31 May 2016

Adventures of the h-pawn

Round three of the Vugar Gashimov Memorial in the review of Eteri Kublashvili.

First thing in the morning of May 28, when Azerbaijan celebrates the Republic Day, your author started for the Shamkir fortress. The ancient town, built on the Great Silk Road in the early Middle Ages for defensive purposes, was completely destroyed by the Mongols in the XIII century. 

Afterwards this place was abandoned for many centuries to come, with people preferring to settle down a little distance off, just where the modern Shamkir is situated nowadays, as well as in other areas. Archaeological excavations started only a few years ago here and have been ongoing every summer since then. Excavation works are not carried out in other seasons because of rains. 

Next to the fortress you can now see the sheltered space with artifacts and even bones displayed for public view. The excavation works also progress in the downward direction because archaeologists believe the ancient town to have a great deal of concealed in it yet. 

However, round three of the Vugar Gashimov Memorial saw no fortresses on chess boards because all games featured dynamic type of play. Interestingly enough, in all three decisive games both positive and negative limelight was hogged by the h-pawn. 

Hou Yifan, playing Black with Fabiano Caruana, opted for the open Ruy Lopez (the Chinese player, as was noted by Ljubomir Ljubojevic, had but rarely resorted to this line in her career). White was better prepared in the opening and employed a paradoxical idea on move 18. Yifan found herself in a precarious situation where she needed to display the utmost amount of precision, especially after the US champion opened the game with 23.e6. On move 27 the World Champion lashed out with a desperado pawn advance. 

Caruana – Hou Yifan  

27…h5? "Losing immediately," was commented by Fabiano Caruana. 27…g6 or 27…Re7 were better options instead. 

28. Qg6 Rf7 29. Rbe1 Rc8 30. Nf4 Qd7 31. Qxh5, and White won several moves after. 

Karjakin – Harikrishna opened with the Pertoff Defense. In the position of dynamic equilibrium the Indian grandmaster recklessly played 12...h6, which was met by an unexpected rejoinder. According to Karjakin, the h-pawn advance can be described as a hara-kiri in the style of Japanese masters. 

Karjakin – Harikrishna 

13. Bxh6! 

Harikrishna admitted that he simply dismissed this move as one of White's possible responses. 

13…c4 14. Bxg7 cxd3 15. Qg5 Ne4 16. Qh6 Bg5+ 17. Nxg5 Qxg5+ 18. Qxg5 Nxg5 19. Bxf8 dxc2 20. Rxd6 etc. White's pair of rooks and six pawns proved superior to a rook, two minor pieces and three pawns of Black's. The Challenger is known for not missing similar opportunities and consistently achieving positive results. 

Also rebounding back after yesterday's defeat was Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who outplayed Pavel Eljanov. It seemed as though the White's doubled с-pawns in middle game, which arose out of the Nimzo-Indian Defence, was bound to provide Black with sufficient counterplay, but Shakhriyar, capitalizing upon subtle positional nuances, defeated his opponent after a series of exchanges that suited him perfectly. At some point Pavel played inaccurately, allowing White to create the dangerous h-passer, upon which Black had to make significant concessions in order to stop it from advancing further. 

Shakhriyar pulled off a nice trick in an overwhelming position. 

Mamedyarov – Eljanov 

53. Rc8! – is a shortcut to victory. 

53…Rxc8 54. Ne7+ Kc5 55. Nxc8 Nd8 56. h7 Nf7 57. Ne7 Kc4 58. Ng8 Kxc3 59. Nxf6 Black resigns. 

Teimour Radjabov and Anish Giri opted for the Ragozin defense, in which both showed a good level of preparation and knowledge of the line. In general, White's position was slightly better all the time, and after the trade of queens Black needed to come up with a certain amount of accurate play. However, Anish, known for his tenacity, found the best ways to equalize. A peace agreement was signed on move 40. 

Answering the question about the new format of the FIDE Grand Prix, Anish said that he was happy to see the series continue, as many players would be able to participate there. The Dutch grandmaster was not very especially worried about the format of the event, but expressed his regrets about lesser amount of prize money if compared to other super tournaments. Nevertheless, Anish was sure that top grandmasters would participate in the new series in order to qualify for the Candidates Tournament. 

Teimour Radjabov was also pleased that the "dark years", when it was not clear what was going on in chess, were over and that the world championship cycle was on track, which he characterized as being positive for chess. "If I have an opportunity to play in the series, I will be very happy to do so because this is a good chance," summed up the grandmaster. 

Eltaj Safarli and Rauf Mamedov handled the game into a relatively fresh, but a drawish line of the King's Indian Defense. The game ended by repetition on move 28. 

Thus, after round three Fabiano Caruana is the sole leader with 2.5 out of three points. Trailing half a point behind is Anish Giri. 

Pairings of round four are as follows: 

Anish Giri - Pentala Harikrishna, Pavel Eljanov - Sergey Karjakin, Hou Yifan - Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Rauf Mamedov - Fabiano Caruana, and Teimour Radjabov - Eltaj Safarli.