An unexamined life is not worth living.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Kortchnoi at Biel 2001. Part 1 - against Grischuk

V. Korchnoi - A. Grischuk, GM 2001

V. Korchnoi (2617) - A. Grischuk (2669) [A84]

GM/Biel SUI (2) 2001

In 2001 Victor Korchnoi won a strong grandmaster tournament in Biel. As I was following the tournament, I was amazed at how in several games he completely outplayed his younger opponents in purely positional style. The games seemed to involve little tactics - Korchnoi was winning by simply having a better understanding of arising middlegame positions (and of course by having a good opening preparation that allowed him to impose those positions on his opponents). This below game particularly impressed me, as it seemed impossible that such a strong young grandmaster like Grischuk would just run out of moves for his queen with all his pieces sitting on the back rank.

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c6 4. e3 f5 5. Bd3 Nf6 6. O-O Bd6 7. b3 Qe7 8. Bb2 b6 9. Qc1 Bb7

10. Ba3 This is the beginning of Korchnoi's strategy in this game - struggle for dark squares. Another plan in this line is instead of b2-b3 to play Bf4, and trade bishops that way. 10... Nbd7 11. cxd5 cxd5 12. Bxd6 Qxd6 13. Nc3 Here I would maybe expect 13. Qa3 but this simplifies position more than Korchnoi would want to - later in the game he continues to avoid exchanging queens. 13... a6 14. Qb2 O-O 15. b4 Rac8 16. a4 Ne4 17. Ne2 Qe7 18. Rfc1 Nd6 19. b5 it may seem that White is making a positional mistake of putting his pawns on the same color as his bishop, but in fact that just limits even more the b7 bishop, and potentially gives white a useful outpost on c6. 19... a5

20. Qa3 Rxc1+ 21. Rxc1 Rc8 22. Rxc8+ Nxc8 23. Qc3 Qd6 24. Nf4

24... Ne7 25. h4 Nf8 26. h5 Bc8 27. Ne5 Bd7 28. f3 Be8

29. g4 now White starts to gain space on the kingside as well. Having flank pawns on same color as bishop again is not a very big issue - as long as CENTRAL pawns make white's bishop a 'better one'. 29... g5 30. Ne2 Nd7 31. Kg2 h6

32. Ng3 fxg4 This trades off an advanced f5 pawn for the less advanced f3 pawn, but how else could Black deal with pressure on f5? 33. fxg4

33... Nxe5 34. dxe5 In a way black made another concession - the pawn on e5 is not really weak - Black can only attack it with the queen (Black knight is deprived of g6 and c6 squares!), however now the white knight will have d4 square as its outpost. 34... Qc5 35. Qd2 Qc7 36. Qb2 Kg7 37. Ne2 Kg8 38. Kf2 Bf7 39. Qd4 Kg7

40. Qc3 Qb8? There was a funny story about the position. Both Grischuk and Korchnoi believed that best was Qxc3 with better chances for a draw, but Grischuk's flag was about to fall, and he had no time to make a 'long' move (it would take 2-3 seconds to capture white queen on the other side of the board), so he made a 'short', forcing himself into even further passivity. 41. Nd4 The knight has arrived at its destination, and the e5 pawn is still immune. 41... Qd8 41... Qxe5? 42. Nf5+

42... Kf6 43. Qxe5+ Kxe5 44. Nxe7 42. Ke2 Bg8 43. Bb1 Kh8 44. Qa3 Nc8 45. Bg6 Kg7 46. Bb1 Kh8 47. Qc1 Ne7 48. Qf1 Nc8

49. Nc6 Finally Black is completely suffocated - his pieces have no moves, and the queen has to move, allowing either Qf6 or Qf8. After that, one of Black's pawns - b6, e6, or h6 is going to fall, with decisive consequences. It is hard to point out a single mistake, as Black's game appears to just gradually be going down in this Stonewall structure. 1-0

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