27 December 2015

Who is the Boss of the Chess Saloon?

Round three of the Nutcracker tournament in the review of Eteri Kublashvili.

It has finally come true! One of the "Nutcracker" rounds has at last ended in other than a drawish result, and this must surely spice up further development of the tournament. The "Kings" confidently defeated the "Princes" with a 6-2 score (please remember that a victory in the classical part is awarded with 2 points, while a draw brings 1 point only) and have taken the lead in the match.

At a certain point of the match it seemed that the legends could prevail with a bigger margin yet, if not with a whitewash score, but two games ultimately ended in draws.

Peter Leko, playing with black pieces against Mikhail Antipov, equalized in the Italian game without any visible efforts and then went on to outplay his opponent altogether. The Hungarian grandmaster was in his best traditions of building up a positional type of advantage, but failed to put the final squeeze on his opponent: even though Mikhail went into a deep defensive stance, he repeatedly came up with successful defensive resources and managed to bring the game to a draw.

Of all other encounters Alexander Morozevich had the most promising position in his game against Vladislav Artemiev right from the beginning. There was a moment when White could even win a piece:

Morozevich – Artemiev 

While the Cambridge Springs’s queen feels extremely uncomfortable on the edge of the board, White could move 19.Bd1 to force Black into some desperate actions that had to do with a 19...Bxc5 piece sacrifice. Some hidden complications were perhaps not to Alexander’s liking and he played 19.Ng5, but after 19...Nf6 the d7-square became vacated for the queen to retreat, and black got off with nothing more than a fright. The rook ending, in which White was up a pawn, ended in a draw. 

The first victory of the round was scored by Evgeny Najer, who outplayed Ivan Bukavshin. The floor is given to the European Champion.

Bukavshin - Najer 

Evgeny Najer, “White’s position is a definitely more pleasant one to play. From the other hand, however, after 15…Nd5 Black could also feel quite optimistic about the future.” 

16.b4 a6 17.a4 

Evgeny Najer, “I wasn’t even sure about how to properly react to this queenside pawn assault, therefore I played 17…Rc8.” 


Evgeny Najer, “Because 18…0-0 could run into 19. e4, I made up my mind in favor of starting with 18…g5.” 


Evgeny Najer, “I cannot be certain about having equalized after 19…axb5 20.axb5 c5 21.dxc5 Rxc5. I consider 22.Rhd1 to be the most principled move in this position, but Ivan opted for 22.Rhc1. After 22…0-0 23.Rxc5 Bxc5 I was of the opinion that I had quite a decent setup.” 


Black played 24…Qd6 in this position, whereas 24…Qb6 was stronger. Now, as was pointed out by Sergey Rublevsky, White could have snatched a pawn via 25.Bxd5 exd5 26.Ba5. For example, 26…d4 27.Bc3 Qh6 28.Bxd4 Bxd4 29.Rxd4 Qxh3 30.Qd5. 

Evgeny Najer, “This line escaped me. Although I analyzed the move 24…Qb6, I failed to make any sense of it. This was perhaps the most crucial moment of the game.” 

25.Be1?! Rd8 26.Rd3 b6 

Evgeny Najer, “I was not entirely clear about the way of arranging my pieces. Instead of 26…b6 I also considered the line with 26…Qe5, for example, 27.Kf1 Rd6 28.Kg1 b6, although I was in the vague about where to take it from there.” 

27.Kf1 Qh2 28.Qa4 

Evgeny Najer, “Despite the position being level, Black needs to come up with precise moves. My initial plan didn’t include any bishop relocations, but I rather wanted to reroute my rook to the first rank as soon as possible. However, I didn’t like 28…Rc8 in view of 29.Qa6 followed by Qb7, therefore I ended up playing 28…Be7.” 

29.Qc4 Bc5 30.Bc3 Be7 

Evgeny Najer, “Now I have an easy game connected with Bf6.” 

31.Bb2 Bf6 32.Ba3 

Evgeny Najer, “I have managed to equalize, whereas Ivan “overdid it” to a certain degree”: 32…Qe5 33.Bf3 Qh2 34.Bg2 Qe5

Evgeny Najer, “It is obvious that Black has achieved a very good position already, while 35.Kg1 looks ambitious.” 

35…Qa1+ 36.Bf1 Ra8 37.Bc1 g6 38.Kg2 Kg7 39.Bd2 Ra2 


As was pointed out by Sergey Rublevsky, stronger was 40.Rb3, followed by something like 40…Qc2 41.Qxc2 Rxc2 42.Rd3 Bc3 43.Bxc3 Nxc3 44.Bf3 Nxb5 45.Rb3, when a draw seemed to be the most likely outcome of the game. 

40…Qb1 41.Bd1 

Evgeny Najer, “Here I wanted to set up a “trap” and it turned out very good for me that I didn’t go for it  - 41…Be5 in order to meet 42.Qe4 by 42…Nf6 43.Qxe5 Qxd3 44.Bc3 Rxf2+ 45.Kxf2... I got lucky. It is not at all difficult to get confused with so many pieces on the board, therefore I opted for moving my pieces onto adjacent squares.” 

41…Ra1 42.Be1 Qb2 

Evgeny Najer, “It has become extremely challenging for the first player as it is not entirely clear how White is supposed to come about untangling his pieces.” 

43.Rd2 Qc3 

Evgeny Najer, “I intended to answer 44.Qc6 by 44…Rc1.” 

44.Qe2 Qc1 45.Rd3 Rb1 46.Qf3 Qc4 47.Qe2 Qxb5, and so on. 

Evgeny Najer, “It turns out that Black has first gained a pawn and then returned his pieces into the rear of the enemy’s army, starting to push his b-pawn forward."

Boris Gelfand has become yet another hero of the day, having skillfully outplayed Grigoriy Oparin in the tenacious Slav Defense.

Gelfand – Oparin 

A pawn break at move 40 can always come unexpectedly: 40.b5! After 40…Ne7 White obtained an opportunity of creating threats along the big diagonal – 41.Qb2

It was followed up by 41…Nd5 42.Rec1 Qe7 43.Nxd6 Qxd6 44.Rxc6, and Boris converted his material advantage in a convincing manner. 

So, the score has become 14-10 in favor of the "Kings". Will the "Princes" manage to get even the last "classical" round?

In the competition of young players the balance of forces has also undergone changes as the girls have won 6-2, overtaking the lead.

Dinara Dordzhieva has defeated Arseniy Nesterov, Margarita Potapova has taken the upper hand over Dmitry Tsoi, and Alexandra Dimitrova has prevailed over Yaroslav Remizov. Kirill Shubin was the only boy who has ended up being victorious over Olga Mylnikova. The score has become 13-11 to girls’ favor.

Round four of the main tournament will see the following duels: Vladislav Artemiev  Evgeny Najer, Grigoriy Oparin  Peter Leko, Alexander Morozevich  Ivan Bukavshin, Boris Gelfand  Mikhail Antipov. 

The following pairs will compete in group “B”: Aleksandra Dimitrova  Arseniy Nesterov, Olga Mylnikova  Dmitry Tsoi, Yaroslav Remizov  Dinara Dordzhieva, and Kirill Shubin  Margarita Potapova.