Reti’s royal tour

The first round of Wijk aan Zee saw Carlsen win a filigree positional game against Gashimov, in the English Hedgehog. But the game that most caught my eye this afternoon was not played at Wijk at all. It was a game shown by GM Yannick Pelletier, in the course of his excellent live commentary on Playchess. It features another demonstration of the same anti-Hedgehog system as that chosen by Carlsen, but with a really striking piece of white queen manoeuvering. It was played between the young German GM, Georg Meier, and Rumanian Hedgehog expert Iordachescu, at the 2011 French team championship finals:
White: Meier, Georg
Black: Iordachescu, Viorel

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. Nc3 e6 4. g3 b6 5. Bg2 Bb7 6. O-O Be7 7. d4 cxd4 8. Qxd4 d6 9. Bg5 a6 10. Bxf6 Bxf6 11. Qf4 O-O 12. Rad1 Be7 13. Ne4 Bxe4 14. Qxe4 Ra7 15. Nd4

White’s plan in this position was developed largely by Ulf Andersson, and consists of trying to get his knight into c6. To do so, his typical manoeuvres involve putting a rook on the c-file and transferring his queen via b1 to a2, so as to over-protect the c4-pawn. Then he plays b4-b5 and Nc6. If he can achieve this, he usually has a clear advantage, so Black needs to take action to prevent it. This usually means attacking c4 more times, and preparing to meet b4 with a timely Bf6xd4, removing the knight. Meier here shows a lovely alternative implementation of the white plan.

15…Rc7 16. b3 Rc5 17. a4 Qc7 18. Rd2 Kh8 19. Qb1 Nd7 20. Rfd1 Nf6 21. e3 Qc8 22. Rc2 Rc7

Thus far, it all looks like standard Ulfie fare, but now, rather than 23.Qa2, Meier makes what at first looks like a series of aimless waiting moves.

23. Rdd2 h6 24. h3 Rd8 25. Kh2 Bf8

Now, however, Meier shows himself to be a student of Polonius: “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t”:

26. Qh1!!

This is the culmination of White’s idea. He will get his knight into c6 and only then secure it with b4-b5.

26…Re8 27. Nc6 h5 28. b4 h4 29. g4 b5

Desperation, but it fails to shake White’s grip.

30.cxb5 d5

31.Qa1!

One imagines the departed shades of Reti must have been smiling down on this game!

31…axb5 32. axb5 Qb7 33. Qa6 Ra8 34. Qxb7 Rxb7

And now the simple 35.Bf1 would have consolidated the extra pawn. Meier rather spoilt things by playing 35. Ra2? instead, but despite thereby squandering most of his advantage, he went on to win anyway.

 George Meier – adapting Ulfie, in style (photo: en.wikipedia.org)

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