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Peter Leko vs Nigel Short
Corus Group A (2005), Wijk aan Zee NED, rd 9, Jan-25
Spanish Game: Morphy Defense. Breyer Defense Zaitsev Hybrid (C95)  ·  1-0

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Kibitzer's Corner
Jan-25-05  sergeidave: It's amazing to see how nothing can stop the pawn without loosing a piece, even when white's rook AND pawn are "free" to capture (I don't know if I made sense, If not, nevermind). Nice game!
Jan-25-05  Larsker: <I don't know if I made sense> No problem, this is chessgames.com :-)

I enjoyed the final position too.

Jan-25-05  PinkPanther: Thanks a lot, Short. I was counting on you to draw this game to help keep your countryman in the hunt, but you failed, as usual.
Jan-25-05  csmath: The trouble of Short in this game is a bad choice of opening. He wants to confront Leko in a positional game but the problem is that Short lacks patience to play such a game. Leko gets a minimal advantage in the opening, and Short loses cool. The first seriour error is 23. ... h5, getting into the trouble by leting white queen to g5. He loses pawn and that puts him in a lost ending. The final straw is 36. ... h4 which is a blunder since 37. d6 is not unexpected move.

Poor game by Short.

Jan-25-05  csmath: But one has to admire Leko for beautiful assembly of his pieces after the 23rd move. All ready to press on forward. This is a positional player par excellence.
Jan-25-05
Premium Chessgames Member
  beenthere240: Unless short just wanted to win at all cost and avoid the draw, 23....Nxd3 looks a lot safer to me. h5 just gives white a strong passed d pawn that turned out to be the decisive factor. If black really wants to undermine the epawn's support he can play 24...h5 after the NxB exchange.
Jan-25-05  PinkPanther: <csmath>
As a player of the Ruy Lopez with the black pieces (although not the Breyer Variation in particular) and occasionally with white (I'm a d4 player mainly, but do play e4 sometimes for fun and to make things interesting), I can attest to the fact that it's not particularly difficult for white to get his pieces on those squares.
Jan-25-05  csmath: Alright. I took your testament and put it on a safe place, in a lockbox, just to keep it to posterity. ;-)
Feb-02-05  passivefianchetto: i love it i wounder how short felt when he relized that leko gets a premoted pawn no matter what he does
Feb-02-05  RisingChamp: Short had seen the combination but forgot about it.It is the kind of combination you would expect from Short himself.
Feb-03-05  Vodochka: ...h5 was definitly the leading mistake, because it gives up the c4 square! notice after white winst he c4 squares blacks position is TECHNICALLY lost, and leko is probably one of the best players in the world in winning technically won positions, also Qg5 by leko was ofcourse incredible, tying everything dawn
Feb-09-05  dankem: How about 37...Re1+?
Mar-01-05  magerk2: 38.Kf2 Rd1 39.Rc8 wins a piece
Jun-14-05  notyetagm: In the position after 35 ... ♖e5, Leko must have seen that <if he could just make two moves in a row>, he could play his d5-pawn to d7, creating the unstoppable threat of promotion on either the d8- or e8-squares (e8 due to the presence of a Black knight on that square). How to play two moves in a row? <Move with tempo!> So Leko plays 36 ♖c5!, threatening to move the d5-pawn <for free (tempo)> beause of the discovered attack on the undefended Black rook on e5. Short misses this threat, plays 36 ... h4?, Leko executes his threat with 37 d6! and the game ends.
Jul-20-05  acirce: Interesting Breyer game. Some of Leko's comments on this game in New in Chess 2005/2 that I found rather instructive and should be studied by Ruy players:

18.Be3!
<The first step in the right direction. Many times the bishop goes to g5 in such positions, but here White should fight for the c5 square instead of going for kingside play.>

19.Rc1!
<A very precise move, even though the move order is not all that important here. White could also play 19.Qd2 first and meet 19..a5 with 20.Rac1, transposing moves. Crucial is that the rook is very much needed along the c-file to put additional pressure on the soon-to-be-decisive c5 battlefield.>

20.Qd2
<A critical position. This is the moment when Black has to commit himself with his next move and prove how he can compensate for White's clear space advantage.>

20..bxc4
<The most natural reaction, as Black is trying to get counterplay on the queenside. Blocking the position with 20..b4 is always a choice, but it simply resigns the opening battle by giving White a small but enduring advantage for the rest of the game.>

22..Nc5
<That's it! Now we can see what Black was aiming for. First he opened up the queenside, then he secured the wonderful outpost for his knight on c5 and now he is planning to go Nfd7 and Ba6, after which White's central space advantage would simply count for nothing. Black is very close to getting what he wants, but there's still one move to go...>

23.Bd3!!
<A surprising and very strong move! Theoretically speaking, the position is completely new, but I had studied it before. It was very difficult to find the best set-up for White, as one tiny inaccuracy can change the assessment of the position. However, when Arshak (Arshak Petrosian, Leko's coach and father-in-law -ed.) started wondering why not 23.Bd3 here, only a few minutes were enough to understand that with 18.Be3, 19.Rc1, followed by the great 23.Bd3, we had found the ideal set-up, so that the position does not need any further investigation.>

23..h5?!
<Played relatively quickly, with the probable intention of reverting to psychological warfare, saying: I am not impressed! But I felt that such a move can only be made by a desperate man. As we will see in the game, this move turns out to be a fatal weakening. But Black's problem is that all natural-looking moves are equally bad. Trying to keep the knight on c5 with 23..Nfd7 would be wise, but after 24.Bb5! Black can't move, since 24..Ba6 always will be met by 25.Bc6. Getting rid of the bishop before it gets too powerful with 23..Nd3 was in fact the only move we had analysed, but after 24.Rc8!! (this is the point! 24.Qd3 allows Black to counter with 24..Rc1 25.Rc1 Bd5!! 26.ed5 e4, and Black holds) 24..Bc8 (after 24..Rc8 25.Qd3 the a5-pawn is much more vulnerable) 25.Qd3 Ba6 26.Qa3 Qd8 27.Rb1 it is not clear how Black can avoid losing a pawn in view of the threat Nd2-b3, connected with Rb6.>

Jul-20-05  acirce: 25.Qg5!!
<It took me about 20 minutes to decide on this move. The explanation is quite simple. I saw this move immediately after my opponent made his 23..h5 move and was wondering how he intends to protect his e5 pawn. But I soon understood that the pawn is in fact not hanging in view of some tactical resources, which would mean that 25.Qg5 is premature. The classical good move that shows understanding of the position is 25.Bb5, of course, and 25.Bb5 Ne8 (this is Black's plan to get his knight to d6) 26.Be8 Qe8 might be somewhat better for White. Yet it is by no means really convincing, as Black can play c5-c4, and the pawn can be protected by Ba6 while his dark-squared bishop can enter the game on either the h6-c1 or the f8-a3 diagonal, and the 23..h5 move fits very much into this plan. At this point I urgently felt the need to return to 25.Qg5, but I suddenly realised that the move was made less with the intention of taking the pawn than of paralysing Black's position.>

25..Rc7
<Played after a really long think: a clear sign that Black is definitely not satisfied with what he is confronted with. After the game Vishy suggested an interesting idea that Black might have tried: 25..Qc7!? in order to get out of the blocks, but here 26.Rc2! (26.Bb5 Ne8 27.Be8 Re8 28.Nf1 is only a slight edge and grabbing the pawn with 26.Qe5? would be premature because of 26..Nd5! 27.Qc7 Nc7 28.Rc5 Ne6, with excellent compensation) is very strong. White is threatening the primitive Rec1, and Black will not be in time to regroup. After 25..Qf8 I intended to go for the exchange sacrifice with 26.Ne5 Nh7 27.Qf4 Bh6 28.Qf3 Bc1 29.Rc1, with complete domination.>

26.Nf1!
<The knight is heading for the ideal c4 square without Black being able to stop it. There was a nice tactical shot starting with 26.Bc4 Ne8 27.Qg6!?, but after 27..fg6 28.d6 Kf8 29.de7 Ke7 30.Nh4 Kf6! it turns out that the complications are much more in Black's favour. And 26.Qe5?? is out because of 26..Nd5!, of course.>

27..Ne8
<The pawn sacrifice with 27..c4 does not promise Black anything either: 28.Rc4 (28.Nc4? Nd5!!) 28..Qa3, and after the simple 29.Ne5 it is not clear what Black has achieved apart from giving up two pawns.>

28.Qe7 Re7 29.Nc4 Ba6
<Going for a forced liquidation, but there was nothing else.>

30.Nfe5!
<This is the cleanest.>

35.f3!
<The position is automatically winning, but I wanted to finish the game in style.>

35..Re5?!
<The only way to prolong the game was to play 35..Re7, but sooner or later Black will lose his a5-pawn anyway.>

37.d6!
<Black resigned. On 37..Rc5 comes 38.d7, and because of the special construction the pawn will queen in the next move. It is always pleasant to win a nice strategical game with such a nice tactical finish. For the moment the ball is once more back in Black's court in the Breyer.>

Jul-20-05  hintza: <acirce> Thanks, very interesting. I'll definitely have to have a close look at Leko's comments.
Aug-15-05  Centaurus: Wonderfull game by Leko!!
Jan-11-06  waddayaplay: What is wrong with 19...c5?
Jun-21-08  dabearsrock1010: ha great finish
Jan-06-09  KingG: <acirce> Thanks a lot for posting those comments. It was very enlightening.
Apr-02-17  RiverBob: I think after 18.Be3 Black can play
18..Nb6 and his position looks "ok"

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