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Michiel Abeln vs Artashes Minasian
"Pawn Stars" (game of the day Aug-29-2012)
Cappelle-la-Grande Open (2003), Cappelle-la-Grande FRA, rd 3, Feb-24
Modern Defense: Standard Line (B06)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Nov-04-08  arsen387: Amazingly no kibitzing for this game. Minasian's pawns just sweep everything on their way. very nice!
Aug-29-12  sevenseaman: Black looks to be a player who is aware of every strength of his in material as well as positionally.
Aug-29-12  joyroy: Wow! this game makes me smile because it helps me to see that chess can be Poetry in motion.
Aug-29-12  YoungEd: For those of you not familiar with American cable television: "Pawn Stars" is the name of a popular show on the History Channel; it documents the workings of a Las Vegas pawn shop, with a focus on historical items.
Premium Chessgames Member
  An Englishman: Good Evening: Was anyone else astounded by 19...Rg8? Minasian couldn't have known that White would play 26.Rf3?(Nf3 blockades the dark squares), allowing 26...g5! and the Nh4 has no retreat.
Aug-29-12  labrats5: my favorite move of the game is probably 22...Bxf3, as black knows his white squared bishop will be useless after he seals his Queenside pawn structure with 23...d5.
Aug-29-12  rilkefan: I expected 24.Nd4 (blocking d5, hitting e6, supporting an eventual f5). Stockfish has this as about 1.3. 24.Nh4 instead is +2. 26.Rf3 is SF's choice, but instead of 27.fxg5 (which is about 1.5) it suggests Rg3, winning. 28.g6 and white was still up 1.5. 28...Bxc3 was strong; 29...Bxc3 was winning. 29.Rxg7 was good for white; 32.Bf4 was still equal. I expected 33...bxc3, which is winning; the text move is just equal after 34.Bxc2 (...Qxb2 35.Bb6+ Rc7 36.Qe7+ Kc8 37.Be4 and black has to take the perpetual).
Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: Hmm. We may be in danger of over-praising black's play simply because he won. It's a fairly common thing - history tends to be written by the victors and chess games tend to be written up as if every move by the winner helped to seal the win.

The reality here is that white should have held this game, and even possibly won it.

The first key position (after 23...d5):

click for larger view

White has a good position. He is safely castled, he has the bishop pair, although the board is temporarily better for knights because it is full of prawns. Black's king looks artificially placed and his pieces not well coordinated.

That's why I'm not wholly convinced by 24. Nh4 from this position. Black's main plan is to push d5-d4 to make the most of his queenside space advantage and open up his Bg7. So I really want to keep my knight on f3 or sink it into the outpost on d4.

Fritzie says that white is ahead by the equivalent of nearly two prawns (+1.85). He prefers 24. Nd4. He's not afraid of the maneouvre Nc5-Nxa4 for black because of this line: 24...Nc5 25. Qf2 Nxa4 26. f5! followed by a piece sac on f5. The point is that black's poorly coordinated pieces can't defend well enough and if his queen comes back to defend he loses his knight on a4.

Funnily enough, Fritz doesn't mind 24. Nh4 although it comes a way down his top ten. He still rates it as winning for white.

The next key position comes after 27...Bxe5

click for larger view

Now Fritz wants to play the bold 28. g6 where I would like to hold d5 with 28. Qf2 or 28. Qd1. Fritzie rates his move as +2.19 and my two as +1.something. He also quite likes 28. Kh1.

But neither of us likes 28. Rf7. White's eval falls to around equality because of 28...Bxc3! 29. bxc3 Qxc3.

After 28...Rg7, white is back in the lead. I would have snaffled the rook with 29. Rxg7 (+1.67) but Fritz is made of sterner stuff. He wants to play the cool 29. Rf1 (+2.06).

But 29. Qxh5? No, no, no! White assumes he is winning by oodles and has the luxury to commit both his queen and king rook to an "attack". But in doing so, he leaves his queenside relatively undefended. Again, the best riposte by black is 29...Bxc3!

Black doesn't see it. Instead he plays the thematic 29...d4 - the move that white should have been defending against ever since 23...d5. Now we can forget about a white initiative. Black is the one in the driving seat. Fritzie rates the position as -0.39. A slight edge to black but almost level. In practice, I'd say this was a stronger black initiative than that. OTB I'd expect black to win more often than not from this position.

Let's fast forward to 31...Qe5

click for larger view

From here, 32. Bd2 (my choice) or 32. Bf4 (Fritzie's) keep the game level. But 32. Bf2? hands the initiative to black on a silver platter. White totally abandons his queenside. The inevitable happens...

Incidentally, let's take a look at the position where white resigned:

click for larger view

Fritzie analyses this as a draw with best play - eg: 34. Bxc2 Qxb2 35. Bb6+ Rc7 36. Qe7+ Kc8 37. Be4 Bd4+ 38. Kh2 Be5+ 39. Kh1 Qxa1+ 40. Bg1 Kb8 41. Qb4+ Kc8 42. Qe7

A keenly fought game, with chances and mistakes on both sides. Of course, they don't have the luxury of silicon assistance as we do. But a positional masterpiece? I don't think so. Sorry.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: < Once: ....We may be in danger of over-praising black's play simply because he won. It's a fairly common thing - history tends to be written by the victors and chess games tend to be written up as if every move by the winner helped to seal the win....>

Whatever place many feel engines have in chess, they've helped put certain things right when it comes to classic games which were annotated by result, with those annotations handed down from one generation to another. Thus, the truth has become less a moving target than ever before.

Premium Chessgames Member
  kevin86: Black will regain the queen and gain material.
Aug-29-12  thendcomes: It's a cool game because the offbeat opening leads to a neat middle game, but it's not a good game in my opinion. A higher rated player played a dubious opening, the lower rated player gained advantage and then blundered the advantage. Nothing brilliant going on.
Premium Chessgames Member
  scormus: <Mimasianism> A style of play characterised by arranging one's pieces on the first and second rank, with the objective of eventually deploying one's pawns on the opponent's first and second rank
Aug-29-12  schnarre: ...Oh when the pawns...come marching in...
Aug-29-12  bischopper: how a pawn passed on 7 th or in this case second and the rook behind of bishop?
Aug-29-12  thegoldenband: <Once> When I saw the final position I was surprised that White didn't at least try something with Bb6+, given that ...Nxb6 is impossible because of the mate in one. Do we know for sure that Abeln didn't lose on time?
Aug-29-12  Tiggler: No way in the world should White have resigned this position. Did he lose on time?
Aug-29-12  Tiggler: Great minds ... Sorry <thegoldenbrand> didn't intentionally step on your post - didn't see it while I was posting mine.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: <thegoldenband> That's a good point. Whenever you see a surprising resignation between move 30 and 40 you have to wonder if time pressure was a factor. It is certainly possible.

The other explanation is that there is a large gap in grades between the two players. White was staring down the barrels of Qxb2, bxc1 and c2=Q+. So he might have thought that Bb6+ was nothing more than a spite check which would only delay the loss. And he didn't want to do that to a much higher graded player.

We may never know. It is one of the slight problems with chess that time is such a factor in the game but we don't record it in the same way that we do the moves. Perhaps one day all chess boards will be computerised so that players don't have to write moves down and we will get time taken automatically recorded as well?

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