Chess: Quo vadis Mark?

BusinessWorld Online, Philippines
Jan 19 2009

Quo vadis Mark?

World Top 10 Players as of January 2009
1. GM Veselin Topalov BUL 2796

2. GM Viswanathan Anand IND 2791

3. GM Vassily Ivanchuk UKR 2779

4. GM Magnus Carlsen NOR 2776

5. GM Alexander Morozevich RUS 2771

6. GM Teimour Radjabov AZE 2761

7. GM Dmitry Jakovenko RUS 2760

8. GM Vladimir Kramnik RUS 2759

9. GM Peter Leko HUN 2751

10. GM Sergei Movsesian SVK 2751

The World Chess Federation (FIDE) has released its January rating
list. The attentive BW reader will note that the Bulgarian GM Veselin
Topalov has topped the list for the second time in a row. Also, the
youth movement of the past year has catapulted Magnus Carlsen, Teimour
Radjabov and Dmitry Jakovenko into the list, while familiar names like
Peter Svidler, Michael Adams and Alexei Shirov have had to drop
out. Even the shooting star of 2006, Levon Aronian, slipped to 11th

The name I’d like to direct the attention of our readers to is that of
the current no. 10, GM Sergei Movsesian. Sergei is a nice, friendly,
all-smiles sort of guy who was born Nov. 3, 1978 in Tbilisi, Georgia,
of Armenian parents. He emigrated to Slovakia in his teens. He still
considers himself an Armenian, though.

Movsesian’s name came into world attention during the FIDE KO World
Championship in Las Vegas 1999, when out of a field of the 128 best
players of the world he fought his way to the final eight, where he
lost to Vladimir Akopian, who in turn went on to narrowly lose to
Alexander Khalifman in the finals. His mental toughness in surviving
four mini-matches showed that he is a player of high class.

He tried again several times to duplicate this feat, usually reaching
the third round in the FIDE KO Championships. It was in 2005
Khanty-Mansyisk that he got derailed in the first round by guess who?
Mark Paragua.

This was a two-game mini-match. Mark equalized easily with Black in
the first game and won convincingly in the second. We annotated this
three years ago but let us take another look at it.

Paragua, Mark (2596) ‘ Movsesian, Sergei (2635) [D15]

FIDE WCup Khanty Mansyisk (1.2), 27.11.2005

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.c4 c6 4.Nc3 a6 5.c5 Nbd7 6.Bf4 Nh5/b>

This line is Movsesian’s specialty.

7.Bd2 Nhf6 8.Bf4

Black’s goal of course is to play …e7-e5. Theory’s current stand is
that the best way to discourage this is 8.Rc1 followed by a kingside
fianchetto. Topalov used the plan with great effect in Sofia 2006 and
until now a complete antidote has not yet been found.

8…Nh5 9.e3

White was not obliged to exchange off his dark-squared bishop. The
alternative 9.Bd2 is quite an accepted move.

9…g6 10.h4!?

Fashionable. Previously everybody was playing 10.Bd3. Now White is
intending to play Bh2, preserving the bishop, so Movsesian chops it
off right away.

10…Nxf4 11.exf4 Bg7 12.h5

Movsesian lost a similar game in this variation two years earlier:
12.Qd2 b6 13.cxb6 Qxb6 14.Rc1 0-0 15.Na4 Qa7 16.h5! a5 17.hxg6 fxg6
18.g3 Nf6 19.Nc5 Bf5 (Or 19…Ne4 20.Nxe4 dxe4 21.Bc4+ Kh8 22.Ne5
Black is obviously in dire straits) 20.Bd3 e6 21.Ne5 Rac8 22.0-0 Ng4
23.Bxf5 exf5 24.Rc3 Black is lost. White is going to win a pawn by
Ra3, and Black has no defence against it. Rustemov,
A. (2585)-Movsesian, S. (2639)/ Moscow 2004 1-0 (46).

12…b6 13.cxb6 Qxb6 14.Qd2 Rb8 15.b3 Nf6 16.hxg6 fxg6?!

The text leaves the square e5 open for white to create an outpost for
his knight. However, capturing the other way does not equalize
either. There could follow 16…hxg6 17.Rxh8+ Bxh8 18.Rc1 Ne4 19.Nxe4
dxe4 20.Ne5 Bb7 21.Rc5 was agreed drawn in the game between Farago,
I. (2507)-Seres, L. (2497) from Budapest 2004. Probably there were
other considerations affecting the players’ decision, because White
had a plus in the final position and could well be justified in
playing for a win.

17.Ne5 Ng4 18.Na4 Qc7

[18…Qb4!? to exchange off the major pieces loses a pawn to 19.Nxc6
Qxd2+ 20.Kxd2 Nxf2 21.Nxb8 Nxh1 22.Bxa6 Bxa6 23.Rxh1 Bb5 24.Nc3]


So now in addition to the white knight on e5 Black is also saddled
with a weak pawn on c6. Movsesian realizes that he is in deep trouble
and tries to complicate the position, but it looks like he is already
lost at this point.

19…Nxe5 20.fxe5 0-0 21.Bd3 Qd7 22.Rh4 e6

This is a mistake, leaving a hole for White’s knight on f6, but what
else can he do? Black probably reasoned that the white knight cannot
get to f6 anyway. That is where he is mistaken. Mark’s play in this
second phase is extremely impressive.

23.Ke2 Qf7 24.f3 Bd7 25.Rch1 h5 26.R1h3 Be8 27.Qg5 c5

To exchange off White’s powerful d3-bishop.

28.Nxc5 Bb5 29.Rg3 Bxd3+ 30.Kxd3 Kh7 <D>

Position after 30…Kh7


Heading for f6. The knight is immune to capture because of 31…Qxd7
32.Qxg6+ Kg8 33.Qxh5.

31…Rg8 32.Rgh3

Threatening to take the h5 pawn.


Movsesian wanted very much to play 32…Qf5+ but after 33.Qxf5 exf5
34.Nxb8 Rxb8 35.g4 his game is likewise hopeless.

33.Nf6+ Bxf6 34.exf6 Rb7 35.g4 Qe8 36.gxh5

Black should now resign. Instead he goes on a spree of spite checks.

36…Rxb3+ 37.axb3 Qb5+ 38.Ke3 Qxb3+ 39.Kf2 Qc2+ 40.Kg3 Qg2+ 41.Kxg2

With all the recent excitement about the giant strides being taken by
Wesley So, many people have forgotten the achievements of Mark Paragua
who after all is only 25 years of age. He was the first Filipino to
cross 2600 rating points, peaking at 2617 in April 2006.

The difference between Mark and Wesley is former congressman Prospero
Pichay, the President of the National Chess Federation of the
Philippines (NCFP). Mr. Pichay gave Wesley substantial financial and
moral support which enabled him to concentrate on his chess and
campaign overseas. Wesley So would still be a "promising player"
rather than a 2600+ rated superGM if it were not for the former
Surigao del Sur congressman.

On the other hand Mark Paragua’s quantum leap in chess strength was
several years earlier and he had to fend for himself in soliciting
sponsors to support his chess training and practice. In the early days
as a child prodigy it was Macdonald’s Hamburger which helped him and
later it was Hector Tagaysay (formerly of Collier’s Encyclopedia fame
but now running Time/Life Publications in the Philippines).

So where are you going now, Mark? I know that you have recently
married and are trying to start a family, but what say we buckle down
to some real work and make another go at it. I am sure everyone will
agree with me that with the proper training and incentives Wesley So
and Mark Paragua can be a very potent 1-2 punch for Philippine chess.

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