Playing the last round in a chess tournament is always special. Sometimes the result of the last round decides if you win a prize or if you go home empty-handed. There is a huge difference between playing the decisive last round and playing a round in the middle of the tournament. In the last round, many people get nervous. Some players play badly regularly in these situations, others stand out positively in decisive games. Moreover, plenty of draws are usually agreed to in the last round as players are afraid to lose and don’t dare to risk too much.
GM Arkadij Naiditsch, however, explains that it is essential to learn to handle these situations containing a lot of stress. In order to improve your overall results, you need to be able to perform well in decisive situations. Many of the best chess players in the world like Magnus Carlsen or Hikaru Nakamura deal with these situations excellently.
In the following video, he takes a look at one of his own games which he played in the last round of the Baku President’s Cup against Nigel Short. GM Naiditsch had to win this game at all costs in order to win a prize in the tournament.
Let’s take a look at how Naiditsch dealt with such a stressful situation.
Baku President’s Cup 2007: Short, Nigel (2691) – Naiditsch, Arkadij (2654)
The situation before this game was quite interesting. Naiditsch was half a point behind Nigel Short in the standings had to win the game by all means. Not only that, he also had to try to play for a win with the Black pieces. Especially at Grandmaster level, this often turns out to be an extremely difficult tasks as White does not necessarily need to try to play for an opening advantage, but he can aim for many lines which lead to a forced draws.
In any event, however, it is of paramount importance that you have the will to win your last game in a tournament.
Naiditsch tried the Najdorf Opening against his opponent: 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Qb6 8. Qd2 (see the diagram on the right).
This is a well-known line which arises from the line with 6.Bg5. The main move for Black in this position is 8…Qxb2 (the extremely complicated Poisoned Pawn Variation). The problem, however, with this line is that many lines in this variation have been analyzed to a draw with best play. Due to the fact that Nigel Short is a strong Grandmaster with a lot of opening knowledge, it would have been hard for Naiditsch to play for a win in this line.
Hence, Naiditsch settled for a rare move which at least guaranteed him to make Nigel Short think on his own. The game continued 8…Nc6 9. Nb3 Ng4 (Black’s idea is to trade queens as his pawn structure would be superior in an endgame) 10. Bd3 h6 11. Bh4 g5 (a typical idea in the Najdorf – Black tries to fight for the e5-square in order to secure a nice outpost for his knight) 12. fxg5 Be7! 13. O-O-O Qe3 (see the diagram on the left).
Black is behind in development but he managed to reach his aim – the trade of queens. In any event, it is highly instructive to see that GM Naiditsch went for this line and avoided to go for a main line with plenty of theory. The position at hand allows him to go for a long strategic battle many imbalances. After the moves 14. Be2 Nce5 15. Bxg4 Nxg4 16. Rhe1 Qxd2+ 17. Nxd2 hxg5 18. Bg3 Ne5 (see the diagram on the right) both players finally reached an interesting endgame.
It is not clear who is better here but at least it is unlikely that the game will end in a draw soon. On the one hand, Black has the pair of bishops, more pawns in the centre and White has some weaknesses on h2 and e4. On the other hand, White is ahead in development and can try to pose some concrete problems to Black with 19.Na4 (with the idea of Nb6 in the next move), for instance.
In any case, GM Naiditsch achieved his aim and finally managed to win the position after 88 moves and a long fight.
If you want to see the whole game and all the brilliant explanations on how Naiditsch did the technical job against Short, you definitely have to watch the full video!
Do you want to learn more about playing in the last round in chess tournaments? Click here to get a special discount on “The Naiditsch Method” by GM Arkadij Naiditsch (2700).