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Upsets in Chess | David beats Goliath - 1

Nov 14, 2014
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Hello everyone! This is IM Srinath Narayanan here, with another interesting column for you. It's the day before weekend, and on this pleasant Friday, I like to share David - Goliath chess stories for you. I am going to be here every Friday with examples of Grandmasters being defeated by much less fancied opponents. Today's my first article in the story, and I hope you'll like it!

King Saul and his army: David don’t go. He’s too big to hit.

David: You’ve got it all wrong. HE’S TOO BIG TO MISS!

Ever had this feeling before a game? Have you ever gone to a game with little hope of winning?

Below, we look at a few examples of a few first round upsets.  While the rating difference itself is remarkable, what's more remarkable is that, both Vokhidov and Abdusatturov were just 9 years old at the time of playing this game! Scroll below to witness how it happened!


Hovhannisyan, R(2613) - Vokhidov, Shamsiddin(2063) 

8th Agzamov Memorial 2014 2014.05.15

1.c4 e5 2.d3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.a3 d5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.e3

BD_27015_222_0.pngDiagram #1

This is a reversed scheveningen. One of the important things to look for in openings is the resultant pawn structure. Pawn structures are easy patterns to recognise and it can be used to link various positions from different lines, where the same general rules apply

6... g6 7.Nc3 Bg7 8.Bd2 O-O 9.Be2 b6 10.O-O Bb7 11.Rc1 a5

Despite the game starting out as English opening, we see that both the sides carry out the typical ideas used in Sicilian Nadjorf, fianchetto system. The objective of a5 is to prevent white from playing b4, which helps take control of a lot of squares on the queenside. Taking control of squares in chess is almost like taking control of territories in war.

12.Qc2 Nde7 13.Rfd1 h6

BD_27015_222_1.pngDiagram #2

 The effect of black's strategy - taking control of important squares has resulted in making the position cramped for white. In order to free the position, white has to make the central break d4 reminiscent to the d5 break in sicilian games. His next moves prepares towards that

14.Nb5 Qd7 15.Bc3 Nf5

Black logically counters white on d4


BD_27015_222_2.pngDiagram #3

( 16.d4 is the logical move and might have probably given white a slight edge16... exd4 (16... e4 was perhaps the move white was afraid of during the game. However, here white should not take on e4, but counter attack! 17.d5! ( 17.Qxe4 Ncxd4 now, white cannot take on b7 because of Nxe2+ and Qb5. White can simply go back to c2 on account of the pin on d7, but it's a lot of complicated calculation to do)17... exf3 18.dxc6 Qxc6 19.Bxf3 Qxb5 20.Bxb7 gives white a clear strategic advantage) 17.Nbxd4 Ncxd4 18.Nxd4 +/= White's placement of pieces make sense here. The rooks are well placed to take advantage of the open files, the bishops control important squares and white has a comfortable edge)

16... Nfd4 17.Nbxd4 exd4

Black's main problem is the c7 pawn. White aims to pressurise black's position with b4-b5. However, this can be defended easily. The difference in activity of white's pieces after d4 and after e4 can be quite easily seen by using the gameviewer

18.Be1 Rac8 19.b4 axb4 20.axb4 f5

BD_27015_222_3.pngDiagram #4


This move has several advantages. With one move, black opens diagonal for the b7 bishop, and files for the f8-rook and d7 queen. If white does not capture on f5, then black gets the d-file

21.exf5 Qxf5 22.Nh4 Qg5 23.g3

White intends to nullify black's presence on the f-file with f4. It's useful for white that he has the tactic Bd2 against Rf4

23... Kh7?

BD_27015_222_4.pngDiagram #5

(23... Qd5 preventing opponent's idea and using the drawback of opponent's previous move 24.f4 Ne5! )

24.f4 Qf6 25.Bf3

White's pieces get some good squares now thanks to the space gaining g3-f4

25... Nd8 26.Be4 Bxe4 27.dxe4

while the d-pawn becomes a paser now, white's e-pawn also becomes a paser

27... Ne6 28.e5 ( 28.b5! This move stops c5, thus preventing black from making d4 a 'connected passed pawn'. Pawns, very much like infantry in real battle, are in general, stronger when together. b5 ensures that the d4 pawn remains vulnerable to attacks. Remember Maximus's quote in the 'battle of Carthage to other foot soldiers? "Whatever comes through those gates, the more we stay together, the stronger our chances of survival")

28... Qf7

BD_27015_222_5.pngDiagram #6


defending the e5-pawn as black was threatening to take on it as the f1 square was unguarded

29... c5

BD_27015_222_6.pngDiagram #7

30.bxc5 Nxc5

black takes advantage of the fact that Qxd4 is met by Nb3 and white is forced to move the queen from e4, which makes e5 vulnerable

( bxc5 is also not bad)

31.Qb1 ( 31.Qxd4 Nb3)

31... Bxe5 32.Qxb6 Nd7 33.Qb5 Bf6

Now, the game enters into a rather interesting phase. 3 vs 3, with the d4 pawn being both the strength and weakness of black. If white manages to attack successfully, white is better, and if black can defend it successfully, then black is. So it all boils down to concrete timing

34.Rxc8 Rxc8

The rest of the game moves into a tumultuous phase with many mistakes from both sides. I suspect this is probably because of the less time for both sides. There was probably no additional 30 minutes after 40 moves

35.Nf3 Rc5 36.Qd3 Rd5 37.Bb4 Qe6 38.Re1 Qc6 39.Be7 Bg7 40.Bb4 Bf6 41.Bd2 Qd6 42.Kg2 Qc6 43.h4 Kg7 44.g4 h5 45.g5 Bd8 46.Kg3 Nc5 47.Qe2 Qd7 48.Ne5 Qe6 49.Qf3 Qd6 50.Bb4 d3 51.Rd1 ( 51.Bc3 Kh7 52.f5 would have won the game at once)

51... Bc7 52.Kg2 d2 53.Qe2 Qa6 54.Nc4

now, white just loses the f4 pawn by force while he's unable to take on d2 due to tactical reasons

54... Ne6 55.Qe4 Nxf4+ 56.Kh1 Qc8 57.Qf3

Now, white loses a piece by force

57... Rd3 58.Bc3+ Kh7 59.Ne3 Rxc3 60.Rxd2 Qe8 61.Rc2 Rxc2 62.Nxc2 Qe2 63.Qxe2 Nxe2

the rest of the game is just a matter of technique

64.Kg2 Be5 65.Nb4 Nd4 66.Nd3 Bd6 67.Nf2 Nf5 68.Kh3 Bg3 69.Ne4 Bxh4 70.Kg2 Kg7 71.Kf3 Nd4+ 72.Ke3 Ne6 73.Nd6 Bxg5+ 0-1

Lessons from the game:

1.When you reach a new position, it's useful to relate it to positions you know. Pawn structures are especially useful in identifying such patterns.

Despite the early setback Hovhannisyan didn't lose again in the tournament and finished with a respectable 6.5/9.  Although he wouldn't have been too pleased with his result, things could've got a lot worse if he had let this game influence the quality of his subsequent games.  Moving on,

Upsets of this magnitude are fairly rare events.  However, the 8th Agzamov Memorial witnessed a strange event, as both the 9th and 10th seeds, rated above 2600 lost to two 9 year olds respectively.  While the above game was full of errors, the below game demonstrated very mature play by Abdusatturov who did not let go once he got the advantage in his grasp.


Abdusattorov, Nodirbek(2057) - Zhigalko, A(2600)

8th Agzamov Memorial 2014 2014.05.15

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d3

The King's Indian Attack. White is normally accustomed to moving the d-pawn one more square forward in this position. d3 aims to close the center and take the battle ground to the flanks. Usually white progresses on the kingside and black progresses on the queenside

3... Nc6 4.g3 d5 5.Bg2?

BD_27015_222_7.pngDiagram #8

( 5.Nbd2 ( 5.Qe2))

5... g6 (5... dxe4 6.dxe4 Qxd1+ 7.Kxd1 b6 Black has a slightly better position here because it's much easier for him to develop naturally and find moves. White is much more poorly coordinated)

6.O-O Bg7

At around this time, both sides must visualise where they want to develop their pieces and the early middlegame strategy. The general way of operating in such positions is that white plays on the kingside and black on the queenside. However, the 9 year old Abdusattorov is not so direct

7.c3 ( 7.Nbd2 Nge7 8.Re1 O-O 9.e5 This move is played to close the center so that white can operate on the right flank9... Qc7 10.Qe2 is the classical way of handling such positions for both sides)

7... Nge7 8.Qc2

A slightly unusual place to develop the queen in this opening. The more usual square is e2. This move has the advantage of avoiding the uncomfortable pin if the black bishop comes to a6. However, white abandons the plan with e5

8... O-O 9.a4 b6 10.Na3 a6

BD_27015_222_8.pngDiagram #9


Opposing the knight on opponent's 3rd rank with a pawn on our 3rd rank is a common motif. This restricts the mobility of our opponent's knight


BD_27015_222_9.pngDiagram #10

11... h6

BD_27015_222_10.pngDiagram #11


This is another common way of responding to the Be3 move when our bishop is fianchettoed. This is to avoid the Qd2/Qc1-Bh6 battery. Now, black can defend with Kh7 against such a battery and our fianchettoed bishop is safe. This move is also useful to defend against Ng5 in case black wants to bring the bishop to e6

12.Rad1 d4

nipping ideas of something like d4 in the bud. Now the white's rook on d1 looks stupid

13.cxd4 cxd4 14.Bd2 e5

with this move, the center is almost static. The g2-bishop and g7-bishop are the bad bishops in this positionthis will alter if the pawn structure gets altered after something like f4 by white or f5 by black. Black has more space than white in this position. White can offset this by either advancing pawns on one sidewhich can in turn become a weakness or exchanging piecesso white's pieces get the squares of their choice instead of fighting among themselves

15.Nh4 ( 15.b4 is an example of how to offset opponent's space advantage. This gives more options for white's queen while controlling more squares for white)

15... Be6 16.Rc1

white is playing without a coherent strategy, which is not surprising considering white's rating and age

16... Rc8 17.Qd1 Na5 18.Bxa5 bxa5

When one of our opponent's bishops get exchanged, it enables us to take control of those squares almost unopposed. Like for example, it's easier for black to take control of the dark squares in this bishop. It is in general desirable to avoid doubled pawns like this, however in this position, it's compensated by other factors

19.Nc4 Nc6

The drawback of this approach is that is allows white to execute his plans unhindered. White's knight on c4 holds the whole of queenside together almost single handedly - therefore giving white a free rein to play on the other flank

( Bxc4 this seems like the rational move to make. I suspect Zhigalko might have played this against someone higher rated, but perhaps in this game he wanted to keep more pieces on the board for non chess reasons 20.Rxc4 Rxc4 21.dxc4 Nc6 is an option worth considering. Black has a protected d-pased pawn and the half open be-file)

1.A direct f4 is not possible due to tactical reasons.  How will you make this happen?

20.Nf3 ( 20.f4 is what wants to play in this position. however this is not possible because black can simply take on f420... exf4 21.Rxf4 g5)

20... Rb8 21.Nfd2 h5 22.f4 Bh6 23.f5 Bd7

BD_27015_222_11.pngDiagram #12


one of the advantages of pair of bishops, an unopposed control of the opposite colour of our opponent's bishop

24.Qe2 Kh7 25.Kh1

White shows admirable restraint for a 9 year old. White just waits and Black has no flowing counter play on the queenside on accounting of allowing the Nc4 bind which nullifies almost all threats

25... h4 26.Bh3 hxg3 27.hxg3 g5?

BD_27015_222_12.pngDiagram #13


Terrible strategic move, this move spells doom for the black's dark squared bishop, while allowing white's bishop to come close to black's king


white now threatens f6, after which it'll be very difficult to evacuate black's king while also allowing white's rook to attack through h1

28... f6

BD_27015_222_13.pngDiagram #14

29.Bg4 Kg7 30.Rh1 Rh8 31.Rh3 Ne7 32.b3 Be8 33.Bh5 Bc6

2.White can just win a pawn by force now.  Can you guess what white missed here?

( 34.Nxe5! 34... fxe5 35.f6+ Kxf6 36.Qf3+ Ke6 ( Kg7 37.Qf7#) 37.Bg4+ Kd6 38.Qf6+ Kc7 39.Rxh6 +- )

34... Qd7

black gives white a second chance


White takes full advantage this time!

35... Qxf5 36.Qxf5 Nxf5 37.Nxc6 g4 38.Bxg4 Bxd2 39.Bxf5 Bxc1 40.Nxb8 Rxb8

White is a pawn up with a completely better pawn stucture and much better placed pieces. The rest is a simple matter of technique. If you are like former world junior champion Soumya,Swaminathan, you'll want to scroll through till the end of the game :)

41.Rh7+ Kg8 42.Rd7 Bb2 43.Be6+ Kh8 44.Kf3

in the endgames, it's useful in most cases to advance our king

44... Re8 45.Bc4 Re5 46.Rf7 Bc3 47.Rxf6 Kg7 48.Rxa6 Rg5 49.g4 Bd2 50.Rd6 Bc3 51.Rd7+ Kf6 52.Rf7+ Ke5 53.Re7+ Kf6 54.Re6+ Kf7 55.Re5+ Kf6 56.Rxg5 Kxg5 57.e5 Bb2 58.Be6 Kg6 59.Ke4 Kg7 60.Kd5 Kf8 61.g5 Kg7 62.Bf5 Bc1 63.g6 Be3 64.e6 Kf6 65.Kd6 Bd2 66.Kd7 Bb4 67.g7 Kxg7 68.e7 1-0

Lessons from the game:

1.Opposing the knight on opponent's 3rd rank with a pawn on our 3rd rank is a common motif. This restricts the mobility of our opponent's knight.  Example a3-Na6 c3-Nc6.

2.When one of our bishop is fianchettoed, with same side castling it's quite thematic to respond to the diagonal battery with h6-Kh7/h3-Kh2.  This helps avoid the exchange of the fianchettoed bishop, which is very important in controlling a lot of squares.  However, it's not such a good idea to move the pawns before the king when both sides have castled their kings on the opposite sides.

Although such occasions are rare, they do happen. If we are the higher rated player, it's very much desirable to not such let things happen to us even rarely. It's also an useful reminder that even strong grandmasters are fallible.  Anyone can defeat anyone and anyone can lose to anyone from any position.

That's it for today! Check out next week for more David - Goliath chess stories! In the mean time, let's talk about similar stories from your games. Do share your thoughts, and experiences in the comment section below!

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