When the European Women’s Championship was postponed, many women decided to take part in the men’s event as well. Sergey Shipov reports on how that changes the chess (and social!) dynamics, and analyses a stunning win by the strongest female player in history, Judit Polgar.
Sergey Shipov’s seventh “letter” from Aix-les-Bains can be found in the Russian original at Crestbook. The phrase about women seems to come from the Spanish playwright Lope de Vega’s El perro del Hortelano (The Gardener’s Dog), though as far as I can tell the Russian version bears very little resemblance to the original!
Women are our beacon in the realm of darkness. And at the Men’s European Championship there are an amazing number of them – despite the fact that the regulations don’t provide for any women’s prizes. Still, there’s a chance to get in some good training and test yourself against strong opponents. And simply spending a couple of weeks in the company of dozens of potential suitors is, perhaps, both pleasant and useful.
True, I have to note that ambitious players at chess events don’t make the greatest of suitors… Our fellow men’s love affairs almost always end in failure. That is, in the tournament! Exceptions are extremely rare.
However, anything can happen. Let’s say that someone is having no luck at the tournament, he’s given up on getting a good result and taken a slightly wider view of life – then you can spend your energy on a more pleasant occupation.
Grandmasters still don’t treat women as serious opponents, which regularly gets them into trouble. At times it even reaches comical proportions.
During the first round here at the European Championship, Ivan Sokolov asked the passing Jolanta Zawadzka… to bring him a cup of coffee. He didn’t recognise her, and took her for a girl from the organising committee. Deeply offending her. But then in the fifth round an irony of fate saw them meet at the board! Jolanta sacrificed a pawn against Ivan and developed a strong initiative. The experienced grandmaster managed to hold on, with difficulty, and was extremely unhappy after the game. At that point the logical course of events would have been for Zawadzka, at last, to bring Sokolov that cup of coffee. But she took pity on him.
True, the list of participants includes one woman who’s respected and feared by all without exception – the great Judit Polgar. She’s at the tournament with her husband, and has no interest in other suitors. She arrives for the rounds in beautiful cowboy boots. I’m no sort of photographer, so I’m not in a position to show you a picture. But I can commentate on the latest bold victory by the queen of chess.
Levan Pantsulaia – Judit Polgar
Aix-les-Bain (Round 7) 2011
1.c4 e6 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.Qc2?!
This move doesn’t really fit with the play that follows. White simply lags behind in development and comes under a direct attack.
Getting an inferior Catalan. It would have been worth modestly finishing development with 5. Bg2.
5…cxd4 6.Nxd4 e5 7.Nb3
As it turned out, Polgar had a great predecessor here: 7.Nf3 Nc6 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.a3 Be6 10.Bd2 Be7 11.Nc3 0–0 12.Bg2 Rc8 13.Rd1, and in the game Sandor Takacs – Alexander Alekhine, Kecskemét 1927, White established strong defences. But soon blundered and lost.
It would be a waste not to make use of the absurd position of the white queen. Winning a tempo allows Black to develop a fearsome attack.
I’d risk the assumption that the players calculated the line 9…Bf5 10.0–0 Nc2 11.e4 Nxa1 12.exf5 Nxb3 13.Qxb3 and considered that White had strong compensation for the exchange. But they didn’t take into account that Black can improve on that with 11…Bxe4! 12.Bxe4 Nxa1 with a clear edge.
Though perhaps Judit did actually see all that but found that White had the possibility of neutralising Black’s aggression. For example, like this: 10.Na3! dxc4 11.Qxd8+ Rxd8 12.Na5! b5 13.Nc6 Nxc6 14.Bxc6+ Bd7 15.Bxd7+ Rxd7 16.Nxb5 and so on.
10.N3d2 Bf5 11.Na3?!
A clear case of carelessness.
Knowing who you were playing against it should have been easy to foresee the exchange sacrifice that follows. More cautious was 11.0–0! and then it would have been in Polgar’s style to play 11…Bc5! (11…Nc2? 12.e4) 12.Bxb7 0–0! – Black maintains the pressure in all lines.
11…b5! Of course. 12.Bxa8
12.0–0 Rb8 really was miserable.
This can’t even really be called a sacrifice. Such a powerful light-squared bishop and c4-pawn are obviously stronger than either of White’s inactive rooks.
It’s clear that the simple 13…a6 would also have left Black with a strong initiative here, but Judit played a hundred times more energetically.
You got a nice ending after 14.Kf1 Bh3+ 15.Kg1 Ng4! 16.exd3 Bc5 17.d4 Bxd4!
The white king has been arrested. There’s no way for him to leave the centre, which also means that the h1-rook won’t be able to enter the fray.
Probably there would still be an edge after the banal 14…Bg4 15.0–0 Bxf3, but it’s perfectly understandable that Polgar was afraid of letting her opponent off lightly. Although, in analysis you discover the possibility of 16.Qe1 Bxa3 17.bxa3 (you also have to look at 17.Qxe5+ Be7 18.dxc4) 17…0–0 18.Qxe5 Re8!, and there’s no 19.Qxb5 because of 19…Qc8! and 20…Qh3.
15.Nxb5 Bb4+ 16.Nc3 0–0!
Black is down a whole rook, but there’s no need to rush the attack. White’s completely paralysed. The bishop on d3 is simply beautiful.
17.Rg1 Ne4 18.Bd2 Rd8
All the pieces are taking an active part in the struggle. Getting the most effective use out of all of your resources – that’s the key to success.
It was possibly even stronger to play 18…Rb8 with the threat of Bb4-c5.
19.Rc1 Nxc3 20.bxc3
It wasn’t possible to exchange another pair of pieces: 20.Bxc3 Qe4+ 21.Kd2 Bc2+ 22.Nd4 Rxd4#
Note that the black queen still hasn’t infiltrated on e4. The threat is stronger than the execution.
The time had come to win back a little material, while at the same time annihilating a defender of the first rank.
And here’s a serious threat.
The b1-square has been covered, but now the c1-bishop is out of play. It didn’t manage to make it to e3. That gives Black the chance to prepare a breakthrough in the centre.
It really is dreary for White. The dangerous position of his king doesn’t allow him to “untangle” his pieces. Queen manoeuvres change nothing.
We don’t give up pawns as they might come in handy…
The attempt to activate the rook would make it possible to open up a second front – 25. g4 e4! 26. Rg3 h5!
True, it can’t be ruled out that the g3-g4 break would have worked at some other moment. But those are details. We’ll brush them under the carpet!
Here Judit made an enormously strong move – both in the chess and psychological sense.
Black gives the king some luft and limits White’s pieces. She plays as if there’s material equality on the board and no dynamics whatsoever!
A perfectly logical mistake. Levan couldn’t withstand such mockery from his opponent.
However, it’s not clear that he could have survived even if he’d used a more cautious strategy. It seems as if Black would gradually undermine White’s defences. For example, like this:
26.Qg4 Qc6 27.Qd1 e4! 28.Nf1 (28.g4 Qf6!) 28…Rb1 29.Ne3 Qf6 30.f4 (30.Qd2 Qf3) 30…exf3 31.Kf2 Qxc3 32.Qe1 Qd4 and so on.
The d2-knight isn’t capable of splitting in two.
There was no point maintaining the previous post – 27.Qd1 Ra1! 28.a3 e4 – then Black would put the queen on e5, threatening the e4-e3 break or, at worst, capturing on c3.
It seems as though Judit didn’t want to drag the struggle out and demonstrate her technique. In the line 27…Qd7! 28.Nxb1 Be4+ 29.Ke2 Bxf3+ 30.Kxf3 Qb7+ White could have held out a little longer.
So the h7-h6 luft comes in handy. Black attacks without having to worry about back-rank weaknesses.
29.Qb8+ Kh7 30.g4
Too late. The g1-rook never does manage to make a move.
The last finesse. If 31…Qa4+ 32.Nb3 cxb3? then White would declare perpetual check – 33.Qf5+ Kg8 34.Qc8+
Now the f5-square is covered.
33.Ke1 Rxc1+ 34.Kf2 Rxg1
After taking on g1 there would follow a fatal check by the black queen on d1. White resigned. A brilliant game!
The moral is simple: beware women bearing gifts.
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