What was the blunder of 2015? The best combination? The best positional game? The disappointment of the year? Grandmaster Sergey Shipov gives his verdict on those and far more questions in his now traditional round-up of the year's chess action.
Sergey Shipov's Review of 2015 was published in Russian at Crestbook. In the first part of our translated highlights Sergey focuses on the chess action in 2015.
The year was far from dull. Fighting chess tournaments with an abundance of interesting games were interwoven with political scandals. You could sit at your computer and watch and watch without a break, but it was even more interesting to be there at the scene of the events.
I consider the year’s main sporting events to have been the crowning of Mariya Muzychuk and determining the line-up for the men’s Candidates Tournament. Essentially those were preludes to even more important events coming in 2016.
The 2015 World Cup final in Baku – an incredibly tense and engrossing match between Karjakin and Svidler. That was something!
It was particularly amusing to read the opinion of conspiracy theorists claiming that we witnessed a pre-arranged spectacle. They forgot to add that in that case Sergey and Peter should receive Oscars for the best acting work
Two clearly stand out: Wei Yi – Bruzon, China (an absolute classic)
21.Nd5 Nxd5 22.Rxf7!!
and Khismatullin – Eljanov, Jerusalem (a stunning rook sacrifice based on prophylactic considerations).
I liked the way Yu Yangyi crushed Dominguez in Havana in exhibition-like Sicilian style:
29.Nd5! Qc5 30.Nxe6!
Of course I remember the combination that didn’t happen in the game Arabidze – Hoang Thanh Trang, Chakvi (the incredible move 10.Nd2!!).
10.Nd2!! – the move that wasn’t.
A lot of questions also remained after Aronian’s unfinished combination in his game with Karjakin in Zurich.
Well, and the pre-New Year gem in Vitiugov – Sasikiran:
27.Rxd4! Nxd4 28.Qxd4+ f6 29.Nc7! Re7 30.Ne8+!! Qxe8 31.Qxd8±
Selecting games for such a category is an absolutely random process. After all, evaluating the depth and quality of a positional game is an order of magnitude tougher than with a combination. Some things caught my eye, I was able to look at the games closely, but a lot of others passed me by.
I was taken by the following games: Kramnik – Nepomniachtchi, Sochi (a top-class exchange sacrifice and subsequent squeeze)
Carlsen – So, St. Louis (a methodical attack by White on the kingside and in the centre bore deserved fruit on the queenside)
28.Qb3 Rf7 29.a4!? and so on.
Tomashevsky – Grischuk, Tbilisi (squeezing and squeezing…)
Carlsen-Aronian, Reykjavik (pressure, a break and a demolition!)
In previous years I sought out the best novelties in the games of Anand and Kramnik, but now the situation has changed. The veterans have stopped working so much on topical variations (Vladimir Kramnik’s Reti Opening is already becoming depressing) – they’re relying more on their other chess skills. In general, they’re playing on class.
Opening novelties are now a matter for the young. It’s worth paying particular attention to Wojtaszek and Giri. Their marriages made no difference! In every other game of those young husbands there are interesting opening ideas. They’re doing great work… No doubt their wives help them out with the analysis
However, middle-aged competitors are also capable of a thing or two. For example, I liked the game Grischuk-Fedoseev, Baku, with the sacrifice of four pawns for the initiative. It stunned me that Fedoseev was able to find all the best moves over the board, thus reproducing Grischuk’s analysis.
9. exd5 exd5 10.Bg2 dxc4! 11.0–0! The first one bites the dust! 11...cxb3 12.Re1! The second! 12...bxa2 13.Ne5! The third! 13...Bb7 (It’s impossible to evacuate the king: 13...0–0? 14.Bxc6+-) 14.d5!! The fourth!
He passed the test!
I liked the consistent work done by Evgeny Tomashevsky to kill off the King’s Indian Defence in the variation with 5.Nf3 and 6.h3.
His opponents were serious and the number of decisive games was stunning (see all Tomashevsky’s games in 2015 in the opening E90). No, I don’t think this is the end of the KID, but it’s becoming harder and harder to play. After all, Tomashevsky has carried other players along with him.
Overall, I didn’t notice any really important opening collapses over the course of the year. Perhaps my eye was deceived, like a sniper who spends days on end lying in the shooting position, but perhaps not! In our computer age you can hold a defence in almost any opening - even where it was previously “dangerous”, “risky” and so on.
If some genius casts doubt on the Berlin Variation of the Ruy Lopez then that’ll be a collapse! And deliverance. I’m deathly bored of commentating on it…
I’ll give three:
Caruana-Carlsen, Shamkir (a classic squeeze)
34.g4 fxg4 35.hxg4 h4!
Carlsen-Nakamura, London (bishops and knights don’t get on)
Vachier-Lagrave - Tomashevsky, Tbilisi (an amusing material imbalance!)
88.Rd3 Ng5 89.Ke7 Nf7 90.Rd4 Bg5+ 91.Ke8 Ne5 0-1
Karjakin-Eljanov, Baku (the semifinal of the World Cup, the decisive rapid game. Saving something like that is a heroic feat)
Unquestionably Khismatullin’s king move, leaving his rook en prise in the battle with Eljanov.
The game Daulyte-Socko, Sochi (Women’s World Championship). Blundering a queen instead of giving mate-in-one, and with such crucial sporting consequences – that’s a tragedy going beyond the bounds of this year. We’ll still recall it for years to come.
And one hundred young Indians. They’ve all got into the habit of winning youth championships, and you can barely work out their names… It’s clear that a whole wave of young talent is rising in India. A tsunami!
Revelation is perhaps going a bit too far. You can instead talk about the flowering of already known talents.
For example, Wei Yi created a series of masterpieces – he’s ready for supertournaments.
And Goryachkina – she finally reached the level of the female elite, winning the Russian Championship Superfinal and the Russian Cup. There’s no longer any question about her place in the team and the goals for Sasha now are the very highest. She’s the main hope of Russia when it come to fighting for individual titles.
Kramnik’s failure to make it into the Candidates Tournament. By autumn Vladimir finally started to play at his previous monstrous level, but he didn’t earn a chance to fight for the crown again. And, I have to admit, I no longer believe he’ll get such a chance in future. The fascinating and historically necessary Carlsen-Kramnik match is one we’re never going to see.
Another disappointment was the poor performance of Tomashevsky in the last stage of the FIDE Grand Prix. Evgeny was close to a historic achievement, but… But he lacked healthy pragmatism – the cynical ability to hold firmly onto the bird in the hand. The one consolation is that Tomashevsky didn’t lose heart and won the Russian Superfinal.
Why such sad questions? I won’t respond. There were no flops, just temporary and random bad spells from good chess players. Instead I’ll come up with my own category: Resurrection of the year
And my response is – Aronian. Finally he won a supertournament in America, showing everyone… and above all himself, that he’s still young and strong.
Mariya Muzychuk. Previously many perceived her as Anna’s sister, but now they’ve castled.
In the competition among sisters the Muzychuks are now out in front. We await a reply from the Kosintsevas. Or will new sisters appear?
The death of Luis Rentero – the organiser of the cult tournament in Linares.
In the past year it was crowded at the top, so it’s hard to single out clear leaders. They wouldn’t all fit into the ten…
Here they are in descending order of merit - main group:
Reserves: Svidler, Ding Liren, Vachier-Lagrave, Wei Yi, Grischuk, Eljanov etc.
Do you agree with Sergey’s choices? Stay tuned for further highlights coming soon.