Matthias Blübaum, 20, is now Germany’s third-ranked player.
I remember playing against Matthias Blübaum in 2011, when he was rated 2300. Time flies and he has obviously become a lot stronger! At 20 years old, he is ranked No. 3 in Germany and continues to improve.
In the following game, he smoothly outmaneuvers Nikita Meskovs, a strong international master from Latvia, before delivering a nice coup de grace.
Bluebaum, M. vs. Meskovs, N.
Bundesliga 2016-17 |Hamburg GER |Round 10.2 |19 Mar 2017 |ECO: E15 |1-0
1. d4Nf62. c4e63. Nf3b64. g3Ba65. b3Bb4+6. Bd2Be77. Nc3d58. cxd5exd59. Bg2O-O10. O-ORe8This is a highly topical line of the Queen's Indian Defense, made popular by Sergey Karjakin's use of it during the 2016 Candidates tournament in Moscow. 11. Rc1!?This is not a popular idea at the moment, but as Blbaum demonstrates, it is still very dangerous.
( 11. a3Recently, White has been trying to prepare b4 with either this move or Rb1 )
( 11. Rb1 )
( 11. Bc1This is what Blbaum would like to play, but he cannot do it just yet because: 11... Bb4And the pawn on e2 will be lost. The plan will make much more sense after the preparatory moves Rc1 and Rc2. )
11... Nbd712. Rc2!This is Blbaum's point. He wants to reroute the bishop to c1 and b2, but only once he has activated the rook on c1. This also keeps the pawn on e2 secure. 12... Nf813. Ne5Bb714. Bc1Ne615. Bb2White has a very pleasant Queen's Indian. The knight on e5 is well posted, Black has no meaningful counterplay, and White can try to make use of the semi-open c-file. 15... a616. e3Ra7?I do not understand this mysterious rook move.
( 16... Rc8Preparing c5 looks prudent. I would prefer White, but the game is a long way from over. )
( 17. f4!?This aggressive lunge was very playable and is the engine's top choice. The threat is g4-g5 and the kingside attack is very strong. Still, I take no issue with Blbaum's move as it is consistent with his plan on the queenside )
17... c518. dxc5!bxc5Hanging pawns pawns on the c- and d-files -- can control a lot of squares, but they can also be easily targeted. In this game, White demonstrates their vulnerability. 19. Nd3!A classy retreat, adding pressure to c5 and also creating the threat of Bxf6 ideas to undermine d5. Note that Black cannot play Rc8, which is usually possible in this type of position, because of his previous odd choice to play Ra7. 19... Nd720. Ba3
( 20. Bh3This may have been even stronger, though the move played in the game is pretty convincing. )
20... Qa5?This does not actually save the pawn.
( 20... d4!Black had to try this move. After 21. Bxb7Rxb722. e4!White has a very pleasant position with an excellent pawn structure, but at least material is still equal. ... )
21. Bxc5!Well calculated 21... Ndxc522. Naxc5Nxc523. b4The point. White gets his piece back and remains up a pawn -- and a really strong pawn on that. 23... Qa324. bxc5Rc825. Qd2Ba8This is not a happy move for Black to have to make. 26. Rb1!Rac727. Rb3Qa428. Qb4Qe8?The queen is too passive on this square.
( 28... Qxb429. Rxb4Bc6This sequence had to be tried. The position would be deeply unpleasant for Black, but possibly he could play Bb5 at some point, trade the knight on d3, trade d5 for c5, and end be down one pawn in an ending with opposite-colored bishops. It's a depressing hope, but offered better saving chances than in the game. )
29. Qa5Bc630. Bh3!Winning more material. The rest requires no comment 30... d431. exd4Bf632. Ne5Bxe533. Re2Qd834. Rxe5Qxd435. Qxc7
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.