Blog Post 4-2-12
Young Players at the Australian Open Part Three
Having completed a detailed examination of Bobby Cheng’s Australian Open result, we should look at the performances of the other young Australian players. I’m going to avoid covering my own performance to try and keep my post as objective as possible, and instead report on the performances of some players of a similar age to me, namely IM Moulthun Ly, FM Junta Ikeda and IM Andrew Brown.
Of these three players Moulthun (who became the first Cambodian-born IM in mid-2011) had the best result, finishing in a tie for second place on 8.5/11 with me and Zong-Yuan Zhao. Perhaps his best game of the tournament was his win over the very solid GM Darryl Johansen.
(120) Ly,Moulthun (2417) - Johansen,Darryl (2441) [A00]
Australian Open (10.2), 12.01.2013
[pgn]1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 a6 Darryl is a specialist in Scheveningen/Taimanov pawn structures, though as he is a full-time chess coach he doesn't have so much time to keep up with the latest theoretical development. 6.Be3 Nge7 7.Nb3 Black was threatening to reorganise his kingside with ...Nxd4, ...Nc6, ...Be7 and ...0–0, so White shrewdly prevents this. 7...b5 [7...Ng6 is also possible, but Black's development is slightly awkward and White should be for preference after 8.g3 Be7 9.Bg2 0–0 10.0–0 .] 8.a4 b4 9.a5 This is a nice idea, threatening Bb6 and fixing the Black queenside pawns as weaknesses. [Instead 9.Ne2 d5 gives Black strong central play and equality.] 9...Rb8 10.Na4 Suddenly Black is in something of a positional bind. 10...d6 [10...d5 11.Nb6 dxe4 12.Qxd8+ Kxd8 13.0–0–0+ Ke8 14.Nxc8 Nxc8 15.Bxa6 gives White a crushing initiative with a big lead in development and a strong passed a-pawn. Keep in mind that Black cannot castle!] 11.Nb6 Bb7 Black hopes he can limit the damage with ...Ng6, ...Be7 and ...0–0, but Moulthun doesn't give him time. 12.Bd3 [12.Be2 Ng6 13.0–0 Be7 14.f4 with ideas of f5 also looked strong.] 12...Ne5 [12...Nc8 13.0–0 Nxb6 14.axb6 only makes Black's position worse, in light of 14...Ra8 15.Qe2 a5 16.Bb5 winning material.] 13.f4 Nxd3+ 14.cxd3 This structure is normally good for White even when there isn't a monster knight on b6, but this combined with White's lead in development gives him a nearly winning position. 14...Nc6 15.Nd4 e5 16.Nxc6 Bxc6 17.Rc1 Bb5 18.Nd5 White threatens Bb6 and Nc7, and then the black king will be murdered in the centre. 18...Rc8 19.Bb6 Rxc1 20.Qxc1 Qd7 21.Nc7+ Ke7 22.Nxb5 Qxb5 23.Qc8 Qd7 [23...g6 24.Bd8+ Ke8 25.Bf6# was the mate threat.] 24.Qxa6 exf4 25.0–0 The rest doesn't require comment as White is ready to promote the a-pawn if he doesn't mate Black's king first. 25...Kf6 26.Qa8 Kg6 27.Qd5 Be7 28.Rxf4 Bd8 29.Qf5+ Qxf5 30.exf5+ Kg5 31.Rxb4 Kxf5 32.a6 Black resigned as the connected passed pawns are devastating. Unfortunately for Darryl he didn't make it out of the opening alive. 1–0[/pgn]
(121) Stojic,Dusan (2235) - Ly,Moulthun (2417) [A00]
Australian Open (7.5), 08.01.2013
[pgn] Moulthun is very tactically sharp and as we saw against Darryl, his openings are very decent, but in the last year his play has matured a lot and he is also quite strong in 'simple' positions, especially in the endgame. However his game against Dusan showed that in a quiet middlegame position he can be vulnerable, though he was extremely opportunistic when Dusan started to falter. 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.g3 I had won a miniature against Moulthun in the ANU Open last year with this move, however he got his revenge at the Australian Open when I was deservedly punished for an atrocious preparation blunder. 3...Nc6 [3...d5 4.exd5 exd5 5.d4 Nc6 6.Bg2 Bg4 as played in Morozevich-Vitiugov, is currently considered the equaliser against 3.g3, but I'm not convinced that this is the final word on the variation.] 4.Bg2 Nge7 [4...Nf6 5.Qe2 is more accurate than transposing to a KIA with 5.d3 as White keeps the option of playing d2-d4 in some lines.] 5.0–0 d5 6.exd5 Nxd5 7.d4 Be7 8.dxc5 0–0 [8...Bxc5 9.c4 Ndb4 10.Qxd8+ is a very pleasant endgame for White as Black cannot recapture with the king's rook.] 9.c4 Ndb4 [9...Nf6 would be better, though after 10.Nc3 Bxc5 11.Qe2 I still prefer White's position. The position is a bit like a Catalan where White's g2-bishop is very well placed whereas its counterpart on c8 is trapped behind the black pawns.] 10.Nc3 Bxc5 This pawn structure, which is very typical of the Alapin Sicilian, is favourable for White because he can easily advance his queenside pawn majority with a3, b4 and c5 to cramp Black, whereas ...e5 would allow a strong Nd5. 11.Ne4 [11.a3 Nd3 12.b4 Be7 13.Qe2 puts Black's opening under a cloud.] 11...Be7 12.a3 Nd3 Now Black's setup is justified as he can play ...f5 and ...e5-e4 to support his advanced knight. 13.Be3 f5 [13...Nxb2 14.Qb3 Qd3 15.Qxb2 Qxe4 16.Nd4 Qe5 17.Rad1 gives White good compensation for the pawn, again because of the passive pieces that comprise Black's queenside. But in hindsight this may well have been the better option.] 14.Nc3 f4 15.Bc1 fxg3 16.hxg3 e5 Moulthun characteristically fights tooth and nail for the initiative, but White also has his trumps. 17.Nd5 Nxc1 [17...e4 18.Nd2 e3 19.fxe3 Nce5 attempts to complicate the position, but with 20.Rxf8+ Qxf8 21.Nf4 White is able to keep control and an extra pawn.] 18.Nxe7+ I wouldn't have been in a hurry to exchange the awesome knight for the e7-bishop, though it works very well in the game. 18...Qxe7 19.Qxc1 e4 [19...Bg4 20.Qe3 Rae8 21.b4 is given as equal by the engine, but White's position seems a lot more comfortable as he has one less pawn island and his majority is a lot easier to advance.] 20.Re1 Bg4 [20...Bf5 21.Nh4 g6 is ugly, but after 22.Qe3 Rae8 23.Nxf5 gxf5 24.Rad1 White's advantage has been limited.] 21.Ng5 Nd4 Black goes for complications, which makes sense when his position is falling apart. 22.Qe3 [22.Bxe4 Ne2+ 23.Rxe2 Bxe2 24.Qe3 threatening Bd5 winning the queen is very strong: 24...Rfe8 25.Bxh7+ Kf8 26.Be4 and the Black king gets massacred.] 22...Nc2 23.Qxe4 Qxe4 24.Rxe4 Nxa1 25.Rxg4 This is a very strong exchange sacrifice as the a1–knight will be out of play for several moves and Black's king is still weak. 25...g6 26.Rh4 h5 27.Bxb7 Rae8 28.Bd5+ Kh8 All very strong play by Dusan, but Moulthun's tenacity in a difficult position starts to pay off from here. 29.Kg2 [29.Ne6 Rf6 30.Re4 followed by the advance of the c-pawn should give White the full point. Black's pieces are all dominated by the White minor pieces.] 29...Re2 Now Black wins a pawn and at least shouldn't lose. 30.Ne4 Rxb2 31.c5 Possibly in time trouble, Dusan commits a fatal blunder. [31.Kh3 is still very grim, but White can struggle.] 31...Nc2 Now all of ...Ne3, ...Nxa3 and ...Ne1 are threatened. White is busted. 32.Kg1 Nd4 33.Ng5 Ne2+ 34.Kg2 Rf5 After this move White can resign. 35.c6 Rxd5 36.Rc4 Rb8 37.c7 Rc8 38.Re4 Rxg5 It will be interesting to see how Moulthun meets his third encounter against the Turbo-Charged KIA with 3.g3. 0–1[/pgn]
Junta would be very happy with his second IM Norm which he earned from this tournament, and he could have finished in the top places except for two losses after achieving his norm. Junta has a very unique style, sacrificing some objectivity to try and put as much pressure on his opponent as possible, and like Moulthun he excels when he has the initiative.
His weakness is he finds it hard to ‘sit still’ in a position and will often lash out with moves like g4 and ...g5 if he isn’t sure how to play in a quiet position, and he regularly ends up in severe time trouble (though his play on the increment is very respectable). Despite these clear weaknesses it’s obvious that he should be an International Master already. As most journalists have focused on his losses from the tournament, to provide some balance I’ll examine one of Junta’s better games, namely his win over Andrew Brown which secured him the norm.
(122) Ikeda,Junta (2345) - Brown,Andrew (2261) [A00]
Australian Open (9.4), 11.01.2013
[pgn]For a while Junta was mostly playing English setups, but as he and Andrew have played each other several times he varies his opening somewhat. Incidentally this game greatly contributed to my decision to play the Rossolimo against Andrew in the last round of the tournament. 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6 4.0–0 Bg7 5.c3 Nf6 6.d4 This is a very dangerous gambit which was one of the reasons I was put off 3...g6 as Black: either you grovel for a draw after 4.Bxc6 or get hacked in this gambit! 6...Nxe4 [6...cxd4 7.cxd4 Nxe4 8.d5 Nd6 might be a more accurate move order, though it does allow 7.e5 by White.] 7.d5 Nd6 8.Bd3 Ne5 9.Nxe5 Bxe5 10.Re1 Now White's compensation becomes apparent: He has a lead in development; the d5-pawn gives him a big space advantage; the d6-knight is awkwardly placed and hampers Black's queenside development; and finally the Black king is quite exposed. 10...Bg7 [10...Bf6 11.Bh6 is instead very unpleasant for Black who can no longer castle his king to relative safety.] 11.Bf4 Qb6 Andrew's style bears some similarity to Junta's in that they both fight very hard for the initiative and aim to maximise the pressure on the opponent rather than play the absolute best moves. [11...0–0 12.Na3 is very passive for Black - White doesn't even need to take on d6 as the knight lacks a great square to move to.] 12.a4 [12.Nd2 seems stronger, when 12...0–0 13.Rxe7 Qxb2 14.Rc1 would be virtually winning for White and the alternatives aren't great either.] 12...0–0 13.Rxe7 c4 Both sides go all out for the initiative, but White's development is a lot more fluid than Black's. 14.Bf1 Qxb2 15.Bxd6 Qxa1 16.Bxc4 Objectively Black might be able to survive somehow, but it looks awfully passive and I'd much prefer White. Now Andrew rightly returns some of his extra material to free his c8-bishop and give his queen an escape hatch. 16...b5 17.axb5 Bb7 [17...Bxc3 18.Nxc3 Qxc3 19.Re4 and Be5 gives White a very strong attack and sustained domination of the position.] 18.Re2 Qa5 19.Bxf8 Bxf8 20.d6 Now the position has changed sharply: White is up a pawn but Black claims compensation in the form of his bishops and White's weak pawns on the queenside. 20...Rb8 [20...a6 was correct, when Black should be fine.] 21.Qb3 [21.Qd4 threatens Qf4, and after 21...Rc8 22.Qf4 the pressure on f7 decides the game.] 21...Bxd6 22.Bxf7+ Kg7 23.Be8 But even this is very powerful as the Black pieces are unable to protect their monarch. 23...Bc6 24.c4 Qd8 25.Qd1 Qg5 26.bxc6 White is up a full piece here and although Black recovers some of it with 26...Qh5 27.g3 Rxb1 28.Qxb1 Qxe2 29.cxd7 , his position is still completely lost. 29...Bc5 30.Qa1+ Kh6 31.Qf6 Qd1+ 32.Kg2 Bb6 33.Qf8+ Kh5 34.h3 Qd4 35.g4+ Kg5 36.Qe7+ Kf4 37.Qf7+ Kg5 38.Qf3 Qxc4 39.Qe3+ Qf4 40.d8Q+ A cute finish. Black resigned. 1–0[/pgn]
Now we move on to Andrew’s performance. Andrew is a very talented player capable of playing brilliant chess, as his 2012 NSW Open victory (6.5/7 against players such as Zhao, Lane, Solomon and Xie) emphasises, and he is a very able calculator with a great feel for the initiative. His main weakness is the opening phase as his knowledge is sometimes not sufficient for the sharp lines, and he sometimes lacks energy in the later parts of the game. However his pieces possessed plenty of energy in his win against Solomon.
(123) Brown,Andrew (2261) - Solomon,Stephen (2410) [A00]
Australian Open (10.6), 12.01.2013
[pgn]1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 Stephen decides to play a rock solid opening, but Andrew has a good understanding of the Blackburne Variation. 5.Bf4 0–0 6.e3 The advantage of having the bishop on f4 compared to g5 is that you avoid liquidating moves like ...Ne4, and the bishop exerts a bit of pressure on the queenside. 6...Nbd7 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Nxd5 exd5 9.Bd3 This is a safe approach where White doesn't risk very much, but Solomon is a bit like Junta in that he can't sit still in a quiet position and has to 'do something' - which he does. 9...c5 10.0–0 c4 11.Bc2 b5 Black angles for immediate queenside play, but he probably should have secured his centre first with [11...Nf6 and ...Be6.] 12.e4 This isn't in the computer's top choices but the move just seems very strong to me, hitting in the centre before Black completes his development. 12...Nb6 [12...Nf6 13.e5 Ne4 14.Nd2 Nxd2 15.Bxd2 is very good for White, who is ready to roll his kingside pawns with f4-f5, and if Black plays ...f5 White can keep the attack going with g4.] 13.Re1 Be6 14.Ne5 With this move White threatens to nab the bishop pair with Nc6 but also makes some room for his queen to enter the fray. 14...Rc8 15.Qh5 g6 Forced, as [15...h6 16.Bxh6 gxh6 17.exd5 Nxd5 18.Qxh6 kills Black's king.] 16.Qe2 Bf6 [16...dxe4 17.Bxe4 Qxd4 is a risky-looking pawn grab, and indeed 18.Rad1 Qc5 19.Nc6 Rxc6 20.Be3 Qb4 21.a3 Qb3 22.Bxc6 is quite strong, picking up some material.] 17.Rad1 White's pieces coordinate very well for the opening of the centre. 17...Re8 [17...dxe4 is much better, preparing to block the d-pawn with ...Nd5: 18.Bxe4 Nd5 19.Bh6 Re8 and Black has no problems.] 18.Ng4 Bxg4 19.Qxg4 dxe4 20.Bxe4 h5 This looks unnecessary. [20...Na4 and ...c3 would have been a bit annoying.] 21.Qf3 Kg7 [21...Na4 22.Bb7 Nxb2 would have given Black sufficient play in the complications after 23.Rxe8+ Qxe8 24.Rb1 Bxd4 25.Bxc8 Qxc8 .] 22.Bb7 Black's last move was slack as now the c8-rook has no safe square to move to. 22...Qxd4 23.Bxc8 Rxe1+ 24.Rxe1 Nxc8 25.Bc1 Now White's rook clearly outperforms the Black knight and pawn, and Andrew shows good technique in converting the advantage. 25...Nb6 26.b3 Qd5 A blunder; instead [26...c3 had to be tried when the passed c-pawn gives Black decent saving chances.] 27.Bh6+ Kxh6 28.Qxf6 Black's king is far too weak to survive. White can always play the luft-making h4 to prepare a Re8 or Re7 clincher. 28...Nd7 29.Qh8+ Kg5 30.bxc4 bxc4 31.Qc3 Kh6 32.h4 The Black king can no longer be defended. 32...f6 33.Qe3+ Kg7 34.Qe7+ Qf7 35.Qd8 Ne5 36.f4 Nc6 37.Qd6 Qb7 38.Re8 Black resigned. 1–0[/pgn]
Andrew was very unfortunate not to finish in the prizes, as of the players other than Bobby he probably played the toughest field in the tournament and he had a winning position against me in the last round of the tournament but made some mistakes in time trouble to tragically lose. A number of the recipients of the IM title from Oceania Zonals don’t go on to play at IM level but Andrew has shown for a while now that he plays at and above the level his title implies.
In the final part of this series I’m going to look at the results of the other young players in the tournament, with a few of their better games analysed. I hope your play and chess understanding has benefited from reading my analyses and that you’ve enjoyed hearing my views on some of Australia’s top players. We’ll be in touch again next week!