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Round 5: Radjabov beats Cheparinov and joins him in lead, with Grischuk
Monday, 04 August 2008
The fifth round of the Sochi Grand Prix tournament was the most drawish day so far. A decision in only one game: Radjabov defeated the leader, Cheparinov, and joined him in the standings. Grischuk's theoretical draw with Svidler got him on shared first as well, going into the first rest day.


grischuk_svidler.jpgEvery round seems to start with one quick, and not very interesting draw. Although Grischuk-Svidler looked very spectacular, in fact from A to Z the game was played many times before. The only new thing about this game was... names on the scoresheet. It was a mere repetition of Nisipeanu-Shirov, Las Vegas 1999, Brkic-Ragger, Maribor 2003, Agrest-Zdebskaja, Kusadasi 2006, Ivanchuk-Gelfand, Sochi 2006, and so on.

Svidler's explanation: "I'm not a regular Najdorf player and the last time I had 6.Bg5, I played 7...Qc7, against Kamsky in Baku. This time I went 7...Nbd7, for the first time in my life." In fact, Svidler had a special reason to go for this move, because yesterday, when playing football, he had injured his back and this still bothered him. "I thought if I can't sit, the sharper the game gets the better, so that it will be finished quickly!"

And what about Grischuk? Well, he just mixed up the move order. "I thought I would surprise Peter with 6.Bg5, but in fact I surprised myself. I could not remember which variation I had analysed. I thought I had looked at this but in fact I didn't. Then suddenly I remembered the game Ivanchuk-Gelfand and I knew I had to allow the draw."

ivanchuk_almodiahki.jpgIvanchuk-Al-Modiahki was a dull draw in a Caro-Kann – we can't put it differently. It seems, Vassily wanted to beat his opponent effortlessly, but it didn’t work.

White handled a well-known line of the Caro-Kann Defense a bit slowly, and failed to create any activity. Al-Modiahki skillfully organized counterplay in the center by 16...c5! and 21...Rd5!, exchanged many pieces and obtained an equal ending, which was drawn rather uneventfully.

To the question where White went wrong, Al-Modiahki answered: "He just didn't chose the right variation. This is just not dangerous for Black."

navara_jakovenko.jpgAgain, Navara was a bit unlucky today, this time against Jakovenko. David missed another opportunity to win a game and climb one step further in the crosstable.

After the game, Jakovenko said didn't know why he had played the move 5...b5; it was a slip of the finger mixing up the normal move order in the Ruy Lopez. Navara's 7.a4 prevented the Russian from getting back into his repertoire.

White then went for a poisonous line of the Archangel Variation of the Ruy Lopez – 8.d3, and showed a strong novelty 17.cxb3! (Kulaots-Delchev, Istanbul 2003 saw 17.Bxa5).

Navara continued strongly – according to Jakovenko, 14.c4 bxc3 15.bxc3 Nxd5 (15...Bxd5 16.Ba3) 16.Qe1 Rfe8 17.c4 Nb4 18.c5 Qxc5 19.Ba3 Nac6 which is fine for Black. The Russian praised his opponent's play: "16.Ng5 was very strong, and the manoeuvre Qe4-c4 as well, I didn't see that coming."

Navara expected 19...Nd8 and was planning 20.Ba5 Rc8 21.b4 Bd5 22.Ne4. When Dmitry realized that unhurried defense makes no sense, he tried to complicate matters by 21... Bxg2!. David’s reaction 23.f4! was very strong, but later White stated to lose track.

With 25.Rae1 he allowed Black to force a draw by perpetual, while the cool 25.Rf2! would have maintained a serious advantage for White, for instance, 25...Qg4+ 26.Kh1 Ne6 27.Rg1 Qh4 28.Rf3 Nhf4 29.Bxf4 exf4 30.g6!. Another unfortunate game for Navara and lucky escape by Jakovenko!

gelfand_kamsky.jpgIn Gelfand-Kamsky, the players continued to explore the Catalan Opening and its particular variation that became popular after the Kramnik-Topalov match in Elista. It seems Black is OK!

Boris failed to show a real improvement for White. He played a new move, 13.Nxd7 (instead 13.cxd5 or 13.c5), but Gata’s accurate 14...f5! created a true Great Wall on the board. Further maneuvers also failed to impress. Black’s defense was extremely solid, and the peaceful outcome was inevitable.

Gelfand himself thought he should have a slight edge in this line, but "was faced with a kind of fortress" at a very early stage. "After 14.c5, 15.e4 is a threat so he has to play 14...f5. The exchange bishops and queens is logical but then I cannot improve. In the final position, the only plan is a2-a4, and after b5-b4 to maneuver my knight to b3, but he just protects his a-pawn and with Nf6-h5 he can prevent e3-e4."

wangyue_gashimov.jpg The ending in Wang Yue-Gashimov, an Alekhine Variation (4.Qc2) of the Nimzo-Indian Defense, did not look difficult for Black. However, the situation wasn’t that simple and there were many hidden ideas.

Vugar carried out an interesting idea 14....Be4, provoking the weakening f2-f3 and weakening White's pawn on e3 before it had arrived there. But the grandmaster from Baku should not have taken it immediately. "20...Rxe3 was a mistake; 20...Kd7 21.Bb5+ Kc7 22.a5 Ra8 is an immediate draw," Gashimov said afterwards.

After that, White got a very strong initiative; his passed pawn on the edge of the board became extremely strong. But Gashimov started defending stubbornly, using all the tactics available.

He explains: "On 26.Rc1 there follows 26...Bxa4 27.Rc7+ Kd8 28.Rb7 Bxb5 29.Rb8+ (29.Rxb6 Kc7 30.Rxb5 Ra8) 29...Kc7 30.Rxh8 Bd7. 26...Kf6! was also good; 26...Kd6 fails to 27.Rc1 Nc8 28.Nxc8+ Rxc8 29.Bd3 Rc3 30.Bf5. And on 29.a5 Black plays 29...Bf5 30.Rc6+ Ke5 31.a6 Bd7."

Still, Black seems to have been one step away from the loss, and detailed home analysis will show the exact winning line for White. For instance, he could abstain from forcing the events, and maintain the tension by 28.Nc6! Bf5 29.Rc5, and then Black either loses the d5-pawn or allows the White’s passer running too far.

The ending in the actual game was also very difficult for Black. At the first glance it even seemed hopeless. However, Gashimov found a brilliant resource, cutting the enemy king on the e-file and creating serious counterplay by 31...d4! and 32...Re3!.

The Chinese grandmaster should have tested the opponent’s main idea by 33.a6! d3 (too bad is 33...Re8 34.a7 Ra8 35.Kf4!) 34.a7 d2 35.Rxd2 Ra3 36.Rd7, and then White should be able to utilize Black’s weaknesses on the kingside, using the a7-pawn as bait. This position seemed a draw to Gashimov during the game, but afterwards he kept on losing it against Emil Sutovsky!

Wang Yue allowed Black to establish a relatively simple positional draw, and so Gashimov survives again! It seems he uses some Grand-Prix specific spell...

aronian_karjakin.jpg Tricky play by both Aronian and Karjakin led to a position from the Catalan Opening with an extra move a2-a3 for White. Levon: "I didn't expect this ...Bb4 stuff. 8...c5 is probably more precize; I think it equalizes right away. In the game I tried to make use of my a2-a3 and the fact that he hasn't played ...h7-h6, but it was nothing. Then, 19.Na4 was probably asking for trouble but I avoided 19.Nxd5 Qxd5 20.0-0 Bb7!? 21.f3 e4 which should be a draw. After 19...f5 I realized that I had nothing." Sergey reacted powerfully (19...f5!, 20...f4!), and it put White on the verge of defeat, or so it seemed. Weak light squares around the White’s king welcomed Black’s pieces, so Aronian had to launch a heroic evacuation project. He managed to save in somewhat miraculous fashion, against the laws of physics and chess.

Actually it is not easy to point at any forced win for Black. For instance, after 24...Qc6 White escapes by 25.Bxh6! Qxh6 (25...Qxc5 26. 26.Qd8+ Kh7 27.Qh4=) 26.Qd8+ Kh7 27.Qxd5 Qxe3+ 28.Rf2! Rxb2 29.Qe4+! Qxe4 30.Nxe4 Rb3 31.Rf3!! Rxf3 32.Ng5+ Kg6 33.Nxf3 Kf5 34.Nd2!, and there is no breakthrough for the Black’s king.

After 24...hxg5, which occurred in the game, White delivered the spectacular 25.Rf8+!, sacrificing too many pieces for the queen, but getting the perpetual check in return. A highly interesting and spectacular draw!

radjabov_cheparinov.jpgRadjabov-Cheparinov was the key game of the round – a real thriller with unpredictable outcome. Evaluation of the position changed many times during the game; the players sometimes failed to cope with wild complications, and in the end the more composed player, who managed to avoid serious errors, prevailed. Radjabov himself felt sorry for Cheparinov but called his encounter with the Bulgarian "a game of patzers, playing on the boulevard, with a level less than 2000, completely ridiculous."

He referred to the many mistakes of course, and the opening play was already exemplary for the rest of the game. "After 15...b4?! 16.Bxc4! I'm a clear pawn up instead of sacrificing one, which is normal for this line."

White could have solidified his advantage by simple moves – 24.Qe3 Rg4 25.Rac1!, and Black cannot develop the attack due to chronic weakness of his king. Instead, he blundered his queen.

Radjabov: "Really, the level of some European junior championship, and I'm not talking about under 16 but under 8! It's very good that there's a rest day tomorrow because this is very strange. It's not like in Mexico where you have a jetlag, it’s not the food, it's strange, we play like amateurs!"

Crazy complications led to a position, in which White failed to get full compensation for the queen, however, it was Black’s turn to make mistakes. In timetrouble, Ivan failed to keep his cool, and missed 33...c5! 34.Rcd1 c4!, which offers a significant advantage. Black doesn’t have to rush capturing the d7-pawn, as he can just keep improving the position.

Instead, Cheparinov took a completely tabooed pawn: 33...Rxd7??. He probably blundered a nice intermediate move 35.f3!, which prepared the final blow 36.Rxb6!.

And so Radjabov could have gone into the rest day with two losses in a row, but instead he's one of the tournament leaders...

Peter Doggers & Sergey Shipov

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