Yogi Berra is famous for his quote: “It aint over til it’s over.” Of course he likely referred to baseball but it is just as true in every endeavor and, for the chessplayer, it is the point where a critical stage is set and the fight is more determined by persistent determination of willpower to overcome dangers. It is like a threatened shipwreck being avoided by skillful hands on deck and maybe a prayer. Here the field of battle is known, and the consequences more ego bending than life threatening unless your opponent picks up the Queen and shoves it down your throat.
Every so often it happens that a great chess battle rages on the 64 where one side is apparently milking the position for everything it is worth and the opponent is left to struggle in the fight to hang on at all costs in hopes that a miscue or just plain luck will permit such a storm to mellow into a calm sea. Such a game I present here for your enjoyment, study, and hopefully boost your backbone to good generalship. The 2010 Poikovsky Tournament produced such a fight.
White: A. Riazantsev vs. Black: S. Karjakin
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Ba6 5. Qc2 Bb7 6. Bg2 c5 7. d5 White gambles that his pawn sac will be offset by a spatial edge and position for more energetic piece play in the middle game.
7. … exd5 8. cxd5 Nxd5 9. O-O Be7 This position has been reached in previous game play where 10. Rd1 was common. However, White decides to tackle the problem differently with a new idea posted by GM Shirov versus Yakovenko in 2008.
10. Qe4 This interesting move is strong as it threatens 11. Rd1 hitting the pinned Knight. Black must deal with this immediately and previously Yakovenko had played 10…Bc6; Karjakin decides to risk walking a tightrope with…
10. … Na6 11. Nh4! g6 Following my idea in square count to defend an attacked square within your own camp. All well and good. But the young modern players have keen minds, sharp ideas, and willingness to enter adventureous play. Previous examples shown from Radjabov vs. Leko, 2008 and Svidler vs. Karjakin 2008, saw 12. Qe5 f6 13. Qe4 but this shuffling of the Queen did not harm Black per se. Probably in preparing for this event, White came up with this interesting Knight sac which is pretty much forced upon Black.
12. Nf5!! gxf5 The point is that now Black’s K-side is severly weakened and White has sustainable pressure with good attacking chances.
13. Qe5! A strong aggressive move as now, if …f6 14. Qxf5 leads to a decisive attack. Black castles which is his best chance to hold the position.
13. … O-O 14. Qxf5 Re8 15. Nc3 White adds additional forces into the fight. (See my previous column comments concerning this). White is in no hurry to restore material balance as it deflates the pressure letting Black off the hook so-to-speak. After 15. Bxd5 Bxd5 16. Qxd5 Nc7 >…d5 with a good pawn center to offset the weak black King-side. Most important is that White loses his dynamic opportunity to further the attack.
15. … Nac7 16. Be4 Bf6 Here is another valuable lesson for the student. Moving the Bishop makes room for the King to escape via e7.
17. Qxh7+ Kf8 18. Bxd5 Bxd5 Forced. Forced moves are always a sign of difficulties in defending. Can you work out the mate if Black had played …Nxd5 instead? Remember, this is a teaching role I use to stimulate your joy for chess.
19. Nxd5 Nxd5 20. e4 Nc7 21. Bh6+ Ke7 22. e5 Bxe5 23. Qe4! White plays for a win. Instead, a probable draw comes from 23. Bg5+ Bf6 24. Rfe1+ Ne6 25. Rxe6+ dxe6 26. Bxf6+ Kxf6 27. Qh4+ = perpetual check. Perhaps the safe method was to go for the draw because of Karjakin’s known reputation for stubborn defensive skill.
23. … f6 24. f4 d5 25. Qh7+ Kd6 26. fxe5 fxe5 At this point, analysis in New In Chess favors White to win the game.
27. Rf7 Ne6 Karjakin finds the best defense.
28. Qg6 Kc6? The best defense is 28…Rc8 which a useful waiting move to see what White does now. ( A point to remember is that we are amateurs and even the best players who analyzed this ending found it difficult and sometimes over optimistic for one side or the other.)
29. Raf1 d4 30. R/1f6 Qd5 31. Rxa7! Rad8 32. a4?! Not the best. Sharp and probably necessary is 32.Bf8 with the threat of 33. Be7. Now, 32… Rxf8 33. Rxe6+ Rd6 34. Rae7 Rxe6 35. Rxe6+ Kd7 36. Rxb6 with a decisive threat of 37.Qg7+.
32. … c4 Kavalek pointed out in his column that 32…d3 would offer better defense. The computer research shows that after 33. Qf7 Qd4+ 34. Kg2 Kd6 35. Kh3! which the computer says is the only way to win from the position after 35…d2 36. Rd7+ Rxd7 37. Qxe8 Qd5 38. Bd2 and White has a winning advantage. After 32…c4 as played, White still would win with 33. Bf8.
33. Qf7 ?! Kc5 34. Bd2 c3! Creating room for the King!
35. Rc7+ Kb4 36. bxc3+ Kb3 37. c4 Qd6 38. Rb7 d3! Black is battling for the initative.
39. a5 Qd4+ 40. Kf1 Qe4 41. Kg1 Kc2! Amazingly, the black Monarch has drawn his sword and cuts a path in the guts of the enemy lines.
42. Rxb6 Kxd2 43. Rbxe6 Rxe6 44. Qxe6 Kc2 45.c5 Qd5 46.Qg4 Qd4+ 47. Rf2+ d2 48. Qf3 e4 49. Qf7 Kc3 White Resigns. (0-1).
This is an enormously complicated game with much analysis by the computer in various endgame lines. What we learn here together is the complex nature that is chess. Indeed, life and chess mirror each other in terms of principles upon which the human spirit engages and meets challenges. Sometimes it reminds me of the GOOD, the BAD, and the UGLY. Certainly the key word to name this game spirit for both sides is STUBBORN–each fought tooth and nail to achieve the very best. In this battle, both sides gave it their best.