Reports | April 13, 2009 16:52

Beauty in Chess V: Planet Nisipeanu

NisipeanuIn his fifth column about beauty in chess, Michael Schwerteck was inspired by the attractive style of Romanian GM Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu.

In an interview with the German magazine Schach, the manager of the Bundesliga team Tegernsee, Horst Leckner, recently made an interesting comment about chess media. He regrets that most of the time only approximately the world’s top 20 are in the focus of attention, while many grandmasters below this level do not get the attention and, even more importantly for them, the invitations they deserve.

Mr. Leckner observed that it’s always more or less the same people who play each other in the top tournaments, which he doesn’t find particularly interesting.

I had tried to make a similar point in one of my previous columns. If you, as a chess fan, are mainly interested in high quality, even if it consists of bloodless draws by Kramnik in the Petroff or by Wang Yue in the Slav, fine, concentrate on the 2700 guys. If you want to be entertained, however, don’t neglect games played by lesser mortals. Let me quote Mig Greengard’s advice from one of his Amber reports: „Those who think the blindfold games are exciting should watch more games between IMs and the under-2600 crowd in general. They aren't as worried about Elo, are more speculative, and also make more mistakes, therefore leading to more tactical action.“

I do not want to be disrespectful at all towards the world’s best players. Of course, they can play the most wonderful games. I would just like to recall that there are plenty of guys (and girls) out there who play immensely creative and entertaining chess, although they lack the consistency to belong to the elite, and it would be a pity not to take notice of it. Now you might say you just don’t have the time to look at everything – well, in this case, fortunately enough, there is someone who is ready to do some work for you and dig out some really cool games from time to time.

To give you an example, let’s have look at a game I just happened to stumble upon:

There are quite a few players who produce such gems with regularity. That’s why I decided to start a small series of portraits, in which I present some of my favourites. I can promise many entertaining games and hope I can show to my idols that their efforts are really appreciated.

Our first portrayed player is actually quite well-known and not far away from the real elite, but as he rarely participates in the top tournaments, I decided to include him nevertheless. I’m talking about the Romanian GM Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu. Why him of all players? Well, I was hesitating but took the final decision when the esteemed editor-in-chief of this site pointed out a recent game to me which our hero lost. That’s the nice thing about these creative players: even their losses are often spectacular. This one was so amazing that I’ll show it as well, albeit without comments:

Okay, now let’s move on to some of Nisipeanu’s wins. What’s so special about them? Mainly, it has always impressed me how unpredictable his moves usually are. Quite often it seems that he somehow plays his own kind of game, with his own opening theory, his own strategic principles and unexpected tactical ideas – like chess from another planet. I just checked the German Wikipedia article on him, which says that „Nisipeanu plays inventive, creative and entertaining chess which reminds of the former world champion Mikhail Tal.“ Curiously enough, these were exactly my thoughts as well. Already in his youth Nisipeanu managed to outfox even experienced GMs with his unusual ideas. Here’s an example:

Fans of the Benko Gambit might also enjoy the following game. Black normally doesn’t win with a quick kingside attack in this opening, but what is normal for our Romanian hero?

Nisipeanu’s progress wasn’t quite as comet-like as Tal’s, but he made steady progress and was soon able to successfully compete with very strong grandmasters. Of course, he became a member of the Romanian national team. When they faced Russia at the olympiad in Elista 1998, Nisipeanu played the following pittoresque game against Evgeny Bareev:

Nisipeanu still wasn’t that well-known then, but he really got into the limelight when he reached the semifinals of the knockout World Championship on Las Vegas 1999. He eliminated Ivanchuk and Shirov, amongst others! His most spectacular game (also thanks to his opponent’s efforts) was the one with Black agaist the latter. It’s really well-known and has been extensively analyzed by competent people, so I’ll give it without comments here:

For those who start wondering: yes, sometimes Nisipeanu won good games with White as well. Here’s proof:

Nisipeanu continued to improve his rating up to about 2700, although he played mostly in team events and open tournaments. One has to wonder what would have become of him, if he had got a few invitiations to the likes of Linares and Wijk aan Zee. It’s hard to understand why the organizers weren’t interested in him at all, for he continued to play in his accustomed original style. One of its trademarks is the extremely broad opening repertoire, full of rare, allegedly dubious lines. Do you know any other super-GM who likes to play the Blumenfeld Gambit? Nisipeanu has been playing it even against the strongest opposition (drawing against Mamedyarov and Gelfand, for instance). His win against Gabriel Sargissian (Bundesliga 2006) was convincing, but I chose an even more spectacular one:

Nisipeanu at least got a little bit more attention when he won the European Championship in Warsaw 2005. In 2007 he was finally invited to one of the really big events, the MTel tournament in Sofia. He started extremely well by beating Topalov on the black side of a Scandinavian Defense and in the end made a respectable 50 percent score.

One final thing I would like to mention is the headaches Nisipeanu has been causing to Najdorf players. One of the systems he devised is 6.Be3 e5 7.Nde2!?. You might want to have a look at his 25-move-win against Bologan (France 2006). Nowadays, however, the Romanian seems to favour the 6.Bc4 system which (supplemented with many new ideas, of course) has brought him a lot of nice wins. It was really hard to make a choice, but I went for the following one:

Last but not least, a very recent game in typical brutal Tal style. Don’t care about material, just open some lines and play for mate!


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anyone know who played the very first game shown here?? that was very fun!!

Antonio Luis Ferreira's picture

It is the game D. Vocaturo (white) against Tiger Hillarp-Persson I think played on round 3 of the recent Reykjavik Open 2009.

Johannes J?§ger's picture

Great article! Enjoy the comments and thoughts, and the games!

paul's picture

Great player Nisipeanu

Javier Sanz's picture

A great discovery! Thank you for your illusion and effort. Go on with the column, please. I'll share it with my friends.

Coco Loco's picture

A great idea, and a great first portrait.

ed's picture

I liked all the games and look forward to the other reports like this. Good idea to have a quick intro to each game and then have the reader play the game on autoplay.

Grewia's picture

Bravo! Phenomenal article. L.D. Nisipeanu is one of my most favorite players. I wholeheartedly agree that he does not get a lot of the recognition he deserves, but that doesn't stop him from playing so destructively/instructively.

Thank you!

Aronjanfan's picture

Very nice and entertaining games! I like Nisipeanus games very much.

Let me point out some general remarks. I don’t think that Anand, Topalov, Shirov or Carlsen are playing unspectacular or let’s say non entertaining chess. Not at all! But things annoying me most are: Firstly they always play the same openings and secondly we always find the same players in these superb tournaments. That turned out as a little bit boring for ordinary chess players like me and I strongly believe this kills the true chess spirit, which we all enjoy.

Maybe this is as well a problem of our media. Normally we are forced to follow the presentation of little tiny subnovelties at move 27 (which often resulted in a boring draw) between 2700+ players as bombastic battles of Titians. Since my time searching for nice games in B and C events is limited, am waiting to see journals, websites and blogs which present purely all the beautiful jewels and tricky encounters that occurred on the chessboard (no matter if these games are played in a Cat. XXVII Event like Linares or from the last Night Bush City Event. And why not interviews with these players. I know: To cover this will not be an easy task and not everybody will be pleased to see or read that, but this is something that is missing in our chessworld.

Aronjanfan's picture

I would like to add something to my first statement. I think it would be a clever idea to reinvent the old custom of offering special prices for the most brilliant endgame, the most powerful attack and for the hardest struggle etc.

And all you organisers and team-manager, please hear my advice ;) .
Don’t pay so much attention to the elo, but give creative players a real chance and forget all the fide-madness and let them play with the old time control (or may instead of that let them play a “best of five”-active chess) and don’t forget to invite your local and national chess-heroes.

Daaim Shabazz's picture

I've argued this for years on other blogs. The top tournaments are fine, but you find the same permutation of players competing. I know that some of the most fantastic games I've seen came from sub-2700 players.

BTW, I love the Benko against Bacrot!

Here's an old gem...

I've done interviews of players at all levels...

Michael Schwerteck's picture

Hi all,

thanks a lot for your encouraging comments.

I see we're having some slight technical problems with the first game - the players' names and my comments are missing. Sorry about that, I'll try to have it fixed. It was Vocaturo vs. Hillarp Persson indeed, as pointed out above in the second comment.

CAL|Daniel's picture

very nicely done. However, he reminds more of IM Emory Tate than Mikhail Tal. so I'm glad Daalm Shabazz posted the Yudasin game cause that was the first thing that game to my mind.

christos (greece)'s picture

I completely agree Nisipeanu plays many beautiful games. The first game of him that impressed me was his loss against Gulko in the Elista 1998 Olympiad, where he sacrificed a whole Rook to create combined threats of trapping his opponent's Queen and attacking his exposed King.

Gulko, B - Nisipeanu, LD 1-0
E12 Elista ol (Men)
1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 b6 4. a3 c5 5. d5 Ba6 6. Nc3 Bxc4 7. e4 Bxf1 8. Rxf1 b5 9. Nxb5 Qa5+ 10. Nc3 Nxe4 11. Bd2 Nxd2 12. Nxd2 Be7 13. Qf3 O-O 14. d6 Bg5 15. Qxa8 Nc6 16. Qb7 Bxd2+ 17. Kxd2 Rb8 18. Qxd7 Qb6 19. Na4 Qa5+ 20. b4 Qxa4 21. Rfc1 g6 22. Rxc5 Qb3 23. Rxc6 Qb2+ 24. Kd3 1-0

Etienne's picture

Bravo ! This article is very interesting, I specially liked the introduction concerning beauty and less known players.

OGU's picture

Great job to look at Nisi's games. I recall seeing Nisipeanu playing in Romanian championships in early 1990s. His style was equally attractive and remained his own man in many aspects. Here is a link to a very recent article with Dieter (in Romanian language) in Cotidianul, a leading Romanian newspaper:

A fragment translated herewith:

"- Are you a disciple of computer assistance during chess preparation?
- I don't really fancy the computer, but I have to keep up with the new trends. The computer helps you save time. I grew up with a different chess, now it's a totally different sport. I don't like what I see, the current chess leaves little space for imagination/creativity even if now is closer to perfection. All this mathematical calculation destroys the game. I bought my first laptop only after I earned the bronze at Las Vegas."

henk's picture

I remember being really annoyed when Nisipeanu knocked out my favourite Shirov in las vegas. I mean who had ever heard of that vague Romanian with that unpronouncable name and who was he to disturb the order of nature and come between Shirov and his world title? I assumed it was a case of Shirov mis-sacrificing and some nit luckboxing his way through the tournament. Time has learned that Shirov was not eliminated by l?±uck or coincidence and that Nisipeanu is indeed a very attractive, near-top GM. I wholeheartedly agree to more attention to lesser known players and not always the inevitable anand, Ivanchuk, topalov, gelfand, karjakin, mamedyarov etc. playing each other. I remember John Nunn saying in the 1990¬¥s that he thought 2400 players weren¬¥t all that much weaker than their 2600 colleagues (that would now be 2500 and 2700 I guess) but that it was just very hard getting 2600-rating playing only tough 2400-players.

momo's picture

I think i'll start to follow Nisipeanu's games , thx for this amazing articles

Frankovich's picture

Thank you for an enjoyable and inspiring article.

poesiamore's picture

Fantastic Vocaturo. If you have liked that game ... just letting you know that... this is his style of play and he has played several wonderful games, in that very same tournament too he had at least onother fantastic win.
Wishing success to him.

youtube's picture

I mean who had ever heard of that vague Romanian with that unpronouncable name and who was he to disturb the order of nature and come between Shirov and his world title? I assumed it was a case of Shirov mis-sacrificing and some nit luckboxing his way through the tournament. Time has learned that Shirov was not eliminated by l?±uck or coincidence and that Nisipeanu is indeed a very attractive

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