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Mig on Chess #6. 16.12.97
Welcome to the money rounds, folks! Tuesday in Groningen saw some of the most expensive speed chess in the history of the game. Those who continued into round 4 are guaranteed a $48,000 payday, not bad at all. (20% of the prize fund goes directly to FIDE, most of which probably goes to photocopies and those cute little sandwiches they eat during meetings.) Chessplayers who make this kind of money usually do so a few hours after their heads hit their pillows. Can you imagine sitting down for a game of rapid chess with the equivalent of your yearly salary on the line? Tension? Fear? Vomiting? Personally I don't usually play my best chess when I'm wearing my lunch.
But, we're chessplayers ourselves, and the games are what really matter, right? (FIDE, are you listening?) It's a little too easy to criticize the quality of these 25 and 15 minute games, especially when the players' minds are so busy calculating exactly how much vodka they could buy with the prize money. When I'm playing the final round a tournament and through some bizarre fluke I'm still in the running for a prize (like when there are 10 people playing and 12 prizes), my thoughts for the prize money are usually along the lines of, "I wonder if this will cover the pizza AND the beer?"
But in Groningen it's more like, "If I win this game I could buy a new chess computer, a stack of new chess books, pizza for the entire year, two entire *kegs* of beer, and the new Cindy Crawford calendar." (See how well I know you?)
But we're going to save our Christmas lists for next week when we'll see what Santa Mig brings you all. For today we had a small collection of rapid games that defined the Sweet Sixteen: Shirov, Anand, Krasenkov, Gelfand, Dreev, Beliavsky, Adams, Short, Akopian, Tkachiev, Van Wely, Svidler, Almasi, Georgiev, and the cut & paste twins, Zvjaginsev and Azmaiparashvili. There was a lot of talk about upsets early on in the event, but nobody on that list is flipping burgers in his spare time. Tkachiev and Zvjaginsev may not be world famous, but they both have muscular elo ratings and Tkachiev is well known for his amazing blitz talent (which he used Tuesday to crush another top GM).
As for GM Vadim Zvjaginsev, a man in DESPERATE need of a nickname, he has been playing some very good chess lately, especially in the speed games. Unfortunately, he is probably doomed in the next round as his round 4 opponent, Alexei Dreev, isn't from the United States of America. If Zvjaginsev ever desires a change of surroundings he should follow his many compatriots and head for the USA, something tells me he would be very successful there. Perhaps it's the fact that so far in Groningen he has played only Americans (Benjamin, Kaidanov, Seirawan) and has defeated them all in the rapid playoffs! While it's true that Seirawan reached superior positions in both of their drawn regulation time games, Zvjaginsev was merciless in the second game at 25 minutes and as the first was drawn, chess writers everywhere will have to continue struggling with his name for at least a few days more.
Zvjaginsev has had several other good results this year, and also has experience in this knockout format. He made an excellent showing in the Russian Championship in Elista this year, finally being knocked out in a very tough match by, you guessed it, Alexei Dreev. So this will be his chance for revenge, and something tells me the prizes in Groningen are more than a little better than they were in Elista!
Here's his attractive win against Seirawan from Tuesday's rapid games. The players repeated the opening from the first game of their match (draw, 34), but Zvjaginsev had an improvement in mind, 13. Bh3.
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Bg5 Nbd7 5. Nf3 h6 6. Bh4 Be7 7. e3 0-0 8. Rc1 a6 9. b3
Zvjaginsev's move. He reached this position in the Russian Championship this year and won a nice game. Seirawan equalized against it rather easily in their first game, but this time things are different.
9. ... b6 10. cxd5 exd5 11. Bd3 Bb7 12. Bf5 g6 13. Bh3
In their first game 13. Bxd7 was played, but from h3 the bishop disturbs Black's development and, in perhaps the strangest fianchetto in history, will soon find an excellent home on g2!
13. ... Re8 14. 0-0 Nf8 15. Ne5 N6h7 16. Bxe7 Rxe7 17. g3 Qd6 18. Bg2 Rd8 19. Qc2 Ne6 20. Rfd1 Kg7 21. Qb2 f6 22. Nd3 Nhf8 23. b4 g5
It's always easy to criticize the move made right before your opponent hits you with a brilliant shot. So I will. This move doesn't seem to do much, perhaps the ugly 23. ... c6, but after 24. a4 White is going to play b5 anyway.
POW! There had to be a way to unleash the power of White's pieces! Zvjaginsev sees that he can blow the position open for his rooks and bishop with e4. The real star of the show will be the g2 bishop. It goes from its odd location on h3 to being a long-diagonal monster.
24. ... bxc5 25. bxc5 Qc6 26. e4 Red7 27. exd5 Rxd5 28. Nxd5 Rxd5 29. Rb1 Nd8
The chess program The King prefers 29. .... Ba8. I think Yaz should have offered Zvjaginsev a job at his magazine in exchange for a draw. ("I was winning, but I was low on cash and my opponent offered me a job.")
30. Qe2 Qd7 31. Rxb7!
Double pow. Not having recovered from the first shot, Seirawan walks into another one. The King finds this crusher (and the rest of the moves in the game) in 7 seconds. It would probably take me a little longer, perhaps a week.
31. .... Nxb7 32. c6 Qxc6 33. Qe7+ Kg8 34. Qe4 1-0
A beautiful final position with five pieces on the long diagonal. Unfortunately for Seirawan only one of them is a bishop and it's not his! A spectacular game from Zvjaginsev who is on the way to burying his reputation for dull chess. Well, I'm off to do some Christmas shopping, maybe my last chess prize will pay for the bus to the mall.
Zvjaginsev,V (2635) - Seirawan,Y (2630) [D63]
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