Ar­me­nian daz­zles Nor­we­gian with ven­er­a­ble Greek gift

The Washington Times Daily - - LIFE - DAVID R. SANDS David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at dsands@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

Yogi Berra once de­scribed a restau­rant as so pop­u­lar that “no one goes there any­more.” To­day we have a game with a sacri­fi­cial idea so pop­u­lar you never see it any­more — at least at the very top lev­els.

The “Greek gift” — a bishop sac­ri­fice against the cas­tled king on the h-file fol­lowed by a knigh­tand-queen mat­ing at­tack — is one of the old­est tactical mo­tifs in the game. The “Ox­ford Com­pan­ion to Chess” says the ba­sic idea was first de­scribed by Ital­ian mas­ter Gi­ulio Po­le­rio in the 16th cen­tury, shortly be­fore he went off to play a match with Ruy Lopez.

So it’s all the more shock­ing to see the cur­rent world cham­pion be­come the sac­ri­fice’s lat­est vic­tim.

In what very well may qual­ify as the game of the year, Ar­me­nian GM Levon Aro­nian de­feated world cham­pion Mag­nus Carlsen of Nor­way at the ongoing 5th Nor­way Chess tour­na­ment, em­ploy­ing the very bishop sac that Po­le­rio de­scribed five cen­turies ago.

Make no mis­take: This is still high-level stuff. Com­ing out of a tricky line in the QGD Che­ba­nenko Slav, the world champ didn’t “miss” White’s idea, and at­tack and de­fense are finely bal­anced for an­other 20 moves be­fore Black fi­nally suc­cumbs.

The Ar­me­nian said af­ter the game that his 10. Bc2 Rd8 11. a3! Bxa3 (ac­cept­ing the chal­lenge; 11...Bd6 was the safer choice) 12. Rxa3! Qxa3 13. c5 b6! (af­ter 13... h6, nip­ping any Greek gift ideas in the bud, White has 14. Nb1 Qa2 15. Bb4! a5 16. Nc3 Qb2 17. Na4 Qa2 18. Bb1 Qa1 19. Bh7+, win­ning the queen) 14. b4, cut­ting off the Black queen, was based on an idea he first ex­plored back in 2003. Forced to im­pro­vise, Black re­sponds well with 14...Ne4 15. Nxe4 dxe4 16. Bxe4 Rb8 (see di­a­gram; GM De­jan Bo­jkov points out on Chess. com that 16...Bb7 17. Qc2 Nf6 [17... f5 18. Bd3 a5 19. Bc4 Nf8 20. Ne5 is smoth­er­ing] 18. cxb6 Nxe4 19. Qxe4 Qa2 20. Ng5 is very strong for White; e.g. 20 .... Qxd2 21. Qxh7+ Kf8 22. Qh8+ Ke7 23. Qxg7 Rf8 24. Qe5 Qc2 25. Ne4 Rad8 26. Nc5! with a win­ning at­tack de­spite be­ing down a rook), 17. Bxh7+! Kxh7 18. Ng5+ Kg8 (in­ter­est­ingly, the com­put­ers see things as close to level af­ter the in­hu­man 18...Kg6) 19. Qh5 Nf6! (Nf8 20. Qxf7+ Kh8 21. Qe7! Bd7 22. Nf7+ wins the rook) and the at­tack is on in earnest.

White cal­cu­lated the tactical thick­ets all the way through to 21. Qc7 Bd7! 22. Nf7+ Kh7 23. Nxd8 Rc8! 24. Qxb6 Nd5 25. Qa7 Rxd8, when White has three pawns for the lost piece and a more co­her­ent po­si­tion. Carlsen doesn’t help his cause with 26. e4 Qd3?! (bet­ter seems 26...Nf6 27. Bg5 Qxb4 28. e5 Qxd4 29. exf6 gxf6, with hopes of sur­viv­ing the op­po­site-col­ored bishop end­ing) 27. exd5 Qxd2 28. Qc7 Qg5 29. dxc6 Bc8 (Be8 30. Qb7!), and White is def­i­nitely in com­mand.

As of­ten hap­pens, a sin­gle mis­take can un­der­mine a long, ar­du­ous de­fense: 33. Qe7 Bf5? (Rg8 of­fers some sur­vival chances) 34. Rg3 Bg6 (Qg8 35. Qh4 mate) 35. Qh4+, when both 35...Qh5 36. Qxd8 and 35...Bh5 36. Rg5 are dev­as­tat­ing. Carlsen re­signed.

The Aro­nian-Carlsen bat­tle stands out even more in a tour­na­ment which saw just five de­ci­sive games in the first five rounds. Just part the mid­way point, Aro­nian is tied for the lead with Amer­i­can star Hikaru Naka­mura at 4-2 in the star-stud­ded event..

Aro­nian-Carlsen, 5th Nor­way Chess Tour­na­ment, Sta­vanger, Nor­way, June 2017 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6

5. e3 a6 6. b3 Bb4 7. Bd2 Nbd7 8. Bd3 O-O 9. O-O Qe7 10. Bc2 Rd8 11. a3 Bxa3

12. Rxa3 Qxa3 13. c5 b6 14. b4 Ne4

15. Nxe4 dxe4 16. Bxe4 Rb8 17. Bxh7+ Kxh7 18. Ng5+ Kg8 19. Qh5 Nf6 20. Qxf7+ Kh8 21. Qc7 Bd7 22. Nf7+ Kh7 23. Nxd8 Rc8 24. Qxb6 Nd5 25. Qa7 Rxd8 26. e4 Qd3 27. exd5 Qxd2 28. Qc7 Qg5 29. dxc6 Bc8 30. h3 Qd5 31. Rd1 e5 32. Rd3 exd4

33. Qe7 Bf5 34. Rg3 Bg6

35. Qh4+ Black re­signs

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