The chess of Daniil Dubov

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Bobby Ang

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GM Daniil Dubov was born April 18, 1996 in Moscow, making him 23 years old now. He has already racked up the following chess accomplishments:

GrandMaster Daniil Dubov

2011 Moscow Rapid Chess Champion

Won the 2012 Russian Higher League Championship and qualified for the SuperFinals, at 16 years of age considered quite a feat. In the SuperFinals proper though Daniil finished in the bottom half.

2013. In the Tromso World Cup he eliminated Sergey Fedorchuk in the first round and upset former world champion Ruslan Ponomariov in the second before getting knocked out by Anton Korobov in the third.

2017. Dubov once again won the Russian Higher League and qualified for the SuperFinals where he put in a creditable performance, winning the bronze medal behind Peter Svidler and Nikita Vitiugov.

2018. Recruited by Magnus Carlsen to second him for his world title defense against Fabiano Caruana. Later that same year Dubov won the World Rapid Chess Championship ahead of Magnus Carlsen, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Hikaru Nakamura.

But still he gets no respect. In the Moscow Grand Prix (if you will recall, this is a 16-player match-tournament which was played KO style) last month GM Dubov eliminated the highest rated player Anish Giri in the first round. In the second round he was matched against GM Hikaru Nakamura. After two draws in the classical games they had to go to rapid chess tie-breaks.

Before the rapid games started WFM Eteri Kublashvili, FIDE’S Press Officer for the event, interviewed Dubov (who was standing beside Nakamura) and asked him: “And now you’re going to play on tiebreaks against one of the strongest speed chess players in the world… so what are your expectations from this match?”

Dubov was shocked at the question and blurted out: “Whom are you talking to?”

Everybody broke out laughing, but truth be told the question of Kublashvili was tactless, as it was the World Rapid Champion Daniil Dubov taking on the rapid world no. 2 Hikaru Nakamura.

Now we come to the point of this article. As our readers know Magnus Carlsen has recently been on a winning streak. Starting the World Blitz Championship (as I said earlier the Rapid section was won by Dubov) he has not faltered:

World Blitz Championship. St. Petersburg Dec. 29-30. This was a 21-round event which Magnus Carlsen won with 17/21 ahead of Jan-Krzysztof Duda (16.5/21) and Hikaru Nakamura (14.5/21).

Tata Steel, Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands. Jan. 12-27, this year. Carlsen won the Tata Steel tournament for a record seventh time.

Gashimov Memorial, Shamkir, Azerbaijan. On March 30-April 10. The average rating of the competitors was 2778 (!), a category 22 event. Nevertheless Magnus Carlsen won with 7/9, five wins and four draws for a stupendous 2988 performance.

Grenke Chess Classic, Karlsruhe and Baden Baden, Germany. April 18-29 this current year. This was another spectacular performance. Average rating is 2724, category 19. Carlsen scored 7.5/9, 6 wins, 3 draws, performance rating of 2983.

Ivory Coast Rapid+Blitz. On May, this year also. Magnus had no trouble securing a win and he clinched first place with two rounds to spare. His final score of 26.5/36 was 3.5 points ahead of Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave who finished on 23/36.

Lindores Abbey, Nat 25-26, 2019. This was a two-day rapid event which Magnus won with 3.5/6 ahead of Ding Liren and Sergey Karjakin with 3/6.

Norway Chess. Just concluded.

Not only did Magnus Carlsen win those tournaments in dominant form, but his chess has been sharp, and aggressive. Whereas before his match with Caruana, opponents used to fear getting ground down in the endgame, they are now seeing some fast and violent end in case Magnus gets any sort of advantage because of some obscure and tiny mistake. What’s brought about that change? Magnus himself explained it:

“I’ve been influenced by my heroes recently, which is AlphaZero and also one of my seconds from the World Championship, Dubov, who has a lot of these ideas with sacrifices in the opening. In essence I’ve become a very different player in terms of style than I was a bit earlier, and it’s been a great ride!”

Have you seen Dubov’s games?

Giri, Anish (2787) — Dubov, Daniil (2690) [A16]
Moscow FIDE Grand Prix
Moscow RUS (1.1), 17.05.2019

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 e5!?


This “crazy” move has a very poor score, but Dubov has a new idea.

5.Nxe5 0–0!?

Previously Black would recover his pawn right away with 5…Nxe4 but it does not end well: 6.Nxe4 Bxe5 7.d4 Bg7 8.Bg5 f6 9.Be3 0–0 10.Nc3 material is equal but White has a superior development and attacking prospects. Lopez Martinez, J. (2474)-Mamedyarov, S. (2503) Leon 2001 1/2 59;

Or 5…Qe7?! 6.Nf3 Nxe4 7.Nd5 Qd8 8.d3 (8.Qe2? 0–0) 8…Nf6 9.Qe2+ Kf8 10.Nxf6 Bxf6 11.Bh6+ Bg7 12.Qd2 White has a big edge. Sorokin, M. — Alonso, S./Buenos Aires 1998 1–0 (32)

6.Nf3 Re8 7.d3 d5!? 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.Bd2 Bg4 10.Qb3 Nxc3 11.bxc3 Na6 12.Be2

[12.Qxb7? Nc5 13.Qb1 (13.Qb2? Nxd3+ 14.Bxd3 Qxd3 with a winning game for Black) 13…f5 and sudenly White’s king is being assaulted from all sides]

12…Nc5 13.Qc2 Bxf3 14.gxf3 Qh4 15.d4

White still has to be careful. Trying to untangle his doubled pawns with 15.f4 leads to 15…Ne6 16.Rg1 c5 White’s king safety is still an issue.


Black can already force a draw with 15…Nxe4 16.fxe4 Rxe4 17.Kd1 (17.Qd3 Rae8) 17…Rxe2 18.Kxe2 Qg4+ 19.Kf1 Qh3+ perpetual check.

16.Qc1 c6 17.a4 Qh3 18.Rb1 b6 19.Be3 Rac8 20.Qd2 f5 21.Qd3 Kh8

He should have continued pushing with 21…c5! bgecause now if 22.d5 he has the response 22…c4 23.Qc2 Nc5 White’s position is still under great pressure.

22.e5 c5 23.d5 f4 24.dxe6 Rcd8 25.Qe4 fxe3 26.fxe3 Rxe6 27.Rd1 Rde8 28.Bf1 Qh6 29.Qf4 g5 30.Qg4 Bxe5 31.Bb5 Rf8 32.Rd7 Bf4 33.Bd3 Rxe3+ 34.Kf2 Rfe8 35.h4 R3e7 36.Rxe7 Rxe7 ½–½

Another one.

Dubov, Daniil (2703) — Jumabayev, Rinat (2602) [A22]
World Rapid 2018 St. Petersburg RUS (2.17), 26.12.2018

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3 Bc5 4.Nf3 e4

GM Rinat Jumabayev (born July 23, 1989) is one of the new generation of strong GMs from Kazakhstan. He has represented his country in the Olympiads and Asia in the 2011 Chess World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk. He is an aggressive player.


Most people I know would prefer 5.d4 , but Dubov provokes …Bxf2+

5…Bxf2+ 6.Kxf2 Ng4+ 7.Kg1 Qxg5 8.Nxe4 Qg6 9.Bg2

Black is attacking right?

9…0–0 10.d4 d6 11.Bf4 Nc6 12.Nc3 Bd7 13.Qd2 Rfe8 14.Re1 a6 15.h3 Nf6 16.e4

No, it is White who is attacking!

16…Rad8 17.Kh2 h6 18.Rhf1 Bc8 19.g4 Ne5 20.Qe2

[20.dxe5 dxe5 21.Nd5 c6 22.Bg3 cxd5 23.exd5 is also good, but this is a rapid game and Dubov did not want to calculate too much]

20…Nc6 21.Qd2 Ne5 22.Qe2 Nc6 23.Rd1 Kh8 24.Qf3 Kg8 25.b3 Rd7 26.Rfe1 Rde7 27.Nd5 Nxd5 28.cxd5 Nb8 29.e5 Nd7 30.Qg3 Nb6 31.Be4 f5 32.gxf5 Qxg3+ 33.Bxg3 Nd7 34.e6 Nf6 35.Bh4 Rf8

Jumabayev has for the time being managed to stem the tide. White needs another avenue of attack.

36.Rc1 b6 37.Rc2 Bb7 38.Bxf6 gxf6

[38…Rxf6 39.Rec1 the crucial pawn on c7 falls]

39.Rg1+ Kh7 40.Rg6

He will be bringing his other rook to h4

40…a5 41.a3 Ba6 42.a4 b5 43.Rcg2 b4 44.R2g4 Be2 45.Rh4 h5 46.Rg2 Bd1 47.Rg1 Be2 48.Re1 Ba6 49.Rxh5+ Kg8 50.Rh6 Rg7 51.Bf3 1–0

Dubov, Daniil (2701) — Postny, Evgeny (2579) [D15]
Moscow FIDE Grand Prix
Moscow RUS (3), 19.03.2018

1.c4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.e4 b5 6.Be2

White has gone for a rare line where he sacrifices a pawn and it is not clear how he can get it back.

6…e6 7.0–0 Bb7 8.b3 Bb4

It seems to me that in answer to 8…cxb3 Dubov intended might be met by 9.d5!? with great complications. Postny avoids the opening preparation and strives to develop his pieces.

9.e5! Bxc3 10.exf6 gxf6

[10…Bxa1 11.fxg7 Rg8 12.Bg5 f6 13.Bh6 Bc3 14.Qc2 striking at the c3–bishop as well as h7 14…Bb4 15.Qxh7 Kd7 16.bxc4 Kc7 17.Rb1 Black has an extra rook but White’s attack is looking very dangerous]

11.Rb1 c5!

Black gives back some material to activate his pieces.

12.bxc4 cxd4 13.Rxb5 Bc6 14.Rc5 Be4 15.Bd3 Bxd3 16.Qxd3 Na6 17.Rb5! Qd6 18.Nh4 Qc6?

All these tactics have tired out Postny and he makes a serious error. Better was 18…Rc8! threatening …Nc5. After 19.Qf3 d3 20.Rb3 Be5 21.Rxd3 Qc6 White’s advantage would have been minimized.

19.Ba3 Rc8 20.Qg3!

With the immediate threat of Qg7.

20…Qxc4 21.Qd6! Bb4

[21…Qc7 22.Qxa6]

22.Bxb4 1–0

You should put the name of Daniil Dubov in the list of players to follow. We all might learn something from this 23-year old.


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.