Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ankit's brilliancy at the Qatar Open!

The Qatar Open is the strongest Open tournament in the World. With Anish Giri and Kramnik at the top and all the 154 players almost above 2300 it promises to be one of the most exciting tournaments in the history of the game.
Particularly impressive was the performance of a young Indian grandmaster, GM Ankit Rajpara, in the first round of the tournament. (the first round took place yesterday)

20-year-old Ankit Rajpara (2494) played a brilliant game. And who was his opponent?

The German superstar: GM Arkadij Naiditsch (2719)

Not only did Ankit have the black pieces, Naiditsch was really the man in form having beaten the World Champion Magnus Carlsen at the recent Tromso Olympiad 2014.
The game was a tactical slugfest which saw Ankit drag Naiditsch's king from g1 to e4 and then finally mate him on b1! But what I loved about the entire game was this brilliant idea in the opening executed by Ankit. Let's check the opening moves:

Naiditsch's last move was g2-g4 in this position. What should Black play? Have a think and then check the answer below.

The most natural move in this position would be 9...Nh4. And Black has a decent position after that. For eg. 9...Nh4 10.Nxh4 Bxh4 11.f4 f5!? is ok.

But here Ankit chose a very interesting idea which I really liked. He played 9...Nh6 10.h3 and would you like to guess what he played now?

Black to play here. What would you do?

Ankit here played the fantastic undeveloping move 10...Ng8!!

The knight has made a full trip from g8-e7-f5-h6 and back to g8 and for what? Black's idea now is to activate his rook on h8 with the move h7-h5! So the knight has in effect achieved the job of advancing the White kingside pawns that have now become a weakness. Truly a deep concept. 
In some ways it reminds me of Maurice Ashley's term of Aikido chess where he said that you force your opponent to attack you and when he does that, he will lose his balance. You can then use the fact that your opponent is off balance and strike him back which makes him susceptible to a quick knock out. The g4-h3 moves in Aikido terms were aggressive moves and now Black will strike back with h5 when it wont be easy for White to defend.

Ankit played a brilliant attacking game which you can go through below! To beat a 2700 player in such brutal fashion speaks volumes about the young talent.

I have not yet spoken with Ankit about this game as it just happened yesterday but knowing the sort of hardworking chess player that he is, I am quite sure that he has seen this idea from the game of Alexie Shirov vs Dragan Solak. Have a look at the opening of the game.

Isn't the idea used by Dragan Solak extremely similar to that of Ankit? It's wonderful how young and ambitious GMs build a repertoire of such ideas by looking at instructive games and subject it to their memory. I remember Carlsen saying that he has studied each and every volume of My Great Predecessors by Garry Kasparov extremely carefully. By studying the games of the great masters of the past like Steinitz, Lasker, Capablanca etc. the current World Champion uses their positional and tactical ideas in his own games. When similar pawn structures or piece placement arises, Magnus draws the old games from his amazing memory and looks how best he can make use of those patterns.

And how exactly do you learn such patterns? Do you keep looking at each and every game in the mega database that has been played before. While it is possible, I think it is extremely time and energy consuming. Besides you will not able to know which game is instructive and which is not. To help you out in such aspects there are some wonderful books in the market out there.
And definitely I recommend the books written by the famous author and trainer GM Jacob Aagaard!

Strategic play is a book aimed at players above the rating of say around 2200. My cousin gifted this book to me from the USA on the occasion of my marriage!(yes, I force my relatives to give me chess related gifts!) I have had immense pleasure in solving the positions in that book and would you believe what lies on the 33rd page of the book?

Do I need to say anything more!

I would like to thank authors like Mark Dvoretsky and Jacob Aagaard who are doing a phenomenal job of publishing high quality books that is helping to bridge the gap between us and these elite 2700+ GMs.

For more information about this talented young Indian GM, do read the interview that I had with him around nine months ago.

I will surely ask Ankit as to where he picked up this Ng8 idea from, but as of now I can only wish him the best for the future rounds at the super strong Qatar Open! May he produce more such brilliancies!

Addendum, for players below the Elo of 2200, I would heartily recommend "Can you be a positional chess genius?" written by Angus Dunnington.

Ankit's picture taken by Amruta Mokal