Apr 25, 2001


A round-robin tournament was held in the middle of July in Denmark which was a little below the rating of the XIVth category (av. ELO 2596,3). Its organisers gave it the proud name of the North Sea Cup. Among the main favourites of the event were surely the three times Russia Champion Piotr Svidler as well as two winners of the USSR Championships Boris Gulko (1977) and Mikhail Gurevich (1985). The host player Curt Hansen and the young Russian chess payer Alexander Grischuk were able to interfere in their struggle too. Piotr Svidler had the hardest start: he had to play with all the mentioned grandmasters in the first four rounds. There were heavy struggles, still the result was just four half-points. Neither Gulko nor Grischuk had a better start. The former lost to C. Hansen in the very first round, and the latter, after he escaped a defeat from Svidler in the first round, made problems from nothing, playing with M. Gurevich on the next day.

Gulko - C. Hansen [A29] (round 1)

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 Nd4 5. Nh4 c6 6. e3 Ne6 7. d4?!

An opening experiment. Usually White plays 7. Bg2 in this position. So, after 7... g6 8. d4 exd4 9. exd4 d5 10. cxd5 cxd5 11. O-O Bg7 there was an approximately equal position in the game Huzman - Svidler (Haifa (active), 2000).

7... exd4 8. exd4 d5 9. c5 b6 10. b4 a5 11. Na4 Nd7 12. b5 Bb7

13. Ba3

White’s strategy failed evidently. The far advanced pawns on the queenside became an object for the play of Black’s pieces. In case of 13. cxb6 Nxb6 14. bxc6 Bxc6 White’s position would be especially funny. A knight on each side of the board and other pieces, absolutely undeveloped.

13... bxc5 14. dxc5 Ndxc5 15. Rc1 Nxa4 16. Bxf8 Kxf8 17.bxc6

After 17. Qxa4 White probably would be able to have held for several more moves, still the result would be the same anyway.

17... Bxc6 18. Rxc6 Qe8!

Now it’s evident that White cannot offer any resistance. Too many troubles are threatening.

19. Rc1

There was no 19. Qxa4 because of 19... Nc5+, winning the queen.

19... Nf4+ 20. Kd2 Qe4 21. gxf4 Qxf4+ 22. Ke1 Qe4+ 23. Kd2 Qb4+ 24. Ke2 Qe4+ 25. Kd2 Qxh4 26. Qf3 Qb4+ 0-1

White resigned.

Svidler - Grischuk (1 round)

24. Na5

In Black’s camp the square c6 is weak, and the white knight wants to get there without any delay.

24... Qxb2!

A passive defence after 24... Qa6 25. Nc6 does not suit Black, so he rushes into the labyrinth of complications.

25. Nc6 Bxe3 26. Bxe3 Qxc2 27. Nxb8 Qxe4

Black has already two pawns for the exchange, but his eighth horizontal is rather vulnerable as there is no air. The bishop will be bound deadly very soon.

28. Nc6 Nxd5!?

Probably this was the strongest move. The material could have been kept with 28... Qxd5 29. Qa8 Ne8!?, but after 30. Qxc8 (in case of 30. Rc1 there was 30... Bd7) 30... Qxc6 31. Rc1 Qa4 32. Rxc7 the position of Black’s pieces would bee too passive and vulnerable.

29. Qa8 Qf5 30. Na7 Nge7

31. g4!

Looks as if Black managed to defend everything, but it’s no time for conclusions yet. Black’s queen, bound with the defence of the bishop, cannot prevent the white rook from getting to the eighth horizontal through b1. However, White should pay with the weakening of his king’s position for this opportunity.

31...Qe6 32. Rb1 h6 33. Rb8 Kh7 34. Nxc8

P. Svidler has already as much as an extra rook, but let’s remember that Black has three pawns instead and White’s pieces are too far from the residence of their king.

34... Ng6 35. Qa2

Collecting his reserves, White binds up active pieces of his opponent. 35. Na7 promised nothing at all, for instance because of 35... Nxe3 36. fxe3 Qa2 37. Nc8 Qe2 38. Qe4 d5!. No better was also 35. Bc1 e4 36. Na7 because of 36... Nc3!. No 36... Ne5?! to be followed with 37. Rh8+ Kg6 38. Qg8, because in case of 38... e3 there was 39. Qh7+ Kf6 40. Rg8, and White’s pieces would get to the black king, having moved from one corner of the board to another.

36... Ne5

Black’s knights in the centre of the board can make a raid upon the white king’s camp at any moment.

37. Re8!?

White sacrifices exchange, decreasing Black’s attacking potential. In case of a prophylactic 37. Kh1 (there was no 37. Kg2?? because of 37... Nxe3+) White had to reckon with 37... f5! (no 37... h5 because of 38. Nb5 hxg4 39. Nd4), and after 38. Rb5 (now in case of 38. Nb5 fxg4 39. Nd4 there was already 39... Qf7 40. Qc2 Qg6, making Black’s threats very real) 38... c5 39. Bxc5 fxg4 40. Bd4 g3 41. fxg3 Qxh3+ 42. Qh2 Qf1+ 43. Bg1 Qf3+ 44. Qg2 Qh5+ and the game could have been ended with a perpetual check.

37...Nf3+ 38. Kh1 Qxe8 39. Qxd5 Qa4

An approximate material balance is maintained again. The following exchanges won’t change the estimation of the position in any way.

40. Kg2 Ne5 41. Nb5 c6 42. Nc3 cxd5 43. Nxa4 Nf3 44. Bf4 f5 45. gxf5 Nh4+ 46. Kf1 d4 47. Bxd6 Nxf5 48. Be5 e3 49. Nc5 exf2 50. Kxf2 g5 51. Kf3 h5 52. Ke4 Kg6 53. Ne6 g4 1/2-1/2


Grischuk - M. Gurevich (round 2)

23. Bxh5?

The position was approximately equal. The sacrifice of a piece, undertaken by White, was incorrect, and M. Gurevich is going to prove this very convincingly.

23... gxh5 24. Qxh5 Rh8 25. Nxf5+ Bxf5 26. Qxf5 Nxd4 27. Qd3

White allows Black to conduct a combination that will decide the game.

27... Rxh2+! 28. Kxh2 Rh8+ 29. Kg3 Bh4+ 30. Kg4 Qh6 0-1

White resigned.

Thus M. Gurevich with 3 points became a single leader of the tournament after four rounds. Still, a disappointment was waiting for him in the next round already, he ran out of time in a more or less equal position in the game with C. Hansen, having failed to make the last move before the time control, so that the Danish grandmaster became the single leader. Nevertheless, he was not able to keep this position for any long too. His main competitors Gurevich and Svidler gained 100% results on the distance from sixth to eighth rounds and managed to catch up and then live behind the Danish grandmaster. Quick draws in the last round were to fix their joint victory in the tournament. There are three examples from the games, played by the winners.

Svidler - De Vreugt [C88] (round 6)

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O b5 6. Bb3 Be7 7. Re1 O-O 8. h3

At present this is one of the most popular ways to avoid the Marshall Attack .

8... Bb7 9. d3 d6 10. a3

White supplies his Ruy-Lopez-like bishop with a job on the diagonal a2-g8. Considering the fact that the position of its chief opponent, the bishop on b7, is already defined, so that it won’t be a serious obstacle, the X-rays of White’s light-squared bishop have a chance to become very dangerous.

10... Qd7

De Vreugt never showed any weakness for the other plans, neother for 10... Nb8 11. Nbd2 Nbd7, nor for 10... Na5 11. Ba2 c5.

11. Nc3 Rae8 12. a4 b4

In case of 12... Na5 the light-squared bishop, waiting in the ambush, could strike a crafty blow 13. Bxf7+!, ensuring White’s advantage after 13... Rxf7 14. axb5 Nb3 15. cxb3 axb5 16. b4.

13. Nd5 Nxd5 14. Bxd5 Nd8 15. Bxb7 Nxb7

Black got rid of White’s insidious bishop, still the influence of his pieces on the centre of the board got weaker for a while. White made use of this circumstance immediately.

16. d4 exd4

The boundary post which was maintained by Black on e5 with the first move, goes away from the chess stage, and White becomes certain freedom for his activities in the centre of the board. After 16... Bf6, followed with 17. dxe5 Bxe5 18. Nxe5 Rxe5 19. b3 Nc5 20. Bb2 Rxe4 21. Rxe4 Nxe4 22. Qd4 Nf6 23. Qxb4, White got an advantage in the game J. Polgar - Adams (Wijk aan Zee, 1998).

17. Qxd4 a5 18. Qd5 Qc8 19. Bf4 c6

Reinforcing Black’s own play. After 19... Bf6 20. e5 dxe5 21. Bxe5 Bxe5 22. Rxe5 Rxe5 23. Nxe5 Qf5 24. g4 Qg5 25. Rd1 Nd6 26. Nd7 Black got a non-promising endgame in the game Adams - De Vreugt (Breda, 1999).

20. Qc4 Bf6 21. Rad1 Re6?!

Very passively. Of course the position to appear after 21... Bxb2?! 22. Bxd6 Nxd6 23. Rxd6 Re6 24. Red1 was a little pleasure for Black, but remote consequences of 21... d5!? 22. exd5 cxd5 were quite unclear.

22. Nd4 Bxd4 23. Qxd4

White has a slight but stable advantage. Black is condemned to a passive defence. It should be mentioned that the weakness of Black’s queenside pawns, which mostly occupy squares of the light-squared bishop, will tell as the endgame comes nearer.

23... Rd8

A slightest activity, for instance 23... f5, can bring Black to a very dangerous position after 24. Qc4!? Rf7 25. exf5 Rxe1+ (no 25... d5 because of 26. fxe6) 26. Rxe1 d5 27. Qd4 Qxf5 28. Re8+ Rf8 29. Rxf8+ Qxf8 30. Bc7.

24. Kh2!

A very good move. White simply passed the move to his opponent and made the position of his king a bit better, having removed it from the first horizontal. Black’s problem is that he has to hold to a passive play and be very attentive, trying not to allow his opponent to carry out any crafty manoeuvre.

24... d5

Black does not want to resign himself to the prescribed role and opens up the play. White was well prepared to such a turn. We can suppose rather confidently that Piotr Svidler waited for the advance d6-d5 namely as he made his 24th move. Really, a break-through in the centre was no relief for Black, it only increased the influence of White’s dark-squared bishop. Still, it’s hard already to recommend something that would be worth doing. So, in case of 24... Nc5, apart from the quiet 25. b3 there was also a very dangerous break-through 25. e5!?.

25. exd5 Rxd5 26. Qb6 Rxd1 27. Rxd1 h6 28. Qd4 Re7 29. Rd3 Qf5?

A blunder. Black’s position is hard, and he allows a simple tactical blow. In case of a more persistent 29... c5 with 30. Qd5 Qe8 31. Rg3 all White’s pieces would be more active, and even exchanges would not help Black as there were such targets on his queenside as the pawns a5 and c5.

30. Bxh6! f6

No 30... gxh6 because of 31. Rg3+ Kf8 32. Qh8#.

31. Be3 Qe6 32. b3 c5 33. Qf4 Kf7 34. h4 Re8 35. Qf3 Qc8 36. Bf4 Nd8?

Losing immediately. A kind of opposition could have been showed with 36... Kf8.

37. Qh5+ 1-0 Black resigned. In case of 37... Ke7 or 37... Kf8 the solution was 38. Bd6+.

M. Gurevich - Emms [E32] (round 8)

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Qxc3 b6 7. Bg5 d6

Having played b7-b6, Black suspends with the development of his light-squared bishop. He is hesitating, what square would suit him better: b7 or a6.

8. f3 Nbd7

In case of 8... c5 9. dxc5 bxc5 Black had problems with the development of the queen’s knight after 10. O-O-O or 10. Rd1.

9. Nh3

9... c5?!

It looks as if Black has not decided about the development of the bishop still and even forgot to take care of the future position of the bishop g5. He should have played 9... h6 10. Bh4 before White’s advance e2-e4. If White played e2-e3 one move earlier, then there was sense in this “forgetfulness”, because White’s dark-squared bishop sometimes needs to return to its camp, and the square h4 is more convenient in such cases, and besides, the standard tactical blow Nf6-e4 is often stronger with the bishop on g5. After the moves 9... h6 10. Bh4 there were both 10... Ba6 and 10... c5.

10. e4 h6

Now this move is evidently late, the bishop need not already stay on the diagonal d8-h4 as there is a better square for it.

11. Be3! Ba6

Black’s affairs were far from brilliant also in case of 11... Qc7. After 12. d5 exd5 13. cxd5 Rb8 14. Be2 Re8 15. Nf2 b5 16. O-O a5 17. b4 Nb6 18. Qd2 White got a considerable advantage in the game Lazarev - Vehi Bach (Biel, 1997).

12. dxc5 Nxc5?!

Now this is too much. After 12... bxc5 13. Rd1 Qb6 14. b4 White’s position was clearly better, but now Black will suffer also material problems apart from positional ones.

13. Rd1 Qe7

It’s not easy for Black to keep the material balance. After 13... Rc8 there was 14. e5! Ne8 15. Qd4 Nb7 16. b4 dxe5 17. Qa1 and Black lost the bishop a6.

14. b4!

White pawns begin a headlong spurt.

14...Ncd7 15. c5 Bxf1 16. cxd6 Qd8 17. Rxf1

White got an extra pawn as a result of the forced operation.

14... Rc8 18. Qb2 Rc4 19. Rf2!

The passive king’s rook by White looks not very good. M. Gurevich gets rid of it in two moves.

19... Qb8 20. Rc2 Rxc2 21. Qxc2 Rc8 22. Qb2 e5

23. Nf2?

White tries to repeat with his knight the successful trick which let him activate the rook, but the moment is not very convenient. As a result, he has to part with the beauty of his position and with the pawn d6. He should have displayed vigilance, having played 23. b5!. In this case Black hardly would be able to find something sensible. So, after 23... Ne8 (in case of 23... a6 there was 24. a4 Rc4 25. bxa6 Rxa4 26. Ra1 Rxa1+ 27. Qxa1 Qa7 28. Nf2 Ne8 29. Nd3, and White kept his material achievements) 24. Qd2 Qa8 (in case of 24... a6 there was 25. bxa6 Qa8 26. Qd3) 25. Qd3 a6 26. bxa6 Rc6 27. Qd5 Nxd6 (if 27... Nef6, then good was 28. Qb5) White had 28. a7!, and 28... Nf6 was to be followed with 29. Qxc6! Qxc6 30. Rxd6, leading to a winning position.

23... Rc6 24. b5

Too late, the pawn cannot be saved. In case of 24. Qd2 there was 24... Ne8.

24... Rxd6

Black has maintained the material balance, there is not much left of White’s former advantage. Just an opportunity to occupy the weak square c6 in Black’s camp in the distant future. As a matter of fact, a new game is going to begin now.

25. Nd3 Qe8 26. Qc2 Qe6 27. a4

Black does not fear blows like 27. Qc7 because of 27... Ne8 28. Qxa7 Qb3 29. Qa8 Ndf6 with a counterplay.

27... Kh7

Black begins to complicate matters unnecessarily again. There was a more active play for the knight, for instance 27... Nf8 28. Rc1 (if 28. Qb2, then 28... Qd7) 28... Rd7 29. Nb4 Qd6 30. Nc6 Ne6 31. Rd1 Qa3 with a good counterplay.

28. Rc1

28. Qc7 is risky again because of 28... Nf8 29. Qxa7 (in case of 29. Nxe5 good was 29... Rxd1+ 30. Kxd1 Qb3+ 31. Ke2 Ne6) 29... Qb3 30. Ke2 Ne6, and all Black’s pieces begin to play against the white king.

28... Ng8 29. Nb4 Ne7

30. Qc4!

White puts more and more pressure. A greedy 30. Qc7 f5 31. Qxa7? was to be refuted with 31... Qb3.

30... Qg6

The endgame after 30... Qxc4 31. Rxc4 Nf8 (in case of 31... Nb8 there was 32. f4!) 32. Nc6 (after 32. Rc7 Rd7 33. Rxd7 Nxd7 34. Nc6 Nc8 Black covered everything) 32... Nxc6 33. bxc6 Rd8 34. a5! bxa5 (there was no 34... b5 because of 35. c7 Rc8 36. Rc6 Ne6 37. Bxa7 Rxc7 38. Rxc7 Nxc7 39. Bb8) 35. Bd2 was hopeless for Black.

31. Kf1 f5 32. Qc2 Nc5?

The hypothetical threat of a permanent occupation of the square c6 proved to be so frightful for Black that he lost just in several moves. He should have agreed to 32... fxe4 33. Qxe4 (there was no 33. fxe4 because of 33... Nf6) 33... Qxe4 34. fxe4 Nf6, the endgame after 35. Nc6 being evidently not to White’s favour.

33. Bxc5 bxc5 34. Nd3

Of course no 34. Qxc5? because of 34... Rd2.

34... fxe4 35. Nxe5 Qf5 36. Qxe4 Qxe4 37. fxe4 Rd4 38. Rc4 Rd1+ 39. Ke2 Ra1 40. Nd7 Nc8 41. Nxc5 Nb6 42. Rd4 Kg6 43. e5 1-0

Black resigned.

Svidler - L-B. Hansen [C96] (round 8)

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. h3 Na5

Black chooses the Chigorin Defence in the Ruy Lopez.

10. Bc2 c5 11. d4 Bb7 12. Nbd2 cxd4 13. cxd4 exd4

Black opens up the play. Otherwise White was threatening to lock up the centre with the move d4-d5, and then it would be much harder for Black to justify the position of the bishop on b7. After the move in the game the bishop can press on the pawn e4 actively.

14. Nxd4 Re8 15. b3 g6

Usually Black plays 15... Bf8 16. Bb2 g6 in this position. It should be noted that Black is not prepared yet to the advantage 15... d5. So, White got a better play after 16. e5 Ne4 17. Nf5 in the game Mokry - Rubinetti (Manila (ol), 1992).

16. Bb2 Nd7

Something new. The move 16... Bf8 would have reduced the play to well known positions.

17. Nf1 Bf6

18. Ne3!

No delay, straight forward! White is ready to sacrifice the pawn in order to reinforce his influence in the centre.

18... Nc6

Black has not ventured to accept the sacrifice. After 18... Bxe4 19. Ng4 Bxc2 (19... d5 was totally bad because of 20. f3! Bxc2 21. Rxe8+ Qxe8 22. Nxf6+ Nxf6 23. Nxc2 Qe6 24. Qd4, and an attack on the diagonal a1-h8 would decide the game in White’s favour) 20. Rxe8+ Qxe8 21. Nxf6+ Nxf6 22. Nxc2 Qe6 White had a pleasant choice between playing a slightly better endgame after 23. Qd4 Qe5 24. Qxe5 dxe5 25. Bxe5 and continuing with the queens present after 23. Nb4!?, keeping an excellent compensation for the pawn in the form of the play on the weakened dark squares near the opponent’s kingside.

19. Nxc6 Bxc6 20. Bxf6 Nxf6

In case of 20... Qxf6 Black evidently disliked 21. Ng4.

21. Qd4 Re6 22. f3 a5 23. b4!

Another excellent move. White’s Ruy Lopez bishop was somehow lost without any business. Now it’s time to introduce it into the attack on the diagonal a2-g8.

23... a4

Black tries to prevent the white bishop from getting to the diagonal a2-g8. After 23... axb4 24. Bb3 Black would have to solve great problems.

24. Rac1 Qe8 25. Red1 Rd8

Smart trap.

26. Bb1!

White does not go for 26. Nd5, as after 26... Bxd5 27. exd5 Re5 28. f4 Re2 29.Qxf6 (the following is also not so clear: 29. Bd3 Qe3+ 30. Qxe3 Rxe3 31.Bxb5 Rb8 32. Bxa4 Rxb4)  Black has 29... Rxg2!!+ 30. Kxg2 Qe2+ perpetual check.

26... Ba8

The advance d6-d5 is being prepared. An immediate 26... d5 would be met with 27. e5, and there would be no 27... Rxe5 as the bishop on c6 was protected insufficiently.

27. a3 d5 28. Rc7

Black has carried out the planned advance d6-d5, but achieved no improvement of his position. The activity of all White’s pieces is too high.

28... Rdd6

In case of 28... Red6 there was a good opportunity of 29. e5 Re6 30. f4.

29. Ba2 dxe4

Black agrees to play a position with two rooks by White against Black’s queen. The pressure of the white pieces on the pawn d5 was so high that Black had simply no choice.

30. Qxd6 Rxd6 31. Rxd6 Qe5

After 31... exf3 32. Bxf7+ Qxf7 33. Rxf7 White’s extra exchange decides the game in his favour very quickly.

32. Rd8+!

The strongest continuation of the attack. In case of 32. Bxf7+ 32... Kg7 33. Bd5+ Kh6 34. Rxf6 Qxc7 35. Ng4+ Kg7 (there was no 35... Kg5 because of 36. Bxa8 exf3 37. Bxf3 h5 38. Rc6) 36. Rf7+ Qxf7 37. Bxf7 Kxf7 38. f4 White had some advantage in a quiet position, but it was unclear whether he was able to win it.

32... Kg7 33. Rxf7+ Kh6 34. Rxf6 Qa1+

Of course no 34... Qxf6 because of the fork 35. Ng4+.

35. Kh2 exf3 36. Ng4+

36... Kg5

Black king had no way back 36... Kg7?? because of 37. Rf7#. Another opportunity 36... Kh5 looks even weaker. After 37. Bd5 fxg2 38. Bxg2 Bxg2 39. Kxg2 Qxa3 White had 40. Rf7!, involving the black king into a dangerous adventure. In this case the game could have ended as follows: 40... Qa2+ (if 40... h6, then 41. Nf6+ Kg5 42. Rd5+ Kf4 43. Ng4+ Ke4 44. Re5+ Kd4 45. Rf4+, Black losing his queen) 41. Rf2 Qc4 42. Nf6+ Kh6 (in case of 42... Kh4 the victory was to be achieved with 43. Rd5 a3 44. Rfd2) 43. Rd7 Qxb4 (after 43... Kg5 White would trap the black king into a mating net with 44. Rd5+ Kh6 45. Ng4+ Kg7 46. Rd7+ Kg8 47. Nh6+ Kh8 48. Rf8+) 44. Rxh7+ Kg5 45. h4+, now Black can destroy the mating structure at the price of his queen only.

37. Bd5 fxg2 38. Bxg2 Bxg2 39. Kxg2 h5

Allowing White to win easily and simply. It was more complicated after 39... Qxa3 40. Rf3 Qxb4 41. Rd5+ Kh4, but White also had a forced win after 42. Ne3!: in case of 42... Qb2+ (after 42... a3 43. Nc2 Qe4 44. Rd4 Black lost the queen, and after 42... g5 43. Nf5+ Kh5 44. Rd6 g4 he was even worse because of 45. Rh6+ Kg5 46. h4# ) 43. Rf2 Qb4 44. Kh2! (with the dreadful threat of 45.Ng2#) 44... g5 45. Rd4+! Qxd4 46. Nf5+ White won the queen.

40. Rd5+ Kh4 41. Rf4 1-0

Black resigned.

"Chess is so interesting in itself, as not to need the view of gain to induce engaging in it;and thence it is never played for money."

Benjamin Franklin, "Chess made easy", 1802

"It is one of the insights of modern players, and especially of the best ones, that one has toplay the position itself, not some abstract idea of the position."

John Watson, "Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy", 1998

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