Alex Baburin’s Endgame Play at Irish Championship 2023

Written by IM Tarun Kanyamarala

The 102nd Irish Chess Champion title goes to Grandmaster Alexander Baburin, who shared the top spot with Candidatemaster Kavin Venkatesan, each scoring 7 points out of 9. To determine the ultimate winner, a 2-game rapid playoff was required. Baburin showcased his prowess by triumphing in the initial game and securing a draw in the subsequent one, ultimately clinching the championship. This article delves into an analysis of Baburin’s adeptness in endgames, as his distinctive approach in this aspect proved intriguing and arguably played a pivotal role in his championship victory.

Alex Baburin with Irish Chess Champion Perpetual Tropy | Photo Credit: Irish Chess Union

Putar – Baburin: Rook & Pawn Endgame #1

It’s the first round. Alex is the top-seed facing Leon Putar with black pieces. Leon opened with his usual 1.e4, expecting Baburin to play The Alekhine his long-time opening, or Najdorf which he played in the Chennai Olympiad. However, Baburin surprised Leon by playing accelerated Dragon opening for the first time, at least in his published games.

In the opening round, Alex, holding the top-seed position, is up against Leon Putar, with the black pieces. Sticking to his repertoire, Leon opens with 1.e4, anticipating that Baburin will opt for his well-known choices like The Alekhine, a staple from his repertoire, or the Najdorf, as witnessed during the Chennai Olympiad. Nonetheless, Baburin catches Leon off guard by introducing a fresh twist – he deploys the accelerated Dragon opening, a choice seemingly novel in his recorded games.

Accelerated Dragon Opening (1.e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6)

It seemed Leon wasn’t prepared to play the Sharp Lines after Bc4 and set a Yugoslav Attack. This reminds me of a famous quote from Former World Champion Robert James Fischer “Sac, Sac, and Mate”. It is well known that white must play aggressively to keep the first-move advantage. White went for a quiet Be2 which allowed Black to unleash the immediate equalizer:

Black should always look for opportunities of pushing d5 in the Sicilians!

Fast forwarding to the Endgame we reach White’s 27th move c4. Engines claim it is 0.00, but we all know with human play it could go either way. I find the below position very interesting:

Devise a plan for black. Can you find what Baburin played here?

Both reached time control. White-faced an important decision on where to place his rook. He is losing a2-pawn and f3-pawn inevitably.

White to move. How white can keep balance?

White wasn’t able to find the best move in the game. It is important to two factors white wants to put but better resilience in rook endgames: 1. Rook Behind the pawn and 2. At least three files checking distance.

White wasn’t able to find the best move in the game. Two crucial elements that White needed in rook endgames are: 1. Positioning the rook behind the pawn, and 2. Maintaining a minimum of three files’ distance for checks.

Baburin – O’Cuilleanain: Rook & Pawn Endgame #2

Baburin faces Oisin with the white pieces. Oisin is a very active player, he played Baburin plenty of times and once drew. Baburin doesn’t go for his usual Catalan, instead chooses the Torre. I believe Black had better ways to meet the opening than what he played in the game. White got a nice center control after Black’s…b6.

Torre Opening (1.d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. Bg5)

Using White’s strong pawn control in the center Alex was able to create weaknesses in Black’s kingside. A critical moment occurred after Black’s 18th move Bc8. Black’s pieces are tied down, everything seems protected. I really liked White next move.

How should white continue?

After a series of trades, the game reaches the endgame. Black has a golden opportunity to bail out from the inferior endgame.

What is Black’s best defensive plan?

Black couldn’t find the best moves and Baburin marched his king towards the d6-pawn and soon won the game.

Flynn – Baburin: Troitsky 2 Knights vs Pawn ending

Arguably the highlight game of the championship. It’s the penultimate round, Alex is on 5.5/7 and Jacob is on 4.5/7. I would like to comment on the Endgame however the Opening and Middle game phases are worth checking too.

The game reached a tense Endgame. Alex seemed to have a slight edge as his king was able to infiltrate the white camp. Jacob pulled the breaks to force them into a theoretically drawn ending:

What is White’s best escape move from this unpleasant endgame?

Jacob sacrificed his bishop for 3 black pawns in return. This was a splendid idea considering how risky it would have been if he passively defended. Jacob steered the game into a famous endgame – Troitsky 2 Knights vs Pawn ending, however, he had an easier way to secure a draw:

Jacob played Nxh5, can you find an easier way to draw?

On Black’s 59th move, the last capture occurred this meant Alex needs to checkmate Jacob’s King before the 109th move ( if they are no captures or pawn moves) otherwise the game will be declared a draw. Jacob was 21 moves close to a draw until he erred with Ka2?? This led to a forced checkmate in 13 moves. Alex flawlessly showcased the checkmate.

Venkatesan vs Baburin, Playoff (1)

Kavin and Alex battling out in the first game of the playoff. Picture Credit: Irish Chess Union

Baburin vs Venkatesan, Playoff(2)

1 thought on “Alex Baburin’s Endgame Play at Irish Championship 2023”

  1. Jonathan O'Connor

    I had an interesting endgame against Jacob Flynn, and had to save a tricky one against Colm Daly.

    The piece de resistance was my game against Adam Collins, where I played my rook up and down the a-file for 8 moves in a row in the early middlegame.

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