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A Grandmaster's Debut: Plus Two & Blitz with the Elite Print E-mail
By Michael Khodarkovsky   
January 29, 2015
seviantimman.gifThe 77th Tata Steel Masters and Challengers tournaments, which finished this past weekend in Wijk aan Zee, marked the emergence of the young generation who dominated the field in both events.  If the solid performance and well deserved victory by World Champion Magnus Carlsen was expected, the inspiring play and outstanding results showed by Wesley So and Anish Giri came as a bit of a surprise to many notable experts.

"We were lucky to have Magnus to play in our tournament this year" - said Jeroen van den Berg, chief tournament organizer. "Years ago I noticed that excitement and tension of the tournament is rising tremendously when the world champion is playing. I saw this at the times Kasparov played here, and now when Carlsen takes the central stage" - added Jeroen. Indeed, the World Champion holds his position on the top as all other contenders are in pursuit to defeat him.

Obviously, the competition and games by the elite players overshadowed the Challengers tournament.

However, an extraordinary performance by fifteen year old Chinese Grandmaster Wei Yi deserves a lot of attention.  Wei repeated Magnus Carlsen's record by winning tournament B in Wijk aan Zee at age of 15, and qualified to play at the Masters tournament next year.

Photo Yevgeny Surov
We hope next year our 14-year-old GM Sam Sevian will be able to repeat that record as well. In the meantime, this year Sam debuted at Wijk aan Zee. Although he started the tournament with two losses, Sam managed to stay on course and tied for 5th-6th places with a very respectable +2 score. 

He was coached by GM Alexander Chernin as part of the "Young Stars - team USA" program jointly sponsored by the Kasparov Chess Foundation and Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.

Sevian annotated two games for CLO:

Sevian,Samuel - Klein,David [C90]

77th Tata Steel Chess Wijk aan zee, 2015


1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3 Bc5 5.c3 0-0 6.0-0 Re8

6...d6 is by far the main move but this is interesting. Black wants to put the bishop on f8 and then play a6 followed by ..b5, then play d6 getting an improved Zaitsev.  
7.Re1 Bf8 8.Nbd2 a6 9.Ba4

9.Bxc6 dxc6 and the pawn on d3 is very weak, black may find it a good target later.
9...b5 10.Bb3 h6

10...d6 is also fine.
11.Nf1 d6 12.d4 exd4 13.cxd4 Bg4 14.h3


14.Ng3 Qd7 and here White cannot play h3 since black's queen controls h3, [Bxf3 gf Qxh3] and I was not sure how to improve my position here. 15.Be3 (15.h3? Bxf3 16.gxf3 Qxh3) 15...Nxe4 16.Nxe4 Rxe4 17.Bd5 Ree8 18.Rc1 Nb4 19.Bxa8 Rxa8 with full compensation for the exchange.
14...Bxf3 15.gxf3

White has a ruined pawn structure, but for that white has the two bishops, center, and semi open g-file which can later be used for the attack.

15...d5 16.e5 Nh7 17.f4± is clearly not good for black.
16.Bc2 c5 17.d5

White must keep the center closed [17.Ng3 cxd4 18.Qxd4 d5]
17...g6 18.Ng3?!

18.b3 Bg7 19.Rb1 was probably better, since now I do not give him the chance to re-route his knight via c4 to b6 and later d7.
18...Bg7 19.Rb1 h5

19...Nc4 20.b3 Nb6 21.f4 h5 22.f5!? With complicated play(22.Kg2 h4 (22...Rc8 Black has c4 and h4 as options) 23.Nf1 c4 24.f5!? (24.b4 Rc8 with a strong passed pawn) )
20.b3 Nh7

20...h4 21.Ne2 (21.Nf1 is also playable) 21...Nd7 22.f4 Now that black's knight is out of the game on a5 white is virtually a piece up and can start an attack on the kingside.
21.f4 Qh4?!


The start of a bad plan. If black wants to play with this c4 plan, then the queen should at least stay on the queenside to be able to defend the weaknesses on the light squares.
21...h4 22.Nf1 c4 23.b4 Nb7 24.a4 Qd7 
22.Kg2 c4?

22...b4 23.e5! dxe5 24.f5! iscrushing; 22...Bd4was the best move 23.Qf3 Nb7 24.Bd2 Nf8 25.Ne2 and White has good attacking chances.

23.e5! dxe5 24.f5 was stronger, but I do not see anything wrong with the plan I chose.
23...Nb7 24.a4 Nd8

24...Qe7 25.Ne2
25.Qf3 Ra7 26.Ne2

Maneuvering the knight to either d4 or c3. from where it will be a monster. 26.Be3 Rae7 27.Ne2 was also strong.
26...Rae7 27.axb5 axb5 28.Nc3
28.Be3 Followed by Nd4 might be even better since from there it does not allow black any desperate attempts like f5. 28...Nf6 29.Nc3±

28...Rb7 29.Nxb5! (29.Ra1± Is also possible) 29...Rxb5 30.Ba4 Rxd5 31.Bxe8 Rd3 32.Re3!+-; 28...Bxc3 29.Qxc3±

29.Nxb5 Nf7 30.e5 dxe5 31.d6 Rd7 32.Qc6 Nf6 is unclear
29...Bxc3 was more accurate 30.Bxc3 fxe4 31.Bxe4 g5! (31...Kf7 Transforms into the game) 32.Bxh7+ Kxh7 33.Rxe7+ (33.Bf6 Rxe1 34.Rxe1 g4 (34...Rxe1 35.Bxg5+-) 35.hxg4 hxg4 36.Qd1 (36.Qc3 Qh3+ 37.Kg1 Qxc3 38.Bxc3 Rxe1+ 39.Bxe1 Kg6-+) 36...Qh3+ 37.Kg1±) 33...Rxe7 34.Bf6 g4 35.Bxh4 gxf3+ 36.Kxf3+- White has a winning ending.
30.Rxe4 Rxe4 31.Nxe4 Nf7 32.Nc3±
30...Bxc3 31.Bxc3 Kf7

31...g5 see note to black's 29th move
32.Re3! Nf6 33.Bc2 g5
33...Rxe3 34.fxe3 g5 (34...Ng4 35.e4+- (35.Bd4+-) ) 35.Bxf6 would transpose into the game.

34.Rxe7+ was a slightly easier way to win 34...Kxe7 35.Bxf6+ Kxf6 36.fxg5+ Ke7 37.Re1+ Kd7 38.Qf5++-
34...Rxe3 35.fxe3 Kxf6 36.fxg5+ Ke7

36...Ke5 37.Qf5#; 36...Kxg5 37.Qf5+ Kh6 38.Qg6#; 36...Kg7 37.Qf6+ Kg8 38.Qg6+ Kf8 39.Rf1+ Ke7 40.Qg7++-  37.Qf6+ [37.Qf4 Qxf4 38.exf4 is also winning.]
37...Kd7 38.Qg7+ Kc8
38...Re7 39.Bf5+ Ke8 40.Qg8#

Black has no good checks!

39...Kb8 40.Qa7+ Kc8 41.Qa8+ Kc7 42.Ra7+ Kb6 43.Qb8++-
40.Ra8+ Kb7 41.Qxf7+

41...Re7 42.Qxe7+ Kxa8 43.Qf8+ Ka7 44.Qf4 Qe1 45.g6 Qd2+ 46.Qf2 Qxd5+ 47.e4+ 1-0

Sevian,Samuel - Haast,Anne [B47]

77th Tata Steel Chess Wijk aan zee (9), 2015

By the time of this game in round nine, I had dug myself out of a hole to a 50% score. After a dismal start with 0-2, I beat former European Champion Russian GM Vladimir Potkin in a 7-hour marathon game. I also won against the current European and Russian Women Champion, GM Valentina Gunina, and the previous win vs. Dutch GM David Klein. Those wins certainly added to my confidence.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Qc7

This is the Sicilian Paulsen. I chose to play the relatively calm system with g3.
6.g3 a6 7.Bg2 h5!?


An ambitious system where Black is trying to open the h-file, with an imaginary aggressive attack. 7...Nf6 8.0-0 d6 is the main line.
8.0-0 h4 9.Re1 hxg3 10.hxg3 d6


10...Bc5?! She had previously played this, but it doesn't seem to serve Black too well 11.Nxc6 dxc6 12.e5 Ne7 13.Ne4± with a huge advantage in 1-0 (66) Muhren,B (2296)-Haast,A (2296) Amsterdam 2014

11.Be3 Nf6 12.Qe2 Ne5 in this line the advance h5-h4 and then hxg3 is now justified, because when black plays Neg4/Nfg4, White actually has no obvious way of stopping this aggressive plan. There is no h2-h3 anymore, and if f2-f3 then white's bishop on g2 is locked, which makes black's d6-d5 advance much easier and Black achieves a very dynamic position.
11...bxc6 12.e5 d5

12...dxe5 13.Rxe5! the rook is untouchable since white will play Bxc6-a8 and will be up a pawn, while if not Qxe5 then black has many weaknesses on the queenside.
13.Na4 Bb7 14.c4



Black should capture this pawn, or else white can play cxd5 cxd5 Be3 followed by Rc1-Nb6 with a huge initiative on the queenside. [14...Ne7 15.Be3±]
15.Nc3 Ne7 16.Ne4 Nf5N

Nd5 can be played here too, Qxe5 was impossible due to Nd6+ picking up the queen [16...Nd5 17.Bg5 1-0 (70) Adams,M (2740) -Ivanisevic,I (2613) Tromso 2014; 16...Qxe5 17.Nd6+ Wins the queen]
Indirectly stopping Qxe5 due to Nf6+, and also not allowing her to develop the rook with Rd8.
17...Bb4 18.Re2 Kf8?

An interesting idea, but it is not a good one. She wants to capture the pawn on e5 without allowing a discovered check on f6. [18...0-0 19.Rc2 Qxe5 20.a3 Ba5 (20...Be7 21.Bxe7 Nxe7 22.Qd7! And white picks up a piece!) 21.Rxc4 Black's pieces are all tied up, and in order to stop all the threats black has to give up an exchange 21...Rad8 (21...Qc7 22.Nf6+! gxf6 23.Bxf6 Rfd8 24.Qh5+- Mating) 22.Bxd8 Rxd8 23.Qb3; 18...a5 Was probably the best move, but I think white keeps an edge after 19.a3 Be7 (19...Bf8 20.Rc1±) 20.Bxe7 Kxe7 21.Nc5 with a lot of pressure]
19.a3! Be7

19...Ba5 20.Nd6 Nxd6 21.exd6 Qd7 22.Qa4 Bd8 23.Be3± White will pick up the pawn on c4 and later the pawn on c6, by means of Rc2-Rac1.

This is what I planned when playing 19.a3.

20...Qxe5 21.Bxe7+ Kxe7 (21...Nxe7 22.Rd8+ Rxd8 23.Qxd8# Mate!) 22.Rd7+ Ke8 23.Rxb7+-; 20...Bxg5 21.Rd7! A key move 21...Qxe5 22.Nxg5+- Winning, since black cannot stop all of white's threats; 20...Ke8 21.Qg4 Qxe5 (21...Bxg5 22.Qxg5 Qe7 23.Rad1 Qxg5 24.Nxg5+-) 22.Rad1+- with a crushing attack.
21.Rd7 Qb6 22.Bxe7+

22.Qd2 was also possible, but it gives black extra options like Bxg5.


This was the critical position in the game, that offers many promising continuations, but I wanted to settle for the most direct one. After going through many lines, I found the winning move.

White wants to play Qg5 and Rad1, and there is no way to stop it! [23.Qd6 Qxd6 24.exd6 Bxe4 25.Bxe4 (25.dxe7+ Ke8 26.Rd8+ (26.Rad1 Bxg2 27.Kxg2 I looked at this position for some time, but was unable to find anything for white.) 26...Kxe7 27.Rxh8 Bxg2 28.Rxa8 Bxa8 White is up an exchange, but after black puts the bishop on d5, it is not easy to break the fortress, maybe no way at all!) 25...Nd5 26.Rc1±; 23.Rxb7 Qxb7 24.Nxc5 (24.Nd6? Was my initial intention, but after I spent some time here, I realized that I might be worse! 24...Qa7! (24...Qb8 25.Qf3+- Is the idea) 25.Qf3 Nd5³ The black queen controls f7) 24...Qa7 (24...Qc8 25.Nd7+ Kg8 26.Nb6+-) 25.Nxe6+! Kg8 (25...fxe6 26.Qf3+±) 26.Bxa8 Qxa8 27.Qd8+ Qxd8 28.Nxd8± White is up a pawn in both these endings, but to convert either of them is not very easy.

During the game I also considered the following replies [23...Nf5 24.Rd1 Re8 (24...Bxe4 25.Bxe4 Re8 26.Rb7+- Traps the queen) 25.Ng5+-; 23...Bxe4 24.Bxe4 Re8 25.Rd1+-; 23...Ng6 24.Ng5 Bxg2 25.Rxf7+ Kg8 26.Qd7 Rh7 27.Nxh7+-; 23...Re8 24.Rd1 Bd5 25.Nd6 Bxg2 26.Qf4!! Winning; 23...Rh6 24.Qd6 Qxd6 25.exd6 Bxe4 26.dxe7+ Ke8 27.Rd8+ Kxe7 28.Rxa8+- Since black's rook is on h8 white simply wins a piece here.; 23...Bc6 24.Rxe7 Kxe7 (24...Rd8 25.Qg5+-) 25.Qd6+ Ke8 26.Nf6+ gxf6 27.Bxc6++-]
24.Qg5 Re8

24...Nf5 25.Nd6 Nxd6 26.exd6! Re8 27.Bxd5 Qxb2 (27...exd5 28.Qf5+-) 28.Re1 Qc3 29.Rc1+- (29.Rxf7+ Kxf7 30.Rxe6! Rxe6 31.Qe7+!+-)
25.Nd6 Bxg2 26.Nxe8 Nf5

26...Rh1+ 27.Kxg2 Qc6+ 28.f3 Qxd7 29.Rxh1 Qxe8 30.Rh8+ Ng8 31.Qd2+- Winning
27.Rd8 f6

27...Rh1+ 28.Kxg2 Qb7+ 29.f3 Qxb2+ 30.Kxh1 Qxa1+ 31.Kh2 Qb2+ 32.Kh3+-
28.exf6 Bf3 29.fxg7+

Here she resigned, after 29...Kf7 white has a nice mate with 30.Nd6+ Nxd6 31. gxh8=N#!
29...Kf7 30.Nd6+ Nxd6 31.gxh8N#


Another US representative at the Challengers tournament was GM Sam Shankland who was undefeated and finished 3rd with a strong +5 performance. Look for an article by Sam coming soon to CLO on Wijk and cracking the top 100 players in the World.

The collaboration between organizers of Tata Steel and Kasparov Chess Foundation allowed our youngsters, Sam Shankland and Sam Sevian, to take part in the Challengers tournament.


Upon the conclusion of the closing ceremony participants of both tournaments felt that two weeks of competition is not enough and they absolutely do not want to waste their time dancing. Of course they preferred to challenge each other in games of blitz. 

For the first time, Sam Sevian was able to enjoy the company of some of the elite players and the World Champion himself. Though we prefer not to reveal the score of those friendly blitz matches, I will say it was a lot of fun and it went in the spirit of the well-known blitz video between Sam and Greg Shahade.