22 June 2015

Commentary: 2015 U.S. Championship, Round 2 (Gareev-Holt)

After a bit of a break from chess, I'm back and working on a collection of master games of interest that I've accumulated from this year.  The first one features a strong and flamboyant player, Timur Gareev, who is originally from Tatarstan in Russia but now plays in the USA.  Gareev's playing style recalls to some extent some of the more famous contrarian players of the past, such as Miles or Basman, as he likes to play provocative-looking moves and find risky-looking plans.

In this game Gareev (as White) is certainly aggressive, although on move 19 he makes a major strategic decision to opt for piece play on the kingside, rather than advance the pawns.  His pressure eventually peters out, with Black successfully focusing on defense with a quasi-Stonewall formation.  The next turning point occurs after Black sacrifices a pawn for piece play, including penetrating on the second rank.  White apparently misses a tactical trick that forces him to lose the exchange, which Black then converts with excellent form.

My personal interest in this game resulted from the opening choice (an Exchange Slav, which in this case is by no means boring), some parallel ideas with similar Caro-Kann formations earlier on and the Stonewall later in the game, and observing how Black (Conrad Holt) converted the material and positional advantage.  Well worth the study.

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