How’s your - chess - health these days? The reason I ask this is that there has been an isolated outbreak at the FIDE Sharjah Grand Prix in the UAE of a most fatal disease that can be caught only by chess players. No one is immune from it, as it hits grandmasters and beginners alike, and it goes by the worryingly long latin name of amaurosis scachistica.
Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch, explaining away the loss in his World Championship match with Emanuel Lasker, first diagnosed the ailment in his 1908 book "Die moderne Schahpartie." And the good doctor also described its various forms: amaurosis scachistica chronica communis, amaurosis scachistica acutissima, and amaurosis scachistica totalis duplex benigna ridicula.
But before hypochondriacs among you start feverishly checking their temperature, the main symptom is making uncharacteristic blunders at the chessboard, a complaint more commonly known as chess blindness. And it hit Alexander Riazantsev in an amazing self-inflicted miniature in today’s game, that consigned the reigning Russian champion to the foot of the table.
Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the table, frontrunners Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Shak Mamedyarov maintain their slender half point lead at the top on 4/6, ahead of the five-player chasing pack that’s led by four-time US champion Hikaru Nakamura.
Round 6 standings:
1-2. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan) 4/6; 3-7. Hikaru Nakamura (USA), Michael Adams (England), Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia), Dmitry Jakovenko (Russia) 3.5; 8-12. Levon Aronian (Armenia), Ding Liren (China), Francisco Vallejo Pons (Spain), Richard Rapport (Hungary), Hou Yifan (China) 3; 13-15. Pavel Eljanov (Ukraine), Li Chao (China), Jon Ludvig Hammer (Norway) 2.5; 16-18. Evgeny Tomashevsky (Russia), Alexander Riazantsev (Russia) 2.
GM Alexander Riazantsev - GM Dmitry Jakovenko
Sharjah Grand Prix 2017, (5)
English Symmetrical/Caro-Kann/Queen’s Gambit
1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.e3 Nf6 4.d4 cxd4 5.exd4 d5 6.Nc3 Bg4 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qb3 We have a simple English Symmetrical - that can also be transposed into via the Caro-Kann and the Queen’s Gambit Declined - with lots of pieces coming off the board. So what could possibly go wrong here for White? 8...Bxf3 9.gxf3 e6 10.Qxb7 Nxd4 11.Bb5+ Nxb5 12.Qc6+! A very important intermezzo, as the old move order was 12.Qxb5+ Qd7 13.Nxd5 exd5 14.Qb3 (Also seen many times in the past, has been: 14.Qxd7+ Kxd7 15.Be3 Bb4+ 16.Ke2 Rhc8) 14...Be7 and Black is still able to castle. 12...Ke7 Of course, Black can't play 12...Qd7? as it loses to 13.Qxa8+! 13.Qc5+!? The text is an "interesting" novelty from Alexander Grischuk, who uncorked it against Vidit in last year's World Rapid Championship in Doha. But the previous main line of 13.Qxb5 Qd7 14.Nxd5+ Qxd5 15.Qxd5 exd5 does leave the Black king just a little awkwardly placed on e7, but after a quick ...Ke6 there's really nothing left in the position. 13...Ke8 Can Black just simply hang on to an extra piece here with: 13...Nd6!?! 14.Nxd5+ exd5 15.Qxd5 Qb8! and, although his king is out in the open, Black threatens the resourceful ...Qb7 looking to consolidate his game - and the jury is still out on this (as yet) untested suggestion. 14.Qxb5+ Qd7 15.Nxd5! exd5 Not falling for 15...Qxb5?? 16.Nc7+! and White is simply a full piece to the better here. 16.Qb3?! Riazantsev's memory lets him down badly here, as the queen was ideally placed better on d3, as Grischuk showed in his aforementioned game against Vidit: 16.Qd3! Bb4+ 17.Kf1 f6 18.Kg2 Kf7 19.Bf4 Ba5 20.Rhd1 Rad8 21.Rac1 where White is better placed here, and indeed Grischuk went on to win from here in 39 moves. 16...Bd6 17.0-0 Rb8 18.Qe3+ Kf8 19.Rd1?? The isolated queen's pawn is indeed an easy target - but Riazanstsev is totally blind to a nasty little trap. 19...Qh3! 0-1 And Riazantsev resigns here, probably still in a state of shock from his outbreak of amaurosis scachistica, blinded to the fact that after 20.f4 defending against the mating attack, simply allows 20...Qg4+ picking off the sadly erroneous rook on d1.