Catching up

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

The FIDE Grand Swiss tournament is currently ongoing. The annual Isle of Man Open has been elevated in status by FIDE. After a huge infusion of prize money it is now called the “Grand Swiss,” and FIDE’s contribution is that there is a bonus — whoever wins here gets a qualification spot in the 2020 Candidates’ Tournament.

Given that there is only one qualification spot and 133 International Grandmasters are contesting it, and that 110 of those grandmasters are rated over 2600 including 21 who are over 2700, a lot of bloodthirsty chess is being played.

Let us look at a few.

Ponomariov, Ruslan (2675) — Jobava, Baadur (2617) [B19]
FIDE Grand Swiss Douglas ENG (4.40), 13.10.2019

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 e6 11.Bd2 Ngf6 12.0–0–0 Be7 13.Kb1 Qb6 14.Ne5 Rd8 15.Qe2 0–0 <D>


Ponomariov got this same position against GM Andrey Esipenko in the just-concluded FIDE World Cup and continued 16.Bc1 here. Esipenko went on to win that game. After the loss Ponomariov tweeted that he was in bad form during the tournament — for example in the position given in the diagram his preparation was to play 16.Ng6 and he forgot all about it and played the inferior 16.Bc1.

Having spilled the beans on his home preparation I am sure Ponomariov did not expect to get a second chance to spring his novelty, but lo and behold along came Jobava …

16.Ng6! Ba3

[16…fxg6 17.Qxe6+ Kh8 18.Qxe7 Ponomariov has a very strong attack with no material investment]


Now that his vulnerable bishop is no long on e7 he can already take the g6–knight, right?


It turns out that he can’t. After 17…fxg6 18.Qxe6+ Kh8 19.hxg6 the plan of Nf5 followed by taking on h6 with either his knight or rook is very dangerous for Black.

18.Rd3 Bxb2 19.Bxb2 fxg6 20.hxg6 Qb5 21.Nh5!

The attack is not yet over.

21…a5 22.Ka1 a4 23.Bc1!

While we are calculating moves like d4–d5 or g2–g4 it is easy to overlook retreats like Bc1! The idea is to support g2–g4–g5.

23…a3 24.g4 e5 25.g5! Nd5

Discovering an attack on the white queen with 25…exd4 is simply met by 26.Qf3 and now Black has to give up his knight on f6 by 26…Qd5 (26…Nxh5 27.Qf7+ Kh8 28.gxh6 followed by mate) 27.Nxf6+ Nxf6 28.gxf6 Qxf3 29.Rxf3 gxf6 30.Bxh6 White is clearly winning; 25…Nxh5 26.Qxh5 exd4 27.Qh3 followed by gxh6 wins.

26.Qf3 Re7 27.Rb3 Qc4 28.gxh6 gxh6

[28…Qxd4+ 29.c3 Qa4 30.hxg7 wins]

29.Bxa3 c5 30.Ng3 e4 31.Qh5 Qxd4+ 32.Bb2 Qd2 1–0

Jobava resigns before Ponomariov could finish him off with Nf5.

I am sure our readers would be very interested to see Wesley So’s simple but powerful victory over the new Danish wonder boy IM Jonas Bjerre.

So, Wesley (2767) — Bjerre, Jonas Buhl (2506) [E01]
FIDE Grand Swiss Douglas ENG (5.30), 14.10.2019

1.d4 Nf6 2.g3 e6 3.Bg2 c5 4.Nf3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 d5 6.0–0 e5 7.Nf3

The most common move is 7.Nb3 but there is nothing wrong with the text.

7…Nc6 8.c4 d4 9.e3 Be7 10.exd4 exd4 11.Bf4 0–0 12.Ne5 Nxe5 13.Bxe5 Bc5

Aside from the isolated pawn on d4, which could either be a strength or a weakness, White has good pressure on the long diagonal. It turns out that this is enough for the win.

14.Nd2 Re8 15.Bxf6 Qxf6 16.Nb3 Qd6

Not 16…Bb6? 17.c5 Bc7 18.Qxd4.

17.Qd3 Bg4

Threatening Be2

18.Rfe1 Rxe1+ 19.Rxe1 Bb4 20.Rc1

Attacking d4 and b7.


Countering against the white a2–pawn.

21.Qe4 Be6 22.Nxd4 Rb8

[22…Bxc4 23.Nf3 wins a piece. Take note that 23…Rc8 does not work because of 24.b3]

23.c5 Bd2 24.Rd1 Bh6 25.Nxe6 fxe6

[25…Qxe6? 26.Qxb7! Re8 (26…Rxb7 27.Rd8+ and mate) 27.c6 the passed pawn wins]

26.a3 Rf8 27.Rd6 Qb5 28.Qxe6+ Kh8 29.Qe7 Rg8 30.Rd8 1–0

Black is powerless. 30…Qc4 is refuted by 31.Bd5.

Wesley So wheeled into contention in the 7th round by outplaying India’s Surya Shekhar Ganguly. Ganguly was Black, played the Sicilian and offered a thematic exchange sacrifice to get his pieces activated and his pawns moving. It was quite a sound sacrifice and the game was fought on equal terms until Ganguly got into time trouble and could not find some tricky defensive moves to save his game against an opponent with still more than 40 minutes on the clock.

So, Wesley (2767) — Ganguly, Surya Shekhar (2658) [B51]
FIDE Grand Swiss Douglas ENG (7.13), 17.10.2019

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Nd7 4.d4 cxd4 5.Qxd4 a6 6.Bxd7+ Bxd7 7.Nc3 Rc8 8.0–0 e5 9.Qd3 h6

White decides to transfer his f3–knight to e3 to control e5 and f5. This is still main line theory.

10.Nd2 Qc7 11.Rd1 Bg4 12.Re1 Nf6 13.Nf1 Be6 14.Ne3 Be7 15.a4

Theory ends here. The players are on their own.

15…0–0 16.Rd1 Rfd8 17.a5 Bf8 18.Bd2 g6 19.Be1 Qc5

Ganguly seems to be having difficulties orienting himself with the position. Thematic is to go 19…Nh5 20.g3 f5 21.exf5 gxf5 22.Nxf5 Qf7 23.Ne3 Nf6 with full compensation for the pawn.

20.Na4 Qc6 21.Nb6 Nxe4!

Ganguly gives up the exchange to free up his pieces and activate his pawn chain.

22.Nxc8 Rxc8 23.c4 f5

It is not time to simplify the game into an ending when his king is not yet activated. For example after 23…Bxc4 24.Qxc4 Qxc4 25.Nxc4 Rxc4 26.Rac1 Rxc1 27.Rxc1 White is clearly better because the opposing queenside pawns are vulnerable.

24.Bb4 Bxc4 25.Nxc4 Qxc4 26.Qxc4+ Rxc4 27.Ba3 Kf7?!

After this Black is pushed to the brink. Perhaps he should have tried to prevent White from penetrating the c-file with 27…Nc5 first followed by Ra4.

28.Rac1 Ra4 29.f3 Nc5 30.Bxc5 dxc5 31.Rd7+ Kf6 32.Rxb7 Rxa5 33.Rb6+ Kg5 34.h4+! Kh5

[34…Kxh4 35.Rxg6 Kh5 36.Rg8 Be7 37.g3 (intending Kg2 followed by Rh1) 37…Ra2 38.Kh2 Rxb2+ 39.Kh3 (now the idea is g3–g4+ followed by mate 39…Rb3 40.Rh1 White mates, the most attractive way is via 40…Bh4 41.Kg2 Rb2+ 42.Kf1 Rb1+ 43.Ke2! Rxh1 44.g4+ fxg4 45.fxg4#]

35.Rc4 Rb5 36.Rxa6 Be7 37.g4+ fxg4 38.Re6 Bxh4?

Ganguly had no more time left or otherwise he might have found 38…Bd8! and only now 39.Rxg4 (39.fxg4+? Kxh4 40.Rxe5 Bg5 the pawn on g4 protects rather than restricts the Black King) 39…Bxh4 40.Rxe5+ g5 when he still has chances to hang on.

39.Rxe5+ g5 40.fxg4+

The big difference — the Black king has to retreat and his bishop is stuck on the side of the board.

40…Kg6 41.Rexc5 Rxb2 42.Rc6+ Kg7 43.Rd6 Rb1+ 44.Kg2 Rb2+ 45.Kf3 Rf2+ 46.Ke3 Rf6 47.Rc7+ Kg6 48.Rxf6+ Kxf6 49.Ke4

White still has to be very accurate but endings like this are peanuts for Wesley.

49…Bf2 50.Rc6+ Kg7 51.Kf5

Threatening Rc7+ followed by Kxh6 winning pawn.

51…h5 52.gxh5 Kh7 53.h6 Be3 54.Kg4 Bf4 55.Re6 Bd2 56.Kh5 1–0

I will give you the final results on Tuesday.


Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.