously lags in development, and this allows Suleymanli to strike – and strike hard and swift! 15…a5! With that saving resource of Ba6 – as highlighted in the note above – no longer available, and the Black a-pawn running quickly up the board, White has to waste even more valuable development time having to protect his a2 pawn. 16.a4 Na2 17.Ra1 Nxc3 18.Ne2 Bb4! Suleymanli is totally overpowering his opponent – and in much the same way as the young Kasparov used to overpower his opponents! 19.Kf2 Bc2 Now the target is the weak a4 pawn – if that falls, White is doomed. 20.Nxc3 Bxc3 21.Ra2 Bb1 22.Re2 Rc4 Black’s active pieces are just ripping in to White’s fragile a-pawn. 23.Rc2 [see diagram] White tries his last trick – but Suleymanli has his own tactic that finishes off his opponent for a standout powerhouse win that’s the crucial deciding factor for the 14-year-old to take the title. 23…Be1+! 24.Kxe1 Rxc2 25.h4 White has no constructive moves to make. If 25.Be2 Rac8 26.Kf2 Rb2 and next is …Rcc2 and doubling of the rooks on the seventh. 25…Rac8 26.Bd6 R8c3! Ruthlessly moving in for the kill by snaring the white king in a mating net, as it avoids the rooks being disconnected by Bc5. 27.hxg5 Rb2 0-1 Maghsoodloo has had enough and throws the towel in – there’s no way to meet the threat of …Rc1 mate as 28.Kd1 (If 28.Be2 Rc1+ 29.Kf2 Rxh1 the material loss is too heavy.) 28…Bf5! the threat now is …Rb1+ followed by …Rc2 mate.