14 September 2016

Paintings by Classics

Vladimir Barsky reports on the 9th round of the Olympiad.

The men's Azerbaijan - Russia duel was anticipated with great enthusiasm because both teams have many fans in Baku. Only victory would provide either team with further chances of fighting for the gold medals. The home team was unlucky that day: at their best were Vladimir Kramnik and Alexander Grischuk, who were on the big rise in their White games and scored spectacularly.

Kramnik – Radjabov

Teimour Radjabov is a big proponent of the King’s Indian. The structure on the diagram above is typical of this opening (even though the opening was the Italian game), with the only exception that the bishop's habitual residence is on g7, rather than on a7. It might seem that from his new workplace this bishop does a great job of making the opponent's queenside play more difficult, but Vladimir Kramnik does not pay much heed to this obstacle.

17. c5!? g5

Rejecting the pawn sacrifice is a mistake, although after 17...dxc5 White has several tempting continuations:

1) 18. bxc5 Bxc5 19. Bb2 Ng6 20. Qb3, building up pressure in the center and on the queenside. Same effect can be achieved via a slightly different move order – 18. Nc4 Ng6 19. bxc5 Bxc5 20. Bb2 Bd6 21. Qb3 with similar ideas;
2) 18. Bb2 cxb4 19. Nxe5 (or 19. Bxe5 Ng6 20. Bb2, displacing the only active piece of Black's from f4) 19... c6 20. Qf3 – here White has promising kingside play.

The text move markedly weakens the black king, and Black is unable to keep his central pawn shield intact anyway.

18. Nc4 Qe7 19. Be3!

The bishop changes his route. Now White threatens to capture on d6 (cxd6 cxd6) upon some minor preparatory work so as to exchange bishops and land his knight on b6.

19…Bb5 20. Rc1


Black has to go for it because his position is not a cup of tea (quite passive and hopeless is 20...Ng6 21. cxd6 cxd6 22. Nfd2), but now his center caves in.

21. cxd6 Nxd6

This is forced since after 21... cxd6 22. Bxa7 Black is going to lose a piece.

22. Bxf4 gxf4

Nevertheless, more stubborn is 22... Bxc4 23. Bxe5 Bxf1 24. Kxf1, although Black is at risk of getting mated along the big diagonal.

23. Ncxe5 Bxf1 24. Kxf1 Nb5

25. Qd2 Qf6 26. Re4

The f4 pawn is doomed and the black king comes under fire. Paying off comes at a high price.

26…Qg7 27. Rxf4 Rxe5 28. Rg4 Rh5 29. Rxg7+ Kxg7 30. g4 Rxh3 31. Kg2 Rxf3 32. Kxf3 Rd8 33. g5 Rd6 34. gxh6+ Black resigns.

Another strategic masterpiece was painted by Alexander Grischuk.

Grischuk – Naiditsch

Arkadij Naiditsch is rightly reputed as a big connoisseur of the opening theory, whereas his supercomputer, which assisted him in writing the "Chess Evolution" volumes, inspires awe. In this game he proposed that the Russian grandmaster challenge him on the Szymon Winawer territory, where many lines have been analyzed up to final result. Many, but not all. Alexander wisely refused the most principled continuation 7.Qg4 in favor of a more tranquil line 7.a4 Qc7 8.Nf3 b6 9.Bb5+, which reached a peak of popularity in what seems to be 1980s of the previous century.

White has harmoniously deployed his forces and launches a kingside offensive. However, he has to give up a pawn.

18. Nh4 Bxa4 19. Ra2 b5 20. Qg4 Rg8 21. Ba3 Rb6 22. g3 Nb7 23. Bh3 Kd8 24. f4

Grischuk is true to classical patterns - White gears up for the f4-f5 pawn break. In his turn Black is bound to be active on the queenside.

24…a5 25. Rb1

Keeping Black's play at bay for a while and creating a threat of 26.Bxe7+ and 27.Rxa4.

25…b4 26. cxb4 Nc6 27. f5 Nxb4 28. fxe6 fxe6 29. c3! Bb3 30. Rf2 Nd3

31. Rf6!

A spectacular move in a position that graced our column “Position of the day.” 31.Rf8+ Rxf8 32. Bxf8, getting to the g7 and h6 pawns, is also decent, however, after 32...a4 the black passed pawn gives him definite counterchances. The computer also recommends a cool and cynical 31. Rff1 with the idea Ng6-f8!, also getting to the e6-pawn.


Equally grim-looking is 31...gxf6 32. Qxg8+ Qe8 33. Qg7 f5 34. Qxh6 or 33... fxe5 34. Rf1, whereas after 31...Re8 the trouble comes from the opposite side – 32. Rg6. This is a clear manifestation of the dark-square weakness. Although the a3-bishop seems to bother no one, he deprives the opponent of a great deal of vital squares.

32. Rxe6 Rxe6 33. Qxe6 Qxe6 34. Bxe6 Rd8 35. Nf5

The knight joins the action at last.

35…Bc2 36. Rb5 Kc6

There follows a petite combination to finish the matter.

37. Rxd5! Rxd5 38. Ne7+ Kb5 39. Nxd5 Ka4 40. Be7! Kb3 41. Bc8. The knight is trapped, Black resigns.

Sergey Karjakin had a bad position on board one against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, but the Azerbaijani grandmaster missed a forced win.

Mamedyarov – Karjakin

Black emerged from the opening with a position that did not spell any troubles: well, he was slightly worse, but Sergey Karjakin’s technique should have allowed him making a draw without much trouble. However, Shakhriyar skilfully maintained tension with well-executed maneuvering and Sergey gave way by missing his opponent's elegant resource.

29. Re4! Rb4

In the case of 29…Bxe4 30.Rd8 the white rook takes a dive for the а5-pawn.

30. Rc4! Bxc4 31. Rxd8 Bb5 32. Ra8

White finds the way to grab a pawn.

32..a4 33. Nxa4 Bxa4 34. Rxa4 c5 35. Ra5

The pawn ending is a draw: 35. Rxb4 cxb4 36. Ke3 Ke5 37. Kd3 Kf4, and the white king needs to return to protect the g2-pawn.

35... Rd4 36. Ke3 Rd5

37. Ra4?

37.b4 Rd4 38. a3! wins immediately. It is probably this canny move that dropped out of Shakh's sight, but even after 38. bxc5 Rc4 39. Kd3 Rc1 40. Kd4 Black’s position is unlikely to be tenable. Neither Black is saved by 37...Re5+ (in lieu of 37...Rd4) in view of 38. Kd3 Rd5+ 39. Kc4 Rd2 40. b5 etc.

37... Ke6 38. f4 f6 39.Rc4 Kd6 40. Ke2 Rf5 41. a4 gxf4 42. Kf2 Rd5 43. Rxf4 Rd2+ 44. Kg1 Rd1+ 45. Rf1Rd3 46. Rxf6+ Ke5 47. Rf3 Rd1+ 48. Kh2 Rb1

Black deployed his forces to active locations at the cost of a second pawn, whereas the white king, on the contrary, had to retreat to backwards. White might be winning still, but Karjakin showed his famous tenacity in defense and salvaged a half point.

Also in a draw ended the game between Rauf Mamedov and Evgeny Tomashevsky, in which some slight initiative was with White, but Evgeny neutralized it with neat play. The final score is 3-1 and with two rounds to go Russia takes a clear third place, trailing one match point behind the United States and the Ukraine.

The Russian girls defeated the national team of Vietnam with a narrow margin: while three games ended in draws, Valentina Gunina, who usually takes "through difficulties to the stars" road, won her game.

Gunina - Hoang Thi Bao Tram

A frivolous knight jump 18. Ne5? could have backfired on White.

18…cxd4 19. Rxd4 Nd5! 20. Qg3

In the line 20. cxd5 exd5 21. Bf4 Qxc2 White is down a pawn, “but” his position is also inferior.

20... f6 21. cxd5 exd5?

Black did not dare to take the bishop, and quite wrongly so! After 21... Qxc2 22. d6 Rf8 23. d7 Rcd8 24. Rc4 Qf5 25. Rc7 Ba8 White's initiative comes to a standstill, while her compensation for the missing piece is obviously insufficient.

22. Bb3 Rcd8 23. Bxf6 Bxf6 24. f4 Kg7 25. Kh1 Re7 26. h4

Objectively speaking, the position is approximately equal, but Valentina's fearsome knight has survived the ordeal! It goes without saying that she immediately launches an ofensive against the king.

26…Qc5 27. Red1 Qc7 28. Re1 Qc5 29. Rdd1 d4

What could be more natural than this natural move? Black pushes her passer towards the queening square while opening up the diagonal for her light-squared bishop. However, the b3-bishop comes into play to seriously hassle the enemy king. Therefore, 29... Kh8 would have been a more accurate continuation.

30. h5 Bxe5 31. fxe5 d3 32. Qg5 Rf8 33. h6+ Kh8 34. Rxd3 Ree8 35. Qe3 Qe7 36. Kg1 Rf5 37. e6 Bc6 38. Rd2 Rh5

39. Rd7! Bxd7 40. Qd4+ Black resigns.

Very energetic and strong chess was demonstrated by Natalija Pogonina, but a single ill-fated move during the time trouble resulted in wasting her huge advantage. The team leader Alexandra Kosteniuk defended an unpleasant position so that she even carried out a nice combination at the end.

Pham Le Thao Nguyen – Kosteniuk

45…Rgxf3! 46. Rxf3 Bg4

Skewering three rival's pieces at the same time!

47. Rdd3 Rxf3 48. Rxf3 d3+ 49. Ke3 d2 50. Rf1 d1Q 51. Rxd1 Bxd1 52. Kd4 Kh5 53. Ke5 Kxh4 54. Kd6 a4 55. bxa4 Bxa4 56. Kc7 Bc6 57. a4 Bxa4 Draw.

Aleksandra Goryachkina enjoyed a great positional advantage, but agreed to a draw to secure the match victory and preserve strength and nerves for herself and her teammates on the eve of the final match. With two rounds to go, China is in the lead with 16 points. Poland has 15 points, while the Ukraine, Russia, India and the USA share 14 points.

Pictures by Boris Dolmatovsky and Vladimir Barsky