It is traditional that in my first column of the new year I review the previous 12 months and select the most outstanding game played at elite level to receive the accolade of game of the year. This time, there is little doubt that the most spectacular game of 2017 was the win by the Chinese grandmaster (and now World Championship candidate) Ding Liren against Jinshi Bei from the Chinese League. This game has become known as the Chinese Immortal and, as with the original bearer of the immortal accolade, Anderssen-Kieseritsky, London 1851, this game sees a queen sacrifice followed by a devastating attack against the opposing king. Indeed, the closing stages resemble one of the wild king hunts of the 19th century rather than a game between modern experts.
Also this week, I have selected a puzzle of the year. This marks the return to play of the former world champion Garry Kasparov, regarded by many as the greatest player of all time. In fact, the stunning winning move was wheeled out against Kasparov and it came as a terrible shock to him, as could be seen by anyone watching.
Bei-Ding Liren; Chinese League 2017; Nimzo-Indian Defence
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Nf3 0-0 5 Bg5 c5 6 e3 cxd4 7 Qxd4 7 exd4 would be more normal. The text exposes White’s queen to counterattack. 7 ... Nc6 8 Qd3 And here 8 Qh4 looks natural to be followed by Bd3. 8 ... h6 9 Bh4 d5 10 Rd1 g5 11 Bg3 Ne4 The start of a vigorous counterattack. 12 Nd2 Nc5 13 Qc2 d4 14 Nf3 e5 15 Nxe5 dxc3 (see diagram 1) A bold sacrifice hoping to bring White’s king and queen into the firing line. 16 Rxd8 cxb2+ 17 Ke2 The critical error. It is far better to return material by retreating the rook to d2. After 17 Rd2 Rd8 18 Nf3 Bg4 19 Qxb2 Bxf3 20 gxf3 Rxd2 21 Qxd2 Bxd2+ 22 Kxd2 Rd8+ Black has some counterplay for his lost pawn. After the text move White’s king sets out on the first step of an ill-fated journey. 17 ... Rxd8 18 Qxb2 Na4 19 Qc2 Nc3+ 20 Kf3 Rd4 A sensational way to introduce his rook into the attack. It goes without saying that 21 exd4 fails to 21 ... Nxd4+. 21 h3 h5 22 Bh2 g4+ 23 Kg3 Rd2 (see diagram 2) The rook advances even further. Now 24 Qxd2 loses to 24 ... Ne4+. 24 Qb3 Ne4+ 25 Kh4 Be7+ 26 Kxh5 Kg7 27 Bf4 Bf5 Bringing up the final reserves. Once the black rook reaches h8 White’s case will be utterly hopeless. 28 Bh6+ Kh7 29 Qxb7 Rxf2 30 Bg5 Rh8 31 Nxf7 Bg6+ 32 Kxg4 Ne5+ White resigns After 33 Nxe5 Bf5+ 34 Kh5 Kg7+ 35 Bh6+ Rxh6 is mate.