Kueng, Nicolas (2005) – GM Hillarp-Persson, Tiger (2543)

Kueng, Nicolas (2005) -
GM Hillarp-Persson, Tiger (2543)

European Individual Championship 2021, Round 1
Reykjavik, Iceland

The only Swiss participant in the European Individual Championship in Reykjavik is the young Nicolas Kueng from Sursee. Congratulations to Nicolas on starting the Championship by beating the experienced Swedish Grandmaster Tiger Hillarp-Persson in the first round!

1. d4 e6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 exd5 4. cxd5 d6 5. Nc3 g6 6. e4 Bg7
Black goes for an off-beat line in the Benoni, where he delays the development of his Ng8, in order to find a more suited square than f6. This idea pays off, as Black quickly gets an advantage.

7. Nge2 The setup with Nge2 is interesting against the Benoni, but why not first develop the Bishop to d3?

7… Nd7 8. Ng3 a6 9. a4 h5 10. Be2

10… Nh6 11. O-O? I usually like ignoring demonstrative moves such as h7-h5 by castling into the “fire”. But here, it is admittedly asking for trouble. 11.h4 looks a bit strange, but it is unclear who benefits more from the weakened squares g5/g4.

11… Qh4?! 11… h4 12. Nh1 Bd4 is a better way to exert pressure, as White will have a hard time bringing the cornered Knight back into play.

12. Bxh6?! White is understandably scared of Ng4, but the computer remains cool, sacrifices the exchange with 12. a5 Ng4 13. h3 Nxf2 14. Rxf2 Qxg3 15. Bf4 Qh4 16. Bxd6!  Bd4 17. Qe1, and likes White’s position.

12… Bxh6 13. Re1 Bg7 14. Nf1?! This leads to a sad pawn structure for White, but Black is already better with the 2 Bishops and his domination on the dark square. 

14… Bd4 15. Ne3 Bxe3 16. fxe3 Ne5

We have reached a stable position, which is easy to assess. The material is equal and both Kings are about equally safe. However, one positional factor tips the scale in Black’s favour: the pawn structure with the huge hole on e5.

Black has a long-term advantage that should prove decisive for a grandmaster against a weaker opponent. The only thing that he has to watch for is to avoid dynamic counter-chances. Certainly aware of the difficult situation, Kueng will look exactly for this! 

17. Qd2 O-O 18. Rf1 Rb8 19. Rf4

That’s the right way to fight! White uses the semi-open file for his heavy pieces.

19… Qg5 20. Qe1 Bd7 21. Qf2 b5? The Swede carelessly allows the white Rook to enter and threaten some pawns. Why not play the patient 21… Kg7, in order to control f6?

22. Rf6! Of course! The Swiss takes his chance!

22… b4 23. Nb1 Kg7 24. Rxd6 Qe7 25. Rxa6 c4 Black still has attractive active chances, but has given 2 pawns for this! In order words, the position is sharp and anything can happen.

26. Ra7? 26. Nd2 c3 27. Nb3 keeps things complicated.

26… Qc5 27. Ra6 f6? Black also loses his way in the complications and misses the winning possibility 27… c3! Checks on f6 are not so dangerous, e.g. 28. bxc3 (28. Qf6+ Kg8 29. Qxe5 Qxe3+ 30. Kf1 c2 -+) 28… bxc3 29. Na3 Rb2 and Black’s activity is overwhelming.

28. Nd2 Bc8? Again, why not use and push the passed c-pawn? Black is doing well after 28… c3.

29. Bxc4 Bxa6 30. Bxa6 Ng4 31. Qe2 Qc2 31… Nxe3 32. Qf2 and 31… Qxe3+ 32. Qxe3 Nxe3 33. Nb3 are better for White. 

32. Nf3 Rfc8? 32… Qxe4 is the only way to stay in the game, as the position remains double-edged.

33. Nd4

33… Qxe2 34. Bxe2 Black has been an exchange up for a while, but has not been able to use the extra Rook on an open file. White is about to instal his Knight on c6, so that his advantage is almost decisive.

34… Nxe3 35. Nc6 Ra8 36. Bb5!

I love this move, which cements the whole position. White’s forces coordinate perfectly, and it is no wonder that one of the passed pawns decides the fight.

36… f5 37. d6 fxe4 38. d7 Rf8 39. Re1 Nd5 40. Rxe4 Nf6 41. Rd4 1-0

The grandmaster dominated the first phase of the game, but Nicolas Kueng exploited his dynamic chances perfectly to counter and earn the win! Well done and good luck in the next rounds!

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