Luke McShane

Meeting an idol

Meeting an idol
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We had never met, but David Paravyan, from Russia, has been something of a personal idol since August 2018. My veneration was exclusively based on one game whose dazzling ingenuity was, to my eyes, awesome. Last week he took first place (and a £30,000 prize) at the Gibraltar Masters, one of the most prestigious open tournaments in the world. Paravyan is an accomplished grandmaster, but this was a huge career breakthrough in a field that included the likes of Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Seven players tied for first place on 7½/10, and Paravyan triumphed in a gruelling series of tiebreak games after the final day’s play. Nevertheless, I cannot resist showing the earlier game which so impressed me.

It is no easy task, in the modern era, to win a game in the romantic style. Defensive skill has been much refined since the 1800s, but here we see a pawn, knight, bishop, queen and rook all offered up in a cascade of sacrifices. While the initial attacking stance, with an isolated queen’s pawn, bishop on c4 and knight on g5 against the castled king, is traditional, the subsequent motifs are exotic. In the diagram position, White found the only winning move 24 Qc7!!, flitting between the fire of Black’s bishops and sacrificing the queen on an empty square. There is a fearful symmetry to this, particularly when set against the preceding move 23 g4!! which offered the queen on c2.

David Paravyan–Saveliy Golubov

Korchnoi Memorial, August 2018

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nxe5 d6 4 Nf3 Nxe4 5 d4 d5 6 Bd3 Bd6 7 O-O O-O 8 c4 c6 9 Qb3 dxc4 10 Bxc4 Nd7 11 Re1 Ndf6 12 Nbd2 Nxd2 13 Bxd2 Qb6 14 Qd3 Qxb2 Consequent, but a move like 14... Bd7 was more prudent. 15 Rab1 Qa3 16 Qc2 Nd5 17 Rb3 Qa4 18 Bxd5! The start of a wonderful combination. 18… cxd5 19 Ng5 g6 20 Nxh7! Bf5 20... Kxh7 21 Rh3+! wins the queen on a4 21 Nf6+ Kg7 22 Bh6+! Luring Black’s king forward. 22... Kxf6 22... Kxh6 23 Rh3+ wins again. 23 g4!! What the hand, dare seize the fire? The lovely point is that 23...Bxc2 24 Rf3+ Bf5 25 g5 is mate. Instead, 23 Qd2 threatens mate on g5, but 23... Be4 blocks the e-file and the game remains complex. 23... Bf4! See diagram.

Blow for blow, and by far the best defence. Instead 23... Be4 24 Rxe4 dxe4 25 Qxe4 wins, or 23... Bxg4 24 Qd2 with Qg5 mate to follow. 24 Qc7!! Extraordinary. Qe7 mate is threatened, and 24...Bxc7 25 g5 is mate again. 24... Bxh6 24... Rfe8 25 Qd6+! is flashy: Re6 26 Rxe6+ followed by Qxf4 and wins. 25 Qe5+ Kg5 26 h4+ Kxh4 26 ... Kxg4 27 Rg3+ Kh5 28 Qe2+ Kxh4 29 Kg2 and Re1-h1 follows. 27 Rh3+! Kg5 28 Qe7+ Mate follows with Qe7-h4 or Qe7-e3-g3, so Black resigns

They say you should never meet your idols, but I had little choice, as I was paired with Paravyan in the penultimate round of the Isle of Man Grand Swiss a few months ago. I played a careful game, determined to contain my imaginative opponent. After much wrangling, we reached the endgame shown in the puzzle below. Though I was doubtful that my extra pawn offered serious winning chances, I had resolved to try a little longer, safe in the knowledge that I could hardly lose. Or so I thought. In the position below, my careless move 48... Bb5-e2? has just been met with 49 h5-h6!, a move I had thought impossible. When it dawned on me that I had stumbled into a diabolical trap, I slunk into my chair and reluctantly played 49... gxh6, but after 50 gxf6! my pawns were a wreck. I soon shed the one on e5, and his central pawn mass carried the day. It’s true: don’t meet your idols. You might get mugged.