Image by Sophie Triay / Tradewise Gibrlater Masters
Top players usually follow positional and strategic principles, but they also know when to deviate, as in the following game.
Yu Yangyi of China, currently ranked No. 18 in the world, lost in the finals of the Tradewise Gibralter Masters in January to Hikaru Nakamura, but he at least he made it that far. Along the way, he beat Valentin Dragnev, an Austrian international master, by playing an unorthodox, but extremely effective opening.
Dragnev, Valentin vs. Yu Yangyi
Gibraltar Masters 2017 |Caleta ENG |Round 7.4 |30 Jan 2017 |ECO: B46 |0-1
1. e4c52. Nf3e63. d4cxd44. Nxd4Nc65. Nc3a66. Bf4This move has become popular lately, but I don't like it. Black gains a strong center quite quickly and White is not really in any position to fight for control of the d6 square. 6... d67. Nxc6bxc68. Qd2Be7!The best move order.
( 8... e59. Bg5This is the best square for White's bishop. Now it gets there in one move instead of two. 9... Nf610. O-O-OBe711. Bxf6gxf612. Bc4White is clearly better. )
9. h4!?I have never seen this move before in this position, but it makes some sense -- White wants to put the bishop on g5. But I think it is too slow.
( 9. O-O-Oe5!10. Be3Nf6And White's bishop is on e3. That is a worse square for it than g5. After 11. Bg5Be6!It is clear how much the tempo matters. White is unable to get his bishop to c4 and Black is absolutely fine. )
9... e5!10. Bg5f6!11. Be3f5!Forcing, ambitious, and strong. Black wants to control the whole center. 12. Bg5fxe413. Nxe4d514. O-O-ONf6!15. Nxf6+?!
( 15. Qc3!This was much more resilient. After 15... Bd716. Nxf6+gxf617. Bh6At least Black cannot play Bh6, and White can soon play f4. )
15... gxf6Black's center is massive and strong. 16. Bh6Qb6
( 16... Be6This looks more natural to me but it would probably transpose to what was played in the game. )
17. Be2Be6!Black makes a hiding spot for his king on d7. 18. Bh5+?This misplaces White's bishop and forces the Black king to the square that is best for it.
( 18. f4White needed to create counterplay. The position would remain somewhat unclear. )
18... Kd7White is probably dead lost. The Black king on d7 is safe behind the mass of center pawns, any endgame will be extremely difficult for White, and the White king will soon be under fire. 19. f4Too little too late.
( 19. Be3The engine recommends this move, but after: 19... Qb420. Qxb4Bxb4Black is clearly in the driver's seat. )
19... Rhb8!There's nothing happening on the kingside, and the rook will be very useful on a8. 20. b3
( 20. Qc3Bb421. Qb3Qc5White will not be able to hold this position together. )
20... a5!Simple and devastating. Black threatens a4, after which all of Black's pieces will be aimed at the White king, and there is nothing White can do about it. 21. fxe5
( 21. a4Qc5!Threatening Rxb3. 22. Kb1Bf5And White would be helpless. )
21... a4!Not wasting any time, Black goes for mate.
( 21... fxe522. Bg7!And White could try to move his bishop back to b2 for defense. )
( 22. exf6axb3 )
22... axb323. axb3Qa5!This cuts off the d2 square, so the White king cannot escape to the center. 24. Bg4Qc3!25. Bxe6+Kxe626. Qg4+f5!An easy move to find, but still important. White is out of checks and completely helpless.
Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 4 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He was also a member of the team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter, has his own site, and is also on Facebook.
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