Stranger Things II - First Move Chess -First Move Chess


Despite some early Prelim scares by the young guns, the natural order of things was restored again come the knockout stages of the FTX Road to Miami, as top seed and favourite Levon Aronian took the title by beating Wei Yi in the final – a close contest that was ultimately decided by some ‘stranger things’ openings, as the new US star won a deciding game, set and match.

After beating Arjun Erigasi, Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Wei Yi in the business end of the knockout stage, Aronian took the top prize of $25,000 (plus $5,500 earnings for his 7th-place finish in the Prelims); but more importantly, he – and Wei Yi – now qualifies into the second Major of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour season, next month’s FTX Crypto Cup (15-21 August), with a $210K plus prize fund (and an additional $100K tied to the ever-fluctuating price of bitcoin), making it the biggest esport chess tournament ever to be held on US soil.

Asked what satisfied him the most in victory, Aronian explained: “The steady improvement, I think! Of course I didn’t really deserve to be Top 8 because my play was very, very poor, and then after that I think I got myself together and I think I played better.”

After Aronian won the opening set of the final, and taking the opening game of the second set, he was well on the road to victory, so it was do-or-die time for Wei Yi who unleashed the very bizarre opening 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g4?! that shocked everyone when Shak Mamedyarov first deployed it during the Tata Steel Masters back in January to bamboozle the Russian teenager, Andrey Esipenko, with that game ending in a draw.

Some online fans described the strange opening as a Delayed Gibbins-Weidenhagen Gambit (1.d4 Nf6 2.g4?!) after the opening of the same name that has two books/pamphlets published on it by the German publishers Rand Springer & Gambit Revue. However, there’s also a school of thought in the US that this rarity is better known as Devin’s Gambit, believed to be named after amateur player Bill Devin, who used it occasionally on the recommendation of his friend and rival Hugh Myers, regarded as the high-priest of all openings unorthodox and strange.

But no one really knows the true name and nomenclature of this ‘stranger things’ opening!

GM Wei Yi – GM Levon Aronian
FTX Road to Miami | Final, (2.3)
Devin’s Gambit
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g4?! Very bizarre – but it is do-or-die time for Wei Yi, who desperately reaches for the relatively unheard of Devin’s Gambit, which looks more like a Catalan gone wrong with a mouse-slip. 3…Bb4+ Again another top GM avoids taking the pawn – the aforementioned Mamedyarov-Esipenko, Tata Steel 2022, continued 3…Ne4 4.Bg2 Bb4+ 5.Kf1 and the game eventually ended in a draw. The idea behind the early g-pawn thrust is that after 3…Nxg4 4.Nf3 is similar to some gambit lines in the Semi-Slav with an early g4, with White getting counterplay with the better development and Rg1 coming with pressure down the open g-file. 4.Bd2 Bxd2+ 5.Qxd2 d5 6.Nc3 dxc4 Again, after 6…Nxg4 7.Nf3 and Rg1 is similar to those Semi-Slav g4 gambit lines. 7.g5 Nd5 8.h4 Now the pawn has to be protected – and in doing so, it now makes it very dangerous for Black to castle kingside. 8…Bd7 9.e4 Nb6 10.Nf3 Nc6 11.0-0-0 Qe7 The wise choice, opting to castle on the same side of the board as the White king! 12.d5 Nb4 13.Qd4 A question many of the online fans were looking for answers too, was what happens after 13.a3? This only falls into Black’s plans, with 13…Nd3+! 14.Bxd3 cxd3 15.Qxd3 exd5 16.exd5 0-0-0 and the isolated d5-pawn is securely blockaded plus now Black’s bishop is very strong due to the chronic light-square weakness in the White position. 13…f6 Given the match scenario, this is the correct call from Aronian, as he just wants to break the position down to leave no tricks nor cheapos on the board. 14.e5?! Given that best was 14.gxf6 Qxf6 15.dxe6 Bxe6 16.Qxf6 gxf6 and the queens coming off the board, Wei Yi offers another throw of the dice with further risky moves to try to keep his hopes of a win alive. 14…0-0-0 Slightly inaccurate but understandable, but better was 14…fxe5! 15.Nxe5 0-0-0 16.a3 N4xd5 17.Bxc4 c5! 18.Qd3 Qf8 and Black is on top with the extra pawn and a solid position. 15.d6?! Now this is a risk too many from Wei Yi – but again understandable, given the need to win, and wishing to avoid the less complicated main option of 15.exf6 gxf6 16.gxf6 Qf7 17.Bxc4 exd5 18.Bb3 a5 which looks to be heading for a draw at best with all of White’s kingside pawns weak and vulnerable. 15…cxd6 16.exd6 Qf7 17.Qc5+ Nc6 The killer move was 17…Bc6! 18.Nb5 Kb8 and the pin down the long white diagonal is winning. 18.a4?! The only chance for survival was with 18.gxf6 Qxf6 19.Nd2 but after 19…Kb8! 20.Nxc4 Nd5 21.Nb5 (If 21.Nxd5 exd5 22.Qxd5 Bg4! 23.Rd3 Be6 24.Qe4 Bxc4 25.Qxc4 Ne5! wins material as 26.Qc7+ Ka8 27.Rc3 Qf4+! 28.Kd1 (The problem for White is that 28.Kb1 Qe4+ picks up the h1 rook.) 28…Nf3 29.Kc2 Qe4+ 30.Kc1 Qe1+ 31.Kc2 Nd4+ 32.Kd3 Qd1+ 33.Ke3 Rde8+ and the White king gets mated.) 21…Rhf8 22.Bd3 Qf4+ 23.Kb1 Ndb4 and Black is winning with the Bd3 set to be traded. 18…Kb8! Not only removing the king from any tricks, but also vacating the c-file for a rook. 19.a5 Nd5 20.Bxc4 Nxc3 21.bxc3 Rc8 22.Bb3 The last saving try was 22.a6 b6 23.Qe3 Na5 24.Ba2 but by this stage, Wei Yi had gone all-in on a ‘Hail Mary’ win to dramatically get back into the set and possibly take the match to tiebreaks. 22…Qh5 23.Rd3 e5 24.Nd2 Nd4! [see diagram] The end comes swiftly now, as all of Aronian’s pieces menacingly swarm around Wei Yi’s king. 25.Qb4 Qe2 26.Bd5 Bc6 0-1 And Wei Yi throws the towel in faced with 27.Bxc6 Rxc6 28.Rhh3 Rd8 29.gxf6 gxf6 30.f4 Ne6 31.fxe5 fxe5 32.Rde3 Qg2 and multiple threats with …Nf4 and …Qg1+.



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