GOTM; (Game # 30) March, 2006.  

Welcome to my  "Game of The Month"  feature!  (For March, 2006.)  (Games considered, file.) 

This is a game, that is annotated in a <light-to-medium> fashion. Hopefully it is done in a way that is both entertaining and also informative. The main purpose {and thrust} of this column is to try and educate the general chess public. 

I have deeply annotated this game on my hard drive, you are welcome to contact me if you would like to try and obtain a copy. (Because of copyright violations, I ONLY offer a printed version!)  

This is a feature where I will try to pick a game that was recently played at the GM level. Then I will annotate it and try to basically explain what happened. ---> This column is aimed primarily at lower-rated players.  (Say 1600 & below.) 

I hope that you enjoy this game ... feedback is both encouraged and welcome. (Please respect my copyright.)  

    Click  HERE  to see an explanation of the symbols I commonly use - when annotating a chess game.     

    Click  HERE  to go to another server ... where you can search for this game in a "re-playable" format.   

  The SUPER-GM Tournament, Morelia/Linares, 2006.  

The list of the players who were competing in "The Best Tournament in the World" reads like a "Who's Who" of chess.  

GM's:  The number one player in the world, V. Topalov (2801), {fresh from his last victory at Wijk ann Zee}; the # 3 player, many time Russian Champ, P. Svidler (2765); the # 4 player, WC Champion, L. Aronian (2752); the # 6 player, Hungarian Super-star P. Leko (2740); the # 7 player in the world, chess genius V. Ivanchuk (2729); the # 12 player, French Champion, E. Bacrot (2717); the promising, (hopeful) young player from Azerbaijan, T. Radjabov (2700); {'Rady' is currently ranked # 18 in the world.}; and the "Local Hero" and all-round good guy, F. Vallejo Pons (2650)

Notable - by their absence - were (#2) GM Vishy Anand (2792); {sick} and the {fading?} GM Vladimir Kramnik, (2741). (#5)  

The players began to 'duke it out' from the very beginning, the early leaders were Peter Svidler and Peter Leko. 

 [My comments (and news articles) on the tournament.]   [The official web site.]   [The final CB report.]   [The final TWIC report.] 

  GM Peter Leko (2740) - GM Levon Aronian (2752)  
  XXIII SuperGM  
  Linares, ESP; (R #14) / 11,03,2006.  

  [A.J. Goldsby I]  

 --->  My "Game of The Month" for the period for March, 2006. (Cf. TWIC # 592.)  


This was the only decisive game of the last round, and as a result, the winner - GM Levon Aronian - won clear first place. 

This ... and the fact that I have not really looked at very many of this player's games, ... 
 .. (he was on the 'wrong end' of last month's game); ... virtually assured that this would be my choice for this month's column. 


{The ratings are those of FIDE and were checked against the FIDE site.}  
 1.e4 e5;  2.Nf3 Nc6;  3.Bb5 a6;   
The time-honored Ruy Lopez, the move 3...a6; is the beginning of one of the best lines for Black, first worked out in detail and played by none other than Paul Morphy.  


     [ Black can also play:  3...Nf6  The Berlin Defense.   
       [See MCO-14, beginning on page # 45, all columns and notes.]  

       For many years, other strong players told me that this opening was dubious, the only master   
       I knew who used it on a regular basis was GM A. Bisguiser. 

       Then Vladimir Kramnik employed it in his match against Garry Kasparov, (in 2000 - in the  
        'Brain Games' World Championship Match). Today, many strong players use this system,   
       and it is a   regular part of their normal opening repertoire(s).   

        4.0-0 Nxe45.d4 Nd66.Bxc6 dxc67.dxe5 Nf58.Qxd8+ Kxd8;    
        9.Nc3 Ne7!?10.h3!? Ng611.Ne4!?, "+/="  11...h6;    
        when White has a slight advantage, but Black has a playable game.   

        GM J. Polgar - GM V. Topalov; / FIDE World Championship Tournament   
        (R6); San Luis, ARG; 2006.  (0-1, in 64 total moves.)   
        {Black went on to win a very long contest ... sixty-four moves in total length.} ]   


 4.Ba4 Nf6;  5.0-0 Be7;   
This leads to the closed lines of the Ruy Lopez, 5...NxP/e4 leads to the "Open System" of the Ruy Lopez.  

  [One example of the Open Variation of the Ruy Lopez.]   


 6.Re1 b5;  7.Bb3 0-0;  {See the diagram given, just below.}   
This is usually a signal of aggressive intentions, the modern main line is reached after 7...d6.   


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Both sides have already castled and begin to think about how they want to place their forces for the coming battle of the middle-game.  

     [ After the standard moves: 
       (>/=) 7...d68.c3 0-09.h3,  "+/="  (center, space)   
       White is generally thought to have a small (but rock-solid) advantage.  

        A good (recent) GM example would be:  V. Anand (2788) M. Adams (2719);   
        The FIDE World Championships, (WCh-T) / San Luis, ARG;  2005.    
        {White won a model game, 1-0, in only 32 moves.}  

        [ See also MCO-14, beginning on page # 77. ] ]  


 8.a4,  (Declining the invitation.)   
An "Anti-Marshall" move.  
(By playing in this fashion, White clearly signals that he does not want to accept the gambit lines. Another Anti-Marshall system is 8.h3, which can easily transpose back to the main lines if Black plays 8...d6.) 

The CB commentator calls this ... "slightly disappointing," and goes on to suggest that the game might have been 'more fun' if these two had duked it out in the "accepted" lines of this extremely difficult gambit. But Leko beat Kramnik from the Black side of this opening, (see the eighth game of their match); and probably understands better than anyone the dangers of accepting the gambit without proper preparation! 

     [ Sharp positions are reached after:  8.c3 d5 ('!?')   The Marshall Gambit.  

            (The move 8...d6;  will probably transpose back to the main line.)    

        9.exd5 Nxd510.Nxe5 Nxe511.Rxe5 c612.d4 Bd613.Re1 Qh414.g3 Qh3  
        15.Be3 Bg4;  "~"   16.Qd3,  "+/="   that may not clearly be in White's favor.   
         (Recent practice shows that Black is winning his fair share of games from this set-up.)  

        One of the best games that I could find from this position - where Black won - would    
        have to be the Super-GM encounter: 
        Vassily Ivanchuk - Mike Adams; / ICT Masters / Terrassa, 1991.    
        {Black won a brilliant game, you should study this game closely if you want to understand    
         this whole opening/gambit system.}   

        [ See also MCO-14, page # 77. See columns # 37 through 40, and all relevant and associated notes. ]  


        Another solid reference work (instead) gives the line:  
        8.d4!? Nxd49.Nxd4 exd410.e5 Ne811.c3!? dxc312.Nxc3 d613.Qf3 Be6 
        14.Nd5 Rc815.Bf4,  "~"   with good play for White.   

        V. Tseshkovsky - V. Malaniuk; The 54th URS Championships / Minsk, USSR; 1987.   {Draw.}   

        [ See NCO, page # 343; Line/row # 01, and all notes. ] 


        For a complete survey of   8.h3 (where White does not transpose into the a4 lines);    
        please see:  GM V. Topalov - GM V. AnandM-Tel Masters / Sofia, BUL; 2006 
        {Black won a tremendous game in thirty-six brilliant moves, see my  column  for   
        the month of May, 2006.}  ]   


 8...b4; ('!?')    {See the diagram given, just below.}   
This immediately relieves some of the possible tension in the position, more commonly played, {according to the games database}; is 8...Bb7.  


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Does Aronian's move express an intent to avoid a fight? Not likely. Instead, I think the World Cup Champ is either interested in avoiding book theory, or maybe he has something very specific in mind.   


     [ The "main line" is reached after:  (>/=) 8...Bb79.d3 d610.Nc3   A sensible move.   

    ***    *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** ***    ***   

            (After the moves: 10.Nbd2 Na511.Ba2 c5;   12.Nf1 b4; 13.c3 bxc314.bxc3,  "+/="  
              we reach a position very similar to the line of play being examined after 8...Bb7.  

              This variation was being played at the same time as Leko vs. Aronian in the last round    
              of Linares ... and resulted in a great fighting draw in 55 moves!   

              Peter Svidler (2765) - Vassily Ivanchuk (2729); /  ICT / XXIII SuperGM    
              Morelia/Linares, MEX/ESP(Round #14) / 11,03,2006.)  [The CB report.]  

    ***    *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** ***    ***   

       10...Na511.Ba2 b4 12.Ne2 c513.Ng3, "+/="   {Diagram?}    
        when White has won many nice games, one of the more thematic would have to be:  

        GM Emil Sutovsky (2660) - GM Jan Plachetka (2441); [C88] / ICT / SVK-ch      
        Kaskady, SLO; (Round #9) / 27,06,2002.   (1-0, 40 moves.)   
        {White brilliantly won a model game in forty precise moves.}   

     **     **     **     **     **     **     **     **     **     **     **     **     **     **     **     **     **     **     **     **     **     **     **    

             ( Also interesting was: 13.c3!? bxc314.bxc3 c4!15.Ng3 cxd316.Qxd3 Bc8;   
               The end of the column, White is solidly better here.  

              (Now 17.h3, "+/=" or just 17.Be3, "+/="  both look good for the first player in this position.)   

               17.Bg5!? Nb718.Be3!? Qa519.Qc4?! Ng4!;  "~"   Draw agreed.    

               GM J. Nunn - GM J. van der Wiel;  / ICT / OHRA - "A"   (1/2, 19 moves.)  
               Amsterdam, NED; (R5) / 1990.   

               [ See MCO-14, page # 91;  column # 42, and all relevant notes. Especially check note # (y.). ] ) ]   


 9.d3 d6;  10.a5!?,    {See the diagram given, just below.}   
This gains a little space, and also fixes Black's Pawn on a6.  


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This has been played before, and White has won many fine games with this move - ergo, see Garry Kasparov's brilliant demolition of Nigel Short in the very first game of their PCA World Championship Match in 1993. 

However ... to me ... this move does not always fit in well with the 'perfect' Lopez ideal of White playing {mostly} on the King-side. (I am also willing to acknowledge the fact that we are all so wise ... and have 20/20 vision ... when we are playing "Monday Morning Quarter-back.")  

One theoretical article recommends that White try Nbd2, but I did not find their analysis convincing and was able to equalize simply by following the "Fritz Powerbook."  

     [ White could also try:  
       10.Nbd2 Na511.Ba2 c512.Nc4 Nxc413.Bxc4 Be614.h3 Nd7;  "~"   
        but Black looks OK here. 

       (There were several games in the database, but none of these featured two GM's ...    
         or even players with significant FIDE ratings.) ]  


 10...Be6;  11.Nbd2 Qc8!;   {See the diagram given, just below.}  
An active move that gives Black good play.   


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Also both good and playable is the move of 11...Rb8 here, and this has been used here many times before.  
(I like keeping the option of the placement of my Rooks open ... until I am certain where they will find the most gainful employment.)  

     [ An alternative variation would have been:   
       11...Bxb3; ('!?')  12.Nxb3 d513.Qe2 Re814.Bg5 h615.Bh4, "+/="  15...Nh5; "~"   
       John Nunn considers this position as equal, but Fritz still sees a small (but solid) edge for White.   

       [ See NCO, page # 343, line/row # 02, and all associated notes that go with this line. ] ]   


 12.Nc4!?,  hmmm    {See the diagram given, just below.}   
<< Strictly speaking, this move looks slightly unaesthetic. >>  - The CB commentator   


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(There are about 20 games in the db with this position, many are draws, quite a few are with GM's ...  
 on both sides of the board.)  

To play the opposing advocate here, this move has been played before, (And has had a few successes.).   
For example:  GM R. Kasimdzhanov (2670) - GM Gabriel Sargissian (2610); 
Bundesliga (TT) 0506 / Germany (R4) / 21,10,2005.  {White won a nice game in fifty-five total moves.}   

AND! ... ... ... Leko had played this just last year in the FIDE World Championship tournament, (versus GM Peter Svidler); and seemed to be always a little better. (The game was drawn after thirty-six moves.)  

However, I must admit that the move could be considered rather 'stiff' and unimaginative ... 12.Bc4, may have been a tad more flexible.  

     [ I would recommend (instead) that White try the continuation of:  
       (>/=) 12.Bc4 Rb8;   The thematic try here.   

      *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** ***    

            ( Black could try:    
              12...h6!?; 13.h3 Re8;  14.b3 Bf8;  15.Bb2 Qd7;  16.Qe2 Bxc4;  17.Nxc4,  "+/="  
               when White might be a tiny bit better, (space, good bishop); and went on to win    
               an interesting contest in just under 50 moves.  

              GM Vladimir Akopian (2693) - GM Peter Svidler (2747); 
              ICT, Corus Masters ('A') Wijk aan Zee, NED; (Rnd. #10) / 10,01,2004. )   

      *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** ***    *** *** *** *** ***    

        13.Nf1 h614.Ne3 Re815.h3"~"  (Probably "=")  {Diagram?}   
         GM P. Leko - GM A. Grischuk; / ICT / FIDE Grand Prix / Dubai, UAE; (R#5) / 2002.   
         {Drawn in under 40 moves.} ]   


 12...Rb8!?;  (thematic? Maybe '!')    {See the diagram given, just below.}   
"Aronian deviates from his previous game against Svidler, played just two rounds earlier, where he chose the move, 12...h6." - The commentator on the CB website  


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Of course this is nothing wrong with this move, and playing the Black Rook to the b8-square has been seen many times before in this whole variation.   


 13.Bg5!?,  (Maybe - '?!')    {See the diagram given, just below.}   
Like fingernails on a chalkboard, this move strikes a sour note ... and is inconsistent with the demands of this position.  


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Although this has all been played before, I cannot recommend it to any potential Ruy Lopez players.  

<< Leko bravely accepts the challenge, aiming to immediately take advantage of the lack of defence of the g5-square. In doing so, he actually fell in what seems to have been an extremely refined theoretical trap. >>  - The CB commentator  

     [ A lot better would have been:   
       >/= 13.h3 h614.Be3 Rd815.Qe2,  "~"   ("=")   {Diagram?}   
       when there is nothing fundamentally wrong with White's position.  

       GM Michael Adams (2719) - GM Viswanathan Anand (2788); 
       / The FIDE World Championships / San Luis, ARG; (R #10) / 28,09,2005.  
       {Drawn in twenty-five moves.} ]   


 13...Kh8!;  [TN]   (Maybe - '!!')     {See the diagram given, just below.}   
A deeply considered move, and one that shows a great deal of sophistication.  


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The CB commentator liked this move so much that he gave it two exclams, ('!!'); I shall be slightly more restrained in my judgment. 

One idea here is that is White takes on f6, Black could re-capture with his g-pawn and then use the g-file for an attack.  

     [ Instead, after the moves of:  
       </= 13...h6!?; ('?!')  14.Bh4 Bg4!?15.Ne3 Bxf316.Qxf3 Nd417.Qd1 Nxb3  
       18.cxb3 Nd519.Nxd5 Bxh420.d4,  "~"   ("+/=")   White has no problems.    
        (But both sides can probably greatly improve on their play.)   

        T. Paehtz (2441) - R. Kasimdzhanov (2664); / ICT   
        The 19th European Cup Championships (EU-Cup 19th) / Rethymnon, GRE; (R#5)   
        28,09,2003.  {Drawn in 33 moves.} ]   


 14.h3!?,  (Probably - '?!')   {See the diagram given, just below.}   
Now all this move really does is to {possibly} weaken White's King-side here.  


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"Leko intends to carry out the thematic occupation of the centre by means of c3 and d4 with all the comfort, but he will fail by just one tempo." - The CB commentator, who also awarded this move a dubious mark ('?!') here.  

Leko is guilty here of "mixing ideas." What I mean by that is that he has taken several of the more common strategies and motifs of this opening, put them in a pot ... and mixed them all up. (Often the average player will do this - without comprehension of the underlying reasons that justify why these moves are played.) What did Peter get? A very unappetizing stew, at least in my opinion.   

     [ Definitely better was:  
       >/=  14.Ne3, "="  ("<=>")  with (maybe) a playable position for White. ]   


A very nice move that does many useful things - most importantly Black now is ready for the pawn break of ...f7-f5. (Leko may have been expecting Black to play ...h6 here with play similar to games that had transpired before. See the note after Black's 13th move.)  


 15.c3?!,  (Really - '?')    {See the diagram given, just below.}   
After this thoughtless move, White begins to show multiple weaknesses, the sensitivity down the b-file is a real and concrete problem.  


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I cannot emphasize strongly enough what a bad idea this play really was. 
(AND! The computers also help pin-point this as a major tuning point in this contest.) 

The CB commentator recommends that White play Be3 here, and even that would have been preferable to the move chosen in the game.  

     [ A real improvement was:  
         >/= 15.Bxe7 Ngxe716.d4 exd417.Nxd4 Nxd418.Qxd4 Rb5;  "~"   
        when Black might be a little better, ("=/+") but its hard to imagine that Aronian    
        is clearly winning from here. ]  


 15...bxc3;  ('!?')   
This is good enough for an advantage, while I should note that 15...Qb7 was also good for Black as well.   

     [ Or  15...Qb716.Bxe7 Ngxe717.Ba4 f5,  "+/="    (Maybe "/+")  when Black is also for choice. ]   


 16.bxc3 f5;  {See the diagram given, just below.}   
 << "Black has obtained a strong initiative."   

      "Both his rooks exert strong pressure along the b- and f-file respectively, while the battery Q+B    
       create tactical threats against the h3-pawn." >>  - The CB commentator   


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I will only add that White's center is 'tender' and that the first player has many different weaknesses - and that he must try to protect and cover all of these potential problem spots against whatever threats Aronian is able to generate.   


 17.Ba4?!,  (Really - '?')    {See the diagram given, just below.}  
Almost any move was better than this one, you have to believe that Leko miscalculated badly to want to even try to play this variation.  


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Take a close look at this position.  

     [ >/= 17.Bxe7 Ngxe718.Ng5 Bg8 19.Ba2 fxe420.dxe4 Qe8; "=/+"  ("/+")   


       >/= 17.exf5! Rxf518.Be3, ('!')  18...Nf619.Rb1 Nd5;  "=/+" ]   


Now after Black's next move - the main point of which is that Aronian refuses to lose time - the next seven ply are pretty much forced, (for both parties).  
 17...fxe4!;  18.Bxc6,    
Now White is committed and cannot back out. 

     [ Not to be recommended was:  </= 18.Rxe4?! Bd519.Bxe7!? Ncxe7!20.Re3 Ba8!;   
       with the nice idea of  21...Nd5-f4;  (etc.)  with a nearly overwhelming position for Black.  
       ("/+" or "-/+")  - CB analysis ]  


 18...exf3; 19.Bxe7 Nxe7;  20.Bxf3 Ng6; ('!')    {See the diagram given, just below.}   
This eyes the outpost on f4 and will give Black the option of playing ...Nh4 in some lines.   


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"Black has an advantage in the centre and excellent attacking prospects on the king side."  - The CB web site  


This play could also be of doubtful value, ('?!') Ne3 looked to be forced.  

This looks to be a panic reaction, like Leko has suddenly realized that he was in trouble and hastily decided to try and exchange a few pieces. 

 21...Nf4;  22.Ra2?,  (Maybe - '??')    {See the diagram given, just below.}   
Walking into this (self-made) pin is suicide, and clearly demonstrates that Leko is not his usual self.  
(Normally, P.L. has a reputation as one of the best defenders in the world, able to hold virtually any position, no matter how bad the situation might appear at first.)  

22.Ne3 was virtually forced.   


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  Study this position carefully.  


     [ >/=  22.Ne3[] Bxg423.hxg4 Rb2;  "/+" ]  


Now like a master of Judo, Black applies pressure to a few key places ... and White's game simply falls completely apart. 
"Unpinning the bishop with gain of tempo." - The CB commentator  

 23.Bf3[] Qb3; ('!')    
Normally you do not offer to swap Queens when you are on the offensive, but here the WQ is one of the few good pieces that Leko has.  

 24.Rc2,  hmmm  ('[]' ?)     {See the diagram given, just below.}   
Apparently Leko does not think that he can allow the trade.  


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At first, I thought that this move might be an error, but several different programs confirm that it was virtually forced here for White. 

     [ </= 24.Qxb3?! Rxb325.Rd2 Nxh3+26.gxh3 Rxf3;  "-/+" ]  


Black to move in this position. 

What is the best move that Black can play? 
 24...Nxd3!;  25.Qxd3 Qxc4;  26.Qxc4 Bxc4;  "/+"  (Maybe "-/+")    {See the diagram given, just below.}   
Now Black is a solid Pawn ahead with the vastly better position and Pawn structure.  


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  1r3r1k/2p3pp/p2p4/P3p3/2b5/2P2B1P/2R2PP1/4R1K1 w   


Leko lamely struggles on ... until his position is obviously dead lost ... before throwing in the towel.  

 27.Bc6 Rb3;  28.g3!? g5;  29.Re3 Ra3; 30.Be4 Rxa5;   
Now White is TWO pawns down ...  

 31.g4 Bd5; ('!?')   
This is good enough to win for Aronian, who is understandably eager to reach the endgame.   

     [ (>/=) 31...Ra1+32.Kg2 a5;  "-/+" ]  


 32.f3!?,  (Probably - '?!')    
Now it becomes obvious that Leko is demoralized and is not thinking clearly. (If White is lost, and there is no hope, then he should simply resign. However, it cannot help White's cause to further degrade his Pawn structure here.)   

     [ >/= 32.Bxd5 Rxd533.Kf1 Kg7;  "-/+" ]  


 32...Bxe4;  33.fxe4 Ra1+;  34.Kg2 Rff1;   
Now Black is clearly winning, the rest does not require a great deal of comment to understand.  

 35.Ree2 Rg1+;  36.Kh2 Rh1+;  37.Kg3 Rag1+;    
Aronian seems to enjoy toying with his opponent, of course if Leko objects to all this he could have ended his suffering much sooner. 

     [ Also good was:  37...Rac1;  ("-/+")  when Black should win handily. ]  


 38.Rg2!? Re1!;  39.Rgf2?! Re3+;  40.Kg2 Rexh3,  "-/+"   (Resigns.)    {See the final diagram - below.}  
  ... and mercifully, Leko finally cashes in his chips.  


gotm_03-06_pos17.gif, 08 KB

  7k/2p4p/p2p4/4p1p1/4P1P1/2P4r/2R2RK1/7r w  


While Aronian deserves praise for the way that he conducted his side of this contest, this was a VERY bad day at the office for poor Leko ... who played well below his normal standard. 

Congrats to Levon Aronian, many players dream of winning Wimbledon, but few can actually pull it off.  

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See also the CB report on this particular round,  


  Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby, 2006. All rights reserved.   


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