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Recent GM games (#10)

 GM Shabalov - IM Akobian; U.S. Champ, 2003. 

 This is a game that should have been done ... a VERY long time ago.  
(I promised it to a group of students shortly after the  U.S. Championship  was 
 concluded.) But I had several other projects demanding my attention, then my 
computer crashed ...  (More than once! I re-did this game several times.) 

GM Alex Shabalov (2613) - Varuzhan Akobian (2531)


 National Championship, (Swiss Tournament) 
 Seattle, Washington; (USA) (Round #9), 18.01.2003 


    The CB medla for this game. (al_af-2_rec-gm10_medal.gif, 02 KB)


  This is basically the key or swing game that decided the U.S. Championship.    
   (While all the other players passively drew,  'Shabba'  went for the full point.) 

1.e4 e6;  2.d4 d5; 3.e5!?,  

The Advance Variation of the of the French Defense is not a common guest at the GM level. 

Nimzovich is the creator and the Godfather of this entire line. 

     [ 3.Nd2!? ] 


3...c5;  4.c3 Nc6;  5.Nf3 Qb6;  6.a3!?,   

This is main line or book. 

     [ The other line is:   6.Be2!?,  with a playable position. ]  



A common idea in the new French. (Black targets the d4-square.) 


     [  Many Internet opponents play the line of: 6...Bd7!?; "~"  with good play for Black.  


        The best line - according to book - is the continuation: 
         >/=  6...c4!7.Nbd2 Na58.Be2 Bd79.0-0 Ne7;   
        The most modern line, I believe according to a fairly recent survey 
         published in  "New-In-Chess." (NIC) 


            ( Instead, MCO gives the line of: 9...0-0-0!?; 10.Rb1 Qc7; 11.Re1 Bc6;     
              12.Nf1 h6; {Diagram?}  The end of the column.   
              13.Ng3 Qd7; 14.Nh5 Ba4; 15.Qd2 g6; 16.Nf6 Qc7; "~"  
              MCO calls this line equal, maybe Black is even just a tiny bit better    
              here.  ("=/+")    

              "Very unusual maneuvering is called for by both sides in this position."    
                - GM N. de Firmian.   

              Dabrowski - Peng;  Jakarta (Indonesia), 1993.   

              [ See MCO - 14;  page # 200,  column # 2, & note # (k.). ] )     


         10.Re1, "="  {Diagram?}  with a position with fair chances for both parties here.  

         According to ChessBase's online database, this position has occurred 127 times at the master level.     

         See the encounter:  
         A. Kharlov - A. Illjushin;  Suetin Memorial Tournament. 
         Tula/RUS/2002. (1-0)  (White won a long game in just 
         under eighty moves.)  ]   



 (After a brief foray into theory, we now return to the game.)  

7.b4 cxd4!?;   

Black decides to open the game, but ...c4 was worth consideration.  

     [ 7...c4!? ]  


Both sides continue to develop. 
8.cxd4 Nf5; 9.Bb2 Be7;  10.h4!? h5; "="   

I would have to evaluate this position as being VERY close to equal. 
(White has an edge in space, while Black is ahead in development.)

White now decides to get rid of one of the troublesome Black Knights.
This also allows White to dominate the dark squares.

11.Bd3!? g6;  12.Bxf5 gxf5;  13.Nc3 Rg8;  14.g3 Bd7;  15.Bc1!? Rc8;  16.Ne2 a5!;  "~"  

Black's piece activity is gaining a tremendous initiative. White feels forced to 
engage in a very speculative,  (Read: UNSOUND?); two-pawn gambit.


White goes fishing. I guess this is a major "do-or-die" effort from GM Shabalov.

     [  The continuation of:  17.bxa5 Qxa5+18.Bd2 Qa719.Kf1 f6; "=/+"  
         probably slightly favors Black. ]   


White continues hunting for complications and the initiative, and does not even 
seem to care that he loses a second pawn.

17...Qxb5;  18.Bg5 a4;  19.Rb1!? Qa5+;  20.Kf1 Bxa3;  21.Ra1 Qb4;  22.Nf4,   

The only possible good side of White's play is he got to activate all of his pieces.  
(And that he dominates certain squares on the King-side.) 

     [ 22.Rb1!? ]  


22...Rh8;  23.Kg2 b5;  24.Bf6 Rh6!?;  25.Re1 Qf8;  26.Qe2 Be7;  27.Bg5 Rh8?!;   

This passive retreat looks inferior to me, White's pawn might look dangerous 
on g5, but is mostly just an optical illusion. 

(Black is trying too hard to play it safe in this position.)

     [  >/=  Probably better for Black was:  27...Bxg528.hxg5 Rh8; "/+"  ]   


28.Rec1 Rb8;  29.Rab1 Bxg5;  30.hxg5;  {See the diagram below.}  

This is forced.  

White has a miserable position, down  TWO  pawns!  
   --->  How would you like to be White here?

  (Or try to play for a win from this rather forlorn position?)  


   The actual game position after White's 30th move. (al_af-2_rec-gm10_pos1.gif, 77 KB)


   [  30.Nxg5? Nxd4; "-/+"  ]   


30...Qa3?!; (Maybe even - '?')   

A bad move, but maybe not the losing one.  

Was young Akobian trying to deliver the knock-out blow? 


     [  Better was:  30...b4!?31.Qa6 a3;  "/+"  and Black is clearly better.  


        The best line was clearly: 30...Na5!; "/+" (Maybe ... "-/+")  {Diag?} 
when Black may be winning ... or at least very close to it.  ]    


White now plays a nice "cascade" sacrifice, (actually a series of different 
sacrifices); and Black does not find the best moves.

31.g6!! fxg6?!;  32.Nxe6! Bxe6?!;  33.Rxc6 Qe7;  34.Rxb5, "+/="  

The tables have suddenly turned, and White is probably already a little better now.

     [ 34.Ra6 b4; "=/+ ]  


Now Black was probably upset with himself, and short of time - and promptly 
plays a blunder on his very next move.


This is a terrible mistake. (In a bad position.)

     [  Better was:  34...Ra8;  which is probably Black's only chance of survival.  ]  



I like this. This is the sharpest, and puts the greatest psychological strain 
on his young opponent. 

     [  White could also win with:
        >/=  35.Rxb8!! Rxb836.Qa6! Bc8;  This might be forced. 

           (36...a3??;  37.Rxe6 Qxe6;  38.Ng5+, wins easily for White.)    

        37.e6+! Kg738.Qe2!, "+/-"  winning the game. ]   


White is close to winning, he now wraps things up.  

35...Qxg5;  36.Rc7+ Qe7;  37.Rxe7+ Kxe7;  38.Rc5!?,   

This is good. (It may even be brilliant, tying Black up for some time.) 

     [  Maybe better was:  >/=  38.Qb2!, ""  with a near decisive edge for the first player here.  ]  


38...Rhc8;  39.Qa6! Rxc5!?;  40.Qa7+! Ke8;  41.dxc5 Rc8;  42.Qxa4+ Bd7;  43.Qd4,  ""  

Now that White has managed to eliminate Black's dangerous passed a-pawn, 
White basically has a won game. All that is required is some careful technique 
to bring home the point. 

     [ 43.Qa5!? ]  


Now an important part of White's strategy to improve his position. First he fixes 
the King-side pawn structure, then invades with his King (!) ...  on the weakened 
dark squares. 
(White's play in this game is nothing short of exquisite ...
 too bad the earlier play was so bad.) 

The finish is crisp and pleasing, no further comment is really required.

43...Be6;  44.f4 Ke7;  45.Qb4 Rc6;  46.Kh3! Bd7;  47.Kh4 Kf7;  48.Kg5 Ke7;  49.Qb3 Re6 ;   

If the g-pawn falls, it spells  'finis'  for Black. 

50.Qxd5 Bc6;  51.Qa2 Bd7;  52.Kh6 Be8;  53.Kg7 Bd7;  54.Qh2 Rc6;  55.Qh4+ Ke8;  56.Qf6!! Rxf6!?;   

Black is nearly in Zugzwang ...  a reasonable alternative is hard to come by here. 

57.exf6 Be6;  58.c6 g5;  59.fxg5 f4;  60.g6 fxg3;  61.f7+,   Black resigns.  

A great game, but one that is severely flawed. 
 (It is also a tough struggle, that was the last game of the round to finish, I believe.)  


   Copyright (c)  A.J. Goldsby I.   Copyright (c)  A.J.G;  2003.  


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(All games - Code initially generated with the program,  ChessBase 8.0.) 

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This page was last updated on 01/04/13 .

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