30 December 2015

Keeping your Eyes Fixed on the Kings

The close-out review of the Nutcracker tournament by Vladimir Barsky and Eteri Kublashvili.

Just like a year ago, the generation match-tournament witnessed experience prevailing over youthful vitality yet another time. However, unlike the 2014 event, in which the Kings needed to win back and succeeded in edging out their opponents literally "at the last moment" only, they now had a comfortable lead of 4 points after the end of the classical section, passing over the catch-up task to the Princes, which the latter ultimately failed to cope with despite all the efforts they spent along the way. During the last tournament day rounds five, six and seven finished each in a peaceful outcome, whereas the ultimate round saw the elder colleagues winning altogether with a score of 3.5-0.5. The final score has thus become 35.5-28.5 in favor of "the Kings."

Oparin – Gelfand
Sicilian Defence 

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.h3 e5 7.Nde2 h5 8.Bg5 Be6 9.Bxf6 Qxf6 10.Nd5 Qd8 11.Qd3 Nc6 12.0–0–0 g6 13.Kb1 Bg7 14.h4 Rc8 15.g3 b5 16.Bh3 0–0 17.c3 Na5 18.f4 Bxh3 19.Rxh3 exf4 20.gxf4 Nc4 


In this sharp position that features castling on opposite sides of the board White dispatches his knight in the wrong direction. The knight should have been centralized instead while also having the benefit of closing the diagonal for the extremely dangerous g7-bishop. Boris Gelfand seizes the opportunity to launch his attack without further delay. 

21...b4! 22.Nxh5 

Chess is known to be a tragedy of a single tempo, this being true here because it is exactly the amount of time that White lags behind in creating his own threats. On the other hand, what can be suggested instead? 22.Nxb4 Nxb2! 23.Kxb2 Rxc3 loses on spot, while retreating the knight back 22.Ne2 feels awful in the first place and is highly unlikely to help White out anyway for yet another reason. 

22...Nxb2 23.Kxb2 


An opportunity has presented itself for White to bail out as a result of this natural move. Winning was 23...Rxc3! 24.Nxc3 bxc3+ 

1) 25.Ka1 c2+ 26.Nxg7 cxd1Q+ 27.Qxd1 Qf6+ 28.e5 dxe5 29.Nh5 Qh8! (Rather than 29...gxh5? 30.Rg3+ Kh7 31.Qxh5+) 30.Qd6 Qxh5; 
2) 25.Kc1 Qa5 26.Qxd6 (26.Nxg7 Qa3+ 27.Kc2 Qb2#) 26...Qxh5, and so on. 


In the line after 24.Ka1! c2+ 25.Nxg7 cxd1Q+ 26.Qxd1 Kxg7 27.h5 White has a full-fledged game despite being down an exchange due to his superb knight on d5. 

24...Qa5 25.Nhf6+ Kh8 


Although 26.Rc1 is a more stubborn continuation, it wouldn’t help either: 26…Qa4+ 27.Kb1 Bxf6 28.Rc2 (28.Nxf6 Qb4+ 29.Kc2 Rc4) 28...Qa3 29.h5 Rb8+ 30.Ka1 g5 31.e5 Rb2 32.Nxc3 Rfb8, winning. 

26...Qxa2+ 27.Kd3 Qc4+ 28.Kc2 Qa4+ 29.Kc1 c2 White resigns. 

Morozevich – Antipov
English Opening 

1.g3 Nf6 2.Bg2 g6 3.c4 c6 4.b3 Bg7 5.Bb2 0–0 6.Nf3 d5 7.0–0 a5 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.Bxg7 Kxg7 10.d4 Na6 11.e4 Ndc7 12.h3 Be6 13.Nc3 Qd7 14.Kh2 Rad8 15.Qd2 Qd6 16.Ne2 Qb4 17.Qb2 f6 18.Rfc1 a4 

Never mind the fact that the rapid chess does not allow for going deeply into details, the ideas that players would employ are still interesting and instructive.

The position on the diagram features a somewhat weakened black king. Meanwhile, Black is ahead with his play on the queenside. Morozevich resorts to a pawn sacrifice as a tool of overtaking the initiative at this area of the chess board.

19.a3!? Qxb3 20.Qd2 Qb6 21.Rab1 Bb3 22.Nc3 

The threat of capturing the a4-pawn is in the air now. 


The Stockfish recommendation 22...Qa7 is hard to fathom, but worth paying attention to was 22...Nb5!? 23.Nxb5 cxb5 24.d5 e5 25.h4 b4, with mutual chances. 

23.Qe3 e5 24.h4 Rd6 25.h5 Ne6 26.dxe5 

26.d5 is perhaps a fair idea as well, but the text move is a lot more dangerous for Black. 



The idea of invading the penultimate rank with a rook deserves sacrificing as much as a whole knight! 

27…Bxa4 28.Rxb7+ Nac7 29.Ra7 Qb5 30.Qc3 

Winning was 30.Bf1!, rerouting the bishop to с4. For instance: 30...Qb3 31.Rc3 or 30…Qb2 31.Bc4 Rf7 32.h6+ Kg8 33.Kg2! – White has defended the f2-pawn, planning to follow up with Ng5 on his next move. 


Having consumed almost all of his thinking time, Antipov makes up his mind to attempt bailing out with an exchange. However, White’s offensive only gains momentum as a result of this decision. 30...Kg8! was the way to keep his position together.

31.Qxf3 Qb3 32.h6+ Kxh6 

32...Kg8 33.Qf6 Qb8 34.Rxa4 is hopeless as well. 

33.Qf6 Rd7 

34.Rh1! Ng7 35.Kg1+ Nh5 36.Rxh5+! Black resigns. 

It was friendship that has finally triumphed in the children's tournament. The boys have indeed succeeded in winning back those two points that they dropped the classical part of the event. The final score is 32-32.

At the closing ceremony the participants and guests were greeted by the RCF Executive Director Mark Glukhovsky. He thanked all those who had offered assistance to RCF in getting the competition on track and going forward such as the businessman Oleg Skvortsov, the Foundation for Support of Chess Creativity and personally Evgeny Najer, who had initiated the children's section of the contest. The Chief Arbiter Alexander Tkachev announced the final standings, upon which the participants of both tournaments came out on stage to receive gifts.

The tournament’s mastermind and sponsor, Oleg Skvortsov, awarded Boris Gelfand, who has gained as many as 11 points to demonstrate the best result not only as a member of the "Kings" team, but in the whole event as well. Seizing the opportunity, Skvortsov invited Gelfand to take part in the 2016 Nutcracker.

It was followed by the RCF president Andrey Filatov congratulating and awarding Vladislav Artemiev, who gained the most for the team of Princes - 9 points.

After that Oleg Skvortsov awarded the prize for the best game - two tickets to the Nutcracker ballet: it is Alexander Morozevich who will go to the Bolshoi Theater. The grandmaster even joked on this occasion, "During my entire career I would be awarded for the games that I lost. This is, perhaps, the first time I am getting a prize for the nice game that I won".

Each speaker thanked the Chess Hall hostess Galina Lvovna Dvorkovich for an open-armed welcome. Upon completion of the closing ceremony Boris Gelfand answered the questions posed by Vladimir Barsky and Eteri Kublashvili.

– Boris, what are your impressions of this event? 

– It was extremely interesting for me to play. Firstly, this event features a very well-balanced format when you compete against young ambitious opponents. Secondly, the Chess Hall generates a very pleasant atmosphere, while the event organization itself was at the highest of levels.

– Do you sympathize with the idea of a generation match-tournament as such? 

– This is a great idea indeed! Similar matches used to be held several times by Van Osteroom, but only in two rounds of the classical chess format. We used to play with a five versus five lineups, Carlsen playing once for the younger team. I took part in the 2010 events, whereas as many as four of those opponents of mine now belong to the world top ten. They are Nakamura, Caruana, Giri, and So. Howell used to be the fifth one then, his rating nowadays also gravitating towards 2700. I look forward to playing in such competitions. It's a pleasure that the "Nutcracker" is becoming traditional; it’s both nice and beneficial for everyone.

– Have you ever met any of these young players over the board before? 

– No, I have met none of them before. 

– What do you say about them? 

– I mean no offense against anyone when I say that two of them are undoubtedly superior to the other two. Artemiev and Bukavshin have already grown into mature strong players, who lack nothing but tournament practice only. This can be verified by their results, victories and highest standings in the tournaments such as the Higher League, the Aeroflot, the Russian Cup, and the Super Final. In both classical games I managed to escape against them as Black through a stubborn defense only. Whereas Antipov and Oparin are evidently strong in certain areas of chess, they are not yet without apparent downsides in other areas, which means that they have their share of homework to do. I do hope that all young folks will succeed in achieving progress.

– How rewarding such tournaments are for them in the first place? 

– I do believe there is a lot of reward in it, should the games be well analyzed. If you start analyzing your games against players who, say, have been through a lot in their chess careers while trying to understand your own weak points, you can improve drastically. This applies to all four players.

– Are they enough prepared in terms of their opening repertoires? 

– Bukavshin’s opening repertoire is on a good level, him being clearly superior to others in the opening. Artemiev, on the other hand, seems to have adopted this modern Carlsen-like approach. He does not heavily rely on the opening part of the game, but tries to go into very long games in order capitalize on his upsides. Even though Oparin and Antipov seem each to have a decent opening repertoire also, they are in need of working on it yet further.

During the last rapid day I was surprised by Mikhail’s deep thinking, as a result of which he left himself down to some 10 seconds for the rest of the game. While being in a somewhat worse ending, he started firing moves in a virtually error-free manner! I failed to come up with any winning ideas as he would not stop posing problems in front of me. The classical games were carried out by Oparin quite decently, just giving me a break-through opportunity in his time trouble.

– Could you single out any game in particular? 

– The rapid game against Oparin turned out to be an interesting one. Same is true for the classical one either, although I haven’t had time to check it yet; we arrived at an interesting position after move 40. Maybe it can be even used as a training exercise, provided that the White’s 41.Qb2 move is correct. The position contained a great deal of hidden opportunities, but it was this quiet move that proved strongest. I need to check whether it is true or not.

An interesting four rook ending happened in my game against Artemiev, where it feels as though he could pose more problems. I think my performance there leaves much to be desired, but the initial ending position was drawish. I made an imprecise move, affording him an opportunity to get active, whereas I could immediately swing my rook onto the e-file to fix a draw instead.

– You have your new book recently published in the English language. Taking this opportunity, share some of the details about it with us, please.

– The book is written in collaboration with Jacob Aagaard and is circulated by the Quality Chess Publishing House. I dictated, while Jacob was committing it all to paper. This is a serious work since Aagaard, being an experienced coach, tries to attach an educational value to his books. A lot is being checked and clarified by us in the process of collaboration.

– Is this book about your selected chess games? 

– No, as was said by Anton Korobov it's rather in the nature of the "Conversations with Goethe" by Eckermann (laughing). Anton entertained us a lot by this comparison. The book is titled "Positional Decision-making in Chess" and covers such topics as "Space Advantage", "Transformation of Advantages", "The Squeeze", and "Transformation of Pawn Structures". It has a lot of games played not only by me, but, say, by Rubinstein. I used his games and the book by Yuri Sergeyevich Razuvaev to study chess, so we tried to draw some analogies. This book has won “The Book of the Year" contest organized by the English Chess Federation. I hope that in due time it will be published in the Russian language also.

Volume two is in the process of preparation. It will be devoted to decision making in a dynamic type of play.

– Will the games from the Nutcracker make part of this volume? 

– I believe they will, but not necessarily of the second volume because volumes three and four are both planned for issue as well. The final decision is up to Mr. Aagaard.

– Do you dedicate a great deal of time to creative writing nowadays or is it just an episodic occasion? 

– Practical play comes first for me still. Unfortunately, there used to be not so much of it in 2015 as I played a total of 35 classical games only. We did not go to the European Team Championship and even when we would be invited to tournaments, some unhappy combination of events would always prevent us from taking part in them.

– What are your next year plans besides taking part in the Nutcracker? 

– I will most likely come to play in the Aeroflot. However, I will start my year with Tallinn in which the Keres Memorial is scheduled to take place. As for my chess events that are going to crop up in between Tallinn and the Nutcracker, I do not know as yet.

With the completion of the Nutcracker we are about to sum up the results of our country’s chess year that is now approaching its end. We wish luck and new victories to the Russian participants of the open tournament in Qatar, and a Happy New Year to all our readers!