25 December 2015

The Berlin is Avoided

Round one of the “Nutcracker” match-tournament in the review of Vladimir Barsky and Eteri Kublashvili.

The first confrontation day of the generation tournament in the Vladimir Dvorkovich Chess Hall ended to a completely unpredictable outcome in both tournaments. The "Kings" started pressing their opponents mercilessly right from the opening, when at three out of four boards the "Princes" Antipov, Oparin, and Bukavshin stood suspiciously, to put it mildly. However, the classical seven-hour time control has come out at its full force and the opponents started committing errors, letting their advantages evaporate.

The first to stumble among the "Kings" was Alexander Morozevich, who started off the tournament to a defeat last year as well. Being two pawns up against Mikhail Antipov, the renowned grandmaster underestimated White’s counterplay on the kingside.

The U20 World Champion shared the details of his victory in the course of a press conference.

Antipov – Morozevich

The opponents opted for the Zaitsev variation of the Ruy Lopez.

Mikhail Antipov, "In this position I made a rather rare move 10.a3. Here they usually go for 10.d4 Bf8 11.Nbd2 Bb7, etc. In such type of positions I'm generally inclined towards the plan that includes a3, but in this particular case this move does not make any difference, so it could be made later on."

10…Bf8 11.Bc2

MA, “I believe this move to be a mistake; better was to play 11.d4, so as to prevent what happened in the real game and to transpose into the mainlines. During the game I was evaluating the 11…d5 12.exd5 Qxd5 continuation and considered my position to be a decent one; however, later on it dawned upon me that things were not as fun-filled for me as that”.

MA, “My initial plan was 13.Ng5 followed by Bb3, so I considered my position to be much superior. One of the interesting lines here was 13…e4 14.d3 exd3 15.Rxe8 dxc2 16.Qxd5 Nxd5 17.Nd2, which I evaluated as being to my advantage. I also considered the move 13…Qd6, which I planned to meet by 14. Qf3, threatening to capture on h7. However, I completely overlooked the move 13…Qd7, when the idea of Qf3 works no more in view of Bb7. After this move I could no longer find any good continuations for me”.

The game saw 13.d4 Bb7 14.Bb3 Qd6 15.Ng5

MA, “I underestimated the consequences of 15…Nd8 in this position. I analyzed 15…Re7, which I intended to answer by 16. Nd2, followed by such strange lines as, for example, 16…Rae8 17.Nde4 Nxe4 18.Nxe4 Qg6 19.d5 Na5 20.Bc2 with the edge for White.” 

16. Nd2

MA: “When I analysed this line in my advanced calculation I failed to give a proper evaluation to the 16…exd4 move, only drawing my conclusions upon 16…h6 17.Nge4 Nxe4 18.Nxe4, with a slight edge”. 

17. Rxe8 Nxe8 

MA, “It seemed to me that I could go 18.Nde4, so as to meet 18…Qg6, by 19.Bc2, when in certain lines the h7-pawn is exposed to a certain degree. I could parry 19…h6 with 20.Nc5 Qc6 21.Nxb7 Qxb7 22.Qd3, giving White an initiative for the missing pawn. However, I rejected 18.Nde4 because of 18…Qe7, upon which no continuation of White’s attack is in sight. 18. Qd3 was also part of my initial calculations, but this move fails to 18…h6. Therefore I made up my mind to go for the position arising after 18. Qh5, counting only on 18…Qg6 19.Qxg6 hxg6 20.cxd4.

Meanwhile, Black opted for 18…Nf6, the move which I didn’t give much assessment to during the game. Only after Alexander made this move it dawned upon me that my position was a lousy one. For example, after 19.Bxf7+ Kh8 20.Qh4 dxc3 White remains with his pieces still undeveloped.”

19.Nxf7 Nxf7 20.Qxf7+ Kh8

MA, “This is the point where I blundered in my calculations, although to my mind the position was quite unpleasant, if not a lost one already. When I played 21. cxd4, it was confined to calculation of such lines as 21…Qxd4 22.Nf1 Qe4 23.f3 Bc5+ 24.Kh1 Qe2 25.Bh6 or 23…Qe2 24.Be3 Qxb2 25.Rd1. However, once the move 21…Qxd4 was made on the board, I noticed that in response to 22.Nf1 Black was winning easily after 22…Bc5 23.Be3 Qe4, and White’s position was as good as resignable. Instead of 22.Nf1 there was another move 22.Qxc7, which also seems to be losing for White after 22…Bc5 23. Qg3, and here Black comes up with 23…Nh5. The only continuation is 24.Qe3 Qxe3 25.fxe3 Bxe3+ 26.Kh2 Rc8 with a substantial advantage for Black.

Therefore, I made up my mind in favor of 22. Nf3 so as to stay in the game somehow.”

22…Bxf3 23. gxf3 

MA, “During the game I evaluated the line 23…Bc5 24. Be3 Qxb2 25. Re1 Rf8 26. Qxc7 Bxe3 27. Rxe3 Qxa3 as being undoubtedly lost for White, although definite bailing chances could come along the way, should an opportunity arise. The opponent, however, played 23…Bd6 with the threat of Rf8.”

24. Be3 Qxb2 25. Rd1 

MA, “Now 25…Rf8 is refuted by 26. Rxd6!

To my mind Black mishandled it greatly by playing 25…Qxa3; he should have simply opted for 25…Qe5, followed by something like 26. f4 Qh5 27. Qxh5 Nxh5 28. Bd5 Rf8 29. Bb7 a5 30. Rd5 Nxf4 31. Bxf4 Rxf4 32. Rxb5 a4.

If I understand correctly, my opponent missed that after 26. Bh6 Rg8 I could sidestep 27. Kh1 in order to vacate the g1 square for the rook”.


MA, “A better option, perhaps, was 27…gxh6 28. Qxf6+ Rg7 and I failed to find any winning continuation for White in this position.” 

28. Rg1 

28. Bg5 is suggested by the engine as a better move, giving White a substantial amount of advantage. 

MA, “I planned to meet 28…Qd6 by 29.Be6, threatening to capture on f6 and I intended to answer 28…a5 with 29.Rg3 a4 30.Be6, maintaining all threats.”

The game continued 28…Qe7?

After 29. Bxg7+! Black found himself in a completely hopeless position, making Morozevich resign several moves after. 

Peter Leko became yet another guest of the press center that day as he defeated Ivan Bukavshin as White and restored the balance in the match. The Hungarian grandmaster said that he was unsure when choosing between 1.e4 and 1.d4 while preparing for the game, but when he noted his opponent to have started employing the Berlin, he swayed in favor of opening the game with the queen's pawn. "At least we had a position full of fight!" smiled Peter.

The opponents opted for the Meran Variation, and, what is more, to one of its lines in which Vishy Anand defeated Levon Aronian in a spectacular manner a couple of years ago. According to Leko, he has deeply analyzed the arising positions... for the Indian champion, whom he assisted during the 2013 match for the world crown. However, Peter immediately tossed in the phrase that was supposed to mean something like: "I do not really know what the modern chess theory has to say about it", but it is unlikely to be misleading for anyone: every pioneer is clear that Leko himself is the most up-to-date theory of this variation!

All in all, Bukavshin failed to equalize. He was far from equalizing. According to Leko it was the move 13…а6, played in response to 13.h3, which proved poor. Let professionals figure out why the advance of the h-rook pawn to one square is good, whereas the similar action of the a-pawn is not so, and lets switch to the first key position.

Leko – Bukavshin


It is essential that Black is prevented from deploying his knight into an active position. Leko’s initial idea was to play 24.Rd6, but then he realized that after 24…Nd5 25.Qe4 Rad8! there was no way for White to capitalize on the knight being pinned, e.g.: 26.Rxd8 Rxd8 27.Rd1 Qa8!, and Black is in good shape. 

24...Nd7 25.Rd6 Nf8 26.Rfd1 Re6 27.Rd8 Re8 28.R8d6 f6 

As both opponents were in time trouble by that moment, Leko decided to gain some time by repeating moves. Bukavshin decided against this, but did so in a poor way. 

29.Bd4 Ne6 30.Qf5! 

It is most likely that it was this move that Black failed to give a proper amount of consideration. Now Black has to agree to further concessions. 

30…fxe5 31.Bxe5 Qe7 32.Kh2 Ra7 33.Rb6

The Hungarian grandmaster criticized this move as the b6-rook might fall under a tempo attack in the case of Nd7 and suggested 33.Rc6 instead. However, the computer does not yet see any specific reasons for White to feel pessimistic.

33...Nf8 34.Rbd6 Qf7 35.Qxf7+ Kxf7 36.Bd4 

This is a time pressure mistake, which remained unpunished obviously because the time pressure was mutual. Correct was 36.R1d5, retaining all the benefits of his position.


This reaction is quite natural - who on earth would give away the a6-pawn just for nothing? Meanwhile, after 36...Rd7! 37.Rxa6 Ne6 Black would have obtained a powerful counterplay.

37.f5 Re7 38.a4

38.Bxg7! was yet another possibility.

38...Rb7 39.Rb1 h5 40.Rc6 Rab8 41.Rxa6 bxa4 42.Rxb7+ Rxb7 43.Rxa4 


The second pawn has to be parted ways either, because 43...Rc7 is answered by 44.Be5, making the с7-rook overloaded with multiple tasks. Leko went on to convert his advantage shortly after.

44.fxg6+ Kxg6 45.Rxc4 Ne6 46.Rc6 Kf7 47.Kg3 Rb2 48.Be3 h4+ 49.Kf3 Rc2 50.Rc4 Kf6 51.Bf2 Black resigns. 

Najer – Oparin

This game was the first to finish. Even though the position on the diagram might produce an impression of White having developed a dangerous initiative, an accurate rejoinder by Black dispels any illusions.


Demonstrating a superhuman composure, whereas 22...Re8!? is yet another decent defensive resource offered by the engine. How was it in the source document? "The goat cried out in an inhuman voice..."


Bad is 23.Nxd5 Bxc5+ or 23.Bxe6+ Bxe6 24.Rxd5 Nxd5 25.Bxe7 Nxe7, whereas after 23.Bg6+ Kxg6 24.Bxe7 Rxe5 25.Rxe5 Bd7 the chances of both sides are equal. 

23...Nxd5 24.Bxe7 Nxc3 25.Bb4 exf5 26.Bxc3 Rd8 27.Re5 Rd1+ 28.Re1 Rxe1+ 29.Bxe1, and the opponents agreed to a draw once the threshold of 40 moves was reached. 

The longest struggle of the first day happened between Vladislav Artemiev and Boris Gelfand. Almost out of the blue, in broad daylight the Prince "appropriated" a pawn from the King and tried to convert it for a long time afterwards, but to no avail: Gelfand found a solid defensive stance in the rook ending.

The second tournament also started off to the advantage of a single team – that of the boys, but it was only Dmitry Tsoi who ended up winning his game, and that being from most titled participant Dinara Dordzhieva. Kirill Shubin and Arseniy Nesterov stood much better in their games against Alexandra Dimitrova and Olga Mylnikova respectively, but Kirill missed his advantage and the game ended in a draw, whereas Arseniy went on to lose altogether. The encounter between Margarita Potapova and Yaroslav Remizov saw a great deal of adventures: in the middlegame Black outfoxed his female opponent and gained a pawn, but Rita put up a stubborn resistance and brought the game to a draw.

Thus, after round one none of the four teams managed to gain the lead despite the fighting spirit displayed by all players. However, all things are difficult before they become easy!