20 July 2016

Battle in the Mountains and Duel in Nazran

Two rest days and game four of the Gelfand-Inarkiev match in the review of Vladimir Barsky.

National celebrations dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Ingushetia as part of the Russian Federation took place during the last weekend in Ingushetia. Celebrations were held in all towns and villages, its central event being the fifth international tournament in mixed martial arts "The Battle in the Mountains."  The venue was staged at an extremely picturesque place - the Dzheirakh District - amidst majestic mountains and Ingush towers, which have survived in perfect shape since the Middle Ages and which are amazing pieces of architectural monuments. Live broadcast was transmitted over one hundred world countries, while official delegations from the neighboring on Ingushetia regions arrived to witness the battle with their own eyes. 

As Saturday was a rest day at the Gelfand – Inarkiev match, the organizers hit upon an idea of showing the beauty of local mountains to grandmasters as well as including the exhibition blitz game into the "Battle in the Mountains" program. Well, it being so beneficial for the promotion of the chess cause, Boris and Ernesto set off on a long journey. Alas, something went wrong and the grandmasters were unable to wedge into the show program that had been compiled and approved months before the event. They needed to confine to the role of honorary guests. Even though the sight of athletes with broken noses and their bodies with blood oozing out of injured areas is, frankly speaking, not to everybody's liking, only the number of those that filled the grandstands amounted to twenty thousand, whereas the volume of audience glued to TV screens defies any imagination at all. As for the mountains, they are really gorgeous-looking, while the towers made an indelible impression indeed. After all, they were built in those times when neither lifting cranes nor even cement was invented yet. These structures and the Egyptian pyramids are like two peas in a pod! 

On Sunday Yunus-Bek Yevkurov arranged a tour of the young capital of the Republic of Ingushetia (the modern Magas was founded in 1995) for the distinguished guests that arrived from other regions of Russia. A walking tour started with a visit of the one-hundred-meter-high "Concord Tower", built by the philanthropist Alikhan Kharsiev (it is on his initiative that the chess festival is being held in Magas). Heads of Ingushetia Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, of Karachay-Cherkessia Rashid Temrezov, of North Ossetia-Alania Vyacheslav Bitarov and Governor of the Stavropol Krai Vladimir Vladimirov ascended the observation platform on electric carts to witness the town development rate with their own eyes. This said, the glass-enclosed balcony of the tower will host Boris Gelfand and Ernesto Inarkiev for the final three rapid games of the chess. 

Then the guests of honor, joined by the Minister for the North Caucasus Lev Kuznetsov, headed for the Cultural Center. They greeted the blitz tournament participants, watched live games broadcast and conversed with Ernesto Inarkiev and Boris Gelfand. As the meeting itself and whatever preceded it took more time than initially planned, a Solomonic decision was taken to shift the second rest day from July 20 to July 17. This is how the tandem rest day made its way into the match schedule so that there will be no more rest days until the end of the match. 

Game four was played away in the largest town of Ingushetia, Nazran, at the stage of the Municipal Palace of Culture. Construction of this beautiful and spacious building goes back to Soviet times, its concert hall being three times as large as that of the Cultural Center in Magas. This is when a mishap with a screen projection unit happened and it would not switch into operation. Therefore, the audience (and there gathered quite a number) had to monitor the progress of the match game either on the screens of their phones or on a monitor of the laptop that was allocated for this purpose by the chief referee Artem Akhmetov. 

The white pieces were with the Israeli grandmaster, who opened the game with 1.c4. The opponents handled the opening into the English opening, and as soon as just after 6 (!) moves there arose a new position on the board that had never before been seen in the over-the-board practice. White came superior out of the central clash and gained a certain amount of advantage.

However, when the opening part of the game was over, Gelfand opted for a seemingly tempting, but apparently incorrect plan, upon which the game became level. Inarkiev declined repetition of moves and transposed into an endgame, where he overtook the initiative and soon transformed it into a bishop pair advantage.

In this game both grandmasters were quite severely short of time. Being short of thinking time, Ernesto Inarkiev missed several promising opportunities, allowing Boris Gelfand conveniently rearranging his pieces and launching counterplay against the black king.

After the time control move was over, the tension continued building up: while Black created a dangerous passed pawn along the a-file, White threatened to batter the lonely black king with all the might of his remaining pieces and pawns. In the second time trouble interval Inarkiev sacrificed the exchange to nip the opponent's attack in the bud. The passed pawn on a2, supported by two bishops, added up to a full compensation for the missing material. The opponents agreed to a draw on move 60 by threefold repetition of moves. 

Gelfand – Inarkiev  
English Opening 

1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 h6 

Vladimir Barsky What stands behind the last Black's move?

Ernesto Inarkiev: The moves 2.g3 and 3.Bg2 are made with the purpose of avoiding lines arising after Nc3 Bb4. Now Black throws the onus of having to decide on further game plans onto his opponent.

Boris Gelfand: This is a slightly provocative move. However, Ernesto has successful experience employing this move, defeating Artemiev and drawing against Ding Liren while having a good position against the latter.

4.Nf3 e4 5.Nd4 d5 6.d3

Boris Gelfand: The idea of meeting d7-d5 by d2-d3 has become trendy as of lately. Even though the game is of a complex nature, I believe White to be slightly better.


Ernesto Inarkiev: I was not particularly happy about this move since I was lagging behind in development. 

Here I spent quite some time calculating various continuations. Let me show you one noteworthy line which I had in my calculations; 6...Bc5, and if 7.Nb3, then 7...Bb4+ 8.Bd2 B:d2+ 9.Q:d2 (9.N1:d2 ed) 9...dc 10.dc Qe7 with a good position. However, White has 7.cd! with the idea 7…B:d4 8.Qa4+; should I play 7...Q:d5, then 8.Nb3 Bb6 9.Nc3 Qf5 10.O-O ed 11.e4 – and White has initiative, in my opinion. 

7.cd Bb4+ 8.Nc3 N:d5 9.Q:d3 0-0 10.0-0 N:c3 11.bc Bc5

Ernesto Inarkiev: White is ahead in development and I have a more sound pawn structure and outposts along the c-file.

Boris Gelfand: Compared to the Nimzo-Indian Defence the black pawn is on the c-file rather than on the e-file. On the one hand, this is to Black's advantage as he is going to move his pawn с7-с6 to blunt the g2-bishop, but on the other hand the c3-pawn is not that weak. However, White needs to play energetically because Black is going to be OK once he finishes his development. There is a wide choice of continuation and it is not so easy to make up your mind about any one in particular. In the game that followed, Ernesto's reaction to my plans is quite commendable. 

12.Rb1 c6

Ernesto Inarkiev: I had to weaken the d6-square, which may prove of importance later on.

13.Bf4 Na6

Ernesto Inarkiev: It seems to be a logical setup since the knight heads for c5. 

14.Rfd1 Qf6

Ernesto Inarkiev: I am not allowed to play 14...Bb6 immediately in view of 15.N:c6 bc (15...Q:d3 16.Ne7+) 16.Q:d8 R:d8 17.R:d8+ B:d8 18.B:c6 Bf5 19.Rb5 Rc8 20.Bb7. Therefore, I need to make another preparatory move. 


Ernesto Inarkiev: Even though White seems to have all his pieces deployed actively, it is not clear as to which object should be chosen to launch their offensive against - there seems to be no such objects. I believed 15.Qe4 to be an imprecise move, although it's hard to say what should have been played instead.

15...Bb6 16.Be5 Qe7

Ernesto Inarkiev: Boris must have considered 16...Nc5 17.B:f6 N:e4 18.B:e4 gf to be a mainline. Frankly speaking, I evaluated this position as equal, but on the other hand my pawn structure is compromised and by bishops are somewhat passive. I need quite some time to bring my pieces around into the play. My response is more tough and I do to see how White is supposed to go about this position. 


Ernesto Inarkiev: To my mind, position should be equal after this move. 

However, the principled continuation would have been – 17.Nf5 B:f5 18.Q:f5 Rfe8 19.Bd4 (19.Be4? g6; 19.Rd7? Q:e5) 19...B:d4 (19...Nc5!?) 20.cd Q:e2 21.Bf1 – although I do not think that I have any particular problems here. 

Boris Gelfand: I intended to repeat moves first and then to get down to thinking about what to do next. I thought that if he trades queens, I should be better. It turned out otherwise, however. I should have gone for 17.Nf5.

17...Q:e4 18.B:e4 Re8 19.Bf3 Nc5 20.h4 Ne4 21.Rbc1 g5

Ernesto Inarkiev: Here the initiative is with Black already.

Boris Gelfand: This is a dangerous position coupled with lack of time, but I managed to defend myself somehow. Towards the end of the time control my position started looking quite tenable already.

22.hg hg 23.Be3 g4 24.B:e4 R:e4 25.Rd3

Ernesto Inarkiev: This is a cute move and perhaps a strong one at that.


Ernesto Inarkiev: 25...c5 would run into 26.Nb5 c4 27.B:b6 (bad is 27.Rdd1? R:e3! 28.fe B:e3+ 29.Kf1 B:c1 30.Nc7 Rb8 31.R:c1 b5) 27...cd 28.ed Re6 (28...Ra4! is an obviously strong move - editor's note) 29.Be3 (29.Nc7? R:b6 30.N:a8 Rc6 , and the knight is trapped) 29...Re7 30.Kf1. Black should be better here, but how much better is another question. Meanwhile, the text move also looked promising. 

26.c4 c5 27.Nb5 Bc6 28.Nd6 Re5 29.f3

Ernesto Inarkiev: This move is very important. All White's pieces seem to be hanging, but I cannot exploit their awkward stationing and this is just amazing in and of itself.

29...Rd8 30.Kf2 Rh5

30...gf 31.ef Re6 32.Rcd1 (32.Bf4 Bc7 33.Rcd1 Ba4 34.R1d2 Ba5? 35.N:b7) 32...Ba4 33.R1d2 Ba5? 34.N:b7 does not work for Black.


Ernesto Inarkiev: I felt like having a substantial amount of pressure in this position, but failed to figure out how to make use of it.


Ernesto Inarkiev: Maybe, I should have moved 31...Kg7 without any delay.

32.Rcd1 Kg7 33.Nb5 R:d3 34.R:d3 Bb6 35.Nc3 Ba5 36.Bf4 gf+ 37.ef Rh8 38.Ne4 Re8 

Ernesto Inarkiev: White is obviously very close to equality. All his pieces are on good squares, while my a5-bishop is clearly misplaced. 

39.Re3 Rd8 40.g4 Kg6

Ernesto Inarkiev: It 40...Bd2, then 41.Be5+, followed by the rook retreat. 

41.N:c5 Rd2+

Ernesto Inarkiev: No tactical tricks work for Black any longer: 41...Bb6 42.Rd3!; 41...Bd2 42.Rd3; 41...Rd4 42.Nb3! R:f4 43.N:a5.

42.Kg3 R:a2 43.Nd3 Rc2 44.Bd6 

Ernesto Inarkiev: Boris managed to find a good setup for his pieces. Now White's counterplay is obvious and sufficient.

Boris Gelfand: White launches his counterplay, which should be enough for a draw.

44...Kg7 45.c5 Bd2 46.Re7 Bg5 47.Rc7 a5 48.Ne5

Boris Gelfand: 48.Be5+ is also an option. 

48...Bd5 49.Nd7 Re2 50.Be5+ R:e5

Boris Gelfand: Black is not bound to sacrifice the exchange. I have spent most of my time calculating the consequences of 50...Kg6, which gives rise to a very complex type of position. It feels like there must be some perpetual, however. 

51.N:e5 a4 52.Rd7 Be6 


Vladimir Barsky White had a nice resource at his disposal -- 53.c6!? with the intention of 53...B:d7 54.cb. Nevertheless, even this position heavily gravitates towards a draw: 53…Bf6 (this is how Ernesto intended to reply) 54.cb B:e5+ 55.f4 Bb8 56.Rd8 Bc7 57.Ra8 Bd5 58.R:a4 B:b7 59.Ra7 B:f4+ 60.K:f4 Bd5, and this position is a fortress. 

53...a3 54.f4 a2 55.Ra7 Be7 56.Nd3 Bf6 57.Ne5 Be7 58.Nd3

If 58.c6, then 58…Bc5, threatening 59…Bd4. 

58...Bf6 59.Ne5 Be7 60.Nd3 Draw.

Boris Gelfand: There was a lot that happened in this game and it requires thorough analysis. 

The overall score became 5-3 (the classical game victory is awarded with 2 points and a draw is awarded with 1 point). Game five is scheduled on Tuesday, July 19, with the white pieces belonging to Ernesto Inarkiev.

Pictures by Vladimir Barsky and from the official website of the Republic of Ingushetia