Monday, July 16, 2007

Round 10: Full Circle

In the end, it was pre-tournament favourite, GM Xiangzhi Bu of China, (who outrated England's Nigel Short by a mere 2 FIDE rating points on the new July 2007 list), who made it to the winner's podium in clear and undefeated first place. With a final score of 8/10, and a $5,000 CAD first prize, he began the event with a win on Board 1, and finished it the same way this morning against uncompromising Swiss GM Vadim Milov:

Milov - Bu: Slav Defence, 4.e3

This was Bu's 4th consecutive Slav, playing with either colour, although here Milov played a solid line which dissuades an early ...dxc4.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bf5 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4 Be4!?

An attempt to provoke f2-f3, after which White's N/h4 will lack a natural retreat square. It is likely to take on g6 in any case, as planned, so it is worth mentioning that f2-f3 also softens up White's K-side, and the dark squares in particular.

7.f3 Bg6 8.Qb3 Qc7 9.Bd2 Be7 10.cxd5 cxd5

Not fearing the open c-file, Black plays to provide a more active post for his N/b8, reserving d7 for the King's knight if needed.

11.Nxg6 hxg6 12.0–0–0 Nc6 13.Kb1 a6 14.Rc1 Nd7


Now that Black's knight has left the K-side, White offers a pawn. Bu was not likely tempted, but 15...Rxh4?! (15...Bxh4? 16.Be1! wins) 16.Rxh4 Bxh4 17.e4!, and 17...Nxd4?! 18.Qa4! x-rays along the 4th rank hitting N/d4 and B/h4 (after a subsequenct exd5). With Black's bishop and King position so loose, I am certain Bu did not consider capturing for very long.

15...Rc8 16.g4 Rxh4 17.Rxh4 Bxh4

With a White pawn on g4 blocking the 4th rank, and an extra move in development, Bu now decided to test Milov's idea.

18.f4 Bf6 19.f5!?

Consistent. White is trying to open lines while Black's King is still uncastled.

19...Na5 20.Qc2 gxf5 21.gxf5 Nc4 22.Bxc4 Qxc4 23.fxe6 fxe6 24.b3!?

Move order is important here. 24.Qg6+ Kd8 25.b3 is also possible, but White's choice keeps some flexibility with the White Queen's choice of entry. Black is under a bit of pressure, but the pawn sac still has a specualative look to it.

24...Qb4!? 25.Qh7 Rc6! 26.Qh5+ Kd8 27.Be1 Nb6 28.Qh2

Sometimes the best defence is liquidation. Black's last forces a series of exchanges while trying to make the most of that extra pawn.
29.Qb8+ Kd7 30.Nxa4 Rxc1+ 31.Kxc1 Qxe1+ 32.Kc2 Qe2+ 33.Kb1 Qd3+ 34.Kb2 Qb5!
Bravely playing for the win. Many players would succumb to nerves and acquiesce to a draw by perpetual, but Black still wants to be shown why his pawn shouldn't count for something.
My initial suggestion of 35.Nc5+!, (which looks pretty crushing), is met by the mundane 35...Qxc5, winning. Oops, guess I better change that to 35.Nc5+?? I did mention that this game was played (and analyzed) at 10 am, after a week long of 6 pm starts. Well, I need some excuse for hanging pieces, right?
35...Be7! 36.Qxg7 Qe2+ 37.Kb1 Qd3+ 38.Kb2 Qxe3 39.Nc5+ Kc6 40.Nxb7?!
This turns out poorly, but Black is already quite a bit better if this doesn't work. 40.Qxe7 Qxd4+, and 41...Qxc5 certainly looks like no picnic for White.
40...Qf2+ 41.Kb1?
It appears that 41.Kc3! may be a better try, but Black can always try 41...Qe1+ and 42...Qb4, leading to a Queen endgame with an extra pawn, and perhaps more importantly two central passers. White may find a draw, but it looks to be a very depressing task.
41...Qf5+! 42.Kb2 Qf6! 43.Na5+ Kb5 0–1.
At least another pawn is dropping, and Queens are coming off. Another fine and controlled win by the 2007 Canadian Open Chess Champion.

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