Meet the Mechanics: Yannick Gozzoli

by admin on December 28, 2018

In the weeks ahead I will write occasional posts introducing you to the members of the San Francisco Mechanics team in the PRO Chess League. I sent around a short questionnaire to most of the team members, hoping to conduct a sort of online interview. The very first Mechanic to answer was one of our long-distance members, grandmaster Yannick Gozzoli of France. Thanks, Yannick, for introducing yourself to our worldwide fan base!
(Yes, I know, I am intentionally being very optimistic here.)

Dana: Can you tell me your age, where you live, the last school you attended or graduated from, and what you regard as your most significant chess accomplishments?
Yannick: I am 35 years old. I live in Marseille (south of France, famous for its infamous soccer team). I am a graduate in foreign languages. Recently I finished in a three-way tie for first at the French National Championship, but brilliantly been ridiculous in the tiebreaks. 😉

I won the Cap d’Agde Open in October 2018.

[Note to readers: The French championship was held in August, and Yannick finished in a three-way tie for first with Romain Edouard and Tigran Gharamian. Unfortunately, Yannick finished last in the three-man playoff, and Gharamian came in first. At Cap d’Agde, an open tournament, no playoff was needed, as Yannick finished in clear first with 7½ points out of 9.]

D: What is one fact about you that most chess fans or players don’t know?
Y: I am super lazy!
[This might come as a surprise to Romain Edouard, who described our teammate in the Chessbase report on the tournament as “the ever-focused Gozzoli.”]

D: What chess player or book have you learned the most from?
Y: I’ve learned a lot from Paul Keres and Dvoretsky’s book.
D: Who do you think will be the next world champion after Magnus Carlsen?

Y: Probably Magnus Carlsen.
D: Tell me your favorite author, favorite musician, favorite TV show, favorite sport other than chess, or favorite food.
Y: I am a big fan of Agatha Christie, James Rollins and Robert Ludlum. I like all kinds of music, from U2 to Queen. I love all kinds of sports, but especially soccer and handball. I like to watch movies, but not TV shows. I like good food wherever it comes from!
D: What is the most useful non-chess activity a player can do to improve their chess results?
Y: Sports! (Do as I say, not as I do. 😉 )

I also asked for a favorite game, and Yannick sent me the following one, from Round 8 in Cap d’Agde, which he described as “very smooth and decisive for the tournament win.” I can only agree! To me, it has a mathematical beauty. An interesting point about this game is that there are absolutely no tactics in it; the whole thing is conducted on a schematic level, and all the annotations are in words rather than variations.

Yannick Gozzoli – Vladimir Onischuk
1. d4 d6 2. Nf3 g6 3. c4 Bg7 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. e4 O-O 6. Be2 c6 7. O-O e5 8. d5 c5
Onischuk’s opening philosophy, and indeed his entire approach to this game, seems to be that all inaccuracies can be forgiven if the position is sufficiently closed. Not that 8. … c5 is an inaccuracy, but it dictates the kind of position we obtain.
9. Bg5 h6 10. Bd2 Na6 11. a3 Nd7 12. g3 Nb6

Position after 12. … Nb6. White to move.

FEN: r1bq1rk1/pp3pb1/nn1p2pp/2pPp3/2P1P3/P1N2NP1/1P1BBP1P/R2Q1RK1 w – – 0 13

I really do not like this move, which is emblematic of everything that goes wrong for Black in this game. Why is Black abandoning his normal King’s Indian counterplay with … f5? Why is he parking his knights way over on the queenside? In my limited experience, when Black attempts to play the King’s Indian without playing … f5 he tends to just be cramped and passive, which perfectly describes the position that Onischuk eventually gets.
13. Qc2 Bh3 14. Rfe1 Kh7 15. Nh4 Qe7 16. Bd3 Rae8 17. f3 Nc7 18. Nd1 Bd7 19. Nf3 Rb8
Black admits that he has no interest at all in the kingside and begins to transfer the rest of his pieces over to the queenside.
20. Rab1 Rfc8 21. b3 Nba8 22. f4 b5 23. Nf3 bc 24. Bc Nb6 25. f5 Ba4

Position after 25. … Ba4. White to move.

FEN: 1rr5/p1n1qpbk/1n1p2pp/2pPpP2/b1P1P3/P2B1NP1/2QB1N1P/1R2R1K1 w – – 0 26

This seems to be the point of Black’s queenside play. But what is the bishop doing on a4? What does it threaten? As we’ll see, it only becomes a target.
I’ve said comparatively little about White’s play, but his pieces are much more harmoniously placed than Black’s, with access to both sides of the board. Here I would have expected White to try to open lines on the kingside. But Yannick has other plans!
26. Qc3 Ne8 27. Qa5 Qd7 28. g4 Na8 29. g5 h5 30. f6 Bf8
With all lines closed except the b-file, Black may have felt safe. But Yannick plays a simple move that completely destroys Black’s position.

Position after 30. … Bf8. White to move.

FEN: nrr1nb2/p2q1p1k/3p1Pp1/Q1pPp1Pp/b1P1P3/P2B1N2/3B1N1P/1R2R1K1 w – – 0 31

31. Bf1! …
How often is a retreat to the first rank a winning move? The idea is very mathematical. There are two important diagonals on the board: a4-e8, where Black’s queen must remain (in order to defend the misplaced bishop on a4), and h3-c8, where Black’s queen must not remain (because that diagonal is about to be claimed by a hostile bishop). The intersection of those diagonals is d7, where the queen must remain and yet cannot remain. This logical contradiction means that Black is lost. The rook on c8 is the QED at the end of the argument.
31. … Bc2 32. Bh3 Qc7 33. Qxc7 Nexc7 34. Rbc1 Black resigns.
If all the files were closed, Black would definitely have a chance to save a draw. However, the fact that the b-file is open means that White should win eventually. In effect, White is up a rook on the queenside, thanks to his extra exchange plus the fact that Black’s bishop on f8 has zero moves. Even black’s king is unable to come to the queenside, while White is free to move his entire army there. Ironically, although it was Black who tried to attack on the queenside, it is White who will eventually steamroller him there.


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