In this article, we take a look at a game between Armenian GM Levon Aronian and Hungarian GM Gabor Papp from 2001, which was quite similar to the recent ‘Immortal’ game played by Wei Yi. The rook sacrifice on f7 and the “silent” moves also featured in this very game, but it did not become as famous as Wei Yi’s spectacular victory. Take a look as we have broken down the game for you!

The game began with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4!? as white tries to set up the Maroczy Bind structure. 3…Nc6 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Be2 a6

5…d5!? is also an interesting option, challenging white in the center immediately. 6.exd5 exd5 7.d4 Be6 8.Be3 dxc4 9.Qa4 cxd4 10.Nxd4 Bd7 11.Qxc4 Rc8 12.0-0 Bd6 13.Nxc6 Rxc6 14.Qh4 0-0 didn’t give black too many problems in the opening and he even managed to win after white underestimated black’s counterplay on the kingside 15.Bxa7 b6 16.Rad1 Bc5 17.b4 Be7 18.Qd4 Rd6 19.Qc4 Be6 20.Qa6 Nd5 21.Nxd5 Bxd5 22.Rfe1 Rg6 23.g3 Bxb4 24.Bc4 Bxe1 25.Bxd5 Qe7 26.a4 Rf6 27.f4 Qe3+ 28.Kh1 Bxg3 0-1 Ivanchuk,V (2729)-Anand,V (2792)/Wijk aan Zee 2006/CBM 111]

6.0-0 Qc7 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4

Aronian-Papp_7

Now white obtains the set up he aimed for 8…Bb4 9.Nxc6 dxc6 10.Be3 0-0 11.Qc2 e5 [11…Bxc3 has also been tried, crippling whites pawn structure 12.bxc3 c5 13.f4 b6 14.e5 Nd7 15.Rad1 Bb7 16.Rd6 Rfd8 17.Rfd1 Nf8 18.Qd3 Rxd6 19.Qxd6 Qc6 20.Qxc6 Bxc6 21.Rd6 Rc8 22.Kf2 Ng6 23.g4 Kf8 24.Rd2 Ke8 25.Rb2 Rb8 26.Kg3 Rb7 27.Bf3 Kd7 28.Bxc5 bxc5 29.Rxb7+ Bxb7 30.Bxb7 a5 31.Be4 Nf8 32.f5 h6 33.Kh4 g6 34.Bc2 Ke7 35.f6+ Kd8 36.Kg3 g5 37.Kf3 Nd7 38.Ke4 Kc7 39.Ba4 Kd8 40.Bb5 Kc7 1/2-1/2 Sargissian,G (2630)-Mastrovasilis,D (2562)/Warsaw 2005/CBM 108] 12.Na4 Be7 13.Nb6 Rb8 14.Nxc8 Rbxc8 15.c5!+/- 

Aronian-Papp_8

This move gains space on the queenside and allows white to redeploy the e2 bishop to a better square on c4. White has a clear advantage already by virtue of space and the two bishops. To make things worse for black, it is hard to find a constructive plan.15…h6 16.g3 Rcd8 17.b4 Rfe8 18.h4. White isn’t in any hurry and slowly gains space on both wings 18…Nd7 19.Bc4 Nf8. Black is trying to maneuver his knight to d4 but as it turns out he never makes it that far 20.f4

Aronian-Papp_9

Finding that his pieces are optimally placed white begins to open up lines on the kingside. [20.Qb3 Bf6 21.Rad1 Ne6 22.Rxd8 Qxd8 23.Rd1 Qc7 seems playable for black; 20.Rad1!? Ne6 21.Bxe6 fxe6 22.Qb3 Bf6 23.Rxd8 Qxd8 24.Rd1 Qe7 25.Rd6 Kf7 26.Kg2+/- also leaves white on top but far from winning] 20…exf4? A completely illogical move, black opens up the f-file of his own accord. Now white gets a strong initiative. It’s hard to understand why black chose this move [20…Ne6 was a much better option 21.Bxe6 fxe6 22.Rad1 exf4 23.Bxf4 e5 24.Be3 a5 25.a3 axb4 26.axb4 Qc8 gives black sufficient counterplay] 21.Bxf4 Qc8 22.Bd6! Now white’s attack is close to unstoppable. 22…Ne6 Forced 23.e5 Every move comes with a threat. White’s idea is Qf5 with an irresistable attack 23…Bxd6 24.exd6+-White has a strategically winning position, but black’s next move loses by force 24…b6? 

Aronian-Papp_10

overlooking a nice combination [24…Qd7 was forced but black’s future is bleak nonetheless] 25.Rxf7!! Kxf7 26.Qh7! 

Aronian-Papp_11

White sacrifices his rook on the f7 square, which was only defended by the king. The point! By playing a “quiet” move after a rook sacrifice, White cuts off the black kings’ escape. The threat of Rf1+ is decisive. A recent game that comes to mind is Wei Yi-Bruzon Danzhou, 2015 where white won spectacularly after a similar sacrifice. 26…Rxd6 Desperation. Giving back the rook doesn’t change anything. [26…Rf8 27.Rf1+ Ke8 28.Qg6+ Kd7 29.Qxe6# is a nice mate; 26…Kf6 27.Rf1+ Ke5 28.Qf5+ Kd4 29.Qd3+ Ke5 30.Rf5# also ends in nought] 27.cxd6 Kf6 28.Rf1+ Ke5 29.d7. The computer says 29.Qd3 instead of 29.d7 is mate in 14, but 29.d7 is more than enough. This is the kind of position where the maxim “all roads lead to Rome” couldn’t be more true! 29…Qxd7 30.Qf5+ 

Aronian-Papp_12

And here, black resigned in view of 30…Kd6 31.Rd1+ picking up the queen. 1-0

Analysis by Krishnaprasad Bindumadhavan.

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