As I wrote in my last blog entry, I managed to get 4.5 points from my first 6 games in Gibraltar. I generally didn’t manage to put together a complete game until the 6th round, but after that effort, I was feeling like I could make a push in the final four rounds.
In round 7, I got the black pieces against GM Sergei Movsesian (2708 FIDE). Movsesian had been close to breaking into the elite of the chess world for a number of years before finally doing so last year, shooting up to 2751 FIDE. He’s dropped since then, but he’s maintained his rating above 2700. When I was preparing for him, I noticed that he almost always avoids the main lines, but while he doesn’t necessarily challenge you from the get-go, he knows his systems backwards and forwards and is very difficult to beat in them. He’s also much more dangerous with the white pieces than with black (as seen in the tournament, where he won all 5 games with white quite easily, and drew all 5 games as black without getting close to a better position at any point).
Still, I felt good about my chances – I’m pretty solid with black and I hadn’t lost to a 2700 before! Sadly, there’s a first time for everything. You could say that I got off the boat and promptly fell into the deep end …
rnbqkb1r/ppp1pppp/5n2/3p4/8/3P2P1/PPP1PPBP/RNBQK1NR b KQkq - 0 3)
This was the position after 3.d2-d3, and I decided to play 3…Bf5. He answered with 4.c4, and Black’s position is already much worse! I guess I was on autopilot as I hadn’t realized that by delaying Ng1-f3, the Bg2’s diagonal was open. That makes all the difference in the world because Black has no good way of keeping the diagonal closed now. White’s plan is pretty much the same regardless of what Black does: play Qb3 (hitting d5 and b7), exchange on d5 and play Nc3 (hitting d5 again), and then play e4 to finally break down Black’s center. If Black then takes on e4 and retreats his bishop, White plays e5, opening the long diagonal and winning b7; if Black retreats without taking on e4, then White wins a pawn on d5.
I sat there thinking and kicking myself for falling into such a simple trap. I ended up playing 4…c6 5.Qb3 Qc8 6.cxd5 cxd5 7.Nc3 e6 8.e4 Bg6 9.exd5 Nbd7!?, hoping that he’d go pawn-grabbing by taking on e6 and f7.
r1q1kb1r/pp1n1ppp/4pnb1/3P4/8/1QNP2P1/PP3PBP/R1B1K1NR w KQkq - 1 10)
Actually, if he does grab those pawns, Black has good counterplay after 10.dxe6 Nc5 11.exf7+ Ke7! 12.Qd1 Nxd3+ 13.Kf1 Qc4. Black will only be a pawn down after taking back on f7, and White’s development is more screwed up than Black’s. However, he was alert to that danger and continued with 10.Be3 instead. Now I played 10…e5 11.Rc1 Ng4!?.
r1q1kb1r/pp1n1ppp/6b1/3Pp3/6n1/1QNPB1P1/PP3PBP/2R1K1NR w Kkq - 2 12)
After the game, he praised this move a lot, saying he completely missed it when he played 11.Rc1 and that he should have played something like 11.d4 instead. The point is that after 11…Ng4, the obvious 12.Nb5 is a bit dicey for White after 12…Nxe3. Here are a couple lines after 12…Nxe3:
A) 13.Rxc8+ Rxc8 14.fxe3 Nc5 15.Qd1 Nxd3+ 16.Kd2 (16.Ke2 Nxb2 is also no fun) Nxb2 17.Qb3 Bb4+! 18.Qxb4 Rc2+ 19.Ke1 (the king has nowhere else to go) Nd3+, forking king and queen, leaving Black ahead in material!
B) 13.Nc7+ Kd8 14.fxe3 Nc5 cuts the protection off for the knight and leaves Black on top.
After a 35-minute think, he found a very accurate way of proceeding after 11…Ng4 with 12.Bh3! (hitting the Ng4 and indirectly pinning the Nd7) Nxe3 13.fxe3 Qc7 (threatening to play …Nc5 again) 14.Qa4!, when his advantage is not in doubt. He’s up a pawn and Black has no real compensation. I resigned 8 moves later when my position had deteriorated even further.
It’s hard to take anything positive away from a game like this, but on the plus side, I’m not the only GM to have fallen for that same trick. GM Sebastien Maze, who was sitting next to us during this game, fell into the exact same trap against GM Hikaru Nakamura last year at the French Team Championships! I noticed Maze looking at our game intently and giving me a funny look when I played …Bf5, but I didn’t realize he had been on the receiving end of the same beat-down a year earlier.