The Soltis Principle

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

Gibraltar Masters 2019
Caleta Hotel, Gibraltar
Jan. 22-31, 2019

Final Top Standings

1. GM Vladislav Artemiev RUS 2709, 8.5/10

2. GM Murali Karthikeyan IND 2570, 8.0/10

3-5. GM Nikita Vitiugov RUS 2720, GM David Howell ENG 2685, GM David Anton Guijarro ESP 2642, 7.5/10

6-22. David Navara CZE 2738, GM Nils Grandelius SWE 2682, GM Lalith Babu MR IND 2547, GM Le Quang Liem VIE 2714, GM Ivan Saric CRO 2690, GM Wesley So USA 2765, GM Yu Yangyi CHN 2764, GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave FRA 2780, GM Michael Adams ENG 2701, GM Kirill Alekseenko RUS 2637, GM Hikaru Nakamura USA 2749, GM Romain Edouard FRA 2643, GM Rauf Mamedov AZE 2703, GM Pavel Eljanov UKR 2680, GM Hrant Melkumyan ARM 2660, GM Maxim Matlakov RUS 2700, GM Tan Ahongyi CHN 2502, 7.0/10

Ave. Rating 2753 Category 21

Time Control: 100 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 50 minutes for the next 20 moves, followed by 15 minutes for the rest of the game with 30 seconds added to your time after every move starting move 1

This is a continuation of our coverage of the 2019 Gibraltar Masters tournament, won by two 20 year-olds, Vladislav Artemiev at 1st and Karthikeyan Murali at 2nd.

Wesley So was the tournament third seed but finished in 11th place with five wins, four draws and a loss to the Swedish GM Nils Grandelius. This was in keeping with the overall mediocre performance of the big names in Gibraltar. Wesley was actually the highest placed among the top 5 seeds: No. 1 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave finished in 13th place, no. 2 Levon Aronian was in 24th place, no. 4 Yu Yangyi was just behind Wesley at 12th place and 5th seed Hikaru Nakamura was 16th.

Wesley’s opponent in the last round is GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac of Romania. Deac is a chess prodigy, born 8 October 2001, he earned his grandmaster title at the age of 14 years, seven months and 27 days, which is just a few months shy of Wesley’s record of 14 years, one month and 20 days.

How do you play against chess prodigies? Let me quote GM Andy Soltis from “Confessions of a Grandmaster:” “As each year passes, new kids will readily appear on the scene equipped with the obviously unfair advantage of (a) having more energy than you, and (b) having seen all your bad games of the past. As a (rapidly) aging master, I can offer some advice. You can avoid a lot of trouble by taking great pains to humiliate the new generation whenever possible over the board. And as often as you can. Arthur Bisguier made the mistake of allowing a draw with Bobby Fischer in their second game. Bobby had forfeited on time in a hopeless position in their first and seemed suitably cowed after that. But after their second game ended in a draw, the psychology was no longer working against Fischer, and he won the next 11 games they played.”

So, Wesley (2765) — Deac, Bogdan-Daniel (2603) [E53]
Gibraltar Masters 2019 Caleta (10), 31.01.2019

1.c4 Nf6 2.d4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 0 — 0 5.Bd3 d5 6.a3 Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 dxc4 8.Bxc4 c5 9.Nf3 Qc7 10.Be2 b6 11.0 — 0 Bb7 12.Bb2 Rd8

The alternative 12…Nbd7 has a good score for Black. The idea is to prepare to swing the two knights to the kingside. Here is an example: 13.c4 Rac8 14.Rc1 Rfd8 15.Qb3 Ng4 16.g3 (16.h3? Bxf3!) 16…Ngf6 17.Rfd1 Ne4 18.Ne1 Carlsen, M (2837)-Anand, V (2782) Riadh 2017 0 — 1 34. This was played during the World Rapid Championship of that year. Writing after the game Anand remarked here that he missed the strong continuation: 18…Ndf6! with the follow-up …h7 — h5. White cannot shoo the knight away with 19.f3? because of 19…Nxg3! 20.hxg3 Qxg3+ 21.Kf1 Nh5! and wins.

13.c4 cxd4 14.exd4 Nc6 15.Bd3 Ne7 16.Re1 Ng6 17.Ne5 Nf4 18.Bf1 Ng6 19.Bd3 Nf4 20.Bf1 Ng6

A tacit draw offer, but Wesley does not accept based on the “Soltis principle.”

21.Nxg6 hxg6 22.a4 Bc6 23.Ra3!

Swinging his rook over to the kingside.

23…Qf4 24.Qe2 Rac8 25.h3 Qd6

Black should have seriously considered taking out the bishop on f1 with 25…Ne4 followed by …Nd2.

26.a5 Rb8 27.Re3

With the threat of 28.d5 exd5 29.Be5, winning the exchange, which explains Black’s next move.

27…Qd7 28.Re5

The intention is to push his h-pawn to h5.

28…Rdc8 29.h4 Re8 30.axb6 axb6 31.h5 Nxh5 <D>


32.Rxh5! gxh5 33.Qxh5

Wesley’s follow-up is Re1 — e3 — h3.

33…f5 34.Re3 Qf7 35.Qh2

[35.Qh4 Qf6 allows Black to reposition her queen to a better square at no cost of time]

35…Qf6 36.Bc3

With the idea of d4 — d5.


It is hard to see, but Black’s best line is 36…Be4! the point here is that 37.d5 (37.f3 Bc2 does not accomplish anything) 37…e5 38.Qh5 (38.f3 is refuted by 38…b5! 39.fxe4 Qb6! the tables have turned) 38…Qf7 39.Qe2 b5! Both sides have chances.


The move Black should not have allowed.

37…Qg6 38.Rh5 Qe4 39.Rh8+ Kf7 40.Rh4 Kg8

[40…g5 41.Rh7+ Kg8 42.Rh6! and Qh5 is fatal for Black]

41.Rh8+ Kf7 42.Rh4 Kg8 43.Rxf4 Qc2 44.Qg3 Rb7 45.Rg4 Ree7 46.Bd3 Qc1+ 47.Kh2 Be8 48.d5! exd5 49.Qh3 Re4 50.Bxe4 dxe4 51.Rh4 1 — 0

After 51.Rh4 White is threatening Qe6+ with forced mate. If Black tries to prevent that with 51…Bd7 then (51…Re7 52.Rh8+ Kf7 53.Qf5#) 52.Rh8+ Kf7 53.Qh5+ Ke7 54.Qe5+ Be6 55.Qxg7+.

GM Karthikeyan Murali covered himself with glory by coming in 2nd. He started off slowly with 2 draws followed by 2 wins, a loss to GM Hikaru Nakamura and then finished with 5 straight wins, the last three of which against 2700+ GMs. By the way, he is a Tamil — they have no concept of “surnames” or “family names.” Murali is his father’s name and so we should refer to him by his given name, which is Karthikeyan. The most famous Tamil chessplayer in the world is Viswanathan Anand — similarly, his given name is Anand and Viswanathan is his father’s name.

This might be confusing to some. There are 16 other Tamil GMs, including famous names are Baskaran Adhiban (use Adhiban), Krishnan Sasikiran (given name is Sasikiran), Ramachandran Ramesh (the famous GM and coach — his first name is Ramesh) and many others. The only one whose name is not confusing is Sethuraman Sethuraman — you can take your pick which name you are going to use!

Karthikeyan’s chess is deadly accurate. He goes into the most critical lines and does not make mistakes. The “Frenchman with two names” learned this the hard way when he took his opponent for granted.

Karthikeyan, Murali (2570) — Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime (2780) [B90]
Gibraltar Masters 2019 Caleta Gibraltar (10.2), 31.01.2019

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 Ng4 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Bg3 Bg7 10.Be2 h5 11.h4 Nc6 12.Nf3 gxh4 13.Bxh4 Qa5 14.Qd2 Be6 15.Rd1 Rc8 16.0 — 0 Rg8 17.Nd5 Qxd2 18.Rxd2 Bh6

[18…Bxb2? 19.Rb1 Black’s position is very dangerous. If the bishop retreats with 19…Bg7 then 20.Rxb7 Bf8 21.Nc7+ Kd8 22.Nxe6+ fxe6 23.Rxd6+ Ke8 24.Rdd7 White is clearly winning]

19.Rdd1 f6 20.c3 Bg5?

Karthikeyan thinks this was the key mistake of the game. He was hoping for the exchange of bishops but White does not oblige.

21.Bg3! Bh6

The bishop was looking silly at g5 and so MVL brings it back to h6. In the meantime the square h4 is now avaiable for White’s knight.

22.Nh4! Kf7 23.Nf5

Threatening Bxg4 followed by Nxh6.

23…Bxf5 24.exf5 Rg5 25.Bc4 Na5 26.Bd3 Rcg8 27.Bf4 R5g7 28.Rfe1 Nc6 29.Be4 h4

Black is trying to complicate the position but he keeps making it worse for himself.

30.f3 Bxf4

Forced, because of 30…Nge5 31.Bxh6


The g4 — knight is still attacked but now comes a new threat, Bd5+

31…Nge5 32.Bd5+

Wins the exchange and it is enough for Karthikeyan to push for the win.

32…Ke8 33.Bxg8 Nxf3+

[33…Rxg8 34.Kf2 Kf7 35.Nd5 the Black h4 — pawn will fall]

34.Kf2 Nxe1 35.Bd5 Rg5

There is nowhere for the knight to go. 35…Nc2 36.Rc1.

36.Kxe1 Rxf5 37.Ng6 Rh5 38.Rd3 Rh6 39.Nf4 e5 40.Ne6 Ne7 41.Bxb7 Kd7 42.Nf8+ Kc7 43.Bxa6 d5 44.c4 f5 45.Bb5 f4 46.Ra3 1 — 0

There were 26 Indians in Gibraltar. You know that the Indian chess boom will continue when you hear that there will be 33 Indians (29 players and three officials) who will be travelling to the super-powerful Aeroflot Open in Moscow on Feb. 18, 2019 sponsored by the Government of India to cover plane fare, accommodations and even a per diem allowance.

Now what can the Philippines say to that?


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 for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.