Monday, February 8, 2010

Lalic vs Spraggett, Sevilla 2010

Four players tied for first in the recent Sevilla Open, each scoring 7 points from 9 games. Three of them were on 6.5 points and achieved the leading score by making a draw in the last round. But one of them – Kevin Spraggett of Canada – started the last round on 6 points and had to win his final game against Bogdan Lalic in order to join the leaders. This was a particularly impressive result for Spraggett because he had the Black pieces.

How does one win to order against a strong grandmaster? It helps if he or she also needs to win, and that was the case here. Bogdan Lalic also started the last round with 6 points and was clearly determined to join the leaders. The first result was the appearance of a very sharp opening system – the Modern Benoni.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c5 4.d5 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.Nc3 g6 7.h3 Bg7 8.e4 0-0 9.Bd3 a6 10.a4 Nh5!?

"Knight to the rim” can be dodgy but Black must prevent 11.Bf4, which would give White a very unpleasant bind. In fact White can force it through but that comes at a price as we shall see.

11.0-0 Nd7 12.Re1 Re8 (diagram)


White rises to the challenge, but the weakening of his kingside will soon have negative consequences. Stronger was 13.Bg5 and if 13...Bf6 then 14.Be3.

13...Nhf6 14.Bf4 h5 15.g5

If 15.gxh5 Nxh5 16.Bxd6 Ne5 17.Bxe5 Bxe5 with a kingside initiative for Black.

15...Nh7 16.h4 Ne5

Black could also consider 16...Qe7!?

17.Nxe5 dxe5 18.Be3 f6 19.Qf3

Stronger was 19.Qd2!? After the move in the game White starts on a negative trend from which he does not recover.

19...fxg5 20.hxg5 Nxg5 21.Qg3 Nh3+ 22.Kh1 Qf6 23.Bf1 Nf4 24.Bxc5 Bd7 25.a5 Rac8 26.Ba3 Bh6

This turns out well, but 26...g5 27.f3 Bf8 was perhaps even better.

27.Rac1 h4 28.Qh2?

It was better to sacrifice a pawn with 28.Qe3 Bg5 29.Qf3 Nxd5 30.Qxf6 Nxf6 31.Rcd1, trading off the queens and getting some free play for White's pieces.

28...Bg4! 29.Re3 Nh5

With this "echo" move Black wins the exchange in simple fashion and it is now rather difficult to suggest any improvements for White.

30.Rce1 Bxe3 31.Rxe3 Ng3+ 32.Kg1 Nxf1 33.Kxf1 Rc4 34.f3 Rec8 35.Ke1 Bd7 36.d6 Kg7 37.Rd3 h3 38.Rd5 Re8 39.Qg3 Rh8 40.Rd2 Rh5! 41.Rf2 Qd8 42.f4 Qh4 0-1

A powerful display by the Canadian grandmaster!


CMoB said...

Hey, you've got a great blog. I only recently discovered it. Hope you keep it up.

Dan Scoones said...

Thanks for the vote of support. I don't have much time for chess these days so I've tried to aim for quality instead of quantity...

About Me

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Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada
National master (Canada) since 1984. B.C. Champion 1977 and 1984. Runner-up 1991 and 2002. B.C. Open Champion 1972 and 1982. B.C. U/14 Champion 1964-65-66. Mikhail Botvinnik once wrote that publishing your analytical work forces you to be accurate because it exposes you to criticism. Hence this blog.