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Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs Levon Aronian
Bilbao Masters (2013), Bilbao ESP, rd 4, Oct-10
English Opening: King's English. Four Knights Variation Fianchetto Lines (A29)  ·  0-1


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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  luzhin: Somewhat remarkably my computer Hiarcs shows that 38.Qg6!! wins in all variations, which suggests that Aronian's rook sac was absolutely sound as well as necessary.
Oct-10-13  csmath: 4. ...g6

[unusual move, forcing the game out of any preparations. Aronian likes kingside fianchettos as black so this could have been expected!] 8. b4N

[new move in the position with offer of pawn sacrifice.]

8. ...d6!

[proper response, ignoring the b-pawn.]

10. a4

[white insist on queenside initiative.]

11. Ba3!? c6!?

[x-ray move will be neutralized with b5.]

12. c5 Re8
13. e4?! Bg4
14. Qb3 Nd7
15. Nd2 Nc8

[this is a whole series of moves of white designed for space grab and countermoves by black. Black is avoiding any commitment.]

18. ...b5!

[Black has fully equalized and each side has one backward pawn that could well play into the ending.]

19. h3?!

[weakening king's castling for no apparent reason.]

22. Bb3! Qxb3
23. c5 Rbc1!?
24. Rb8 Qa2?

[positional strike probably missed by MVL. Black dismantles white initiative on queenside leaving him with nothing but awkward placement of pieces. Refusing to recognize the disadvantages of his position MVL sacrifices pawn in hope for attack.]

27. b3!

[excellent move since now queen is shut out of the action.]

27. Qb1!?

[of course 27. ...Qxb3? 28. Na7 and white loses material. 27. ...Qa1 does not look appealing but it was probably safer option defending the rook on d4 and knight on a4 after retakes.]

30. ...Qa5?!

[forcing the exchange knights and obviously playing on queenside passers.

It is interesting that white invested so much energy on the queenside only to see black getting queenside initiative.]

32. e5?

[losing "tactical" move designed for attack on black castling. This cannot be considered a "blunder" but after the next move of black it is quite clear that obvious and natural move 32. Rcc7 was not only better move but also the only move.]

32. ..Re7!

[and now it is obvious that 33. Rxe7? 34. Bxe7 leaves white with nothing but lost "ending".]

33. Rdd6

[the only practical chance since the game is lost for white so MVL tries to set up rook sacrifice on g6. Obviously this should be more than visible to Aronian and more importantly it will not work - see the comment after the next move.]

33. ...Qa2??

[Maybe not! Unbelievable! Aronian ignores it and throws the game away. This was winning:

33. ...b2!
34. Rxg6? fxg6
35. Qxg6 Kh8
36. Be4 b1Q+
37. Bxb1 Qd1+

and white is completely lost.]

38. Qe6?

[first of two unfortunate errors by MVL.

38. Qg6 (with the threat of mate) ...Bg7, 39. Be4 Rxh3, 40. Kg2 Rh6, 41. Qf5! and white wins easily.]

39. Kg2?

[39. Kh2 is safer as it moves king away from possible checks. Game now slowly moves to ending phase which is lost.]


Aronian makes grave mistake in won position but MVL misses the win and returns the favor. Two great tacticians making serious errors in a tactical game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: Wonder whether either Aronian or Vachier-Lagrave realized that White was winning after 34 Rxg6+.

Gull 2.2 x64 lit up like a Christmas tree after about a minute of thinking on 4 cores, which means the variations are not at all obvious.

Oct-10-13  csmath: Probably not. It is a matter of calculation and it seems they did not have a time for that. However, Aronian had an easy win on move 33 with 33. ...b2 and this was not too hard to calculate.

He simply ignored 34. Rxg6 and should have lost the game but was lucky that MVL returned the favor and missed the win.

Oct-10-13  csmath: By the way, MVL had nothing else to play than

34. Rxg6

since otherwise he was completely lost so even though this move was winning (at the time) I would not put "!" to it since it was pretty much the only thing he could have done anyway.

I am impressed with the way Aronian dismantled MVL's queenside initiative and easily reached won position which he then proceeeded to turn into a lost position with only one move!

Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: 38 Qg6 is quite remarkable to be winning so clearly. Black's problem is his pieces get in the way of each other.

For example, after 38...Bg7 39 Be4! targeting the awkward rook

click for larger view

if 39...Rxh3 40 Kg2

Contrariwise if 38...Rg7 39 Qh5+ Rh7 40 Qg4

click for larger view

Black is in the same dilemma. Mate is threatened on g8, and 40...Rg7 now blocks the bishop, so 41 Rh6+ wins

Oct-10-13  csmath: MVL's tactical errors are easier to understand, his play was hard to calculate and he probably did not have a time.

However on his place I would be more concerned with his game in the first 27 moves. There he was completely outplayed in the middlegame and got himself in strategically lousy position. With that kind of positional play he will not be able to challenge top players like Kramnik and Carlsen. These guys will not give him any tactical opportunities.

Thus while he might be disappointed that he threw the win away it was only a gift from Aronian that he got that chance.

Oct-11-13  csmath: Searching through positions in database available to me I found that the position after 10 moves has been played before. Meaning

8. b4N

is only technically new move but practically just a new order of moves as in the past this was played in the different order such as

8. Rb1 d6
9. b4 a6
10. a4 Ne7

thus only the move

11. Ba3

would actually be a move with a new position.

It is hard to say whether this was all known to Aronian and MVL since the first 10 moves are quite natural.

Another thing - Aronian's nicely played technically won ending is worth praise as well.

Premium Chessgames Member
  shalgo: 10...Ne7 is slightly unusual--10...Be6 is the main move. But after that 11.Ba3 followed by c5 is completely new. Normal would have been 11.b5 axb5 12.axb5 when 12...Be6 would be back to the main line.
Oct-11-13  Marmot PFL: Aronian is a great player but seems to underestimate opponents threats at times, like in his loss to Nakamura from the previous tournament.
Oct-11-13  Ulhumbrus: <luzhin csmath> If 34 Rxg6+!! is winning this suggests that either 33...Qxa2? is a blunder, or else an earlier move is. Then which alternatives does Black have? After 32 e5 White threatens 33 Rd7-d6 followed by 34 Rxg6+ if Black does nothing to prevent it. If Black wants to defend by playing to simplify one alternative to 32...Re7 is 32...Rbc8
Oct-11-13  Shams: <Ulhumbrus><If 34 Rxg6+!! is winning this suggests that either 33...Qxa2? is a blunder, or else an earlier move is.>

More insights like this and we'll have to deck you out with a curved pipe and a deerstalker cap. :)

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: According to one David R. Sands,* writing for the <Washington Times>:

<Black misses the putaway volley on 31. Rxd7 Qxa4 32. e5?! (U.S. GM Josh Friedel, analyzing the game on, gives here the remarkable line 32. Rcc7! Qa2 33. Rxf7+ Kg8 34. Qd3! b2 35. Qd7 b1=Q+ 36. Kh2 Qbb2 37. Rxf8+! Kxf8 38. Qd6+ Kg8 39. Qxg6+, with a draw by perpetual check) Re7 33. Rdd6, when winning for Black was the cold-blooded 33b2!, as Aronian can defend all his kingside squares after 34. Rxg6+ fxg6 35. Qxg6+ Kh8.>

In the game continuation:

<the Frenchman misses a forced win with 38. Qg6! Rg7 (Bg7 39. Be4 Rxh3 [Rh6 40. Qf5!, threatening both 41. Rc8+ and 41. Rxh6+] 40. Kg2, collecting the rook) 39. Qh5+ Rh7 40. Qg4! Qb1+ (Rg7 41. Rh6+) 41. Kg2 Be7 42. Rg6!, with the deadly threat of 43. Rg8+.>

*Not to be confused with David A Sands, who was born in 1970 but began playing chess long before that. Steinitz vs D A Sands, 1887

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Featured in the Following Game Collections[what is this?]
A A A A29 English: 4 Knights.Fianchetto [Black]
by chess.master
from Aronian's Games 4 Study by jakaiden

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