The Shadow of War - First Move Chess -First Move Chess

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Following the swift lead seen from several top international sporting governing bodies, the chess governing body, FIDE, moved in unison to effectively ban Russia from international chess, along with its neighbours and military collaborators, Belarus, following the global outcry over the invasion of Ukraine.

The news came hard on the heels of FIDE’s initial response of stripping Moscow of holding the 44th Chess Olympiad that was scheduled to be held in the Russian capital during the late summer. Despite FIDE being Russian-dominated and its president, Arkady Dvorkovich, himself being a former Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, the additional sanctions and the speed with which they were imposed took many by surprise.

The FIDE Council Meeting on Sunday agreed:

  • Russia and Belarus banned from holding official FIDE chess competitions and events 
  • Russian and Belarusian players banned from displaying national flags at FIDE-rated events and nationals anthem will not be played
  • FIDE will terminate all sponsorship agreements with Russian or Belarusian sanctioned and/or state-controlled companies

FIDE further added that it condemns “any public statement from any member of the chess community which supports unjustified military action”. It then announced that two Russian grandmasters, Sergey Karjakin and Sergey Shipov, will now have to face its Ethics and Disciplinary Commission following controversial and very bizarre social media comments made by both players.

The ruling came just days before the start of the second leg of the FIDE Grand Prix in Belgrade got underway in the Serbian capital, now under the shadow of war, with five Russians – Dmitry Andreikin, Alexander Grischuk, Vladimir Fedoseev, Nikita Vitiugov and Alexandr Predke – featuring in the 16-player contest, all of whom now have to play under the neutral FIDE flag.

The atrocities taking place in Ukraine clearly affected a visibly somber and out of sorts Alexander Grischuk – whose wife, Ekaterina Lagno, was born and grew up in Ukraine – who started badly with two uncharacteristic blunders and loses to Dmitry Andreikin and now Sam Shankland today. He then went out of his way with a very brave and honest assessment of the situation during his opening round post-game interview, stating that he was “very sad, very pained with what is going on.”

GM Alexander Grischuk – GM Dmitry Andreikin
Belgrade FIDE Grand Prix, Pool A (1)
Sicilian Taimanov
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 a6 It’s a variation on a theme, as Andreikin starts the process of morphing from a Sicilian Taimanov into a Sicilian Scheveningen set-up – and by doing it this way, he avoids a lot of critical and dangerous lines in the Scheveningen. 6.Be3 Nf6 7.a3 d6 8.f4 Qc7 9.Bd3 Be7 10.0-0 0-0 It’s more or less now a classic Scheveningen set-up now. 11.Kh1 Re8 12.Qf3 Bd7 13.Rae1 Rac8 14.Qg3 Nh5 15.Qf3 A tacit offer of a three-fold repetition, but it is a tad too risky to attempt 15.Qh3 faced with 15…Nxf4! (Not 15…e5? 16.Qxh5 exd4 17.Nd5 Qd8 18.Bf2 g6 19.Qh6 Bf8 20.Qh4 and White stands better even if the queens come off.) 16.Bxf4 Nxd4 17.e5 Nf5 18.Ne4 dxe5 19.Bxe5 Qd8 and while it looks a dangerous attack for White with his pawn sacrifice, Black has everything covered with his compact pieces working well as a defensive unit. 15…g6 Andreikin at least takes the early doors draw offer off the table – but this does come with some risks. 16.f5! A typical thrust in many lines of the classical Sicilian to attempt a breakthrough. 16…Ne5 The only drawback for Grischuk, is that f5 offers a very convenient e5 outpost for a Black knight. 17.Qh3 Qd8 18.fxe6 The engine seems to prefer not releasing the tension right away, and instead playing 18.Be2!, and it is hard to see why not, as Black is faced with a dilemma: If 18…Nf6 all but forces Black into the typical Sicilian exchange sacrifice with a) The only sensible option. After 18…Ng7 the rolling attack will crash through. 19.g4!; b) And if 18…Bh4 19.fxg6! hxg6 (It’s carnage after 19…Bxe1?? 20.gxf7+ Nxf7 21.Bxh5 and Black is doomed both materially and positionally.) 20.Rd1 Ng7 21.Nf3! Nxf3 22.Qxf3 with a winning attack with both d6 and f7 under threat.; 19.Bg5 Rxc3!? 20.bxc3 Nxe4 21.Bxe7 Qxe7 22.fxg6 hxg6 23.Bd3 Nc5 with both sides having genuine prospects, with one of those positions where all three results could well be possible. In fairness though, with accurate play, Black could well have the better long-term prospects. 18…fxe6 19.Nxe6?! I think this must have been a miscalculation from Grischuk, as it was not too late for 19.Be2 instead. Now, with the misstep, Black gets too many counter-attacking chances due to the pin on the knight and queen. 19…Qa5 Black wasn’t without options here – also interesting was the thematic 19…Rxc3!? positional exchange sac forcing 20.Nxd8 (Much worse is 20.bxc3? Qc8! with an eternal pin on the knight and queen.) 20…Bxh3 21.bxc3 Bc8! 22.Nxb7 Bxb7 23.Rb1 Bc6 24.Rb6 Nf6! nd with e4 set to fall Black can be no worse – in many endgame scenarios maybe a touch better. 20.Nd5 Bd8 21.Bh6? Grischuk is clearly not thinking straight here – but you know it is getting complicated with the eternal pin down the long c8-h3 diagonal, when the engine starts chuntering out the forcing line 21.b4!? Qa4! (Better to defend the bishop rather than 21…Qxa3 22.Bc1! Qa1 23.Bf4! (Not the immediate 23.Bh6? Qxe1! 24.Rxe1 Bxe6 25.Qe3 Ng4 and White’s in trouble, as in the game.) 23…Qa3 (This time the queen sac isn’t nearly so effective, as there’s no ‘freebie’ on h6 to cash-in on: 23…Qxe1 24.Rxe1 Bxe6 25.Qe3 Ng4 26.Qd4! and White stands better. The difference is the hit on h6 coupled with the threat of …Bxd5 and the pin on the e-file.) 24.Bh6 and this time there is a genuine threat of a queen sac on e6 followed by a Rf8 mate! This could genuinely have been what Grischuk got mixed up with his faulty miscalculation.) 22.Bh6 Ng7! 23.Nxg7 Bxh3 24.Nxe8 Qxe8 25.Rf8+ Qxf8 26.Bxf8 Bxg2+ 27.Kxg2 Kxf8 and an equal endgame. 21…Qxe1! [see diagram] At a stroke, the queen sac removes White’s plans to sack the queen on e6 to deliver a Rf8 mate – and with it, suddenly Grischuk’s position begins to crumble. 22.Rxe1 Bxe6 23.Qe3 Ng4! And with it, Grischuk now realises he’s fallen for the sucker punch of losing a piece with h6 under attack and the threat of …Bxd5 exploiting the pin on the e-file. 24.Qd2 Nxh6 25.Be2 What else is there in view of 25.Qxh6 Bxd5 26.Rf1 Be6 and Black’s pieces will soon be swarming to life. 25…Ng7 26.Rf1 Nf7 27.Nf6+ You can try holding firm with 27.c3 but after 27…Bg5 28.Qd4 Ne5 Black’s pieces are swarming to life. 27…Bxf6 28.Rxf6 Rc5 29.h3? It’s almost as if Grischuk wants to hang for the sheep than the lamb now, as he inflicts another weakness on his position that only helps Andreikin to quickly end his compatriot’s misery. 29…Nh5! 30.Bxh5 Rxh5 31.Qf2 Re5 32.Qb6 Re7 Andreikin has everything defended, and soon the rook and two minor pieces will be no match for Grischuk’s queen, especially when e4 falls. 33.Rf4 g5 34.Rf2 Rxe4 35.b3 Bd5 0-1 Grischuk has seen enough and opts to resign.

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