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Jaan Yukhanovich Ehlvest vs Hikaru Nakamura
US Championship (2009), St. Louis, MO USA, rd 2, May-09
English Opening: Agincourt Defense. Catalan Defense (A14)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
May-10-09  DB Cooper: 2 pieces and an isolated pawn for the queen actually works well in blitz.
May-10-09  Kinghunt: 13... Qxg2? Queen for two minor pieces gives white a huge advantage. Ehlvest just failed to convert it and blundered away the win with moves like 19. Rc4. Naka was lucky to escape with a draw.
May-10-09  miseiler: I suspect the idea was purely psychological. Naka had barely used any time on the clock through move 25, while Ehlvest used all of his. He seemed to be playing for a draw all along, or to hope his opponent blundered in time trouble.

Also, Rybka gave white about one and a half pawn's worth of advantage after the sac, depth 20.

May-10-09  Lutwidge: I think the sac was pretty well motivated, actually, and that Black had reasonable if not fantastic compensation for the queen. Reminds me very slightly of:

Karpov vs Kasparov, 1990

And even a little bit of:

Spassky vs Bronstein, 1956

Admittedly, Black is +0 =2 -1 in the above games, but Bronstein's sac is probably not the reason for his loss to Spassky, so, er, well, there.

Also, it's sort of depressing to find these very interesting ideas whittled down to what Rybka thinks. Rybka is told, like all of us, that Q > B+N+P, so it's hardly surprising that it would prefer White in this game. I think it's more interesting that the "pawn-plus" eval doesn't seem to increase over more and more ply, suggesting that White's advantage might be more or less symbolic.

Premium Chessgames Member
  shalgo: I have a brief discussion of this game in the latest post at my blog:
Premium Chessgames Member
  holdem33: "no guts, NO GLORY!"
May-18-09  nevski: Despite the other well-founded comments, I agree with Kinghunt, DB Cooper and miseiler. Ehlvest lost excellent opportunity to win !
Dec-06-13  solskytz: a 1.5 point advantage doesn't have to increase over many ply, in order to be convincing and decisive in a majority of cases.

Sometimes it's just symbolic as you say... however I felt that white should have been able to convert this position. Of course familiarity plays a big part in a practical game - so that this wasn't really contested on equal ground. Nakamura prepared a surprise...

So maybe Q = N+B+surprise value in some cases...

Dec-06-13  solskytz: I thought that white played Rc4, as he preferred to lose the exchange but keep the pawn center.

He thought (maybe) that having pawns on c4 and d4 minus the exchange, would be better to lose a pawn and the center.

It turned out that he lost pawn, center AND the exchange. After that, even if he's still winning, it's really hard to see how.

Dec-06-13  solskytz: I suppose, that in playing 19. Rc4, white expected to be able to push d5 eventually.

My guess is that 22...Bf6!, pinning the d4 to the undefended bishop AND adding a fourth attacker to it (black IS playing with more pieces, we grant him that), came as a surprise to GM Ehlvest. It was this important miscalculation that cost him the win.

Sometimes you need to take risks in order to convert an advantage. The risk is exactly that you have omitted a key move from your calculations.

This can be see as an appendix to the discussion, of whether a 2900 player can convert a knight's advantage from the starting position against perfect play, over 50% of the time.

Dec-06-13  solskytz: I thought that 26. f4 was an interesting try, instead of 26. g4.

The idea is to play 27. Bb2 and force a knight trade, where black's ...e5 won't give him a dangerous passed and advanced d-pawn.

Even if black avoids the trade, the B is well placed on b2. There are ideas of Q entries into b7 and b8 or a8 - maybe there is still some play left there for white after all.

This said, even after a trade, the R+B can still put up a good fight against the Q, with such an open white king. Maybe it's already drawn at this point.

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