30 August 2017

Bathed in the Wind

Final Day of the Gelfand – Inarkiev match in the Review of Vladimir Barsky

According to the organizers’ idea, the Concord Tower festival was to finish on the viewing platform of this very tower, which has become the symbol of Ingushetia's capital, the city of Magas.  It was built by a businessman Alikhan Kharsiev, recently elected as a State Duma deputy. It is thanks to his financial support that the festival is underway, and chess is on the rise in the republic in general.  Grandmasters were to play four games of rapid chess.  Last year, Boris and Ernesto already battled each other on the tower: being an exotic venue for chess battles, it is quite acceptable at that. All organizational issues for the premier match were successfully resolved.  It seemed as though the second attempt should go no less smoothly, but life is full of surprises...


Is everything ready for the game? Not quite…

It was decided to start at two o'clock p.m., an hour earlier than usual, so as to make it to the Palace of Culture of Nazran by seven o'clock, at which time a closing ceremony was scheduled to take place.  However, we were informed on Saturday that the closing ceremony would take place directly on the tower platform and be attended by Head of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov.  However, even those "intelligence" data proved not entirely accurate.

At the scheduled time grandmasters negotiated a hundred-meter height on two electric cars to enjoy fantastic views of Magas and Nazran, the valley and the mountain range far away.  Clear weather affords a view of North Ossetia, Chechnya, and even as far as a distant Dagestan. The floor of the observation platform is made of glass, so that taking first step comes with caution and hesitation, as if into cold water. Nevertheless, making quickly sure of its firmness, you no longer pay any attention to the abyss under your feet.


Entire Magas as if on a palm of your hand!

An improvised stage crowned a high vault accommodated a table with a chess set and a clock on it, chairs for players and an arbiter, as well as artificial illumination paraphernalia (there is still no hardwired lighting in the tower), while busy nearby was Anatoly Pedashenko, setting up a projector to have the games demonstrated on a big screen.  Arranged on the opposite side were spectator chairs, while the organizers took care of providing a table for your correspondent as well.  It might seem as though everything was ready to just sit down and play! There were only a couple of minor items still missing:  potable water (chess people are known to consume a lot during a game) and ... a toilet.  Last year, a bio-toilet was elevated to an unprecedented height, whereas this time the issue was altogether neglected, despite all prior reminders.  Alas, playing in such conditions for over four hours is not an option.

Yunus-Bek Yevkurov is greeting young players

I had to go down to Alikhan Kharsiev's office at the foot of the tower, where Head of the Republic, despite it being Sunday, was holding a working meeting.  Out of respect for the guests, Yunus-Bek Bamatgireyevich suspended the meeting and invited grandmasters to take the most honorable seats in the dining room, treating them to tea with fruits and sweets, and entertaining them with stories from his army life.  Some 20-30 minutes later Head of the Republic left his office:  he greeted young chess players, for whom tables were placed directly on the square, and examined the museum exposition dedicated to the ancient culture of the Ingush.  Exactly when Yunus-Bek Yevkurov was busy answering the journalists' questions, a neglected bio-toilet was seen hauled into the tower by the cart.


No win down a queen…

Game one started at 4 pm after a two-hour delay and ended when it was already dark.  During game four it grew colder all of a sudden as there arose a strong wind.  Hanging on the backs of the chairs, the jackets would inflate like sails until the grandmasters recalled their existence and started using them for their intended purpose:  they put them on to get a little warmer.  With the match score equal at this point and the board position a draw, "Armageddon" seemed inevitable.  The decisive game would have obviously taken another venue, but it never came to that:  Gelfand blundered for no reason at all and went down as a result.


A decisive game is about to start

Ernesto Inarkiev, a match winner, shares his impressions:

- The final day on the observation platform of the Concord Tower became a turning point of the match. This said, even weather contributed to tension buildup:  during the last game a strong wind got up!

- Those are not the best conditions for a game of chess, are they?

– Well, it just happened so. It was tranquil during initial three games; the wind was up only for the final one.

Grandmasters had to bundle up during the final battle

– Boris grabbed the lead with one day to go. A one-point gap is, of course, not that big, but it's more pleasant to be in the lead.  In the first game Gelfand was White and opted for a line with big drawish tendencies, showing me that he was up to safe chess.  I have not analyzed it yet, but the quality of games one and two seems satisfactory to me.

When there remained two ten-minute games, I charged forward as Black, realizing that it was necessary to introduce some complications.  Objectively speaking, White should have an edge there, but with little time and facing concrete threats, making proper moves comes hard.

The final encounter turned out very interesting as well.  I had a clear edge, but Boris defended tenaciously. It goes without saying that Boris was aware of the endgame drawing mechanism when down an exchange, but the extra a7-pawn was a spoiler.  By the way, I have already seen this habitual instinct in action by clinging to the material that one has no need of.  It proved Black’s undoing.  He needed to part with the a7-pawn, transferring the bishop to f6 and keeping the king on g7 and h6.  As far as I remember, the position is a draw even without the f5-pawn.

This is a very important moment for me. Defeating Boris is a rather major achievement. It was an interesting match, and I am happy to have managed to bounce back following two defeats in a row.

It has been one of my life’s most exciting competitions in terms of fight intensity.  looking at how Boris acts in the course of the match, I have developed even more respect for him.  I am very grateful for his coming to Ingushetia for this match. He is a true athlete with a big A!  He is a great chess player as well:  some games were played by him literally in one breath.  This is undoubtedly impressive!

I feel like having had more control over the course of the match this time around.  Comparing the last year’s and the current events, it is like night and day, which also makes me happy.  I work hard, train, and it is a pleasure to see the difference.  Talking about my achievements in this match, I would single out my victory in the classical section in which I succeeded in carrying out my plan in a vigorous manner.

In my opinion, the match format is quite interesting, although rapid chess definitely influences the logic of the classical chess.  However, it may also be one of the upsides in terms of stimulating more turbulent events.  It was perhaps due to my breaking ahead as a result of succeeding in the second series or rapid chess that Boris pulled together to put up a tough fight in classical games 5 and 6; otherwise, a standard format match could have seen him opting for a different strategy.

- Was the second festival easier from the organizational point of view if compared to the premier event?  Were you able to focus more on a purely chess aspect?

- It is so, although I was taking problems that were arising during the festival close to my heart and was unable to have my mind closed to it completely.  The people I interact with were trying very hard, but I would like to see it go even better.  The aspect of concentration is important indeed:  this level simply does not lend itself to playing while busy with something else.

I want to thank Alikhan Kharsiev and the sports club Adi Ahmad:  the process is well on track, the republic has become interested in chess, but serious efforts are still needed to keep up this level of enthusiasm.

Many thanks to Head of the Republic Yunus-Bek Yevkurov for attending the festival, watching games and following the progress of the match struggle.  It is of paramount importance as the people of Ingushetia look up to him as a leader.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to organizing and holding of the match.  It feels like it was more organizational burden and hard work for everyone involved compared to last year’s efforts.  It was nice to see the tournaments, held within the festival’s framework ("The Promising Players of the North Caucasus" and the SKFO Cup legs in rapid chess), to be mass events indeed.  I want to see more guests.  We will work on this!


Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, Chairman of the People’s Assembly of Ingushetia Zelimkhan Yevloyev and Alikhan Kharsiev on the viewing ptatform of the Concord Tower


Boris Gelfand:

– We have played as many as 18 interesting and not so interesting games with various time controls. The event’s format is different to that of the previous year: we alternated time control cycles and increased the number of games. It looks like a very decent warm-up for the upcoming World Cup!

– What are your creative highlights here?

– Certain games seem of quite decent quality to me. The subtlest game is perhaps the first one. It goes without saying that I missed a lot in rapid games.

– How promising is Ernesto’s idea of splitting up the match into two-game rounds and playing each round to a positive result?

– There exist many ideas. I think there is nothing compromising about the standard format.

- Did you like the organization of the match?

– The organizers did their best, but there were areas for improvement.


Boris Gelfand presented his book to Osman Balaev, a great chess enthusiast


Gelfand – Inarkiev

Nimzo-Indian Defense

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 0-0 5. Bd3 c5 6. Nf3 d5 7. cxd5 exd5 8. dxc5 Bg4 9. 0-0 Nbd7 10. Bd2 Bxf3 11. Qxf3 Nxc5

12. Qe2

A predecessor game saw 12. Bc2 Nce4 13. Bxe4 Nxe4 14. Rfd1 Qa5 15. Nxe4 dxe4 16. Bxb4 Qxb4 17. Qe2 Rfd8 with rough equality, as in Carlsen – So, Leuven 2017.

12... d4 13. exd4 Qxd4 14. Bf5 g6 15. Bc2

15. a3 is met by 15…Rfe8, and there is no 16. Be3? In view of 16…Bxc3.

15... Rfe8 16. Be3 Qh4

Stronger is 16... Bxc3 17. Qf3 Qg4 18. bxc3 Qxf3 19. gxf3 Rac8, fracturing White’s pawn structure entirely. However, a draw is still the most likely outcome even here.

17. Qf3 Bxc3 18. bxc3 Ng4 19. Bf4 Ne5 20. Qg3 Qxg3 21. hxg3 Rac8 22. Rfd1 Kg7 23. Be3 b6 24. Bd4 f6 25. a4 Re7 26. a5


After 26... b5 27. a6 Ne6 28. Bxe5 fxe5 29. Bd3 White stands equal, at least.

27. axb6 Nxd4 28. cxd4 Draw.


Inarkiev – Gelfand

Sicilian Defense

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 9. Bxf6 gxf6 10. Nd5 f5 11. Bd3 Be6 12. 0-0 Bxd5 13. exd5 Ne7 14. c3 Bg7 15. Qh5 e4 16. Be2 0-0 17. Nc2 Re8 18. g3


Gelfand scored in classical game six after 18...f4, but that seems to be a one-game surprise only. Black’s choice for this game seems more reliable.

19. Qxf5 Re5 20. Qh3 b4 21. c4

In the case of 21. Nxb4 Nxb4 22. cxb4 d5 Black features an excellent compensation for the missing pawn.

21... Ne7 22. Rfd1 Qb6 23. Ne3 Rf8 24. Rd2 Qc5 25. Rad1 Re6 26. Nd5 Nc6 27. Nf4 Rh6 28. Qd7

Stronger is 28. Qg2, and Black does not equalize completely after 28... e3 29. fxe3 Qxe3+ 30. Kh1 Be5 31. Bf3. After 28…Qe5 29. Nd5 f5 30. f4 White’s chances are higher also.

28... Nd4 29. b3 e3 30. fxe3 Nf5 31. Nd5 Nxe3 32. Nxe3 Qxe3+ 33. Kg2


A draw was forced by 33... Rf6 34. Bf1 Qf3+ 35. Kg1 Qe3+. With only a few seconds on Inarkiev's clock, Gelfand decides to try his luck. However, White’s precise play parries all incoming threats.

34. Qg4+ Rg6 35. Rd3! Qxd3

Black would have done better by keeping the queens: 35... Qe7 36. Qf3 f5 37. Re3 Qg7. Now Black ends up defending a pawn down endgame.

36. Rxd3 Rxg4 37. Bxg4 f5 38. Bf3 Rf6 39. Rd5 Kg7 40. Ra5 Bd4

41. a3

In the case of 41. Bd5 Bc5 42. Rxa6 Rf8 43. Rc6 Re8 44. Rc7+ Kh6 Black’s position should be tenable as well.

41... bxa3 42. Rxa3 d5 43. cxd5 Bc5 44. Ra4 Rb6 45. Rc4 Bd6 46. Rc6 Rxc6 47. dxc6 Kf6 48. Kf2 Ke5 49. Be2 a5 50. Bd3 h6 51. Kg2 Kf6 52. Bc2 Bc7 53. Bd3 Ke5 54. Kh3 Bd8 55. Kg2 Kd6 56. Bb5 Kc5 57. Ba4 Bb6 58. Kf3 Bc7 59. Ke3 Bd6 60. Kf3 Bc7 61. h3 Bd6 62. g4 fxg4+ 63. Kxg4 Kb6 64. Kf5 Kc7 65. Ke6 h5 66. Kd5 h4 67. Bb5 Bg3 68. Bd3 Be1 69. Be4 Bb4 70. Ke5 Draw.


Gelfand – Inarkiev

Catalan Opening

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 c5 4. Nf3 cxd4 5. Nxd4 d5 6. Bg2 e5 7. Nf3 d4 8. 0-0 Nc6 9. e3 Be7 10. exd4 exd4 11. Bf4 0-0 12. Ne5 Nxe5

A predecessor game saw 12... Qb6 13. Re1 Be6 14. Nd2 Rac8 15. a3 d3 16. b4 Nxe5 17. c5 Qa6 18. Bxe5 with initiative for White, as in Dubov – Nepomniachtchi, Sochi 2017.

13. Bxe5 Bc5 14. Nd2 Ng4 15. Bf4 g5 16. Nb3 gxf4 17. Nxc5 fxg3 18. hxg3 Qd6

19. Ne4

Stronger is 19. Nd3, e.g.: 19…Qh6 20. Re1 Be6 21. b3 Rad8 22. Nf4 Bf5 23. Nd5 with a clear edge for White, as in M. Ivanov – Guillaume, Bischwiller 1998.

19... Qh6 20. Re1 Be6 21. Qxd4

A very risky move. Balance was maintained by 21. Qc1! Qh2+ 22. Kf1 h6 23. b3.

21... Rad8 22. Qc5

This is losing, however. Correct is 22. Qc3 b5 23. b3 (23. cxb5? Bd5) 23... bxc4 24. Qc1!

22... f5! 23. Nc3

Tougher is 23. Ng5, but even here 23…Rc8 24. Qxf8+ Rxf8 25. Nxe6 Qd2 gives substantial winning chances to Black.

23... Rc8 24. Qe7 Qh2+ 25. Kf1 Bxc4+ 26. Ne2 Rce8 27. Qg5+ Kh8 28. Qd2 f4 29. Qc3+ Rf6 30. gxf4 Rxe2 31. Rxe2 Bxe2+ 32. Kxe2 Qxg2 33. Qd4 Kg8 34. f5 Rxf5 35. Qd8+ Kg7 36. Qe7+ Kh6 37. Qd6+ Kh5 White resigns.

Inarkiev – Gelfand

Slav Defense

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bxf6 Qxf6 7. e3 g6 8. Be2 Bg7 9. e4 0-0 10. e5 Qe7 11. 0-0 Nd7 12. Re1 Rd8 13. Qc2

In the game Dubov – Nezad, Doha 2014, White ended up slightly superior after 13. c5 f6 14. exf6 Bxf6 15. Bd3 Qg7 16. Qe2 Re8 17. Ne5 Nxe5 18. dxe5 Be7 19. Qe3.

13... dxc4 14. Bxc4 b5 15. Be2 Bb7 16. Ne4 c5 17. Nxc5 Nxc5 18. dxc5

Black is also fine after 18. Qxc5 Qxc5 19. dxc5 b4 20. a3 a5.

18... Qc7 19. Qc3


A temporary pawn sacrifice helps solve all of Black’s opening problems.

20. Qxb4 Rac8 21. Rac1 Bxf3 22. Bxf3 Bxe5 23. g3 Rb8 24. Qe4 Bxb2 25. Rc2 Bg7 26. c6 Rd4 27. Qe2 Rd6 28. Kg2 h5 29. h4 Bd4

Even though the position is level, White is still easier to play for as the c6-passer is a sort of saddle for the black pieces.

30. Rd1 e5 31. Qc4 Kg7 32. Rd3 f5 33. Bd5 Rbd8 34. Be6 e4 35. Rb3 Bb6 36. Bd7 R8xd7

The heat of action: Gelfand essays to overtake the initiative. It goes without saying that Black could have simply marked his time in this position.

37. cxd7 Qxd7 38. a4 Rd5 39. Rb5 Rd1

40. Rb3

Black’s idea stands out in the line 40. a5 f4! 41. axb6? (Correct is 41. Qxe4 Qxb5 42. axb6 Qf1+ 43. Kf3 Qh1+ 44. Kxf4 Qxe4+ 45. Kxe4 axb6 with equality) 41... f3+ 42. Kh2 Qh3+! 43. Kxh3 Rh1#. White does not walk into the trap, however.

40... Kh7 41. Qb5 Qf7 42. a5 Bd8

Losing is 42... Bxa5 in view of 43. Qxa5 Qxb3 44. Qc7+ Kh6 45. Qf4+ Kh7 46. Rc7+.

43. a6

White misses a clear win: 43. Rc8 f4 44. gxf4 Qxf4 45. Qe8 Qg4+ 46. Rg3 Qxc8 47. Qxg6+. This said, the opponents were playing with seconds on their clocks only.

43... Bb6 44. Qc4 Qxc4 45. Rxc4 Ra1

46. Rc2

Winning nicely was 46. Rb2! Rxa6 47. Rd2! Kg7 48. Rc6, and there is no avoiding a linear checkmate for Black.

46... Rxa6 47. Rb5 Ra4 48. Rd5 Rd4 49. Rd2 Rxd2 50. Rxd2 Kg7

The game is a draw again, but the fight goes on.

51. Rd6 Bc5 52. Rc6 Bd4 53. Kf1 Kf7 54. Ke2 Bb6 55. f3 exf3+ 56. Kxf3 Bd8 57. Kf4 Bb6 58. Ke5 Bf2

Better is 58... Kg7.

59. Rc7+


This is a decisive mistake. After 59... Kg8 60. Kf6 Bxg3 61. Rxa7 Bxh4+ the game is still a draw.

60. Ke6 Kd8 61. Rd7+ Ke8 62. Rg7 Kf8 63. Rxg6 a5 64. Rg5 f4 65. gxf4 Bxh4 66. Rxa5 Kg7 67. Rxh5 Bf6 68. Rh7+ Black resigns. Thus, Ernesto Inarkiev has snatched an overall 12.5:11.5 victory (8:4 in Gelfand’s favor in the classical section and 8.5:3.5 in Inarkiev’s in the rapid one).

Meanwhile, the closing ceremony on the tower never took place, giving way to a friendly supper on one of Magas’s best restaurants instead. Alikhan Kharsiev thanked Boris Gelfand and invited him to the 2018 Concord Tower festival. Let’s hope that chess has entrenched on the Ingush land for the long haul. We want to thank both grandmasters for nice uncompromising fight and wish Boris and Ernesto excellent performance at the upcoming World Cup in Tbilisi!

Pictures by Vladimir Barsky