Sochi was covered under many clouds today, and one could say it was perfect weather for chess! The second round of the second Grand Prix tournament was full of great fights. Aronian, Cheparinov and Kamsky won their games against Navara, Svidler and Ivanchuk respectively, and so they join the leaders Grischuk and Radjabov.
The photo on the right shows the situation of the second round, at approximately 15:05 hrs. Many players were either still preparing, or simply avoiding the (few) photographers, or both. In any case, it was a bit of a strange sight. Luckily everybody appeared, to create a great round!
Kamsky-Ivanchuk was a truly remarkable battle. The players went for the Sveshnikov Sicilian and Ivanchuk’s 18…Rb7 was an attempt to improve Black’s play in Galkin-Filippov, Elista 1996. However, his next move 19…Ne7?! turned out to be unsuccessful. The exchange of the good-looking d5-knight allowed White to attack the weak pawn on d6.
Another exchange that took place on the 23rd move only made things worse for Black. Soon Vassily had to part with a pawn (25…Qf8!?) and look for saving chances in the endgame. He defended quite well for a while but eventually succumbed under the pressure. His last chance to survive was to play 44…Kc7! instead of 44…Kc5?. After that White was unstoppable and soon he created the winning Zugzwang by 47.Bc8!. On 47...Kc5 there follows 48.Be6, combining attack and defense, and if the bishop goes for b1, with 48.c5+! White will be first to queen one of his pawns.
Kamsky didn’t do anything special in this game. All his moves were simple and logical. Gata only showed his utmost skill – there aren’t many people who can beat a genius in such a style.
Karjakin-Wang Yue once again confirmed that Black’s fortress in the Berlin Variation of the Ruy Lopez is as powerful as ever. White’s advantage seems significant, but developing it is a much harder task.
Just a few months ago, at the first Grand Prix tournament, Karjakin and Wang Yue played each other with the same colours, and it was Black who won the endgame after some inaccurate moves by Karjakin. 13.Rd1 was new compared to that game, and Wang Yue’s 14...Be6 was new to theory (practice had seen 14…Bd7 and 14…h5).
Black constructed the usual defensive line on the light squares and started to wait for the opponent’s actions. Karjakin’s decision to exchange on e6 probably wasn’t timed well; perhaps White should have played 22.b3!. In the subsequent game Wang Yue’s fine maneuvering (24…Rh7!, 26…Ba3! and 27…Rd7!) allowed him to equalize completely.
In Aronian-Navara, a Chebanenko Variation of the Slav Defense, White played an old move suggested by Uhlmann – 10.Ne5, which is actually considered to be the newest fashion for White in this line. The statistics look dire for Black, and Navara only made it look worse!
His sharp 17…b6 was an attempt to improve Black’s play in Vorobiov-Pokazanjev, Sochi 2006 (which saw 17…e5 18.e4!), however, he only obtained pawn weaknesses, while White kept all the pressure (Shipov). Aronian wasn’t so sure however: “10.Ne5 I had seen a long time ago and I remembered it to be good for White, but now I think Black is close to equality. He has counterplay everywhere – especially 22...Qe7 was strong.”
The critical moment of the game is Black’s 23rd move. Probably he should preserve the pressure by 23…a5! to meet two goals: get rid of a weak pawn and initiate a counterattack on the kingside. On both 24.Nb3 and 24.Na4 Black can play 24…Qc7! with the idea to send the queen to h2.
Navara’s decision to transfer to the endgame by 23…Bxc5? Was wrong, and he called 26...Rab8 “a terrible move”. Then White’s bishop pair proved its strength in playing on both flanks, and Aronian confidently converted his advantage without giving the opponent a chance.
Cheparinov surprised his opponent Svidler by playing the Berlin Defence, which he had done for the last time three years ago. “White was a bit better after the opening but he probably missed the knight maneuver Ng6-e7-d5, after which Black is OK.” Afterwards, Cheparinov considered 18.Nh2 better than 18.g4. “But I’m not sure where he made the decisive mistake. Perhaps 30.Nxg5 was better.
Shipov confirms: this was a game of a single blunder. The players maneuvered skillfully in the Berlin Variation of the Ruy Lopez. Ivan showed a good novelty 15…b6 (15…Be7 was played earlier) and made a good regrouping by 18…Ne7!, 19…g5!, which allowed him to develop the kingside and create tension around the e5-pawn.
It seems Svidler did not fully realize the danger. Instead of the aggressive 21.Nd2 he should have solidified his position by bringing the king to g3. Later, when he realized that the е5-pawn is about to fall, he undertook the excellent break 25.h4!, connected his pawns, and then... And then there was a blowup.
Instead of 29.g5?, White had to play 29.Nd2!, defending the rook (compare to 29.Kg2? Bxe5! 30.fxe5 h3+!) and creating a route for the king. In this case the position would be approximately even.
After 29.g5? hxg5 it turned out that the planned 30.Nxg5 fails to 30…Bxe5! 31.fxe5 Rg8!. Svidler gave up a pawn in a different way, but nothing could be changed. Cheparinov skillfully manipulated his minor pieces in the ending, avoided all traps and confidently won the game.
Al-Modiahki-Grischuk was a Winawer French where White sacrificed a pawn for the initiative. 11.Nc3 was new and after White created significant pressure on the kingside, Alexander defended very carefully, suspending the castling for as long as possible. He managed to create solid blockade on the light squares (13…h5!, 16…Nf5, 20…Be6) and even pretended he was attacking on the queenside.
White had to react by 22.a4!, which opened up the game. Only after that the Black’s king left the center, and although White regained a pawn, he had no advantage left. Both sides played well, there are no obvious ways to improve their game, so a draw is a fair result.
After the game, an entertaining analysis on the demo board in the press room followed, with Bologan holding most of the “initiative”. First he mentioned the obvious improvement 11.Bxc3 instead of 11.Nc3, because the knight went back to e2 anyway. However, Black can skip the move a7-a6 then. Critical, according to Bologan, was 19.Qf2 to keep the option of Bd2-b4-d6. Grischuk tried 19...Qe7 there but after 20.g3 Be6 21.Rfb1 White has good compensation.
Was it due to the Sofia rule, or the fighting spirit of the players? In any case, Gashimov and Gelfand had to play on, and played on, in a position where Grischuk and Kramnik had agreed to a draw (after 13.Qxg5) at the Wch in Mexico last year.
It’s still quite a rare line Gashimov chose, with 6.Nc3. Threatening to bring his pawn to f5, White forced the opponent to close the game and weaken his position somewhat by f7-f5. A straightforward plan of 16.Qg6 followed by g2-g4 looked promising, but Vugar preferred to improve his position gradually. He pretended he is going to attack on the kingside, but as soon as the opponent played с6-с5, White switched to attacking the d5-pawn – 18.Rfd1!.
Boris showed good sense of danger. He realized that playing in the center is hopeless for him, and send his queen into the enemy camp – 20…Qa4!. White was forced to speed up, and the resulting complications led to an equal ending, which was drawn rather routinely.
Jakovenko-Radjabov was a complicated game, in which the Azeri grandmaster once again showed his skill in the King’s Indian Defense. He handled the opening unpretentiously, opting for a sideline by 10…h6, ended up in an inferior position and then slowly outplayed his strong opponent! The Russian apparently overestimated his position and underestimated Black’s counterplay.
Radjabov: “I have analysed a lot of continuations for White and I think the middlegame was nearly equal. But later, after the strong move 26...Re7, Black was better.
Over the course of the game the players set up various traps for each other. White could win a piece in the opening by 16.g4? Nd4 17.gxh5 only to get mated after 17…Nf3+ 18.Kg2 Bh3+!. It is impossible to give all the traps in this short resume, so let us return to the game.
On the 22nd move White should have continued to advance on the queenside by 22.a5!, in order to meet 22…Nd4 by 23.cxd6 cxd6 24.Nd2! with a long-lasting small advantage. In the game Jakovenko exchanged on d4, giving the opponent a dangerous passed pawn, and attacked the b7-pawn (26.Qb5?!), overlooking Black’s tactical resources. On 27.Qxb7 Teimour planned 27…d3! 28.Re3 Bd4!, thus White had to abstain from taking the pawn.
Upon realizing that the pawn cannot be won, Jakovenko turned to defending. It all could end badly for the Russian if Radjabov had played 36...Qf6 (“probably winning” as he said after the game) or 36...Qe2. However, he decided to swap the rooks instead of the queens, and White’s strongest pieces broke into the enemy camp and developed tremendous activity (39.Qe8+!). In search for the victory Radjabov had to trade the queens and give up his strongest pawn, but the position nevertheless equalized. The game was drawn – a good result for Jakovenko.