Some of the top chess websites have run surveys on the Best Game from 2018. Chess.com asked its content team to come up with a list of its Top 10 and the following game from the Batumi Olympiad was adjudged number one.
GM Tiger Hillarp-Persson (Sweden) vs. IM Tomas Laurusas (Lithuania).
In the Batumi Olympiad there was a brilliancy prize for every round and then, after the last round has been played, an “overall” brilliancy prize is announced. This was that game, and I believe that in terms of aesthetic pleasure the finish is hard to beat. I wrote this game up in my Olympiad coverage, but here is the game again with abbreviated notes.
Hillarp Persson, Tiger (2544) — Laurusas, Tomas (2484) [A11]
43rd Olympiad 2018 Batumi GEO (7.2), 01.10.2018
1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 g6 4.c4 c6 5.b3 Bg7 6.Bb2 0–0 7.0–0 a5 8.Nc3 Ne4 9.Na4 Bxb2 10.Nxb2 Nd7 11.d3 Nef6 12.d4 b6 13.Rc1 Bb7 14.Nd3 Rc8 15.Nfe5 Nxe5 16.dxe5 Nd7 17.Qd2
White’s idea is to play 18.e6! fxe6 19.Bh3 Rf6 because now he can follow-up with 20.Qe3 Nf8 21.c5 with pressure on the Black position.
17…dxc4 18.Rxc4 Nxe5 19.Rh4 h5 20.Rd1 Nxd3 21.Qh6 Qd6 22.Rxd3 Qf6 23.Be4
Amongst others, there is a threat of 24.Rxh5 gxh5 25.Qh7 mate.
[24.Rxh5 Qg7 25.Qxg7+ Kxg7 both of white’s rooks are under attack]
24…Qg7 25.Qg5 Rcd8 26.Qxe7 Rd1+ 27.Kg2 Qa1 28.Bxc6 Rg1+ 29.Kf3 Qf1 <D>
POSITION AFTER 29…QF1.
The idea is 30…Qg2+ followed by 31.Qxc6.
Black has no inkling yet of White’s diabolical idea. Otherwise he would have played 30…Qa1 to get his queen to g7.
Now it is too late.
31…Kg7 32.Rf4 Qxh2 33.Qf6+ Kh7 34.Qxg6+! Kh8
[34…fxg6 35.Re7+ Kg8 36.Bd5+ forces mate]
On the other hand, Chessbase.com (I believe this is the no. 1 chess website in the world) had their editors come up with a short list and then encouraged the public to vote on their choice for “Game of the Year.” In contrast with the chess.com list it looks to me like the criteria was more on the competitive aspects of the struggle. The following game was pivotal to Caruana’s drive to challenge for the world crown. Here is chessbase’ “Game of the Year”:
GM Vladimir Kramnik vs. GM Fabiano Caruana, Berlin Candidates
This is from the 4th round of the 2018 Candidates Tournament in Berlin. Kramnik and Caruana were both favorites to win in the tournament and the two of them started well — Kramnik had 2.5/3 while Caruana beat Wesley So in the first round and drew his other two games. This was the pivotal game where Caruana grabbed the lead and did not give it up all the way to the end.
Kramnik, Vladimir (2800) — Caruana, Fabiano (2784) [C42]
Candidates 2018 Berlin (4), 14.03.2018
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Qe2
Trivia: Do you know who was the first top player who regularly played the Petroff? Surprisingly enough it was Frank J. Marshall, attacking player extraordinaire. He gave it up later in his career because of this move 5.Qe2, which more or less forces the exchange of queens. It is true, statistics show that the big majority of games with the text move end in a draw. There are some people who don’t agree though. Jan Timman quoted Spassky that this system is very suitable for playing for a win, leading, as it does, to a queenless middlegame with lots of maneuvering space.
5…Qe7 6.Nc3 Nxc3 7.dxc3 Qxe2+ 8.Bxe2 Nc6 9.Be3 Be7 10.0–0–0 0–0 11.Rhe1 Bf6 12.Nd2 Re8 13.Bf3 Ne5 14.Bf4 Kf8 15.Bd5 c6 16.Bb3 Bf5 17.h3 g5!?
This marks the second phase of the game, a noticeable sharpening of the struggle.
18.Bh2 Kg7 19.c4
19…g4 20.Ne4 Bxe4 21.Rxe4 Bg5+ 22.Kb1 gxh3 23.c5!?
Kramnik also wants to sharpen the struggle. 23.gxh3 f5 24.Ree1 Nf3 25.Rxe8 Rxe8 26.Bxd6 Re2 would be the “normal” continuation after which Black is more comfortable.
After 23…hxg2?! 24.cxd6 Nf3 25.Rg4! White keeps material parity.
This is Kramnik’s idea. He gets a queenside pawn majority while Black’s counterplay is with his kingside pawns.
24…hxg2 25.Rxb7+ Kh8 26.cxd6 Nf3 27.Ba4
No choice. He has to give up his h2–bishop and grab as many pawns as possible in the queenside.
27…Nxh2 28.Bxc6 Rad8 29.d7
[29.Bxe8? Rxd6! 30.Rd7 (30.Rxd6?? g1Q+) 30…Rxd1+ 31.Rxd1 Nf1! and Black wins]
29…Re2 30.Bxg2 Rxf2 31.Bc6 Ng4 32.Rxa7 Ne3 33.Rg1 h6?
Caruana had only 2 minutes left and played the “safe” move. Much stronger is 33…Rxc2 with the point that 34.Ba4 Rf2! the bishop is immune to capture because of the threatened back rank mate.
34.Rc7 Kg7 35.a4 Kf7 36.Bb5 Ke7 37.a5 Rf4 38.c3
38…Kd6 39.Rb7 Rg4 40.Re1 f4 41.a6 h5 42.a7 Ra8 43.b4 h4 44.c4 h3 45.c5+ Ke5 46.Rb8?
This is based on a miscalculation. Better is 46.Bc6! h2 47.Rh1 Rg1+ 48.Kb2 and the bishop on c6 protects his rook in the corner.
Kramnik actually thought he was winning here, as Black has to give up his rook for the d7–pawn.
Unbelievably, after 48.Rxg4 Kf5 there is a mate threat on a1 and after the forced 49.Rxe3 fxe3–+ it is Black’s queening pawns that are a bigger threat.
48…Bxd8 49.Rxg4 Bf6 50.Rg6 Rb7 51.Be2 Rxb4+ 52.Ka2 Nc2 53.Rc1 Nd4 54.Bd3 Ra4+ 55.Kb1 Nb3 56.Re1+ Kd5 57.Kc2 Nd4+ 58.Kb1 Nf3 59.Rd1?
The losing move. 59.Rxf6 Nxe1 60.Bf1 h2 61.Rh6 still offered drawing chances. holds the draw.
59…Ra1+ 60.Kc2 Rxd1 61.Ba6
[61.Kxd1 h2 queens the pawn]
61…Rd2+ 62.Kc1 Bb2+ 63.Kb1 Kxc5 64.Bb7 Ne5 65.Rf6 f3 66.Rf5 f2 0–1
A titanic struggle.
Here is an aside. On the chess.com site one of the nominees for the best game was an online game by Magnus Carlsen:
Vaibhav, Suri (2542) — Carlsen, Magnus (2834) [B01]
Pro Chess League Chess.com INT (4), 28.02.2018
1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.d4 Bg4 4.f3 Bf5 5.c4 e6 6.dxe6 Nc6 7.exf7+ Kxf7 8.Be3 Bb4+ 9.Kf2 Re8 10.Nc3 Rxe3 11.Kxe3 Nxd4! 12.Kf2
[12.Qxd4 Qe7+ 13.Kd2 (13.Kf2 Bc5; 13.Kf4 Nh5+ 14.Kxf5 Qe6+ 15.Kg5 Be7+ 16.Kxh5 Qg6#) 13…Rd8 wins the queen]
12…Bc5 13.Na4 Bc2 14.Nxc5 Bxd1 15.Rxd1 Qe7 16.b4 Re8 17.Bd3 Qe3+ 18.Kf1 b6 19.Ne4 Nxe4 20.Bxe4 c5 21.bxc5 Rxe4 22.fxe4 Qf4+ 23.Ke1 Qxe4+ 24.Kf2 Qc2+ 25.Ke1 bxc5 0–1
Quite impressive, right? But how does it compare to a game your humble scribe played many years ago in the International Email Chess Group (IECG)? This game made the books.
Halwick, Floyd J Jr. — Ang, Roberto Pe [B01]
IECG CP.1997.P.00022 IECG email (1), 20.12.1997
1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.d4 Bg4 4.f3 Bf5 5.c4 e6 6.dxe6 Nc6 7.exf7+ Kxf7 8.Be3 Bb4+ 9.Nc3 Re8 10.Kf2 Rxe3 11.Kxe3 Bc2!! 0–1
White loses in all variations: 11…Bc2
12.Qd2 12…Ng4+! 13.Kf4 (13.fxg4 Qg5+ 14.Kf2 Qxd2+) 13…Bd6+ 14.Kxg4 Bf5+ 15.Kxf5 Qh4 and now White cannot prevent mate by …g7–g6.
12.Qxc2 Qxd4+ 13.Ke2 Re8+ with forced mate after winning a lot of material.
Yes, I know, you shouldn’t compare a correspondence game with an online quickplay. Still gives me a good feeling though.
Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant, he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.