We continue with the topic of blunders in modern play and today's article features games from the World Junior Chess Championship 2013, which was held in Turkey and has just finished. (GM Yu Yangyi won!) The three examples featured today are about blunders in endgames.
Young or old, we all blunder and young juniors have very entertaining and creative games, thus making it impossible to avoid blunders! Hence, the selection of today's examples was bit of a challenge as there are so many good games played at this championship. As I am writing this article the tournament so far featured a two-horse race between GM Yu Yangyi and former World Junior Champion (and my former countryman) GM Alexander Ipatov. It is a pity that no one represents the U.S. as I am sure that our juniors could have put a strong fight for the title.
Moving on with the topic, we will see an example of GM Yu's play as well as two others from top contestants. Let's go to the first example.
The only three other games that featured the position shown below were played in 2013 by players playing Black being Armenian GMs: Aronian, Sargissian and Akopian. Until the game we will analyze today, the score was an overwhelming 2.5 - 0.5 favoring Black. What I gathered from these games is that it is White who has a plan and Black who adjusts his actions according to White's play. White normally tries to get more space on the kingside with pawn advances g4-h4 or f4. After moving the pawns forward some of the squares that the pawns no longer defend become weak and Black tries to position his knights in such a way so they are ready to occupy these weak squares. If White pushes f4 then Black has good counterplay attacking the e4-pawn with Re8 and undermining it with ... f5-break. Black is in no rush to develop Bc8 as it does not block Ra8, which is active along the a-file. Black also likes to put the king on c7, where it is well-protected by the queenside pawns.
GM Yu Yangyi implemented a relatively fresh and original plan of play on the queenside. Instead of pushing the pawns on the kingside he positioned his rooks on the c- and d-files and managed to accomplish pawn storm on the queenside what significantly weakened the black king. GM Salem decided not to prevent Black's actions on the queenside but launched an assault on the e-pawn. According to classics, this plan is correct as we normally react to the side-attack with a counter-strike in the center.
Up until now both GMs showed an excellent understanding of the position and managed not to make any serious mistakes. This game is of very high quality. The 40th move is the one where you pass the time control and my guess is that both players were already in a time trouble. This can explain an unexpected blunder by Black on move 30. Maybe GM Salem did not see the piece win in the lines with the b6-break. Or maybe he hadn't evaluated the resulting position properly, given the time trouble. Black does have plenty of compensation for the piece - in view of two pawns and active pieces. GM Yu was merciless in finishing Black off after the blunder.
In the following example both sides have their advantages. White has more space in the centre and the e5-pawn cramps Black's kingside. The e5-pawn also allows White to regroup his pieces and launch an attack on the kingside. While White's advantages are seemingly all on the kingside, Black has stronghold on the queenside. He controls the c-file and has a pawn majority made of a- and b-pawns vs. White's a-pawn. Black wants to exchange queens and play a favorable endgame, while White wants to attack the king. Let us see how players balanced their plays with preventing the opponents' plans.
Up until now play was more or less balanced. Both sides fought well and White managed to get the upper hand. Black should have prevented the queen getting to b7 but he didn't and now he is facing with the tough choice of giving up the f7-pawn or not. It turns out that it's not really a choice as playing the move he did in the game to save the f7-pawn is a real blunder. Instead, he should have grabbed the a-pawn and hope for the best. Really, if you want to defend and suffer you might as well do it with an extra pawn. The spectacular blow that followed is truly aesthetic and Black did not manage to recover from it.
The previous position and the next one are a bit similar due to the presence of the strong e5-pawn. White, in the position we will consider next, has a very strong knight on d6, which is a major annoyance for Black. The white pieces are well placed but it ideally he would want to have more of them on the kingside. Black managed temporarily to put a blockade on the dark squares to prevent the white pieces from getting in. However, White can attack Nd4 many times and then Black will be forced to either retreat and lose his standpoint on d4 or to sacrifice a pawn. It is not easy for Black but he has to realize that a queen exchange favors him as now the white queen is the only piece that can fully expose the weak light squares in the center and on the queenside. In the game he decided to give up the knight position right away and got under an unpleasant pawn attack on the kingside. After a few inaccurate moves by White, at last Black managed to consolidate and not lose any material.
Up until now, Black showed excellent defensive play. White could have played few more precise moves to get a deserved advantage. The current position is evaluated by Houdini 3 as equal and it makes sense. White has an attack on the kingside but the black knight and queen managed to defend all the entry squares there and blockade the e- and f-pawns. On the other hand, Black has full control of the d-file and has started advancing his a- and c-pawns on the queenside.
Starting from this position, there was series of blunders from both sides. The position is so rich in resources that even very high-rated players did not manage to avoid them!
Next week we will wrap-up this series on blunders.