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Alireza Firouzja vs Vladislav Kovalev
Tata Steel Masters (2020), Wijk aan Zee NED, rd 1, Jan-11
Spanish Game: Closed Variations. Flohr System (C92)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Jan-11-20  Carrots and Pizza: 16...c4 looks to me like a mistake because White wins the b5 pawn in broad daylight. Maybe the immediate 16...Nd7 was better? No reason to give up the d4 square so quickly.
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  PawnSac: After ..c4 17.Nd4 Qb6 looks a little better than ..Nd7 but black will eventually have to face Be3 and drop the Q back. You're right about c4. 16...g6 is more customary, preparing Bg7, since white plans Nf1-Ng3 (or alternately Ne3 after ..g6 is played). Usually ..c4 is good once black is ready to drop a knight onto c5. But after ..c4 & ..Nd7 black goes down in flames pretty quickly.

Black needs to work on his Ruy.

Jan-11-20  YetiBlitz: Ouch. That was poor prep by black for such a major tournament.
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  Honza Cervenka: 16...Nd7 is the main line here. A move c5-c4 occurs here usually after 16...Nd7 17.Ra3 c4. Kovalov simply messed the move order here forgeting to insert Nd7 at first.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: Of course, the difference between 16...c4(?) and 16...Nd7 17.Ra3 c4 is that in the second case after 18.Nd4 black can play 18...Qf6 19.N2f3 Nc5 20.axb5 axb5 21.Nxb5 Rxa3 22.Nxa3 Ba6 23.Re3 Rb8 with sufficient compensation
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  Mateo: Kovalev first played a questionable pawn sacrifice (17 ... Nd7, instead of the solid 17 ... Qd7). Then he offered a second pawn to his opponent by playing 22 ... Nxc1? instead of 22 ... Nxb2.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: <Mateo> 17...Nd7 was a poor choice but it was rather a consequence of unintended switch in order of moves than anything else. 16...c4 was played almost instantly and for 17...Nd7 Kovalev took less than 10 minutes. I guess he did not realize how much this switch matters and how poor his position is until white's 22.Re3 when he went into the "deep thought" mode before playing 22...Nxc1. Of course, 22...Nxb2 23.Qc2 Nd3 24.Ndxc4 Nxc1 is bad for 25.e5! g6 26.e6! and also 24...N3e5 25.Rb3 is not much attractive for black.
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  Mateo: <Of course, 22...Nxb2 23.Qc2 Nd3 24.Ndxc4 Nxc1 is bad for 25.e5! g6 26.e6! and also 24...N3e5 25.Rb3 is not much attractive for black.> Interesting. Of course, some things seem obvious with the help of a computer.
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  Honza Cervenka: <Of course, some things seem obvious with the help of a computer.> Yes, it helps a lot to check an analysis with a comp but in this case I was just trying to figure out why Kovalev after an half hour of thinking avoided 22...Nxb2 attacking white Queen, and still with a chance to trade the Bishop on c1 after practically forced 23.Qc2 Nd3 24.Ndxc4. He apparently saw that 24...Nxc1 is not an option here due to 25.e5 (threatening simply with Qh7#) 25...g6 (what else?) 26.e6 with double attack on Nd7 and key Pawn on f7. This is not too complex tactics IMHO, and it is devasting for black.
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  Mateo: < Honza Cervenka> I understand your reasoning. I just wanted to say that your very interesting variation assumed a fairly complex calculation for a human, it seems to me. For example, it was also necessary to calculate the consequences of 25 ... f5 (after 25.e5!). In this sense, I did not find it obvious, at least at my small level ...
Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: <Mateo> Frankly, 25...f5 did not crossed my mind at all. Then 26.Qxf5 Nxe5 27.Nxe5 Rxe5 28.Qh7+ Kf7 29.Bg6+ Ke7 (or 29...Kf6 30.Rf3+) 30.Qg8 Rxe3 (30...Bxd5? 31.Qxd5) 31.fxe3 Qb3 32.Qf7+ Kd8 33.Qxf8+ Kc7 34.Qe7+ (but not 34.Qxa8? Qxe3+ =) 34...Kb8 35.Qxd6+ Ka7 36.Qc7+ Bb7 37.Qxc1 should be sufficient but this is way beyond my capacity to foresee that in move 22 despite the fact that it is quite forced line. But despite of that I am still quite convinced that Kovalev, who was looking into the position after 22.Re3 for some 30 minutes, dismissed 22...Nxb2 and went for immediate 22...Nxc1 due to 25.e5.
Jan-25-20  Tal1949: Firouzja did not have to work hard for this win. After 20.Nxb5 what is the black queen doing? Nothing!

Strange that a modern GM can ruin a Spanish opening so badly. He even refused to play Ne5 many times and tried the cheap Queen check at the end.

White controls the center for the whole game and has nice flexibility of pieces. Black blocks his rook with the light squared bishop. Yuck!

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