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Onischuk on Scorching Moscow Print E-mail
By GM Alexander Onischuk   
February 11, 2009
GM Alexander Onischuk, Photo courtesy moscowchessopen.ru 
GM Alexander Onischuk earned a 2800+ performance rating at the 2009 Moscow Open (January 31-February 8). He scored 7.5/9 for clear first, coming out ahead of over 80 GMs. In combination with his win in Merida, Mexico, Onischuk is set to reach his peak FIDE rating. Onischuk modestly omits all the above facts in the following exclusive report, which includes Moscow Open annotations from Onischuk and his student, 14-year-old IM Ray Robson.  

The idea to play in the Moscow Open came to me very spontaneously. In the first week of January, I spoke on the phone with my friend, the strong GM Vadim Zviagintsev and he told me about his plans to play open tournaments in Russia. Then I realized that since I don’t have any good tournaments until the end of March I should also go to Moscow. I shared my plans with Gary Robson, the father of my only student IM Ray Robson and we agreed that Ray would go with me.

We arrived in Moscow two days before the tournament, which I think is the minimum time needed for adaptation.  We spent one day at my friend’s home in the center of Moscow and on the next day we moved to the official hotel of the tournament. The tournament was held in one of the biggest social universities of Russia RGSU near Ostankino TV tower, about 20 kilometers from the city center.

The Moscow open had about 1500 participants in many different groups divided by rating, sex and age. The organization was pretty good, and I liked the fact that all the participants were provided with nice wooden chess pieces and clocks. The lack of those stops me and I’m sure some other GMs from participating in Open tournaments in the U.S.

Of course when you have so many people playing in a tournament it is difficult to avoid all problems. Many players who registered online were paired for the first round but they did not show up. I heard that around 30 players including many favorites got a forfeit win just in the A tournament.  On the contrary four Americans who played in the A section did not register on-line and they had to play each other. I drew Jaan Ehlvest and Ray drew Dmitry Gurevich in the first round.

After the draw in the first round I managed to win my next five games and catch up to the leaders.  The win against GM Svetushkin was a very important one.

Svetushkin-Onischuk, Black to Move

I outplayed my opponent in the middle game and got a winning position. Then I made a mistake which all chessplayers have made hundreds of times: I relaxed too early.
Much better was 28...Ne7 with the idea to play c6 or Ng6 29.Rae1 c6 30.Kf1 Nd5!? 31.Nxd5 cxd5 32.Re5 Rxe5 33.Rxe5 Rd8 34.Rxf5+ Kg7–+
29.b4 Rg8+ 30.Kf1 Bb8
An awkward move, but I did not see anything better since he was already threatening b5 and then d5.
31.Nd3 Rxe3?!
Another inaccuracy. Better was 31...Kf6.
32.fxe3 Rg3
Position after 32....Rg3

33.Kf2! Rxh3 34.b5!! axb5 35.Ra8 Rh2+ 36.Kg3 Re2
More chances would give 36...Rd2 37.Nb4 Rxb2 38.Nxc6 bxc6 39.Rxb8 Rb3 and now White  has to find 40.Rh8 Rxc3 41.Rxh6 b4 42.Kf4 in order to survive.
37.Ne5+ Nxe5 38.dxe5 Ke6!

38...Rxe3?? 39.Kf4!±
39.Kf4! would give White an easy draw as in 39...Rxb2 40.Rxb8 b4 41.Rxb7 bxc3 42.Rxc7 c2 43.Rc6+ Kd7 44.Rc3 Ke6 45.Rc6+=
39...Kxe5 40.Rxb7 c6!
Position after 40...c6

After this move Black is slightly better again. I believe he could still defend it, but we both had only a few minutes left on the clock, so we had no time to calculate long lines and we had to rely on our intuition.
41.Re7+ Kd6 42.Rf7 Rxb2 43.Rf6+ Kc5 44.Kf4 Rc2 45.Rxf5+ Kc4 46.e4 c5 47.Ke5

I don't think I can win after 47.Rh5! Rc1 (47...Rxc3 48.e5) 48.Ke5 Kxc3 49.Kd6 Kb4 50.Kc6
47...Rxc3 48.Kd6 Kb4 49.e5?
Again 49.Kc6 was a better move
I think he missed this intermediate move. Now it is over.
50.Kc6 Re3 51.Kd6 c4 52.e6 c3 53.Rf4+ Kb3 54.Re4 Rd3+ 55.Ke5 c2 56.e7 c1Q 57.e8Q Qc5+ 58.Kf6 Rxf3+ 59.Kg7 Qg5+

He cannot avoid exchanging queens, so he resigned. 0–1


IM Ray Robson in Sevastopol, a sea resort in Crimea.

Unfortunately Ray did not have such a good start. He had many good positions, but he only scored 1 out 5. I think the process of acclimatization took him longer. The difference in temperature between Florida and Moscow was at times 80 degrees. However, he finally found his form and won his last four games. Here is one of his wins, annotated by Ray himself.


 My opponent in this game was an older man who had a rating of around 2350. I had finally won two games in the tournament and if I won this one I would be on 50% going into the last round.
 1...c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Nf6 6.0–0 Qc7

I hadn't seen my opponent play this line before.
White threatens e5, so Black plays
7...d6 8.c4 Nc6
 I had never faced this move before this game.
9.Nxc6 bxc6
9...Qxc6 was another possibility.
10.f4 Be7
Position after 10...Be7

I wanted to play 11.e5 but after 11...dxe5 12.fxe5 Nd7 13.Bf4 Bc5+ 14.Kh1 Bd4 Black  should be okay.
During the game I thought that 11...e5 was a better move. However, after 12.f5 Bb7 13.Be3 Black can't play 13...d5 so easily. For example: 14.cxd5 cxd5 15.Rac1 Qa5 16.Nxd5 Nxd5 17.exd5 Bxd5 18.Rfd1 0–0? 19.f6! Bxf6 20.Rc5 Qxa2 21.Bb1+-
12.e5 Nd7
After 12...dxe5 13.fxe5 Nd7 14.Bf4 I like White 's position because of his cramping pawn on e5 and because Black  still needs a few moves to finish development.
13.exd6 Bxd6 14.Ne4 Be7

Otherwise White  would just take the bishop and be slightly better.
15.b3!? was also possible, with the same idea of developing my bishop to the a1–h8 diagonal. 15...Nc5 16.Nxc5 16.Bb2 Nxd3 17.Qxd3 c5 18.Ng5 is also possible. 16...Bxc5+ 17.Be3 Bxe3+ 18.Qxe3 Bb7 19.Rad1 White still has chances to be better, because if 19...c5 then 20.f5 is a possibility.
15...Nc5 16.Nxc5
16.Bc3 was again a possibility, which is similar to b3 Nc5 Bb2.
16...Bxc5+ 17.Kh1
Position after 17.Kh1

I wanted to keep the dark squared bishops on the board, so that I could keep some attacking chances. However, my opponent's next move stops that idea.
 During the game and for a while after it I thought this was a good move, but due to a nice tactic, perhaps the idea wasn't so great.
17...Bd4?? 18.Qe4
18.Bc3 Bd4
This is the idea behind Rd8. Black  will have about equal chances if he can play c5 and Bb7 safely. After thinking for a while I found a way to try to prevent his plan for a few moves.
19.Bxd4 Rxd4 20.Rad1 g6?
Position after 20...g6

This natural looking move actually loses! 20...c5? 21.Bxh7+! Kxh7 22.Rxd4 cxd4 23.Qe4+ was my idea. Now every move by Black  weakens him in some way. 23...f5 a) 23...Kg8 24.Qxa8 here Black can't develop his c8 bishop.; b) 23...g6 24.Qxa8 Bb7 (24...Qxc4 25.Qf3±) 25.Qf8 and White  is winning because f7 is weak. 25...Qxc4 26.Qxf7+ Kh6 27.Qf8+ Kh7 28.Re1; c) 23...Kh6 24.Qxa8 Bb7? 25.Qh8+ Kg6 26.Qh3+-; 24.Qxa8 Bb7 25.Qe8 Qxc4 26.Qh5+ Kg8 27.Qd1 Black  still has some compensation with his passed pawn and his strong bishop, but White is better.
21.Bxg6!! Rxd1 22.Bxh7+ Kxh7 23.Qh5+ Kg7 24.Qg5+ Kf8 25.Rxd1 During the game I actually saw this interesting idea but I missed the key idea f5! 25...Bb7 26.Qh6+ Ke7 27.Qh4+ Kf8 28.f5! now White  threatens f6 so Black  has to take. 28...exf5 29.Qh8+ Ke7 30.Re1+ Kd7 31.Qf6 Qd8 32.Qxf7+ Kc8 33.Re8+-
21...Rxd1 22.Rxd1 Rb8?
This move is a definite mistake, because now White  has the tempo he needs to make Black 's life difficult. The move 22...Bb7 was much better. Black threatens Qxf4 and after 23.Qe3 c5 the position is approximately equal.
The move 23.Bxc6 was also possible, but I decided that after 23...Qxf4 it was probably better, but that Qd2 was clearer. Not 23...Qxc6?? 24.Rd8+ Kg7 25.Qe5+)
23...Bb7 24.c5 and Black  still has problems with his bishop.; 23...c5 24.Qd8+ Qxd8 25.Rxd8+ Kg7 26.b3 is the idea.
In some positions my king might need an escape square, so I made this move. However, 24.c5 was also possible.
Position after 24...Ke7

My opponent simply blundered a pawn with this move. After c5 White  would only be slightly better.
25.Bxc6! a5
Now the game should be almost over, but I created some difficulties for myself. 26.Qd4?!
This move looks quite strong, but it gives Black  some hope.
26...Rb6 27.Qc5+
If Bf3 I was actually worried about 27.Bf3 Rd6 28.Qxd6+ Qxd6 29.Rxd6 Kxd6 and even though I am up a pawn, black's active king could cause some problems.
27...Kf6 28.Qd4+
28.Rd6? Kg7! and I am pinned.
28...Ke7 29.Qc5+ Kf6 30.Qg5+ Kg7 31.Bb5 f6 32.Qh4?!

Again I am not very precise in the conversion of my advantage. After 32.Qg3 I was inexplicably afraid of 32...g5 , but then of course White  has a simple move like Rd4.
This is Black 's best chance.
33.Rxd6 Qxd6 34.Qf2 Kh6 35.Qe3

 At this point I only had a few minutes left, plus the 30-second increment.
35...f5 36.c5 Qd5 37.b3
I didn't actually have to play this yet, as after 37.Kh2 Black  can't take because of 37...Qxa2 38.Qf2 here White  has some threats while also having a strong passed pawn. 38...Qb3 39.Qh4+ Kg7 40.Qe7+ Kg8 41.Qe8+ Kg7 42.Bc6 Here black's weak king plus no counterplay mean that White  is winning.
37...Bb7 38.Qf2
38.Qf3 was a possibility I overlooked. After 38...Qxf3 39.gxf3 Kg7 (39...Bxf3+? 40.Kh2 White  will win the bishop for the c pawn.) 40.Kg2 White  should win.
An attempt to create counterplay, but Black  probably should have waited.
39.fxg5+ Kxg5 40.Bc4 Qe5 41.Qe2 Qxc5
41...Kf6 42.Qxe5+ Kxe5 43.a3 should probably be winning, even though black's king is quite active.
 42.Qxe6 Be4 43.Qg8+ Kf4?
Black  had to try 43...Kh6.
 44.Qxh7 Kg3 45.Qg7+ Kf2 46.Qb2+ Kg3 47.Qc3+ Kf4 48.Qd2+

48.Kh2 Qf2 49.Qg7 was even faster.
48...Kg3 49.Qg5+ Kf2 50.Qf4+ Ke1 51.Qc1+ Kf2 52.Qg1+
Here my opponent made a final blunder, although he is lost anyway.
49...f4? 50.Qc3+
Position after 50.Qc3

Here my opponent resigned in view of 50... Kf5 (50...Kd6 51.Qf6+; 50...Qd4 51.Qxa5+) 51.Be6+.  1–0

Probably my best game in the tournament was against Boris Savchenko from the penultimate round.


AlexOthoughtMO.jpgMy opponent came into this round having 1/2 point less than me, so I expected him to play aggressively. Even though I had best tiebreak in the tournament I decided that I would not play for a draw, but go for the win. 
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.Bb3 a6 7.Nbd2 Ba7 8.Nf1
The idea of this move is to save some time on moves like h3 and Re1. He also keeps a possibility to castle long side.
8...Be6 9.Ng3 h6 10.h3 Qd7 11.Nh4 g6 12.Qe2 0–0–0 13.Ba4 d5 14.Nf3 b5 15.Bb3
15.Bc2? dxe4 16.dxe4 Bc4

Position after 15...d4

A risky move, giving me too much space.
In case of 16.Bxe6 fxe6! 17.cxd4 Nxd4 18.Nxd4 Qxd4 19.Be3 Qb4+ 20.Qd2 Qxd2+ 21.Kxd2 Bxe3+=
16...Qd6 17.0–0 Nd7 18.Kh2 f5 19.exf5 gxf5 20.Nh4
I underestimated this move. I thought it does not work because of ...e4. In fact the position that results after ...e4 is very unclear.  I spent about 20 minutes here checking moves like Ne7 and even Qf8, but it turned out that the text move is much better.
20...e4 21.dxe4 fxe4 22.Bxe4 Rhe8!?

Position after 22...Rhe8

Black keeps the pressure and my opponent makes a big mistake.
This move closes the c1 bishop off. I can try to use the pin on the e-file now. I think my position is objectively better now.
23...Nf6 24.Rd1 Nxe4 25.Nxe4 Qe7 26.Ng6 Qg7 27.Qh5 dxc3!?
At first I was going to play 27...Rd5 28.Ne5 Rg8 but then I noticed 29.Qf3!?
We both had not more than 15 minutes on our clocks here and I missed this move. I forgot that after...
28...Rxd1 29.Nxd1 Qd4 he has 30.Be3.
Best chance
Before I made this move I had to see the position after my 33rd move.
29...Bd7 30.Ne5 30.f5!? bxc3 31.bxc3 30...Rxe5 31.fxe5 bxc3 32.bxc3 Qxe5+ 33.Bf4
I think Black should better here but it is still very complicated.
30.Qxc6 Bf5 31.Qa8+ Bb8
Position after 31...Bb8

We both missed here 32.Rxd8+ Rxd8 33.Nd5! Rd7 (33...Qe6 34.Ne7+!!; 33...Re8) 
32...bxc3 33.Ba7 Rd2 34.Qxb8+ Kd7 35.Rxd2+ cxd2 36.Qb4 Re2
 Now I'm completely winning, the rest is easy.
37.Bf2 Bc2 38.Qd4+ Qd6 39.Qg7+ Kc8 40.Qg4+ Qe6 41.f5 Bxf5 42.Qf3 Qe5+ 43.Kg1
43.Bg3 Qe4–+
43...Re1+ 44.Bxe1 dxe1Q+ 45.Rxe1 Qxe1+ 46.Kh2 Qe5+ 47.Kg1 Qe4 48.Qh5 Qe3+ 49.Kh2 Be4 50.Qe5 Qe2 51.Qg7 Kb7 52.a3 h5 53.Kg1 h4 54.Kh2 Qd2 55.b4 Qf4+ 56.Kg1 Qe3+ 57.Kh2 Qf4+ 58.Kg1 Qc1+ 59.Kh2 Qxa3 60.Qg4 Qxb4 61.Qxh4 a5 62.Qg4 a4 63.h4 a3 64.Qe2 Bd5 65.h5 Qb2 0–1

I consider this win one of the biggest successes in my chess career.
Anatoly Karpov with Alexander Onischuk at the awards ceremony

I’d like to thank Ray Robson and Alex Betaneli for their support and great company during the tournament.  After the tournament, I took Ray to Crimea, Ukraine, where I grew up. We are studying our games here, and today we went to Sevastopol to see the city. In three days we are flying back to Moscow for the Aeroflot Open (February 16-27). Wish us good chess.

GMs Jaan Ehlvest and Dmitry Gurevich were also playing in Moscow and scored 6/9 and 4.5/9, respectively. Many other Americans will join Ray and Alex in Moscow, including Irina Krush, Varuzhan Akobian, Alexander Ivanov, Bayaara Zorigt and Melikset Khachiyan. Follow them on the Aeroflot website.

August - Chess Life Online 2009

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