The Pearl of Gibraltar

The Pearl of Gibraltar

| 4 | Middlegame

Recently I was fortunate enough to watch the live transmission and analyze one fantastic game from the Gibraltar Masters beetween my countryman Alexandr Fier and Top GM Michael Adams. I analyzed the game trying to guess the moves (by the way, this is a very good way to train your decision-making) and I want to share with you my analytical findings. The game was insanely complicated and I point out the most critical situations. I suggest you study these critical positions by yourself and then compare your analysis with mine. This is the best way to train your calculating ability.The most important techniques trained here are the ability to list your candidate moves - thus finding hidden nuances - and paying attention to your opponent´s resources. But beware: some of the questions I will pose are extremely difficult to answer! 

The game we are about to analyze deservedly won the prize of best game of the tournament. I offer a pgn version at the end of the article.

 Fier,A 2572- Adams,M 2754 [E20]
30.01.2014 Gibraltar Masters

My friend Alexandr Fier has earned the nickname "No Fear" for a reason. He plays with agression against any opponent, making him very dangerous even to 2700+ players. The following battle is so rich and complex that I do not even pretend to have found the "truth" in its critical positions. Instead, my aim is to point out the beauty of the moves played and variations that remained behind the curtains. In such a fight it is normal for both players to make mistakes. 

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.f3 

This line is very fashionable nowadays. Even the World Champion is struggling against it. Despite having bad positions against Anand and Nakamura, Carlsen scored two wins with black... 

4...c5 5.d5 b5!?


One of the many possibilities. I played 5...0-0 in December, gaining an important win in the Brazilian Championship: 6.Nh3 d6 7.Nf4 e5 8.Nd3 Bxc3+ 9.bxc3 Nh5 10.g4 Qh4+ 11.Nf2 Nf4 12.e3 Ng6 13.e4 h5 14.Be3 Nd7 15.Qd2 hxg4 16.Bg5 Qh7 17.Nxg4 f6 18.Be3 Nb6 19.0-0-0 Nh4 20.Qf2 Bxg4 21.fxg4 Qxe4 22.Bd3 Qf3 23.Bxc5 dxc5 24.Qxh4 e4 0-1 (24) Macedo,M (2369)-Leitao,R (2636) Joao Pessoa 2013.


6.e4 0-0 7.e5 Ne8 8.f4 d6


The position is very wild with all this tension in the center.


9.Nf3 exd5 10.cxd5


10.Qxd5 Qc7! Is the point of black's play. White cannot take the rook and the position remains unclear. 

10...Nc7 11.Bd3 f5!?N 

A new and very clever move. Adam's restricts the dangerous d3 bishop. 11...c4 had been played before. 

12.0-0 c4 13.Bc2 

There are many possibilities for both sides in almost every move now. 


13...dxe5 14.fxe5 Bxc3 15.bxc3

 (15.Bg5 Qxd5 16.bxc3 Nc6 unclear) 

15...Nxd5 16.Qd2 With compensation. In general white does not care for losing material as long as he can keep attacking chances.  


14.Nd4 g6 is unclear



A very strong move. White is playing at all sides of the board.


15...Bxc3 16.bxc3?!


But this is wrong. To keep the pressure white had to play an intermediate move (one of the most interesting tactical themes). 

16.axb5! Nxb5 17.bxc3 Nac7! with a very unclear position, which seems to me easier to play with white.

( but not 17...Nxc3?! 18.Qd4 Ne4 (18...Ne2? 19.Qxc4 Nxc1 20.Rxa6! Bxa6 21.Qxa6+/-; 18...Nxd5 19.Rxa6 dxe5 20.Qxe5 Bxa6 21.Qe6+ Kh8 22.Qxa6+/-) 19.Ba3 with attack.) 



Now black manages to close the position and gets the upper hand. 

17.Nd4 g6


17...dxe5?! 18.Nxf5 Nxd5 19.fxe5 with the initiative. 

18.cxb4 dxe5?!

Adams clearly missed or understimated Fier's reply. 18...Nxb4 was best, with an advantage for black.




A fantastic resource. This is a long term sacrifice to keep white in the game. It really needs a lot of courage to play like this against one the world´s leading players!


19...gxf5 20.d6 Ne6 

20...e4? 21.dxc7 Qxd1 22.Bxd1+/-; 20...Nxb4 21.Rb1 Ncd5 22.fxe5 with the initiative


21.fxe5 Qh4! 22.Bxf5 Rxf5! 23.Rxf5 

The level of play has been of the highest standard up to here. From now on, however, the tension and complexity of the position is felt in the players' moves.


This is a losing move. The stakes are very high in irrational positions. One mistake can be fatal. 

23...Qe4? 24.Qf1 is better for white;

23...Nxb4! was better. A very logical move, capturing a pawn and bringing the knight into play. My comp assesses this as equal but I would prefer to play black. 24.Qe2 Nd3 25.Be3 with a slight advantage for black. 



Alex immediately exploit's Adam's mistake. I was watching this game live and analysing the variations to see how the game would go on. I discovered that white was winning, but the path was far from easy. 


The most stubborn. 24...Rg8? 25.Bg5!+- was maybe what black missed. 


This is a fantastic position and an excellent one to train your analytical ability. The most important technique is "Candidate Moves". In order to find the correct reply you have to dig deeply into the position and search for every promising move.

The only winning reply is 25.Qf1!!+-. This move combines attack and defence. The queen supports g2 and the rook. The threat is Bg5 and 25...Rxd7 is tatically refuted. White is winning.

25...Rg8 (25...Rxd7 26.Bg5! Nxg5 27.Rf8+ Kg7 28.Qf6#) 26.Ra2! (26.Bg5 Rxg5 27.d8Q+ Nxd8 28.Rxg5 Qxg5 29.Qf8+ Qg8 30.Qf6+ Qg7 31.Qxd8+ Qg8 32.Qf6+ Qg7 33.Rd1 Bxg2+ 34.Kg1 is less good) 26...Nxb4 27.Rb2 c3 28.Rg5!! Rxg5 29.d8Q+ Nxd8 30.Bxg5 Qxg5 31.Qf8+ Qg8 32.Qf6+ Qg7 33.Qxd8+ Qg8 34.Qxg8+ Kxg8 35.Rxb4+-

It´s not easy to find all this, don't you agree?



It´s incredible but black has many moves that lead to the same result: draw! Analysing this game one can understand how many resources can be found by carefully using the candidate moves technique! 

25...Qe4 26.Rf2 Nxb4 27.Qd6 Qe1+ 28.Rf1 Qe4=;

25...Nxb4 26.Qd6 Qe1+ 27.Rf1 Qe4=;

25...c3= Many drawing lines. 26.Qd6 Qe1+ 27.Rf1 Qe4=;

25...Rg8 leads to some crazy variations which I want to show in more detail:

26.Ra3! Not very human, but the variations are quite nice.

(26.Ra2 Nxb4 27.Re2 (27.Rh5 Qe7 (27...Qe4 28.Bg5 Rxg5 29.d8Q+ Nxd8 30.Qxd8+ Rg8 31.Qf6+ Rg7=) 28.Ba3 a5=/+) 27...Nd3 with counterplay)

26...Rxg2+ 27.Kf1 Rxh2 28.d8Q+ Nxd8 29.Rf8+ Kg7 30.Qd7+

(30.Bh6+!? Kxh6 31.Qd6+ Kh5 (31...Kg7? 32.Rg3+ Qxg3 33.Qf6#) 32.Qd1+=)


31.Bh6+! Qxh6 32.Qxd8+ Kf7 33.Qd7+ with a draw.




Another blunder. Now white is losing! 

26.Ra3! was the best. 26...Nxd7 (26...Rxd7? 27.Qf1+/-) 27.Rh3 (27.Rg3 c3!) 27...Qe4

28.Rxh7+ leads to a draw:

(28.Rf2!?; 28.Qf1 Rg8 29.Rf2) 

28...Kg8 (forced) 29.Rh8+ Kg7 30.Rh7+ with perpetual check.




I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this move in the live transmission!

26...Qe4= leads only to a draw. 27.Rf2 Nxd7 

(27...Rg8 28.Bg5! Nxd7 29.Qxe6 Rxg5 30.Rf8+ Nxf8 31.Qf6+ Rg7 32.Qxf8+ Rg8 33.Qf6+ Rg7=)

 28.Qxe6 Qe1+ 

(28...Rg8 29.Bg5 Rxg5 30.Rf8+=)

 29.Rf1 Qe2 30.Qh3 Rg8 31.Bg5! (31.g3 Nxe5 initiative) 31...Rxg5 32.Rf2 Qxe5 33.Rd1 Nf6 34.Qh6=;

26...Nxd7! wins on the spot. A rather simple move for a 2750+ player!


 (27.Qxe6 Qd4+ -+) 27...Ndf8 28.Bg5 Qxg5 29.Rxg5 Rxd6 30.exd6 Nxg5 with a winning position.



White is winning again!


27...Qe4 28.Bd2? 

The last blunder in the game. White needed a escape hole for his king. 

28.h3!+- Qd5 

(28...Rxd7 29.Qxe6+-)

 29.Bb2 Nxd7 30.Rd1+-


28...Rxd7 29.Qxe6 Qd4+ 30.Kf1 Qd3+ 31.Kg1 Qd4+ 1/2-1/2



Even with some mistakes this was a fantastic fight. 

Next Saturday, February 22th at 2pm GMT, I will be hosting a Free English Webinar on the theme: "Technique - Winning With Small Advantages". If you are interested in participating, just visit this link and follow the instructions:

Feel free to contact me by message or email ( regarding this article, the Webinar or any other topic!

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