28 December 2015

The Most Experienced King

Round four of the Nutcracker tournament in the review of Vladimir Barsky.

As a matter of fact round four was completing the classical part of the competition. The day before the "Kings" defeated "Princes" 6-2 and took the lead in the match. Getting back as many as four points in the rapid section, where each victory brings only one point instead of two as used to be the case in the classical section, is a very challenging task, committing the young grandmasters to spare no efforts to rectify the overall match situation. However, it has been a long period of time when it seemed that everything would come out the other way around and the masters would go on to increase their lead. The tone was set by the most experienced "King", who commented the game for spectators when it was over.

Gelfand – Antipov 
Bogo-Indian Defence Е11 

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Bb4+ 4.Nbd2 0–0 5.a3 Be7 6.e4 d6 

Boris Gelfand, “This is a rare move that Radjabov employed against me in the Candidates Tournament and obtained a good position.” 

7.Be2 a5 

Boris Gelfand, “Even though this move is ambitious, I still spent some time evaluating its consequences. However, Black needs to consume as many as two tempi to carry out his idea.” 

8.Qc2 a4 9.e5 



Instead of exchanging on e5 Gelfand suggested 9...Nfd7 with the idea 10.Ne4 Nc6 11.Bf4 Nxd4! However, after 12.Nxd4 dxe5 13.Nxe6 fxe6 14.Be3 White has excellent compensation for the pawn, but the struggle becomes complex. According to Boris, he was choosing between this line and a calmer continuation 11.exd6 with somewhat better chances for him.

10.dxe5 Nfd7 11.Ne4 Nc6 12.Bf4 

Boris Gelfand, “It has somehow turned out to be too good for White because Black has barely any move to make!” 

12...Ra5 13.0–0–0 Qe8 14.h4 

Boris Gelfand, “I have set all possible threats in motion. Moving 14...h6 is quite scary even because of 15.g4, while the knight sacrifice on g5 deserves a more thorough attention.” 

The alternative line 14.Neg5 Bxg5 15.Nxg5 f5 16.exf6 Nxf6 seemed less attractive to the Israeli grandmaster since Black pieces would come to life. 

14...Ndxe5 15.Nxe5 Rxe5 16.Bxe5 Nxe5 


Boris Gelfand, “At first I felt quite happy, but later it turned out that things were not as fun-filled as that.” 

There is no two ways about the objective evaluation of the position as being substantially advantageous for White since Black’s compensation for the exchange is not enough. However, Boris wanted to win cleanly, without affording any counterplay to his opponent.

17.f4 Nc6 18.Ng5 f5 19.Qxa4 


Boris Gelfand, “Initially I pinned my hopes on 19.Bf3 with the idea of exchanging on с6, followed by Nf3. However, 19...Bd6 is unpleasant since I lack time to consolidate my position as may be the case, for instance, after 20.g3 h6, when it is not at all clear what the knight is going to do there where it is forced to retreat.” 

Stockfish is of the opinion that White should stay calm and capture the pawn by 21.Qxa4, leaving the knight as is. It is clear that Gelfand used some time to evaluate similar ideas, but later admitted at the press conference, "I somehow felt against abandoning my knight there in order to start playing for the mate." 


Boris Gelfand, “I felt deeply concerned about the 19...h6 move. It is far from clear what is going on and I am up against a hard choice to have to make. If, for example, I move 20.Nf3, then 20…Qg6 and the queen is rerouted to g3, at which point defending the f4-pawn becomes an extremely tough challenge”. 


Boris Gelfand, “The queen is now redirected to е3 and I can no longer see what Black is supposed to do to get out of his situation.” 

20...Bf6 21.Qe3 Na5 

In response to the most principled continuation 21...e5 Gelfand pointed out to the 22.fxe5 Bxe5 23.Qc5! line, upon which Black’s position collapses. 

22.Kb1 h6 



This small combination helps White transform one type of advantage into another. The classical players advised us: if you are up an exchange, give it back and take a pawn in return. Well, Gelfand goes on to take as much as two pawns, while permanently threatening a direct attack against the king.

23…Ba4 24.Qxa5 Bxd1 25.Bxd1 hxg5 26.hxg5 Bd4 27.Qxc7 Rf7 28.Qa5 b6 29.Qd2 Bc5 30.Bh5 Rd7 31.Qe2 g6 32.Bf3 Rh7 33.Re1 Re7 34.Qe5 White’s position is overwhelming and Black recognized his defeat. 

Boris Gelfand demonstrated the best result in the classical games - two confident victories as White and two convincing draws as Black. Someone for young people to learn from! 

Morozevich – Bukavshin 

For a long time it seemed that the score would be further increased by Alexander Morozevich, who was pressing his opponent from the opening and then managed to have him confused in complex lines.


Black has been engaged in a meticulous defense for a long time and succeeded in having all major threats fended off. Now he faced a pleasant choice between 28...Nc5 29.Bc2 d6 and 28...b4!? 29.cxb4 Bxb4 30.Bd2 a5, but Ivan made up his mind in favor of massive exchanges on the kingside. 

28...h4? 29.Nh2

Where is the knight heading for? We are about to know it in a little while! 

29…g5 30.Ng4! 

As was admitted by Bukavshin, he missed this maneuver altogether. Following the natural 30.Nf3 (a routine square for a knight) 30…gxf4 31.Ne5+ Ke8 Black is in good shape, whereas a fork on h6 is in the air now. 


Better was 30...Kf8, although leaving the king on the file which is about to open up looks somewhat scary. On closer examination it turns out that there is nothing terribly wrong for Black after 31.Rf1 gxf4 32.Rxf4+ Ke8 33.Be3 Nd6 34.Bd4, although his position remains unattractive. 

31.f5 Rf8 



This is a concept-based move as White wants to underline the dismal situation of the b7-knight. Nevertheless, a straightforward 32.f6 was perhaps a stronger option, for example: 32…Bxf6 33.Nxf6+ Rxf6 34.Bxg5 Rg6 35.Bxh4, when the pawn is untouchable since after 35…Rxg2? 36.Bg3! the black king comes under attack. 

32...Nd8 33.g3 d6 34.gxh4 gxh4 35.e5 Bg2 

Black should have preliminary exchanged on е5 – 35...dxe5 36.Nxe5 Bg2. 

36.Rh2 Bf3 



Although being a nice move while threatening to give check on g6, pushing the pawn forward was a better option yet another time: 37.f6! Bxg4 38.Rxh4 with substantial advantage. 

37...Nxe6 38.exd6 Bxd6 39.Rxe6+ Kd7 40.Rxd6+ Kxd6 41.Nf2 Bd5 

Even though White ends up winning two minor pieces for a rook, Black’s forces have finally come into play. Meanwhile, there has remained very little material on the board.

42.Bd2 Rce8 43.Bg5 Rf3 44.Bxh4 Ree3 



Bukavshin noted with a smile that in the case of 45.Kc2 Rxd3! 46.Nxd3 Be4 47.Rd2 the black king might retreat even to a8 since there was no way for White to disentangle his knight from the deadly pin. 

Objectively speaking, White could still continue fighting for advantage after 45.Bc2 Rxc3 46.Bd1, for example: 46…Rf4 47.Kb2! Re3 48.a3. However, such positions come easy only to computers: everything is hanging, Black's pieces are very active and you can easily overlook some sort of tactical tricks... Morozevich refrained from tempting his fate.

45...Rxd3 46.Nxd3 and a draw was agreed. 

The Oparin-Leko encounter also ended in a draw, even if without any similar adventures. In the meanwhile it was Vladislav Artemiev who equalized the score in round four.

Artemiev – Najer  


When looking at this diagram one might be convinced that it was the French Defense that the opponents resorted to. But no, this position has emerged from a rare line of the Slav Defense. Vladislav outplayed the European Champion, whereas after Black volunteered to trade off the rooks on c3 and thus strengthened the pawn on d4, his situation has become quite dismal. White embarks on a kingside offensive.

25.h4! a5 26.Nde5 Bc8 27.Qd3 Bf6 28.Re3 Qe7 29.g3 Qa3 30.Qb1 Qd6 31.Kg2 Kg7 32.Re1 

Following the end of the game Vladislav Artemiev shared the course of the fight with the audience and answered the questions posed by Sergey Rublevsky. When the discussion advanced approximately as far as this position, Vladislav noted that given the Black’s time deficit the result of the game was predetermined. Sergey only smiled in response.

32…Qc7 33.Qc1 b5 34.Ng4 



Rublevsky offered 34...Bd8 and the grandmasters followed up with analyzing the consequences of 35.h5 gxh5 36.Qh6+ Kg8 37.Qxh5 Qxc3. Artemiev believed White to be on the winning side despite being unable to confirm his statement with any specific lines. He was rather unwilling to do so as he was evidently reluctant and not especially interested in delving into the position that looked so depressive for Black. The computer, however, comes up with a proper solution without any delay: 38.Nh6+ Kg7 39.Qg4+! Kh8 (taking the knight is impossible be due to the mate on h1) 40.Ne5 Qc7 41.Rc1 Qg7 42.Qh5 Bd7 43.Nef7+, winning.

35.Qh6+ Kg8 36.Nxf6+ Rxf6 37.Rxe5? 

It looks as though White was in a standby mode just like in a famous Russian anecdote about it coming apart all by itself without any outside assistance. Out of three possible recaptures on e5 this is the worst one, providing Black with an unexpected opportunity to bail out.



Being in time trouble Najer fails to capitalize on his lucky chance. In response to 37...Qf7 Artemiev showed the 38.Qe3 Bh3+ 39.Kxh3 Rxf3 40.Re8+ Kg7 41.Re7 line, transiting into a winning pawn ending. However, instead of giving check with the bishop, 38... Rxf3!! was a much stronger continuation.


Should the rook be captured, only then Black follows it by 39…Bh3+, winning a queen. White is forced to fix a draw by resorting to the perpetual check: 39.Re8+ Kg7 40.Qe5+ Kh6 41.Qg5+ Kg7 42.Qe5+, and so on. 

Now the game is about to finish rather prosaically. 

38.h5 Rxe5 39.Nxe5 Bf5 40.hxg6 hxg6 41.Nxg6 Be4+ 42.Kh2 Qxc3 43.Qh8+ Kf7 44.Ne5+ Black resigns. 

The overall score of the classical part of the tournament is 18-14 in favor of the “Kings”. 

Round four turned out to be a rather hot one in the boys versus girls match. Scores were opened in all encounters, the White side winning each one of his/her game at that! Thus, round four has brought a 4-4 tie, whereas the final score of the classical part has become 17-15 in favor of the girls' team.

As many as two days of rapid games are there in store for us.