Following Botvinnik

Every match in Reykjavik is a tough one as there are practically no underdogs. The value of a single win is enormous and one can see how solidly some teams play, looking for someone to win and the others to keep the balance.
The French teams had huge psychological pressure after the disastrous 13-th of November. But they showed that they are strong, powerful team. Take a look at one of the games of their leader:
A game that I liked (ChessBase 13)

[Event "Open European Team Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2015.11.17"]
[Round "5.1"]
[White "Vallejo Pons, Francisco"]
[Black "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "2684"]
[BlackElo "2765"]
[Annotator "Bojkov, Dejan"]
[PlyCount "70"]
[EventDate "2015.??.??"]
[WhiteClock "0:03:07"]
[BlackClock "0:22:23"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 Ng4 {Diagram [#]
Ever since Rashkovsky revived this line it remains a problem for the first
player in the English Attack.} 7. Bc1 Nf6 8. Be3 Ng4 9. Bg5 h6 10. Bh4 g5 11.
Bg3 Bg7 12. h4 {Diagram [#] Quite a rare line.} ({The main move remains} 12.
Be2 {One recent example went} h5 13. Bxg4 hxg4 14. Nd5 Nc6 15. Nf5 Bxf5 16.
exf5 Bxb2 17. Rb1 Qa5+ {and the impression is that the line is almost
exhausted, Jakovenko,D (2759)-Karjakin,S (2753) Chita 2015}) ({The French GM
has some bitter experience in the second most popular line after} 12. h3 Ne5
13. Be2 Nbc6 14. Nb3 b5 15. a4 $5 $146 {Ivanchuk,V (2715)-Vachier Lagrave,M
(2757), 2015}) 12... Nc6 13. Nxc6 bxc6 14. Bc4 Qa5 15. Qf3 Ne5 $3 $146 {
[%csl Rf7][%cal Rf3f7,Rc4f7] Diagram [#] A novelty in the spirit of Botvinnik!
True, he sacrificed a pawn for bishop pair in an endgame against Suetin,
Vachier Lagrave does it in the middlegame.} ({All the seven predecessors saw}
15... Be6 {which solved Black's problems as well. One example-} 16. Bxe6 fxe6
17. Qxg4 Bxc3+ 18. bxc3 Qxc3+ 19. Ke2 Qc4+ 20. Kd2 Qd4+ {and a draw was agreed
in Ivanchuk,V (2731)-Dominguez Perez,L (2754) Beijing 2013}) 16. Bxe5 Qxe5 17.
Bxf7+ ({The position of the white queen on f7 will only help Black build his
initiative-} 17. Qxf7+ Kd8 18. O-O-O Rf8) 17... Kd8 18. hxg5 {There is no time
to castle due to the pin} (18. O-O-O Rf8 {when White will lose the bishop
sooner or later.}) 18... Rb8 {For the pawn Black has total domination on the
dark squares, diagonals and files for all his pieces.} 19. Bb3 ({King's safety
comes first, but after} 19. O-O-O Qxg5+ 20. Rd2 Rf8 $1 {Diagram [#] Black has
various ways of developing the initiative-} 21. Qh5 Qxg2 ({Either the aggressive
} 21... Be5 22. g3 ({Or else White loses the exchange} 22. Qxg5 hxg5 23. Rh7
Bf4) 22... Bg4 {with similar endgame as in the game.})) ({Believe it or not,
the computer quickly put the 0.00 evaluation. Here is his main line} 19. gxh6
$1 Rxb2 20. hxg7 $3 {[%csl Ra1,Re1,Gg7,Rh1][%cal Gg7g8] Diagram [#]} Rxh1+ 21.
Kd2 Qd4+ 22. Qd3 Qxf2+ 23. Ne2 Qxf7 24. Qg3 $1 (24. Rxh1 $2 Qxg7 {is clearly
better for White.}) 24... Rxa1 25. g8=Q+ Qxg8 26. Qxg8+ Kc7 27. Qg7 Raxa2 28.
Qxe7+ Bd7 29. Nd4 c5 30. Ne6+ Kc6 31. Nd8+ {Yeah, go find this over the board..
.}) 19... Rf8 20. Qe3 Qxg5 $1 {[%csl Yb2,Yb3,Yc2,Yc3,Gc8,Gg7] Diagram [#] So,
it is Botvinnik after all who inspired the sacrifice.} ({The middlegame is
better for White} 20... hxg5 21. O-O-O {as his king is safer.}) 21. Qxg5 hxg5 {
Although White is a clear pawn ahead and has seemingly better pawn structure
it is only Black who can play for a win. The white bishop and knight are
occupied with the defense of the queenside and Black can start advancing his
own "a" and "c" pawns to break the defense there. This is not everything- he
can make use of the kingside too.} 22. f3 g4 $1 23. Ke2 a5 $1 {Diagram [#]} 24.
Na4 {Now Vallejo's pieces will remain passive till the end of the game.} ({
The best resource was} 24. Rad1 Ba6+ 25. Ke3 {intending to meet} Be5 {with} 26.
Ne2 $1 Bxb2 27. Nd4 $1 {when Black will have to trade the dark-squared bishop
for the knight with approximate equality.}) 24... Ba6+ 25. c4 ({Or} 25. Ke3 c5
26. c3 Bb5 {in either case the white king is quite uncomfortable.}) 25... Rb4
26. Rac1 gxf3+ 27. gxf3 Bd4 28. Rc2 c5 {All the black pieces occupied
commanding positions.} 29. Rh2 Rg8 30. Rc1 Bc8 $1 {[%cal Gc8e6] Diagram [#]
But some can get even better!} 31. Nc3 Be6 32. Kd3 $6 {Makes things easier for
Vachier.} ({An interesting defense was} 32. Nd5 {with the idea} Bxb2 ({However,
Black can improve with} 32... Bxd5 $1 33. cxd5 a4 34. Bd1 Rxb2+ 35. Rc2 a3 $19)
33. Nxb4 Bxc1 34. Nd5 {which should be holdable endgame for White.}) ({Perhaps
the best defense was} 32. Rd1 Bxc4+ 33. Bxc4 Rxc4 34. Kd3 Rb4 {although
Black's advantage is huge here as well.}) 32... Rg3 33. Ke2 {The pawn is
doomed anyway:} (33. Rf1 Bh3 34. Rd1 Bg2 $17) 33... Bxc4+ 34. Kd2 ({This time
White cannot deprive the opponent of the bishop pair} 34. Bxc4 Rxb2+ $1) 34...
Rxf3 35. Bxc4 Rxb2+ {Diagram [#] Hats off to Maxime Vachier Lagrave and the
whole French team!} ({Vallejo resigned due to the line} 35... Rxb2+ 36. Rc2
Rxc2+ 37. Kxc2 Rxc3+) 0-1



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Edward McClain said...

To accept in chess is also to agree. A chess player might "accept" a draw offer from his/her opponent. In chess, a player often "accepts" a pawn sacrifice by capturing it as a "gambit".
Chess Competition

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