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Chess as an Art by GM Sundararajan Kidambi

by Sundararajan Kidambi - 10 March 2017

Chess is a beautiful game, but sometimes the beauty is not so obvious to an untrained eye. When an experienced grandmaster like Sundararajan Kidambi carefully studies a game between two world class players, you know that you are in for a treat. Kidambi doesn't do a superficial job. He puts himself into the shoes of Wesley So and tries to understand the logic behind his every move. What you now get is high class material, which if studied carefully, can seriously help you improve your chess understanding.

" Chess like love,like music, has the power to make men happy"- Siegbert Tarrasch

The game that we will be having a look at is between Granda Zuniga and Wesley So 

Wesley So has been the most consistent player of the last year and a half. I was able to watch some of his games at the Isle of Man tournament last year. His calm and easy looks during a game concealed the tremendous concentration and intensity happening in the background. I have attempted to put myself in his shoes and arrive out at the possible reasoning behind his thought process and moves based on his game against Granda Zuniga, which made a deep impression on me, even during the tournament itself. Of course, I have to make certain guesses and the annotations themselves can never be equal to a player expressing his own thoughts. Nevertheless, it was quite an experience for me to put myself in his thinking hat and in the process trying to unravel the beauty hidden behind the veil of seemingly unnatural moves.

Granda Zuniga-So Wesley, Round 4 of Isle of Man 2016

[Event "Douglas IoM op"]
[Site "Douglas"]
[Date "2016.10.04"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Granda Zuniga, Julio E"]
[Black "So, Wesley"]
[Result "*"]
[ECO "A29"]
[WhiteElo "2648"]
[BlackElo "2794"]
[Annotator "S. Kidambi"]
[PlyCount "27"]
[EventDate "2016.10.01"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "ENG"]
[SourceTitle "EXT 2017"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2016.10.25"]
[SourceVersion "1"]
[SourceVersionDate "2016.10.25"]
[SourceQuality "1"]
1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. Bg2 Nb6 7. d3 Be7 8.
O-O O-O 9. Be3 Re8 10. Rc1 Bf8 {A Typical reversed Dragon English.} 11. Na4 Nd4
12. Nc5 {White threatens to win a pawn with Bxd4 exd4 and Nb3.} a5 $1 {This
move seemingly ignores White's threat. But, the fact is Black has seen deeper
and prepared a very clever response.Things start to get very interesting from
here. The moves from here on are striking in their freshness and originality.}
13. Bxd4 exd4 14. Nb3 *

What should Black play? Try to think on your own before looking at the solution.

Vidit showed this position over dinner and asked me to guess what Black had to do. Even, after having been given this position I could not find a way as to how Black should go about saving the pawn after a few minutes thought. I remember that my thoughts only centered around a move like c7-c5.

14....g5!!

This move was outside my horizon of available candidate moves as it weakened Black's king side pawn cover and is not very common in this kind of Semi Open English Opening positions. It is quite common for the chess player's brain to filter out such seemingly anti positional moves, but the beauty of Chess as an art lies in discovering such exceptions to the classical principles. Once I came to know that g5 had been played, I was impressed by it and tried to discover the genesis of the idea. In Chennai chess circles I came across the term "Kokki Ghoda" (Part Hindi and Part Tamil roughly translating to Hooked Horses!) while  was frequenting chess clubs and local events 25 years ago. What it meant was that two knights mutually supporting each other are not as strong as they seem to be, because if any one of them is attacked by a pawn, the other knight loses its support. Using that idea, black has found a very clever way to break the hook by preparing to attack both the knights on b3 and on f3 with pawns on a5 and g5! Black had to visualize this already while playing 12...a5, especially the g5 idea. This deep idea might have been missed by Granda, who in his own right is also a very original thinker!

[Event "Douglas IoM op"]
[Site "Douglas"]
[Date "2016.10.04"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Granda Zuniga, Julio E"]
[Black "So, Wesley"]
[Result "*"]
[ECO "A29"]
[WhiteElo "2648"]
[BlackElo "2794"]
[Annotator "S. Kidambi"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "r1bqrbk1/1pp2ppp/1n6/p7/3p4/1N1P1NP1/PP2PPBP/2RQ1RK1 b - - 0 14"]
[PlyCount "4"]
[EventDate "2016.10.01"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "ENG"]
[SourceTitle "EXT 2017"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2016.10.25"]
[SourceVersion "1"]
[SourceVersionDate "2016.10.25"]
[SourceQuality "1"]
{[#]} 14... g5 $3 (14... c5 $2 15. Nxc5 Bxc5 16. Rxc5 {There is no way to
create an attack on c5 and e2.}) 15. Qd2 {Attacking the pawn on a5 and g5 and
after an eventual g5-g4 by Black, White has ideas like Qf4 to attack the pawns
on c7 and d4.} (15. Nbxd4 g4 $1 $17) (15. Nfxd4 a4 $17) 15... g4 ({ed-Wesley's
idea of g5 had been played once before by Russian GM Dmitry Frolyanov. It
would be interesting to know if Wesley knew about this game or not while
playing against Granda.} 15... a4 16. Nc5 h6 17. e3 dxe3 18. fxe3 Bg7 19. Kh1
c6 20. Qf2 Qe7 21. Nd4 Ra5 22. Nf5 Bxf5 23. Qxf5 Nd5 24. Bxd5 cxd5 25. d4 b6
26. Nd7 Ra7 27. Nxb6 Qxe3 28. Nxd5 Qe4+ 29. Qxe4 Rxe4 30. Nc3 Ree7 31. Rfd1 a3
32. b3 Rad7 33. d5 Bxc3 34. Rxc3 Re2 35. d6 Rxa2 36. Rc7 Rd8 37. Re7 Kf8 38.
Rf1 Rxd6 39. Rfxf7+ {1/2-1/2 (26) Markov,M (2344)-Frolyanov,D (2568) Pavlodar
2015}) 16. Nh4 {I am guessing that Wesley So might have reached this position
in his mind's eye while playing the move a7-a5. Black has trumps such as the
bishop pair, the possibility of Qd6-Bh6 ideas and more space in the centre.
White's knight on h4 has also been driven away from the centre, though on the
flip side Black's king side has been weakened and given some time, White can
open up lines and drum up counterplay against Black's king.} *

Once again, what should Black do? Take your time, put yourself in Wesley's shoes and come up with an original move.

16...Re5!!

A stunning move and perhaps the most difficult one of the game. It protects the a5 pawn, restricts the knight on b3 by controlling c5 square and stops any possible checks on g5. It also restricts the knight on h4 by controlling f5 square. Apart from all this Black's Rook freely wanders the open 4th rank! This is quite an uncommon idea and is aesthetically pleasing to see the rook being employed horizontally. 

[Event "Douglas IoM op"]
[Site "Douglas"]
[Date "2016.10.04"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Granda Zuniga, Julio E"]
[Black "So, Wesley"]
[Result "*"]
[ECO "A29"]
[WhiteElo "2648"]
[BlackElo "2794"]
[Annotator "S. Kidambi"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "r1bqrbk1/1pp2p1p/1n6/p7/3p2pN/1N1P2P1/PP1QPPBP/2R2RK1 b - - 0 16"]
[PlyCount "4"]
[EventDate "2016.10.01"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "ENG"]
[SourceTitle "EXT 2017"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2016.10.25"]
[SourceVersion "1"]
[SourceVersionDate "2016.10.25"]
[SourceQuality "1"]
{[#]} 16... Re5 $3 (16... Qd6 {Let us look at the alternative16... Qd6 with
the threat of Bh6 thereby not giving white time to take on a5, but this runs
into} 17. Qg5+ Bg7 (17... Kh8 18. Qh5 $1) 18. Nf5 {It looks like White's
pieces have infiltrated the empty space left behind by Black's kingside pawn
advance.}) 17. Qf4 Qd6 18. e3 {Another logical move, White invites the opening
of f-file and protects his weak pawn on e2. Given time, he wants to bring his
knight over to f5 and create attacking chances on the king side. So what is
Black to do now?} (18. Nxd4 Bh6 $19) (18. Qxd4 Rxe2 {Black does not really
fear an endgame, he in fact welcomes it. His long term advantages consist of
the bishop pair, more space and his better placed pieces. White on the other
hand would like to keep queens on and ideally bring his b3-Knight over to d4
and f5, but it seems very difficult.} 19. Qxd6 Bxd6 20. Nd4 Rxb2 {Despite
being undeveloped blacks pieces are more purposefully placed and so he is
better.}) *

White has just pushed his pawn to e3. What should Black do? 

18...Rb5!

Another star move and part of the plan started with Re5. Black understands that b2 is perhaps the only weak spot in White's camp and at the same time, Black doesn't mind exchanging queens because of possession of the bishop pair.

[Event "Douglas IoM op"]
[Site "Douglas"]
[Date "2016.10.04"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Granda Zuniga, Julio E"]
[Black "So, Wesley"]
[Result "*"]
[ECO "A29"]
[WhiteElo "2648"]
[BlackElo "2794"]
[Annotator "S. Kidambi"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "r1b2bk1/1pp2p1p/1n1q4/p3r3/3p1QpN/1N1PP1P1/PP3PBP/2R2RK1 b - - 0 18"]
[PlyCount "7"]
[EventDate "2016.10.01"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "ENG"]
[SourceTitle "EXT 2017"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2016.10.25"]
[SourceVersion "1"]
[SourceVersionDate "2016.10.25"]
[SourceQuality "1"]
{[#]} 18... Rb5 $1 19. Rxc7 $2 {Weakening the pawn structure at the cost of
winning a pawn and bringing the rook to the seventh rank. But White's rook
doesn't have the coordinated aid of his other pieces and it seems to hit thin
air. Alternatives were:} (19. Nxd4 Qxf4 20. exf4 Rxb2 $15) (19. Qxd6 Bxd6 20.
Nxd4 Rxb2 21. Nhf5 {Perhaps White should have done this. Compared to the game
he has not wrecked his pawn structure with exf4 and has brought his offside
knight on h4 into the game. It seems like White has everything under control.
But as I have observed from personal experience, when facing an inventive and
relentless opponent, the pressure sooner or later takes its toll. And I am not
at all surprised that it is possible for White to err in the face of a host of
possibilities.}) 19... Qxf4 20. exf4 a4 21. Nxd4 Rxb2 *

What a position! Black's bishops perform excellent functions while still situated on their original squares. His only developed piece on b2 is wreaking havoc over White's helpless pawns. Once Black wins the pawn on a2 the rook on a8 finds employment right at his home! On the contrary Whites knight on h4 is out of play. The seemingly active fianchetto bishop can perhaps help white to gain a meagre pawn on b7, but White would lose the all important a2-pawn after which Black's a-passed pawn would become a monster.

[Event "Douglas IoM op"]
[Site "Douglas"]
[Date "2016.10.04"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Granda Zuniga, Julio E"]
[Black "So, Wesley"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A29"]
[WhiteElo "2648"]
[BlackElo "2794"]
[Annotator "S. Kidambi"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "r1b2bk1/1pR2p1p/1n6/8/p2N1PpN/3P2P1/Pr3PBP/5RK1 w - - 0 22"]
[PlyCount "14"]
[EventDate "2016.10.01"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "ENG"]
[SourceTitle "EXT 2017"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2016.10.25"]
[SourceVersion "1"]
[SourceVersionDate "2016.10.25"]
[SourceQuality "1"]
{[#]} 22. Be4 $2 {A half hearted move, Black coolly grabs the all important
a2-pawn and mops up the game with surprising ease. It was time to protect the
pawn on a2 with 22. Rc2!} (22. Rc2 $11) (22. Bxb7 $2 Bxb7 23. Rxb7 a3 $15 {
A black knights jump to c3 seems ominous.}) 22... Rxa2 23. Rb1 a3 24. Nc2 (24.
Rxb6 Rb2 $19) 24... Bd6 25. Rc3 Na4 26. Rc4 Be6 {A picture of complete
domination.} 27. Nxa3 Rxa3 28. Rc2 Nc5 0-1 

While studying this game, I was reminded of two other games by Great Champions. One by Karpov and the other by Fischer. But that's something that we must look at in the part II of this article.

 

Part II to follow soon

GM Sundararajan Kidambi is considered by many Indian players as the one with impeccable knowledge of chess classics

ChessBase India congratulates GM Sundararajan Kidambi for launching a new blog "Musings on Chess". Knowing what an encyclopaedic knowledge that the grandmaster from Chennai possesses, I think we are in for a treat! One can only hope that Kidambi keeps writing regularly! We will keep reminding him about it!

 

When we contacted Sundararajan, he told us that it was because of his mentor Srikanth Govindaseshan that he decided to write the first blogpost. Says Kidambi, "He has been asking me to blog for years now! I hope I will be able to sustain the motivation to write regularly."

 

Visit Kidambi's recently launched blog


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