Francisco Vallejo Pons is no longer a chess professional, but he is still among the world’s best players, as he demonstrates in the following game.
Francisco Vallejo Pons is arguably the best player Spain has ever produced. He burst onto the international chess scene as a teenager playing against the star players in Linares (which at the time was the pre-eminent tournament in the world). Since then he has scored victories against most of the world’s top players. He is well known for his highly creative style of play.
In 2012, he announced his retirement from professional chess, but he continues to play from time to time, and with success. In this year’s Spanish Championship, he was the top seed, but he faced serious challenges from young players like David Anton Gujjaro. Nevertheless, he won convincingly with a score of 7.5 points out of 9. Vallejo took the early lead, but suffered a defeat in Round 7. He bounced back with this win in Round 8 against, Salvador G Del Rio De Angelis, a strong and experienced grandmaster.
For me, it was good, and encouraging, to see that “amateur” grandmasters can still play well and succeed!
1. d4f5The Dutch has been steadily gaining fans, particularly strong players who are a bit tired of having to memorize long variations in openings that have been heavily analzed. 2. e4!?Obviously an entertaining way to play against the Dutch! 2... fxe43. Nc3Nf64. Bg5Nc65. d5Ne56. Qd4Nf77. h4The game is still following a known path with hundreds of games having previously started the same way. 7... c68. O-O-OQb69. Bxf6gxf610. Qxe4Qxf2It looks pretty risky to take this the pawn on f2, but Black's hope is that with a quick Bh6 and Qe3 he will be able to exchange the queens. 11. Nf3White's development is a lot faster. There have been almost 50 games in which Black now played Bh6+, but, in general, it seems that White's initiative with the queens on board is very dangerous. Vallejo had prepared a surprising way to force a trade of queens:
( 11. Bd3!?would be a fun novelty to try at some point. It would avoid the queen exchange, at least temporarily, and Black's lag in development would remain a serious problem. )
( 11... Bh6+12. Kb1Qe313. Qa4and White manages to avoid the queen exchange and keep Black's development in check. )
12. Qxf5Qe3+13. Kb1d6It is quite impressive how Black is able to force the exchange of queens. 14. Qd3
( 14. Qh5Qh6and Black also succeeds in trading the queens. )
14... Qxd315. Bxd3Bg7I think Vallejo correctly assessed this position as more pleasant for Black. Black has the bishop pair and the dark-squared bishop can be quite useful in the long run, as will become evident. I also like the positioning of the knight on f7; it doesn't interfere with the other Black pieces and defends the g5 square. 16. Ng5I am not sure if White should have exchanged the knight on f7. Maybe he thought it was too effective. 16... h617. Nxf7Kxf718. Be4!?The start of an interesting regrouping maneuver. One of the problems in White's position at the moment is that it is hard to find a useful plan, or good squares for his pieces. 18... Bd719. Ne2!Bf620. Rd3White is playing aggressively, which is probably a good strategy considering that, in the long-term, the Black bishops probably give Black the better prospects. 20... Rhg821. Rb3Rab822. Rf1a5!?A nice move. The threat of a4 isn't crushing, but it is annoying. And White can't play a4, as after c5, it will be hard to defend the pawn. Vallejo also probably realized that cxd5 isn't great, so he doesn't try to force the action.
( 22... cxd523. Bxd5+Be624. Nf4!Bxd525. Nxd5and activity of White's pieces gives him about equal chances. )
23. Ng3?White completely misses Black's reply: cxd5 followed by Be6. The idea to move to h5 seems natural, but White does not have enough time. The bishop exchange after cxd5 and Be6 doesn't seem as if it should be a big problem for White, particularly as the same idea the last move was no big deal. But it sometimes happens in chess that one move changes everything, but one player, or both, fail to make the psychological adjustment. By playing Ng3, White has removed the knight that was crucial to defending against cxd5.
( 23. Nf4!was the best move. Once it becomes apparent how strong cxd5 and Be6 are, Nf4 immediately suggests itself. The psychological problem is that the bishop on f6 is no longer pinned, so it seems as if Black can simply win a pawn by 23... Bxh4but after 24. Nh5+Ke8 is no longer possible because the rook on b8 is not defended, so dxc6 wins. 24... Bf625. Nxf6exf626. Rbf3or Rb6. )
23... cxd5!24. Bxd5+Be6Exchanging bishops does not seem like a big deal, but afterward, all of White's pieces are not well placed, even the rook on b3. And the knight on g3 cannot move because of the threat of Rxg2. 25. c4
( 25. Bxe6+Kxe6Bxh4 is threatened, and if h5, then Be5 wins the pawn as well. )
25... Bxd526. cxd5Ke8!27. Nf5
( 27. h5Be5and the pawn on g2 falls. After 28. Nf5Rxg229. Nxh6Rh2Black will win the pawn on h5 and White will have no compensation. )
27... Kd7!Black is in no hurry.
( 27... Rxg228. Nxd6+! )
( 28. Nxh6Rxg229. Nf5b5!The White rook is stuck on b3. Soon, Black will be able to bring his rook on b8 into the action. For example 30. Rh1Rc8!?31. Rxb5Rcc2and White's position is collapsing. The h-pawn isn't too dangerous because the dark-squared bishop can easily keep an eye on it. )
28... h529. Rff3b530. Ne3Be531. a4A desperate attempt to develop some activity for his pieces, but because of the pressure on b2, it doesn't change anything
( 31. Nf1a432. Rbd3Rbc8and Black is dominating the board. He can follow with Rg4 and Rb4, or double his rooks on the c-file. Meanwhile, all White's pieces are unable to do anything constructive. )
31... bxa432. Rxb8Rxb833. Nc4Bf634. Kc2Rb435. Rf4An interesting moment. The computer suggests a few ways to win, but they are all very subtle. For a player during the game, it isn't so obvious. For now, Black's extra pawn isn't that useful on the queenside, while White has everything else blocked. If Black plays Rb5, White can keep things under control with Rf5. So how does Black improve? Vallejo found a really nice and simple way to create the final break. 35... Rb3!?A fun continuation suggested by the computer was:
( 35... Rb536. Rf5Rb3!Now g4 isn't possible. 37. Rxh5Rb4!And White can't play Rf4. But it isn't over yet: 38. Kd3Bxb239. Nxb2a3!I mentioned this line just because it is so pretty. But, in a practical game, Vallejo's solution was a lot more sensible and simpler. ... )
36. g4hxg437. Rxg4Rb4!This is the idea! Now White can't support his rook, and there is no way to stop Bxb2. A sweet way to end things! 38. h5Bxb2
Parimarjan Negi is an Indian grandmaster who is the second-youngest ever to earn the title (at 13 years 4 months and 22 days). Ranked No. 89 in the world, he just finished his sophomore year at Stanford University. He can be found on Twitter at @parimarjan.
FIDE and World Chess announces today that the 2018 World Chess Championship Match will take place in London in November 2018. The world’s most prestigious chess tournament is to be the climax of a season of high-profile activity to extend the sport’s appeal among global audiences – and make 2018 the Year of Chess in the UK.
After 9 days of intense chess battles at the last leg of the World Chess Grand Prix series 2017 in Palma de Mallorca, the two winners of the series were finally determined: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan, overall 340 points in the series) and Alexander Grischuk (Russia, 336,4 points). They qualified for the Candidates Tournament – the next part of the World Chess Championship cycle, which leads up to the Championship match.
The sole leader of the Palma de Mallorca Grand Prix Levon Aronian made a quick draw with Evgeny Tomashevsky today, inviting the group of rivals to join him at the top. But same as in the previous rounds all games on the top boards finished peacefully and not a single player came close to catching up with him.
After seven rounds Aronian is in the lead with 4,5 points. A group of 8 players is half a point behind, including Vachier-Lagrave. In order to qualify for the Candidates, the Frenchman needs to win at least one more game. Boris Gelfand defeated Alexander Riazantsev, Pavel Eljanov won against Jon Ludvig Hammer, while Teimour Rajabov outplayed Li Chao. After the victory the Azerbaijani Grandmaster still hopes to qualify, but in that case has to win both games.
Javier Ochoa, Honorary FIDE Vice President and President of the Spanish Chess Federation, made the first symbolic move to start the fourth round, which turned out to be the most exciting round of the tournament so far, with six decisive games out of nine.
In the Third Round of the FIDE Grand Prix in Palma de Mallorca games between the four leaders, Vachier-Lagrave-Aronian and Rajabov-Giri, finished in a draw. Peter Svidler joined the group of leaders by beating Jon-Ludvig Hammer in the third round.
The world’s best chess players and chess establishment came together in Bellver Castle to celebrate the opening of the final leg of the FIDE 2017 World Chess Grand Prix Palma de Mallorca – a prestigious qualifier for the World Chess Candidates Tournament.
Katerina Lagno, one of the strongest Russian women-grandmasters won the historic Moscow Blitz Tournament, beating her fellow Russian Olympic team members Alexandra Kosteniuk, Valentina Gunina and Olga Girya.
After a draw against Ian Nepomniachtchi, Teimur Rajabov won the tournament. One of the strongest players, Rajabov had not won a major tournament lately, but has shown phenomenal form in Geneva and managed to overpower some of top world’s players