CHESS

The Observer - The New Review - - CHARTS & PUZZLES - BY JONAT H A N SPEELMAN

The Euro­pean team cham­pi­onships con­cluded in Crete on Mon­day in vic­to­ries for Azer­bai­jan in the open (this time uni­formly male) sec­tion and the Rus­sian women. The lat­ter won at a can­ter, start­ing the fi­nal round with an unas­sail­able three match point lead and fin­ish­ing with 17/18 match points ahead of Ge­or­gia 14 and Ukraine 13. But the open sec­tion went right to the wire with great un­cer­tainty about the (ar­guably) un­nec­ces­sar­ily com­pli­cated Son­neborn-Berger tiebreak. The live broad­cast by Ger­man grand­mas­ter Jan Gustafs­son and women’s in­ter­na­tional mas­ter Fiona Steil-An­toni from Lux­em­bourg took a break just be­fore the end of the round to try to sort it out. But when they re­sumed and Steil-An­toni an­nounced that “Azer­bai­jan has won”, it was still only a ten­ta­tive con­clu­sion.

The drama was pre­cip­i­tated when Rus­sia, who went into the penul­ti­mate round with a one match point lead over Azer­bai­jan, were de­mol­ished by them 3-1. This put the Az­eris in pole po­si­tion but in the fi­nal round they had a dif­fi­cult pair­ing against Ukraine, which ended in four draws, while Rus­sia faced the rather less for­mi­da­ble Ger­mans whom they beat 3-1.

The fi­nal scores were Azer­bai­jan 14/18 match points and 230.0 Son­neborn-Berger and Rus­sia 14 (217.5) while Ukraine took the bronze on 13 match points with a bet­ter tiebreak than the mid­way lead­ers, Croa­tia. Nei­ther of the English teams fired fully and sadly we had the worst day in liv­ing mem­ory in the fi­nal round, mak­ing a com­bined to­tal of 0.5/8 – a draw for Michael Adams. The open team fin­ished 12th equal on 10/18 while my women’s team made 7/18, which put us 24th equal, just be­low our seed­ing of 23rd.

Azer­bai­jan had be­gun the tour­na­ment with a dis­as­trous loss to Italy and af­ter slaugh­ter­ing Aus­tria 4-0 dropped a 2-all draw against Spain, but there­after their only draw was in the fi­nal round against Ukraine. The cru­cial mo­ment was, of course, the 3-1 vic­tory against Rus­sia in­clud­ing this fine game on top board.

Alexan­der Grischuk v Shakhri­yar Mam­e­d­yarov Crete 2017 (round 7) Ruy Lopez De­layed Steinitz De­fence

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 d6 This is the Steinitz De­fence De­ferred, as com­pared to Wil­helm Steinitz’s orig­i­nal idea of 3... d6 with­out the in­ter­po­la­tion of a6 Ba4. It looks un­am­bi­tious but can eas­ily lead to ac­tiv­ity later.

5 0-0 Bd7 6 Re1 6 c3 is more com­mon. 6... g5! Strange look­ing at first sight but ac­tu­ally very log­i­cal, this move fights for the d4 square while pre­par­ing to fi­anchetto the bishop. It was in­tro­duced by the nor­mally su­per solid Hun­gar­ian La­jos Por­tisch

against Vik­tor Korch­noi in Wijk aan Zee 1968 and led to a quick vic­tory for Por­tisch af­ter Korch­noi blun­dered a piece. 7 Bxc6 bxc6 8 d4 Korch­noi v Por­tisch had gone 7 d4 g4 8 Bxc6 Bxc6 9 Nfd2 Qh4 10 Nc4 Bg7 11 dxe5 dxe5 12 Nc3 Rd8 13 Nd5?? Bxd5 14 exd5 g3! 15 hxg3 Qxc4 and Por­tisch won on move 32.

8... g4 9 Nfd2 exd4 10 Nb3 Ne7 10... c5 would be too greedy af­ter 11 c3 dxc3 12 e5! blast­ing it open be­fore Black is ready. 11 Nxd4 Bg7 12 Nc3 0-0 13 Bg5 f6 14 Be3

Qe8 15 Qd3 Qf7 16 Qd2 Qg6 Black wants to free him­self with... f5 but shouldn’t rush. If 16... f5 im­me­di­ately 17 exf5 Nxf5 18 Nxf5 Bxf5 19 Bd4 looks OK for White. 17 Bf4 h5 18 b4 h4 19 a4 Qh5 20 Be3 h3

21 Nce2 White’s king is safer with the black pawn as a shield than if he plays 21 g3 f5 when he must watch out for a fa­tal Qf3. 21... hxg2 22 Nf4 Qh7 23 Nfe6 Bxe6 24 Nxe6 Ng6 25 Nxf8 Rxf8 26 Bf4 f5 27 exf5 Nh4 28 Ra3? By now, Grischuk was in his cus­tom­ary time trou­ble. This is a mis­take af­ter which Black is able to cap­ture on f5 while keep­ing the queens on. 28 Qd3 was bet­ter when it’s im­por­tant that if 28... Bxa1 29 Rxa1 Re8 tak­ing the e-file, 30 Qc4+ seems to give enough play. 28... Qxf5 29 Bg5 Nf3+ 30 Rxf3 gxf3 31 Bh6 Qd5?! 31... Qf6 32 Bxg7 Kxg7 was cor­rect when if 33 Qe3 Rh8 Black can force a win­ning rook end­ing by play­ing Qh4. 32 Qc1?! Help­ing Black when in­stead 32 Qe3! would have re­mained a real fight. 32... Bc3 33 Re3 White’s king is too vul­ner­a­ble. For ex­am­ple if 33 Re7 Rf5 34 a5 Be5 34 h4 Qc4 35 Bg5 Qf1+! 36 Qxf1 Bh2+ de­cides. 33... Bd4 But not 33... Bd2?? 34 Qb2 Qf7 35 Rxf3! and White wins. 34 Rd3 Re8 35 c3 Bxf2+ 36 Kxf2 Re2+ And Grischuk re­signed since af­ter the sim­ple 37 Kg3 Qxd3 38 Qg5+ Kf7 the black king es­capes, leav­ing White to­tally de­stroyed.

Shakhri­yar Mam­e­d­yarov (Black) Alexan­der Grischuk (White to play)

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