venerdì 15 febbraio 2019

Just Breathe

Tomorrow is Saturday the sixteen, and, luckily, it’s not too late for you to kick Arcovazzi off and be punctual and on time at your chess960 class at Associazione Culturale “Il Delta della Luna”, starting at 16,00 as usual.

Pablo Picasso, Chess, 1911. © 2019 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of The Met, New York.

Bin Ends

People look at the shredded Banksy painting Love is in the Bin at the Museum Frieder Burda in Baden-Baden, Germany where the work is being on display from February 5 to March 3, 2019. It was originally titled Girl with Balloon and since it destroyed itself during an art auction in London, it’s been called Love is in the Bin. Photo: AP/DPA/Uli Deck.

The Day Before The Day After

Valentina Evgenyevna Gunina – Zhansaya Daniyarovna Abdumalik
1st Cairns Cup; Saint Louis, February 14, 2019
English Opening A34

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nb4 6. Bc4 Nd3+ 7. Ke2 Nf4+ 8. Kf1 Nd3. With a silent draw offer (9. Ke2 Nf4+ 10. Kf1). 9. Qe2 Nxc1 10. Rxc1 e6 11. e5. Or 11. h4 a6 12. e5 Nc6 13. Bd3 Bd7 14. Rh3 Rc8 15. Re1 b5? (Black first had to play 15. ... h6) 16. Ng5! Nd4 17. Qg4! and Black is in trouble, 侯逸凡 (Hóu Yìfán) – Tari, Altibox Norway Chess Qualifier, Fagernes 2016. 11. ... Nc6 12. h4 Bd7. Abdumalik knows very well what she is doing, if nothing else, because she suffered a painful defeat not so long ago: 12. ... a6 13. Bd3 Be7 [13. ... Bd7 re-enters into the aforementioned 侯逸凡 (Hóu Yìfán) – Tari] 14. Rh3 Dc7 15. Rg3 g6 16. Qe3 Bd7 17. a3 b5 18. Rg4 c4 19. Be2 Rc8 20. h5 gxh5 21. Rg7 h6 22. Qf4 f5 23. d4 cxd3 24. Bxd3 Bf6 25. Nd5 exd5 26. Rxd7 Qxd7 27. exf6 Rd8 28. Bxf5 Qd6 29. Qe3+ Ne7 30. Rc6 Kf7 31. Rxd6 Nxf5 32. Qe6+ 1 : 0 Kulaots – Abdumalik, 16th Aeroflot Open, Moscow 2018. 13. Rh3 h6!? New but not in conflict with 13. ... Qb6, which after 14. Bb5 h6 15. Kg1 a6 16. Ba4 0-0-0 17. Bb3 Kb8 gave Black the best chances, Erdos – Svidler, 36th SchachBundesliga, Baden-Baden 2017. 14. Kg1 Qb6 15. Bb3. 15. Bb5 a6 would transpose into the aforementioned Erdos – Svidler. 15. ... 0-0-0!? 16. Na4 Qa5 17. Qe3 c4. The corollary of Black’s last two moves.

18. Bd1. Probably stronger and more critical was the Exchange sacrifice by 18. Rxc4!? b5 19. Rc5 Bxc5 (19. ... Qb4? 20. a3!+−) 20. Nxc5 with more than enough positional compensation. The text leaves White with a bit of an uncomfortable game. 18. ... Kb8 19. a3 Qb5 20. Rg3 f5! Black sacrifices a Pawn for the sake of the initiative. 21. exf6 gxf6 22. Qf4+ e5 23. Qxf6 Be7 24. Qf7? A strange case of collaboration. After 24. Qg6 Rhf8 25. Nc3 Qb6 the game is tremendously unclear but basically balanced. A sample variation is 26. Nd5 Qxb2 27. Nxe7 Qxc1 28. Qd6+ Ka8 29. Nd5! Qxd1+ 30. Kh2 Rc8 31. Rg7 Bh3! 32. Kxh3 Qh1+ 33. Nh2 Rfd8 34. Nc7+ Kb8 35. Na6++ with a draw by perpetual check. 24. ... Rhf8 25. Qh5 Bf5! 26. Qxh6. Desperation. 26. ... e4 27. Nc3 Qc5?! As usual, Abdumalik melodramatically self-destroys in the time scramble. Here 27. ... Qb6 was much simpler, so as to answer 28. Ne1 with 28. ... Qxb2 and 28. Ng5 with 28. ... e3! followed by ... Qb6xb2 with an overwhelming advantage in all cases. Nothing is yet lost for Black at this point, but what remains to be seen is hardly imaginable. 28. Ng5? A little better seems 28. Nh2 eventually followed by Nh2-f1-e3. 28. ... Rh8. Even stronger seems 28. ... Qd4 with too many threats for White to handle. 29. Ngxe4 Rxh6 30. Nxc5 Rxh4! 31. b4 Rdh8 32. Kf1 Bxc5?? The magnitude of the tragedy. After 32. ... Rh1+! 33. Ke2 Re8−+ White could well resign. 33. bxc5 Bd3+!? 33. ... Rh1+ 34. Ke2 Ne5 seems easier as well as more effective to put pressure on White’s position. 34. Rxd3 cxd3? 34. ... Rh1+! 35. Ke2 Re8+ 36. Ne4 (the only move!) 36. ... Rxe4+ 37. Kf3 Ree1 was (at least in theory) the only way to keep playing for a win. 35. f3! Rc4 36. Kf2 Rxc5 37. Rb1 Rh1 38. Ke3 Ra5 39. a4 Rg5 40. g4 Rh3. 40. ... Re5+ 41. Kxd3 Ree1 leaves Black with a material edge, but no serious chance of converting it into a win. 41. Ne4 Rg7 42. g5 Rf7 ½ : ½.

Valentina Evgenyevna Gunina vs. Zhansaya Daniyarovna Abdumalik. Photo © Crystal Fuller/Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

giovedì 14 febbraio 2019

Love Affair

Rainbow lorikeets being presented with roses at West Midland Safari Park, Bewdley, Worcestershire, England ahead of Valentine’s Day. Photo: PA.

Hi, Edna, wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day!

Make Space

Bela Khotenashvili – Irina Borisovna Krush
1st Cairns Cup; Saint Louis, February 13, 2019
Queen’s Pawn Game D02

1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Bf4 c5 4. e3 Nc6 5. Nbd2 cxd4 6. exd4 g6 7. c3 Bg7 8. h3 0-0 9. Bd3. Mutatis mutandis, another route to the same destination is 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Bd3 Nf6 5. c3 Nc6 6. Bf4 g6 7. Nf3 Bg7 8. Nbd2 0-0 9. h3 (Caro-Kann Defence B13). 9. ... Bd7 10. 0-0 Qc8 11. Re1 a6!? If 11. ... Bf5 then 12. Bb5 Re8 13. Ne5 with at least an edge for White, Bodnaruk – Burmakin, 19th Chigorin Memorial Open, Saint Petersburg 2011. On the other hand, Krush’s move doesn’t seem to be working too well either. 12. Ne5 Nxe5 13. dxe5 Ne8 14. Bg5 Qd8 15. Qb3 Nc7 16. Qxb7 Rb8 17. Qa7 Ne6 18. Bh4 Rxb2 19. Nb3 g5!? 20. Bg3 Bb5? So far Krush’s quite creatively managed to avoid the worst, but her last move is on the wrong track. Probably best was 20. ... a5!? (Δ ... a5-a4) in order to reply to 21. Nxa5 with 21. ... Qc7 looking forward with reasonable hope to find compensation.

21. Bf5! Nf4 22. Bxf4 gxf4 23. Qd4! Threatening both c3-c4 and Qd4xf4. Black is in trouble. 23. ... Bc4? As argued by Krush herself after the game, 23. ... Re2 at once would have avoided much suffering, though after 24. Rxe2 Bxe2 25. Qxf4 White remains a Pawn to the good and the better game. 24. Qxf4 e6? Falling victim to a tactic, but also 24. ... Qb6 25. Nd4 would have given Black a very hard time. 25. Qc1! Re2 26. Rxe2 Bxe2 27. Bxh7+! Kxh7 28. Qc2+ Kg8 29. Qxe2 Qc7 30. f4! Qxc3 31. Rf1! In conclusion, White is only a Pawn ahead, but Black’s castle is a helpless target for attack. 31. ... a5 32. Kh2 a4 33. Rf3 Qb4 34. Nc1 Rb8 35. Nd3 Qd4 36. Qd1 Rc8 37. Rg3 Qe4 38. Qg4 Qg6 39. Qd1 Qe4 40. Qg4 Qg6. They both repeated moves to reach time control. However, Khotenashvili doesn’t have to think too hard to score her second victory in the tournament: 41. Qh4 Qh7 42. Qe7 Qe4. 42. ... Qf5 43. Qf6 Qh7 44. Nc5 leads to the very same situation. 43. Qf6 Qh7 44. Nc5 Kh8 45. Qxf7 Rxc5 46. Rg5 Rc8 47. Rh5 Qxh5 48. Qxh5+ Kg8 49. Qg6 1 : 0.

Bela Khotenashvili vs. Irina Borisovna Krush. Photo © Crystal Fuller/Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

mercoledì 13 febbraio 2019

三轮车 (Cycle rickshaw)

A cycle rickshaw is seen in a 胡同 (hútòng) after a snowfall in 北京 (Běijīng), China. Photo: AFP/Greg Baker.

In by the half

Irina Borisovna Krush – Alexandra Konstantinovna Kosteniuk
1st Cairns Cup; Saint Louis, February 12, 2019
Nimzo-Indian Defence E39

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 c5 5. dxc5 0-0 6. a3 Bxc5 7. Nf3 b6 8. Bf4 Bb7 9. Rd1 Nc6 10. e3 Re8!? A strange move, as it’s not clear what the Rook is doing here. Possible is 10. ... Nh5, provided that after 11. Bg3 f5 12. b4 Be7 13. Be2 Black does not continue with 13. ... Nxg3? (“For a player of Christiansen’s strength, this is a severe misjudgment. Apparently he forgets that White is under no compulsion to castle and that the open KR file can be used against him”, Grandmaster Arthur Bisguier wrote in his The Christian Science Monitor chess column of September 5, 1984) because of 14. hxg3 a6 15. g4!→ Reshevsky – Christiansen, Hollywood 1984, match game 7. Probably best is 10. ... Rc8 11. Be2 Be7 12. Nb5 d5 which still today may be regarded as a tabiya, Matisons – Sämisch, Karlsbad 1929. 11. Be2 Rc8 12. 0-0 h6 13. Bd6!? Krush’s Bishop raid — indeed, a novelty — seems just a bit too hasty. The older try 13. Ne5 works probably better: 13. ... Nxe5 14. Bxe5 Nh7 15. Bg3 a5 16. Na4 with an edge for White, Forintos – Rigó, 32nd Hungarian Chess Championship, Budapest 1976. 13. ... Bxd6 14. Rxd6 Ne7 15. e4 Ng6 16. Rfd1

16. ... Qc7! By so doing — at the temporary cost of a Pawn — Kosteniuk will succeed in freeing herself almost completely from her opponent’s mounting grip. 17. e5 Ng4 18. Rxd7. If 18. Nb5 Black can reply with 18. ... Qc5 19. Nfd4 a6! 20. Rxd7 Qxe5 21. Bxg4 axb5 22. Rxb7 Rxc4 regaining the Knight with approximate equality. 18. ... Qb8 19. R7d4 N4xe5 20. Ne4 Rcd8 21. Nd6 Nxf3+ 22. gxf3 e5 23. R4d2. Or 23. Nxf7 exd4 24. Qxg6 Rxe2 25. Nxh6+ Kh8 26. Nf7+ with a draw by perpetual check. 23. ... Re6 24. Nxb7 Rxd2 25. Qxd2 Qxb7 26. Qd7 Qxd7 27. Rxd7 Nf4 28. Kf1 Kf8. Kosteniuk prefers to give up a Pawn in order to get to a draw right now. 29. Rxa7 Rd6 30. Ke1 Ng2+ 31. Kf1 Nf4 32. Ke1 Ng2+ 33. Kf1 Nf4 ½ : ½.

Irina Borisovna Krush vs. Alexandra Konstantinovna Kosteniuk. Photo © Austin Fuller/Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

martedì 12 febbraio 2019

In the Studio

As they say, all good (and bad) things come in threes, so no wonder that, once again, 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) won (for the third time in a row) her rapid match against Ekaterina Aleksandrovna Lahno, which took place in 北京 (Běijīng), China from February 10–12. This time it took till the Armageddon for her to win, after Lahno scored the equaliser in the second rapid game — the 俄罗斯防御 (Russian Defence) did not apparently bring any good luck to 17th Women’s World Chess Champion — which was followed by two draws in the speed tie-breaks. Today’s games were hosted by 中国中央电视台 CCTV studios and broadcasted live on CCTV-5. Well, not everything that appears on television is necessarily true, but this time at least you can be sure that what you watched on TV, however fictional it might sound, was faithfully inspired to facts really happened elsewhere and not to other people. Photos: 樊璐璐 (Fán Lùlù).

Twenty Years After

János Kubát (left), a well-known organiser who helped arrange the Rematch of the Century twenty years later, next to 11th World Chess Champion Robert James “Bobby” Fischer, most likely in Yugoslavia, 1992. Photo: Szabad Magyar Szó.

lunedì 11 febbraio 2019

Satellite dish

17th Women’s World Chess Champion 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) won the first game of her two-game rapid match (25+10) against Ekaterina Aleksandrovna Lahno, which took place at the 中国棋院 (China Qíyuàn) (the Board and Card Games Administrative Centre of China’s General Administration of Sport) in 北京 (Běijīng), China. Curiously enough, it is the third time in a few months that 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) and Lahno meet each other at the chess roulette, mostly for the sake of 上海 (Shànghǎi)’s lady who defended and won both the Women’s World Chess Championship and Women’s World Rapid Chess Championship titles. Today’s game — apparently a 西班牙開局 (Ruy López) — was covered by “secrecy of privacy”, and/or no western broadcasting outlet showed any interest in providing transmission services. 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) said her win was the result of a “successful targeted preparation”, with her mind already focused on tomorrow’s game: “Thanks to CCTV for its support to chess. For sure, tomorrow I will play all out to close the match”. The second game will be held and broadcasted live on CCTV-5 starting at 15,30. Photo: 樊璐璐 (Fán Lùlù).

And Yet...

Fabius left Labienus heir to all his property.
Yet Labienus asserts he deserved still more.

Martial, Epigrams, Book 7, LXVI
English translation by Walter C. A. Ker

A yellow-eyed Ensatina, which is only found in the Bay area of California. It is a subspecies of the western salamander. Photo: Anton Sorokin/Alamy.

Well, Edna, the first thing to do is to say over and over to them that you could care less about being welcomed into their luxury boutiques and galleries, ’cause you don’t give charity to millionaires who don’t understand anything about fashion

Time and Reality
In England, the annual Varsity match at the RAC, London, on March 2, will feature the world No1 woman on top board for Oxford. China’s 侯逸凡 (Hóu Yìfán), a Rhodes scholar who is taking a Masters degree in education, is arguably the best player ever to compete in the traditional contest, launched in 1873 and the longest running fixture in chess. [Read more].

Powerful Presence

Alexandra Konstantinovna Kosteniuk – Bela Khotenashvili
1st Cairns Cup; Saint Louis, February 10, 2019
Grünfeld Defence D94

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. e3 0-0 6. cxd5 Nxd5 7. Bc4 Nb6 8. Bb3 c5 9. 0-0 cxd4 10. exd4 Nc6 11. d5 Na5 12. h3!? Nxb3 13. axb3 e6. The acceptance of the Pawn may be quite risky: 13. ... Bxc3 14. bxc3 Qxd5 15. Qe2 Qe6 16. Qb2 f6 17. c4 Qf7 18. Be3 Bd7 19. Ra5 Nc8 with a dynamic balance between White’s compensation and Black’s solidity, Grischuk – Domínguez Pérez, Grand Prix 2012–2013, 1st stage, London 2012. 14. d6 Bd7 15. Nd4!? Kosteniuk seems to have forgotten her “theory”, improvising a “novelty” which can hardly be regarded as improving on 15. Bg5(!) f6 16. Be3 with an edge for White, Potkin – Alekseev, 65th Russian Chess Championship (Higher League), Tyumen 2012. 15. ... Qf6 16. Ndb5 a6 17. Nc7 Rad8 18. Ra5! This very artificial move is probably the only way to give a sense to White’s “stalemated” Knight. 18. ... h6!? This prevents, once for all, Bc1-g5, but perhaps 18. ... Qh4 at once might have been even more probing. 19. Ne4 Qh4 20. f3 f5 21. Nc5 Qb4 22. Qd2! Bd4+ 23. Kh1 Bxc5 24. Qxh6 Rf6? This seems like a bluff. In fact Black had nothing better than 24. ... Qxa5 25. Qxg6+ Kh8 26. Qh6+ with a draw by perpetual check. 25. Bd2!! A brilliant refutation of Black’s 24th too ambitious move. 25. ... Qd4 26. Bc3 Qd3

27. Raa1? 27. Rxc5!! would have been the worthy corollary of White’s play: 27. ... Qxf1+ 28. Kh2 Rdf8 29. Qh4 Qd3 (if 29. ... Kg7 then 30. Re5!! with overwhelming threats) 30. Bxf6 Rxf6 31. Qxf6 Qxd6+ 32. Qe5 leaving Black an Exchange down for no compensation. 27. ... Rdf8 28. Qh4 Kg7? Luckily for Kosteniuk, Black misses her best continuation: 28. ... Qxd6 29. Bxf6 Qxc7 30. Rfd1 Rxf6! 31. Qxf6 Nd5 32. Qxg6+ Kf8 with a very unbalanced and unclear game. 29. Rad1 Qc2 30. Rc1 Qd3 31. Rcd1 Qe2 32. Rde1? Why not 32. Rfe1? 32. ... Qd3 33. Rd1 Qc2 34. Rc1 Qxb3? In the time scramble Khotenashvili apparently became even more ambitious than before, and does not even consider the possibility of a draw by repetition offer (by 34. ... Qd3) which probably Kosteniuk would never have conceded (she being able to play Rf1-d1 instead of Rc1-d1). Whatever it is, after the text, Kosteniuk can finally cash in, remaining a clear Exchange ahead. The rest is quite easy: 35. Bxf6+ Rxf6 36. Rxc5 Qd3 37. Rcc1 Qxd6 38. Rfd1 Qe7 39. Qf2 e5 40. Qc5 Qxc5 41. Rxc5 Rc6 42. Rxc6 Bxc6 43. Ne6+ Kf6 Bd5 45. Nxb7 e4 46. fxe4 fxe4 47. Nc5 Ke5 48. Nxa6 e3 49. Nb4 Bc4 50. Kg1 e2 51. Re1 Ke4 52. Kf2 Nd7 53. b3 Bb5 54. Na2 Kd5 1 : 0.

Alexandra Konstantinovna Kosteniuk vs. Bela Khotenashvili. Photo © Crystal Fuller/Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

domenica 10 febbraio 2019

Lady Luck

Quae legis causa nupsit tibi Laelia, Quinte,
uxorem potes hanc dicere legitimam.

Laelia, who married you, Quintus, to satisfy the law,
You may call your “lawful” spouse.

Martial, Epigrams, Book 5, LXXV
English translation by Walter C. A. Ker

Alternate Reality & Surreality

The 启航理想·2019国际象棋世界棋后巅峰赛将 (E-Dream · 2019 World Chess Champion Summit) will start tomorrow, featuring a two-game rapid match between 17th Women’s World Chess Champion 居文君 (Jū Wénjūn) and Ukrainian-born Russian Grandmaster Ekaterina Aleksandrovna Lahno to be held at 北京 (Běijīng), China from February 10–12. Time control is 25 minutes per player with an increment of 10 seconds added per move from move 1. If the match is tied after two games, speed tie-breaks will be played on the final day, eventually till Armageddon, with $15,000 in prize money for the winner, and $8,000 for the loser. The first game will be played at the 中国棋院 (China Qíyuàn) (the Board and Card Games Administrative Centre of China’s General Administration of Sport), while the second will be hosted by 中国中央电视台 CCTV studios.

Come on, Edna, don’t be so severe with yourself! Everyone makes mistakes, but only your chaperone advertises hers

Artwork © RZL 19 (@r_rzial)

Fickle Fortune

Bela Khotenashvili – Zhansaya Daniyarovna Abdumalik
1st Cairns Cup; Saint Louis, February 9, 2019
Queen’s Pawn Game D00

1. d4 Nf6 2. Bf4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. e3 Bg7 5. h4!? A kind of dernier cri for the so-called London System. 5. ... h5!? 6. Nb5 Na6 7. Nf3 c6 8. Nc3 Nc7 9. Bd3 0-0. Or 9. ... Ng4 10. Qd2 0-0 11. 0-0-0!? a5∞ Matlakov – Chigaev, Russian Blitz Chess Championship, Sochi 2016 10. Qd2 Ne6. 10. ... Ng4 would have transposed into the aforementioned game Matlakov – Chigaev. 11. Be5 c5 12. Ng5 Ng4!? 13. Bxg7 Kxg7 14. f3 Nf6 15. 0-0-0!? Not surprisingly, Khotenashvili’s aiming for a sharp attack with heterogeneous castling. If 15. dxc5 Black may likewise continue 15. ... Qc7(!) 16. 0-0-0 Qxc5 with a double-edged game. 15. ... Qa5 16. g4!? White is hoping for something like 16. ... hxg4 17. Qh2! which would give her at least the initiative, but Abdumalik obviously has other plans. 16. ... c4!

17. Be2!? Here 17. Bf5!? may seem much more enterprising, although after 17. ... b5! (17. ... gxf5? 18. gxf5 Nc7 19. e4!+−) 18. Bxe6 Bxe6 19. gxh5 b4 (19. ... Nxh5? 20. Qh2!+−) 20. Nxe6+ fxe6 21. Ne2 (21. h6+ Kf7 22. Ne2 Qxa2 23. Qxb4 Rab8 is roughly balanced) 21. ... Nxh5 (21. ... Qxa2? 22. Qxb4+−) 22. Rhg1 c3∞ the situation is terribly unclear. 17. ... b5 18. gxh5? This is White’s only serious mistake. 18. e4! b4 19. Nxd5 c3! is still really unclear. 18. ... b4 19. h6+ Kh8 20. Nb1 Rb8 21. c3. 21. a3 c3! is disastrous as well. 21. ... Qxa2 22. cxb4 Nxg5 23. hxg5. 23. Nc3+ Qa1+ 24. Kc2 Bf5+ 25. e4 Ngxe4 26. Rxa1 Nxd2+ 27. Kxd2 Rxb4 is also hopeless. 23. ... Bf5. The rest is (or better: it should be) suffering drama. 24. Qc3 a5! There is no hurry for the Queen to capture White’s Knight. 25. e4 axb4 26. Bxc4 Qxb1+ 27. Kxb1 bxc3 28. Rh2 Nh7. 28. ... Bxe4+! 29. fxe4 Ng4 was much simpler and quicker. 29. Bxd5 Be6 30. f4 Bxd5 31. exd5 Rfd8 32. Rc2 cxb2 33. Rxb2 Rxb2+ 34. Kxb2 Kg8? It’s hard to understand why Black didn’t play 34. ... Rxd5 which should have won easily and intuitively. 35. Ra1 Nf8. Now 35. ... f6(!) was the most coherent continuation, so as to disrupt White’s Pawn phalanx; after 36. d6 Rxd6! 37. Ra8+ Nf8 38. h7+ (or 38. f5!? Kf7−+) 38. ... Kxh7 39. Rxf8 Kg7 followed by ... Rd6xd4 with an easily won ending. 36. Kc3 Nd7? Abdumalik showed quite a poor technique so far, but now she loses her last chance of breaking the tie on the Kingside by 36. ... f6(!), which would have still given her the opportunity to earn a laborious victory. 37. Ra6! The intention is to play d5-d6 virtually forcing a draw. 37. ... Nf8 (37. ... f6 38. d6=) 38. Kc4 Nd7 39. Kd3 (39. d6=) 39. ... f6 40. Ra7? (40. d6=) 40. ... Kf7? The 40th move is finally reached, but at what price! With their last move White and Black compromised, respectively, their drawing and winning chances — as for Black, 40. ... fxg5 41. fxg5 Kf7 was the best (and last) opportunity to take advantage of White’s (last) omission. 41. d6! Finally! 41. ... exd6

42. Ke4? Quite incredibly, Khotenashvili brings her opponent back to before the 40th move! Apparently she didn’t find the “elegant” solution to her struggle for survival: 42. f5! gxf5 43. h7 Kg7 44. g6! Kxg6 45. Rxd7 Rh8 with a draw expressly coming. Foreseeably Abdumalik did not give her opponent another chance: 42. ... fxg5 43. fxg5 Ke6 44. d5+ Ke7 45. Kd4 Rc8 46. Ra1 Ne5 47. Ra7+ Kf8 48. Rh7 Rc4+ 49. Ke3 Nf7 50. Rg7 Rg4 51. Rxg6 Rxg5 52. Rf6 Rxd5 0 : 1.

Bela Khotenashvili vs. Zhansaya Daniyarovna Abdumalik. Photo © Austin Fuller/Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

sabato 9 febbraio 2019

Guess Who’s Coming to Afternoon Tea

This afternoon, after the chess class ended, one of the young players just wanted to leave a written message for one of the dancers of the Associazione Culturale “Il Delta della Luna”. Guess who?

No More Ink

Zhansaya Daniyarovna Abdumalik – Alexandra Konstantinovna Kosteniuk
1st Cairns Cup; Saint Louis, February 8, 2019
Spanish Game C78

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 b5 6. Bb3 Bc5 7. c3 d6 8. d4 Bb6 9. Be3. The strategic alternative is 9. h3 h6 10. Be3 0-0 11. Nbd2 Re8 12. Re1 (12. a4 Rb8 13. Re1 b4 looks like nothing special for White, Abdumalik – J. Zawadka, 8th Krystyna Hołuj-Radzikowska Memorial Rapid, Wrocław 2018) 12. ... Bd7 13. Qb1 Na5 14. Bc2 c5 15. d5 c4 16. b4 cxb3 17. axb3 Bxe3 18. Rxe3 Nb7 19. b4 Nh5 20. Bd3 Nf4 21. Bf1 Rf8 22. c4 bxc4 23. Bxc4 a5 24. bxa5 Nxa5 25. Qb4 Nxc4 26. Rxa8 Qxa8 27. Nxc4 Qa1+ 28. Re1 Qa2 29. Nfd2 Rc8 30. Re3 Qc2 31. Kh2 Nd3? (31. ... Qb1 32. Qb3 Qa1 should hold for Black) 32. Qb7+− 侯逸凡 (Hóu Yìfán) – Caruana, 28th Reykjavík Open, Reykjavík 2012. 9. ... 0-0 10. Nbd2 h6 11. Re1 Ng4 12. Nf1 exd4!? No doubt Kosteniuk knows very well what she’s doing and where she doesn’t want to go: 12. ... Nxe3 13. Nxe3 Rb8 14. Bd5 Bg4?? (blindfolded horror) 15. Nxg4 1 : 0 J. Polgár – Topalov, Blindfold World Chess Cup, Bilbao 2007, match game 2. 13. cxd4 Na5 14. Bc2 c5! 15. h3 Nxe3 16. Nxe3 cxd4 17. Nd5 Nc4. White really got nothing from the opening, and should now think of playing solidly for a draw. But she doesn’t seem too aware of it. 18. Nxb6 Qxb6 19. b3?! It’s not the best way to give up a Pawn. On the contrary, after 19. Qxd4 Qxd4 20. Nxd4 Nxb2 21. Reb1 Nc4 22. a4 White should not have too many problems getting a draw. 19. ... Ne5 20. Rc1!? It could be possible — but unlikely — that only now Abdumalik realised that after 20. Nxd4 Bxh3!∓ Black would have gained a Pawn “for free“, for if 21. gxh3? (21. f4?? Bg4 22. Qd2 Nc6−+) then 21. ... Qxd4! winning even more valuable material. Once the damage is done, White rightly does her best to turn the loss into a gambit. 20. ... b4 21. Bb1 a5 22. Nxd4!? Alea iacta est. 22. ... Bxh3! 23. Nc6!? White probably relied upon this “spectacular” move to regain a psychological initiative, but objectively 23. gxh3 Qxd4! 24. Qxd4 Nxf3+ 25. Kg2 Nxd4∓ could have been the wiser choice, as Black’s extra Pawn doesn’t still guarantee victory. 23. ... Nxc6 24. Qxd6 Ra6? 24. ... Rac8(!) 25. gxh3 Rfd8 seems much stronger (and more winning). 25. gxh3 Rd8 26. Qg3 Nd4 27. e5! Qb5

28. Rc4?? After this huge and awesome mistake, that gives Black the command of the a8-h1 diagonal, White is doomed to a tragic end. With 28. Bd3 Nf3+ 29. Qxf3 Qxd3 30. Qxd3 Rxd3 31. Rc8+ Kh7 32. Rc7 Kg6 White could get into an endgame a little more comfortable for Black, but with definite drawing chances. Furthermore, 28. Qe3 (threatening Qe3xd4) 28. ... Rc6 29. Rcd1 also seems to offer a tough defence. 28. ... Qd5! There’s no defence to the threatened Knight check on f3, for both 29. Re3 and 29. Be4 would be met by the alternative check 29. ... Ne2+! winning handily. 29. Qg2 Nf3+ 30. Kh1 Qxe5! Kosteniuk presents a very elegant Queen sacrifice which, if accepted, after 31. Rxe5 Rd1+ 32. Qf1 Qxf1+ 33. Kg2 Rxb1 34. Kxf3 Rb2 would lead to quite an easy endgame for her to win. 31. Rec1 Qe2 32. Rc8 Rd6 33. Rxd8+. Alternatively, 33. Qg4 Qxf2 34. Qf4 Rd2 35. Rxd8+ Rxd8 36. Be4 Qd2 37. Qxd2 Nxd2 is a more prosaic win. 33. ... Rxd8 34. Qf1 Qe5 35. Qg2 Qf4 36. Rf1 Rd2 37. Rg1. Setting a last desperate trap: 37. ... Nxg1?? 38. Qa8+ and mate in two. 37. ... g5 38. Rf1 Kg7 0 : 1. Instead White ended up in zugzwang. Now if 39. Rc1 then 39. ... Rxf2 and finis.

Zhansaya Daniyarovna Abdumalik vs. Alexandra Konstantinovna Kosteniuk. Photo © Austin Fuller/Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

venerdì 8 febbraio 2019

The Sixth Day

Another Saturday is coming, but you don’t have to wait for Sunday to be happy, as tomorrow you have your classical and Fischerandom chess class at Associazione Culturale “Il Delta della Luna”, starting at 16,00 as usual.

Waiting for Rascal

A dog poses on the backstage at the 16th annual New York Pet Fashion Show in New York City, United States. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images.

Academic term

Genoa, Italy: Demolition work continues on the Morandi Bridge, which collapsed six months ago, killing 43 people. Photo: Luca Zennaro/EPA.

Half of One Thing

Marie Rachel Sebag – Zhansaya Daniyarovna Abdumalik
1st Cairns Cup; Saint Louis, February 7, 2019
Spanish Game C84

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 Be7 6. d3 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. a3 0-0 9. Nc3 Bg4 10. Be3 Nd4 11. Bxd4 exd4 12. Nd5 c5. If 12. ... Nd7 then 13. h3 Bxf3 14. Qxf3 c6 15. Nxe7+ Qxe7 16. Qg3↑ with f2-f4 in the offing, Domínguez Pérez – Eljanov, 50th Capablanca Memorial, Havana 2015. 13. h3 Be6 14. Nf4 Bxb3 15. cxb3. The White doubled b-Pawn being ready to advance (b3-b4) is anything but a weakness. 15. ... Nd7 16. Rc1!? A new move, or, more precisely, a new move order, none too different in its strategic essentials from 16. Re1 Re8 17. Nd5 Nb6 18. Nxb6 Qxb6 19. Qd2 Bf6 20. g3 h6 21. h4 Rac8 22. Rac1 Qb7 23. Qf4 Qd7 24. Kg2 Qe6 25. Rcd1 Be5 26. Qd2 Qxb3 27. Nh2 c4 28. dxc4 Rxc4 29. Re2 Rec8 30. Qd3 Qxd3 31. Rxd3 Rc2 32. Red2 Rxd2 33. Rf3 d3 34. Rxd3 Rxd3 ½ : ½ Spasov – 叶江川 (Yè Jiāngchuān), 1st Open Ruy López, Zafra 2007. 16. ... Nb6 17. Re1 Rc8 18. Rc2 Bf6 19. Nh5 Be5 20. Nxe5. Sebag tries her luck on the Kingside, for there aren’t particular perspectives on the other flank: if 20. b4 then 20. ... Na4 with an unclear balance. 20. ... dxe5 21. Qd2 g6 22. Ng3 Qd6 23. Rec1 Rc6 24. Qg5. With the obvious threat of Ng3-f5. 24. ... f6 25. Qg4 Kf7. This King “self-defence” solves some problems but not others. However, it’s questionable that Black may save it in most variations. Whatever it is, now Sebag takes a risky but probably necessary gamble in enthusiastically throwing herself into the brawl: 26. f4 exf4 27. Ne2

27. ... Rfc8. 27. ... Nd7! 28. Nxf4 Ne5 might have been a little more promising, perhaps. 28. Nxf4 c4 29. bxc4 bxc4 30. dxc4 Rxc4. 30. ... Nxc4 looks better, but, indeed, after 31. Qh4 Kg7 32. Nd3! White’s position is sound and safe; for instance: 32. ... Ne3 33. e5! fxe5 34. Rxc6 Rxc6 35. Rxc6 Qxc6 36. Qe7+ with perpetual check. 31. Rxc4 Rxc4 32. Rxc4 Nxc4 33. Qc8. That’s all: Black’s King cannot escape perpetual check. 33. ... Ne3 34. Qb7+ Kg8 35. Qc8+ Kf7 36. Qb7+ Kg8 37. Qc8+ Kf7 ½ : ½.

Marie Rachel Sebag vs. Zhansaya Daniyarovna Abdumalik. Photo © Austin Fuller/Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.