Alexander Morozevich is no longer among the game’s elite, but when he is on, he is still a fearsome competitor, as he showed recently in the Russian Team Rapid Championship.
The 2016 Russian Team Rapid and Blitz Championship is underway in Sochi, Russia, and the rapid segment has concluded. One of the top individual performers in the event – maybe the top performer – was Russian grandmaster Alexander Morozevich. He played in eight of the nine rounds, scoring six points and achieving a performance rating of 2756. That figure is well below his peak rating of 2788, achieved in 2008, but represents an improvement over his current (classical) rating of 2683. He lost one game and drew two, but won five, three of them in crushing style.
One of those wins was in Round 4 against American Gata Kamsky. It wasn’t all that long ago that Kamsky was a serious world championship contender, and while he’s no longer playing at that level, the speed with which he lost the game was still startling.
Morozevich, Alexander vs. Kamsky, Gata
TCh-RUS Rapid 2016 |Sochi RUS |Round 4.6 |05 Oct 2016 |ECO: A80 |1-0
1. d4f52. Bf4The London System setup is everywhere these days, although against
the Dutch White's setup has a very different character than against 1...d5 or
1...Nf6. 2... Nf63. e3d6
( 3... e6and )
( 3... g6are more common, but 3...d6
is also a standard option and can of course transpose to 3...g6 lines. )
4. Nc3g65. h4Be6Black often plays
( 5... h6so as to meet h5 with ...g5. )
( 6. h5Nxh57. Rxh5is playable here, and after 7... gxh5it isn't clear
which of 8.Qxh5+, 8.Nf3, and 8.Nh3 is best. )
6... h67. Bd3Now that Black
has played ...h6 his g-pawn is a little loose, so White prepares e4 to take
aim at the potential weakness. 7... c6?!A little too slow.
( 7... Bg78. e4Qd7is comparatively better, but even here White's advantage is obvious. )
8. e4fxe49. Nxe4Nxe410. Bxe4White already has a considerable advantage. 10... Bf511. Nd2
( 11. Bxf5Qa5+Perhaps )
( 11. Qe2was best, keeping castling options open and
hurrying to use the half-open e-file. )
11... Qd712. Qe2Na613. Bxf5gxf514. Qh5+Kd815. O-ONb416. c4!This keeps protects the pawn, keeps Black's
knight out of d5, and allows White to meet ...Kc7 with c5 in some variations.
But what about ...Nc2, with a fork? We'll see in a moment. 16... Nc217. Rad1Nxd418. Nb3Nxb319. axb3Black is a pawn up, but it hardly matters. White is
almost fully mobilized, while Black's development is terrible and his king is
vulnerable in the center. White's position is practically won. 19... b6?Aimed
against c5 in some cases, and hoping to create a nook for the king on b7. Good
ideas both, but there was no time for this.
( 19... Qe820. Qxf5Rg8was a
better defense, followed by ...Kc7 and either ...Qd7 or - more likely - ...Qg6. )
( 20... Rg821. Qf7wins at least a piece. )
21. Qg6e622. Bxd6!Bxd623. Qg8+!
( 23. Rxd6Qxd624. Qxh7is a far worse choice,
though it's also winning with room to spare. )
23... Kc724. Qxa8c525. Qxa7+Kc626. Rxd6+!A nice finishing touch. Taking with the king allows the
skewering 27.Rd1+, while recapturing with the queen allows 27.Qxh7.
In Round 6, Morozevich faced Dmitry Bocharov, a strong Russian grandmaster who had also defeated Kamsky earlier in the event. Bocharov tried to surprise Morozevich with a rarely used opening variation, but to no avail. Morozevich won convincingly.
Morozevich, Alexander vs. Bocharov, Dmitry
TCh-RUS Rapid 2016 |Sochi RUS |Round 6.2 |06 Oct 2016 |ECO: B46 |1-0
1. e4c52. Nf3Nc63. d4cxd44. Nxd4e65. Nc3a66. Be2Nf6?!This is a very risky line at best,
perhaps best used as a surprise weapon and at short time controls.
( 6... Qc7and )
( 6... d6are the approved alternatives. )
7. Nxc6bxc68. e5Nd59. Ne4Qc7
( 9... f5is also common. )
10. Nd6+Bxd611. exd6Qb6
( 11... Qa5+is a little finesse to draw the bishop away from the b-pawn's defense (12.Bd2
Qb6), but White can ignore this and play 12. c3followed by castling, and
only then play c4. Black can't stop this plan in any sensible way, so it makes
sense to avoid any small tricks by Black. )
12. c4Nf613. O-Oc5
( 13... O-Oled to a quick disaster in another rapid game: 14. Be3!Qxb215. Bd4Qa316. Bxf6gxf617. Qd4Rb818. Rac1Intending Rc3-g3. 18... e5?19. Qg4+Kh820. Qf5Kg721. Rcd1!e422. Qg4+Kh823. Qxe41-0 (23) Shirov,A (2751)-Ljubojevic,
L (2559) Monte Carlo 2000. Instead of Rd3, White will play Bd3 next. Black can
play ...Qa5 (or ...Qc5) followed by ...Qh5 and kick around for a few more
moves, but sooner or later a White rook on the third rank will finish the job. )
( 14. Be3 )
( 14. b4!? )
14... Bb715. Qb3An interesting approach.
Normally White tries to blow Black off the board, as we saw in the
Shirov-Ljubojevic game and with the suggested 14.b4 last move. Morozevich
shows that a quieter approach is also powerful. With the bishop pair and the
monster pawn on d6 it turns out that Black's situation in an ending is hardly
any better than in a middlegame. 15... Qxb316. axb3O-O17. Be3Rfc818. Ra5Ne419. Rd1Threatening simply f3 followed by Bxc5. 19... Rc620. f3Nxd621. Bxc5Ne822. Rxd7And White wins a pawn all the same. He still has the bishop pair,
has far more active pieces, and now that he has a 3-1 queenside majority Black
is completely lost. 22... Rc723. Rxc7Nxc724. Kf2Ne825. b4Nf626. b5axb527. Rxb5Bc628. Rb6Rc829. Bd6Nd730. Ra6e531. b4e432. b5Ba833. c5exf334. gxf3White's queenside passers will soon win one piece, maybe two.
In the next round, Morozevich again had White, and faced Pavel Tregubov, another strong Russian grandmaster, who probably hoped to surprise him with a slightly offbeat line of the Sicilian. Like Bocharov, Tregubov lost quickly. A difference between the two games was that Morozevich beat Bocharov by following theory’s latest recommendation, while against Tregubov, Morozevich adopted a more experimental response.
Morozevich, Alexander vs. Tregubov, Pavel V
TCh-RUS Rapid 2016 |Sochi RUS |Round 7.1 |06 Oct 2016 |ECO: B45 |1-0
( 6... d6transposes to the Sveshnikov after 7. Bf4e58. Bg5 )
( 7. a3Bxc3+8. Nxc3d59. exd5is usual, and now it's up to Black to decide how many pieces
he wants to swap off before he accepts the isolated pawn. It's a fairly solid
line for Black, but one that's unlikely to give him more than a draw in
grandmaster-level play. Here are some examples from Tregubov's recent practice. 9... Nxd510. Nxd5exd511. Bd3Qe7+12. Qe2Qxe2+13. Kxe2Ne514. Rd1Nxd315. Rxd3Be616. Be3a617. Bd4O-O18. Kd2Rac819. g4Rfe820. Rg1Bd721. Be3Bc622. Rd4Re423. Rxe4dxe424. Bd4f625. h4Kf726. Ke3h627. b3b528. g5hxg529. hxg5Bd530. gxf6gxf631. c3Rh832. c41/2-1/2 (32)
Istratescu,A (2592)-Tregubov,P (2593) Drancy 2016 )
( 7... h6!looks strong and possibly better for Black. 8. Nd6+Kf89. Bf4e510. Bc1Qe711. Nxc8Rxc812. Bd3Bxc3+13. bxc3d614. O-OKg8/=+ )
10. Bxf6Qxf611. Qd6!Black would otherwise obtain strong counterplay
with ...d5, but now White enjoys a lasting bind. And as against Bocharov, it
is again the d6 square that is causing Black such trouble. 11... b612. f3
( 12. f4 )
12... Rd813. O-O-OBb714. Kb1Rac815. h4Na5
( 15... Ne5was a
better way to clear the c-file. )
16. Nb5Rc617. Qd4Also like the previous
game: trading queens offers Black no respite. 17... e518. Qb4d519. Rxd5Rxd520. exd5Rc521. Nc3Bxd522. Bd3Bb7?
( 22... Nc623. Qa4Qe6keeps the game
going. White is still better, but a win remains far away. )
23. Ne4Bxe424. Qxe4Rc7
( 24... g625. b4shows the fundamental danger with 15...Na5. )
( 24... Rc8(or 24...Qd8) stops the mating threat posed by Qa8+, but walks into
a skewer from the other side. 25. Qh7+Kf826. Qh8+Finally, Black
can't save himself by blocking the diagonal to a8 either, either with the
knight or with the rook. )
It was impressive play by the Russian superstar, whose participation still enlivens any tournament.
Dennis Monokroussos is a FIDE master who has written about chess on his blog “The Chess Mind,” since 2005. He has been teaching chess for almost 20 years and for the last 10 years has been making instructional chess videos, which can be found at ChessLecture.com. Between 1995 and 2006, he taught philosophy, including a four-year stint at the University of Notre Dame.
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