25 December 2016

Crack in the Wall

Round Three of the Nutcracker Tournament in the review of Vladimir Barsky.

The amount of mental garbage gathering dust in our heads since our happy Soviet childhood is simply amazing! For example, the following dialogue between a policeman and Ilyich - not yet Lenin, but the student Volodya Ulyanov, “Why rebelling, young man - there is no use going against a wall” - “The wall it is, but a rotten one, once stabbed at it will fall down!” Which depths of the memory does it well up from anyway? I thought it was from Shaginian’s book “Four lessons with Lenin”, but when googled, it turned out to originate from the memoirs of a V. Adoratsky, the world proletariat leader’s close friend. It is possible, however, that Marietta Sergeevna, basking on the sunny shores of the Koktebel beach, had something of the kind in her book too, but I am quite reluctant to double-check it. There used to be a wall,  but it fell down on move 26 after a slight stab.

Shirov – Fedoseev

26.Nxc7!, and Black resigns.

Has the Berlin wall fallen apart at last and the classical Ruy Lopez fans may finally put their eternal worries to rest? Alas, we have to disappoint them (and ourselves).

The critical position arose after White’s move 17.

The game witnessed 17…Kc8.

The decision is controversial, to put it mildly, as the king runs away from the opponent’s passed pawn in the endgame and even locks the a8-rook tightly away. Fedoseev’s reasoning behind turning down the natural-looking 17...Ke7 has remained unknown so far as Vladimir didn’t show up for the press conference, obviously annoyed by his second defeat in a row. Alexei Shirov and commentator Sergey Shipov demonstrated the following attractive lines: 18. Bg5+ Bxg5 19. Nxg5 Raf8 20. e6 Bxe6 21. Rfe1 Rf6 22. Re4 Rd8 23. Rae1 Rd6 24. R4e2, with no defence against the Ne4 fork, or 22…Re8 23. Rd1! – and Black has no useful piece moves.

But why does Black refuse from the trade of rooks after 20... Rxf1+ (in lieu of 20…Bxe6)? It has obviously to do with the pin resulting after 21. Rxf1 Bxe6 22. Re1. However, the engine does its usual good job of getting us free of youth errors and inhibitions: 22…Kf6! 23. Nxe6 Re8 (counterpin!) 24. g5+ Kf7, and Black wins his piece back. Following something like 25. Rf1+ Kxe6 26. Rf6+ Ke5 27. Rxg6 Kf5 28. Rg7 Re1+ 29. Kf2 Rc1 the game is nearing a draw, but it is White’s turn to demonstrate certain accuracy to achieve it.
At last, possible also was 19... Be6 (in lieu of 19…Raf8) 20. Kg2 Rh4 21. Nxe6 Kxe6 22. Rf6+ Kxe5 23. Rxg6 Rah8 – and Black is unlikely running the risk of going down.

Meanwhile, Alexei Shirov also thought that Black should have a draw, only mentioning that he did not see a clear path to equality during the game. According to Alexei, he had tried many different approaches to combatting “Berlin” and decided that he would more often go into endgames in which White has undoubtedly a lot to commit to memory, but even more so for Black. The Latvian grandmaster’s idea seemed very fresh to me that a player employing the Berlin on a regular basis should abandon all other openings because of an overwhelming volume of information. As for Fedoseev, who employs various openings, there happened an incident here in the Berlin endgame. Nevertheless, such a move as 17...Ke7 has to be made anyway even if you fail to recall a single line because the king’s retreat to c8 looks way too miserable in contrast to such a lively White’s passer as the one on e5.

18. Bg5 Bxg5 19. Nxg5 Bxg4 20. Rf7

According to Shirov, he evaluated this position as winning for him.

20…b6 21. e6 Kb7 22. e7 Bf5 23. Rd1

Even stronger, perhaps, is 23. Re1. Since 23...Bxc2 fails to 24. Ne6 Rae8 25. Rf8, there is nothing but 23…c5 in the hope of rerouting the bishop to c6 sometime in the future. The following rough line demonstrates the issues that Black is likely to run into: 24. c3 Rh5 25. Nh7 Bd7 26. Nf6 Rg5+ 27. Kf2 Rf5+ 28. Kg3 Rh8 (Black keeps his position together with only moves) 29. Rh7!? Rxh7 30. Nxh7 Be8 31. Re6 Kc8 32. Nf6 Rxf6 33. Rxf6 Kd7 34. Kf4 Kxe7 35. Ke5. Carlsen would unlikely believe in a fortress for Black, whereas Karjakin would try to prove otherwise!

23... Bxc2

In the case of 23... c5 24. Nh7 Bxc2 25. Re1 Ba4 26. Nf6 Bc6 Black attains to the desired setup, but stronger is 24. c4 a5 25. Re1.

24. Re1

Nothing is gained by 24. Rd7 Rae8 25. Nh7 c5 26. Nf6 Ba4 27. Rd2 Rc8.

24... a5

This is a decisive mistake. Both 24...Bf5 25. Nh7 and 24...Bd3 (in the hope for 25. Ne6 Bc4) 25. b3 are bad, but 24... Rac8! 25. Ne6 Bf5 allows to keep up further resistance. White can win material in two ways: 26. Ng7 Bd7 27. e8Q Bxe8 28. Rfe7 or 26. Nf8 Re8 27. Nh7 Rxh7 28. Rxh7, but there is a lot of struggle ahead yet. However, following the text move the struggle ends immediately.

25. Ne6 Bf5 26. Nxc7 Black resigns.

An interesting opening duel broke out in the game Dreev - Dubov. More precisely, it did not break out: by the figurative expression of Daniil he was throwing down the gauntlet time and again, but his opponent would refuse to pick it up after all. Aleksey parried this verbal challenge of the young Moscow grandmaster by simply forcing a knowing smile. I believe that their “rapid” fights promise much sharper and more meaningful struggle.

Dreev – Dubov

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. g3 b6!?

Not all openings have been invented yet! This modernistic double fianchetto has gained quite a popularity lately. According to Dubov, he has already tried it with both colors and is quite happy with the results.

4. Bg2 Bb7 5. c4 Bg7 6. Qc2 0-0 7. Nc3 d5 8. Ne5 c5

9. Be3

More principled, however, is 9.dxc5, upon which Black has a choice between 9…Qc7, 9…Qc8 and 9…е6. We are likely to see the diagram position either in this or in future tournaments.

9…cxd4 10. Bxd4 Qc8 11. cxd5 Nxd5 12. 0-0 Nxc3

This is a start of a massive wood chopping.

13. Qxc3 Bxg2 14. Kxg2 Qxc3 15. Bxc3 Rc8 16. Rfd1 Nc6 17. Nxc6 Rxc6 18. Bxg7 Kxg7 19. Rac1 Rac8, and a draw was agreed shortly after.

On the day of round three the Russian version of Boris Gelfand’s book “Taking Positional Decisions” hit the bookstore shelves. That is, it was out of print long ago, but delivered to Moscow from the Arkhangelsk publishing house only this Monday. Bearing in mind that even good news can sometimes play a low-down trick (e.g, before the game with Torre Lasker was informed about his play being finally staged in Berlin, which made him so delightfully carried away with his thoughts that he missed a “windmill” in the game), I decided against showing the book to Boris, only saying that everything was OK. Gelfand played very creative chess that day, having created yet another example for his second volume titled “Dynamic Decision Making in Chess.”

Oparin – Gelfand

Black sacrificed a pawn out of the opening, relying on the strength of his bishops and activity of his pieces.

The engine recommends 25.Nc6!? with a sly idea 25…Bf8 26. Nxb4! Bxb4 27. c4, winning back a piece and defreezing the queenside. Black would have perhaps fared better from 25...Bxc6 26. Rxc6 a5, although after 27.Ra6 he is not out of the woods yet.

Oparin chose a more natural, but less promising continuation.

25. Nxb5 axb5 26. Na5

It has to do with an oversight. The passive knight heads for c6, but never makes it there.

26…Nd2! 27. Re1 Bd4 28. Rb7 Bxe3 29. Rxe3 Rxe3 30. fxe3 Rc5! 31. Nb3 Rxc2 32. Rxb5 Rxb2 33. Nxd2 Rxd2 34. Rxb4 Rxa2, and a draw was agreed shortly after.

Sergey Shipov kept asking the World Vice-Champion about his success in being so keen on regularly sacrificing material without any clear compensation and then playing on as if nothing happened. According to Shipov, no other aged player performs like this nowadays. Boris Abramovich just smiled broadly and tossed in the names of Polugaevsky, Geller... Having commented on the game with the Oparin (although Grisha was mostly silent, listening to his opponent), he then gave a small autograph session.

In the game Artemiev - Morozevich, the most interesting part remained behind the scenes. Vladislav obtained a perspective position out of the opening, but was hesitant about finding a good plan and allowed his opponent launching counterplay on the kingside. Not feeling like taking any risks, White forced a draw by repetition, which Black had no special reason to decline.

In the women’s section a second win has been scored by Polina Shuvalova, this time over Galina Strutinskaya, a three-time world champion among veterans. Galina Nikolayevna’s performance in the Rossolimo system was too sharp and she should not have exposed her kingside at that.

Shuvalova – Strutinskaya

25. f6! Nxf6

Neither there is any relief in 25...Bxf6 26.Rg3+ Kf8 (26...Bg7 27.Bxe5) 27. Rf1 Re8 28.Qh7 with decisive threats.

26. Bxe5 Qe7 27. Raf1 Ne8 28. Bxg7 Nxg7 29. Rxf7 Qc5+ 30. Kh1 Rf8 31. Qg6 Qd4 32. h3!

This cool prophylactic move enhances the helplessness of Black’s situation.

32… Rad8 33. Nd6 Rxf7 34. Nxf7 Qd3

35. Nh6+

Black resigns in view of 35…Kh8 36.Rf8+! 

Ekaterina Kovalevskaya did not successfully handle the opening as White against Aleksandra Dimitrova, and then, for fear of coming under attack, she sacrificed a pawn, but the compensation for it proved insufficient. Black did a very good job of preventing all opponent’s attempts at obtaining counterplay and gradually converted the extra material.

In the game Maltsevskaya - Galliamova the edge was constantly changing hands. At first it was Aleksandra who got a formidable attacking position, but then blundered in time trouble and remained down a pawn. However, in the endgame Alisa Mikhailovna should not have agreed to the exchange of rooks as the active white king salvaged her half a point.

In the game Zaiatz - Solozhenkina the active pawn “clashes” in the center resulted in Black’s getting a very promising position with a strong protected d4-passer. However, Elizaveta decided against taking risks and agreed to a draw by repetition. The previous game against Kovalevskaya, in which she had to defend up to move 105, is likely to have taken up a lot of her inner resources. The same is obviously true for Ekaterina Valentinovna as well...