The First OTB Victory against a Grandmaster
Of course not me but a good friend of mine. It’s always superb to achieve a nice victory over the board at the club, not to mention if the guy opposite to you happens to be a strong Grandmaster. Well, that was exactly what occurred some days ago at the Corrientes Chess Open in Argentina.
Joaquín Jiménez (2254) is a good sport from a small town called Puerto Rico at the coast of the magnificent Paraná River in Argentina. He entered the FIDE Elo with a mark of 2292 and subsequently gained some more points at a ranked tournament which guaranteed him the FIDE Master title.
As usual in South America those were hard times for the Argentinian Chess Federation (FADA) which had some serious issues with FIDE. As a result the aforementioned tournament wasn’t counted as official. He couldn’t reach the 2300 mark again (yet). But that’s another story.
For the fourth round of the Corrientes Chess Open Jiménez faced the all mighty and first-seed GM Robert Hungaski (2519) with the black pieces. The game was as exciting as it could get thanks to the combative spirit of the American who started —and ended— in aggressive fashion.
1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d4 Be7 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bf4 c6 6.e3 Bf5 7.g4 Be6 8.Bd3 Nd7 9.h3 h5 10.gxh5 Ndf6 11.Qf3 Rxh5 12.Qg2 g6 13.Nge2 Qd7 14.h4 Rh7 15.O-O-O Nh5 16.Be5 Ngf6 17.f3 Bd6 18.Bc2 O-O-O
The opening developed as the Alatortsev variant of the QGD, quite reminiscent of the classic game Botvinnik-Petrosian (12), Moscow, 1963. Later Jiménez confessed that “only remembered a game Rustemov-Vallejo where Black violently went 9…g5 and 10…h5 but 9…h5 just seemed the most natural to me. Then I discovered I was following Petrosian”.
In the above position Hungaski played 19.e4 dxe4 20.fxe4 breaking in the center with the threat of Bxd6 and e5 forking queen and knight. At this moment I started to feel the difference between the Grandmaster and the aficionado. But after I discovered the idea with …Ng4 I calmed down and enjoyed my position.
The e3-square is weak therefore Black went 20…Ng4 creating some sort of counter-play in a rather complex position. Now White is being asked a question. Do you defend the e3 square or just ignore the threat? 21.Bxd6?! True to his aggressive style, White offers the exchange but gains a powerful bishop on d6 which practically paralyzes Black’s pieces. 21…Ne3 22.Qg5 Nxd1 23.e5 Nxc3 24.Nxc3 Bf5 25.Ba4 f6 26.Qe3 Re8 27.Qf2
It’s not easy at all to deploy Black’s forces. The d6-bishop does a fantastic job as well as the a4-bishop which for the moment pins the queen and allows annoying moves like d5 or even Nd5 at some point. The f2-queen x-rays a7 making …fxe5 dubious for the moment.
Jiménez devises a plan I remembered from the book ‘Improve Your Chess Pattern Recognition’ (New in Chess) by IM Arthur van de Oudeweetering. A rather counter-intuitive move which aims at getting counter-play re-positioning the queen to a better square. 27…Qg7!
The plan Qg7-h6-f4 appealed to me because the white king gets exposed to the center of the board and after White’s d5-Qxa7 I was pretty sure I had some perpetual. 28.d5 Qh6+ 29.Kd1 Qf4 30.Qxa7
White threatens mate in two. But it is Black to play and he just can’t afford a single loss of tempo. 30…Qf3+ 31.Kd2 Qg2+ 32.Ke3 Qg3+ 33.Kd2 Qg2+ It seems the draw is near since White wouldn’t like allowing the capture of his rook with check and Black just doesn’t want to get mated.
Indeed, the position is extremely tricky and we have no space to discuss it at length here. But I encourage the reader to copy the above FEN and play some random moves to grasp the complexity of it. That being said, Hungaski played 34.Kc1!! defying Black to capture the rook with check.
Really, I wasn’t expecting the rook sacrifice. Besides getting the full piece I do it with check! From this point on there are mistakes for both sides. The position is really complex with so many alternatives.
34…Qxh1+ 35.Bd1 I believe White should have blocked with the knight instead. And after 35.Nd1 Qxd5 36.Bb3 White controls e6 again and is clearly better.
Black still has to stop mate. What would you play? 35…Rc7! and there’s no immediate threats. Now White must find a series of difficult moves to probe there’s still something on the position taking on account that he’s a full rook down. 36.Bxc7? Not the best and now Black is simply winning. Hungaski should have gone 36.Qa5! still aiming at c7.
The game ended 36…Kxc7 37.d6+ Kd7 38.Qxb7+ Ke6 39.Nb5 Bg4 40.Nd4+ Kxe5 41.Nxc6+ Kxd6 42.Qb4+ Kxc6 43.Qxg4 Rd8 44.Qc4+ Kd6 45.Qb4+ Ke6 46.Qc4+ Ke7 47.Qc5+ Rd6 48.Qc7+ Rd7 49.Qc5+ Kf7 and White resigned.
Definitely a thrilling game that will remain in Jiménez head for a long time as well as mine —I enjoyed it as much. I believe it was an interesting game with really complicated lines. Maybe I was a bit lucky to reap benefits from the Grandmaster’s excessive ambition.
Joaquín Jiménez closed the Corrientes Chess Open with 5/6 points. Positioning himself on the fourth place, just a half point behind the winner IM Daniel Contin. You can follow this game at chess.com