The executioner

Chess Piece
Bobby Ang

Posted on July 16, 2012

In New in Chess Yearbook 103, GM Joel Benjamin wrote about how different it is to prepare now as against a few years ago. This is very interesting:

GM Mark Paragua

“In the post-Kasparov world, we see that more than the names have changed; his philosophy of highly intense, deep preparation in a narrow repertoire doesn’t suit today’s times. Today the Internet provides everyone with up-to-date information. Any chess player can have a top-level chess engine without even having to pay for it. With such great equalizers it is impossible to hope to outprepare your opponents in predictable openings. Kramnik, whose career has spanned both eras, described the new landscape in New in Chess Magazine 2012/1: ‘Hardly any games are won in the opening anymore. Even against a lower-rated player you don’t catch him anymore. Basically, these days you have to win a game with your playing qualities.’”

There is a lot of truth to that.

When I was going through the games of our top Filipino players in the past year, I was struck by the fact that Mark Paragua has the knack for winning short, quick, decisive games. A lot of us are dazzled by Wesley So’s tactical wizardry, but we should remember that Mark Paragua (born 1984), who made his “bones” a decade before Wesley’s star began to shine, was also known for his tactical skill.

Did you know:

1. Mark Paragua is the Philippines’ first world chess champion. At the 1998 Disney World Rapid Chess Championship for kids held at the EuroDisney theme park in Paris, Mark and Bu Xiangzhi tied for first in the boys 14 and under section, with the Filipino being awarded the gold medal on tie-breaks.

Trivia: There were only four categories in the championship, boys 14-under, boys 16-under, girls 14-under and girls 16-under. The Philippines’ Arianne Caoili won the 14-under event. So two out of the four world championships were won by Pinoys. I do not know why this has never been publicized.

2. In April 2006 Paragua became the first Filipino chessplayer to break the 2600 rating plateau.

3. In 1999 I organized the first official Philippine blitz chess championship. This was done at the defunct Philippine Chess Center in Timog Avenue. The games were held in the second floor but there were wires going down to the ground floor restaurant, enabling the spectators to drink coffee and eat snacks while watching the action live on large screens provided getting feeds from the sensory boards used in the tournament. GM Joey Antonio was the heavy favorite, but Mark Paragua upset him in their playoff match and claimed the crown for himself. I remember this very vividly -- the last game went down to a KR+B (for Mark) vs KR (for GM Joey) end game, which was theoretically a draw but not so simple to hold. In front of an enthralled full-house at the GM Café (this was what they called the restaurant) we saw the blitzing finale on a huge screen and suddenly there was stunned silence when Mark found a way to mate GM Joey. Ahh... memories.

4. Last month former world champion Garry Kasparov started on his inaugural chess column in Chess Informant. The first game he chose to annotate was Mark’s brilliant victory over Debashih Das in the 2012 Parsvnath Open.

All this hullaballoo about Wesley So. That’s fine, but let us not forget our other jewel -- Mark Paragua.

I will show you some of Mark’s quick kills in recent tournaments. How he manages to do this while his teammates are toiling to score their points in 60-move end games is a wonder.

Maybe the reason for this is that with his quiet and humble demeanor the opponents are misled into thinking that Mark is just as friendly over the board. That is a mistake, for he is a ruthless executioner.

Gusain, Himal (2271) -- Paragua, Mark (2521) [B92]

5th Mayors Cup 2012 Mumbai IND (3.6), 08.06.2012

Himal Gusain is no slouch. He is 19 years old, the five-time state champion of Chandigarh and has one IM norm.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.0-0 0-0 9.a4

If I may say so, this is the old way of playing the white side of this variation, combining Be2 with a4 and f4, popularized no less by Anatoly Karpov in the ’70s. Nowadays this is considered pretty comfortable for Black. Anyway, Gusain must have been reading Tim Taylor’s Slay the Sicilian!, for this is the line IM Taylor recommends against the Sicilian Najdorf.

9...Nc6 10.f4 Nb4 11.Kh1 Be6 12.Be3?

Gusain must have gotten his lines mixed up. Tim Taylor counsels that, in response to...Be6, White should be prepared to go f4-f5. He quotes the famous Karpov vs Bukic game: 12.f5 Bd7 13.Bg5 Bc6 14.Bf3 Rc8 15.Qe2 h6?! (15...d5!) 16.Bh4 b6 17.Rfd1 Qc7 18.Bg3 Bb7 19.Rd2 Rfd8 20.Rad1 Ne8 21.h4 Nf6 22.Bf2 Nd7 23.g3 Kf8 24.Nc1 Qc4 25.Qe1 Qc7 26.Qg1 Nc5 27.N1e2 Bc6 28.b3 Qb7 29.Qg2 Qc7 30.Be3 Bf6 31.Kh2 Qe7 32.Qf2 Bb7 33.Bg2 Kg8 34.Qf3 Kh7 35.Qh5 Qf8 36.Rf1 Nd7 (36...g6 fails to 37.fxg6+ fxg6 38.Qxh6+!) 37.Rc1 Rc6?! 38.Nd5! Nxd5 39.exd5 Rcc8 40.Be4 Nc5 41.Bxc5! Rxc5 42.g4! with an overwhelming attack. 1-0 Karpov, A.-Bukic, E. Bugojno.

12...Rc8 13.Bf3 Qc7 14.a5 Qc6 15.Ra4?

White lost the thread of the game a few moves ago, but this move is clearly a mistake. <D>

Position after 15.Ra4

15...Nxc2! 0-1

White resigns because 16.Qxc2 is met by 16...Qxa4! and not taking the knight will lead to even bigger loss.

Paragua, Mark (2521) -- Nezad, Husein Aziz (2393) [C70]

Asian Continental Ch Ho Chi Minh (5), 09.05.2012

IM Husein Aziz Nesad is among the top players of Qatar.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nge7

The originator of this move is Wilhelm Steinitz. Black plans to continue with...g6,...Bg7 but due to his slow development he always has to be on watch against sudden tactics from White. This Nezad was not able to accomplish.


Another idea is to support an advance of the d-pawn by means of 5.c3

5...d6 6.a3 g6?! 7.d4 Bd7

[7...b5 8.Bb3 Bg7 is safer]

8.Bg5 Bg7 9.Nd5!

Threat is Bxc6 followed by Bxe7 and Bf6.


[9...h6 looks like the only move here, although after 10.Bf6 Bxf6 11.Nxf6+ Kf8 Black has an unpleasant position]


The position is getting uncomfortable. White’s threat is 11.dxe5 dxe5 (11...Bxe5? 12.Nxe5 Nxe5 13.Nf6+ Kf8 14.Bh6 is checkmate) 12.Nf6+ Bxf6 13.Bxf6 Rf8 14.Bd5 and Black is going to lose some material.

10...h6 11.Bf6 0-0 12.dxe5 Bxf6?

After 12...dxe5 13.Nxe5! Nxe5 14.Bxe7 is no good, but the text is even worse.

13.Nxf6+ Kg7 14.Qd2! Be6

Black cannot play 14...Nxe5 because of 15.Nxe5 dxe5 16.Nxd7

15.exd6 Bxb3?

[15...cxd6 16.Bxe6 fxe6 17.Ng4 g5 18.0-0-0 is obviously very bad, so Nezad decides to take out the white bishop on b3]

16.Qc3! 1-0

If 16...Be6 then 17.Nh5+ Kg8 18.Qg7#

Vietnam’s IM Ton That Nhu Tung defeated GM Darwin Laylo and drew with GM Eugene Torre in the 2012 Asian Intercontinental Championship.

Paragua, Mark (2521) -- Ton, That Nhu Tung (2144) [B12]

Asian Continental Ch Ho Chi Minh (3.22), 07.05.2012

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 c5 6.Be3 Nc6?!

Ton mixes up his opening theory. First he had to play 6...Qb6 and only after that 7...Nc6.

7.dxc5 Qc7

Black realizes that recovering his pawn is not so simple. If 7...Bg4 to take out the important knight on f3 there is 8.c4! Bxf3 9.Bxf3 dxc4 10.Nd2 he is going to lose back the pawn, at least.

8.c3 Nge7

[8...Nxe5 9.Nxe5 Qxe5 10.Qa4+ Kd8 11.Bf4 Qe4 12.Qa5+ is very unappetizing]

9.Qa4 Ng6 10.Na3 Ngxe5 11.Nxe5 Qxe5 12.Nb5

Black is not yet out of the woods, as White is piling up pressure on c6 and there is still the threat of Bf4 to look out for.


The main idea of this move is not to capture the pawn on g2, but rather to prevent Bf4.

13.Nd4 Qc7 14.Bb5 Kd7

[14...Rc8 15.f3 Bg6 16.Qxa7 h6 leaves Black a pawn behind with a still inferior position]

15.Bf4! Qc8

[15...Qxf4 16.Bxc6+ bxc6 17.Qxc6+ Ke7 18.Qxa8 Bxg2 19.Rg1 Qe4+ 20.Kd2 is also lost]

16.Nxc6 bxc6 17.Ba6 Qd8 18.Bb7 1-0

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