Reports May 15, 2014 | 10:02 AMby GM Jan Gustafsson

Savchenko wins Nakhchivan Open (with 2.Na3!)

Boris Savchenko's knights on the rim propelled him to tournament victory! photo:

Russian Grandmaster Boris Savchenko (2559) has emerged triumphant from the strong open tournament in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan. Savchenko, known for his creative style of play, scored 6.5/9 and finished first on tiebreakers ahead of Eltaj Safarli, Aleksandr Shimanov and Rauf Mamedov. chess24's Jan Gustafsson takes a very enjoyable look at one of his games! 

The following game from the second round is typical of Savchenko's approach and may provide one or two readers with a totally new recipe against the Sicilian Defence. Imitate at your peril!

Boris Savchenko is one of my favourite players. He's known for going his own way in the opening, and this game is a perfect example.

If they'd known what was going to follow surely this game would have been on stage! | photo:

1. e4 c5 2. ♘a3 When Russian Grandmaster Zvyagintsev introduced this move the chess world couldn't suppress a collective smile, but he's now found an enthusiastic follower in Savchenko. The knight makes space so that all White's options in the centre remain open - c3, d4 and f4 all frequently follow. It also overprotects the b5-square, which is useful in many lines when the white bishop appears there. Not convinced? Yeah, I'm not so sure myself - 2. Nf3 is somehow more appealing. ..

2... ♘c6

2... g6 3. h4 1-0 Savchenko,B - Khismatullin,D, Yerevan 2014

2... e6 3. f4 1/2-1/2 Savchenko,B - Jakovenko, D, Dresden 2007

2... b6 3. g3 1/2-1/2 Savchenko,B - Belov,V, Sochi 2007

3. ♗b5 d6

3... ♘d4 4. ♘f3! demonstrates one of the many ideas of White's second move - b5 is covered!

3... ♘a5 is also no way to surprise Savchenko, as he'd counter with 4. ♗a4 1-0 Savchenko,B - Bukavshin,I, Taganrog 2011

4. ♕e2 As we learned in school, after you've put the knight on the rim it's time to bring the queen into play...

4... ♗d7 5. c3 ♘f6 6. f4 e6 The last two pawn moves covered the d4 and e5-squares. Now it's surely time to develop the other knight and castle short?

7. g4 Nothing of the sort - it's time to start an attack on the kingside with g4!

7... a6 8. ♗d3 The bishop had to be preserved, so it goes to d3, which nevertheless hinders further development with d3 or d4.

8... h6 9. ♗c2 Recognising the problem, the bishop moves again and makes room for d3. True, on c2 it takes away the natural home of the knight on a3, but you can't have everything.

9... b5 10. d3 A mild surprise. I was expecting

10. ♘h3

10... b4 After being provoked by White's play Guliev goes for a concrete approach. I don't particularly like this move as it solves White's problem of finding a square for the a3-knight.

10... c4 11. dxc4 b4!

10... ♗e7 would be "normal".

11. ♘c4 bxc3 12. bxc3 d5 Opening up new career opportunities for the knight on the rim!

12... ♖b8 seems more circumspect.

13. ♘e5 From the sidelines to the heart of the action!

13... ♘xe5 14. fxe5 The white knight gives up its life and in return forces the remaining black cavalry into exile on the h-file.

14... ♘h7 15. ♘f3 14 moves later than expected...

15... ♗e7 16. h4 Enough of developing pieces - it's time to continue the pawn storm!

16... ♗c6 17. ♖b1 Rooks belong on open files.

17... ♕a5 18. 0-0 At the cost of a pawn the other rook enters the action and the king gets out of the firing line.

18... dxe4 19. dxe4 ♕xc3

19... 0-0 would permit Black a quieter life, and objectively despite, or because of, all White's creativity I'd prefer Black's chances.

20. ♖b6 Now it all kicks off! In return for an exchange Savchenko ensures that the black king will know no peace.

20... ♗b5 Accepting the challenge. The unassuming

20... ♗d7 was also playable.

21. ♖xb5 axb5 22. ♕xb5+ ♔f8 23. ♗b3 Objectively everything may still be ok for Black, but in practical terms it's White who's going to have all the fun.

23... ♕a5 24. ♕c4 I doubt Savchenko spent even a second on the computer's recommendation of

24. ♕xa5

24... ♕b4 25. ♕d3 ♖d8? A serious mistake. The queen now finds a beautiful square from which to support the attack. Correct was

25... ♔g8! , followed by Nf8, after which Black can still face the future with optimism.

26. ♕a6! Bxe6 is suddenly a very serious threat.

Tough for Guliev after 26.Qa6! | photo:

26... c4 27. ♗xc4 ♗c5+?

27... ♕c5+ 28. ♔g2 ♕c8 Keeping an eye on e6.

28. ♔g2 ♔e7 "Knight on the rim" is something you can get away with, but "king in the middle" is running an incomparably higher risk.

28... ♔g8! 29. ♗xe6 ♕xe4 would keep the game going.

29. ♘d4! That's it! The second knight gives up its life, and this time in exchange for the main prize.

29... ♖xd4 30. ♖xf7+ ♔e8 31. ♕c6+ Mate-in-2 follows. Savchenko made full use of all his developed pieces, while the c1-bishop never even had to move.


Savchenko's win against second-seed Denis Khismatullin in Round 5 was a huge step on the road to overall victory | photo:

The tournament's strong field featured eight 2600+ rated players, with top seed Anton Korobov (2696) only managing to finish in 14th place out of 52 players.  

111GMSavchenko BorisRUS25596.5256621.6
24GMSafarli EltajAZE26566.525407.0
35GMShimanov AleksandrRUS26366.525336.5
43GMMamedov RaufAZE26606.525123.9
512GMShanava KonstantineGEO25516.0250810.6
614GMPaichadze LukaGEO25356.024829.2
79GMPantsulaia LevanGEO25736.024723.7
813IMNigalidze GaiozGEO25366.024385.8
921IMSanal VahapTUR24356.0243015.0
102GMKhismatullin DenisRUS26825.52493-11.4
1110GMGagunashvili MerabGEO25605.524851.5
126GMSmirnov PavelRUS26265.52446-10.3
137GMGuseinov GadirAZE26215.52422-8.5
141GMKorobov AntonUKR26965.02506-15.9
158GMKorneev OlegESP26185.02482-10.4
1632IMAbdulov OrkhanAZE23365.0246711.9
1719IMMammadov ZaurAZE24535.024606.0
1833Asgarizadeh AhmadIRI23205.0244528.6
1939FMGholami AryanIRI22375.0244340.7
2020IMDastan Muhammed BatuhanTUR24395.024212.9
2116GMRasulov VugarAZE25125.02412-6.1
2226IMGuliev LogmanAZE23865.023361.8
2324Aghasiyev KamalAZE24055.02314-6.4
2425IMIskandarov MisratdinAZE24035.02269-6.7

All the games were broadcast live here at chess24 and can still be replayed complete with computer analysis.

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