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Shift in the Metagame

There have not been that many important classical games as of late, but nevertheless it feels to me that the metagame has shifted. Top player seem to put a lot of emphasis on protecting against forced draws with black, even against opponents of similar strength. This shows in little things like this one for example:

The new metagame turns the totally harmless Vienna into a weapon, as long as the white player isn’t the rating-favorite. I noticed that with Nakamura. He plays the Vienna quite often in blitz on the internet, but when someone played 2…Nf6 against him, he acted surprised and tried to remember his preparation. He basically took the draw-protection 2…Nc6 in this position as granted. Needless to say, he got nothing with white.

Drawmeister going down

It was a pretty nice line that Giri had prepared and we have to give credit to Nepo for chosing the fighting continuation. It’s tough to get hit with such a novely and it’s even tough to outplay Giri like that. The final move was pretty cute as well. Very impressive!

Firouzja 0/3

The bad streak for Firouzja continues. It’s not his actual play over the board though, it’s just his prep that isn’t good enough.

In both games he ended up in a lost position without making a clear mistake.

Not yet

The long awaited climax of the tournament turned out to be an anti-climax. On the upside it’s better to make such a mistake now, than later when it counts.

So what is the point? The point is that this wasn’t complicated. You don’t need Elo 2700 to make the correct positional decision here. The only question is if Elo 2700 justifies violating the rules of positional. Obviously not! The reason is that this type of position is too static. You can’t just make a provocative move to stirr things up. It’s just a positional blunder and you get squashed like a bug.

But isn’t playing d5 a mainline in the Zaitsev? It is, but without the wasting a tempo with a3. Besides that isn’t clear if it is that good.

Game of the Year

The best game of the year was played yesterday by Fabiano Caruana. I am not adding any computer lines, just let sink.

Time for another focus

Over the last year I covered a lot of games by the german child prodigy Vincent Keymer, but I think we can safely forget about him. On an international level the kid is clearly going nowhere.

Firouza on the other hand is a rising superstar who will challenge Carlsen very soon. I am not judging this by result, but by his games. Just look at this: Both sides end up with outside passed pawns, except the white one is a bit more outside. That’s it!

These positions are won:

This is position is a draw:

Oh boy…

The tournament has just started, but for the kids it’s already a rollercoaster of emotions.

Firouzja blew an advantage against Duda, beat Artemiev like a child and lost to So’s two bishops. Shit happens, but he is still +1.
Extremely lucky on the other hand was Keymer who basically did the Houdini twice in order to stay at -1, which should have been -3.

After such a game every coach in the world will tell his kids to never resign. You can’t save a game by resignation after all. On the other hand, how many years of your life are you wasting defending lost positions in the hope for one such terrible blunder?

Child prodigies

This year in Wijk aan Zee two youngers steal the show, at least for me. Who cares about Carlsen and Caruana if you can watch Firouzja and Keymer battle it out? Let’s start with Keymer.

So what was the issue? He plays variations that are supposed to be good in theory, but he has no clue how to handle them in practice. He is weak tactically, but his positional play is even worse. I don’t want to be in Leko’s shoes, because he has to prepare a penalty without goalkeeper for the kid in order to score a full point.

In the meantime Firouzja’s opponent mixes up the move-order.

Carlsen on the Tarrasch

Every year Carlsen prepares a surprise for the Rapid&Blitz World Championship. This year it’s the Tarrasch. Apparently he argues that playing the Panow-Attack a tempo down is sufficient for equality. The plan looks pretty simple: Protect the pawn on c6 with Bd7 and hammer away on the kingside with h5. Very alphazeroish.

But was it really a surprise? The amazing Mr. Dubov has played it four times in 2019, twice at the FIDE Grand Prix!

Update: Apparently I was somewhat behind on this development, because L’Ami even made a video course on it. Sorry, can’t follow everything. The pure Tarrasch hasn’t been in my scope of interest.

And here is the last word on this variation (for now):