Monday, April 21, 2014

Vugar Gashimov- The game of his life!

The date was 30th october 2009. It was the final round (9th) of the European team championships that were being held in Novi Sad, Serbia. The atmosphere was charged up with excitement. Going into the final round Russia and Azerbaijan were tied at 13 points a piece.
The Russian team had Spain as their opposition and The Azerbaijani team had been paired against Netherlands. The following was the pairing.

Russia vs Spain
Svidler -           Shirov
Morozevich -    Vallejo
Jakovenko -      Illescas
Alekseev -         Salgado Lopez.

Azerbaijan vs Netherlands 
Radjabov -      Smeets
Gashimov -     Stellwagen
Mamedyarov - L'Ami
Mamedov -      Ernst

The team Azerbaijan against Netherlands in their last round encounter.

Two of Russia's games between Svidler- Shirov and Jakovenko-Illescas ended in a draw. The magic of Moro had worked. He had beaten Vallejo to give Russia a lead of 2-1. At the same time Azerbaijan had not been successful in making any breakthrough. Radjabov, Mamedyarov and Mamedov had all drawn their game. The score between Azerbaijan and Netherlands stood at 1.5-1.5. The entire onus was on Gashimov's shoulders now.

Gashimov who now carried the expectations of an entire nation.

The first good news for the Azerbaijan fans came from different quarters. Ivan Salgado Lopez had dismantled the Winawer of Evgenvy Alekseev and had equalised the Russia-Spain match. Russians had ended their journey on 14 points. 
Everything was crystal clear now. Gashimov had to win. In case of a draw, Azerbaijan too would end on 14 and Russia would take the gold due to their better tiebreaks.

Vugar did just what the doctor ordered. He built up a winning position against Stellwagen and went into a winning Rook endgame. But as they say, No one alive has really mastered the Rook endgames! Below is Gashimov's game upto the critical point which he has annotated himself.

It was Stellwagen's (black) turn to play.
Gashimov in his annotations mentions that he has missed the win but doesn't give the way for black to draw. I think it has to do with the fact that the draw for black is very easy to achieve.

Stellwagen under tremendous pressure played the move 70... Rf4?? which was a horrible blunder.
The right was for black to draw was to start with 70...Rb4!

Stellwagen made the final blunder and Gashimov gave him no more chances. Here is how the game ended.

Azerbaijan had become the European Champions and Vugar Gashimov played the biggest role in their victory. The moment the game was over, the entire Azerbaijani squad jumped over to Vugar, hugged him, kissed him and just went all over him!

You must see this video which contains all this last round action. Watch it from the start upto 2 mins 20 secs.


The Azerbaijani team after winning the gold at European Team Championshop 2009.

I am sure your heart was touched after seeing this video. The way the team mates ran over to Gashimov I think is a dream that every chess player would like to live one day! Imagine having the expectations of not only the entire team on your shoulders but of the entire nation and then delivering! Wow! I would play chess for my entire life, for only such a moment!
The only thought that comes to my mind after writing all this and watching the video is why did Vugar Gashimov have to go away so soon. 
Immediately I go to the homepage of the Vugar Gashimov Memorial tournament that is being held in the town of Shamkir in the memory of this great player, I see the following picture:

I read these words with a heavy heart and I realize, some people just enjoy the journey of life. It doesn't matter if the journey is short or long, they just make the most of what they have. 

In the town of Shamkir where Gashimov's grave lies, a fitting tribute has been given to this great chess genius.

The grave is like a chess board in the colour of grey and brown and nearby you can see all the chess pieces.

Above the grave you can see is the position where Stellwagen made the grave blunder of Rf4?? 

The board encaptions within itself all the emotions of joy and ecstacy which no words or pictures could ever have. Whenever Radjabov or Mamedyarov or Mamedov would see the position, the first thought that would come to their mind would be of utter joy of winning the championship and then the sadness of losing their dear friend would dawn onto them. Giving people reasons to smile even after you are gone, is a sign of greatness.
The genius from Baku has left us. But in the 27 years that he lived on this planet he has created a rich legacy of his games and annotations that will keep enthralling us. 
Vugar Gashimov, You shall always live forever in the heart of every chess lover!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: The best author of 20th century

Today as I was going through the tweets on the twitter account I read 3 of Garry Kasparov's tweets. Here they are:

After reading these tweets I became very inquisitive about who exactly this man called Gabriel Garcia Marquez was.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez. (1927-2014)

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was a colombian author who is considered as one of the most significant authors of 20th century. For his beautiful writings he received the nobel pirze of literature in the year 1982.
When I went to the website of Nobel Prize this is what they had to write about him:
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1982 was awarded to Gabriel García Márquez "for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent's life and conflicts".

On 17th April 2014 this great man died.
Barack Obama had the following words for him, " With the passing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez , the world has lost one of its greatest visionary writers-and one of my favorites from the time I was young."

His greatest work is supposed to be- One Hundred years of Solitude. Garcia always wanted to write about his Grandparent's home but he just couldn't find the right tone to write a book on it. Once when he was travelling somewhere by his car, he got an idea and immediately made a turn to go back to his home and start writing. Such was this man's dedication that he sold his car so that his family can live with that money while he wrote. He wrote his book everyday for 18 months. His wife had to ask credit from the butcher, the baker as well as 9 months rent credit from the landlord. Finally when the book was released in 1967 it became extremely popular! What a tale of dedication and belief in himself! His books are so popular that they have often outsold each and every other title in Spanish except for the Bible.

This man is a legend in the field of writing and it came to me as a huge surprise that I had never heard of him. Its a tragedy that this great man died 2 days ago! But thats the thing about great people. They leave a legacy behind them even after they are gone. Garcia Marquez is dead but his works remain! If great people like Garry Kasparov and Barack Obama have read his books, I think we too must make an attempt to read them and learn what this great man had to say.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why is Chess so difficult ?!!

Ever since you are a little kid, entering the jungle of chess, knowledgeable experts and your coaches will start throwing advice at you like:
Hey! don't bring out your queen so soon in the opening!
Control the Center!
Develop your pieces!
blah blah blah......

As you grow proficient at the game, you start understanding, how these rules are so very useful and not adhering to them can have disastrous consequences.
One such rule which I learnt when I was 14 and have been hearing about it time and again is the Tarrasch's rule. The Rule is:
Very simple and straight forward! It doesn't really matter whose pawn it is. If it is your pawn then your rook is perfectly placed behind it because it helps in its advance on every move.

The white rook is perfectly placed behind his passed pawn.

Once again, the white rook is perfectly placed behind the black passed pawn. Black cannot queen his pawn because on every move white rook keeps a watch on it from behind.

Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch

Dr. Tarrasch looks so stern in the above picture that the next time you are confused about where you put your rook, you only need remember this image and a voice will automatically ring in your head: Rook belongs behind the passed pawn!

Lets wind back the clocks a little. The year was 1927. It was the World Championship match between the Cuban Genius Jose Raul Capablanca and the Challenger to the throne, the master of calculation Alexander Alekhine.

The first one to win 6 games would be awarded the title of World Champion. Capablanca was surely a great player but also a pretty lazy person when it came to working on chess. It didn't come as a huge surprise that Alekhine was the better player and after 33 games he led the match with 5 wins to Capablanca's 3. Alekhine needed only 1 more win to seal the deal in his favour. The 34th game turned out to be the decisive one.

After getting a small advantage out of the opening, Alekhine won a pawn in the middlegame and carried that advantage into the endgame. Finally a rook ending arose.

It was Alekhine's (White's) move. What should he play?

I am sure Alekhine was confused between Ra4 and Rd5. I have no proof of it but I am sure the stern face and the cold words of Tarrasch echoed in Alekhine's ears: "Rooks belong behind the passed pawn!" He immediately made the best move in the position.

Alekhine placed his rook behind the passed pawn and was easily able to win the endgame.

The point in this ending is that white cannot win with just the a5 pawn. Black can defend against that one weakness. Following the principle of two weaknesses, White has to create one more weakness and that will be on the kingside. With the threat of penetrating on the queenside, white will lure the black king to that side of the board and then enter on the kingside. Here is how the game panned out:

Thus Alekhine won the world Championship with a score of 6-3. I am sure somewhere in his mind he did thank Tarrasch for creating this wonderful rule!

Fast forward 65 years. It was 1992. The Candidates Semi final between the Dutch Grandmaster Jan Timman and Russian GM who now lives in Germany Artur Yusupov.

Yusupov vs Jan Timman (

 It was a 10 game affair for the right to reach the final and then challenge Garry Kasparov who was the World Champion. In the other semi final Short was able to beat Karpov and Timman was victorious against Yusupov with a score of 6-4. We all know that Short was the one who challenged Kasparov in 1993 but Kasparov was easily able to beat him and retain the title.

But coming back to the Yusupov- Timman match. After 6 games the match was tied at 3-3. It could have gone either way and the odds were in the favour of Yusupov as he reached the following position as white in game 7.

Yusupov who was white was pressing for most of the game and here it was his move. What should he play?

Let's make a small check on Yusupov's history. Yusupov was one of the star pupil of the very famous Russian coach Mark Dvoretsky.

One of the best coaches in the world: Mark Dvoretsky.

Mark as a coach is known for his classical approach towards chess. He teaches his students good calculation backed up with a firm base of general rules. I say this because I have read almost all of Dvoretsky's books. It goes without saying that Artur Yusupov was very well versed with Tarrasch's rule of Rook behind the passed pawn. At the same time I am 100% sure that he had seen the game of Alekhine-Capablanca from the 1927 World Championship match.

The stern voice of Tarrasch rang in Yusupov's head and he immediately made the move Ra1??

Yusupov thought he couldn't be wrong following the footsteps of not only Tarrasch but also Alekhine.
As things turn out, this is a huge blunder which gives black an instant draw as we shall see. The right move was:


Let us understand here why the cardinal rule of rook behind the passed pawn is not applicable.
The rook on e4 now defends the pawn from the side and at the same time keeps an eye on the weak e6 pawn. It doesn't allow black to exchange more pawns. It also keeps the black king at bay because Kf5 is met with Re5 and the pushing the pawn to a5. Next the white king makes his way to the queenside and shepherds the 'a' pawn home. When the white rook goes to a1 as in the game, the problem is that black can get rid of his weak pawn with e6-e5 and that would mean one pair of pawns lesser than Alekhine-Capablanca. At the same time, the rook pawn is also blocked one square ahead than the 1927 game.
A horrible mistake by Yusupov which cost him dearly as he drew this game and later he went on to lose the match. Here's the game with some analysis.

We see that even the rule which looks so logical, has its exceptions and in fact this is the beauty of the game of Chess. No single rule can be eternal. While develop your pieces looks like such a fundamental rule, I have seen a game of Shirov in which first 10 moves made by him were all pawn moves. Yet he won! That's why even the great Garry Kasparov says that he is still learning the game of Chess and will never be able to master it.

In Conclusion, I would like to say:
The rules of Chess are like GPS direction system in your mobile. If you want to go from point A to B, the GPS system will show you the route for sure but it doesn't know if recently that route has been closed down by the government or whether a tree has fallen down which has resulted in the road being shut. It's a useful tool but you can never 100% depend on it! (atleast in India!)
Chess is just too dynamic to have a set of rules. The rules can give a direction to your thinking but they can never cover all the permutations and combinations involved in the game.
Learn the rules and master them but never make a decision solely based on them. That's why we come to the only rule that will always remain true, not only in chess but also in life and that is:

Oh and I almost forgot to mention: After seeing so many exceptions to his rule, Tarrasch did mention:  "Always put the rook behind the pawn.... Except when it is incorrect to do so!!."  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

An endgame masterpiece by Victor Bologan!

Moldovian super Grandmaster, Victor Bologan played the endgame of his life on 9th of April 2014 against the very talented Russian GM Aleksander Shimanov.

A thorough gentleman off the board and a true genius on it: GM Victor Bologan.

Black's last move was e6-e5+. The question is where should white retreat his king?

Its not often you will see such a stunning long term sacrifice in a game between two 2600+ GMs in such a simplified position.

A victory of excellent co-ordination! Take a bow to the great Victor!!

One can afford to smile a little after playing such a terrific masterpiece!

I thank Mr. Vinod Bhagwat for bringing this game to my notice.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A very deep intricacy in a well known position!


I have a habit of buying a chess book in every tournament that I participate. I have to agree that there are many unread books in my library, but in general I like to keep building up my library. I hope one day I can have a collection of chess books like the great chess player Late GM Lothar Schmid!
Late GM Lothar Schmid who had one of the best collection of chess books in the world.

Anyway! The main reason I write this is because I particularly liked one book that I bought recently.
The name of the book is Amateur to IM and it is written by an International Master named Jonathon Hawkins.

The wonderful thing about this book is that it has material which is basic but is so very well explained. Also some of the material which I thought I knew so well revealed some very interesting points. 
I would like to bring to your notice the following position which I think contains a very beautiful point which is not known to even extremely strong players.

My question to you is this: Its white to play. What will you play?

Just before you close this article by thinking that it is too basic, I must warn you to have a deeper think!
If you ask any knowledgeable chess player, his answer will most probably go something like this.
"The black king is cut off by 4 files from the pawn.This is the required distance to win the position. Hence this is a theoretically winning position and hence the right move is 1.a7."

For those who did not know how to win this position, here is the winning technique which is not so straightforward.

So, yes this position is totally winning for white. a7 is a theoretically winning move. Why in the name of God then did I give you this position? Is it an april fool trick? Or am I trying to waste your time?
Certainly not! Here's the difference between a position that you know well and one which you know very very very well.
After 1.a7, the problem is that white is winning but black has the amazing defensive resource

the rook on the 3rd rank is very well placed because after white sacrifices his rook to make a queen, white will not be able to win the black rook and will have to win a queen vs rook ending. Here is how it will pan out.

White has made a queen but there is just no easy way to win the black rook on h3. White will have to play another 30-40 moves and show some good technique in order to take  the full point home.

Lets go Back to the initial position. From what I have shown, it will be very clear to you now that the right move for white in the first position is to play

Denying black the very important third rank! This makes sure that white will not have to play the Queen vs Rook endgame and will be an entire queen or rook up!

Black now can wait on the first rank but as we know the rook on the first rank will be lost. On the 2nd rank too the rook is lost in queen checks as will be shown. And the 4th rank is useless as it allows white king to come out. Hence black is absolutely lost here! Here are the moves:

So, here is my question to you, what would you play on the first move?

Would you play a7 or Re3!
Both the moves win, but here is the difference between a good technical player and a bad technical player.

This reminds me of one example which fits in perfectly.

Its white to play and draw. How would you do it?

There are 2 ways to draw here. The first one is to play 1.Kf8 Kf6 2.g8=N+ and this position is a theoretical draw. 
But as Karsten Mueller says 1.Kg8! is good technique! Kg6 2.Kh8! and after black takes Rg7. Its an immediate stalemate!
You might argue with me that Kf8 and Kg8 are relatively of the same merit as they both lead to the same end, but I say that the means to reach the end are also important. While one gives the opponent some hope for a positive result, the other gives the opponent absolutely no chance!

The definition of technique in the dictionary is something like this:
A way of carrying out a particular task, especially the execution or performance of an artistic work or a scientific procedure.
If you carry out the procedure well, the result is bound to fall in place! That's what good chess technique is all about!

I hope I have convinced you that the position which I had given to you at the start is not so trivial as it seems at first glance and that 1.Re3! is a move which shows a very high level of technical mastery in the game of chess.


Good technique always comes with good knowledge!