Travelling to Argentina is a long journey for most of the chess playing world. However 52 nations managed to send at least one particpant to this year's World Junior Championships in Puerto Madryn.
The highest rated of the 87 participants in the mixed event eventually made his way to the top of the podium, but only just! The title was for much of the event an exciting two-horse race between Frenchman Vachier_Lagrave and Sergei Zhigalko from Belarus which remained in doubt until the very end.
The two players met and drew in round 6 before making their way to a joint lead on 6.5/8 and then 7.5/9. Zhigalko won in round 10 to get his nose ahead, but was caught in round 11 after drawing while the Frenchman won. In round 12 the Belarussian became sole leader and strong favourite after winning whereas his rival only drew. So going into the last round with an extra half-point plus the White pieces against Popov (2582) he knew that his destiny was in his own hands. Vachier_Lagrave also had White but had to face the highest possible rated opponent, Russian Andreikin, who with 2659 was the second seed. Zhigalko drew whereas Vachier_Lagrave won the following game and became champion due to his slightly superior tie-break.
He is the second Frenchman to receive this award as Joel Lautier won in 1988 in Adelaide (before Maxime was born!), also coincidently in the southern hemisphere!
The leading pair achived an impressive 10.5 points, a full one and a half points clear of the third placed player Olszewski from Poland.
In the Women's event Soumya of India won on tie-break ahead of Cori Tello of Peru and Yildiz of Turkey.
Maxime Vachier_Lagrave (2718) - Dmitry Andreikin (2659)
Puerto Madryn (World Junior 13th round) 03.11.2009
Sicilian Kan (B42)
1.e4 c5 2.♘f3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.♘xd4 a6 5.♗d3 ♘e7 6.0-0 ♘bc6 7.c3!?
Something of a sideline against the Black set-up, which has been made fashionable by top players such as Carlsen and Kramnik. Leko has tried both of White's principle alternatives: [7.♘xc6 ♘xc6 8.♗e3 ♗e7 9.♘d2 0-0 10.c3 ♕c7 11.♘c4 b5 12.♘b6, Leko,P-Kramnik,V Nice rapid 2009; and 7.♘b3 ♘g6 8.♘c3 b5 9.♗e3 ♗e7 10.f4 0-0 11.♕h5, Leko,P-Carlsen,M Nice rapid 2008, and in both cases he had a small pull after the opening.
Maybe 7...d5 is more logical as then White might regret not having access to c3 for his knight!
8.♘f3 d6 9.♗e3 h6 10.c4!
With a bind on the left-hand side of the board.
Ambitious, but Black has to find a few muscles to flex somewhere!
11.♘c3 ♗g7 12.♘d5 0-0 13.♗b6 ♕d7 14.♖c1 ♘g6 15.c5!
A change of strategy. The opening of the position should suit White, as Black's queenside is rather tangled up.
15...dxc5 16.♗xc5 ♖d8 17.♗b6
Winning the exchange is plausible: 17.♘b6 ♕xd3 18.♕xd3 ♖xd3 19.♘xa8, but after 19...♘f4 20.♔h1 ♗e6, Black would certainly have some practical compensation.
17...♖f8 18.♗c4 ♘f4 19.♘e3 ♖e8 20.♕xd7 ♗xd7 21.♖fd1 ♗e6 22.♔f1 ♖ac8 23.♗xe6 ♘xe6 24.♘f5
Occupying the hole on f5 demonstrates the downside of playing an early ...g5.
Perhaps 25.h3 is more precise as then if 25...h5 (25...♘f4 can be calmly met by 26.a3 followed by R-d7) 26.g3 g4?, White has 27.hxg4 hxg4 28.♘h2 etc.
Disrupting White's harmony.
26.♘d2 ♘b4 27.♖xc8 ♖xc8 28.♘e3 h5 29.♘dc4
Correct is the straightforward 29...♘xa2! e.g. 30.♘xe5 ♘g5 31.♖d7 ♖e8 when matters would be far from clear.
White activates his knight and seeks some soft spots in the opposing camp.
Possible is 31.♘h6+ ♔g7 32.♘xf7 e.g. 32...♔xf7 33.♘xe5+ ♔e6 34.♗xc5 ♔xe5 35.♗xd4+ ♔xe4, when White emerges with an extra pawn although Black's active king would give him drawing chances.
31...♘xf5 32.♖c1! ♘d6 33.♖xc5 ♖e8 34.♘d7?!
I prefer 34.♘c4, as then after 34...♘xe4 35.♖xh5 ♘xa2 36.♘e3 his knight would be better placed than in the game and White could boast a clear advantage.
34...♘xe4 35.♖xh5 ♘d3?
Adreikin should really have played 35...f6! restricting White's pieces, which would then risk becoming disco-ordinated. Indeed after either 36.♖h4 f5 37.♗d4 ♔f7, or 36.a3 ♘d3 37.♗d4 ♔f7, I'm not convinced that White is better.
Now White's knight is quite useful on d7!
36...f6 37.♘xf6+ ♘xf6 38.♗xf6 ♖e1+ 39.♔g2 ♔f7 40.♗c3 ♖e2 41.♖d5 ♖xf2+
41...♘xf2?? loses to 42.♖f5+
42.♔g1 ♖f3 43.♖g5 ♘f2 44.♔g2 ♘e4 45.♖xg4
Two extra pawns should be enough, but Vachier_Lagrave still has to be vigilent with Black's pieces being so active.
45...♖f2+ 46.♔g1 ♖e2 47.♗d4 ♘d2 48.♖f4+ ♔e6 49.♖f2 ♖e1+ 50.♔g2 ♘c4 51.h4 ♖e4 52.♗c3 b5 53.h5 b4 54.♗xb4 ♘e5 55.♗c3 ♘d3 56.h6 ♖e2
Or 56...♘xf2 57.h7 etc.