March 2015 Grandmaster Spotlight: Sergei Azarov

GM Sergei Azarov
GM Sergei Azarov

Welcome back everyone, last month we learned about the legend Yuri Averbakh. This month the spotlight is on GM Sergei Azarov. Sergei Azarov has a rating of 2635 and is the second highest rated player from Belarus. I had some trouble finding information about his title confirmations. According to Wikipedia he earned the GM title in 2003. Unlike the previous two players in the GM spotlight, Azarov is still competing. He has competed in two World Cup events. Vugar Gashimov eliminated him in the second round in 2011. In 2013 Alexey Dreev knocked him out in the first round. His best tournament to date was the 2014 Cappelle la Grande. At Cappelle La Grande he tied  =1 (2nd on tiebreak) with GM Axel Bachmann and ahead of GM’s Liren Ding and Parimarjan Negi. On ICC he uses the handle Serghik, although he hasn’t been on since 2012. I don’t believe that he and I have ever played any games. Without further ado, here are some games of his:

The first game on my list took place in the 36th Chess Olympiad against GM Nigel Short. I enjoyed the way that Azarov plays on both sides of the board in this game. After the initial 28 moves, it seems like the position that could fizzle out into a draw. Thankfully, both players played on and created a nice game.

I found the next game to be quite enjoyable, the deflection tactics make a pretty finish. It features Azarov rounding out a nice attack that ends with a mating net of the black king. Azarov seems comfortable on the white side of the open Sicilian. His games and attacking ideas are worth looking into, if you play that line.

Pay close attention to the knights maneuvers Azarov executes. Specifically from move 23 – 27 as the knight heads from f6-h5-f4 to d3 with the aid of the e4 pawn. Within four moves a piece goes from being somewhat useless to completely dominant. This is one of the main things that sets GM’s apart from the rest of us. They see a decent piece and say, “How can it be made better?” We see a decent piece and say, “Might as well play a check or trade something”.

In this game I enjoyed the way that Azarov handled the Black pieces. He equalized and overran his opponent. There is a certain inevitability to this game as white feebly thrashes about. In the end, the Queen-side pawns decide the game and the attack on the black King can go no further.

I’ve always held that there is something aesthetically pleasing about watching two Knights dance around a chess board. This game is a wonderful example of utilizing weak squares and the juxtaposition between the Knights and Bishops. It’s the classic dichotomy in chess and in this example the Knights prevail.

From Azerov we can learn the power of the Knight maneuvering in the Ruy Lopez and the attacking power of the open Sicilian. If either of those things interest you take a look at more of his games. Tune in next month as we shine our spotlight on another GM.


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