19 February 2016

Forget Gibraltar

Zurich Chess Challenge 2016 - Vladimir Barsky's report on the first playing day.

Four out of the six Zurich Chess Challenge participants will go to Moscow in less than a month to fight in the Candidates' Tournament. Understandably, their performance as a whole and their face-to-face encounters in particular spark keen interest of the public. Already at the starting round, Nakamura faced Giri, and Anand played versus Aronian. The first game was quite calm and ended in a draw, whereas a real opening catastrophe happened in the second.  

Anand – Aronian
Ruy Lopez

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.Nc3 Bd6 5.0-0 0-0 6.d3 Re8 7.a3 h6 8.Bc4 Bc5 9.Be3 Bxe3

Why volunteer to open the f-line for the opponent, particularly if the rook hasn't left it yet? 9...Bb6 or 9...d6 would have been more cautious.

10.fxe3 d6 11.Nh4 Be6 12.Nf5 Bxc4

Another risky decision. Structure is important, of course, but one shouldn't forget about dynamics! Better is 12...Nb8, moving the knight to d7.

13.dxc4 Kh7

The computer recommends 13...Re6, protecting the knight on f6 and the kingside as a whole in advance.

14.Qf3 Nb8?

A decisive mistake. It was crucial to find the ungainly move 14...Ng8, although even then White would have had a strong initiative after 15.c5!

15.Nxh6! Kxh6

After 15...gxh6 16.Qxf6 Black would have faced a difficult endgame without a pawn. 

16.Qh3+ Kg6

If 16...Nh5, then 17.g4.

17.Rf3 Nh5 18.Rf5 Nf6 19.Qh4! Black resigned: there is no defense from a mate in one.

After routing his opponent so beautifully, Vishy Anand went on to play with inspiration in the second round.

Giri – Anand

The cautious 31.Rf1 d5 32.exd5 exd5 33.Qc3 would have led to a near equal position, but Anish made the tempting move 31.f4? and overlooked the powerful counterattack 31...e5! After 32.Nf3 exf4 33.gxf4 d5 34.exd5 Qd6 it became clear that White would inevitably lose the f4 pawn and the white king would come under attack.

Your reporter worked in the press center next to Dirk Jan, the editor-in-chief of the New in Chess magazine, who was very concerned for his compatriot and one of the journal's best authors. I tried to calm him down: 

"Anish is an excellent defender! Remember what positions he saved quite recently in Wijk aan Zee!"

"Yes, of course," sighed Dirk Jan, "but I'm afraid even he is powerless in this position."

35.Ne5 Rxf4 36.Kg1 Kh7 37.Rg3 R8f5 38.Rg4


Anand doesn't squander his advantage on trifles: he leaves the d5 pawn intact and continues the attack. 

39. Rxf4 Rxf4 40. Rf1 Qg5+ 41. Kh2 Re4 42. Nf3 Qf4+ 43. Kg2 Re3 44. Qc1 Re2+ 45. Kh1 Qg3 White resigned.

Scoring 4 points out of 4 (the grandmasters get two points for winning in rapid games), the 15th world champion became the only leader. The middle of a distance is not the best moment to draw the bottom-line, of course, but one thing is clear: the failure in Gibraltar didn't upset Anand and he will be one of the strongest contenders for winning in Moscow.

Last year's Zurich Chess Challenge winner lags behind the ex-champion by one point. 

Shirov – Nakamura

The first game is very interesting in terms of the opening: the opponents debated in a modern branch of the French Defense with 3.e5. The position remained near equal for a long time, but the Latvian grandmaster lost the thread of the game in time trouble.


Losing a tempo, better is 35.a5 with reciprocal chances.

35...Rf4 36.Rxc5?

An impulsive decision: giving away the exchange was not worth it, of course. True, after 36.a5, 36...Qh6 was already unpleasant, but 36.Rh1! would have kept the position close to equilibrium. For example: 36…Qh6 37.Qf2 Qg5 38.Rxh4 Qxe5 39.Rh5 Qd4 40.Qh4 – the black king's weakness allows White enough counterplay.  

36...bxc5 37.a5 h3+!

The simple 37...Rb4 would have also provided a big edge for Black, but Hikaru found a pretty tactical decision.


The pawn is poisoned: 38.Kxh3 Qh6+ 39.Kg3 Rxg4+, and White loses the queen; and if 40.Kf2, there is 40…Rg2+, or even 40...Qh4+ with a mate in two.

38...h2 White resigned.

Boris Gelfand won the mini-match versus Alexander Morozevich in the "main time" (they never got around to the blitz ) and answered your author's questions.

"Boris, congratulations on the victory! How did the match go?"

"Thank you! The games proved to be very interesting, particularly the first one, where a very heated line of the Grünfeld Defense was played. It seemed at some point that my position was suspicious, but I was able to find a way out. Analysis will show what opportunities White had to strengthen the game. 

In the second game, where I played as White, I stood a bit better all the time. Then the advantage became quite serious, but at that moment I started playing very poorly and made a number of mistakes; I think Morozevich could have had a draw more than once or twice. But he was the last one to make a mistake. 

Gelfand – Morozevich
Bogolyubov Defense Е11

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Bb4+ 4.Nbd2 0-0 5.a3 Be7 6.e4 d6 7.Be2 Nbd7 8.Qc2 e5 9.Nb1 exd4 10.Nxd4 Nc5 11.Nc3 a5 12.0-0 a4 13.Be3 c6 14.Rad1 Qa5 15.f3

"This structure reminds me of the famous game Rubinstein – Schlechter, Berlin 1918, which is analyzed in my new book. It proved to be a peculiar kind of King's Indian. A big concession on White's part is that a2-a3 was played; that is why Morozevich used that structure. White had another way: to place the knight on f5, then play g4 and Bf3." (Boris Gelfand)

15...Re8 16.Kh1 Bf8 17.Bd2 Qc7 18.Bg5 Nfd7 19.Qc1

This is the cunning way White uses to prevent the opponent from fianchettoing his bishop: after 19...g6, then 20.Bh6 would have followed.

19…Ne5 20.Be3 f6 21.f4!?


After 21...Ng4, Gelfand was planning 22.Bg1 Nxe4 23.Nxe4 Rxe4 24.Qc2 Re7 25.Bd3 g6 26.f5 with a strong initiative, but Morozevich deсlined the pawn sacrifice.

22.Bf3 Qa5 23.Qc2 Qa6 24.Be2 Nh6 25.Bg1 Bg4 26.Nf5 Bxf5 27.exf5 Nf7 28.Bxc5 dxc5 29.Rd7 Re7 30.Rfd1

30.Rxe7 Bxe7 31.Qe4 Kf8 32.Qe6 was very strong, attacking the white squares.

30…Rae8 31.Rxe7 Rxe7 32.Nxa4 Qa5 33.Nc3 Qc7 34.g3 Nd6 35.Qd3

35.Kg2 was better, and if 35…Re3, then 36.Kf2, neutralizing the opponent's pressure along the e line.

35...Re8 36.b4 Ra8 37.bxc5 Nf7 38.Ne4 Rd8 39.Qc2 Rxd1+ 40.Qxd1 Qa5


This could have led to a draw immediately. Some edge was retained after 41.a4 Bxc5 42.Nxc5 Qxc5 43.Qd7.


Both grandmasters overlooked the fact that after 41...Nxd6 42.cxd6 Bxd6! White can't capture on d6 because of the check from e1.

42.Nxf7 Kxf7 43.Qb1 b6

Sufficient counterplay would have been ensured here by 43...Qf2 44.Qxb7+ Kg8 45.Qb2 h5.

44.Qe4 Qd6?

A decisive mistake; after 44...g6! Black could have continued to resist tenaciously.

45.c5! Qe7

There is no 45...Qd5 due to 46.Bc4, with beautiful mutual pins.

46.Bc4+ Ke8 47.Qxc6+ Qd7 48.Qa8+ Ke7 49.Qe4+ Kd8 50.cxb6 Bc5 51.b7 Kc7 52.Bd5 Qb5 53.Kg2 Bxa3 54.Qe6 Black resigned.

"Boris, did you like playing with the new time control suggested by the organizers?"

"This is closer to rapid chess, where one can think for a while two or three times during the game, but in the end it still boils down to 10 seconds per move. An interesting idea; it could be said that the Zurich tournament, where various formats were tried, became a testing ground. We'll share our impressions with Oleg Skvortsov, so he can assess and compare them and draw conclusions. One of the goals of our match was to test this time control and share our opinion.  

– What are your impressions from your friendly game with Skvortsov?

– I think it was an amusing game! There was sharp tactical play. Maybe we could have played more peacefully, but this game was a kind of show, however.

– Did you choose the sharpest lines on purpose at some points?

– Yes.

– Did you plan 26.Be3! from afar?

– Yes. I made some mistakes on the way, but it's good that everything worked out nicely at the end. I hope that the spectators liked our play!