After three rounds, Ivan Cheparinov is leading the tournament with 2.5 points. And that’s 2.5 more than he had in the first Grand Prix tournament in Baku after the same number of games! Today he was a bit lucky against Kamsky, although his active defence deserves credit. Ivanchuk recovered by beating Aronian.
The first game to finish in this third round, the Azeri derby between Radjabov and Gashimov, wasn’t much of a game. Radjabov explained: “After 12...c5 I was a bit upset and didn’t remember the variations very well. I did remember some game with 13.dxc6 Nxc6 14.Bb5 which said plus equal but two moves later I did not understand why this is plus equal!” He suggested 18.Rec1 as a possible improvement but didn’t consider it very dangerous for Black. As there was nothing to play for, at an early stage the moves were repeated.
An English Opening was played in Navara-Karjakin, a good, eventful game without serious flaws. White went for the rare move 12.Nxd4, followed by a the novely 18.a4. Perhaps it will be more popular, because according to the players, White is slightly better after 22.Qb3 Rb8 23.Ba3 (instead of 22.e3, a move Shipov likes, by the way).
There followed a forced series of moves (Karjakin called 26...Ra7 “a very precize move”) and on move 28, Navara, with less time on the clock, decided to force the draw with 28.e4 where 28.Kg1 was the alternative. After a series of exchanges the game proceeded to an ending with slight initiative for White. However, the players continued to trade pieces, and after Sergey’s spectacular simplifying 37…Rxh2+! there was nothing left to fight for. A logical conclusion of a well-played game!
Wang Yue-Al-Modiahki was a Slav/Queen’s Gambit Declined hybrid with a long history. Al-Modiakhi’s 10…b6 deviated from the game Kotov-Botvinnik, Moscow 1955 – making such opening reference is a rare pleasure these days. Botvinnik selected the critical 10…e5!.
In the subsequent struggle White missed a good chance to seize the initiative. Instead of 16.bxc4, he could play 16.Rfd1!, planning to send the bishop to g5 and get the control of the key d5-square. After the text-move, Black avoided making any positional concessions, and proceeded to the equal ending, which was drawn after some fancy play (32…Nc3!, 39…Rxf2!).
A suggestion by Shipov: examine the classical game between Kotov and Botvinnik instead. It is well worth it!
To err is human. And sometimes we make really big errors. Even in winning positions! Cheparinov-Kamsky was a very disappointing course events for the American grandmaster, because he conducted an excellent game, obtained a big advantage, but then blew everything in the time trouble. But don’t blame him! Unfortunately for Kamsky, the position was extremely complicated and contained very tricky tactics. Only computer can find the way out in such situation, and Gata is not a computer...
The players went for the Classical Gruenfeld with 7.Bc4 and 8.Ne2. White selected a fashionable variation, where he sacrifices a pawn for sharp attacking prospects. Cheparinov was surprised about his opponent’s opening choice. “He plays the Gruenfeld sometimes but I didn’t expect it today.” He also said he couldn’t remember exactly his analysis and thought Black was OK after 18...Bd7. His novelty (20.Rxc8) probably did not improve upon Golichenko-Shishkin, Kyiv 2008 (which saw 20.h5, etc.).
Gata confidently parried White’s attack and got a significant advantage. We failed to find the way to maintain the initiative for White – it seems to fizzle out by itself. However, Cheparinov found an excellent practical resource 31.Nh5+!. White kept creating various threats, and after his 38th move the critical position was reached (diagram).
Here Kamsky had to play 38...h4!, after which White either gets mated, or has to trade queens, e.g., 39.Qxe8 Qg3+ 40.Kg1 Rc1# or 39.Qxh4+ Qh6! or 39.Rg5 Qc7! or 39.Qxd3 Qg3+!.
Instead, he played 38…Rc2?! 39.Rg5!, and here he proved that mistakes always go together: 39…Qc7??, and after 40.Qxd3+ Kh6 41.Qf5! the mating net was complete. The only way to maintain certain advantage for Black was 39...Bg6! 40.Rg3! (40.f5? Qe5+) 40...Rc7! 41.f5 Qe5 42.fxg6+ Kg7, but who could find it in the time trouble?
Gata missed a well-deserved victory, but Ivan’s effort should not be underestimated. It is a pity one cannot give the full point to both players.
Ivanchuk recovered well from his loss against Kamsky yesterday; out of almost nothing he managed to beat Aronian in a Chebanenko Slav. The Ukrainian grandmaster demonstrated an innocent-looking novelty (13.Qc2) in a fashionable line of the Slav Defense, which turned out to be very deep. Compared to the game of the same players in Sofia, White avoided the weakening а2-а4, and this fact deprived Black of any real counterplay. The bishop pair gave White better chances in the symmetrical pawn structure.
Aronian refused to defend passively, and provoked the opponent’s activity by 25…Nc6?! (safer is 25…Rd8). However, Ivanchuk’s assessment of the 26.Bxa6! blow proved more correct. Probably Levon missed the resource 29.a3! (with tactical justification of 29...Qxf4 30.Bxb7! Rxb7 31.Qc8+). The Armenian lost a pawn in a worse position, and that was about it.
Black’s desperate attempts to complicate the struggle in the time trouble (35…Rc4 and 39...e5) did not yield anything. The rating favorite of the tournament makes an excellent comeback!
Gelfand and Svidler copied the moves of their game at the Wch in Mexico last year, and the grandmaster from St Petersburg was the first to deviate, with 11…N8d7. “I soon made a bad move,’ Gelfand said, “I should have played 13.Be2 instead of 13.f3.” Svidler got a position with a pawn up, but after the game he mentioned that 13...e5 might be even more accurate.
Black then completed his development and delivered another blow at the White’s center: 19…c5!. In the resulting ending White was a pawn down, and the opposite-colored bishops were the only consolation for Gelfand. He managed to reach a position that was close to a draw, but then he went wrong again, with 40.Rxf4. “Also a bad move, but I had little time there. I missed that after 40...Rc1+ 41.Bd1 he can play 41...b4 followedy by Ra1. But with 43.Bd5!, which threatens 44.g5 (with the idea 44...hxg5 45.h6+) I force him to weaken his kingside.”
In Grischuk-Jakovenko, the grandmasters continued their research in deeply studied line of the Catalan. Jakovenko’s innovation 15…Nb8 (Leko played 15…Bd5 against Kramnik in Moscow, 2007) didn’t affect the evaluation: White obtained a slight advantage.
Non-trivial complications led Black to an inferior endgame with major pieces, which, however, looks defensible, although after the game, Grischuk suggested the intermediate move 38.Qb8+ as an improvement.
One should notice excellent defensive technique of the younger Russian: 31…Qd8!, 32…h5!. 34…Qd7!, 36…Qf3!, 40…f5!. In the resulting rook ending he also had to show some precision. A very valuable half a point for Jakovenko!