Added on 1/5/2016

GM Alex Yermolinsky shares with us his recent chess adventure in Belgrade, Serbia.

After a long absence from European chess scene I made a trip to Serbia to play in the traditional Belgrade Trophy open tournament over this past Thanksgiving. The Belgrade Trophy is rarely held in the Capital of Serbia proper, but rather in satellite towns. In the years past it was held in Obrenovac, but after the floods of May 2014 the venue was lost, and for the 2015 edition it moved to a sports and culture facility of Balasevic Centar in Rakovica. Rakovica is located about 10km south from downtown Belgrade and suffered greatly during the 1999 NATO bombing campaign. The hotel offered decent accommodations and good restaurant, but not much in terms of sightseeing nearby. My friend GM Suat Atalik and I restricted our daily walks to visiting a shopping center only, which was OK by us because we came to Serbia to play chess and win the tournament. The following is the story why we failed to do the latter. Suat got off a fast start winning all three games, while I was slowed down by a first round draw against some pretty girl who played a tightly controlled game and actually kept me in trouble throughout. We both felt good about our chances until we ran into Evil Kid. Mihajlo Radovanovic is only 14 years old and modestly rated at 2382, but he's immensely talented. See for yourself! Atalik, Suat - Radovanovic, Mihajlo D30 – QGD 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bg5 First tried by Korchnoi this move offers a decent alternative to mainline Tarrasch theory.

5… Be7 Atalik thinks it's inferior, and recommends  5... f6 instead. Somewhat more reliable seems 6. Bd2 Indeed, after 6. Bf4 Nc6 7. e3 Black has an interesting choice between the solid c4 and the ultra-sharp 7... g5 8. Bg3 g4 9. Nfd2 cxd4 10. exd4 Nxd4; Granted, White will have compensation, but pawn is a pawn.  6... Nc6 (6... c4 is no longer attractive on account of the standard reply 7. b3) 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. e3 Nge7 (8... d4  9. Nxd4 Nxd4 10. Qh5+! is why one should be careful about moving his f-pawn early.

9. Be2 leads to a solid game.

6. Bxe7 Nxe7 (6...Qxe7  7. dxc5 Qxc5 8. Nbd2 Nc6 9. Nb3 Qb4+ 10. Qd2 Qxd2+ 11. Nfxd2 Nf6 12. e3 offers a small advantage White may not be dying for, but he'll take it as any 1.d4 player should.)

7. dxc5 (Years ago I tried this line against Var Akobian, but failed to play the best move.) 7. e3 turned out to be insufficient because of the energetic reply Qb6 8. Qd2 Nbc6 9. dxc5 Qxc5 10.Nc3 Bg4.

7... Nbc6!? Atalik admits he underestimated this move. (7... Qa5+ 8. Nc3 (8. Qd2 Qxc5 9. Qc3 +=) 8... Nbc6 (8... Qxc5 9. Qd4 Qxd4 10. Nxd4 Nbc6 11. Rd1 {is even easier for White to handle with the queens off.) 9. e3 Qxc5 10. Be2 O-O 11. O-O +=  (Black is lacking the active dark-squared bishops on d6 to help his attacking chances.)

8. Qd2!? Now Atalik considers  8. Nbd2 as White's best because Qa5 9. Qc1 keeps the pawn, although b6 10. cxb6 Qxb6 11. e3 O-O 12. Nb3 Rb8 13. Be2 Bf5 14. O-O a5 does provide Black with some compensation.

8... Bg4 9. Nd4 The most direct approach (Certainly safer was 9. g3 Bxf3 10. exf3 O-O 11. Bg2)

9... O-O 10. e3 Nxd4 11.Qxd4 (11. exd4? Nf5 gives Black a huge attack on the uncastled white king.)

11... Be6 12. Nc3 Nc6 13. Qf4?! A risky move. (The quiet 13. Qd2 Qe7! 14. Bb5 Qxc5 15. Bxc6 bxc6 16. O-O is only good for equality.)

13... Qe7 14.Bd3!? d4!? Moves like this stand out as a mark of a great talent. Particularly since Black had a safe option in 14... Qxc5 15. O-O Rad8 preparing d5-d4.  

15. exd4! Ironically Atalik considers this White's safest choice. I'd say 15. Ne4 Nb4 16. Bb1! dxe3 17. Qxe3 was more appropriate.

15... Bc4+ 16. Kd2 Rfd8!

Very precise. On 16... Bxd3 ? White had the in-between 17. Rae1 with advantage.

17. Rhe1? Wrong rook! 17. Rae1 Qf8 18. d5 Bxd3 (18... Bxd5!? 19. Nxd5 Rxd5 20. Qe4 Rh5 21. g4 Rh4 may be playable.) 19. Kxd3 Qxc5 20. Kc2 Nb4+ 21. Kb1 Nxd5 22. Nxd5 Qxd5 23.Qe4=) In the meantime, 17. d5? Bxd3 18. d6 Bg6! just blunders a piece.

 17... Qf8 18. d5 Bxd3 According to Atalik Black had a serious alternative in 18... Bxd5!? 19. Nxd5 Rxd5 20. Qe4 Rh5

19. Kxd3 Qxc5 20.Re4!? Possibly the best under the circumstances.

 20... Rxd5+! 21. Nxd5 Qxd5+ 22.Ke2! Other moves lose on the spot: 22. Kc2 Nb4+ -+; 22. Kc3 Rc8-+; 22. Ke3? f5 -+

22... f5! The young Mihajlo conducts his attack like a seasoned pro. (22... Rd8? 23. Kf1! +-)

23. Rc4  (23. Re3? Nd4+ 24.Kf1 (24. Ke1 Nc2+) 24... Qc4+! wins the Queen.)

23... Ne5!? He wants it all. (23... Rd8 24. f3 Ne5 would force White to return the exchange with the

meek 25. b3) 

24. Rd4?  White has a great tactical line in his disposal. 24. Rc3! Qb5+ 25. Kd1 Rd8+ (25... Qxb2 26. Qd2!! easy to miss this one. Qxa1+? 27. Rc1 +-) 26. Kc2 Qe2+ 27. Kb3 Qb5+ +=)

24... Qb5+ 25. Kd1! (25. Ke1 Re8 -+)

25... Re8 ? Finally Evil Kid shows he's at least part human. The cool 25... Qf1+! 26. Kd2 Qxa1 27. Qxe5 Qxb2+ 28. Ke3 Qa3+ 29. Rd3 (29. Kf4 Qxa2 30. Kg3 Qf7 -+) 29... f4+ 30. Ke4 Qxa2 would be slow death for White down two pawns and a bad king with it.

26. Qd2! Balancing act by Suat Atalik.

26… Qf1+? One last chance to win is represented by a long line leading to a pawn ending: 26... Nc6! 27. Rd3 Nb4 28. Re3 Qf1+ 29. Re1! (29. Qe1? Rd8+ 30. Kc1 Nd3+ -+) 29... Qxe1+ (29... Rxe1+ 30. Qxe1 Qd3+ 31. Qd2 =) 30. Qxe1 Rxe1+ 31. Kxe1 Nc2+ 32. Kd2 Nxa1 33. Kc1 Kf7 34. Kb1 and now either Ke6 or, better yet, 34... Nb3!? 35. axb3 Ke6) 35. Kxa1 Ke5 36. Kb1 Kd4 37. Kc2 g5 38. Kd2 b5 39. Kc2 h5 40. Kd2 g4 41. Kc2 b4 42. Kd2 Ke4 43. Ke2 h4 -+)

27. Kc2 Qxa1 28. Rd8 Miraculously White wins his piece back because of Black's back rank weakness.

28… Rxd8 29. Qxd8+ Kf7 30. Qd5+ Kf8 31.Qxe5 It's dead equal now. 

31… Qxa2 The rest of the game couldn't change the outcome despite some valiant effort from White.

32. Qxf5+ Qf7 33. Qc5+ Qe7 34. Qxa7 Qe4+ 35. Kc3 Qxg2 36. Qc5+ Kf7 37. Qf5+ Kg8 38. f3 Qxh2 39. Qc8+ Kf7 40.Qxb7+ Kf6 41. Qc6+ Kf5 42. b4 Qe5+! 43. Kd3 h5 44. b5 As a last resort White could have tried 44. Qe4+ !? but Kf6! =is the simplest of all.

44... h4 45. b6 h3 46. b7 h2 47. Qe4+ Qxe4+ 48. fxe4+ Ke6 49. b8=Q h1=Q 50. Qe8+ Kf6 51. Qf8+ Ke6!  52. Qe8+ Kf6 53. Qc6+ Ke7 54. Qc7+ Ke6 55. Qc6+ Ke7 56. Qc7+ Ke6 57. Qc4+ Ke7 58. Qc5+ Ke6 59. Qf5+ Ke7 60. Qg5+ Kf7 61. Qf4+ Ke7 62. Qg5+ Kf7 63. Qf5+ Ke7 64. Ke3 Qe1+ 65. Kf3 Qf1+ 66. Kg3 Qxf5 67. exf5 Kf6 68. Kf4 g6 69. fxg6 Kxg6 1/2-1/2



The next day it was my turn to take on Mihajlo. I wouldn't say I was very confident, but I counted on my experience in various 1.Nf3 systems.

Radovanovic, Mihajlo – Yermolinsky, Alex A04 – Reti Opening

1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 Nf6 Change of heart at the last moment! I planned to play 2... Nc6 and answer 3. Nc3 e5 4. e3 with Nf6 5. d4 e4 

as in recent games by Alexander Grischuk. In retrospect, it would have been better to stick with the plan.

3. g3 b6 4. Bg2 Bb7 5. O-O g6 The double fianchetto is well researched and tested these days.

6. Nc3 Bg7 7. d4 cxd4 8. Qxd4 d6 9. Rd1 Nbd7 10. Be3 O-O 11. Qh4 Rc8 12. Rac1 a6 13. b3 The key position

13… Re8 After some thought I decided to take a less traveled road. Sergey Karjakin successfully defends Black's colors with 13... Rc7 14. g4 (During the game I worried more about 14. Bh3 Qb8 15. g4 e6 16. g5 Ne8 where Black's position looks a bit passive, although in practice he hasn't done too badly) 14... Rc8! It's amazing how Black can afford spinning wheels in the face of White's aggressive play. 15. Bh3 b5! Now it's time for a counterstrike! 16. cxb5 Qa5 17. Bd2 Bxf3 18. exf3 axb5  (Jakovenko-Karjakin, 2012).

14. Bh3 Rb8?! Once again, Black needs to wait for the white g-pawn to move, 14... Ba8 15. g4 and then go b5! 16. cxb5 Qa5 The point is, White doesn't have b3-b4 now. 17. Bd2 Bxf3 18. exf3 Ne5.

15. g4 Ne4? This is what I was thinking about after 13. b3. I couldn't see anything wrong with it: 15... h5 16. gxh5 Nxh5 17. Nd5 Nhf6 18. Ng5 e6 19. Nf4 Nf8

16. Nxe4 Bxe4 17. Ng5 Nf6 18. Nxf7! My young opponent spotted the refutation pretty quickly.

My thoughts were on 18. Nxe4 Nxe4 19. Bg2 Nc3 20. Rd2 b5 21. c5 Qa5

18... Kxf7 19. g5 h6 If he hopes to continue the game Black needs to save his h-pawn, but, perhaps, better was 19... h5 20. gxf6 exf6 21. Qg3 Bf8 22. c5 (22. Bf4 h4! is the difference.) 22... bxc5 23. Bxc5 Re5

20. Be6+!? An interesting decision, which I considered unnecessary. (Now 20. gxf6 exf6 21. Qg3 Bf8 22. Bf4 would win the d-pawn.)

20... Kxe6 21. gxf6 Bxf6 22. Qxe4+ Kf7 23. Bxh6 White has won a pawn, but I was content with a small material loss as long as I could stabilize the situation.

23… Rh8 24. Bf4 Qc8 25. Bg3 Qe6 I knew I had to get the queens off, but more resolute would be 25... Qf5 26. Qd5+ Kg7; The endgame after 27. Qxf5 (27. Qg2!?) 27... gxf5 28. Rd5 Kg6 is tenable.

26.Qf3!? Rh5?! Bad idea. I had to try something else, either 26... Qf5 or 26... Kg7 27. Rd5 Rbf8

27. Rd5! Rbh8 28. Rcd1 b5 29. cxb5 axb5 30. e3

Mihajlo conducts the game like a seasoned pro. Removing the pawn from e2 allows the white queen to become active.

30… b4? That's exactly what I missed. 30... Kg7 31. e4 b4 32. Rc1 Rc8 33. Rxc8 Rxd5 34. exd5 Qxc8 35. Qe4 and hang tough.

31. Rxh5 gxh5 31... Rxh5 32. Qb7 is the point. White is threatening Rxd6 and the b-pawn at the same time.

32. Rd4!

Stops h5-h4 and wins the b4-pawn. What control! I threw in one last desperate idea.

32… d5

and gave up after the cool reply

33. h4 1-0.

I never recovered after this beating. One more loss and I languished far behind on my way to a disastrous 6/9 final score. Suat Atalik, on the other hand, found inspiration in his great escape and managed to score a respectable 7/9, good for a share of 3rd place. Our Evil Kid ended up with 6.5 and got his IM norm. I'm sure this isn't the last time we hear the name Mihajlo Radovanovic.