The Best Moves Never Played: Intuition (Part 5)

The Best Moves Never Played: Intuition (Part 5)

| 8 | Middlegame

We are wrapping-up the column on Intuition and I would like to take a look at few games from the Candidates Tournament that is currently underway in London. Carlsen and Aronian are two favorites of the tournament and we will analyze their games and post-mortem commentary.

Let us start with the Carlsen's game, since he is a huge favorite in this candidates tournament. The first two rounds were quite uneventful for him but he also faced a strong opposition of Aronian with black and didn't manage to put problems before Kramnik with white, which in Kramnik's opinion was due to poor selection of the opening.

When asked about the third round game against Gelfand, Carlsen responded that: "I thought the game was quite good, obviously it was drawn up to a certain point, there were always some practical possibilities". Let us get to the critical moment of the game where white had a choice to force a draw or to play a complicated position.


In this position white has two continuations: Qh5 or h5. Gelfand mentioned that Qh5 led to an easy draw to which Magnus Carlsen pretty much agreed adding:

"I was hoping that he would go h5 and then I thought that I have some practical chances. After Qh5, I couldn't see a way to continue, the white queen simply trapped the king."

Both players saw Qh5 and correctly evaluated it. However, h5 move apparently Gelfand overestimated, while Carlsen hoped to see it being played. It is a question whether white manages to create some kind of an attack with h5-h6 to counter black's pawn storm on the queenside. Specific calculations will not do the work here as the position is too complex. Speaking of general concepts Q+N is a much better combination that Q+B, therefore one might suspect that the attack will not work. Intuition plays a big role in the move selection in this position. Gelfand did not feel the danger that his position carry and opted for a wrong continuation.

After the queen exchange it is hard to defend the position - Gelfand recognized that he miscalculated something.

Interestingly enough that Aronian after his post-mortem gave an opinion about Carlsen's game vs. Gelfand. He mentioned that after queen exchange it is a draw and tried to find a more adventurous way for white to play. This shows that the position is more complex that it appears if a player of such a caliper as Aronian misevaluates the resulting endgame after the queen exchange. He mentions that white is opting for Bf2-Bh4 sometimes but in fact white has no time for such maneuvers. It is white who has to think about a draw.

Let us look at a game Ivanchuk-Aronian, which proved to be very interesting due to creative play from Ivanchuk. The first critical moment comes early in the game. In the following position white has a few ways to continue with attack. Ivanchuk chose the most direct one.


Aronian criticized Ivanchuk's decision: "I actually thought that Ng5 is a mistake in fact. I was thinking that it is better to proceed the attack in a different way, maybe Qc2 g6 h5 trying to take on g6, although it is not so easy, or g4 here. Because after Ne7 I felt very comfortable with my position because the knight gets to f5..."

In the other interview Aronian confirmed his opinion about Ng5:

"It is kind of risky venture. I tend to do things like this and then my friends tell me that I am a coffee house player. But this is asking for it because when the knight gets to e7 black is slightly better that is what I thought."

"What I was actually checking during the game that did not actually seem clear at all for me." Some of the lines looked rather scary for black but Levon was planning to meet the attack after Qc2 with Ne7. "But anyway this whole idea with h4 is a good one."

It is very interesting that Aronian pinpointed the critical moment so well. Ng5 looks like a very natural move but it turns out to be a mistake just because black has a good grip on the light squares and it is extremely hard to break through. This is a superb understanding and intuitive feeling of the position from Aronian.

Let us fast-forward towards the next critical moment.

"Qb5 was a lemon I should have done Qc7 I guess but I forgot about Ne5 but although people are telling me that black is still winning here [after Qb5] it is not that simple." This is really surprising oversight from Aronian. Ne5 is the only continuation that white has in this position. It is hard to qualify it under intuitive mishap, it is rather a pure blunder.

The next moment shows Aronian's practical approach to the position. Ivanchuk had about 5 minutes left for 18 remaining moves and Aronian sets up a trap.


After Qf5 "it is a nice trick. I was trying to trap the opponent's knight on d6".

Next moment once again shows how aware Aronian is of the opponent time-trouble. Black has a winning combination B:d4 but he most likely needs to spend some time on calculating it. During that time white might find the best defensive set-up. Aronian opts for a practical decision of letting white to dictate the events, what under time-trouble is very hard to do.

"I could have taken on d4 but then I thought why complicate things he is going to lose on time anyway." Ivanchuk had 20 seconds here. Levon mentioned that he is winning in the final position because he can take on b4 and play Bf5.

 Surely, Ivanchuk could have defended much better if he had more time. Time is the price for creative play. Candidates Tournament features the best players in the world and playing tightly might be the best strategy. No doubt Ivanchuk could have drawn Aronain with white if he wanted but he did not. He wanted to win and to win beautifully and took a risk, I hope his choice of play will pay off in the later rounds.

Aronian's remark about Ivanchuk's time-trouble is very interesting: "Usually Ivanchuk is playing really well in time-trouble, so he likes going into that because he is a very deep player, he needs time to create, so he is not afraid of it, but here maybe he is not in his best shape. Because time-troubles for people like Ivanchuk and Grischuk are nothing. These guys played their best when they are down on time." I guess it all comes down to a form, in a good form Ivanchuk can win even being down to 20 seconds.

Next week we will start with a new topic in the series of The Best Moves Never Played.

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