29 December 2015

Emerging Equal out of Hard Fighting

Round one of the Nutcracker rapid tournament in the review of Vladimir Barsky.

The time has come for the double round robin tournament to replace the classical section of the event, when both game days will see the equal amount of four rounds each day. It looks as though the movie has been switched into a fast-forward mode, in which the opponents are going to face each other in the same sequence, only the action will run four times as fast as it used to be previously! However, on day one they are to play with the colors reversed if compared to the classical part of the match-tournament, while day two will indeed become a repetition of the classical section ”in small”.
Meanwhile, the rapid games are rated half as much as the classical ones, each victory bringing you one point and each draw half that much respectively. The "Princes" will definitely have hard time getting back the deficit of four points, especially since they started off to a defeat in the first mini-match. Even though they followed it up with two wins in a row, they still ended up losing their final encounter to cap things off. As the game day has ended with an 8:8 score, the "Kings" went on to keep their lead.

As for the creative content of the games, they have proved to be extremely vigorous and exciting with no shortage of styles and choice of openings! We witnessed the Benko Gambit, the poisoned pawn variation, as well as 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4. There was none, both young and old, who would fail to come up with some sort of creative mess - no offense is of course meant against anyone in particular. In general, the players have preferred solid openings from their core repertoires while sparing no vital novelties at that. Even though Garry Kasparov posted in Twitter about anticipating a great deal of interesting from the Qatar event that day, the game of Morozevich from the Moscow "Nutcracker" was to be missed by no means! The 13th World Champion was obviously implying the Morozevich’s sharp encounter against Bukavshin.

It goes without saying that both painful and excessively painful blunders had their share of happening as well. Let’s have a look at a couple of similar examples and then go on to reviewing more error-free encounters. 

Bukavshin – Najer 


In this position White could have captured a pawn via 23.Qxg6. Bukavshin might have been confused about 23...Rb4, charging at the bishop that pins the f7-pawn from taking the queen. However, after 24.Bh6! Ne6 (the only move) 25.Bxe6 fxe6 26.Bd2 Rxb2 27.Rxb2 Bxb2 28.Rb1, White would have ended up with a slight edge. 

23.Bd2 Nb3 24.Be1 Qc5 25.Ra4 Bxb2 26.Kh1 Bc1? 

Although Black is up some material, his happiness comes to an end before long... 


Similar long moves have a frequent tendency of falling outside a player’s scope of view. 

27…Rfd8 28.Qc2 Bd2 29.Bxb3 Qxc2 30.Bxc2 Rb2 31.Bxd2 Rxd2 32.Bd1 Rxf2 33.Rxf2 Rxf2 34.Bb3, and White went on to convert his material superiority. 

Gelfand – Oparin 


Up to this moment Boris Abramovich has displayed a superb performance, which brought him an extra pawn. In this position quite possible was 28.Nf4, rerouting the knight to lend support to the b4-pawn. However, Gelfand opted for another tempting continuation.

28.Ne5!? Bxe5 29.dxe5 Nb5 

Black should have taken the pawn via 29...Rxe5. After the following exemplary line 30.Nd4 Nb5! 31.Nxc6 Re8 32.Nd4 Nxd4 33.exd4 Bf5 34.Ra1 Rea8 35.Rxa3 Rxa3 36.Bxd5 Rd3 37.Rc4 White is already up as many as two pawns, but bringing this advantage home is far from an easy assignment to accomplish.

30.e6! Rxe6 31.Bh3 Ke7 

Black has to part ways with the exchange as otherwise his position is going to collapse. 

32.Bxe6 Kxe6 33.Ra1 Rb3 34.Rcb1 Rxb1+ 35.Rxb1 Kd6 36.f3 Na3 



This type of momentary blackouts, when rooks are abandoned to their fate while being en prise, has become somewhat trendy as of lately… 

37...Nxb1 White resigns. 

Najer – Oparin
Sicilian Defence 

Here it is, this famous poisoned pawn variation! I cannot say how important this game has proved from the theoretical point of view, but from the first glance it looks as if Black encountered a serious amount of problems. Being in sharp position the opponents would, of course, fail to avoid committing a certain amount of errors, but in general the game was carried out by grandmasters at a very high level.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 h6 8.Bh4 Qb6 9.Qd2 Qxb2 10.Rb1 Qa3 


11.e5 dxe5 12.fxe5 g5 13.Bf2 Ng4 14.Bg3 Bg7 15.Bb5+ Bd7 16.Be2 Nxe5 17.Rxb7 Nbc6 18.Nb3 Rd8 19.Qe3 0–0 20.0–0 f5 21.Qb6 Rb8 22.Bxa6 Qb2 23.Na4 Qxc2 24.Nac5 Rxb7 25.Bxb7 Nc4 26.Qc7 Ne3 27.Bxc6 Bxc6 28.Qxc6 Nxf1 29.Qxe6+ 


29...Kh8 30.Kxf1 f4 31.Bf2 Rd8 32.Qe2 Qf5 33.h3 Qd5 34.a4 Rf8 35.Qd3 Qf7 36.a5 Qe7 37.a6 Rd8 38.Qe4 Qf7 39.Qe6 Qh5 40.Qe2 Qf7 


41.Kg1 h5 42.Ne6 Re8 43.a7 f3 44.gxf3 Qb7 45.Qe4 Qa6 46.Nc7 Black resigns. 

Leko – Artemiev 
Benko Gambit

This game must have certainly delighted the tournament organizer Oleg Skvortsov, a great proponent and a connoisseur of the Benko Gambit.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 g6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.Nf3 0–0 8.e4 Qa5 


This line, in which Black temporarily delays winning back a pawn in favor of creating pressure against White’s center, has recently become a trendy one. 

9.Nd2 Bxa6 10.Be2 d6 11.0–0 Nbd7 12.a4 Rfb8 13.Ra3 Rb4 14.b3 Bxe2 15.Qxe2 Ne8 16.Nb5 Nb6 

The 16...Qa6 17.Nc4 Ne5 maneuver was worth paying attention to. 

17.Nb1 Nc4 18.bxc4 Rxb1 



19.Qc2 was perhaps a better move with the idea of ousting the black rook from running the show on your home field. 

19...Rb2 20.Rd1 Bh6 21.Bxa5 Rxe2 22.Re1 Rc2 23.Bc3 Bg7 24.Rea1 Bxc3 



From now on the initiative would permanently reside with Black. Stronger was 25.Nxc3 Rb8 26.a5 Nc7 27.Kf1 Na6 28.R1a2 Rc1+ 29.Ke2 – and even though White goes on retaining his extra pawn, Black has come to feature an excellent compensation for it. 

25...Rb2 26.f3 Ra5 27.Re3 Rb4 28.e5 Rxc4 29.exd6 Nxd6 30.Nxd6 exd6 31.Re4 Rc2 32.Rb1 


32...c4! 33.Rb8+ Kg7 34.Rd4 Rxa4 35.h4 Raa2 36.Rg4 h5 37.Rg5 c3 38.Rc8 Rc1+ 39.Kh2 c2 White resigns. 

Morozevich – Bukavshin 
Sicilian Defence 

So, we have finally reached the game that proved so important for the theory of the Paulsen variation and drew attention of the 13th world champion. White succeeded in shaking out a spectacular offensive, thinking nothing of multiple piece sacrifices. 

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.Be3 a6 7.Qf3 Nf6 8.0–0–0 Ne5 9.Qg3 b5 10.Bxb5! axb5 11.Ndxb5 Qb8 12.Bf4 d6 


13.Rxd6! Nh5 14.Qg5 Bxd6 15.Nxd6+ Qxd6 16.Bxe5 Ra5 17.f4 Nxf4 


18.Nd5! Rxd5 19.exd5 Ne2+ 20.Kb1 Qxd5 21.Qxg7 Rf8 22.b3 Bb7 23.Rf1 Qd2 24.Bb2 Be4 25.Qe5 Qxc2+ 26.Ka1 



Black must have probably failed to discover any other ways of defend himself against the queen check from b8, followed by Ba3+. Meanwhile, the defense did exist– 26...Qd3! After 27.Qb8+ Qd8 Black manages to stay in the game, although there is hardly anyone who would like to find himself in his shoes. 

27.Qxe6+ Kd8 28.Qd6+ Ke8 29.Rd1 Qc8 



This is a sound practical approach in the spirit of classical players who used to advise us that there might be no mate after all, whereas a piece is a piece! Well, 30.Qe5+ Kf7 31.Rd6! would have been a winning shortcut, but the text move is no less reliable. 

30...Kf7 31.Qxe2 Qe6 32.g3 Kg6 33.Qb5 Rc8 34.Qb4 Rc6 35.Qd4 h6 36.g4 fxg4 37.Re1 Kf5 38.Qf2+ Kg5 39.Qe3+ Kf5 40.h3 h5 41.Qf2+ Kg5 42.h4+ Kg6 43.Qf4 Rd6 44.a4 Qd5 45.Rxe4 Rb6 46.Re1 Qf5 47.Qd4 Rb7 48.Qd6+ Kf7 49.Ka2 Rd7 50.Qh6 Black resigns. 

Round one of the boys versus girls rapid has likewise ended in an 8-8 tie (3-1, 1.5-2.5, 2-2, 1.5-2.5), the overall score being 25-23 to the girls’ favor.

We are looking forward to the climax of this impressive match-tournament!