Ian Nepomniachtchi, 19, won the European Championship in Rijeka, Croatia, with nine points of 11. In the 9th round, the young Russian (whose name might also be spelled Jan or Yan) had White against Baadur Jobava of Georgia.
The Caro-Kann is Jobava's first-line defence.
2.d2-d4 d7-d5 3.f2-f3
Sometimes dubbed the Fantasy Variation, the idea of maintaining a d4-e4 pawn phalanx was adopted by Maroczy, Spielmann, Tartakower, Alekhine and later Smyslov among the classic greats, and more recently by Adamski, Smagin, Mitkov, Hodgson, and Gallagher, achieving popularity by the 1990s.
This move was taken up by former women's world champion Maia Chiburdanidze in 2004, and soon after by a dozen other Georgian players. Traditional moves include 3...e7-e6 and 3...Ng8-f6, as well as e7-e5 either immediately or preceded by 3...d5xe4 4.f3xe4. The queen move is peculiar because knights and bishops usually get developed first, because the queen does not attack anything, and because the queen from d8 might have had a useful check at h4.
This novelty was introduced in Rijeka just the day before - in two games. Both continued 4...d5xe4 5.a4-a5! Qb6-c7 6.f3xe4 e7-e5 7.Ng1-f3. In the fifth round, Artyom Timofeev played 4.Nb1-c3 d5xe4 5.Nc3xe4 (if f3xe4 e7-e5) against Jobava. Moving only pawns is just as questionable, in the abstract, as bringing out the queen too early. But contemporary play relies more on evaluation than on general principles.
Black wants to open the position without allowing a knight to come to the natural f3-square, but this allows White to save the centre.
Thematic but not overly effective would be 5...Bf8-c5 6.a4-a5 Bc5-f2+ 7.Ke1-e2 Qb6-c5 8.b2-b4 Qc5-d4 9.c2-c3 and after trades at d1 and e4, White retains a small advantage.
6.a4-a5 Qb6-c7 7.f3-f4
Against the threat of Nb1-c3xe4, Black has many options: bolster the e4-pawn with f7-f5 or Bc8-f5, counterattack with f7-f6, temporize then win the a5-pawn with Bf8-b4xa5.
7...Ng8-h6 8.Nb1-c3 Bf8-b4 9.Bc1-d2 e4-e3
If 9...Nh6-f5 10.Nc3xe4 Nf5-e3? 11.Bd2xb4! Ne3xd1 12.Ne4-d6+, Black's king has an uncomfortable future. Black must have been reluctant to take on c3 because of ceding the dark squares, but that was likely the lesser evil.
10.Bd2xe3 O-O 11.Ng1-f3 Rf8-d8 12.Bf1-d3 Nb8-a6 13.Qd1-e2 Bb4xa5 14.O-O Na6-b4 15.Bd3-e4 Bc8-f5
Anytime in the previous six moves, Black could have tried Nh6-g4.
White's extra pawn on the kingside promises attacking chances. White tucks the king into safety and avoids checks on the g1-a7 diagonal.
Surprisingly, the least evil was to trade on e4 and then play Nb4-d5.
17.Be3xb6 Qc7xb6 18.Nf3-g5 c6-c5
Opens up the 6-rank for defence with Qb6-g6, but ceding control of d5 makes it no bargain. It turns out that White's advantage is decisive, and stern defence will not save the game.
19.Ra1-e1 Qb6-g6 20.Be4xb7! Nb4xc2 21.Nc3-d5! Rd8xd5 22.Bb7xd5 Bf5-d3 23.Qe2-f3 Ra8-e8 24.e5-e6! Nc2xe1 25.Rf1xe1 f7xe6 26.Re1xe6 Kg8-h8 27.h2-h3!
Black cannot open a similar breathing hole; his back rank is fatally weak.
27...Re8xe6 28.Bd5xe6 Bd3-b5
Black prepares to blockade at e8 against the check from a8, but White elegantly opens new access to Black's king.
29.f4-f5! Qg6-e8 30.f5-f6 Qe8-f8 31.f6-f7
Black resigned. The threat was 32.Qf3-e4 and if g7-g6, Qe4-e5+. An impressive victory.
Jobava went on to take second place by playoff ahead of Artyom Timofeev. Seven players tied with 8-3 scores, and all qualified for the upcoming World Cup. The 30 players with 7.5 points, however, had to play off and only 13 of them went forward. Places in the World Cup are why this 408-player event, open to all Euro players, attracted 187 grandmasters (GMs).
Pia Cramling repeated her 2003 victory in the Women's event. She defeated leader Viktorija Cmilyte in the final round. The 150-player event attracted nine GMs and 42 WGMs. Pia, a 46-year-old mom, has visited Canada three times to take part in chess tournaments.
The Mauricie Open, in Trois-Rivières, Que., attracted 235 players. With the Canadian Open to be held in Toronto, July 10 to 18, Mauricie will not be the largest adult tournament in Canada this year. Two GMs tied for first, Anton Kovalyov and Bator Sambuev. Arnaud Rainfray placed third. Thomas Roussel-Roozmon, Jean Hébert, Karoly Szalay and Zi Yi Qin tied for fourth.
The Grand Pacific Open takes place this weekend in Victoria.