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Mig on Chess #4. 15.12.97
Sunday was a slow day at the FIDE World Championship in Groningen, Holland. After 5 days of intense, non-stop play including rapid and blitz games for many players, the first part of the third round was a relatively peaceful one. So this is a good opportunity to sit back, look at the big picture, and wonder just why the hell we spend so much of our time with this infernal game.
Just kidding, just kidding. We all know that the incredible amount of time we spend playing chess, looking at chess games, reading chess books and magazines, using our chess software, and of course, reading witty chess articles from web sites is time well spent. After all, if we weren't doing all those things we would probably be wasting our time by spending it with our friends and families ("Not now dear, Anand just won a pawn!"), actually going *outside* ("Whoa, is it winter already?"), or eating (I'm sure I'm not the only one out there whose main computer problem is too much pizza grease on his mouse.)
This is important stuff, and just because your friends, if you have any left, don't understand why you have to sit there all day hitting the "Reload" button on your browser to update the live games doesn't mean you're nuts. THEY are nuts! It's THEM, not ME, THEM! NOW GET OUT OF MY WAY, I THINK SOMEONE WHO'S NAME DOESN'T BEGIN OR END WITH A "V" MAY ACTUALLY BE WINNING!!!! Oh, sorry, sorry, I'm okay now, just lost control for a second there, but I'm sure you understand. We're all friends here, we all understand exactly how it is to be addicted.
Hypnosis is very useful in breaking addictions. You can put yourself into a mild hypnotic state (if you're not in one already, that is) by staring at a light source (say, your monitor) and speaking slowly in a monotone voice (think of your high school algebra teacher). You can hypnotize yourself out of being a chess addict!
In fact, why don't you join me now, right in front of your computer, yes now (and brush those crumbs off your pants, how long have you been sitting there, anyway?) and repeat after me: "I am getting sleepy, sleepy, sleepy... I (are you repeating?) I, Mig (insert your name there, please) am a chessaholic. I want to change. I promise to spend less than 17 hours per day with chess from now on. I promise to make a serious effort to remember the names of my children. I promise to take the stacks of chess magazines out of the bathroom where they frighten guests. I promise not to read chess books in bed because they give me these weird dreams where I'm being chased around by Sicilians in armored suits on horses. I promise to stop trying to explain my thrilling chess victories to people who don't understand a word I'm saying. I promise to send a large amount of cash to Mig. I promise to stop naming my pets things like "Zeitnot", "Check", or "Nehzmetdinov". At the count of three you will wake up and not consciously remember anything you just said, but you will remember in your subconscious and you will obey, you will obey, you will obey... One, two, three!
You are now fully awake, or at least as awake as you were a few minutes ago.
The name Peter Svidler might not have meant much to you a year ago, but I'm sure you've heard of the young Russian GM by now. Garry Kasparov certainly knows who he is, as consequence of Svidler's pounding his Sicilian at the Fonty's tournament earlier this year and finishing tied for first with Kramnik and Kasparov. This shouldn't have come as such a surprise as in recent years Svidler has been collecting Russian Championships like some people collect stamps, winning it three times in the past four years. He's has excellent technique for such a young player (he's 21), plays many different openings, and perhaps most importantly in Groningen, has experience with this knockout format from this year's Russian Championship.
Many are now waking up to GM Svidler and some are even naming him a strong candidate to challenge Karpov in the final. To do this he will have to defeat some of the Usual Suspects, and though many of the favorites are watching the games from the cheap seats, names like Anand, Shirov, Gelfand, and Zvjaginsev are still on the wall. (Zvjaginsev? Just making sure you weren't still hypnotized. If this guy wins the World Championship I hope he'll change his name to something easier to spell. "Mig" would be good.)
Since we're all in a peaceful, up with people mood after today's round (11 draws, only 5 decisive games, but two of them from Short and Adams who both won with white today. Everyone join in as we sing "Rule Britannia! Eh, maybe not.) let's take a quick look at Svidler's win against an experienced foe, his countryman Vladimir Epishin. Svidler has white against Epishin's Caro-Kann.
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5. Be2
This is a popular modern variation against the Caro-Kann. Instead of the wild stuff like pushing kingside pawns to trap the bishop or trading it off immediately, White develops quietly and counts on his space advantage.
c5 6. Be3 cxd4 7. Nxd4
A line popularized by Boris Gelfand's victory with it in his match against Karpov in 1995.
7. ... Ne7 8. Bg5 Qa5+ 9. Nc3 Bg6
Both players are quite familiar with this position as they had reached it together earlier this year! In that game Svidler preferred 10. Nb3 and the game finished in a draw in 30 moves. But Epishin had seen 10. 0-0 as well (Kveinys-Epishin, Parnu, 1996. 1/2, 40) so we are still following the preparation of both players. Epishin innovates first, playing 10. ... a6, keeping the c3 knight off of the b5 square (where it ended up in their game from earlier this year).
10. O-O a6 11. h4 h5 12. Bd3 Bxd3 13. cxd3 Nbc6 14. Nf3 Ng6 15. d4 Be7 16. Bxe7 Ngxe7 17. a3 Nf5 18. g3 Qb6 19. Na4 Qa7 20. Nc5
White has a nice advanced center, but it's not enough to win the game. Svidler sees a chance to transform his advantage in space into an advantage in development. This comes at the cost of a pawn, but White sees that not only will his knight obtain a dominating position on c5, but that the c-file, the only open file on the board, will also fall under his control.
20. ... Nfxd4 21. Rc1! Nxf3+ 22. Qxf3 Ne7 23. Rc3 Rc8 24. Rfc1
Setting up many dangerous threats down the c-file. Black's king is still in the center, he has a dunce rook on h8 (that never moves during the entire game), and castling may be dangerous due to the mobility of the white pieces.
24. ... Rc6 25. b4 Qb6 26. Qf4 Qc7 27. a4!?
It's a lot easier to sac the second pawn than the first, don't you think? Once you are committed to playing with the initiative in exchange for material you have to keep it up at all costs. It's much like how ordering the second beer is much easier than ordering the first. (And if you don't stop after four or five you end up with an ugly mate in the corner.)
27. ... Ng6 28. Qd2 Qxe5
This may be where Epishin slips up. His queen and his knight end up far from the scene of battle, the all-important c-file. 28. ... Nxe5 looks safer, though White may be able to improve somewhere. 28. ... Nxe5 29. b5 axb5 30. axb5 Rd6 31. Qf4 (watching out for ... Nf3+ tricks) Nc4 32. Nxb7 Qxb7 33. Rxc4 0-0 and a draw is near. The rest of the game is almost completely forced, so either Epishin misjudged the resulting position or missed the fact that White could win the exchange with 37. Nxb7!
29. b5 axb5 30. axb5 Rb6 31. Nd3 Qd6 32. Rc8+ Kd7
32. ... Ke7?? leads to the painful 33. Qg5+ Kd7 34. Rxh8 Nxh8 35. Ne5+.
33. R1c7+ Qxc7 34. Rxc7+ Kxc7 35. Qc3+ Kd7 36. Nc5+ Kd6 37. Nxb7+! Kd7 38. Qc5! Rxb7 39. Qc6+ Ke7 40. Qxb7+ Kf6 41. b6 d4 42. Qc7 d3 43. Kf1 Ne5 44. b7 1-0
So the c-file was worth much more than the two pawns, and the b-pawn finishes off a very attractive game from the young Russian Champion. So from this game we can see that it's okay to sac, but always sac with moderation. See you tomorrow, I've got to go feed Nehzmetdinov.
Svidler-Epishin 1997.12.14, Round 3.1
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