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In the Arena


tion but very solid. White still hopes to play f4 and exchange the dark-squared bishops. 12. Bg5 This is the main line. 12. ... 0-0 13. Bh4 Nh5 (13. ... e5 The follow- ing is an interesting continuation. 14. dxe5 Nxe5 15. Nxe5 Bxe5 16. Bg3 Bxg3 17. Nxg3 Qb6 18. Qd2 Bd7 19. h3 Rae8 with a virtually equal position.) 14. Qc2 h6 15. Bg6 Rxf3!? 16. gxf3 (16. Bxh5 Bxh2+ 17. Kh1 Rf5 18. Bg6 Bd6 19. Bxf5 exf5 and Black has good compensation for the Exchange sacrifice.) 16. ... Bxh2+ 17. Kh1 Nf4 18. Ng3 Nxg6 19. Qxg6 Bxg3 20. Qe8+ Kh7 21. Bxg3 Qd7 22. Qxd7 Bxd7 with an equal position in the game Naroditsky, Daniel-Shulman, Yury, 2011. And Black is also fine after 12. Ng3 0-0 13. Bg5 Qb6! 14. Rb1 h6 15. Bxf6 Rxf6 16. Re1 Bd7 17. Nh5 Rff8. It should be noted that in many of the positions exam- ined to this point, there are additional viable or interesting continuations that space does not permit us to discuss.


12. ... 0-0 13. Bf4 Bd7 13. ... Ng4 14. Bxd6 Qxd6 15. Nc3 e5


16. dxe5 Ngxe5 17. Nxe5 Qxe5 18. Nxd5 and White is slightly better though the position remains somewhat unclear.


14. Rc1 Be8 This is a rare move the purpose of


which is to transfer the bishop to h5 and exchange it for one of White’s knights. In the French Defense, Black’s light-squared bishop is often his worst piece due to the central pawn structure (their placement on the light squares). Also possible is 14. ... Ne4 15. Bxe4 dxe4 16. Ne5 (16. Bxd6 Qxd6 17. Ng5 Rad8 18. Nxe4 Qd5 19. N4c3 Qf3 20. d5 e5! Black is slightly bet- ter. White cannot capture the c6-knight as ... Bxc6 threatens mate on h1 and g2.) 16. ... Bxe5 17. dxe5 Be8 with the idea of ... Bh5 and Black has equalized.


15. Ne5 White also could have continued: 15.


Bxd6 Qxd6 16. Nf4 Ne4! (16. ... Nh5?! 17. Bxh7+! Kxh7 18. Ng5+ Kh8 19. Nxh5 e5 20. dxe5 Qh6 21. Nxg7 Kxg7 22. f4 and White has more than compensation for the piece and is actually slightly better.) 17. Bxe4 dxe4 18. Ng5 Rxf4 19. gxf4 Nxd4 20. Nxe4 Qxf4 21. Qxd4 Qg4+ 22. Kh1 Qf3+ 23. Kg1 Qg4+ with perpetual check.


15. ... Qb8!


(see diagram top of next column) An important move; Black is threat-


ening to capture on e5 with the win of a pawn. It’s very important for Black to maintain control of the e5-square in this position. If he fails in this, the backward pawn on e6 becomes a vulnerable target.


16. Nxc6 Bxc6 38 Chess Life — July 2012


rwq-+ltrk+ zpp+-+-zpp -+nvlpsn-+ +-+psN-+- -+-zP-vL-+ +-+L+-zP- PzP-+NzP-zP +-tRQ+RmK-


After 15. ... Qb8 16. ... bxc6 though capturing with pawn


gives Black the b-file, it places still another foot soldier on the same square as his already “bad” bishop and simulta- neously creates another weakness (backward pawn).


17. Qd2 17. Re1 Ng4 18. f3 e5! This is the sub-


variation I had hoped my opponent would play. The position is still unclear and preserves at least some winning chances for Black.


17. ... e5!


rwq-+-trk+ pp+-+-zpp -+lvl-sn-+ +-+pzp-+- -+-zP-vL-+ +-+L+-zP- PzP-wQNzP-zP +-tR-+RmK-


After 17. ... e5


This is a key move for which Black has planned—it frees his position, allowing greater range for his pieces and elimi- nating the weakness on e6. After this move, I believe I equalized the position.


18. dxe5 Bxe5 19. Bxe5


If 19. Rfe1 Ne4 20. Qe3 Bxf4 21. Nxf4 Qd6 with a roughly equal position. 19. ... Qxe5 20. Nd4 Bd7 20. ... Qxd4?? 21. Bxh7+ with a win for


White. 21. Rfe1 Qd6 These type of positions that arise in the


French Defense are typically near to equal because the d5-pawn is both a strength and a weakness. (It controls important central squares, but is also isolated.)


22. Nf5 Bxf5 23. Bxf5 Rae8 24. Qd4 b6 25. b4 Rxe1+ 26. Rxe1 Re8


My idea was to exchange both rooks if


possible and try to play for a win with the queen and knight. However, my astute opponent correctly avoided exchanging the second rook.


27. Rc1 Qe5 I played this move on a principle that


I learned as a child: When your oppo- nent’s piece is more active than your own, try to exchange it.


28. Qxe5 Rxe5 29. Bd3 Kf7 The importance of bringing one’s king


to the center in the endgame is essential and cannot be over-emphasized.


30. a4 Re7 My idea was to protect the seventh


rank and optimally activate my king by bringing him to d6.


31. a5, Draw agreed. After nearly four hours of play, GM


Vallejo-Pons offered a draw which I accepted after carefully calculating my possibilities; I saw no way to play for a win and so accepted his offer. I was pleased with my second place finish in the event and with this game against a very highly- ranked opponent. (31. a5 bxa5 32. bxa5 Ke6 33. Re1+ Kd6 34. Rxe7 Kxe7 35. f3 Kd6 36. Kf2 Kc5 37. Ke3 Kb4 38. Kd4 Kxa5 39. g4 h6 40. h4 Kb4 41. g5 hxg5 42. hxg5 Nh5 43. Ba6 Nf4 44. Ke5 The posi- tion is equal. Neither side can force a win.)


I have also been on the other end of


what I describe as “hyper-aggressive” play by opponents having the black pieces. I refer here not to play that is simply aggressive but instead play char- acterized by an attack despite the attacker’s lack of a positional advantage and that usually includes a disregard for opening principles without solid rationale or compensating factors. In 2009, I played GMs Étienne Bacrot


and Naiditsch. At the time, they were FIDE rated approximately 2725 and 2700, respectively. In each case, I had white and my opponents pressed the action or, as was true of the game versus GM Naiditsch, engaged in unfounded hyper- aggressive play with the black pieces, presumably because I was significantly lower rated than each at the time. At the time we played, GM Bacrot was the 17th ranked player in the world and enjoyed a nearly one hundred point advantage in the FIDE ratings. GM Naiditsch ranked 36th in the world and possessed over a seventy point FIDE rating advantage. The results were a draw with GM Bacrot and a crushing defeat of GM Naiditsch. Witness the slaughter in this 23-move miniature.


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