Timothy is generally very well prepared in his openings but he has an extremely narrow repertoire which enables him to only play certain kinds of positions. Here, he hopes to transpose into the Queen's Indian but White was not so obliging. Timothy has also played 2...e6 but after 3.g3 Black must be ready to play 3...d5 4.Bg2 which will likely transpose to certain lines of the Catalan or if Black plays 4...c5 , the Tarrasch defence. Black can also play 3...a6!?, an interesting nuance recommended by IM Richard Palliser in his work Beating Unusual Chess Openings, (Everyman Chess, 2007). Also possible was 2...c5, transposing into a Symmetrical English which might not be to everyone's taste.
Consistent with his pragmatic approach to this particular game. 3.d4 e6 will transpose into the Queen's Indian Defence and some mainlines theory which Mchelishvili was not interested in.
The position now enters into a standard hedgehog arising from the English Opening. Incidentally, this particular move order was hotly contested in the first Karpov - Kasparov World Championship Match in 1984.
4.Bg2 Bb7 5.0–0
This position has been played thousands of times by some of the greatest names in Chess. Hence, Tim can be assured that he was still with big company at this juncture.
5...e6 is almost twice as popular but having had successful encounters on the White side in similar structures, Tim's choice might be more of a psychological nature than an objective one.
6.d4 cxd4 7.Qxd4 Bg7 8.Nc3 0–0 9.Qh4
I am not sure if Timothy prepared to enter this position before the game but personally, it doesn't appear to be too inspiring. White's next few moves are rather straight forward while Black had to accept a space disadvantage for the time being.
Pre-match preparation? Possible, especially given that Mchedlishvili has played this position quite recently.
Black shouldn't be too worried about the exchange of his dark square bishops, he should be more concerned with developing his Queenside! 10...d6 11.Rad1 Nbd7 is standard.
This might be a bit extravagant. I like the simple 15.Rfe1 where White gets a slight edge after 15...Qc7 16.b3 a6 17.Nd5 Nxd5 18.exd5.
I wasn't sure what triggered this move but in any case was premature as White wasn't threatening e4-e5 yet. 15...a6 with the idea of breaking up White's Kingside with ...b5 looks decent to me.
16.Nd4 Bf6 17.Qg4 Ne5 18.Qe2
Black gains a couple of tempo temporarily but White is now ready to push his forces back with f2-f4.
Logically, Tim seeks to exchange a piece or 2 to relieve some of the pressure on his position.
19.Nxc6 Bxc6 20.Nd5 Bg7?
After using several tempi routing his bishop from h8-f6, Black eventually offers to swap the dark square bishop again. The concrete problem with this exchange at this point in time is that it now allows the thematic and very strong e4-e5, opening up the d-file to White's advantage.
Black was clearly on the brink at this point and the SCN editors didn't think there was any chance that Tim could hang on, but hang on he did, and with a lot of courage.
27...Rad8 28.b3 Ne6 29.Qd2 Nc5 30.Bg2 Re6 31.Bf3
Mchedlishvili takes his time, placing his pieces on optimal squares before taking concrete action. Patience is normally the key in such technical positions as a hasty decision can ruin all the hard work in an instant.
31...Nb7 32.Rd4 Kg7 33.Bd5 Re5 34.Rh4 h5 35.Qb2
White starts to probe around on Black's Kingside, inducing further weaknesses.
Naturally, White didn't want to take any risks and compromise his position. For example, 36.f4!? Re3 37.f5 Qe7 38.fxg6 Re1+ 39.Rxe1 Qxe1+ 40.Kg2 Re8 41.Bf3 Nc5 42.Qd4! could very well be winning but why allow Black some counterplay.
After all the preparation, White finally changed the tone of the position and wins the d6-pawn. However to his credit, Tim still managed to drum up some counterplay within the next few moves.
48...Rxb7 49.Rxd6 Re4! 50.Qf3 f4!
This gives Black some practical drawing chances especially so in time trouble.
And White immediately falters! Nice to know that even 2600 type can blunder material against us lesser mortals. 52.R1d4! Rfxf4 (52...Re1 53.c5) 53.Qxf4 Rxf4 54.Rxf4 Qe5 55.Rdd4 g5 56.Rde4! must have been winning for White and I'm not sure what prevented White from playing this.
Snapping an important pawn. Tim is back in business!
53.Rxf7+ Qxf7 54.Kg3
Here, current National Champion Daniel Chan opined that Black has decent chances to draw while I was quite confident of his chances. Junior Tay wasn't so certain and said Tim had to find some accurate moves. Now, Tim had to find the best square for his Queen in order to make a nuisance of himself. Which is the best square that offers the most counterplay?
Keeping the Queen on the f-file, maintaining the pressure on the f-pawn and creating the threat of ...Rc3 must be correct right? Wrong! The Queen on f6, while attacking f4 does not have any other squares to create problems for White's King. In addition, the White Queen was not restricted to defending the pawn from f3 where it will be quite passive but it can do so from the b8-square where it can defend and attack at the same time. The Georgian GM found this idea quite quickly. 54...Qe6! , keeping White's pieces passive was stronger. The Queen on e6 covers both the g4 and e1 squares. Hence White's major pieces must constantly be on the look-up. In time trouble, facing this new set of problems is very disagreeable and Black would have every chance in salvaging something in this game. Let's back this up with some moves: 55.Rd3 Qe1 56.Rd1 Qe6 57.Rd8 Kh6 58.Rh8+ Kg7 59.Ra8 Rc7 and Black hangs on.
55.Qb7+ Kh6 56.Qb8!
An incredibly strong manoeuvre as advertised and one which Tim likely missed. Here, SCN founder Olimpiu G. Urcan exclaimed "56...Rd4! and draw!" while I was less enthusiastic as after the exchange of rooks, White had 58.Qe5! which seems strong to me. After discussing the position for a few minutes with some heated disagreements, these moves were actually played.
56...Rd4 57.Rxd4 Qxd4 58.Qe5!
From e5, the White Queen dominates the position and with an extra pawn, does not need to be worried about any exchange of Queens. White is winning at this point. White can also consider f4-f5 even if the square was covered by the Black Queen as the exchange of Queens will be winning for White.
58...Qd3+ 59.f3 Kh7 60.Qe7+ Kg8 61.Qe6+
61.Qxa7 Qe3 62.Qb8+ Kh7 63.Qc7+ Kh6 64.Qc2 b5! 65.Qc5! should be won for White.
Setting up f4-f5. The immediate 62.f5 was also playable. 62...gxf5 63.Kf4! Qxa3 64.Qe7+ Kh8 65.Qf8+ Kh7 66.Qxf5++-.
62...Kf7 63.f5 gxf5 64.Kf4
After a marathon battle, the game finally reached a definitive conclusion. 64...Qxa3 65.Qxf5+ Kg8 was also winning for White but there is still much room for error. For example, 66.b5 Qc1+ 67.Ke5 Qa1+ 68.Ke6 a5 with some chances to confuse.
65.Qe6+ Kg7 66.Kg5 Qd2+ 67.Kxh5 Qd3 68.Qe7+
A tough game for Black no doubt but Timothy Chan fought gallantly, and with a lot of courage. SCN applauds him for that. 1–0
Make no mistake about it, the Georgians are formidable opposition and in Baadur Jobava, boasts a 2700 GM on board one. Well, Singapore's highest ranked player, GM Zhang Zhong is no slouch either and us here at SCN were expecting a slugfest...
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.cxd5!?
Now, the Exchange Slav is an interesting choice and considering Jobava is the higher rated player, one can assume he is playing for a win with an opening normally associated with dull draws. I remember GM Zhang Peng Xiang using the Exchange Slav to great effect in the Asian Continental Championships in 2007, beating Megaranto Susanto with it on his way to a title win.
4...cxd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Bf4 a6
From my database of more than 4.5 million games, 7.e3 is the overwhelmingly favourite and was the only move that I was familiar with. I am not a big fan of statistics though, and I suspect the large number of games played was due to the popularity of the line played at the lower echelons rather than its objective value. 7.Ne5 is a more tricky customer, after which Black might drift into a passive position if he is not careful.
This is commonest but tends to lead to slightly passive positions where Black has no real chances to fight for the initiative. The slightly more active 7...Qb6 is preferred by Alexei Shirov who has played it several times with reasonable success. 8.Nxc6 (8.Na4?! Qb4+ 9.Bd2 Qxd4 10.Nf3 Qe4÷ and White does not have much for the pawn sacrifice.) 8...bxc6 9.Qd2 (9.a3 also doesn't seem to give White much: 9...Qxb2 10.Na4 Qb5 11.Bd2 and here, 11...Qb7 intending to stick it out with the extra pawn might be playable. (11...c5 was played by Shirov who soon emerged worse from the opening but somehow managed to save the game: 12.Nxc5 e6 13.e3 Qc6 14.Rc1 Bxc5 15.Rxc5 Qb7 16.Bd3 0–0 17.0–0± ½–½ Jakubowski,K (2497) - Shirov,A (2720)/Warsaw 2006/CBM 115 ext (55); 11...Rb8!?) ) 9...e6 Preparing the liberating ...c6-c5 at the expense of entombing his own bishop. It is imperative to set this plan in motion before White gets the standard squeeze on the c5 square. (9...Bf5 was also possible but gives White one additional tempo to apply pressure on the c5 square. 10.f3 e6 11.Rc1! Nd7 (11...Be7?! 12.Na4 Qb7 13.Nc5+/=) 12.e4 dxe4 (12...Bg6? 13.exd5±) 13.fxe4 Bg6 14.Bc4 looks good for White.) 10.e3 Qb7 Avoiding any unpleasant surprises with Na4. 11.Rc1 c5 12.Be2 Bd7 13.Be5 Rc8 14.0–0 Be7 Black has equalised and this high level game soon ended peacefully: 15.dxc5 Rxc5 16.Bxf6 gxf6 17.Bf3 f5 18.Ne2 Rxc1 19.Rxc1 0–0 20.Nf4 Qb4 21.Qxb4 Bxb4 22.Be2 Rc8 23.Rxc8+ Bxc8 24.g3 a5 25.Bb5 ½–½ Short,N (2685) - Dominguez Perez,L (2713)/Havana CUB 2010; 7...e6!? was also suggested by Shirov.
8.e3 e6 9.Bd3 Be7 10.0–0 0–0 11.Qf3
11.Rc1 also seems good enough for a slight edge: 11...Rc8 12.Qe2 Nxe5 13.dxe5 Ne8 14.Bb1 g6 15.Rfd1 ½–½ in 20 moves - Morovic Fernandez,I (2561) - Bareev,E (2643)/Moscow RUS 2010]
11...Ne8N , a novelty according to my database was played just a month ago in the Phillippines. 12.Qh3! f5 13.g4! Energetic play by White as he has seen that the opening of the g-file can only be to White's advantage. 13...Nd6 14.Kh1 Nxe5 15.dxe5 Nc4 16.gxf5 exf5 17.Rg1 with an unclear position in Kazhgaleyev,M (2619) - Tirto (2360)/Manila PHI 2010, 1–0 in 42 moves.
Ok, not much of a novelty given that there was previously only one game played which reached the previous position. The idea was clear though, to double up on the d-file and unleash the pawn thrust e3-e4! at an opportune moment.
13...Bc6 14.Bb1 Qb6 15.Rd2 Nc7
Zhang Zhong embarked on a plan to manoeuvre the knight to a move active square on c5. Despite the fact that the plan is painfully slow, it is hard to suggest anything active in this position. However, despite the flaws, Black still had a solid position.
16.Rfd1 a5 17.Qh3 g6 18.Qg3
White's apparently peaceful maneuvers were indicative of the calm before the storm. After inducing the slightly weakening ...g7-g6, the next step is the obvious push of the h-pawn to further weaken Black's Kingside position. Black was hard-pressed to do anything constructive besides hurriedly moving his knight to the desired c5 square.
18...Na6 19.h4 Nc5 20.h5 Kg7
So both sides have achieved their aim and what next? There appears to be not much that White could do as his pieces appear to be optimally placed. What happened next was really the start of the storm as Jobava demonstrated the strength of a 2700 player.
A move that is easy to see and consider but difficult to appreciate. White sacrificed a pawn which has no immediate tangible rewards but which completely disrupts the co-ordination of Black's pieces. The implications will be clearer after the next couple of moves.
White initiates the exchange of the e7 bishop after which Black's dark squares will be awfully weak. In addition, White's doubled rooks will be ideally placed, dominating the d-file.
A tough position to navigate no doubt but the position was just lost after this. For good or for bad, Black had to play 22...Qc7 when White has the astonishing tactic 23.Bxe4!! (23.Bf6+ Kg8 24.Qg5 also seems terrifying strong.) 23...Nxe4 (23...Bxe4 24.Nb5! Qb6 25.Bxe7 Qxb5 26.Bf6+ Kg8 27.Qe3) 24.Nxe4 Bxe4 25.Rd7.
Daniel Fernandez has recently obtained his IM title with some strong performances in Australia and Malaysia. In perusing his games, I've noticed the incredibly aggressive nature of his play with an inclination to adopt creative approaches in the opening. 2.f4 is a flexible move, which reserves all possible set-ups including transposition to the Austrian Attack, the Grand Prix Attack or the Closed Sicilian.
2...g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.Nc3 Nf6
Austrian Attack, Sir?
No thanks! Closed Sicilian, please.
5...c5 6.Bg2 Bg4
Rather amusingly, this position has only been reached six times previously according to my database. Out of these 6 games, the highest rated player was rated 1930 and White scored a superb 6–0!
This was likely an attempt to bring his opponent out of well-known territory but Black gets a comfortable position after his move. 7.h3 Bxf3 8.Qxf3 Nc6 9.d3 was standard, with a typical Closed Sicilian slugfest in the offering.
7...cxd4 8.Qxd4 Nc6 9.Qf2 0–0 10.0–0 Rc8
10...Qa5 was also possible, with the idea 11.h3 Bxf3 12.Bxf3 Nd7 with active play.
The near-2600 Grandmaster understandably strives for the initiative for every move but this attractive looking pawn thrust might be a tad too hasty. I still prefer a slower approach with 11...Qa5 12.Nd4 (12.h3 Bxf3 13.Bxf3 Nd7 14.Nd1 b5 looks good for Black.) 12...Nxd4 13.Bxd4 Be6! threatening ...Ng4 looks good.
12.e5!? deserves attention. For example, 12...dxe5 13.Nxe5 Bd7 (Black can also sacrifice a pawn with 13...Nxe5 14.fxe5 Nd7 15.Nxb5 Nxe5 16.Nxa7 Nc4 17.c3 Rc7 with unclear compensation but White's Queenside pawns look mighty.) 14.Nxd7 (14.Rad1 Nxe5 15.fxe5 Ng4) 14...Qxd7 15.Rad1 Qf5 gives equal chances.(15...Qb7?! 16.Qe2!)
Daniel didn't hide his intentions to play solidly and hold the position for the time being. The position is probably about equal but Black's position was probably the easier to play.
Inaccurate but in any case, I didn't like Black's impatient approach to the game. [17...Rcc8 avoid the annoying Nd1–e3 seems better.
18...Rcc8 19.e5 dxe5 20.fxe5 Bxg2 21.Qxg2 transposes to the same thing.
19.Qxg2 Rcc8 20.e5 dxe5 21.fxe5 Ng4 22.Qd5
While kibitzing on playchess.com with my fellow SCN editors, I wondered out loud why White couldn't play the simple 22.Nxg4 Qxg4 23.Qb7! attacking the b4 and e7 pawns simultaneously. Indeed, White appears to win a pawn by force which would have handed him the initiative in the game.
This position has been reached more or less by force after White's 22nd move. The SCN editors had high hopes of White obtaining a draw here as he was certainly not worse from whichever angle you look at it.
30.g5! also looks drawish. 30...e4 31.Rf4 Rbe6 32.g4 looks drawn to me.
This blunder must have been down to pure miscalculation. Putting the rook on the enticing d-file with 31.Rd1 was best. The whole idea was that after 31...Rxf6 32.Rd5 White's impressively active rooks will give more than ample counterplay.
31...Rxf6 32.Rxe5 Rfe6!
Fernandez might have missed this move as the exchange of all the rooks will lead to a lost pawn endgame for White. As such, White was forced to exchange a pair of rooks followed by relinquishing the e-file.
33.Rxe6 Rxe6 34.Rc1 Re4!
Winning a pawn and with the more active rook as well, the Georgian GM's technique was never in doubt.
Terry Chua has been in the shadows of his peers for the past few years with not much progress in his results until this year's National Championships where he played tremendously well and obtained an IM norm in the process. This was certainly not a fluke as he probably displayed the best playing strength in the tournament which even eventual winner Daniel Chan will undoubtedly agree.
This slightly unorthodox opening was my favourite opening before I converted to the Sicilian Kan and the French Defence. The opening itself is extremely tricky and if White doesn't know how to handle it can find himself in a precarious position very quickly.
This invites Black to transpose to normal streams with 2...e5 or the creative 2...d6 which, believe it or not, is actually not as bad as it looks but that's another story.
2...d5 was also playable and after 3.Nc3 e6, Black transposes to the Hecht-Reefschlager variation of the French which is again, another of my favourite!(3...dxe4 however, was known to be dubious due to 4.d5 Ne5 5.Bf4 Ng6 6.Bg3 f5 7.Nh3! a6 8.f3 where White gets a strong initiative for the pawn deficit.)
3.d5 Nce7 4.c4 Ng6 5.Nc3 Bb4
I prefer 5...Bc5 when after 6.Nf3 Nf6 Black continues with ...d6, ...a6, ...0–0 followed by ...Nh5-f4.
The game has long left the beaten path and we are on virgin ground.
7.Be3 Nf6 8.f3 d6 9.Nge2 0–0 10.h4
The computer suggests the shocking 10...Nxh4!? 11.Rxh4 Nxd5 12.Bf2 Ne3! apparently with an edge for Black! I can analyse this for hours but I suppose I shouldn't get carried away with all these "computer analysis"...
Natural, but Black missed a stunning move. The unexpected 11...Qf6!! was actually very strong. 12.Rh3 (12.gxh5 Qxf3 13.Rg1 Qxe3 14.hxg6 fxg6 15.Rg3 Qxe4 looks like curtains.) 12...Nhf4 13.Nxf4 exf4 14.Bd2 h5!
12.Nxf4 exf4 13.Bf2 Ne5 14.Be2 b6
Black has a pleasant position at this stage and was certainly not worse. In addition, the fact that Terry has consumed buckets of time in the opening was also worrying.
15.0–0–0 Bc5 16.Be1 Be3+ 17.Kb1 Ba6
17...Bd7 , supporting a future ...b5 was possible.
Rightfully, Terry seeks to block out the Queenside and hope for equality.
I'd hate to play this move as after 19.cxb5 Black might experience problems with his chronic backward c-pawn. However, Black probably hacked off this knight to prevent it from reaching the d4-f5 squares which does seem to look like a worrying prospect. 18...Qd7 19.Nd4 a4 20.Qc3 b5!?
19.cxb5 a4 20.Qc2 a3 21.b3
Here, I was quite certain that Terry will get at least a draw as I don't see any concrete plans for Black that might work. The position was just too blocked. The only hope for a White win was if Black overextends his position.
This could be an inaccuracy as I couldn't see how Black can prevent the loss of a pawn in the note to White's next move. 21...Qe7 22.Bd2 h6 (holding the g5-square) 23.Qc3 Qf6 looks like a safer bet.
22.Bd2! threatens to win the f4 pawn for very little. For example, 22...Bxd2 (22...Qf6 23.g5 Qg7 24.Bc3 seems unpleasant for Black.) 23.Qxd2 Qf6 24.Rdg1! Nd7 25.g5 Qe5 26.Rc1 Nc5 27.Qc3! and after the exchange of Queens, White will double on the c-file, nudge the Black knight with b3-b4 and the c7 pawn will start to feel queasy.
22...Qe7 23.Rh2 h6
24.h5 will almost certainly lead to a draw but Terry was more ambitious. However, Black's position holds up against the attack.
25.h5 gxh5 26.Rxh5 Kg7 followed by ...Rh8 easily snuffs out White's attack.
25...Kg7 26.Rdh1 Rh8 27.Bd1 Qxg5 28.Be1
This was Terry's main idea, hoping that the sacrifice of the g5 pawn can increase the scope of his dark square bishop. At the same time, White concentrates his pieces on the Kingside. However, Black has no obvious weaknesses (besides that weakie on c7) and he easily defends against White's threats.
28...Qe7 29.Qg2 Rag8 30.Rh3
Terry continues the caveman approach, intended Qg2-h2 followed by a massacre down the h-file. [I prefer the calm 30.Bb4 Bc5 31.Bc3!? when Black has a lot of work to do in order to realise his extra pawn.
This threatens the win of an exchange which Black was only too happy to oblige. In serious time trouble, Terry heavily underestimated the power of Black's forces as they converged on the Queenside.
31...Qxb5 32.Bf6+ Kxf6 33.Rxh8 Rxh8 34.Rxh8 Nc4!
Threatening ...Nd2+, the end is near. Here, Black must have calculated his pretty 38th move which clinches the win in aesthetic fashion.
35.Qg4 Nd2+ 36.Kc2 Qc5+ 37.Kd3 Qd4+
37...Nxe4!! was stronger (in a showboating kind of way).