Game analysis: D.Swiercz- M.Vachier-Lagrave, Gibraltar 2013

The first time I saw this game, on the day it was played- a month ago- I knew I wanted to write about it. But then, upon closer look, I realized that I barely knew what really happened there- it is just very complicated and difficult to understand, especially in the middlegame, especially for me. So I thought that I should write about something else- but none of my own butchered games from 2013 are worth it yet, and the interesting GM games that drew my attention have been commented elsewhere already. And last week I learned from a Polish chess website that D. Swiercz won the prize for the best game of the tournament at Gibraltar for this game ( I haven’t seen this confirmed anywhere else, but I would trust their source). So I decided to return to my original idea of writing about it.

To anyone following the major tournaments the two players should need no introduction (and if they do, there’s always Google and Wikipedia!), I’ll just briefly say here that the player with White pieces here is Dariusz Swiercz- a Polish chess prodigy, who in his career has won World Champion titles for the under-18 and under-20 (while himself only 17 years old) age groups already. Maxim Vachier-Lagrave is a Super-GM, the strongest French player, among his many successes the most recent one is the first place at the European Rapid Chess championship.












The game was played in the 4th round of the very strong Gibraltar Masters tournament, both players had won all of their previous 3 games, so Swiercz remained at 100% after this win. His winning pace plummeted in the later rounds however- he scored only 2.5 points of the remaining 6 games. For Maxime, it was the only loss of the tournament until the tiebreaks for the first place, where he was edged out by Nigel Short; his tournament score after the regular 10 rounds was an impressive 8 points out of 10 games.

So what’s so fascinating about this game, you may ask? Well, if I was the Black player here, with my turn to play at move 18:


I would think that my plan is to put the following on my to-do list:

- play b4 to kick the White knight out of the c3 square, so it won’t defend d5

-follow-up with d5, the Sicilian break, getting rid of the backward d6 pawn. If White plays exd5, we’ll bring another knight to the center on d5 (since the White knight won’t be controlling d5 anymore), and from there the White queen will be attacked, that has to be good

-play your rook from f8 to e8 so the White queen on the e-file will be blocked by the strong central pawn on e5

-once the c3 knight is pushed away by b4, the c2 square can be attacked by a heavy Black piece placed on the c-file. Our knight from d4 is already attacking that square, and the king is the only defender. Losing c2 seems to be very dangerous for White.


In the game, Black did all of the above, ending up a pawn up at the end of this plan, so let’s see the position now, after White’s response to Black’s capture on c2:


What’s going on here?! Black has executed his plan, but now he is the one who is in trouble! It’s his move to play , and he is in trouble- there is no way to save a piece, they’re all under fire all of a sudden. The hidden resource White had was his last move before reaching this position- 25.Bf3!. Black’s played 25..Nc3 check here, lost a piece, and the game as a result of this, later. It is very hard to understand how all of this was so possible, Black didn’t seem to be running into any risk while this combination was in progress, in fact in the live video commentary by strong players (GM Williams& IM Krush), which you can see here , the commentators have as much trouble with comprehending the evaluation of the situation on the board as with pronouncing Polish player’s surname.




I put the game with my comments and variations below- I’d be curious to hear your opinions. Hope you enjoy it and till the next post.