Reports Apr 3, 2014 | 5:11 PMby Colin McGourty

Wojtaszek pips 15-year-old Duda to Polish Championship

Wojtaszek struggles to collect all his prizes as the new Polish Champion... for the first time since 2005! | photo: Sylwia Rudolf

The 2014 Polish Championships were ultimately won by the two highest-rated players, Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Monika Socko, but that only tells half the story! With two rounds to go 15-year-old rising star Jan-Krzysztof Duda was leading Poland’s top player by a full-point. Although he ultimately crashed and burned, he still took bronze behind Grzegorz Gajewski. We bring you a full report with player comments and analysis by IM David Martínez.

The Polish Championships were held in the Novotel Hotel, Warsaw, a venue familiar to any chess players who visited Warsaw for last year’s European Team Championship. 

The winners' trophies with a view of Warsaw from floor 31 of the Novotel Hotel | photo: Sylwia Rudolf 

The men’s tournament was a 9-round open with 22 players, no less than 12 of them rated above 2500, but for the first seven rounds it was all about one player, 15-year-old Jan-Krzysztof Duda.

The young star, rated 3rd in the world for his age group, scored 5 wins and 2 draws in the first 7 rounds to head the table above a host of more experienced and higher-rated colleagues. Our Spanish editor David Martínez was particularly impressed by the technique he showed against Jacek Tomczak:

Duda has three dangerous pawns for the bishop and, as we'll see, will manage to convert his advantage with precision. All of his moves are accompanied by impressive logic and also accurate concrete short-range calculation - obligatory for taking advantage of good concepts!

52... ♖b3! Threatening Rb1+ in such a way that if White tries to block on e1 his king would be tied to the defence of the bishop, which would soon be lost after a timely g2.

53. ♗d2 The only way to block on c1 while still attacking f4.

53... ♖b1+ 54. ♗c1 ♖b4 Defending against the threats to f4 while also supporting the advance of the a-pawn.

55. ♖c3+ ♔g4 56. ♔g2 Preventing f3.

56... ♖e4! Renewing the assault! The threat is Re2+ followed by f3. Tomczak resigned here, although he could still have put up more resistance so as to once more test the technique of the young Duda.

57. ♔f1

57. ♗xf4 doesn't work due to the zwischenzug 57... ♖e2+ 58. ♔f1 ♖f2+ 59. ♔g1 ♖xf4 and although there are some technical problems after putting the rook behind the g-pawn, defending the a-pawn and then transferring the king to that pawn the win should be simple.

57... f3 With two connected passed pawns on the 6th rank (from Black's perspective) the win is very simple.

58. ♗e3 a4 59. ♖a3 ♔h3 60. ♖c3 ♖b4! The rook moves like a pendulum, from side to side. It will now enter once more on b1, but this time, with the pawns so far advanced, it's decisive. At this point I'd recommend the video "Pendulum" from the chess24 videos series in which Artur Jussupow and Jan Gustafsson discuss Magnus Carlsen's games. True, there are more pieces on the board there!

61. ♖c8 ♖b1+ 62. ♗c1 a3 63. ♖h8+ ♔g4 64. ♖g8+ ♔f5 65. ♖f8+ ♔e6

0-1

So was the young generation about to take over Polish chess? Well, first Duda had to face Poland’s top player, 27-year-old Radek Wojtaszek, in the next round. 

Our head-to-head comparison shows Duda still has a long way to go!

A draw would have left Duda a full point ahead with a round to play, but perhaps there was just too much adrenaline coursing through the youngster’s veins. Playing White he reached the following bewildering position:


Sadly, this really isn’t the kind of territory you can stumble onto unprepared… especially if your opponent has played the position before! Back at the 2011 European Championship Wojtaszek won a fine game after Liviu Dieter Nisipeanu played 20.Rd1 here. That move was better than Duda’s unfortunate novelty 20.Bg4?, which was actually losing after 20…Bc5! Wojtaszek never gave his compatriot a hope.

Duda still had good chances of first place if he could regain his composure and win his final game against 2394-rated Paweł Weichhold, but instead he lost again, enabling his opponent to claim an IM norm. 

Wojtaszek, meanwhile, still had work to do! The last round was a showdown against Polish no. 2 GM Mateusz Bartel, who could almost be called Mr. Polish Championship, after winning it a remarkable 4 times (2006, 2010, 2011 and 2012), despite Wojtaszek usually featuring in the line-up.

Friendship ends on the chessboard... | photo: Sylwia Rudolf

This wasn’t his year, though, as he was put to the sword in exemplary fashion:

Elite players tend to have the capacity to win games with ease even against grandmasters. Their play, just like in classic games where a master proved superior to the other, serves as a highly instructive learning tool. The present game will show us how Wojtaszek controls the centre, prepares a pawn break and then storms the enemy king. Sounds like child's play, doesn't it?

11. ♖g1! The first step. White cannot castle queenside yet due to the knight fork on f2, so he prepares it by bringing the rook to g2.

11... b5? A pawn sacrifice that Wojtaszek probably didn't even consider accepting. Instead of grabbing the pawn he prefers to close the queenside immediately with 12. c5. Although most of the game is still to come, I think 11...b5? was the decisive error, as it gives White a free hand with his plan. Black should have opted for 11...b6 or 11...c5, keeping the tension in the centre.

12. c5 ♗c7 13. ♘e2 Improving the knight and avoiding b4.

13... a5 14. ♖g2 Preventing the previously mentioned knight jump to f2 and at the same time preparing to double rooks in the future.

14... ♗d7 15. 0-0-0 ♘a6 16. ♖dg1 Before executing the pawn break Wojtaszek does everything he can to prepare it in order to limit his opponent's possibilities.

16... b4

16... ♘b4 was a logical alternative as White cannot allow the exchange of his light-squared bishop and therefore the a-file will be opened up. 17. ♗xb4 axb4 18. ♔b1 Even so, Black's attack is limited as the a2-pawn can easily be defended by a knight on c1 and Black is unable to send any minor pieces on a mission to the queenside.

17. g4 There's nothing else left to prepare, so let's advance! Observe how White's artillery is all lined up, while Black is struggling to create any attack on the queenside. His position is strategically lost.

17... g6 18. gxf5 18. Ne5 was also interesting and I'd dare say it's even somewhat better than the game continuation. The idea is to maintain the tension, as Black doesn't really have the option of fxg4 and White can pick any moment for capturing on f5. As chess wisdom says, if it's in your hands to change the position keep the tension for as long as you can. Although it's true that in this case White will need to exchange on f5 to open the g-file for his rooks.

18... exf5 19. ♘e5 The knight is perfectly placed on e5 and Black doesn't hesitate to eliminate it.

19... ♗xe5 20. fxe5 ♘xd2 Quite a weird move that must be the result of a fear that the bishop, which seems to be a bad piece, will eventually end up attacking on the weakened dark squares. With all due respect to Mr. Bartel, that bishop wasn't worth a dime! In my opinion, it would have been better to play Nc7-e6 directly, although the position is, of course, still pretty bad.

20... a4 has the idea of opening the queenside with b3, but it can be met with the calm 21. ♕d1 after which White will respond to the attempt with a pawn advance and, probably, a faint smile.

21. ♕xd2 ♘c7 22. ♘f4

22. h4 Aiming for the pawn break directly was stronger, and we'll soon see why: 22... ♘e6 (22... ♕xh4 has the intention of eliminating the battering ram, but the open h-file promises nothing good for Black. 23. ♘f4 Rh2 and Rgh1 will follow, and the game is over.) 23. h5 g5 24. ♘g3 The knight comes to g3 instead of f4 and the black pawn will fall. 24... ♘d8 (24... ♘g7 25. h6 ) 25. ♘xf5 ♗xf5 26. ♖xg5+ and Black's position falls apart at the seams.

22... ♘e6 23. ♕f2 Bringing over the only piece that was missing from the attack. Isn't chess a piece of cake?

Around about now Mateusz Bartel may have been wishing he was playing his wife Marta! | photo: Sylwia Rudolf

23... ♘xf4 24. ♕xf4 ♖f7 25. h4 Here comes the guy charged with destroying fianchettos!

25... ♖g7 26. h5 ♕e6 27. hxg6 hxg6 28. ♕h6 ♔f7 White only needs to find a way to finish off the game.

29. ♖g5

29. ♖xg6 was good enough, as after 29... ♕xg6 (29... ♖xg6 30. ♕h7+ is simply disastrous.) 30. ♖xg6 ♖xg6 31. ♕h7+ ♖g7 32. ♕h5+ the f5-pawn falls and the c6-pawn is also weak, just like the king...

29... ♖f8 30. ♗c2 In my opinion White is just drifting, but such statements cannot be made in public, so the profound idea behind this move is to bring the bishop to a4, preparing the final blow.

30. ♗xf5 ♕xf5 31. ♖xf5+ ♗xf5 32. ♕g5 The typical position that is +5 for the engine but isn't that clear for human beings. Let's see why the advantage is so big: 32... ♔e6 33. ♖f1 Setting up a seemingly unlikely exchange sacrifice on f5. 33... ♖gg8 (33... ♔d7 34. ♕h6 And there's no Kf7 anymore. 34... ♖fg8 35. ♖xf5! gxf5 36. ♕d6+ Two passed pawns on the sixth rank will do the rest of the job.) 34. a3 Opening a second penetration point. 34... ♖g7 (34... b3 35. a4 and the king will eventually stroll around and grab that b3-pawn. ; 34... bxa3 35. bxa3 With Rf2 and Rb2 to follow. Switching the rook to the other flank on the second rank isn't just "cool", but was also necessary (mind the b1-square!).) 35. axb4 axb4 36. ♔d2 Planning Ra1 and if 36... ♖a7 37. ♖xf5 (Told ya!) 37... gxf5 38. ♕g6+ ♔e7 39. ♕xc6 decides the game once again.

30... ♖gg8 31. ♗d1 With the nasty threat of taking on g6 and Bh5.

31... ♖h8 32. ♕xg6+ ♕xg6 33. ♖xg6 ♔e7 34. ♗a4 The didactic part of the game ends here, but although White managed to mess things up he went on to to collect the full point, and the title of Polish Champion, on move 57.

1-0

That wasn’t quite the end of the drama, though! Grzegorz Gajewski, a strong player and fine theoretician, had matched Wojtaszek’s 5 wins and 4 draws, and as the Polish Championship abandoned playoffs this year everything ended up depending on tiebreaks… and the outcome of the last game to finish: Tomasz Warakomski - Jan Adamski. A draw would make Gajewski champion, while a win for White would favour Wojtaszek. It couldn’t have been closer, as Tomasz pressed a pawn down to turn a drawn position into a lost one and then, finally… he checkmated his opponent on move 77!


That sequence of moves cost Gajewski 7000 PLN or about 1700 Euros, though he still has the consolation of earning an automatic place on the Polish team for the Tromsø 2014 Olympiad. It completed a very good week for Viswanathan Anand and his long-term second Wojtaszek!

Here are the final standings in full - that's necessary to include some well-known players who struggled, like former World Junior Champion Dariusz Świercz:

TitleNameRatingPtsTB1TB2Wins
1GMWojtaszek, Radosław27137,036,0046,005
2GMGajewski, Grzegorz26317,035,5046,505
3GMDuda, Jan-Krzysztof25636,037,5047,505
4GMHeberla, Bartłomiej25445,537,5047,504
5GMMarkowski, Tomasz25665,536,5047,504
6GMJakubowski, Krzysztof25275,035,5046,504
7GMKrasenkow, Michał26405,034,5044,503
8GMSoćko, Bartosz26515,029,5038,003
9mWeichhold, Paweł23945,027,5035,003
10GMTomczak, Jacek25444,534,0042,503
11IMWarakomski, Tomasz24984,533,0041,503
12GMBartel, Mateusz26624,531,0041,002
13IMSadzikowski, Daniel24704,031,5042,001
14IMSieciechowicz, Marcin24364,029,5036,502
15GMŚwiercz, Dariusz26314,028,5036,502
16GMPiorun, Kacper25704,028,0034,501
17IMStachowiak, Kamil24424,025,0033,502
18GMGrabarczyk, Mirosław24663,528,0034,501
19IMKanarek, Marcel24763,527,0033,503
20IMPakleza, Zbigniew24903,033,0043,501
21IMWieczorek, Oskar24073,029,0036,501
22IMAdamski, Jan23021,528,0036,000

Wojtazek commented afterwards:

This is the second time, after a long break, that I’ve claimed a gold medal. My first time was 9 years ago in Poznan, when I made my debut in the Polish Championship. In the tournaments that have followed since I’ve lacked either good play or, at times, a little luck. On this occasion none of those elements was lacking. In the opening rounds I had good positions but I didn’t manage to finish off my opponents, so there were a lot of draws. My place on the podium was confirmed by a good finish – three wins. The hardest was the last of them, against Mateusz Bartel.

The women’s tournament was a 10-player round robin won by defending champion Monika Soćko (her husband Bartosz was also the defending champion in the men's event!), the only player to finish unbeaten, on 7/9.

Dr Irena Eris offer spa hotels in Poland and sponsored the event, making for the occasional unusual backdrop to the chess! | photo: Sylwia Rudolf  

Monika commented:

This is the sixth title of my career. As I expected it wasn’t easy. After four wins I felt strong pressure on me as leader to maintain that position and keep winning. Instead I drew three games in a row. The hardest was the last game against Iweta Rajlich, one of the best female Polish players, in which we shared the point.

Jolanta Zawadzka (silver) and Klaudia Kulon (bronze) played battling chess to finish half a point behind, conceding only a single draw each. For Klaudia it was her first medal in the adult Polish Championship and gave her a woman’s grandmaster norm.

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