Tag Archives: Loek Van Wely

Pieces and Pawns En Prise

Playing through a few of the top boards from each round at the World Open, there were a few games that caught my eye.

First up, Adams – Ehlvest, from round 4.

(FEN: r4rk1/4pnbp/2pp1pp1/Pq6/2NPP1b1/P4N2/1B3PPP/2RQR1K1 w - - 0 18)

Ehlvest had just sacrificed a pawn on a5 (16…a5 17.bxa5 Bg4), and probably was banking on some loose pieces in White’s camp to recover it. It does look like the Nc4 is a bit overloaded, having to watch over the Bb2 and the pawn on a5, while the pin from the Bg4 might also be annoying with …Ng5 on tap.

Adams’s next move was a bit confusing at first, but there’s a reason he was consistently in the top 10 of the world. He played 18.h3!, and after 18…Bxf3 19.Qxf4 d5 20.exd5 cxd5, the position in the diagram below was reached:

(FEN: r4rk1/4pnbp/5pp1/Pq1p4/2NP4/P4Q1P/1B3PP1/2R1R1K1 w - - 0 21)

White seems to have gotten himself in a bit of a pickle here, as the overloaded knight is now under attack. White’s next of 21.a4 makes some sense, but after 21…Qb7, it still looks like trouble – the knight is safe for the time being, but …Ng5 ends the pin on the d5-pawn, and playing 22.h4 is too slow because then Black just needs to guard his queen (with 22…Rfb8 for example), and then both minors are hanging. So what to do?

Adams uncorked the brilliant 22.Ba3! at this point (although the whole idea had to seen with 18.h3), seemingly ignoring the threat to his knight. After 22…Ng5 23.Qe2, the main line must be to take the knight, but Ehlvest found it didn’t work and played 23…Re8 instead. After 24.Rb1 Qa6 25.Nb6, White emerged a pawn up in the endgame and won without too much more trouble.

But what happens if Black takes the knight?

(FEN: r4rk1/1q2p1bp/5pp1/P5n1/P1QP4/B6P/5PP1/2R1R1K1 b - - 0 24)

After 23…dxc4 24.Qxc4+, Black has three reasonable moves, none of which seem to work:

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Blitz, Novelties, and the 2011 Berkeley International

The 2011 Berkeley International was wrapped up yesterday morning, and GM Loek Van Wely took clear first with 8.0/10. Arun Sharma did a great job in organizing the event, putting together a bigger, stronger, and better-designed event than the ones I was involved with in 2005, 2006 (only marginally), and 2008.

The tournament was also notable for the large number of norms that were achieved. Two Bay Area talents made what appear to be their final norms: IM Sam Shankland made his 3rd GM norm and FM Daniel Naroditsky made his 3rd IM norm. Congrats to them, and to the other norm winners.

One interesting game I noticed was between GM Davorin Kuljasevic and now IM-elect Conrad Holt in round 5 (Holt won the encounter on his way to his final IM norm). The game was a Slav, and Holt had just played 16…Nc8 to reach the position below:

(FEN: rnnq1rk1/pp2bppp/4p1b1/P1p5/3PP1P1/1B3P2/NP4NP/R1BQ1RK1 w - - 0 17)

At first glance, this may not seem like much of an opening success for Black, but White is also somewhat overextended and uncoordinated. The game continued 17.d5 Qxa5 18.dxe6 Nc6. Technically, this last move will enter the database as a novelty (I think, I haven’t updated my databases since August, so maybe it’s been played in the interim), but actually, I beat Van Wely with this move at the US Championship blitz tournament back in May. And to roll things back even further, it’s not even my novelty, having been published by FM James Vigus during the summer of 2008!

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