17 April 2017

Moving to the Congress House

Round one of the Kortchnoi Zurich Chess Challenge super tournament in the review of Vladimir Barsky.

From the cozy and near-and-dear hotel "Savoy" we now move to the Congress House of Zürich. The huge bright hall overlooking a lake and a coastal park is partitioned into three spacious sections. The key section for participants of the main tournament features a stage with four tables. A huge portrait of Viktor Lvovich and a demo wall screen hangs over the stage. The screen displays four main tournament duels until they are over, at which point the turn is given to nine games of the Kortchnoi Open. Before the start of the round the Zürich Chess Club director Christian Isler unexpectedly served as a waiter by approaching each participant with a tray of water bottles in his hands. 

The stage borders on five rows of chairs for spectators. Same as in "Savoy", they are never empty, but less populated nonetheless. Why? Is it because the path to the new / old tournament venue has not been well-trodden yet? (let us remind ourselves that the 1953 Candidates tournament took place here) This is not the only explanation, however, since not a few local fans have relocated into the third most spacious section to join the open event. This said, they have not ceased being spectators. After making moves on their boards they would approach wall screens to keep track of the world’s leading grandmaster clashes. Two sections of the open tournament, Master and Main, have gathered as many as 168 participants. The spacious hall accommodates a snack bar and a book vendor's stall. There is also a room to listen to experts’ comments, as well as a room for game analysis. 

This time the organizers have abandoned the symbolic first move tradition, thus dooming grandmasters into advancing three pawns and a knight with own hands. It is noteworthy that the starting moves were different at every board: 1.c4, 1.d4, 1.е4 and 1.Nf3. Let's start the story "from left to right" with the game opened with the c-pawn: this is how the 14th world champion challenged his successor on the throne. 

Kramnik – Anand


Although a slight edge is with White, Black should not have any problems following something like 22...Bf5 to post the bishop on e4 Anand, however, arrived at the conclusion that dark-squared bishops should be traded instead, leaving himself with a “bad” one.  

22…Bc5?! 23. b4 Bxd4 24. Qxd4 Qe7 25. Bd3 Kg7 26. a5 Rdc8 27. axb6 axb6 28. Bf1 b5 29. Bd3 

As Black’s position grows ever more unpleasant, he decides to get it over with without further delay: 29…Rc4 30. Bxc4 Qxb4 31.Rab1! 

This is an important intermediate move, which deprives Black of creating the connected passers. 

31…Qxc4 32. Qd2 h5 33. Rbc1 Qb3 34. Rxc8 Bxc8 35. Qf4 Bf5 

35... Be6 36. Qf6+ Kh7 37. Ra1 changes nothing. 

36. e6! Bxe6 37. Qe5+ Kh7 38. Ra1 Black resigns as there is no defending against Ra8-h8. 

Boris Gelfand attempted to get the "Nutcracker-2016” winner Grigory Oparin into a bind in the classical  Queen's gambit, but the young Muscovite skilfully handled his minor pieces to break the virtual grip. Gelfand offered peace on move 31. 

The most captivating rivalry was a Sicilian battle between two Russian friends. 

Nepomniachtchi – Svidler


Black mishandled the opening and gave White a free hand in building up an offensive against his king. White has a forced win in the diagram position via 17.Rh3 Bg8 18.Ne2 Ra7 19.Bh6! gxh6 (19...Rf7 20.Nf4 is better in no way) 20.Qxh6 Bc5 21.Nf4 Qf7 22.Ng6+ Qxg6 23.Rxg6, etc. However, the text spoils nothing yet. 

17.Rdg3 Rf7 18.Rh3 

There is more than one road leading to Rome and the below one is even shorter: 18.Ne2 Qd7 19.Rh3 g5 20.Bxg5 f4 21.Bh6 Bf8 22.Rh4 or 18.Rg6 Bf6!? (18…Qd7 19.R1g3 looks rather grim for Black) 19.Bg3 Kg8 20.Rxf6 gxf6 21.exf6 Qc8, and now even 22.Na4!? should suffice. 

18...g5!? 19.Bxg5 

19.Qh6 gxf4 20.Qxe6 Bc5 is an alternative; it is clear that Black is in the woods, but he at least managed to prevent the knight's transfer from е2 to f4. 


Svidler shows an ingenious defense: having ditched two pawns allowed him to at least secure his king's safety and plug all his pieces into the defense. 

20.Bxf4 Raf8 21.Ne2 Bxh3 22.Qxh3 Qc8 

22...Rxf4 23.Nxf4 Rxf4 obviously fails to 24.Qg3. 

23.e6 Rxf4 24.Qg3 

Now 24.Nxf4 Rxf4 25.Qg3 is not good in view of 25…Qf8. 

24...Rg8 25.Qxf4 Rxg1+ 26.Nxg1 Qxe6 27.Nf3 Bd6 

Although it is the best situation that Black has ever seen in this game, there is still nothing to be thrilled about, frankly speaking, as he is down a pawn with an exposed king. 

28.Qe3 Qf6 29.Kb1 Kg7 30.a3 a5 31.h3 h5 32.Qd3 

It is high time that knight joined the action: 32.Nd4 Bb8 33.a4, and Black has problem finding any useful moves. 

32...Bc5 33.Qe2 Kh6 34.h4 Qf5 35.Qa6 

35.Qd2+ Kg6 36.Qc3 looks strong indeed. 

35...Qxf3 36.Qxc6+ Kg7 37.Qxc5 Qh1+ 38.Ka2 Qxh4 39.Qxd5 

When short of thinking time you usually make such moves on autopilot: why not take the central pawn? However, 39.b4! axb4 40.axb4 seems to be stronger. 

39...Qg4 40.c4 h4 

The far advanced black passer levels White's substantial material advantage. 

41.c5 Kf6! 

Black threatens to trade queens on e6 to his advantage, in which case Black queens his pawn and  White does not. 

42.Qd8+ Kf7 43.Qc7+ Kf6 44.Qd8+ Kf7 45.Qd3 Qe6+ 46.Kb1 

46.b3 a4 47.Qh7+ Ke8 changes nothing. 

46...Qe1+ 47.Ka2 Qe6+ 48.Ka1 Qe1+ 49.Ka2 Draw. 

Nakamura – Pelletier


White’s pieces are more active, but after some precise move like 21...a5 Black’s position is solid. However, Yannick commits a blunder which Hikaru exploits immediately: 

21…Nf6? 22.Nh6+! gxh6 

Black has to resign himself to having his pawn structure compromised since after 22...Kh8 23.g4 Bg6 24.Bxe5! Qxe5 25.Nxg6+ hxg6 26.Nf7+ he fares even worse. 

23.Rxf6 Nd4 24.Rf2 Bg6 25.Qe3 Qg7 26.Raf1 Be7 27.Nxg6 Qxg6 28.Be1 

To add to Black’s grief, White has come to get a pair of bishops. Not shying away from further trade of pieces, Nakamura is about to gradually set his queenside offensive in motion since Pelletier has no counterplay whatsoever. 

28…Rf8 29.b4 Rxf2 30.Rxf2 Rf8 31.c3 Rxf2 32.Bxf2 Ne6 33.h4 Nc7 34.Qd3 Qd6 35.Qc4+ Qe6 36.Qxe6+ Nxe6 37.Be3 Bf8 38.Bh3 Kf7 39.Bf1 Nc7 40.Bc4+ Kf6 41.Kg2 Ne8 42.Bg8 Kg7 43.Be6 Nf6 44.Kf3 Kg6 45.Bf5+ Kg7 46.Ke2 h5 47.Kd3 Kf7 

48.a5 Black resigns as he loses a pawn and is unable to stop White from queening his own one afterwards.