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Recent GM Games (#13)

  GM Peter Leko (2736) - GM Francisco Vallejo-Pons (2629)  
 XX Super-GM Tournament 
Linares, ESP; (Round # 5),  27.02.2003  

[A.J. Goldsby I]


A good - (and interesting) - game.

I went over this with a (Internet) student the day after it was played.  
(I probably also watched all or part of it as it was being played. Many servers like  ICC  carried these games live.) 

The final impetus ... for me, anyway ...  came when I saw this game covered in the 'Chess Life' magazine. (The July, 2003 issue of CL. page # 22.)


{See} GM R. Byrne's column,  "The 65th Square." 
The title of his column was: 'the old way to clarity is not dead.' 

Byrne comments how many GM's today play in the same style of the computers that they play and train against. (A highly tactical interpretation.)

"Its nice to see a top player of today to use positional power in the style of Capablanca or Bobby Fischer."  - GM R. Byrne.


    Click  HERE  to see an explanation of the symbols that I normally   
 use when annotating a chess game.   

 This is a TEXT-BASED page ... with only one diagram. 
(To appreciate these annotations - which took several days of work! - 
I highly recommend that you use a chess-board!!)

   Click  HERE  to see this game in a Java-script re-play format.   


1.e4 c5;  2.Nf3 Nc6;  3.d4 cxd4;  4.Nxd4 Qc7;  {Diagram?} 
Black adopts the older move order.

     [  Most players today would play: 4...a6!?; {Diagram?} 
        which is the "Kan Variation" of the Paulsen.  

        (See the Kasparov - Deep Junior Match for an example of how 
         Black should play this line.)  ]   


5.Nc3 e6;  6.Be3!? a6;  {Diagram?}  
The Taimanov Variation of the Paulsen Sicilian.  

After years of lying dormant, it now seems that this variation is (again) 
all the rage at the GM level. 

7.Qd2!?,  {Diagram?}  
This is a newer and more modern treatment of this line.  
(And I am not so sure that I like or approve of it.)

The older line is to play Be2 here.

     [  After the moves: 7.Be2 b58.Nxc6 Qxc69.0-0,  "~"  {Diagram?}  
        White has a tiny edge due to his lead in development. 

        [ See MCO-14, & page # 307. (Note especially column # 13.) ]  ]   


7...Nf6;  8.0-0-0!?,  {Diagram?}  
It could be a tad risky to castle on the Queen-side this early. 

     [  Black could also play:  8.f3 d5!9.exd5 Nxd510.Nxd5 exd5;  
        11.0-0-0 Bd612.Kb1 0-013.h4 Re814.h5,  "~"  {Diagram?}  
        This is a wildly unclear and also a very unbalanced position. 
         (GM Nick de Firmian now recommends that Black play ...Bd7; 
          with a fairly reasonable game.)  

        GM Nigel Short - GM Vadim Zvjaginsev;  
         Moscow, 1994. 

         [ See MCO-14;  page # 307;  columns # 13 through col. # 15.  
           See especially note # (g.). ]  


        Maybe the safest move here is:  8.Be2,   {Diagram?}  
        but this would involve completely abandoning the idea of castling  
        on the Queen's wing. ]  


8...Bb4!?;  9.f3,  {Diagram?} 
This is almost forced.  (White had to protect his e-pawn.)  


     [ A common mistake is: 9.Bd3?! Nxd410.Bxd4 e5;  
       11.Be3 d5!;  "=/+"  {Diagram?}  with great play for Black. ]  


9...Ne5!?;  {Diagram?}  
Black immediately strives for play.  

     [  Another (fairly recent) game was:  9...d5!?10.a3! Bxc311.Qxc3, 
        11...dxe412.fxe4 Nxe413.Qd3 f5!?{Diagram?}  
         Perhaps this is too weakening. 

           (Maybe  13...Nf6!?;  {Diagram?}  is just a little better.)    

        14.Qc4 e515.Nxc6 Qxc616.Rd5 Qe617.Ra5 Nd6; 
        18.Qc3 0-0{Diagram?}  
        This could be forced. 

           (>/= 18...Nf7?!; 19.Bc4, "/\"  "+/=" )   

        19.Rxe5 Qa220.b3!! Qxa3+21.Kb1 Nb522.Qe1! Rd8;  
        23.Bc4+ Kh824.Bd2!{Diagram?}  
        Black Resigns. 

        White has threats of both Re8+ and a back-rank mate, and Bb4, winning 
        Black's Queen. And if ...Qf8; then Bb4! ("+/-") forces things. 

        GM Judit Polgar - GM Joszef Horvath;  
        The European Cup Tournament, Halkidiki, GRE; 2002. ]  


10.Nb3 b5!?;  {Diagram?}  
Black plays his standard Q-side (Sicilian) pawn advance.  

GM Robert Byrne says it is unwise to give White doubled pawns in this position ... 
but it seems reasonable to me.  (The computer favors Black as well - in the lines 
where White's Q-side pawns are doubled.) 

     [  GM Robert Byrne gives the continuation of: >/=  10...Bxc3; ('!')  11.Qxc3 Qxc3;  
        12.bxc3 Nc6!?; ('?')  {Diagram?}  
        {This seems to be timid ... and for no good reason.} 

           (Better is: 12...b5!?;  13.Nc5; "~")    

        13.c4, "+/="  {Diagram?}  
         but this whole line seems inferior to me. 
         (I would play 12...b5!; and try to follow up with ...d5. 
          The object would be to fix and attack the weak c-pawn.)  ]  

11.Bd4 Be7?!;  {Diagram?}  
This looks far too passive to me ...  GM Byrne does not comment.

     [  >/= 11...Ng612.Qe3 Bb7; "~" ]  


12.Qg5!? Ng6;  13.Qg3,  {Diagram?} 
"The text move shows that Leko is interested in entering into an endgame." 
   - GM R. Byrne. 

     [  Was  13.e5!?,  any good?  ]  


13...Bd6;  {Diagram?}  
Black declines White's invitation to play an end-game.  

     [ The following line of: 13...Qxg3!?14.hxg3 e5; "~"  {Diag?}   
        probably holds more chances for White - in this position. ]  


14.Qf2,  {See the diagram just below.}  
This seems just about forced ...  at least, positionally speaking.  

(It was probably a bad idea to trap the Queen on the edge of 
 the board ... and on the same diagonal as Black's Bishop!) 

     [  </=  14.Qh3!? Bf4+15.Kb1 e516.Bc5 d5!17.g4[] d4; "/+"  ]  


   al_af-2_rec-gm13_pos1.jpg, 21 KB

(The actual position of the game ... just after White's fourteenth move.)


14...Rb8?!; (Possibly - '?')  {Diagram?}  
Black misses his big opportunity. 

     [  Much better was: >/=  14...Bxh2!15.g4 Bg3!16.Qg2!? b4; "/+" {D?}  
        and White does not have sufficient compensation for the one-pawn   
        deficit in this position.  ]   


15.Kb1 0-0;  16.Bc5 Bxc5;  17.Qxc5 Qxc5;  18.Nxc5,  ("=")  {Diagram?}  
Now there is the possibility that Black will suffer horribly in the ending, mainly 
because of his inability to influence the weak dark squares in his camp.  

"After the exchange of Queens, Leko has the initiative on the Queen-side and 
 Vallejo Pons is confined to the defense."   -  GM Robert Byrne. 
 (He goes on to comment that Black should be picking out his best 
  defensive set-up.)  


18...Rb6;  19.a4 Rc6;  20.Nd3 bxa4;  21.Nxa4,  {Diagram?}  
"This exchange has only succeeded in yielding White nice maneuvering 
  space on the Queen-side."   - GM Robert Byrne.  

     [ 21.e5!? ]  


21...d5;  22.exd5 Nxd5;   {Diagram?}  
Black seems OK here. 
(And Black has gotten rid of his isolated pawn.) 

  ... "but there is more of the story to come." - GM R. Byrne.  

23.Ndc5 Ne5!?;  {Diagram?}  
A nice centralizing move?  

     [  Maybe slightly better was: >/=  23...Nh4!?;  {Diagram?}  
        trying to probe White on the King-side.  ]  


24.Rd4 Nd7?!;  {Diagram?}  
Black seems to be drifting.  
(The exchange of pieces, here in this position, seems to help White.) 

Byrne does not comment here. (Nor does he attach any kind of 
appellation to Black's 24th move.)  

     [ Maybe  24...Rc7!?;  was better? ]  


25.Nxd7 Bxd7;  26.Bc4 Nf6;  27.Re1 Rfc8;  28.Bd3 Kf8;  29.Re5 R8c7;  
30.Ra5,  (Maybe - '!')  {Diagram?}  

"Now White's plan has been disclosed: 
  he is going to bear down on the isolated a6-pawn. Moreover, the Black 
  King-side pawn majority lacks the mobility of the White Queen-side 
  pawn majority."  - GM Robert Byrne.  

While White is better ... it is not  at all clear that the first player is definitely 
winning ... not yet, anyway.  

     [ Possibly   30.b4!? ]   


White's advantage now seems to slowly grow ...   
almost with every move that White makes.  
30...Bc8;  31.b4 Nd5; 32.Kb2 g6;  33.Kb3 Ne3;  
34.Nc5!?,  {Diagram?}  
This is interesting, and good for a slight advantage for White.
 ... BUT! ... was it the best?  (Byrne does not comment.)  

     [  Possibly White could play:  34.c4!?, "+/="  {Diagram?}  
        with seemingly a small edge.   


        It seems that White missed a much stronger continuation with:  
        >/=  34.Be4! e535.Rd8+ Ke736.Rxc8 Rxc837.Bxc6 Rxc6;  
        38.Rxe5+ Re639.Rxe6+ fxe6;  {Diagram?}  
        This is forced.  

          (Much worse for Black would have been:     
           </=  39...Kxe6?;  40.Nc5+ Kd5;  41.Nxa6 Nxg2;  42.c4+,  ('')  {Diag?}      
           and White is a Pawn up ...  and his two connected-passers have      
           already started rolling.)     

        40.g3 Nf141.f4 Nxh242.Nc5, "+/="  {Diagram?}  
        and White is clearly better in this ending.  
        (Strangely Byrne does not comment on this possibility.)  ]   


34...Ra7;  {Diagram?}  
This highly defensive move seems too passive ... and ultimately doomed to failure. 
 But Black was also stuck between a rock and a hard place.  

But it is not easy to find improvements for the second player either.  

     [  GM R. Byrne  points out the very fine continuation of:  34...Nxg2!?;  
         35.Bxa6! Bxa6!?
36.Rxa6 Rxa637.Nxa6 Ra738.b5! Ne1;  
         39.Rb4! Nxf3
"+/-"  {Diagram?}  
        and White shall prevail here.  ]  


Now White smoothly wraps things up ... Black has almost no play now.
35.g3 Ke7;  36.f4 f6;  37.Be4 Rb6;  38.c4 e5!?;  39.fxe5 fxe5;  40.Rd3 Nf5!?;  
41.Na4 Re6;  42.b5 Nd4+;  43.Kc3,  "+/-"   Black Resigns.  

"It may seem a bit early, (for resignation); but the Spanish GM understands full 
  well that he is lost."  -  GM Robert Byrne. 

A fascinating game ... played at one of the year's strongest tournaments. 
But it was a contest that both sides may have failed to find the best line(s)  ...  
at various points during the struggle. 

This encounter may have well determined the winner of the tournament. 
(Pons was the early leader and Leko wound up winning the title of champ 
 on tie-breaks.) 


     [  GM R. Byrne  provides the following line ... as possibly the way play could 
         have proceeded, had Black chosen not to abandon his position: 
         43.Kc3 Kf644.Rd2!? Rae7!?45.b6 Kg7!?46.Rb2 Nc647.Bxc6!? Rxc6;  
         48.Nc5 Bb749.Nxb7 Rxb750.c5 Kf651.Kc4 Ke652.Rxa6 e4!?;  
         53.Re2!? Ke554.Kb5 Rc855.c6!?,  "+/-"   {Diagram?}  
         and the connected, passed-pawns will eventually march to glory.  

           (>/= 55.Ra4!, "+/-")    ]  


   Copyright () 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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