Chess Notes

Weekly chess column

Nils Grandelius of Sweden defeated Ivan Sokolov of the Netherlands in the last round of the Sigeman & Co. tournament in Malmo, Sweden. He thus tied Nigel Short and Richard Rapport, a 17-year-old Hungarian player, for first place, but Rapport won on tiebreak. Here is the Grandelius v. Sokolov collision in the last round. In this very tense encounter, the 20-year-old Grandelius manages to outplay his much more experienced opponent and grabbed a share of first place in the tournament.  


2013 Sigeman & Co.

Nils Grandelius (2556) vs.
Ivan Sokolov

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.d3 A much quieter way of playing the Ruy Lopez. 6…d6 7.c3 O-O 8.Re1 Nd7 More common is 8…b5. 9.Bc2 Nb6 Aiming for 10…d5 10.Be3 A new move in a somewhat rare position. More common is 10.d4.  10…d5 10…f5!? 11.Nbd2 Also possible was 11. BxN cxB 12. exd4 Qxd 13. Nbd2 with a small plus for White. 11…d4 12.cxd4 exd4 13.Bf4 Now it’s a game of pawn majorities: Black with his queenside and White with his kingside. 13…Be6 14.Bb3 Nb4 Trying to jump-start his queenside majority. If 14…BxB then after 15,NxB Black’s queenside play is stifled by the weakness of the his d-pawn. 15.Ne5 c5 16.Bxe6 fxe6 17.Bg3 Bd6 18.a3! (Diagram) Even though the computer really dislikes this (they are very materialistic, these silicon terrors), the exclamation point is that the pawn sacrifice muddies the waters, giving White good practical winning chances. For his pawn, White will have lots of play down the c-file, against Black’s weak pawns and against Black’s king after an eventual f4. 18…Bxe5 Accepting the pawn is pretty much forced as after 18…Nc6 19.NxN bxN 20.e5 White stands much better due to Black’s assortment of bad pawns. 19.axb4 Bxg3 20.hxg3 cxb4 Black is a pawn up, but his extra pawn is doubled, his d and e-pawns are weak and his knight is not on a great square. He will have play very carefully to avoid the worse. 21.Qb3 Qe7 22.Nf3 Rad8?1 Beginning to drift. Better was 22. Rfd8 in order to keep the other rook for the c-file and to force White to worry about a5.  23.Rec1 Kh8?! Natural, but unnecessary. Better was 23…Qd6 protecting the d-pawn with the idea of being able to contest the c-file. After 24.e5 Qe7 25. Ra5 Nd5 25. Rc4 (If 25. Nd4 Qg5 26. Re1 Qd2 gives Black good play.) White will win back the pawn but Black has a great square for the knight and is still very much in the game. 24.Rc2 e5 25.Rac1 Now, White owns the c-file with the next stop being Black’s second rank. Note that after 25…Rc8 26.RxR RxR 27.RxR NxR 28.Qd5! Nb6 29.Qa5 gives White the advantage due to Black’s weak pawns and weak back rank. 25…Nd7 Trying to get finally get his “bad” knight to a better square but 25…Qd6 is better. 26.Rc7 Qd6 27.Qa4 27. Rc7? Nc5 27…h6 Too weakening. Better was 27…Rf6. 28.Nh4 Heading to either g6 or f5. 28…Rf7 29.Qa5 b6 30.Qa2 Qf6 31.f4! Now if 31…exf 32.gxf Qxf? 33.Ng6+White is clearly winning now. 31…Kh7 32.R1c6 Qe7 Sadly for Black the queen’s only square. 33.Qd5! Centralization with a vengeance. Now, there are pins everywhere. 33…exf4 34.Nf5 Qf8 35.Rd6! A winning pin. 35…fxg3 Setting up a nice trick. If 36.RcxN RdxR 37.RxR Qc8! With the threats of Qc1++ and QxR. 36.Nxg3 Qe8 37.Nf5 g6 38.Nxd4 Black is nearly in zugzwang. 38…Kh8 39.Ne6 As this wins at least the knight, Black gave up; 1-0.