A Look Back at 2008 and Games of the Year

by Susan Polgar


Happy New Year! I wish all of you a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous 2009! In this column, I will briefly recap some of the biggest chess events of 2008.

The first big tournament of 2008 was the Corus event. This year, Carlsen and Aronian tied for first with a +3 score. Radjabov took third. One of the big battles of this tournament was the game between Topalov and Kramnik.

Following Corus was the prestigious Morelia/Linares super tournament, where half of the event was played in Morelia, Mexico and the other half was played in Linares, Spain. The 2008 winner was Anand with a +3 score. Carlsen placed second with a +2 score while Topalov and Aronian tied for third with a +1 score. Another major event in 2008 was the Baku Grand Prix. In this tournament, we saw the emergence of Gashimov as a world class player. He tied for first with Wang Yue and Carlsen with a +3 score. The M-tel Masters is now an annual super tournament. Ivanchuk ran away with the tournament with a whopping +6! Topalov came in at a distance second at +3. Ivanchuk’s performance was nearly 3000 for the tournament!

Here is the full recap.

Vladimir Akopian (Armenia) – Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France)
Dresden Chess Olympiad (8), November 21, 2008

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e6 7.Be2 Qc7 8.a4 b6 9.f4 Bb7 10.Bf3 Nbd7 11.Qe2 g6 12.0–0 e5 13.Rad1!

Amazingly White can ignore the threat against the attacked knight.


If black accepts the sacrifice by 13…exd4, White gets an excellent position after 14.Bxd4 Bg7 15.e5.

14.fxe5 Nxe5

Perhaps 14…dxe5 would have been better.


A good move to prevent Black from castling kingside.

15…Bf8 16.Bxf8 Kxf8 17.Qe3 h6?

This is a mistake. Better would have been 17…Kg7, and if 18.Qg5 Qc5 19.Kh1 Nxf3 20.Qf4 Qe5.

18.Bh5! Qe7

Of course 18…Nxh5? would not work, because of the fork with 19.Ne6+, thanks to the pin on the f-file.


A nice combination!


If 19…fxg6, 20.Rxf6+! Qxf6 21.Rf1 Qxf1+ 22.Kxf1 with a clearly better endgame for White.

20.Nf5 Qe5 21.Qxb6

White gets a number of pawns for the sacrificed bishop, plus the black king is in danger.

21…Bxe4 22.Qxd6+ Qxd6 23.Nxd6 Bxc2


This is another elegant move, sacrificing the rook on d1 to end the game in a few more moves.


If 24…Bxd1 25.Rxf7+ Kg8 and after the quiet 26.Nd5, Black is helpless against the checkmate threat with Nd5-f6.

25.Rd2 Kg7 26.Rf3 1–0

Black resigned as the material loss is unavoidable. For example, if 26…Bb3 27.Nf5+ Kh7 (or 27…Kg8) 28.Ne4, while after 27…Kf6 28.Nd4+ wins.

To see more analysis, click here.

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