27 July 2016

Bringing Chess Closer to the Sky

The Gelfand–Inarkiev match finale in the review of Vladimir Barsky.

The last day of the match in Magas saw games raised to an unprecedented altitude as Boris Gelfand and Ernesto Inarkiev were playing on the viewing platform of "The Concord Tower." From up there there open views not only of the entire of Ingushetia, but also of the North Ossetia and Chechnya, whereas they claim that on a clear day one might see even as far as Dagestan. Alikhan Kharsiev, who has built this tower and donated it to the republic, ordered that the platform floor be made of glass so that it takes your breath out of you when you make it there for the first time in your life! However, it is before long that it becomes no big deal for you once you get accustomed to it. 

In the permanent lack of elevator in the tower one can make it to the top either on foot or using an electric cart to help you negotiate the road spiraling along the walls all the way to the top. A total number of 25 spiral turns amounts to a travel path exceeding 1500 meters! In addition to tables and chairs, it was also a bio toilet that needed hauling upward to as high as almost 100 meters, all this adding up to quite an amount of preparatory work. However, all those efforts did not fail to pay off as they created comfortable environment for grandmasters to play in. The audience crammed the space to capacity, while an exotic scene provided TV people with something to feast upon so that the last day of the match saw journalists from as many as three channels operating on the spot of action. 

Walking along the glass platform

Boris Gelfand: – What a unique experience playing games at an elevation like this! Travelling up and down with the aid of an electric cart proved the most demanding part of this experience. The conditions in the tower were normal, I was feeling well and rather enjoyed the spectacular views! In between the games we used to step out into the open platform to refresh ourselves as it felt so good to breathe fresh air. 

Game ten gave rise to an interesting and creative struggle. I came up with a positional pawn sacrifice, and it looks as though I succeeded in outplaying my opponent at a certain moment of the game. From my point of view, my advantage crystallized when I brought my knight around from c3 to f3, this being the key moment of the game.  I have so far had no time to analyze Black's plan of castling long to say something definite about the extent to which it is correct. It might well be that on move nineteen Black needed to take on d4, surrendering me the f7 pawn instead, upon which the struggle could have escalated so dramatically that a lot of complex line would have had to be covered by calculation. White would have had decent compensation for the pawn anyway. 

When the knight landed on f3, White's advantage stabilized. Even though Ernesto attempted changing the course of the game by sacrificing his bishop for a bunch of pawns, nothing good came of it after all. 

Ernesto Inarkiev: - The last day became a hallmark of our festival, which also bears a homonymic name "The Concord Tower". The idea was to demonstrate the beauty of the whole republic in general and of this specific location in particular. Playing games in the tower is a key idea of the whole festival. Despite the environment being somewhat unusual, I think the event went off well and everything inside the tower was organized conveniently. 

In game ten an interesting position arose out of the opening. Boris sacrificed a pawn and it was followed up by an unusual pattern of struggle. His idea of redirecting the knight to f3 turned out to be crucial to the game. The key moment happened after 19.Ng5. After 19…Rhf8 20.Nf3 White's position became very comfortable: the knight defends the d4-pawn and White is free to go on with development of his queenside play; this maneuver actually stifled my active play. This said, I needed to come back with some concrete play: 19…R:d4 20.N:f7 Rf8. It gives rise to a double-edged position with chances for both sides. Meanwhile, once the knight arrived at f3 Black's setup became precarious from the positional point of view. I attempted to improve my situation by tactical means, but my attempts fell flat at the end. Despite the fate of the game being a matter of seconds at its very end, the overall outcome is quite logical. 

Gelfand – Inarkiev (m/10)

19...Rhf8 20. Nf3 Ncd5 21. Rdc1 Bb4 22. Bg5 Nb6 23. e4 c5 24. a3 cxd4 25. axb4 d3 26. Qd1 Qxb4 27. Rxa7 Nxe4 28. Bxd8 Rxd8 29. Ne5 d2 30. Bxe4 dxc1Q 31. Bxb7+ Kb8 32. Qxc1 Qd2 33. Nc6+ Kc7 34. Qf1 Rd6 35. Ba8+ Kc8 36. Ne5 Qc2 37. Bf3 f6 38. Nc6 Qxb2 39. Rxg7 g5 40. Kg2 Rd2 41. Qe1 e5 42. Qe3 Nd7 43. Qa7 Rxf2+ 44. Qxf2 c3 45. Qxb2 cxb2 46. Be4 Black resigns.

Boris Gelfand: In game eleven Ernesto abandoned the Rossolimo system. He opted for a rare line and was making his moves rather quickly at that. The setup that we got soon was very much reminiscent of setups arising out of the popular modern line 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Nd7. The main point was whether White would be in time to hook up to the d5-square with his knight. This is exactly what he failed to achieve. 

I seem to have gained an edge as a result of a couple of interesting decisions that I adopted during the game. I had a lot of promising continuations to chose from and I thought I was winning at a certain moment of the game. I am sure I was winning somewhere, but I failed to bring my advantage home - I need to give a deeper look into the position. I got an ending with a bishop pair and carried out the d6-d5 pawn lever, but Ernesto came up with 36.Bc1 with just seconds on his clock, upon which I failed to find anything decisive. 

Ernesto Inarkiev: Even though I made up my mind to test a rare line, Boris handled it in a strong way. I want to highlight the move 15…Bg4! – Black solved all his problems and went on to play some energetic chess afterwards. His initiative was quite substantial and he was likely able to increase it further. However, I managed to come back with several good rejoinders and kept defending decently in this game. 

Inarkiev – Gelfand (m/11)

36...Bg6 37. Rdd1 Bxe3+ 38. Bxe3 d4 39. Bd2 Bc2 40. Rde1 Rfe8 41. Rf2 Bxb3 42. Rfe2 Rf8 43. Rxe5 Rxf3 44. Rf1 Rxf1+ 45. Kxf1 Bc4+ 46. Ke1 Rf8 47. Bxb4 Rf1+ 48. Kd2 Rf2+ 49. Kc1 Rxh2 50. Re4 Bb3 51. Rxd4 Rc2+ 52. Kb1 Rg2 53. Be1 h5 54. Rd2 Rg1 55. Re2 Bc4 56. Re3 Rg2 57. b3 Re2 58. Rxe2 Bxe2 Draw. 

Boris Gelfand: The ultimate match game did not go well for me. I was presented with № 6 issue of "64" chess magazine, in which Alexey Kuzmin analyzes the 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 line. This line has recently been employed not only in rapid and blitz, but in classical games as well. Among those who has given it a try are Eljanov, Giri, Karjakin, Carlsen, Kramnik... I think I got advantage out of the opening, but then I lost the thread of the game. I should perhaps have opted for 15.Qg3, with the idea of meeting 15…Nd7? by 16.Nxg6! 

Later I missed the Rh8 idea and White's position simply fell apart. The queen proved much superior to a pair of rooks and Black launched offensive along the light squares, while I had no slightest chance to hook at anything in my opponent's position to play against. 

Ernesto Inarkiev: In this game Boris decided to improvise a little: in prior games he strictly adhered to the principled lines, while in this game he deviated with 2.Bf4. However, nowadays it would be no longer correct to label this move as belonging to a sideline since it is a new trend in the opening theory. Gata Kamsky has employed it more than once.

Boris carried out a successful trade of pieces and got a position with two knights versus a knight and a bishop, which should be more pleasant for him. However, once the black bishop landed on a6, his counter chances increased since the king was still in the center and the flank forces were disconnected. I am of the opinion that the position became double-edged. Boris is likely to have underestimated my defensive resources as after 17.h5 g5 Black is in a very good shape already. However, 20.hg is an error, although I would have otherwise played 20... g6, stifling all White's play on the kingside. Meanwhile, the trade of queen for a pair of rooks landed White in a very precarious situation. 

I had a lot of unscored goals in this match and it is important to win at least one game. I was later told by some ot the Ingush guys that they had a discussion between themselves, saying that if Inarkiev fails to win the last game, he does not yet know how to play chess!

Gelfand – Inarkiev (m/12)

15. h4 

In the case of 15. Qg3 bad is 15... Nd7? 16. Nxg6!, but possible is both 15... Qe7!?, and 15...Nh5. Now 16.Qg5? is unpleasantly met by 16... cxd4! 17. cxd4 f6 18. Qxg6 fxe5 19. Qxh5 exd4, whereas 16. Qh4 runs into 16...cxd4 17. exd4 Qb8! 18. Ndf3 Qe8 - Black defends the g6-pawn with his queen and is prepared to carry out the f7-f6 advance.

15... Nd7 16. Nxd7 Qxd7 17. h5 g5 18. h6 f6 19. Qh5 Bd3 20. hxg7 Kxg7 21. Qh6+ Kf7 22. Rc1 Rh8 23. Qxh8 Rxh8 24. Rxh8 Kg7 25. Rh1 Qa4 26. a3 e5 27. f3 Kg6 28. Kf2 c4 29. e4 exd4 30. exd5 Qb5 31. cxd4 Qxd5 32. Rc3 Qxd4+ 33. Ke1 b5 34. Kd1 a5 35. Re1 b4 36. axb4 axb4 37. Rxd3 Qxd3 38. Kc1 b3 White resigns. 

Boris Gelfand: In my opinion, the match turned out very interesting, especially its classical part. There have taken place battles around multiple opening lines, the struggle being quite sharp. We both came well prepared for the match, employing novice ideas and doing our best along the way. This is a good example of creative chess! Luck sided with me on certain occasions: I managed to win games two and six, while not losing games four and five, in which I was up against problems.

The rapid games were also rich in content, although this is, of course, quite a different level of chess. There have occurred some interesting positions, which require further analysis. 

What I liked about Ingushetia is its stunning nature and that my hotel room windows opened to a view of the mountains!.. I should say that my opponent is a very interesting person. Besides, together with Ernesto Inarkiev we have added a new point to the chess map. It is probable that Ingushetia has previously seen no tournaments of a master's level even, and now, all of a sudden, there comes about a match of such importance. It was subject of great interest from the audience and mass media, while not far from the match a children's tournament was underway. I think that children have got their share of unforgettable impressions. We received a very warm welcome, and I will undoubtedly come here again should an opportunity to do so present itself to me. 

Ernesto Inarkiev: I have heard more than once that organizing an event and participating in it is not an especially happy combination, which has undoubtedly had some impact on me. However, I would like to emphasize that Boris (and it appealed to me greatly) was very well motivated and did everything to demonstrate his best chess by performing to the maximum of his abilities. I am very pleased about it! On the whole, he was on the rise during the entire match. Although I have had my share of opportunities, it was he who was able to come up with proper decisions at the key moments and convert his share of advantageous position, whereas I committed errors. 

To my mind, "The Concord Tower" festival was organized on a high level. Despite the fact that not everything came out the way we intended on the first try, there is still a lot that we have managed to achieve. Magas is a nice town and the Cultural Center is a good venue. Everyone involved in the organization was doing their best. I would like to thank Head of the republic Yunus-Bek Yevkurov for comprehensive support. It goes without saying that our special tributes go to the philanthropist Alikhan Kharsiev, who proposed the idea and backed it up financially. Thanks to everyone who came down from Moscow to lend support to our festival: to Alexander Nikolayevich Kostyev, to Artem Akhmetov and to you. I would also like to mention the tournament organizer Timur Gadaborshev, who has done a big share of work and has gained valuable experience out of it. At present, Timur is the main chess activist of Ingushetia.

It is quite obvious that the amount of attention that the people of the republic pay to chess has markedly increased. They organize chess tournaments and open chess section. While I am very pleased about the festival being held by Ingushetia, at the same time I would like to see its scope widening as much as possible so that it becomes an event of the entire North Caucasus, forming a chess community of its own. I do hope that next year will see guests from many regions of Russia!

Chief referee Artem Akhmetov sets the clock in motion

Let us recall that the match consisted of 12 games: six games with classical time control and six rapid games: a classical game victory brings 2 points and a draw brings 1 point, while in rapid games it counts for one point and half a point respectively. The classical part ended with a 8-4 score in favor of Gelfand (2 wins and 4 draws), The rapid section ended with a 4-2 score also in his favor (3 wins, 2 draws and 1 loss). The overall score is 12-6 in favor of Boris Gelfand. 

The closing ceremony of the All-Russian Chess Festival "The Concord Tower" kicked off one hour following the end of game 12. First Deputy of the Head of Ingushetia's Administration Yusup Kostoev delivered the congratulation message from Head of Republic Yunus-Bek Yevkurov (that day he was away in Moscow on a business trip), awarded letters of acknowledgment and memorable gifts. Chief referee Artem Akhmetov summed up the results of the children tournament and the match of grandmasters. Besides, numerous guests could enjoy a gala concert, performance at which was given both by honored artists of the Republic and by young talents. 

However, this was not the end of the chess program. Next morning, despite the relatively early flight to Moscow, grandmasters found an opportunity to visit the Cadastral Chamber of Ingushetia, which for the second year in a row hosts the charity North Caucasus chess and checkers tournament for orphans and children with disabilities. The title of the tournament is "The Road Map", which from this year on will bear the name of Ernesto Inarkiev. 

Souvenir photo with "The Road Map" tournament participants