Kindred’s Special: Critical Mass–Fighting Back

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.

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