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unfamiliar positions. I am uncompromising however in that I


will not play less than what I perceive to be the best move though I will possibly play more aggressively. If the best move is not an aggressive move, if aggression is not an option in a game that is equal, I will sim- ply try to extend play without compromising the quality of my game; that is, without weakening my position. It is unwise to engage in overreaching as demonstrated by my game versus GM Arkadij Naiditsch which appears later in this article. If a grandmaster having the white


pieces is higher rated, I do my best to play more solidly. I tend to wait a bit longer for opportunities to arise. I am more likely to try to equalize. If I detect an opening, then I pounce. I say these things because it is dangerous to play aggressively with the black pieces versus a grandmaster who is rated significantly higher. For example, in 2007, I had black


against Ukrainian grandmaster Vassily Ivanchuk at a rapid tournament in Spain. I was, of course, aware of his strength and skills and so played solidly—but not as solidly as I could have. At one point, I became over-ambitious which enabled ‘Chucky’ to seize the initiative and even- tually win the game which appeared to be a draw. However, when a similar opportu- nity presented itself (having black against a grandmaster ranked much higher than I and a situation in which aggression was not a viable option) I was mindful of my previous error in judgment and endeav- ored to avoid repeating it.


French Defense,


Tarrasch Variation (C06) GM Francisco Vallejo-Pons (2778) GM Varuzhan Akobian (2709) North American Open (7), 12.29.2011


This game took place in the final round


of the 2011 North American Open in Las Vegas. My opponent is Francisco “Paco” Vallejo-Pons, a very strong grandmaster from Spain and who was ranked 30th in the world at 2705 FIDE. At this point he was the tournament leader and I was one-half point behind him. Consequently, I attempted to create complications in order to perhaps obtain winning chances.


1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 GM Vallejo-Pons opted for the Tarrasch


Variation of the French Defense; a varia- tion that is generally recognized as very solid for White.


3. Nd2 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. Bd3 c5 6. c3 Nc6 7. Ne2 cxd4


This next move is another interesting


possibility for Black. 7. ... Qb6 8. Nf3 cxd4 9. cxd4 f6 10. exf6 Nxf6 11. 0-0 Bd6 12. Bf4 Bxf4 13. Nxf4 Qxb2 14. Re1 0-0


uschess.org GM Varuzhan Akobian at the 2009 National Open


leads to an unclear position with roughly equal chances. Black exchanges his “good” bishop for White’s “bad” bishop given that Black wins the b-pawn and as any retreat would also result in a loss of tempo. Thus, capturing is the best move.


8. cxd4 f6 9. exf6 This next move results in very sharp


variations and require both players to know the theory on a profound level or risk having a worse position. 9. Nf4 Nxd4 10. Qh5+ Ke7 11. Ng6+ hxg6 12. exf6+ Nxf6 13. Qxh8 Kf7 14. Qh4 (14. 0-0 e5 15. Nb3 This is the main line for White and probably the strongest continuation. [15. Nf3 Nxf3+ 16. gxf3 Bf5 17. Bxf5 gxf5 18. Bg5 Bc5 19. Qxd8 Rxd8 and Black will be fine in the endgame despite being down the Exchange, due to his strong center and centralized king.] 15. ... Nxb3 16. axb3 Bf5 17. Bxf5 gxf5 18. Bg5 Bc5 19. Qh3 Qd7 Black has compensation because of the strong center and White’s compromised


queenside pawn structure.) 14. ... e5 15. Nf3 Nxf3+ 16. gxf3 Bf5 17. Bxf5 gxf5 and despite a lack of clarity, Black again has sufficient compensation for the Exchange due to his strong center and White’s weak- ened pawn structure; worse for White is 9. Nf3 fxe5 10. dxe5 Ndxe5 11. Nxe5 Nxe5 12. 0-0 Bd6 13. Bb5+ Bd7 14. Bxd7+ Qxd7.


9. ... Nxf6 10. Nf3 Bd6 11. 0-0 Qc7 The idea behind this move is to stop


White from exchanging the dark-squared bishop which will help White to obtain a small advantage. Another viable possi- bility is 11. ... 0-0 12. Bf4 Ng4 13. Bxd6 Qxd6 14. h3 Rxf3 15. hxg4 Rf8 with an equal position. It is interesting to note that a search of the databases reveals that my opponent is very familiar with these positions with the black pieces.


12. g3 Not the most popular move in this posi-


Chess Life — July 2012 37


PHOTO: CHRIS BIRD


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