Saturday, July 14, 2007

Round 8 Continued:

GM Bator Sambuev (Russia) - GM Nigel Short (England): Queen's Pawn Opening

1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Bg4!? 3.Ne5 Bf5 4.Bf4 f6 5.Nf3 e6 6.e3 g5!? 7.Bg3 h5

It seemed to be a wacky theme this round for the GM's to push their K-side pawns up the board as fast as possible (compare to Milov - Chanda, Rd. 8). Here it seems reasonably sound, as White has to move his h-pawn to save his B/g3, and this more or less rules out castling short in the future.
It should also be noted that Short has played this unusual line at least once in the past against strong opposition, to wit, during his 1993 World Championship match in London, against none other than GM Gary Kasparov himself!

8.h3 Bd6 9.Bxd6 Qxd6 10.Bd3 Ne7! 11.Nc3 Nbc6 12.Qd2 0–0–0 13.0–0–0 Kb8 14.Kb1 g4
15.hxg4 hxg4 16.Nh4 Bxd3 17.Qxd3

Black is very slightly better here, due to the poorly placed White knight on h4. Short plays against this piece for the next few moves.

17...Qd7!? 18.g3 e5 19.Ne2 a6 20.c3 Qe6 21.Qc2 Rhg8

Ruling out any possibility of N/h4-g6, now that there is no longer an ...e5-e4 tempo against the White Queen.

22.Nc1 Rg5 23.Nb3 b6 24.Rhe1 Rd6!? 25.e4 dxe4 26.Qxe4 Qd7

The point of Black's 24th. Having anticipated a White e3-e4 break, Black wanted to ensure that his major piece battery along the d-file was headed by his rook and not his Queen.

27.Qh7 Qd8 28.Rd2 Rd7 29.Qe4 exd4 30.Red1 Rgd5 31.Nxd4 Nxd4 32.Rxd4 Rxd4 33.Rxd4 Rxd4 34.Qxd4 Qxd4 35.cxd4

This isolated pawn should give the edge to Black in the knight endgame.

35...Kc8 36.Kc2 Kd7 37.Kd3 Ke6 38.Ng2 f5 39.Nf4+ Kd6 40.Ke3 a5 41.f3 gxf3 42.Kxf3 a4

Gaining space on the Q-side.

43...Nc6?! 44.Kf4 Ke6 ½–½.
A bit disappointing, as most of us in the commentary room expected Short to grind out his small edge, or make something more of it. We spent most of our time on 43...Kd5!? when passive defence looks poor, so White should probably try 44.Kf4 Kc4 45.Ke5 Kd3, and the race is on!
We were extremely fortunate to have Nigel in the commentary room after the game where he spent a few minutes discussing these final few moves of the draw. Many GM's (and probably most) would not be at all interested in spending any energy thinking about a disappointing result (I am quite sure Nigel was not very pleased to only draw in this game), and he was extremely gracious to give us a few minutes of his time and his thoughts after a clear disappointment. Indeed, he seemed quite perplexed at his inability to work out much of anything in this endgame (he claimed to feel more or less "brain dead" in his late game calculations, and claimed that he was extremely low on energy and in need of something sugary to give him an energy boost!). Naturally he had looked at 43...Kd5, but claimed to have miscounted tempi, or simply had the pieces on the wrong squares in his mind - a symptom of running on empty and general fuzzyheadedness.
Well, even in these lines with 43...Kd5 (which does, on surface, look a much better winning try than the 43...Nc6 played), it is far from clear that Black can win. In the line mentioned above ending in 45...Kd3, if we continue 46.Nf4+ Kc2 47.Ke6!, things are still very messy. And going back to 43...Kd5 itself, White may even be able to play 44.Nc3+ Kxd4 45.Nxa4 Nd5 46.Nc3!?, when 46...Nxc3+ 47.bxc3 Kxc3 48.Kf4 seems to lead to a nightmarish Q and P endgame after 48...Kb2 and a promotion race, or a just-in-time draw after 48...Kd4!?, forcing a trade of Queens on g8 (after both sides promote, Black has ...Qf1+).
I was rooting for Nigel in this game, so I hope he didn't actually miss a win after his efforts to convert a series of small advantages. He only has two rounds to go, so let's hope he can put a big effort together with White on Saturday afternoon!


Anonymous said...

Is 43..a3!? a better option?

Anonymous said...

Is 43.. a3!? a better option?

Anonymous said...

How about 43..a3!

A Chess Fan said...

Did Nigel talk about 43.. a3 at all?

Anonymous said...

43.. a3 is more interesting.

Anonymous said...

lol at the previous comments