10 August 2017

Kramnik’s Cause Lives and Wins

Game one of the Gelfand – Inarkiev match in Vladimir Barsky’s review from Nazran

While the running letters above the entrance to the Nazran’s municipal Palace of Culture are tireless in welcoming the Tower of Concord Chess Festival’s participants, the thermometer’s huge red color digits are on the increase, displaying 33, 34, 35 degrees... On day one it reached 38. However, the game room enjoys pretty cool environment, with fans spinning as fast they can.

Last year's festival The Tower of Concord, the highlight of which was the friendly match between Boris Gelfand and Ernesto Inarkiev, sparked interest in chess in Ingushetia and, very importantly, received support from the region’s administration.  As the Republic has joined the program launched by the Russian Chess Federation and the Timchenko Foundation "Chess in School", future chess teachers headed for the training programs.  The head of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, has tasked the Ministry of Sport to support local chess players, especially young ones.  Thus, a children's tournament "Hopes of the Caucasus" has been included into the festival’s program and its winners are going to receive a valuable prize:  a fully paid trip to the Russian Championship’s First League to be held in Loo!

Heads of the Ingushetia administration have taken part in the opening ceremony:  Ruslan Gagiev, the Republic of Ingushetia’s Chairman of the Government, Yusup Kostoyev, Minister of Education and Science, Daud Alkhazurov, Minister of Physical Culture and Sport, Magomed Bekmurziev, Deputy Mayor of Nazran.  Head of the republic is also looking forward to attending the festival to greet the participants.  It is a pleasure to see so much attention paid to chess.

This year, the Gelfand - Inarkiev match is held to a very original formula proposed by Ernesto Inarkiev.  It consists of a trio of three-day cycles, each featuring two classical and four rapid games (two games with 25 + 10 and two with 10 + 10 time control). This is a kind of imitation of this September’s World Cup, which both grandmasters will be participants of.  Meanwhile, unlike Tbilisi, Nazran schedules a rest day following the end of each "cycle".

Boris Gelfand, being in charge of White pieces in game one, managed to open the score right away. 


Gelfand – Inarkiev

English Opening

1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 e6 4.g3 b6 5.Bg2 Bb7 6.0-0 Be7 7.Re1 Ne4 8.Nxe4 Bxe4 9.d3 Bb7 10.e4 0-0

This line was seen in one of Gelfand’s games, a rather old one, though. Below is one of his blitz games: 10...Nc6 11.d4 Nxd4 12.Nxd4 cxd4 13.Qxd4 0-0 14.Bf4 Bc5 15.Qd2 Qe7 16.Red1 e5 17.Be3 Bc6 18.Bxc5 bxc5 19.Qa5 f5 with a counterplay for Black, as in Gelfand – Leko, Moscow 2008.

11.d4 cxd4 12.Nxd4 d6

The English Opening has given rise to a hedgehog structure.  The trade of a knight pair rather favors White.

Basic ideas of the 1993 Kramnik – Adams game have stayed with me. This is exactly when we started our mutual training sessions with Vladimir Borisovich, this particular game having branded on my memory for some reason.  While the model game saw a maneuvering struggle, I managed to get the key into Black’s setup" (B. Gelfand).

Here is this game of long ago: 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 b6 3.Nc3 c5 4.e4 d6 5.d4 cxd4 6.Nxd4 Bb7 7.Qe2 e6 8.g3 Nc6 9.Nxc6 Bxc6 10.Bg2 Be7 11.0-0 Nd7 12.Re1 Bb7 13.e5 Bxg2 14.exd6 Bxd6 15.Kxg2 0-0 16.Rd1 Be7 17.Bf4 Qc8 18.Bd6 Re8 19.Bxe7 Rxe7 20.Rd6 Qb7+ 21.Qe4 Nc5 22.Qxb7 Nxb7 23.Rd2 Rd8 24.Rxd8+ Nxd8 25.Rd1 Nb7 26.f4 Kf8 27.Kf3 Ke8 28.Nb5 a5 29.a3 a4 30.Nd6+ Nxd6 31.Rxd6 Rb7 32.Ke3, draw, as in Kramnik – Adams, Groningen 1993.


A chief arbiter of the Nazran match attempted to break through the queenside, but Black got sufficient counterplay after: 13.a4 a6 14.a5 Nd7 15.Bd2 bxa5 16.Bxa5 Qb8 17.b4 Ne5 18.Rc1 Rc8 19.Qe2 Qa7 20.Red1 Rab8, as in Akhmetov – A. Mirzoev, St. Petersburg 2000.

13...a6 14.Bb2

One of the blitz games saw Kramnik essaying 14.Ba3, only to find his opponent blundering immediately with 14…Nd7? (correct is 14...Qc7, defending the b7-bishop) 15.e5! Bxg2 16.exd6 Bf6 17.Kxg2 with a healthy extra pawn, as in Kramnik – Ponomariov, Moscow 2009.


More precise, perhaps, is 14...Nd7, since after 15.e5 Bxg2 16.exd6 Bxd6 17.Kxg2 Qc7 White can no longer make Black weaken his kingside with 18.Qg4 because of a simple rejoinder 18…Nf6. In the case of 18.Qf3 Be5 19.Rad1 Rac8 Black is also fine, as in Paravyan – Rozum, Khanty Mansyisk 2016.


“I induce Black into creating weaknesses with 15…g6, followed up by е4-е5 to force the nature of the game.  With e6 sacrifices working out for me in no lines, I opted for simplifications.  Control of the big а1-h8 diagonal gives White a certain amount of pressure” (B. Gelfand).



Gelfand said that he had spent long time studying the following nice line: 16.Rad1 Nd7 17.e5 Nxe5 18.Nxe6! fxe6 19.Rxe5 dxe5 20.Qxe6+ Rf7 21.Bxe5 Rd8 22.Rxd8+ Qxd8 23.Bxb7, and White wins. Nevertheless, he declined it in view of 17...Bxg2 (in lieu of 17…Nxe5) 18.exd6 Bxd6 19.Nxe6 fxe6

20.Rxe6 (with a deadly threat of 21.Rxg6+) 20...Ne5!, and Black is safe and sound.

The engine has something to say about this line as well: 20.Qxe6+! (In lieu of 20.Rxe6) 20…Rf7 21.Rxd6. Even though with two pawns for a minor piece, White’s domination is complete.  The following exemplary line shows the amount of problems that Black is up against. 21…Bb7 (if 21...Bf3, then 22.Re3) 22.Red1 Qc5!? 23.Qxf7+! Kxf7 24.Rxd7+ Ke8 25.Rxb7 with an overwhelming advantage.

16...Bxg2 17.exd6 Bxd6 18.Kxg2

B. Gelfand showed that 18.Nxe6 fxe6 19.Rxe6 Qf7 20.Qd4 fails to

an effective interference 20...Be5!! There is no queen taking the bishop in view of a checkmate on f2, while 21.Rxe5 walks into the 21...Nc6 fork.

Instead of 20.Qd4 possible is 20.Rf6!?, but then 20…Qxf6 21.Bxf6 Rxf6 22.Kxg2 Nc6, and Black has sufficient compensation for the missing queen.

18...Nd7 19.Nf3 Rad8 20.Rad1 Be7 21.Qe4 Rfe8 22.h4


“I seem to have come up with rather subtle moves.  Thus, 19.Nf3 seems to decentralize the knight, but I prevent Black from playing Be5.  Should Black manage to reroute his bishop to the big diagonal, he would gradually equalize.  However, I kept posing problems all the time:  19.Nf3, 21.Qe4, 22.h4. Black finds it physiologically difficult to defend a position like this, and I did not see how Black could disentangle by some simple means.

I believe 22…а5 to be an underwhelming move, but Ernesto had little time left on his clock. After 23.Nd4! my knight makes it to b5.  It is to be checked yet whether my performance in time trouble was precise, but Black’s position is unpleasant anyway.  When time pressure ended, Black’s position down a pawn and without any compensation for it was absolutely hopeless” (B. Gelfand)

Ernesto Inarkiev declines the principled continuation 22...b5 in view of 23.cxb5 axb5 24.Nd4, threatening unpleasant Nxb5 and Nc6; however, the engine comes up with an incredible defensive resource: 24…Nf6 25.Nxb5

25…Qxg3+!! 26.fxg3 Nxe4 27.Rxd8 Rxd8 28.Rxe4 Rd2+, maintaining equality.

Nevertheless, White is not obliged to capture on b5, enjoying slight pressure after 25.Qf3 Rd5 26.Rc1.

23.Nd4! Nc5 24.Qf3 Rc8 25.h5 Qb7 26.Qxb7 Nxb7 27.hxg6 hxg6 28.Nb5 Bf8


This approach is plausible from a human player’s point of view: White lures the knight to c5 to be able to land his own knight on d6 with a fork.  The engine drags you into a jungle of lines via 29.Be5 Re7 30.Bf6 Ree8 31.Na7 Ra8 32.Nc6; it should be strong, but does not bring any clarity.

29...Nc5 30.Bf6 Rc6 31.Be5 Nb7 32.Na7 Rc5 33.Bd4 Rh5 34.Bxb6

White is up a pawn and a substantial positional edge at that.

34…Bc5 35.Bxc5 Nxc5 36.Nc6 Na6 37.Rd6 Ra8 38.Red1 Kg7 39.Rd8 Rxd8 40.Rxd8 Rc5 41.Rd6


An attempt to muddy the waters ends in a failure.

42.b4 Rxc4 43.Na5 Rxb4 44.Rxa6 Kf6 45.a3 Re4 46.Nc6 Rc4 47.Nb4 Ke5 48.Rxa4 Rc3 49.Ra7 f5 50.a4 Ra3 51.a5 Kd6 52.Ra6+ Ke5 53.Rb6 f4 54.gxf4+ Kxf4 55.a6 Ke5 56.a7 Black resigns.