Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Morozevich and Bareev, Heavyweight Duelists

Russian Superstar Alexander Morozevich is, hands down, the most dynamic active "Super Grandmaster" and is one of the most fascinating players to follow. He is not so much incredible for his sacrificial play as for his odd piece-placement and seeming comfort with unusual, even dubious openings and hectically confusing positions. Here is a special gem of his - a very interesting contribution to Caro-Kann opening theory (that is, if anyone is courageous enough to follow his lead) in which Morozevich matches wits with Russian Super Grandmaster Evgeny Bareev.

Morozevich-Bareev 2000 Sarajevo, Bosnia
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nc3 e6
I would like to point out here that in my own praxis, I have had difficulty with 4. ... Qb6 5. Bd3 Qxd4!? Kotronias' book on the advance Caro-Kann recommends 5. Bd3, arguing that black cannot take this central pawn because he falls too far behind in development, but U.S. GM Larry Christiansen argues that the pawn can be captured with impunity and I have not come across any convincing analysis to the contrary. Does white have a better line here?
5. g4 Bg6 6. Nge2 c5 7. h4 h5 8. Nf4 Nc6 9. Nxg6 fxg6 10. Ne2 Qb6Ten moves in and already all hell has broken loose. Bareev's king position has been compromised, but white cannot carry out his attack unless he mobilizes more of his pieces, meanwhile black's development is speeding up and it looks as though white's overextended pawns are going to start falling.
11. Nf4 cxd4 12. Nxg6 Bb4+ 13. Ke2!?Amazing! Morozevich carries on in signature style, refusing to play c3 and absurdly centralizing his king. The move follows a sort of logic though. White is committed to maintaining as much of his own positional edge as possible - the knight on g6 defends e5 - and he cannot play Bd7 because this uncovers the b7 pawn. Hence - into the fray...
13. ... hxg4 14. a3
Morozevich understands that maintaining the pawn on e5 is more important for the survival of his centralized king than capturing the rook on h8. Additionally, the bishop needs to be kicked or captured in order for him to develop his queenside comfortably.
14. ... Rh5 15. axb4 Nge7 16. Nxe7 Rxe5+ 17. Kd2
White is now up two pieces, but the wild romp seems to be coming to its close. Black's central pawn wedge is intimidating, and there are preciously few escape squares for the white monarch. It looks as though 17. ... Qxb4+ is met by the lunatic 18. Kd3, escaping from the pressure, but computer analysis would show the path more accurately.
17. ... Kxe7 18. b5! Nb4 19. Bd3 Rf8 20. Qxg4 Nxd3 21. cxd3 Rxf2+ 22. Kd1 Qxb5 23. Ra3 Qc6
Morozevich hangs on by the skin of his teeth. He may be up by a piece, but he has lost most of his pawns and the attack just won't quit. He has also gone the whole game without comfortably developing - this cannot be how grandmasters should play chess, right?
24. Bd2 Ree2Just when it seems that the wild ride must finally be over, Morozevich pulls another rabit out of his hat!
25. Qxe2! Rxe2 26. Kxe2 e5 27. Rg1 e4 28. dxe4 dxe4 29. Rxg7+ Kf8 30. Rag3 1/2-1/2
The dust has settled and the result is peaceful... Fascinating!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Tue 1/15/06 Just above 13...hxg4.a3, the text reads,"...the knight on g6 defends e5-and cannot play Bd7 because this uncovers the b7 pawn... Doesn't make sense. Yes the Knight defends e5, but what cannot play Bd7? You can't mean the Knight. Please clarify.

6:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does Christiansen state this in a book or article ? What source ?

10:27 PM  
Blogger Joshua said...

Christiansen doesn't suggest this analysis in a book article that I know of. Actually, his wife Natasha told me that this was his thinking in a conversation that she and I had after the position showed up in one of our (Natasha and mine) games.

11:59 PM  

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