4 Jan 2009

HASTINGS round 8

The oldest tournament in the world in Hastings, is still going strong.

Since its inception in 1885, it has seen all chess world champions participate, bar Kasparov and Fischer.

Today I will follow the game between GM Kurnosov (2606)(6 1/2) and GM Berg (2623) (5 1/2) , who have launched into a French Tarrasch (C06) and by move 18 they are still in book.

Berg played this vs Sebag in Malmo in 2003, and won as Black. On the whole this line thus far is favourable for White. Most Whites went Rad1/c1.

Berg played Rac8 after 19.Rac1, but an exchange 0n =g3= looks promising for Black.

Here Berg settled for 19...Rf6, which was a little dubious as it might have had the reply 20.b4 with a solid attack on the QS.

However he was fortunate to receive 20.Qd2 instead, which could be parried by a shift over to the KS with 20...Raf8, followed by 21.Rc3 (after the Queen had moved out of the way), which is not as strong as an exchange of the DS-Bishops would have been. They swapped LSB's instead.

And now they are all square with 40 mins each.

After 24.Re3 a6

White moved his Knight to =c1=, which didn't strike me as strong as 25.f3 *

Now Black can finally initiate the DSB exchange without impunity and get a toe hold.

After a short think, Berg agrees with me and White retakes hxg3. Now Black can start an exchange on =e5= and open up an avenue for attack, although it looks like another draw.

They have about 25 mins left.

Soon Black will have to decide whether his Knight will jump KS or QS, and that will decide the course of the remainder of the middle game. seeing that White has a KS majority ath present, Black may opt for Nc4.

However....White is either giving a freebie or throwing a curve ball:
28.Qc3 (rather than the expected 28.Nd3) and now Black will need a long think to evaluate whether or not he can afford to swap off the Queens.

In my opinion he can. Just.
But it will cost time. 15 mins vs 20 mins.

This was a very astute tactic of White: there will now be two positions where Black needs a good think. Actually, Black shelves the decision as regards the Knight jump and goes straight for 29...d4.
Probably a pragmatic decision, even though slightly less sharp.

So far this has been a game worthy of such a venerable tournament. No wonder these two are now leading.

Black has cleverly shifted the burden of deciding on a line onto White. There is so much more to this game than at first appears. 7 mins vs 19 mins, with 11 moves to play.

Now it seems better to leave the black Knight right there in the centre. But Black decides otherwise and plays 31....Nd3 where I would have liked to see the b-pawn threaten the Rook first.
Well, what do I know.

3 mins vs 18 mins with 9 moves to play.
31...Nd3 throws up too many obvious moves for White, so that time pressure is limited.

Black does indeed scramble safely through the time-portal and it will end in a draw any minute now I shouldn't wonder.

After 40 moves.
Slight edge for Black, after the hasty 40.Ra7 from White, met by 40....Rxa5 41.f4 *

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