Like the old Rick Moranis Walt Disney late ‘80s comedy sci-fi movie ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’, no one really wants to be miniaturised at the chessboard. That’s only because in chess, “miniatures” are short games – generally accepted to be decisive games lasting just 25 moves or fewer. It might be assumed by the masses that miniatures only happen to inexperienced players, but even some of the best world-class players have been known to have fallen victim to a miniature or two.
In 1993 at Wijk aan Zee, former world champion Anatoly Karpov blundered a piece on move 12 against three-time US champion Larry Christiansen and promptly resigned. And staying on the American theme, one of the shortest miniatures between two titled-players – a record that still stands today – came during the 1984 US Championship between IMs Kamran Shirazi and Jack Peters. The game went 1 e4 c5 2 b4 cb4 3 a3 d5 4 ed5 Qd5 5 ab4? Qe5+ and Shirazi resigned.
Not to be outdone, even my own homeland makes it into the annals for another long-standing miniature. Scotland’s Robert Combe has the dubious honour of being on the receiving end of the shortest miniature ever in the long and storied history of the Chess Olympiad. Playing White against Wolfgang Hasenfuss at the 1933 Folkestone Olympiad, their game started 1 d4 c5 2 c4 cxd4 3 Nf3 e5 4 Nxe5?? Qa5+ and Combe, who went on to become a future British champion, resigned.
Now comes a modern-day digital disaster for the annals as Ian “Nepo” Nepomniachtchi falls victim to a sparkling miniature in the Online Nations Cup hosted on Chess.com. The world #4 unwittingly fell into former world champion Vishy Anand’s cunning mating trap in their clash from round 5 of the preliminaries in today’s game, a result that saw third seeds Russia suffer a setback by being held 2-2 with India.
Reigning Olympiad champion’s China are setting a relentless pace in the preliminaries by winning seven matches with the only points dropped so far being held to a 2-2 draw with Russia. China are now a shoo-in for a place in Sunday’s “Superfinal” of the FDE/Chess.com $180,000 lockdown tournament – but there’s still a very tight race for who will be joining them.
In a frantic two-horse race to join China in the Superfinal, just one match-point and one board-point separate USA and Europe in the big battle in the standings for second place going into Saturday’s final day of the preliminaries – and Team USA face nearest rivals Europe and top seeds China in the last two rounds of the round-robin stage!
1. China (21½) 15/16; 2. USA (18) 11; 3. Europe (17) 10; 4-5. India (14½), Russia (14½) 5; 6. Rest of the World (10½) 2. *In the event of a tie on match-points, places will be decided by board points indicated in brackets.
Photo: Can Team USA hold on to clinch a place in Sunday’s Superfinal against China? | © FIDE/Chess.com Online Nations Cup
GM Vishy Anand – GM Ian Nepomniachtchi
FIDE/Chess.com Online Nations Cup Prelim., (5)
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bd2 Anand uncorks an old sideline against the Grünfeld that he’s favoured in the past – even against Magnus Carlsen. This is a very annoying line for Black as White is quite solid, and Black doesn’t get the more usual Grünfeld counter-attacking motifs. 5…Bg7 6.e4 The idea behind 5.Bd2 is that after 5…Bg7 6.e4, 6…Nc3 is met by 7.Bc3, when Black doesn’t have the usual counterplay against White’s centre. Therefore, Black should play 6…Nb6, when after 7.Be3 White avoids the pawn structure c3+d4+e4, rendering …c5 much less dangerous. The flipside to this is that …e5 breaks now increase in strength because of the tempi spent with the dark-squared bishop (Bd2-e3) etc. 6…Nxc3 7.Bxc3 c5 [To be frank, this plays right into the strength of White’s plans behind 5.Bd2. Although a little cramped, instead 7…0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.Nf3 Bg4 10.d5 Bxf3 11.Bxg7 Kxg7 12.gxf3 Ne5 13.0-0-0 c6 14.Qc3 f6 15.Bh3 cxd5 16.exd5 Nf7! was good enough for equality and an eventual draw in Anand-Carlsen, 2014 World Championship Match in Sochi, Russia. 8.d5 Bxc3+ 9.bxc3 White basically has a strong center without the usual Grünfeld counterplay against the central pawns and pressure down the g7-a1 long-diagonal. 9…Qd6 10.Qd2 0-0 Nepo obviously likes to live dangerously! 11.f4 If Black doesn’t react to White’s pawn-storming ambitions, he’s going to be overrun by e5 and c4 etc. 11…e6 12.Nf3N A novelty from Anand – but just what does the five-time ex-champion have in mind? 12…exd5 And you think with that, White’s center has been successfully broke down – but Anand has a shock waiting for Nepo, who has overlooked he was walking right into a trap. 13.Bc4! With one simple – and yet easy-to-miss – move, suddenly White is on the rampage with full development, ready to castle and bringing his rooks into the center even before Black even gets the time to put his trousers on. 13…Be6?! Oblivious of the killer blow to come, Nepo carries on with his plan. 14.0-0 d4? The die is really cast now anyway, and even if Nepo had suddenly realised the fate that awaited him, and he bailed out with 14…Rd8, then White gets a big advantage after 15.exd5 Bf5 (If 15…Bxd5? 16.Rfd1 just pins and wins.) 16.Nh4! 15.f5!! [see diagram] This is one of those positions that it takes a little time even for the computer engine to realise that this just crashes through for a win for White – and there’s nothing Black can do about it now, as there’s no stopping the mega threat of White playing Qh6 mating. 15…Bxc4 16.e5! The obligatory follow-up consigns Nepo to the infamy of an online miniature debacle. 16…Qd7 What else is there now anyway? If 16…Qb6 17.f6 Nd7 18.Qh6 Nxf6 doesn’t help any due to the little matter of 19.Ng5! 17.f6 1-0 Nepo opts to resign rather than delaying the inevitable by a couple of more moves with 17…Kh8 18.Qh6 Rg8 19.Ng5 and a forced mate.