This week’s game is between an up-and-coming Russian player, Ivan Popov and the great, veteran grandmaster Yuri Balashov. In his day, Balashov was a world championship contender and was the 11th highest player in the world with an adjusted rating of 2715. He also served as a second to Boris Spassky for his “Revenge Match of the 20th Century” against Bobby Fischer in 1992. Now, Balshov is 63 and his rating is a modest, 2442. Ivan Popov is only 22 with a rating of 2605.
Their game’s opening was the English, which gained its name from great English player and unofficial world champion Howard Staunton, who first used it in his 1843 match vs. Saint-Amant. It has always been sort of a mystery to many chess players. The English is essentially a Sicilian with colors reversed. But while the Sicilian is an aggressive, fighting defense, the English, with an extra move, is a quiet and very positional opening. In any case, Balashov plays well until time pressure, and possibly age, brings about his downfall with 36. cxb5??.