The early games of the World Championship in New York between Magnus Carlsen and Sergei Karjakin did little to contribute to the gaiety of nations. In the first two games both contestants seemed more anxious to display their ability to avoid loss than to strive heroically for a win. If the two were ‘willing to wound, but yet afraid to strike’, their willingness was of a most muted variety.
Fortunately, there was no lack of entertainment from the parallel Champions Showdown in St Louis, which pits Veselin Topalov, Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana and Viswanathan Anand against each other in multifarious formats. Meanwhile, the European Club Cup, from which this week’s extraordinary game is taken, also showed a plethora of exciting clashes.
Aronian-Rapport: European Club Cup, Novi Sad 2016; Chigorin Defence
1 d4 d5 2 c4 Nc6 3 Nc3 I first encountered this move when the Dutch grandmaster Donner played it against me in the annual Anglo-Dutch match at London 1971. At that time I tried to continue in true Chigorin fashion with 3 … dxc4 4 Nf3 (4 d5 Ne5 5 Bf4 and now 5 … Ng6 was satisfactory for Black in Gligoric-Smyslov, Amsterdam 1971) 4 … Bg4 5 d5 Bxf3 6 exf3 Ne5. Sadly after 7 Bf4 Black is almost lost since 7 … Ng6 fails to 8 Bxc4 with the deadly threat of Bb5+. 3 … Nf6 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 Nf3 e5 This gambit revives Black’s chances in the Chigorin. 6 dxe5 Bb4 7 Bd2 Nxc3 8 bxc3 Ba5 9 e3 0-0 10 Qa4 Bb6 11 Qf4 Qe7 12 h4 New, but eccentric. Natural and good is 12 Bc4. 12 … f6 13 exf6 Rxf6 14 Qc4+ Kh8 15 Bd3 Bf5 16 Bxf5 Rxf5 (see diagram 1) Largely because of White’s irrelevant 12 h4 Black enjoys sufficient compensation for his sacrificed pawn. 17 Ng5 An overoptimistic thrust. White should simply play 17 0-0. After White’s mistaken sortie with his knight Black succeeds in concentrating his forces against the white king. 17 … Ne5 18 Qe4 Qd7 19 0-0 Re8 20 Qc2 h6 21 Ne4 Rh5 22 Ng3 Rxh4 23 Rad1 Rf8 24 Bc1 Qg4 25 Rd5 Qg5 26 Qe2 c6 27 Rd4 (see diagram 2) A clever idea which meets with an even more astounding riposte. If now 27 … Bxd4 28 exd4 when Black must lose material. However, White is in for a shock. 27 … Rh1+ If now 28 Nxh1 Nf3+ wins the queen, so White’s hand is forced. 28 Kxh1 Bxd4 29 f3 Or 29 exd4 Qh4+ 30 Kg1 Ng4 31 Re1 Qh2+ 32 Kf1 Qxg3 33 Be3 Rf6 when White has virtually run out of sensible moves. 29 … Bb6 30 Ne4 Qh5+ 31 Kg1 Bc7 32 Kf2 Qh2 33 Ke1 Rd8 34 Bd2 Nd3+ 35 Kd1 Qe5 With White’s king in the firing line, resistance is futile. 36 g4 Qb5 37 Qg2 Nb2+ 38 Kc2 Nc4 39 Bc1 Rd5 40 g5 Na5 41 Bd2 Qd3+ White resigns