International grandmaster Vasif Durarbayli prepared an article about the best chess game of the week. Report presents the article.
I recently read the book The Road to Chess Improvement by Alex Yermolinsky. This was the kind of book that I wish I had read way earlier in my chess career and highly suggest that you read as well if you have not already done so!
It was written in 1999 when Yermolinsky was still playing chess in open tournaments and contains advice to weaker players on how to fight against stronger opponents.
One of his observations in the book is that weaker players tend to avoid opening battles against stronger players and play some dubious lines in order to avoid their opponent’s preparation. However, he goes on to assert that many strong players actually have difficulty beating a weaker player when that player goes to the most principled lines in the opening; therefore, he claims that the weaker player should always play principal lines.
In this week’s Game of the Week, we see a weaker player successfully apply Yermolinsky’s theory to beat a much stronger opponent because he did not run away from the most principled opening battle and instead went all-in to the fight. While Basso’s best performance was not on display here, even grandmasters on an “off” day do not lose for no reason.
Have you read The Road to Chess Improvement? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Now let’s get into the Game of the Week: Brilej, Jaka - Basso, Pier Luigi
(16) Brilej,Jaka (2268) - Basso,Pier Luigi (2553) [C45]
FE Carnevale GM Elite 2021 (1.4), 13.02.2021
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.h4!? [Dutch Grandmaster Van Der Wiel played this move 3 times in 1987. Later, in 2015, GM Morozevich (who is known for his creativity) played it many times. However, this move garnered the greatest attention after Nakamura was very close to beating Carlsen in this line in 2017. White's play here goes against all classical principles and has to be justified by using strong, dynamic tactics.]
[8.c4 By far the main move. Now Black has two options; Ba6 and Nb6. Positions are in general dynamic.]
8...Qe6 [There are many playable variations for both sides, so I would call this a sideline. It’s the third option for the players but one of the best options according to the computer. It seems like Basso was prepared for this line.]
[8...Bb7 This is the game I was referring to on move. 9.c4 Nb6 10.Rh3 Qe6 11.f4 0–0–0 12.a4 d5 13.a5 Nxc4 14.b3 Bb4+ 15.Kf2 Nxa5 16.Bd2 c5 17.Rxa5 Bxa5 18.Bxa5 1/2–1/2 (73) Nakamura,H (2781) -Carlsen,M (2837) London 2017; 8...d6 is the main move. 9.c4 Nb6 10.exd6 cxd6 11.Be3 Be6 12.Qc2 White is better if you check the pawn structure, Black has his own chances in a dynamic way.]
9.Nd2 [9.g3 d6 10.c4 Nb6 11.exd6 Bxd6 There are four games in my database with a better score for White in this position, but this does not mean Black has any problems out of the opening. He still has a bad pawn structure, but he has the advantage in the development, which provides him with a dynamic play.]
9...a5!? [With this sideline choice, Basso managed to take his opponent out of the book.]
[9...d6 This move is the main problem for White in this line. Since the Caruana - Robson game, no one has come up with a new way to show an advantage in this position. 10.exd6 Bxd6 11.Nc4 Bc5 12.a3 0–0 13.Qxe6 Bxe6 14.Bd3 Rfe8 15.0–0 a5 16.Ne5 Bc8 17.Nc4 Be6= 1/2–1/2 (38) Caruana,F (2828)-Robson,R (2667) Saint Louis 2019]
10.Qe4 [12 minutes. This may have been an over-the-board decision. This move was played once by GM Ponkratov in a rapid game against GM Adhiban in 2019.]
[10.g3?! Nb4! 11.Nf3 Ba6 12.c4 Qg6 13.Kd1 c5! Black has the advantage. 14.h5?! Qb6 15.Bg2 h6 16.Ke1 Be7 17.Kf1 0–0 18.Nh4 Rae8 0–1 (51) Parvanyan,A (2448)-Kollars,D (2580) Germany 2020]
10...Nb4 [Threatining ...d5 or ...f5.]
11.Kd1 Bb7!?N [This is the principal way to proceed in my opinion - keeping queens on the board when your opponent did not castle.]
[11...d5 12.exd6 Bxd6 (12...cxd6!?N Could be a better option than what happened in the game and seeks a better structure. 13.c3 Qxe4 14.Nxe4 Nd5 15.Kc2 Be6 16.Bd3 h6 Stops Ng5 ideas. Black seems to be fine after all.) 13.c3 Nd5 14.Bd3 Qxe4 15.Nxe4 Exchanging queens is clearly favorable for White if we count on pawn structure and the placement of the king. 15...Be7 1–0 (62) Ponkratov, P (2632)-Adhiban, B (2654) Moscow 2019 16.Bg5N f6 17.Bd2]
12.a3 [12.g3 Could be another way to play. 12...0–0–0 13.Bh3 (13.Bg2?! f5 Opening up the position suits Black.) 13...c5 14.Bxe6 Bxe4 15.Nxe4 fxe6 16.c3 Nc6 17.f4 d5 Black is fine.]
12...Nd5 13.Be2 c5 [Threatening Nc3]
14.Qc4? [Curiously enough, White spent only 4 minutes in this critical position. It's a mistake for the engine, close to being a huge one, but for the human eye, it's not that clear.]
[14.Bg4 Keeps the balance. 14...Qa6 15.Qc4 (15.Be2 Qe6 16.Bg4 Qa6 This is one of the first choices of the computer, an interesting 3 move rep.) 15...Qxc4 16.Nxc4 Nb6 17.Nxb6 cxb6 Around equal.]
14...Qxe5 [Challenge accepted.]
15.Re1 0–0–0?! [Best is: 15...Nb6! 16.Qb5 Be7 17.Bf3 Bxf3+ 18.Nxf3 Qd5+ 19.Bd2 Kd8 The king is safe on d8 and Black has the advantage with an extra pawn.]
16.Qb5?! [16.Bf3! Prophylaxis. Stops Qd4,Qf2 16...Qd6! (16...Qd4 17.Qxd4 cxd4 18.Re5 Nb6 19.Rxa5=) 17.b4! (17.a4 The idea is to take out the rook via a3. 17...Nb6 18.Bxb7+ Kxb7 19.Qxf7 Slightly better position for Black.) 17...Nb6 18.Bxb7+ Kxb7 19.Qe4+ Qd5 20.bxa5 Qxe4 21.Rxe4 d5 22.Rf4 Bd6 23.Rxf7 Na4 Black has the initiative.]
16...Qd4 17.c3 Qxf2 18.Nc4 Nb6 [18...Qxg2!? The engine is always happy to grab another one! 19.Nxa5 Ba8! The difference between the game and this variation. 20.Bf1 Qf2 21.Bd3 Bd6 22.Bd2 Rhe8 23.Rf1 Qg2 24.Nc4 Bf4! 25.Bxf4 Nxf4 26.Rxf4 Qg3 27.Na5 Re6 28.Rxf7 Rb6 29.Qc4 Bf3+ 30.Rxf3 Qxf3+ 31.Kc1 d5–+; 18...Re8! For me it's easier to understand this one rather than 18...Qg2!?I believe if there is a chance to stop White's initiative, we should do that. 19.Nxa5 Ba8! White does not have any attack whatsoever. 20.Bd2 Bd6 21.b4 Re6 22.Rb1 c4 23.Nxc4 Rhe8–+]
19.Nxa5 Qxg2? [So was Basso too but here it is a mistake because White can eliminate the main defender of the king.]
[19...Ba8! 20.Qa6+ Kb8 21.Rf1 Qxg2 22.Bf4 Bd6! A very important nuance that can be missed. 23.Bxd6 Qd5+ 24.Kc2 Qxd6 25.Rad1 Qe6]
20.Nxb7! Qxb7 [Now the position is not clear at all!]
21.a4! [Marching with the pawn.]
21...d5?! [As we see here, even strong Grandmasters can lose control over their nerves. He weakens the king's position. Also, the knight will not be able to stay on c4 for long. I believe it would be better to put Black's king to the corner of the board to stop White's passed pawn.]
[21...Kb8 22.a5 Nc8 23.Qa4 Ka8 24.Kc2 Be7 25.Be3 With compensation. Two bishops, an open position, and the weakness of Black’s king compensate for missing two pawns.]
22.a5 Nc4 23.Qa4! [Do not exchange when you attack.]
23...Bd6 [23...Kb8 could be better. 24.a6 Qb6 25.a7+ Ka8]
24.a6 Qa7? [Unexpectedly, it is a losing move! Apparently, Black should have kept control of the c6 square.]
[24...Qb6 This is the only move to stay in the game. 25.Kc2 Kb8! 26.b3 (26.Bf3? c6 This is the difference.) 26...Ne5 27.a7+ Ka8 28.Be3 Still a very complicated position. However, it seems like White's game is simpler. Here is one example of how it could continue: 28...c6! 29.b4 Nc4 30.Bxc4 dxc4 31.bxc5 Qb3+ 32.Qxb3 cxb3+ 33.Kxb3 Bg3]
25.Kc2!? [25.Bxc4? dxc4 26.Kc2 (26.Qxc4?? Bg3+–+) 26...Qb6! 27.Qxc4 Kb8; 25.Bf3 is also good but White does not hurry to take action.]
25...Nb6 [This move is the proof that something went completely wrong...]
[25...Kb8 26.Bf3 Bg3 27.Rd1 Nb6 28.Qb5+– Black's position is collapsing.]
26.Qc6+– Rde8 27.Bg4+ Kd8 28.Bg5+! [28.Be3 Qa8 29.Bd7 Also wins with the idea of taking a8 and placing the bishop on c6 to support a passer.]
28...f6 29.Bh5 Rxe1 30.Rxe1 [The last piece joins the attack seeking a mate on e8.]
30...Nd7 31.Bd2 g6 32.Bg4 f5 [32...Ne5 does not help 33.Rxe5 fxe5 34.Qd7#]
33.Be2 [Defends a6.]
33...c4 [33...d4 34.Bb5! Nf6 35.Bg5 No proper defense from Re8 mate.]
34.Bf3 Qb6 35.Qa8+ Nb8 36.Bxd5 c6 37.Bxc4 Kc7 38.Be3 c5 39.a7 f4 40.Bxf4 Bxf4 41.Re7+ Kd8 42.Rb7