19 July 2016


Game three of the Inarkiev–Gelfand match in the review of Vladimir Barsky.

There has arrived from Boris Gelfand yet another fresh and bright idea, all this happening within the latest couple of days: while in game two he offered a pawn sacrifice, in game three, playing with the black pieces, he was prepared to part with as much as a pure exchange! The positions that could arise were unbalanced and full of fighting potential, in which finding your way is anything but easy even if you are assisted by the engine. This is not some Berlin endgame, when 10 people, playing in the same tournament, would scrutinize the same tabiya, but would not find enough courage to give it up for lost once and for all...

Ernesto Inarkiev has once again served a different opening move to his opponent: He opened the Armageddon game with 1.Nf3, resorting to 1.d4 in classical game one and now deciding on the most aggressive (as is recognized universally) move 1.е4. Gelfand has quite expectedly answered with 2...Nc6 in the Sicilian Defence, whereas Inarkiev refused from by far overplayed Chelyabinsk variation in favor of the Rossolimo system. This is where Black came up with surprise number one. In the recent years Gelfand has been stubbornly consistent in defending positions arising after 3...e6; same approach was adopted by him during the World Championship match against Anand (Moscow 2012). Meanwhile, playing on the Ingush soil he just up and played 3...g6! This is, of course, far from having to do with any sort of an opening revelation: the statistics claims it to be the most popular setup for Black, which is encountered twice as often as 3...e6. The only thing is that the last time Gelfand employed this move was as far back as in 2003. 

It took Boris another 10 moves to crown his novice approach in the opening with a deserved half point. Meanwhile, it was not just some minor refinement of the line, but rather a whole new original concept that involved positional sacrifice of exchange. If White were to accept it, Black would have obtained compensation in the form of a mobile pawn chain in the center and a pair of mighty bishops. Following some weighty considerations, Inarkiev opted for a different path – he continued fighting for advantage with equal material on the board. A few moves later White could have accepted the being sacrificed exchange once again, but rejected the deal for the second time in a row.

There arose a quite tricky position with chances for both sides, although White was still enjoying a certain amount of initiative. However, several important decisions that Inarkiev needed to take took a considerable amount of his thinking time. As time trouble was looming on the horizon for Inarkiev and the situation on the board remaining extremely tense, the price of each move increased, whereas Gelfand had 56 minutes against Inarkiev's 14, which is four times as much. In this situation Ernesto's reasoning was practical – he fixed a draw by repetition of moves. In his turn, Boris could not evade repetition as in doing so he would have to significantly deteriorate the active deployment of his pieces. 

This brief but very meaningful game bears close resemblance to an iceberg since the main bulk of lines has never made it to the surface. However, certain ideas were still shared by grandmasters with the audience in the course of the traditional post-game joint analysis. 

Inarkiev – Gelfand
Sicilian Defense

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6 

Ernesto Inarkiev: This is a surprise as Boris has never played this move before.

Boris Gelfand: I used to play it, but it was quite some time ago. 

4.B:c6 bc 5.0-0 Bg7 6.Re1 Nh6 7.c3 0-0 8.h3

White's game is aimed at restricting the c8-bishop. By the way,  Inarkiev tried a different plan in earlier games, and quite successfully so: 8.d4 cd 9.cd d5 10.e5 f6 11.ef R:f6 12.Bg5 Rf7 13.Nbd2 Qb6 14.Nb3 a5 15.Rc1 Nf5 16.Rc2 a4 17.Nc5 Nd6 18.Ne5 Bf5 19.Rc1 Q:b2 20.Re2 Qb5 21.N:f7 N:f7 22.Be3 Nd6 23.h3 h5 24.f3 Nc4 25.Bf2 e5 26.g4 hg 27.hg Bc8 28.Rb1 Qa5 29.Qd3 Kf7 30.de N:e5 31.Qe3 Kg8 32.Kg2 Ba6 33.Be1 Q:c5 34.Q:c5 B:e2 35.Bc3 B:f3+ 36.Kg3 Be4 37.Rb7 Bf8 38.Qf2 Nf3 39.Rd7 c5 40.Qf1 g5 41.Bf6 Bh6 42.Qb5 1-0, as in Inarkiev Ernesto (RUS) 2660 – Durarbeyli Vasif (AZE) 2618, Skopje 24.10.2015.

8...f5 9.e5 Nf7 10.d3 

Boris Gelfand: Black's position is strategically risky since both his bishops' scopes are blunted by enemy's pawns. If White is allowed an unrestricted completion of development, Black could be simply crushed right in the opening. Therefore, concrete play is about to start. 

10...Ba6 11.c4 e6

Boris Gelfand: 11...d6 was also tried in this position, but Black's idea is to start the kingside offensive instead. 

12.Nc3 g5 13.Be3


Boris Gelfand: This is the point of Black's play.

Ernesto Inarkiev: Yes, this is a novelty indeed.

Boris Gelfand: A month ago one of the blitz tournament games in Alma-Ata saw 13...g4 14.hg fg 15.Nh2 (editor's note:  15…g3 16.fg N:e5 17.B:c5 d6 18.Be3 Rb8 19.Qd2 c5 20.Re2 Qf6 21.Bf4 Qg6 22.Rd1 Bb7 23.Nb5 Rbd8 24.N:d6 R:d6 25.B:e5 Bh6 26.Qc3 Rd7 27.g4 Rdf7 28.Bg3 Bg7 29.Be5 Bh6 30.Bg3 Bg7 31.Be5 1/2-1/2, as in Kasimdzhanov Rustam (UZB) 2694 – Mamedov Rauf (AZE) 2650, Alma-Ata 18. 6.2016.) 13...h5 looks more attractive to me. Black offers an exchange in return for a rich game. 


Ernesto Inarkiev: I believe that after 14.B:c5 g4 15.Nh2 N:e5 16.B:f8 Q:f8 Black's game is easier than White's. White's pieces are inactive and have no prospects. However, I got carried away with calculating multiple lines and spent a lot of time while doing so. 

Although I analyzed 14.N:g5 N:g5 15.B:c5 as well, both 15...Nf7 and 15...Re8 16.Q:h5 Nf7 are possible rejoinders.

Boris Gelfand: The arising positions are very unconventional so that giving you one or two lines is not going to be sufficient to measure its depth. 

14...g4 15.Ng5 N:e5

Inarkiev admitted having spent most of his time analyzing 15...B:e5. The grandmasters mentioned the following lines in their joint analysis: 16.B:c5 d6 (dubious is 16...N:g5 17.hg d6 18.R:e5 de 19.B:f8 K:f8) 17.N:e6 Q:h4 18.R:e5 N:e5 19.B:d6 Rfe8 20.B:e5 (losing is 20.Nc7? g3) 20...R:e6 with roughly equal game. 


Ernesto Inarkiev: I gave some attention to 16.Na4, but rejected the move because of being unsure whether I needed my knight more on c3 or on c5. 


Ernesto Inarkiev: Frankly speaking, I anticipated 16 ... Re8, although the exchange sacrifice is also a very interesting option.

Boris Gelfand: I disliked 17.Bd4 d6 18.B:e5 B:e5 19.d4 because the g5-knight is a very powerful piece!


Gelfand shared about his intention to meet 17.B:f8 with 17...Q:f8 18.g3 Rb8. As for Inarkiev, he was apprehensive of 17...B:f8 followed by Be7 or c5 and Bb7. Gelfand, however, noted that after 18.g3 the immediate 18...c5 fails to 19.N:e6!

The grandmaster spent a great deal of time analyzing both 17...Q:f8 and 17...B:f8, but ended up arriving at no unanimous conclusion except that the position remained complex and full of fighting potential. 


Boris Gelfand: Now my threat is Bf6, followed by taking on g5 and advancing my pawn to h4. Even in the worst-case scenario, which involves retreating my bishop to c8, I am not going to be without some counterplay. This is a crazy position that requires extremely precise handling! Still, I had a very substantial superiority in time, whereas this is such a position that is unlikely to become clear within the next couple of moves. 

18.Qa4 Bb7 19.Qb4 Ba6 20.Qa3 

Ernesto Inarkiev: This is a very interesting-looking position, but no clear plan is anywhere within sight and I had so little time left. Therefore, I made up my mind to finish the game by repetition of moves.

Even though White's position is slightly more pleasant, it is still very complex. Let's put it like this: it is more pleasant if you are capable of coming up with all strongest moves.

Boris Gelfand: This is true: You are surely going to have hard time playing this position against the computer! 

20...Bb7 21.Qb4 Ba6 22.Qa3 Draw. 

July 16, Saturday, is a rest day at the match. Grandmasters will travel to Dzheirakh to take part in the traditional "Mountain Battle", famous far beyond the borders of Ingushetia.