25 January 2014

Dominguez -- Aronian, Tata Steel Chess 2014

Levon Aronian leads the 2014 Tata Steel Grandmaster chess tournament by 1.5 with two rounds to play. The event is taking place in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands, where it has been held since 1938. This year, two rounds were played on the road--round four was played in Amsterdam and round nine was played in Eindhoven.

Rather than try to watch all the ongoing games, I decided to choose one game each round and follow it closely. I tried this idea last year and was happy with the result. At first I thought I might follow a couple of my favorite players, but decided by round three to stick with Aronian through the whole event. It was a good choice. He is near his peak rating on the Live Ratings list because he has been doing well at this event. His current live rating is 2828.4, while his highest ever is 2829.7. Only Magnus Carlsen and Gary Kasparov have had higher live ratings.

I watch the games on the official website with the option to have the engine evaluation turned off. I also leave the expert commentary turned off. During the game, I make my own observations and post them here. My only external resources are reference to the ChessBase Online database, which I access through ChessBase 11 database software. I also use this program to create the diagrams and facilitate accurate game notation.

As I am under 2000 Elo, there are many nuances I may miss. Nonetheless, some readers my be interested in my views on the game as it develops.

Dominguez,Leinier (2754) -- Aronian,Levon (2812) [C84]
Tata Steel Chess Wijk aan Zee (10), 25.01.2014

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.d3 b5 7.Bb3 0–0 8.Nc3 d6 9.a3

The players were at move 17 when I awoke and started looking at the game. The long think time that Dominguez used for move 18 gave me time to enter the moves in my database and start this post. His ninth move, however, caught my eye as unusual. ChessBase  confirms that it is far less common than 9.a4. It is also a move that Dominguez has played before. In 2013, he had a win against Peter Svidler with this line and a loss to Sergey Karjakin.

Black to move


Reference Game:
Dominguez Perez,Leinier (2723) -- Svidler,Peter (2769) [C77]
Thessaloniki FIDE GP Thessaloniki (4), 25.05.2013
9...Be6 10.Nd5 Nd4 11.Nxd4 exd4 12.Nxf6+ Bxf6 13.Bxe6 fxe6 14.a4 Qd7 15.b3 c5 16.Qg4 Qf7 17.Bd2 c4 18.Bb4 Be7 19.axb5 axb5 20.Rxa8 Rxa8 21.f4 Ra2 22.e5 h5 23.Qh3 d5 24.Bxe7 Qxe7 25.Qxh5 Rxc2 26.Ra1 Qb7 27.Qe8+ Kh7 28.Qh5+ Kg8 29.f5 cxb3 30.Qe8+ Kh7 31.Qh5+ Kg8 32.Qe8+ Kh7 33.Qg6+ Kh8 34.f6 Rc7 35.Rf1 Rf7 36.Rf3 1–0

10.Ba2 Be6 11.Bg5

Reference Game:
Dominguez Perez,Leinier (2754) -- Karjakin,Sergey (2756) [C77]
Beijing Sportaccord rap Beijing (1), 12.12.2013
11.Bxe6 fxe6 12.b4 Nc6 13.Bd2 d5 14.Re1 Qd6 15.h3 Nd7 16.Ne2 a5 17.Rb1 axb4 18.axb4 Rfb8 19.Ng3 d4 20.c3 dxc3 21.Bxc3 Ra4 22.Qb3 Kh8 23.Red1 Nd4 24.Nxd4 exd4 25.Bd2 c5 26.bxc5 Nxc5 27.Bb4 Nxb3 28.Bxd6 Bxd6 29.Rxb3 b4 30.Ne2 e5 31.Rdb1 Rc8 32.Kf1 Rc2 33.f4 Raa2 34.fxe5 Bc5 35.Nc1 Rf2+ 36.Ke1 Rac2 37.Ra1 h5 38.e6 Rxg2 39.Kf1 Be7 40.Ra8+ Kh7 41.Rc8 Rcf2+ 42.Ke1 Bh4 0–1

11...c5 12.b4

12.Bxf6 was played in the three prior games that I located in the database.

12...Nc6 13.Nd5 Bxd5 14.exd5 Nd4

White to move

15.bxc5 Nxf3+ 16.Qxf3 dxc5 17.Rfe1 Nd7 18.Bd2 Bd6 19.a4 f5 20.Bb3 e4 21.dxe4 c4 22.Ba2

Black to move

François-André Danican Philidor wrote that "pawns are the soul of chess" (or the heart, or the life, depending on the translation). Aronian is giving lessons on the meaning of Philidor's statement. Seeing Black's pawns roll in this manner in the Spanish Opening would not have been my prediction for this game.


I must confess that I was looking at 22...Ne5. But, why not threaten the h-pawn? It worked well yesterday. If Aronian wins today, he wine the tournament outright. A draw today assures him of no worse than a tie for first. Tomorrow, he has White and wins the event with a draw, winning it alone if he does not lose today.

Aronian has an hour more time on the clock than Dominguez. Errors in time pressure have been a pattern for Aronian's opponents in this event.


Has Dominguez decided to sacrifice the exchange? A few rounds back, some commentators noted that exchange sacrifices had been played in several games that day, and the material advantage did not prevail.

Maybe he's simply trying to return the pawn.

23...Bxe5 24.g3 Qg4 25.Qxg4 fxg4 26.c3 Bf6

White to move

After a youth tournament in which a team that I coach, which has taken the team prize the past five consecutive tournaments, tied for second behind the other team that I coach, I am back home reviewing the end of the game. I learned during round one of my event that Aronian had won today, because I was able to check the standings on my phone.

27.Bb1 b4 28.Re3 Rad8 29.Bf5 h5 30.Rd1 b3

White to move

Knowing that Aronian won this game makes it harder to be objective in my evaluation. Nonetheless, the reason to favor Black is this position is not difficult. Both players have a passed pawn. Black's pawn is supported by a pawn; White's is farther advanced, but only supported by a rook. White's passed pawn is more vulnerable to becoming surrounded and captured.

31.Bc1 Bg5 32.Be6+ Kh8 33.Re2 Bxc1 34.Rxc1 Nc5 35.a5 Rfe8 36.Kf1 g6 37.Rce1 Kg7

White to move

When Black gets both rooks, knight, and king in position, the bishop will have fewer defenders than attackers and the vulnerability of White's passed pawn will be clear.


Consequently, Dominguez pushed the pawn, leading to an exchange of most pieces.

38...Rxe6 39.Rxe6 Nxe6 40.Rxe6 Rd7 41.Re8 Rxd6 42.Ke2 Rd3 0-1

Levon Aronian has won the tournament! No one can catch him. There is still a battle for second place.

No comments:

Post a Comment