Brilliancy Watch: Early June Edition

Life in the Internet age is both a blessing and a curse for chess fans. On the plus side, there is an utter avalanche of top-level tournaments taking place each week, and a maelstrom of new games to study and enjoy. But then the problem of selection comes in – how are you supposed to find the most interesting and useful things to look at when there’s just so much? This problem became very apparent for me this week, when two amazing games were played in tournaments that are getting comparatively little attention, at least here in the States. The first was played in “the best Super-GM tournament you’ve never heard of,” as some sly Twitterati put it, and the second was in the Asian Individual Continental Championship. We’ll check in with both events here, and we’ll do a deep dive into these two stupendous games.
2019 Karpov Tournament, Standings after Rd 6
The 20th Karpov Tournament, held in Poikovsky, Russia, is one of the strongest annual GM round-robins in existence, and yet, very few people outside of Russia seem to pay it any mind! This year’s edition boasts an average rating of 2684, and features the likes of Jakovenko, Wang Hao, Fedoseev, and Korobov. Two of the most interesting players, Vladislav Artemiev and Krishnan Sasikiran, met in round three, and… well, you’ll just have to see it to believe it.

[Event "20th Karpov Poikovsky"]
[Site "Poikovsky RUS"]
[Date "2019.06.08"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Sasikiran, K."]
[Black "Artemiev, V."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B90"]
[WhiteElo "2673"]
[BlackElo "2761"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[PlyCount "69"]
[EventDate "2019.06.06"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. f3 e6 7. Be3 b5 8. Qd2
b4 9. Na4 Nbd7 10. O-O-O Qa5 11. b3 Bb7 12. a3 {Making temporary use of the
pin on the b4-pawn.} Qc7 13. axb4 d5 14. Bf2 {Beginning to reroute the bishop
to the h2-b8 diagonal.} Bd6 $6 {Grandelius tried this against Nakamura last
year, but Sasikiran is well-prepared.} (14... dxe4 15. Bg3 Qc8 16. Bc4 Bd5 17.
Bxd5 Nxd5 18. Nf5 N7f6 19. Nd6+ Bxd6 20. Bxd6 {1-0 (32) Yoo,C (2242)-Preotu,R
(2501) Calgary 2017}) (14... e5 {is also possible here:} 15. Nf5 g6 16. Nh6 Rc8
17. Bd3 dxe4 18. Bc4 Bd5 19. Nb2 exf3 20. Rhe1 fxg2 $17 {0-1 (29) Bok,B (2607)
-Gordievsky,D (2622) Wijk aan Zee 2018}) 15. Bg3 (15. exd5 Nxd5 16. Bg3 Rc8 17.
c4 Bxb4 18. Qg5 $36 {1-0 (36) Nakamura,H (2781)-Grandelius,N (2647) Caleta 2018
}) 15... Bxg3 16. hxg3 dxe4 17. g4 $1 Nd5 (17... exf3 18. gxf3 Ne5 19. Qh2
O-O-O 20. Be2) 18. Bc4 (18. fxe4 N5f6 19. g5 Nxe4 20. Qe3 {is immensely sharp
but the computer suggests that White's initiative is real.}) 18... Ne5 19. Bxd5
exd5 ({After} 19... Bxd5 $6 20. fxe4 Bxe4 21. Nc5 $1 Bd5 22. c4 $1 {White's
attack is gaining steam.}) 20. fxe4 dxe4 21. Nf5 {This is the definition of a
target-rich environment!} O-O {Now White has two excellent choices.} 22. Qc3 $1
({Leela loves} 22. Nxg7 $1 Nd3+ (22... Kxg7 $4 23. Qh6+ Kg8 24. Qxh7#) 23. Kb1
Qf4 24. Qxf4 Nxf4 25. Nf5 {and White is clearly winning.}) 22... Rfc8 (22...
Rac8 {is marginally better, although the outcome will be the same.}) 23. Nc5 f6
24. Qh3 (24. g5 $5 fxg5 (24... Nf7 25. Nxg7 $1) (24... Rd8 25. Rxd8+ Rxd8 26.
Qh3 h6 27. gxf6 $18) 25. Qh3 h6 26. Rd7 $1 $18) 24... h6 {How to break through?
} 25. g5 $1 fxg5 (25... hxg5 {leads to mate in three:} 26. Qh8+ Kf7 27. Qxg7+
Ke8 28. Rh8#) 26. Rd7 $1 {A brilliant idea!} Nxd7 27. Nxh6+ $1 gxh6 (27... Kf8
{loses to} 28. Ne6+) (27... Kh8 {allows a cute mate:} 28. Ng8+ $1 Kxg8 29. Qe6+
Kf8 30. Rh8#) 28. Qe6+ Kg7 29. Qxh6+ Kf7 30. Qe6+ (30. Qh7+ Kf6 (30... Ke8 31.
Qg6+ Kd8 32. Rh8+) 31. Nxd7+ {transposes to the game}) 30... Kg7 31. Qe7+ Kg6
32. Qh7+ Kf6 33. Nxd7+ Ke6 34. Qg6+ Kd5 (34... Kxd7 35. Rh7+ Kd8 36. Qg8#) 35.
Rd1# {An outstanding effort by Sasikiran.} 1-0

The 21-year-old Artemiev is among the most promising talents in chess, and there are whispers that he someday might challenge for the World Championship. Even so, Sasikiran – a four-time Indian Champion and the winner of the 2006 Aeroflot Open – shows his attacking talents here, and the result is a delightful tactical aperitif that stands alone it its own right, but also whets our appetite for what is to come. Artemiev and Sasikiran are in a massive tie for second through ninth (!) place in the Karpov Tournament after six rounds with even scores. Dmitry Jakovenko leads the field by a full point with three rounds to play. If you read Russian, the webpage linked above provides games and updates, but for everyone else, the coverage at TWIC can be recommended.
2019 Asian Individual Open, Rd6 Standings
The 2019 Asian Continental Open and Women’s Championships are also underway in Xingtai, China. Here too the field is extraordinarily strong, with Santosh Gujrathi Vidit, Le Quang Liam, Baskaran Adhiban, and young phenoms Alireza Firouzja, Parham Maghsoodloo, and R. Praggnanandhaa among the leading lights. Indian GM Murali Karthikeyan leads the event after six rounds with a 5.5/6 score, and he has had to work hard to do it. In round six he defeated Adhiban, and in round five, he hornswoggled Firouzja with one of the most amazing queen sacrifices you will ever see. It was so astounding, in fact, that Romain Edouard wondered if some tournament transmission links had gotten crossed. And it’s not just Edouard who was confused. Even the latest development versions of Stockfish misjudge the power of the sac, while Leela Chess (rather impressively) sees the massive compensation.
Firouzja-Karthikeyan analysis by Leela and SF for Black's ninth move
By itself, the queen sacrifice would make this game worthy of your time and attention, but the way that Karthikeyan followed it up, making slow but steady use of his compensation, is fascinating. This has to be a contender for game of the year.

[Event "18th Asian Continental"]
[Site "Xingtai CHN"]
[Date "2019.06.11"]
[Round "5.1"]
[White "Firouzja, Alireza"]
[Black "Karthikeyan, Murali"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E71"]
[WhiteElo "2682"]
[BlackElo "2593"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[PlyCount "104"]
[EventDate "2019.06.07"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. h3 O-O 6. Be3 c5 7. Nf3 Qa5 8. Nd2 $5
{Very rare.} (8. Qd2 {and}) (8. Bd3 {are typical.}) 8... cxd4 9. Nb3 Qxc3+ $3 {
What an idea. It's not unheard of to sac the queen for two minors in KID
structures -- see Bronstein's ...Qh4 idea in the Samisch -- but this is just
wild.} ({The position also represents another interesting moment in the
alpha-beta vs self-learning engine wars: Stockfish doesn't see this as one of
Black's top four moves, while Leela thinks the "idea" is clearly best. Leela
gives this version of the sacrifice as slightly better than the game
continuation:} 9... Qb4 10. a3 {(forced)} Qxc3+ 11. bxc3 dxe3 {with play
similar to the game.}) 10. bxc3 dxe3 11. f3 (11. Bd3 exf2+ 12. Kxf2 Nbd7) 11...
Nh5 {So what does Black have for his material investment? Quality. The KID
bishop is a monster, White's dark squares are a mess, and all of Black's
pieces are ready to spring to life. Here again, the computer eval is
interesting: Leela thinks Black has massive compensation, while the latest
Stockfish development version is beginning to spin out 0.00 evals.} 12. Qc1 Bh6
(12... Ng3 13. Rg1 Bh6 {followed by ...Nd7(c6)-e5 is another idea}) 13. g4 Nf4
14. Kd1 (14. Qc2 $5 {(getting out of the way of the discovery)} Nc6 15. h4 Ne5
16. Nd4 {is fiendishly unclear, and may improve on the game.}) 14... Ne6 {
With the transparent threat of ...e2+ winning the queen.} 15. Kc2 Nc6 16. h4 {
To play g4-g5 and push the bishop back.} Bf4 {Point, counterpoint!} 17. Qd1 Ne5
18. Nc1 (18. h5 Bd7 (18... g5 $5) 19. hxg6 hxg6 $44) 18... Bd7 19. a4 Rac8 {
Over the last few moves SF has begun to understand Black's compensation.
White's pieces are largely useless while Black is targeting all of White's
weaknesses.} 20. Ne2 Bh6 21. g5 Bg7 {The bishop on g7 now cannot defend the e3
pawn, but there's no easy way for White to grab that thorn in its side. And
what about that White pawn on f3?!} 22. Bh3 (22. Nd4 {is bad due to} Nxc4 $1 {
with ... Nxd4 (to clear the c-file for a discovery) and/or ...Nd2 ideas coming}
) 22... Nxf3 23. Qd3 Ne5 24. Qxe3 Nxc4 25. Qf2 Rc5 26. Rhb1 Bc6 27. Bg2 f5 $1 {
Karthikeyan never lets Firouzja get back into the game.} 28. gxf6 (28. Qg3 fxe4
$19) 28... Bxf6 29. Rf1 $2 ({The engines like} 29. Qg3 {but Black's attack
continues with} Be5 $1 30. Qh3 {. It's very messy, but here are some
continuations:} Bd7 (30... Nf4 31. Nxf4 Rxf4 32. Rf1 Rg4 $1 33. Bf3 Ne3+ 34.
Kd2 Nxf1+ 35. Rxf1 Rf4 $19) 31. Rf1 Nd4+ (31... Rxf1 32. Rxf1 Nb6) 32. cxd4
Bxh3 33. Rxf8+ Kxf8 34. Bxh3 Na5+ 35. dxc5 Bxa1 $19) 29... Bxc3 $1 30. Qxc5
Nxc5 31. Rxf8+ Kxf8 32. Kxc3 Ne5 {Three pawns for the exchange (plus one more
shortly) is more than enough, coupled with the dynamism of Black's pieces.} 33.
a5 Nxe4+ 34. Bxe4 Bxe4 35. Nd4 Bd5 36. Nb5 ({White's only chance for survival
comes after} 36. a6 bxa6 (36... b6 37. Nb5 Nc6) 37. Rxa6 Kf7 38. Rxa7 Kf6 $17)
36... a6 37. Nc7 Bc6 38. Rf1+ Kg7 39. Ne6+ Kh6 40. Rf8 Kh5 41. Rh8 h6 (41...
Kxh4 $4 42. Rxh7+ Kg4 43. Rxe7 $11) 42. Rh7 Kxh4 43. Rxh6+ (43. Rxe7 Kg4 $19)
43... Kg4 44. Nd4 Kg5 45. Rh2 Bd5 46. Re2 Kf4 47. Rf2+ Nf3 48. Re2 e5 49. Nc2
Be4 50. Ne3 d5 51. Kb4 Nd4 52. Re1 Kf3 0-1

There are three rounds to go in Xingtai. Karthikeyan plays fellow countryman Abhijeet Gupta tomorrow with the Black pieces, while second-place S.P. Sethuraman takes Black against Firouzja. Games are available daily at the link above.


In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Wow! Just amazing. Thanks for sharing these wonderful games, John.

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