22 August 2017

A Novelty for Export

Classical Game Five of the Gelfand – Inarkiev match in the Review of Vladimir Barsky

That game was grandmasters’ theoretical duel in one of the English Opening’s modern lines that had advanced to the forefront only a month ago in a tournament in Switzerland, which both Gelfand and Inarkiev were participants of. Back then Boris demonstrated a new idea, one of which advantages is the engine’s complete ignorance in a sense that it is not among the top lines. Meanwhile, the novelty is so interesting that it is not by chance that it was immediately "exported" overseas.

However, first things first.

Gelfand – Inarkiev

English Opening

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 d5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.Bg2 Bc5 7.0-0 0-0 8.d3 Bb6


“Until this moment we have been following my game versus Adams from the July leg of the FIDE Grand Prix: 9.Na4 Re8 10.a3 Nd4 11.e3 Nxf3+ 12.Qxf3 c6 13.b4 Be6 14.Bb2 Qd7 15.Qe2 Bg4 16.Qc2 Bh3 17.Bxh3 Qxh3 18.Nxb6 axb6 19.e4 Nf4 20.f3 Ng6 21.a4 h5 22.d4 Qe6 23.Rad1 h4 24.dxe5, draw, as in Gelfand – Adams, Geneva 2017.

The 6…Bc5 plan is one of the latest trends, demonstrated by Grischuk in the above-mentioned tournament to win a nice game from Eljanov. The Black’s idea of keeping his knight in the center has caught on immediately. 6…Bc5 has been considered earlier as failing to 7.Nxe5, but now something does not seem to be working out for White any longer” (B. Gelfand).

9...Qxd5 10.b4

“The 9.Nxd5 Qxd5 trades, followed by 10.b4, is a fresh idea, untested in a tournament practice yet. If takes on b4, the pawn will be won back by White in a short while. Inarkiev does not capture it, which gives both opponents a large choice of possible continuations at each move“ (B. Gelfand).



Only as soon as six (!) hours later Gelfand’s idea 9.Nxd5 Qxd5 10.b4 was picked up by Nakamura, which was the latest Sinquefield Cup. It looks like, though, that he did not catch his opponent unawares: 10...e4!? (in lieu of 10…Re8) 11.Ng5 Qd4 12.Be3 Qxb4 13.Nxe4 Bg4 14.h3 Bh5 15.Rb1 Qe7 16.Qd2 Rad8 17.Nc3 f6 18.Nd5 Qd7 19.Rfc1 Bf7 20.Bxb6 axb6 21.Nb4 Nd4 with approximately equal chances, as in Nakamura – Karjakin, Saint Louis 2017.

11.Bb2 Qd6 12.b5 Nd4 13.a4 a6 14.a5

White attempts to bring havoc into Black’s setup on the queenside.

14…Bc5 15.bxa6 Rxa6 16.Nd2



Boris Gelfand labelled this move as overly ambitious and suggested a more natural 16...Bg4 instead, which he planned to meet with 17.Re1. This said, White seems to have a tougher rejoinder at his disposal: 17.Bxd4! Bxd4 18.Bxb7 Bxa1 (18...Ra7 19.Rb1 Rxa5 20.Nc4 is losing) 19.Bxa6 Bc3 20.Bc4, and the pawn is immune in view of 20…Bxa5? 21.Qa4 Ra8 22.Ra1, winning.

Perhaps, Black should have resigned himself to a more modest 16...Qe6. On the other hand, the engine votes for 16…Qd7, which humans are not yet accustomed to playing like, however.


“I am practically forced to take up the gauntlet since 17.Nc4 Qh5, followed by Bg4 and Rh6, gives Black an offensive against the king” (B. Gelfand).

17...Bg4 18.f3 Nf5

This cagy knight jump is the point of Inarkiev’s idea. Although Black’s threats seem menacing indeed, Gelfand calculated his way through multiple sharp lines in a confident manner.




Gelfand shared about having analyzed 19.fxg4 Nxe3 20.Qa4 as well, but ended up preferring the text as narrowing down the opponent’s range of possibilities. Here are some lines: 20…Nxf1+ (losing is 20...c6 21.Ne4 Bb6 22.Qb3 Nxf1+ 23.Kxf1 Rea8 24.Rc1 Bxa5 25.Qxb7) 21.d4 Rae6 22.Rxf1 exd4 23.Nb3 – the edge is with White, but there is a lot of fighting still ahead.

19...exd4 20.fxg4 dxe3?

Ernesto was carried away with a seemingly nice idea, which was not without a soft spot, however. Correct was 20...Nxe3 21.Qa4 (21.Qc1 Nxf1 22.Nxf1 Qd6 is to Black’s advantage) 21...c6 or 21…Rae6; although Black has a serious initiative for the sacrificed piece, White’s precise play should gradually neutralized it.

21.gxf5 e2+ 22.Kh1



In his advanced calculations Inarkiev intended to strike with 22...Qxg3!?, so that after 23.hxg3 23...Rh6+ 24.Bh3 exd1Q 25.Raxd1 Re2! (an effective quiet move!) White is checkmated. However, taking the queen in not mandatory since White has a tempo move 23.Qa4 (eyeballing the е8-rook), thwarting the attack.

It should be added that neither Black is helped by 22...exd1Q 23.fxg6 Qxd2 (or 23...Qxf1+ 24.Rxf1 hxg6 25.Nb3) 24.gxf7+ Kf8 25.Bxg7+, and White queens his pawn on е8.

23.Qc2 exf1Q+ 24.Rxf1 Rxa5

“I was somewhat confused by the 24...Bd6 option,


which would have called me to come up with 25.Bc3! It is necessary to calm down and protect the pawn, upon which White’s material edge should tell“ (B. Gelfand).

In response to 25.Nc4, analyzed by grandmasters in post-mortem, Boris showed the following resource 25…Bxg3! 26.hxg3 Rh6+ 27.Kg1 Qxg3, building up unpleasant pressure against the white king.  Further possible, for example, is 28.Be5!? Rxe5 29.Nxe5 Qxe5 30.Qe4; even though White has a piece for three pawns, Black’s drawing chances are rather high.

The grandmasters also studied 25.Ne4, but were undecided about 25…Rxa5. Nevertheless, an unexpected 26.Qc4! tips the scale in White’s favor: 26…Qh5 27.Nxd6 cxd6 28.g4 Qh4 29.Qd4 Rae5 30.Bxb7, etc.


White is already enjoying a pleasant choice of continuations: 25.Rf4 Qg5 (25...Re1+ 26.Nf1; 25...Qe2 26.Qc3) 26.Ne4 Qh6 27.Qc3 Rb5 28.Nxc5 Rxb2 29.Qxb2 Re1+ 30.Rf1 Rxf1+ 31.Bxf1 Qc6+ 32.Qg2 Qxc5 33.Qxb7, winning.




“I calculated to a position with a clear evaluation, but I could also play 26.Qb1 and be a piece up. However, the text seems easier to me” (B. Gelfand).

26...Qe2 27.Qxe2 Rxe2 28.Rd1 h5 29.Nd3 Rexb2 30.Nxb2 Rxb2 31.Bf3 h4 32.Rd8+ Kh7 33.Rd7 Rb3

Also hopeless is 33...h3 34.Kg1 Rb1+ 35.Kf2 Rb2+ 36.Be2.

34.Kg2 f6 35.Rxc7 hxg3 36.Rxb7 Rxb7 37.Bxb7 gxh2 38.Be4!

Safeguarding the last pawn from trading. The rest needs no explanation.

38…h1Q+ 39.Kxh1 Kh6 40.Kg2 Kh7 41.Kg3 Kh6 42.Kg4 Kh7 43.Kh5 Kh8 44.Kg6 Kg8 45.Bf3 Kh8 46.Kf7 Kh7 47.Bh5 Kh8 48.Kf8 Kh7 49.Bf7 Kh8 50.Bg8 Black resigns.

* * *

Thus, the match score has become 9.5:8.5 in Inarkiev’s favor (6:4 in Gelfand’s favor in the classical section and 5.5:2.5 in Inarkiev’s favor in that of the rapid). Let keep in mind that a classical game brings two points for a victory and one for a draw, whereas a rapid game brings one and half a point respectively.

Pictures by Vladimir Barsky