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Round 1: Grischuk & Radjabov win
Thursday, 31 July 2008

The 2nd tournament in the FIDE Grand Prix Series, SOCHI 2008, has started today with two victories: Grischuk beat Karjakin and Radjabov defeated Al-Modiahki. At 15:00 hrs, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov made the first move on the board of Navara and Ivanchuk, one of the five draws today.

wangyue_aronian.jpgIn Wang Yue-Aronian, the first draw of the tournament, the players went for a fashionable line of the Slav Defense, where White has two bishops, and Black enjoys a solid position. Levon showed the most energetic way of fighting for equality. He improved his own play in Bu Xiangzhi-Aronian, Yerevan 2008 by 13…e5!.

The Chinese player went for 8.0-0 and 10.e4 for the first time. “My opponent had two games in the line and I think White was better twice, so I played this. But 13...e5, I don’t know, maybe after 14…h6 I should take on e5 but I think it’s all equal,” after which he added: “My opening was bad!” Well, as the Rolling Stones sang, You can’t always get what you want. His natural reply 14.Bg5 basically killed the intrigue, as the game proceeded to a drawn ending with opposite-colored bishops. The peaceful outcome of the game is fair and just.

navara_ivanchuk.jpg A satisfied Navara showed his game in the press room, which he had drawn against first seeded Ivanchuk. “It is almost impossible to prepare against this opponent but this line I know a little.” He was talking about his off-beat 5.Qb3 against the Queen’s Indian, but here too, the Ukrainian was well prepared. He traded the dark-squared bishop, and developed strong counterplay on the light squares.

His novelty 13…Qd7! allowed Black to concentrate serious forces in the center. Navara attempted to push the enemy knights off the key squares, and almost succeeded. However, Ivanchuk’s sharp 19…c5! provoked a cascade of exchanges that completely equalized the game. Both players played well, and the draw is quite logical. According to Navara it was “probably equal all the time”, although during the game he had the feeling he was slightly better. A few moments he avoided an immediate draw but after 31…Qxa2!, a move he had missed, he had to go for it anyway.

svidler_kamsky.jpg In Svidler-Kamsky the players entered a fashionable line of the Caro-Kann Defense (structurally resembling the French), and Kamsky demonstrated an original novelty – 9…a6. The idea behind it is probably to keep more options for the light-squared bishop. Svidler replied simply and sensibly, and continued developing his pieces. Afterwards he said he overestimated his chances. “17.f4 is better than 17.b3 but it’s complicated.”

He hadn’t expected 17…Nac6! and the only way to prevent the loss of a pawn was helping Black to catch up in development. The 21.c4 break opened up the position, and Black pieces obtained two open files. Soon it turned out that White had many weak pawns, and Svidler had to force the events in order to avoid the worst. His timely break 26.g4! secured a draw. On 28.Kh2 Kamsky had planned 28…Qb5 after which 29.Rg1 Bf8 “there’s no mate and Black might be a bit better already” (Svidler).

grischuk_karjakin.jpg Grischuk was the first to draw blood in the tournament; he played an excellent game against Karjakin. With 14…Bg7 the young Ukrainian deviated from a game against the same opponent in January this year (Odessa, rapid) and his 17...c5 was a novelty that tried to rehabilitate a line of the Anti-Moscow Gambit. It did look promising, and Black’s position looked good after the opening, however, only deep home analysis can support or refute this impression. One thing is obvious – Black had to play very accurately to avoid the mating attack, and he failed to do so.

Grischuk had analysed it a bit before the game, “but I still couldn’t remember if 21.Qd2 was the correct move,” the Russian grandmaster said. He liked his 23.Ra3 which puts Black in “some kind of Zugzwang”. White protects b3 already and any move by Bb7 allows the Bc2 and Qd3 battery. Then, 24…Rb6! was was also strong according to Grischuk but then Karjakin played a few weak moves. He could have tried 24…a4!? with the idea of transferring the rook to b2.

In the game, Black’s play was a bit slow, and it was ultimately decided by the poor position of Black’s king. Grischuk kept picking up pawns, and played accurately even in his traditional time trouble. All in all, the players produced a logical game of high quality, and its outcome was determined by strategic drawbacks of the Black’s position.

gelfand_jakovenko.jpg Gelfand-Jakovenko was a positional game. In a well-known line of the Nimzo-Indian, Black carried out a positional pawn sacrifice, fighting for the light squares in the center – 14…b5!?. Boris tried to improve White’s play in Nogueiras-K.Georgiev, Leningrad 1987, declining the offer. However, White failed to show any significant advantage. “I have the bishop pair, but my pieces are rather clumsy in this line,” Gelfand said afterwards.

The key squares d5 and e4 were under Black’s firm grip, and Black even started creating some threats for the enemy king (which were, however, not all that serious). Black’s attack (34…e5 and 36…e4) was parried by the accurate 38.Ra6!, which allowed White to trade the rooks and proceed to a deadly drawn endgame.

radjabov_al-modiahki.jpg Thanks to the efforts of both Radjabov and Al-Modiahki, their game quickly deviated from the theoretical paths. The resulting position looked like a weird version of the Catalan. White had the initiative, and Al-Modiahki probably made a bad decision to open up the center by 11…c5?! – this move gave scope to the White’s bishops. Radjabov himself wasn’t sure about 13…Bc5 (“Probably not the best”) and then his original rook maneuver 14.Rh4!, 17.Ra4 and 19.Rc4! gave him a big advantage.

In the subsequent game the d-pawn march gave Black decent counterplay. The decisive mistake was made on the 27th move, when he missed 27…Nc6! with good saving chances. After 27…gxf6? 28.Qxe7 Radjabov restored his advantage and convincingly won the game.

cheparinov_gashimov.jpgCheparinov-Gashimov was a Petroff and in this opening, the move 7…Nc6 looks so familiar that we hardly think of any other continuations. However, the logical 7…Nd6!? (aimed against c2-c4), played by Gashimov, was invented more than a century ago. David Bronstein advertised it at the highest level in 1972, and these days many grandmasters use this move to avoid mainstream theory.

In the game Black obtained a solid position despite certain lag in development. However, this was only a temporary disadvantage. Ivan’s novelty 13.Ne2 proved fruitless. Black easily parried White’s ill-prepared attack on the kingside, and moved to active operations by 23…g5. The resulting complications were too tough for both sides. The players committed several inaccuracies and plain blunders.

dia01.jpgThe critical moment occurred after the move 35…h5 (diagram). Here White could claim an advantage by 36.Ne3! gxh4 37.Kh2! Instead, Cheparinov went for a tactical solution, missing a beautiful refutation: 36.Nxf6+ Rxf6 37.Rxf6, and here Gashimov could punish his opponent by 37...Qb1+ 38.Kh2 Nh3!!, and the White’s king is in the mating net. 39.Rg6+ doesn’t help in view of 39…Kh7. However, Vugar took on f6 with the queen, which resulted in a completely drawn queen ending.

Peter Doggers & GM Sergey Shipov

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