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Round 12: Svidler beats Jakovenko, Aronian retains lead
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
It can't be Christmas every day. In the penultimate round of the Sochi Grand Prix, six games ended in a draw, and four of them rather quickly. Wang Yue-Navara and Cheparinov-Al-Modiahki were rather interesting fights and in the (end)game of the day, Svidler managed to score the only victory, against Jakovenko. Aronian retains sole lead with 7.5/12.


radjabov_aronian.jpgThe key encounter Radjabov-Aronian of the round was disappointing. Three factors added up: physical tiredness, emotional exhaustion and surprise factor. Aronian employed a rare move (7...g6) in the Scottish Opening, and then went off the known track completely by 8...Qe7.

Aronian after the game: "I wasn't expecting this opening at all and didn't know what to choose. I knew 7.Qg4 and realized that my position was not great. But 9.Nxc6 is simplifying, which should be in my favor. I was more afraid of 9.Qg3 Nf6 10.Qh4 where I might go 10...d5 11.Qxe7 Ndxe7."

White had a wide range of options, but Radjabov ruled out the most double-edged ones. The game could be much sharper if White played 9.0-0-0 instead of 9.Nxc6. And, of course, trading the bishops on b6 was meaningless. 10.Qf4! would preserve structural flaws in Black’s camp.

In the subsequent play Black completed his development without any problems, and arranged the pieces excellently. White was unable to maintain the tension without serious risk. Logical exchanges in the center (16.exd5, 17...Qd6!, 20...Nf4) led to a legitimate drawing finale.

gelfand_karjakin.jpgGelfand and Karjakin went for the ultra-sharp Alekhine Variation of the Nimzo-Indian Defense, entered the wildest complications, which quickly led to a drawn ending with opposite-colored bishops.

Sergey went wild against his experienced opponent, trying to use his development lead by 9...g5. Boris calmly replied by 11.Nf3 (earlier White tried 11.Bd3 and 11.Nge2) and managed to complete the mobilization.

Karjakin: "With 8...0-0 I mixed the moves. I wanted to play 8...g5 9.Bg3 Ne4, the main line. Maybe more precize is 9...Nbd7. Boris'  11.Nf3 was new but according to Karjakin the known move 11.Bd3 was probably better. "I was planning to play 11...Bxc3 [which would have been a novelty – PD] 12.bxc3 Nxg3 13.hxg3 Qf6."

Black’s central advantage did not seem to compensate for strategic flaws of his position (weak king and White’s two bishop advantage), therefore Karjakin forced exchanges by 15...Qb6! and 17...Nc3, thus minimizing the risk of defeat. Gelfand was unable to find the resources to play for a win; perhaps they never really existed. This opening line seems to lead to a draw by force. A desert land...

grischuk_ivanchuk.jpgAgainst Ivanchuk, Grischuk’s handling of the Romanishin Variation of the Nimzo-Indian was extremely cautious. His novelty 12.Nf3 (instead of much-used 12.Nc2 and 12.Rfd1) will not alter the theoretical conclusions. In fact, after the game he called it "a very bad move". Black obtained a compact and flexible position, somewhat resembling the Hedgehog.

20.f4 only pretended to be ambitious – on the next move already Sasha forced a draw by attacking the Black’s queen: 21.Nd5 Qd7 22.Nb6 Qc7 23.Nd5, etc.

I can point on a hundred ways of avoiding a quick draw, but I am sure Grischuk saw twice as many options. He must have known better. Calling it a game "full of bad moves", he finished by saying: "In the final position we were both happy!"

kamsky_gashimov.jpgThe outcome of Kamsky-Gashimov was predetermined in the opening. Black refused to play the English Hedgehog (7...d5), White avoided the most principled theoretical lines.

Vugar sensibly rearranged his pieces on the h1-a8 diagonal (12...Qc8!, 13...Bc6!), forced some exchanges, and even obtained a slight advantage. About the opening stage he said: If I play 9... Qxd1 10. Rxd1 Bxc5 then White has 11. Nb5 Na6 12. Ne5. After that, 10. Qxd8+ Kxd8 11. Ne5 is not dangerous because of Bxg2 12. Kxg2 Ke7 13. Bf4 Rc8 14. Nxc4 Nc6. And 12.Red1 was not good; he should have played 12.Qxc4. 13. e3 is forced: 13. Bxf6 Nxf6 14. Ne5 (14. Nd2 Bxf2+ 15. Kxf2 Ng4+) 14... Bxf2+ 15. Kxf2 Qc5+. After that I have a slight advantage but not enough to win."

Then it was Kamsky’s turn to play accurately and show his technique: 21.a4!?, 26.Rc1, 35.e4, and White’s wall is unbreakable. I (Shipov) did not manage to find any flaws in the players’ actions. It is easy to come across the idea of drawing death of chess after such games.

cheparinov_almodiahki.jpgIvan must work on his technique. Today he quickly outplayed the opponent, won a pawn, got an obvious advantage, and then failed to convert it without obvious blunders.

Cheparinov tried to modify the Rauzer Sicilian into the English Attack by 10.Be3, but Al-Modiahki prevented the g2-g4 idea by 10...h5, which seems extremely popular these days. However, later Mohamad played very carelessly, to say the least.

All the brilliances were actually fairly standard. By 14.e5! White invited the enemy queen to g8! 14...Qxe5 would be met by 15.Bf4 Qf5 16.Nd4 Qh7 17.Bd3 Qg8, and here 18.Qa5 wins quickly for White. Mohammad reasonably declined the offer, but then wrongly decided that the opening was the French Defense. Typically French 15...g5?! was strongly met by the Sicilian 16.f5!, and White created a powerful attack. By the move 20 the assessment was clear: White is way better: an extra pawn and the initiative.

There were no obvious mistakes in Cheparinov’s subsequent play, but I will show two (out of twenty) improvements for White. The first one: instead of 25.Bd3 he could open the game by 25.Bc4 Bg6 26.Rxd5 Rxd5 27.Qxd5 Qxd5 28.Bxd5 Rd8 29.Bb3 Be4 30.Kc1 Bxg2 31.Rg1 Bc6 32.Rg8!, and Black is one tempo short of a draw. The second one: 46.Kd3 instead 46.Rff2 looked strong, planning to send the rook via f4 to h4.

Cheparinov missed an excellent consolation chance. Al-Modiahki after the game: "The rook ending was probably always a draw, due to my active king. Before he exchanged bishops he had some winning chances."

wangyue_navara.jpgThe fashionable line of the Classical Gruenfeld 10...Na5 11.Bd3 b6 continues to develop rapidly in Sochi. Also after Wang Yue-Navara it looks like Black solves all the opening problem successfully, so the ball is in White's court.

Yet, in this game White managed to create serious pressure, and although there were no obvious breaks, Black’s position looked shaky.

Navara's new move 13...Bxe5 might have been inaccurate; 13... Be6 14. Rad1 Qe8 15. Bh6 Nc4 16. Qc1 Bxh6 17. Qxh6 Nxe5 was fine for Black in the recent game Butnorius-Greenfeld, Dublin 2008.  White attacked passionately, utilizing the remoteness of the Black’s queenside knight, and even the counter-blow 17...f5 did not slow him down. In six more moves this square was taken by a White pawn, which later became the hero of the story.

Navara: "Originally I intended 21... Qe3+ 22. Kh1 Rxf4 but this allows 23.Rfe1 Rf2 (23... Qf2 24. Re2) 24. Rd7+ Kh8 25. Qd1 and White will double rooks on the 7th rank."

28.Qe3 was a mistake. Much stronger is 28.Rd1, in order to trade on g6 and then look for attacking continuations with the own king feeling safe after h2-h3.

Navara fearlessly captured the pawn and started trading pieces. "On 29. Nh5+ Kh8 30. Re6 Black cannot play 30...Ne7 because of 31. Qe5+ Kg8 32. Nf6+ but actually I intended 29...Kg8 30. Qg3+ Kh8 and now after 31. Rxf5 Qd1+ 32. Re1 Qxe1+ 33. Qxe1 Rxf5 I'm not sure but Black is OK."

The only obstacle that prevented him from winning this game was that it transposed to a rook ending. Wang Yue defended very skillfully: 42.a5!, 46.g4+!, 61.h5. The game predictably ended in a draw: Navara once again failed to convert a significant advantage!

svidler_jakovenko.jpgWe take our hat off (we can even buy one for the occasion) for the fearless fighter. Sore and tired, with heavy burned of losses on him, Peter conducted this game very energetically, showed brilliant endgame skill and won a nice game. Svidler-Jakovenko is a textbook endgame example!

When all the central pawn were exchanged already in the opening, it looked like the game could quickly end in a draw. However, Black’s 15th move changed everything. Svidler thought 14...Rac8 Nc4 Qc6 was better than 14...Nd5, but analysis shows that Black can still maintain the balance with 15...Qb4!. However, Dmitry got amused by a complicated endgame, in which the knights of both players get to the corner squares. The minor pieces began to dance, and White dancers were more skilled, as they first got to the weak queenside pawns of the opponent.

Still, Svidler was critical of himself and mentioned 19.Nc7 as a possible improvement. "But here I forgot about the existence of a square for the first time in the game: a4." He also mentioned the surprising response to 28.Kf1: 28...Ne1!.

"After the game my opponent was very upset so unfortunately I coulnd't ask him about what I had seen in the game and what upset me: 31...Ke8  32.Ke2 Kd7 33.Nd4 Bxd4! 34.exd4 Kd6 35.Kd3 Kd5 which might be a draw."

Study the endgame after that  seriously and enjoy Svidler's great play. He was simply outstanding! By 43.h5! and 45.Kh8! he created holes on the kingside, and then sent his king to the long journey by 51.Ke2!.

On the move 63 it looked like Black built a fortress. "After 61.Nh6+ I thought he would resign, but for the second time I forgot about a square: g6."

But Peter managed to break the fortress by heroic knight maneuver: 64.Ne3 to 69.Nb7!, securing the new outpost for the king. The hero perished soon, but Black paid dearly for that. 74.Kxg5 revealed that the bishop is unable to stop the last passing pawn. An excellent finale!

Peter Doggers & Sergey Shipov

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