We’re Going on a King Hunt

When he took up playing poker seriously Alexander Grischuk was already an elite grandmaster.  He’s convinced that chess skills such as concentration, psychology, logical thinking and endurance helped his poker no end, but he’s less persuaded that poker has helped his chess. 

But for his habitual problems with the clock he might have added quick decision-making to the list of transferable skills. He sees no end to the  time-trouble addiction that has dogged his career:

‘My time management is obviously awful … it’s a pathology, it cannot be cured.’



Norway Chess, Stavanger 2014

 White to play

38 Qa1 draws easily but with nanoseconds on his clock Grischuk blundered:

     38 Qa2?? Rxd3 39 exd3 Rb2 0-1 


When asked to choose his best game, he didn’t mention this one at all:

Still, attacking gems like this are ten a penny in Grischuk’s games, so it’s small wonder that he ‘s most proud of the following display of card school brinkmanship:



World Team Ch, Bursa 2010

 Black to play


An extraordinary novelty to deter 16 g5 which has not been repeated. Castling also leads to complications: 15…O-O 16 g5 hxg5 17 Nxe6 Qc6 18 Rf1 d5 (initiating a remarkable series of exchanges)



19 exd5 Nxd5 20 Nxd5 Qxd5 21 Nc7 Bxh3 22 Nxd5 Bxf1 23 Nxe7+ Kf7 24 Bxf1 Re8 25 Bxg5 b5 which led to a draw in Kurnosov-Nepomniachtchi, Irkutsk 2010.

     16 Rf1 Nc6 17 Nxc6 Qxc6


     18 e5! dxe5 19 Bd3 e4 20 Nxe4 Nxe4 21 Qh5+ Kd7 22 Rd1



22…Nxd2 seems good enough for equality: 23 Bxh7 (23 Rxd2 Bb4) …Bg5 24 Qf7+ Kd6 25 Qf8+ Kc7 26 Qxg7+ Bd7 27 Qe5+ Qd6 28 Qxd6+ Kxd6 29 Rxd2+ Bxd2+ 30 Kxd2.

     23 Bf4 Bb4+ 24 c3 Nxc3


     25 Bd2

Black answers discovered check with discovered check after 25 Bb5+ Nxd1+.



25…Nxd1 26 Bxb4 Kd8 27 Qe5 looks scary but Black should win by returning some of his material:



e.g. 27…Bd7 28 Ba5+ b6 29 Be4 Qc7 30 Qxg7 Re8 31 Bxa8 Ne3 with advantage.

     26 Rf7+ Kc6

Beginning an astonishing king march.

     27 Rc1



Or 27…Qxd3 28 Qe5 a5! (creating a flight square for the king on a6) 29 Bxc3 Kb6 30 Bxb4 axb4 31 Qc5+ Ka6 winning.



     28 Be3+ Ka5 29 a3



White has more chances after 29…Bxa3 30 Rxc3 Bb4 31 Bd2 Bxc3 32 Bxc3+ Kb6.

     30 axb4 Qxd3

Attack is the best defence: threatening mate on e2.


     31 Qa5+ Kb3 32 Rxc3+ Qxc3+ 33 Bd2 b6!


     34 Qxb6 Qe5+ 35 Kd1



Sensibly returning a piece to connect his rooks although the engine prefers 35…Qe4.

     36 Qxb7 Rhd8 37 Rf3+ Ka2 38 Rf2 Kb1 39 Qf3 Rac8


A extraordinary position: Black’s king crowns the counter-attack by enabling …Rc1 mate.

     40 Qb3+ Qb2 41 Qxb2+ Kxb2 0-1



Watch Alex Grischuk talking about chess, poker and autobiography at Norway Chess 2014, Round 9, part 5 at 01:17:24.

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