Today we not only saw an incredibly well prepared novelty, we also saw a fight. It would have been so easy for the americans to pull off a page out of the old russian playbook and make Naka win the tournament. Instead they played it out and Naka came up short. If you assign money value to opening novelities, then Caruana spend quite a lot of cash in order to crush Naka’s dreams.
This one is a tough pill to swallow for Big Vlad, because he didn’t make any big mistakes. When we count the material after move 36, then black is a pawn up. If we switch on the engine though, then black is a pawn down. This means that the white king on c5 is basically worth two pawns and it got there more or less by force. At that moment it wasn’t just a case of evaluating space and time anymore, white simply has an extra piece on the queenside. So what does this come down to? It looks like black lost too much time along the way.
So far there was nothing to write about on the Tournament in Norway, simply because the guys were playing actual chess. No forced-draw-comedy like in the past, where grown up men compared their computer analysis. Maybe it makes a difference that the usual targets Topalov, Hammer and Van Wely are missing. Anyways, the great Magnus took one to the chin last night and this has to be mentioned.
What happened? Aronjan comes up with a novelty on move 10, but since Stockfish ranks it first in the list of candidates, MC was definitely aware of it. Bc2 doesn’t even threaten anything, it’s just the move with the highest evaluation in the position. MC answers with Rd8 which Stockfish gives 6th on the list, so one could assume that Aronjan didn’t bother much with this choice in his preparation, yet he comes up with a brilliant exchange sacrifice, that the engine ignores completely. The resulting position is highly complex, but filling pages with pointless engine analysis is not the subject of this article. What followed in the game was just insane: MC allowed Aronjan to sac on h7, leading to a long forced sequence ending with unbalanced material. This could have been a miracle escape, but he missed an only move and that was it. In the end the lefthander beat the guy with Asperger symptoms, so at least that is somewhat normal.
The interesting question for the average non-genius like you and me is: How can one calculate the tactical sequence starting with 17. Bxh7 ending 12 moves later, netting four pawns for the piece? Well, you either can play blindfold or you can’t. If you can’t play blindfold your brain creates something like a hashtable where the actual position of the pieces gets stored. You kinda “know” where the pieces are, but it’s very tough to connect the pieces with their abilities, at least that is how it works for me. If you can play blindfold like these guys on the other hand, you can simply “see” a crystal clear picture of the diagram. That makes it much easier to find the best move, because it’s always a one-move-problem. While finding the best positional move is still difficult, forced sequences are a piece of cake.
What else do we take home from this game? It was certainly the clash of titans, that everyone was hoping for. Lev presents a very different type of challenge to MC than Wesley does. While So has a purely pragmatic approach, Aronjan is trying to show his class.
When I saw Svidler’s move, I had to think of the Spanish Inquisition and that it would make the perfect name for that whole line.
How can you spot Rg1 in such a position? Actually it’s very logical if you follow the “Algorithm”. The first cathegory when looking for candidate moves, is king’s safety. The black king is unsafe, because of the pawn on h6. The white rook-move exloits just that. Easy game! On the other hand, it turned out that there was no attack, so either castling or improving the pawn-structure with b4 or h3 would probably have been better. The most amazing thing is that Rg1 has been played before, by MVL against Giri in 2016.