Mihajlo Stojanovic (2576) – Michael Rahal (2390)

Analysis by GM Mihajlo Stojanovic

Mihajlo Stojanovic

GM Mihajlo Stojanovic

Mihajlo Stojanovic (2576) – Michael Rahal (2390)

Verona, 05.01.2007

My opponent and I were leading the tournament prior to this round, both with perfect score, and this game was to decide who would remain alone on the top. I was expecting long and tough positional struggle.

1.d4 e6 2.c4 b6

Surprise! In my preparation with the database, I haven’t seen Mr.Rahal playing this move in his previous games.


Theoretically, 3.e4 is main line, but since I wasn’t prepared to enter sharp line 3…Bb7 4.Bd3 f5, I decided to play more solid Nf3.

3…Bb7 4.g3!?

I allow spoiling of my pawn structure, because 4… Bf3 is giving other positional benefits to White, as we will see later in the game.


After 4…Nf6 5.Bg2 Be7 (Also possible is 5…Bb4+) 6.0-0 we are transposing to the Queens Indian Defence.

5.Bd2 (Another possibility was 5.Nc3 aiming to keep the pair of Bishops) 5…Bxf3!?

So the game won’t be quiet! White is obligated to fight for the initiative in the middlegame, otherwise he will suffer in the ending with his weakened pawn formation.

6.exf3 Bxd2+ 7.Qxd2 d5

A very important move in Black’s conception. After possible exchange of d5 and c4 pawns, the one on d4 becomes isolated and object of an attack.

8.Nc3 Ne7 9.0-0-0

White has more space and better development, but if he doesn’t play energetic, this advantage will melt down.

9…c6 10.f4

The game Toloza Soto (2347) – Short (2683), Linares Open 2000, saw 10. Kb1 a5 11. cd5 ed5 12. Bh3 with unclear position (White won on 43rd move).

10…Nd7 11.cxd5

The last move has both good and bad sides. Now Black cannot open d-file for pressure against d4 pawn, but he gets open c-file. 11.g4 was deserving attention.

11…cxd5 (11…Nxd5 12.f5!) 12.Bd3 0-0 13.g4

It is logical to advance kingside pawns in order to get open files for the heavy pieces.

13…Nc6 14.Qe3 b5?

Critical moment! Wishing to launch queenside attack as soon as possible (as he kindly explained after the game), my opponent is mistaking. True, the pawn sacrifice is opening b-file for the possible attack – the problem is that Bb5 will paralyze it! Correct solution was 14…Re8! with idea to meet 15.Qh3 with 15…Nf8 and White’s attack is losing the edge. After mutual pawn charge, for example 15. g5 a6 16. h4 b5, position is highly unclear, maybe even slightly better for Black.

15.Bxb5 Na5 16.f5 Nb6

Interesting attempt for gaining practical chances by sacrificing another pawn. Pawn e6 cannot be protected anyway (Note how Bb5 is preventing Re8!), and in case of 16… ef5 17.gf5 or 17.Nd5 White is dominating.

17.fxe6 fxe6 18.Rhe1

Computer recommendation 18.Qxe6+ Kh8 19.Rhf1 was also perfectly fine, but I liked to have my Rook on e2: it protects b2 and f2 and controls open e-file!

18…Kh8 19.Re2 Qd6

It is hardly possible to recommend better move.

20.Qxe6 Qxh2 21.Kb1

Prophylactic getting away from the c1-h6 diagonal.


21…Rxf2?? 22.Qe8+ Rf8 23.Qxf8+ Rxf8 24.Rxh2


Bishop has completed its mission on the queenside.

22…Qh4 23.Re5

Threat is Rh5. Now a sequence of forcing moves is following.

23…Qf6 24.Rh1 h6 25.g5 Qxe6 26.Rxe6 Rxf2 27.gxh6 g5 28.Rhe1?!

Imprecise move, but Black position is already falling apart. Better was 28.Rh7 which is not allowing organizing defence on the 7th rank.

28…Rdf8 29.Re7 Nc6 30.Rh7+ Kg8 31.Rg7+

Time trouble was dangerously close, but I managed to spot that 31.Rg1 is weak because 31…Rf1+! is giving wonderful drawing chances.

31…Kh8 32.Rg1 R2f7 33.R7xg5 Nxd4 34.h7 Nf5 35.Rxf5! and Black resigned because after 35… Rf5 36.Rg8 Rg8 37.hg8 Kg8 38.Bf5 he is left a piece down 1-0

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