24 Jul

Poles Apart

In one of the biggest upset wins ever in a super-tournament, Radoslaw Wojtaszek seized the opportunity to emerge from the shadows of being former world champion Vishy Anand’s second to step for himself into the limelight, as the Polish No1 defied the odds with the first major win of his career as he snatched outright victory in the 45th Dortmund Sparkassen Chess-Meeting in Germany at the weekend.

After 28.Rhb1!

The big pre-tournament favorites were elite-stars Vladimir Kramnik - dubbed “Mr. Dortmund”, being a record-breaking 10-time past winner - and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, the defending champion. But Wojtaszek had more than just a little luck on his side, as one streaky win led to him capturing the title for an undefeated +2 score of 4½/7 and his first super-tournament victory — and along the way, he also played a part in rekindling an unlikely Polish chess success with two major achievements in as many months.

Back in June, it went largely unnoticed by many as Wojtaszek scored 6/9 on top board in the World Team Championship to lead his nation to the bronze medal - but this proved to be Poland’s first podium finish in a major team event in decades, with the last time of them doing so also witnessing one of the most infamous incidents ever in the annals of world chess.

In September 1939, as war broke out with Germany invading Poland, the two nations were battling it out for gold at the Buenos Aires Chess Olympiad! As hostilities started in Europe, the Olympiad had to be interrupted with many players heading home, and the organizers going out of their way to keep the competition from ending prematurely in disarray  - thanks to carefully negotiating, many mutual 2-2 forfeits - as they prevented the warring nations from having to play each other.

Germany eventually pipped Poland to the gold. But Poland’s top stars, such as Savielly Tartakower and Miguel Najdorf, did not return to Poland after the tournament; and Najdorf accepted the offer of the Argentinian government to stay on, which in itself is a story on its own. And that was the end of Poland as a major chess power, at least until recently.

Winner Radoslaw Wojtaszek | © Georgios Souleidis

Final standings
1. GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek (Poland) 4½/7; 2-3. GM Vladimir Fedoseev (Russia), GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France) 4; 4. GM Vladimir Kramnik (Russia) 3½; 5-8. GM Matthias Bluebaum (Germany), GM Dmitry Andreiken (Russia), GM Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu (Germany), GM Wang Yue (China) 3.

GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek - GM Wang Yue
45th Dortmund Sparkassen Chess-Meeting, (2)
Nimzo-Indian Defence, Three Knights
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 0-0 5.Bg5 c5 6.e3 h6 7.Bh4 cxd4 8.exd4 d5 9.Rc1 Be7 10.c5 b6 Black has to stop White's pawns from gaining momentum by rapidly pushing up on the queenside. If you don't hit it now, then White will get the time to play b4, consolidate the protection of c5, and then will answer a later ...a5 with b5. 11.b4 a5 Continually hitting the pawn chain, giving White no time to stabilize it. 12.Na4?! This is either a clever bit of home preparation or a calculated gamble - my money is on the latter. If 12.a3 axb4 13.axb4 bxc5 14.bxc5 Black has excellent compensation for the passed c-pawn with 14...Ra3! with ...Qa5 threatened, making White's task of completing his development and castle a difficult one. 12...axb4 13.Nxb6 Rxa2?! Capturing the pawn looks good, but the key to Black's position here is actually his b-pawn - and he had excellent prospects of preserving it with 13...Ra3! stopping Qb3, and he can follow up with ...Nc6 and perhaps ...Ne4 with good piece-play that will make White's life difficult. 14.Qb3! With the b-pawn now set to fall, Wojtaszek's c-pawn becomes a major headache for Wang Yue going into the endgame. 14...Ra7 15.Qxb4 Nbd7 16.Nxd7?! This is clearly wrong. Better was grabbing the bishop-pair with 16.Nxc8 Qxc8 17.Be2 Nb8 (Black has to blockade the path of the c-pawn, and c6 is the best square to try to hold it up on) 18.Ne5! Nc6 19.Nxc6 Qxc6 20.0-0 and White has a clear advantage with the bishop-pair and passed c-pawn. 16...Bxd7 17.Bd3 Ra4 Already the bishop on d7 is proving much more useful than the knight! 18.Qd2 Ne4 It's a logical follow-up with the Bh4 unprotected - but Black's follow-up to the follow-up isn't so logical. 19.Bxe7 The only option, as 19.Bxe4? dxe4! 20.Bxe7 Qxe7 21.Ne5 Bb5! and White's king can't castle, and Black will be looking to play either ...Qa7 and ...Ra2 threatening ...Re2+, or perhaps even a timely ...Rfd8 hitting the d4-pawn. And it's unwise here for White to push the c-pawn, as Black's pieces will soon blockade and capture it. 19...Nxd2 20.Bxd8 Nxf3+ 21.gxf3 Rxd8 With White's pawn structure crippled, Black should safely be able to pick off some pawns for the advantage and still able to stop the c-pawn - but Wang Yue begins to panic about the c-pawn. 22.Ke2 Bc6 Stronger was 22...Rxd4! as Black can easily blockade the path of the c-pawn.  Now, if 23.c6 Bc8 24.c7 Rf8! 25.Ra1 Rb4! 26.Rhc1 g5 27.Ra8 Rb6! and Black has everything under control, and the c-pawn isn't going anywhere. Now if 28.Rb8 Rb7 and White better consider exchanging the rooks, because if Black gets in ...Ra7 the c-pawn is firmly blocked and could well become a long-term liability. 23.Ke3 e5 24.dxe5 Rh4 25.Rb1 d4+ White's pawn structure may well be badly crippled, but one slip-up and the c-pawn becomes a dangerous threat - and 25...d4+ was a slip-up, as Wang Yue discovers to his cost that his rook becomes detached from the action on h4. 26.Kd2 Kf8 27.Rb6 Rc8 28.Rhb1! Perhaps around now, Wang Yue must have realized that his rook was looking silly on the kingside, and the threat on h2 was a false one. 28...Ke7 What Wang Yue had missed was that if 28...Rxh2? 29.Rxc6! Rxc6 30.Rb8+ Ke7 31.Bb5! carried with it the big threat of 32.Re8 mating! 29.Ra1 Now White's active rooks become a major menace while Black's ...Rh4 remains out of the game. 29...Rc7 30.Raa6 Bxf3 31.Bb5 Bg4?? Ironically, now Black's only chance here was with his original plan of attacking h2 to get his rook back into the game, and going for 31...Rxh2! 32.Rb8 f6 33.Re8+ Kf7 34.exf6 (It looks tempting, but wrong was 34.e6+? Kg6 as the e-pawn isn't going anywhere, and meanwhile f2 and c5 are under attack by Black's rooks that now come back into the game with a vengeance.) 34...gxf6 35.Ree6 Rxc5 with a likely draw now on the cards, as both sides begin to run out of pawns and pieces. 32.Ra8! Bc8 Now 32...f6 doesn't work as in the note above, as White has 33.Rg8! and Black no longer has the saving resource of ...Rxf2+ and ...Rg2 protecting g7. 33.Rc6 With Wang Yue's rook still marooned on the kingside, Wojtaszek's rook, bishop, and c-pawn make for a lethal attacking force. 33...Kd8 34.Rxc7 Kxc7 35.Ra7+ Kb8 36.Rxf7 1-0


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