27 December 2016

Do not Scatter Your Gauntlets!

Round one of the Nutcracker rapid section in the review of Vladimir Barsky.

Boris Gelfand became day one hero of the rapid chess after winning twice in style as White, while he could have shined in yet another “black” game if not for Fedoseev's escape to a draw. Boris Abramovich carries on with signing autographs for his new book “Taking Positional Decisions in Chess” not only for fans, but also for his fellow peers. Thus, prior to round one he was stopped right in front of the grand staircase by Alexander Baburin, who turned up in Moscow en route from Nizhny Novgorod to Dublin and who held out a book towards Boris in a resolute gesture. As they say, he that writes a book is to accompany it with his signature! Boris had no choice but put a pen in his hand.

We do not expect rapid games to be especially precise in details, but we definitely hope to see bright offbeat plans. Rapid round one of the “Nutcracker” saw these hopes materialize in full.

Gelfand – Artemiev

Gelfand goes about his favorite plan of binding his opponent’s position. The exposed queenside of Black’s becomes the object of his attack.

15. a4! b4

15...Bxa4 would be obviously followed by 16.Qc2! to recapture the a4-pawn either with the knight or rook. In the case of 16…a3 17. Bxa3 the a6-pawn turns into a hardly defensible liability.

16. Nb1

Where does the knight head for? He heads for b3!

16…a5 17. Be1 e5

It is only natural that Vladislav is unwilling to remain in the role of observer of his opponent’s subtle strategic maneuvers and seeks his own counterplay to the best of his abilities.

18. Nd2 exd4 19. exd4 Qb6 20. Qd3 Rfe8 21. Nb3

The knight has arrived at the desired destination. It is almost a perfect square for him as he both defends his pawn and eyeballs the opponent’s one.

21…Nf8 22. Qa6

It perhaps made sense to postpone a while this sortie, improving first on the position of the bishop with 22. Bd2 Ne6 23. Be3.

22...Qd8 23. Rc6 Ra8 24. Qb5 Ne6 25. Bd2 Rb8 26. Qd3 Ne4 27. Bf3 Bc7 28. Be3 Bb6

29. Bxe4

This move is very concrete as White is willing to set the d4-pawn in motion.  Gelfand undoubtedly realized that weakening of the light squares could tell, but seems to not have found a refutation of his idea and decided to go for it after all.

Objectively stronger is 29. Rac1 so as not to commit to any plans yet.

29... dxe4 30. Qc4 Ng5!

To make his pieces active Artemiev does not hesitate to part with a pawn.

31. Rxg6 Nf3+ 32. Kg2 Rc8

Here the young grandmaster missed the mark. Correct was 32...Qd7! (threatening Rc8), upon which 33. Rc6 Qg4 34. h3 Nh4+ 35. Kh2 Nf3+ 36. Kg2 Nh4+ immediately results in a perpetual. Black would face a lot more problems after 33. Rc1!, although even here he bails out after  33...Qf5! 34. Rc6 Qh5 35. h4 Qg4 36. Rh1 Ne5!! 37. dxe5 Bxe3 38. fxe3 Qf3+ 39. Kh2 Qf2+ 40. Kh3 Qf5+ 41. Kg2 Qf3+, etc.

It goes without saying that 36…Ne5!! Is hard to find even in a classical game, let alone in the rapid one...

33. Rc6 Rxc6 34. Qxc6 Re6 35. Qc4 Rd6 36. Nc5


Black puts everything at stake with this all-or-nothing move! A lot more cautious would be 36... Qc8 37. Qb5 Qa8 38. Rd1, and even though White retains an extra pawn, converting it is far from easy.

37. Nb7!

Not in the least afraid of any ghosts.

37…Qf6 38. Nxd6 Qf3+ 39. Kg1 Ne2+ 40. Kf1 Bxe3

With Black threatening a checkmate on f2, 41. Qxe2 Qh1# is not a solution either. However, Gelfand has it all taken care of.

41. Qc8+! Kh7 42. Qf5+ Black resigns.

Alexey Dreev has finally picked up the gauntlet dropped by Dubov, and this is what came of it:

Dreev – Dubov 

26. Rxd6 was likely meant to be answered by 26…Nh5!, intending to get to f4-pawn after 27. Rd2 (27. e5? Nxf4+) 27... f5!. However, Alexey remains true to the central strategy.

26. e5! Qxf3+ 27. Kxf3 dxe5 28. fxe5 Nfd7 29. Ncd5!?

The engine sees nothing wrong with winning a pawn by 29. Nxb5, but Dreev does not deviate from his central strategy. This is even stronger, perhaps.

29... Kf8 30. Nf6 Nb8 31. Rc1 Nba6 32. Ba3!

White demonstrates a full-fledged type of play with only minutes on his clock.

32…Nb8 33. Nd3! Rxa3 34. Nxc5 Ke7

Defending against losing the c8-rook after 35.Ncd7+. However, Black falls prey to a series of other blows.

35. Nd5+ Ke8 36. e6 Nc6

37. e7

Immediately winning was 37. Nb7!, and if 37…Nd4+, then 38.Kg4 Rxc1 39.Nd6+ Kf8 40.e7+, etc.

37... Nd4+ 38. Ke4

More precise is 38 Kg4 to close off the e-file. However, that’s fine as it is.

38... Nf5

More tenacious is 38…Raa8, although even here White has a pleasant choice between a prosaic win of exchange 39.Nb6 and a romantic jump 39.Na6!

39. Kd3 Rc6 40. Ne4 Raa6

This is an example we selected for our “Position of the day” column.

41. Nef6+! Black resigns.

Alexei Shirov put in a lot of energy into his game against Vladislav Artemiev and had almost secured himself a pair of tickets to the ballet "Nutcracker" (this being a prize for the tournament's best creative achievement). However, being just around the corner from the Teatralnaya Ploshchad (Theater Square), the guest from Riga turned into the wrong avenue and the reserved tickets to the Bolshoi Theater have remained unclaimed yet.

Artemiev – Shirov

Black has already sacrificed a pawn and adds oil to the fire by launching a real merry-go-round.

15…e4! 16. Nfd2 f5 17. dxc5 Ngf4 18. Kh2 Nxg2! 19. Rg1

There is no taking the knight as Black delivers a checkmate after 19. Kxg2? Nf4+ 20.Kh2 Qh4.

19... Ngf4 20. Nf1 Qh4 21. Rg3


The unruly night destroys all pawns around the enemy king.

22. Rxh3 Qxf2+ 23. Kh1 Nf4 24. Rg3

White must have missed on his opponent's rejoinder. 24. Rh2 Qf3+ 25. Kg1 Qg4+ 26. Kh1 (but not 26. Kf2? Nd3+) 26...Qf3+ 27. Kg1, etc, would have resulted in a perpetual.

24... Ne2! 25. Rg2 Qxf1+ 26. Kh2 Qxc1 27. Bxf7+ Rxf7 28. Rxe2 Qf4+ 29. Kg1 Qg3+ 30. Rg2 Qe1+ 31. Kh2 Qh4+ 32. Kg1 Qe1+ 33. Kh2 f4 34. Nd2 Qh4+ 35. Kg1 f3 36. Rf1

Artemiev's ingenious defense has made his opponent's task as hard to achieve as possible.


The path to victory was rather elusive: 36...Rd8! 37. b4 Kf8! – having unpinned the f7-rook, Black is ready to infiltrate through the d-file.

37. Rh2 Qg4+ 38. Kh1 e3 39. Nxf3 Qe4 40. b4 Kh8 41. Qc2! Qxc2 42. Rxc2 Rxf3 43. Rxf3 Rxf3 44. Kg2 Rf4 45. Re2 Kg8 46. Rxe3 Kf7 47. Rf3 Rxf3 48. Kxf3

The game has liquidated to a drawish pawn ending.

48…Ke6 49. c4 c6 50. a6 Kd7 51. b5 Kc7 52. b6+ Kb8 53. Kf4 h5 54. Kg5 g6 55. Kh4 Ka8 56. Kg5 Draw.

Although Alexander Morozevich plays bright, adventurous chess, there is not a single victory under his belt yet. On the other hand, he went down to Artemiev after boldly sacrificing three pawns in a row. He was on the verge of defeat on yet another occasion.

Dubov – Morozevich

It looks as thought this duel was about "outsacrificing" your opponent. At first, Daniil was ahead in this dispute, being not only down material, but also having his barefoot king wildly rushing across the board. Upon somehow finding shelter in the Black's camp, the white monarch passed the baton of trouble to his counterpart.

51. Be4! Qe5+ 52. Kd7 Qxe4

In the midst of mutual wild time trouble there was no finding out that 52... Ka7! was a saver so as to follow 53. Kc8 with 53…Qxe4 only at this moment. Following 54. Kxc7 Qxf5 55. Rb7+ Ka6 56. Rb6+ Ka7 57. Rb7+ the game would have ended in a perpetual.

53. Kxc7 Qe5+ 54. Rd6 Qe7+ 55. Rd7 Qe5+

56. Rd6

However strange it might seem, 56.Kc8! lands Black into a zugzwang. Thus, 56...a4 is decisively met by 57. Rb4!, whereas 56...c5 is refuted by 57. Rb6. Should Black choose 56...Qh8+ 57. Rd8 Qe5, then 58.f6 secures a victory.

56... Qe7+ 57. Rd7 Qe5+ 58. Kb6

It was not yet late to move the king to c8.

58…Qe3+ 59. Kc7 Qe5+ Draw.

"Kings" won rapid round one with a minimum score of 8.5-7.5 to cement their overall lead to 25.5-22.5. So far the individual competition has B.Gelfand, G.Oparin and A.Shirov in the lead with 7 points. It should be mentioned that this time Gelfand plays as if "out of competition" since he has a ticket to Zürich in his pocket already.

Day one of the women's rapid tournament has Elena Zaiatz shining with 3.5 out of 4 points. Given below is one of her victories.

Zaiatz – Maltsevskaya

Fischer used to say about such positions that all you need to do is open the h-file, give a couple of checks and a checkmate. White acts accordingly.

17. Kg2! Nb4 18. Rah1 b5 19. hxg6 hxg6 20. Qd1 bxc4 21. Qg1!

Although it might look straightforward, it is extremely unpleasant for Black nonetheless!

21…Ne6 22. Qh2 Kf8 23. a3 Bxc3 24. axb4 Bxb4 25. Bxc4 Qc7 26. Bd5

Rook's transfer to f3 on this and next moves was an immediate decider.

26...Qd7 27. Rh7 Ng7


The queen will serve the good turn to White from here.

28…Re6 29. Bxe6 Qxe6 30. Rh8+ Ke7 31. Qf6+! Black resigns.

"Queens" are 26.5-21.5 ahead of "Princesses", while the individual standings is topped by Alisa Galliamova with 9 points. Elena Zaiatz and Polina Shuvalova have scored 7.5 and 7 points accordingly.