10 October 2016

Pendulum Swinging

Rounds five and six of the Tal Memorial in the review of grandmaster Alexey Korotylev.

The Tal Memorial features players whose names are known to many passers-by in the street who have never gone in for chess. Apart from the names of the super grandmasters we, their less qualified colleagues, are also aware of the playing style and creative handwriting of each Memorial participant. In my opinion, none of the tenth Tal Memorial members gives up on his playing habits. However, the said is true with a minor allowance for the opening stage of the game because the current level of theory development is likely to deprive a player of his middlegame individuality. This is what happened in a number of round five encounters, but not in the following one. 

Mamedyarov – Svidler 
Grunfeld Defense

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Bg5 Ne4 4.Bf4 c5 5.Nd2 Qa5 6.Qc2 f5 7.f3 Nf6 8.d5 d6 


Still fresh in Shakhriyar's and our memory is the game Mamedyarov - Caruana from the 2015 World Cup in Baku, where 9.e4 was played. In anticipation of his encounter with the Azeri grandmaster, Svidler was also on the alert. It explains White's resorting to the novelty move.


The computer tips are useful in the middle part of the game, while in the opening and endgame it is necessary to filter out the streams of computer lines through a human vision. Despite the above said, I express full solidarity with the Stockfish recommendations: 9...e5! 10.de B:e6 11.Ne2 Nc6 12.Nc3 Nh5 13.Bg5 h6 14.Bh4 g5 15.Bf2 Bg7 16.Nd5 0-0-0, and it is rather White who needs to exercise caution here.

10.Ne2 b5!?

This setup deserves further testing at the highest level. For those willing to test this setup for both colors I would like to note briefly that in case of the immediate 10...e5 11.de the d6-pawn is hanging, but after 11...Na6!? it is far from clear. 

10...Nh5 is somewhat premature because of 11.Bg5, whereas after 10...0-0 11.Nc3 Na6 12.Be2 Bd7 13.0-0 Rae8 White's position seems more promising to a certain degree.

11.Bg5 Nbd7

It would perhaps be more precise to start with "shooting off" of one of the white bishops: 11...h6 12.B:f6 (if 12.Bh4 then the f4-square is not available to the е2-knight, which is going to be a definite downside in the middlegame) 12...B:f6 13.Kf2 Qa4 14.Qc1 bc 15.N:c4 Nd7 16.Nf4 Kf7 17.b3 Qb4 18.Rb1 (there is no sense in sacrificing the exchange since after 18.h4 B:a1 19.Q:a1 Nf6 the advantage belongs to Black) 18...Nb6 19.Qd1 N:c4 20.B:c4 Bd7 with rough equality.

12.Nf4 Nb6 13.Kf2! 

Unpinning the d2-knight is more important than observing castling formalities.

13...0-0 14.h4! 

And now the h-pawn is heard speaking with the authority of h1-rook's voice, highlighting the harmlessness of having the king uncastled. 

14...bc 15.N:c4 Qa4! 

Nevertheless, Black's resources are enough to maintain dynamic equality in this symbiosis of openings. 


A complex endgame with a slight initiative for White arises after 16.Q:a4 N:a4 17.h5 Kf7. However, early trade of queens runs counter to Shakhriyar's convictions about chess.

16...Qe8 17.Rd1 Qf7 18.N:b6 ab 19.a4 

I will take the liberty of qualifying this decision as a small inaccuracy. This rook pawn move simplifies the process of finding good moves for Black. This search would have been not so clear-cut for Peter after 19.Bb5. Thus, in the line 19...Ra3 20.h5 N:h5 21.Ne6! Black needs to come up with 21...h6! (21...B:e6?? 22.de winning a queen) 22.N:f8 Q:f8, and Black has enough compensation for the missing exchange. 

19...Bd7 20.Bc4 Rfb8 21.Qe2 Ra5 22.Rb1

The following Black's move could have put the kybosh on such drawish ideas as 22.Qd2 Raa8 23.Qe2.


This idea is 22...b5!? 23.ab B:b5 24.Rhc1 Bd7, and according to the engine Black is even slightly better in this position. Although this evaluation can be argued with, the fact of the only open file belonging to Black cannot be denied.

23.B:f6 Q:f6 


It is highly unlikely that Mamedyarov was seriously contemplating the consequences of 24.Qd2 Rba8 25.Qd3, especially because after 25...b5!? 26.ab Ra2+ Black could go on fighting yet. Objectively speaking, however, this rook pawn move lands White in the position of a defending side. On the other hand, this task was uncomplicated, and the Azeri grandmaster coped with it confidently.

24...g5 25.Ne6 

The Dutch Defense experts would sometimes mock the knight mounted on e6. Unsupported by other pieces, this seemingly menacing knight poses no real threats. 

25...b5 26.ab B:b5 27.f4 gf 28.ef Rba8 29.Rbc1 Ra2 30.Rc2 R:c2 31.Q:c2 Bd7! 

The trades on e6 will ensure Black pieces' access into the opponent's camp. Meanwhile, the invading pieces are few in number and are unable to help achieve anything decisive.  

32.Qe2 B:e6 

Although such continuations as 33...Qc3 or 33...Кh8 deserve being given a try, they are unlikely to make any difference for Black in bringing his slight edge home. The reason is, once again, in a very few material remaining on the board. 

33.Q:e6+ Q:e6 34.de Ra2+ 35.Kf3 Rd2 36.Rc1 Bb2

The following line looks interesting: 36...Bd4 37.g4 fg+ 38.K:g4 Kg7 39.Kf5 Rh2 40.Ke4, and 40...R:h5 runs into 41.b4! with unpleasant for Black counterplay.

37.Re1 d5 


A pure opposite-colored bishop ending is in the limelight even at the memorial of the chess magician! Shakhriyar's precise rejoinder inevitably leads the game to a speedy draw. 

38...R:e2 39.B:e2 Kg7 40.Bb5 Kf6 41.Bd7 Bc1 42.g4 Bd2 43.Bc8 c4 44.bc dc 45.Ba6 c3 46.Bd3 fg+ 47.K:g4 K:e6 48.f5+ Ke5 49.Kf3 Kd4 50.Bc2 Draw. 

The tournament leaders - Giri and Nepomniachtchi - treated each other with emphasized respect. The game saw a lot of theory, first in the opening and then in the endgame. There happened to be no middlegame as such. The ending, however, was as if taken from one of the endgame manuals. 

Giri – Nepomniachtchi


The engine condemns this approach, raising doubts about its immunity to errors. Indeed, what can be so wrong with the move blocking the path of the white king? As opposed to this, after 36...Ra4 37.Rd2 the march of the white king towards his passed pawn spells deep troubles for Black.  

37.Ra6 g5! 

One move imposes constraints on free movement of several pieces at once, such as the white king and several kingside pawns. Contesting the victory in these circumstances is anything but easy.


It is not clear how to go about improving position after 38.Kg2 g4 39.Ra4 h5. 

38...f6 39.Ra3

After 39.a4 Ra2 (not the only move) poor Stockfish and his hapless predecessors place the rook on a8 and march the pawn all the way to a7... Is anybody capable of designing an "app" that will give other than a clownish interpretation of this endgame?! However, even more scientific approach to this ending will inflict no serious or, to be precise, dangerous damage to black. The white king does not have a good enough springboard to help him jump over to the queenside.

39...h5 40.h3 Rc4 41.gh Kh6 42.Rf3 K:h5! with a clear draw - weakening of the kingside pawns has proven pointless after all. 

Anand – Gelfand 
Sicilian Defense

Boris Gelfand went on sinking to unparalleled depths. In my opinion, there is only one explanation for this. Most players display inferior performance at the age of 40 than at 30. The overwhelming majority's play at 50 is worse than at 40, same is true for a 60 to 50 comparison. Exceptions only prove the rule. However, I do not believe that Gelfand's career went into a tailspin. I am confident that Boris's devotion to chess is going to pay off in the form of results consistent with his extra-class level. It is just that maintaining good results becomes ever more difficult with each new competition.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6 4.B:c6 bc 5.0-0 Bg7 6.Re1 Nh6 7.c3 0-0 8.h3

After 8.d4 cd 9.cd Black usually equalizes with 9...d5 10.e5 f6.


This is a trendy line in which, in my opinion, a more principled is 8...f5 (as in Caruana - Eljanov, Olympiad, Baku 2016). The text move has already been tested by Gelfand in his match against Inarkiev.

9.d3 c4 


It beats me why none goes for 10.ed cd5 (after 10...cd3 11.dc Qd5 12.Bf4 Nf5 13.Qa4 Be6 14.Nbd2 Rfc8 15.g4 Nd6 16.Ng5 R:c6 17.N:e6 fe 18.R:e6 Q:e6 19.Q:c6 Rb8 Black has counterplay, but not equality) 11.dc dc 12.Na3 – is it because of the notorious bishop pair?! Bu then, one of them bites on granite of the c3-pawn, while his fellow does not to know which way to turn to help the c4-pawn. Thus, after 12...Q:d1 13.R:d1 Ba6 (13...Be6 14.B:h6 B:h6 15.Nd4 Bd5 16.Nf5 is inferior by far) 14.Rd7 Nf5 15.g4 with better prospects. Readers are free to decide whether I am wrong - Anand could not but have checked this line before the game with his very powerful computer.

10...de 11.Q:d8 R:d8 12.R:e4 e5 13.Re1 f6 14.Nbd2 Nf7 


In lieu of Inarkiev's 15.Nb3 Anand prefers to go along with the first line of Stockfish. In and of itself, the knight's landing into the center brings only positive emotions. The question is about how substantial White's superiority is after all... 

15...f5 16.Neg5 e4 17.N:f7 K:f7 18.Bg5! Rd3 19.Nd4! Ba6 

...Another question is why go for this setup with Black. Thankless job is in store for Black both after the text move and after 19...B:d4 20.cd R:d4 (20...Be6 21.b3 R:d4 22.Rad1 makes no difference) 21.Rad1. 

20.b3 c5 21.Ne2 h6 22.Be3 Rc8 23.h4! 

Having taken care of the opponent's unfriendly pawn phalanx, White enjoys a lasting advantage. It is not clear how to release from suffering the a6-bishop and the c5-pawn. 


This is searching for counterplay in a position poor on ideas. Nevertheless, this is still better than 23...B:c3 24.N:c3 R:c3 25.Rad1 Rd3 26.R:d3 ed 27.B:h6 and White's position is winning already.


Boris's blank shot suddenly hits the mark. Almost hits the mark... Correct is 24.B:h6 B:h4 25.Nf4 Rd6 (but not 25...R:c3 26.Rad1) 26.Rad1 Rcd8 27.R:d6 R:d6 28.g3 Bd8 (or 28...Bf6 29.Nd5) 29.Nh3! with decent prospects of converting his extra pawn advantage.

24...Rdd8 25.Nd5 

Now White has to go all the way to the end of the line since an attempt to go back with 25.Ne2 runs into 25...B:h4 26.B:h6 Be7 27.Be3 g5 with mutual chances.


Nothing but demoralization can explain the refusal from 25...R:d5! 26.cd B:c3 27.B:h6, in which case even the unsophisticated 27...Bb7 (27...Bd3!?) 28.Be3 B:a1 29.R:a1 B:d5 30.Rc1 c4 31.B:a7 Rc6! leads to a draw. The text move results in White's not giving away any of his trump cards.

26.B:h6 Bb7 27.g3 Bf6 28.N:f6 K:f6 29.Be3 Rd3 30.Kf1 g5 31.Ke2 R:c3 32.Rac1 R:c1 33.R:c1

So much for the drawish tendencies of the opposite-colored bishops ending! The only choice that Black has is what to give up to his opponent. 


A pure opposite-colored bishops ending brings no relief to Black: 33...Rc6 34.Rh1 Kg6 35.Rd1 Bc8 36.Rd5 Be6 37.R:c5 R:c5 38.B:c5 a6 39.Ke3. 

34.B:c5 f4

After 34...a6 White follows up with 35.Be3 to lower the barrier in front of the f5-pawn, which ensures a gradual victory down the road.

35.gf gf 36.B:a7 e3 

37.B:e3!? fe 38.K:e3, and 4 passers are clearly superior to the bishop. 

No real fight happened between Li Chao and Tomashevsky, while Kramnik landed into a down pawn rook ending against Aronian out of equal position. Has it been another case of unjustified play for a win? Fortunately for the former world champion, no effective winning plan was available to his opponent. 

Much to the joy of the Russian fans, round six witnessed the leader's role pass over from the Dutchman Anish Giri to our compatriot Ian Nepomniachtchi. This mid tournament success came to Ian thanks to his excellent display. 

Nepomniachtchi – Mamedyarov


David Navara's defeat from Sergey Karjakin at the Olympiad in Baku was so severe that Mamedyarov's willingness to choose the same path comes as a real surprise. 13...Qd7 seems to be the best move here, just as it seemed to me at the time of this game's online commenting at the ChessPro website.

14.Nb3 Ne7

This is quite an improvement over Navara's 14...b5.  Nevertheless, further improvement of Black's game is needed anyway!

15.ed Q:d5

The alternative 15...Ne:d5 would have required White's calculating the following line 16.R:e5 Rc6 17.Nc5 B:c5 18.bc R:c5 19.Bb2 Nb4 20.Qe2 R:e5 21.N:e5. Seeing how precise was Ian's performance after d5 taking with the queen, I am practically confident that White would not have his advantage escaped after 15...Ne:d5 as well.

16.c4 Qd6 


This is an exceptionally profound understanding of the situation. Besides, it allows to sustain the edge. And, finally, it should be the best! 

17...B:c5 18.bc Q:c5 19.Ba3 Qa5 20.d4 Ng6 21.Bb2! 


As was admitted by the game winner, he had counted on 21...e4 22.d5!ef (neither can Black be happy about his position after 22...Ree8 23.Nd2) 23.de Qg5 24.ef+ K:f7 25.g3, where Black's having enough compensation is only an illusion. For example, 25...Qh5 26.h4 Qg4 27.c5 N:h4 28.B:f6 K:f6 29.Qb2+ Kg6 30.Q:b7 Qh3 31.Qe4+ Kf7 32.Qe7+ Kg8 33.Qe6+ winning.

22.Bc3 Qb6 23.Rab1 Qa7 

Bad times for the black queen came rather unexpectedly, adding up to Shakhriyar's other troubles. By taking on e5 White gets new luxury outposts for his pieces, active play in the center and kingside offensive prospects, for that matter. 


Despite alternative ideas existing in this position, Ian's choice seems strongest to me now. This is true from at least the practical point of view. By avoiding the trade of pieces he makes defending the cramped Black's position difficult for Mamedyarov. 

24...Nd7 25.Rbd1 Ndf8

The back-rank exposure should not be neglected – 25...Nd:e5 26.N:e5 N:e5 27.R:e5 R:e5 28.B:e5 R:e5 29.Rd8+ with a mate in one.

26.h4 Qc5 27.h5 Ne7 28.Re4 

White has built up his advantage with powerful moves. We can safely say that the desired goal is nearby. 


While Shakhriyar opted for 28...b5 too late in the game, this pawn stab would have afforded best practical chances exactly at this very moment. E.g., 29.Nd4 (this is how Nepomniachtchi intended to meet this idea, but after 29.ab ab 30.Nd4 White's winning chances are reasonable) 29...b4 30.Bd2 a5 31.N:e6 N:e6 32.Be3 and although White is up an exchange, the upcoming technical stage promises to be anything but easy.


It wins the exchange and... does not let go of the victory. However, even more advantageous is 29.Rg4! Ne6 30.Nd2! with an intimidating domination – 30...Ng5 31.Nb3! Qa7 32.Bd2, and it is the black а7-queen that is going to be his undoing in the end.

29...Q:c4 30.N:c6 Q:c6 31.Qd3 b5 32.ab ab 33.Bb4!? 

This is an idea-driven move since it is crucial not to let Black have too many knights on the board since potentially attractive outposts for them are already in view. 

33...Qb7 34.B:e7

Although we never saw a too complex for a practical game line 34.e6!? fe (34...N:e6 35.Qd7 Qc8 36.R:e6 fe 37.B:e7 loses immediately) 35.B:e7 R:e7 36.Qe3 happen in the game, we could on the other hand enjoy an extremely subtle handling of the technical problems that Ian came to demonstrate before long.

34...R:e7 35.Rd4 R:e5 36.Rd8 Qc6 37.Qd7 Qc5

It is curtains for Black immediately after 37...Q:d7 38.R1:d7 R:h5 39.R:c7. 

The game could be dragged out but not saved by 37...Qc3 38.Qd4 (the probability of running into some fortress ideas is very high after 38.Qd2?! Qc5 39.Ra1 R:h5 40.Raa8 g6 – the last Black's move is a vital tempo that he never laid his hands on in the game  – 41.R:f8+ Q:f8 42.R:f8+ K:f8) 38...b4 39.Rb8 Re1+ 40.Kh2 R:d1 41.Q:d1 Qe5+ 42.Kg1 Qe7 43.g3. 

38.Qc8 R:h5 39.R:f8+ Q:f8 40.Rd8 Q:d8 41.Q:d8+ Kh7 

When commenting online I was unsure what was going on. That is, the fact of Black losing his queen was beyond any doubt. As for the result of the game, it seemed rather vague. 


This great maneuver dispels any confusions. White does not afford Black time to dig a trench on the kingside and hide in it. 


The only pawn formation with any drawing chances would be for Black to commit his pawns to g6 and h5 (with the f-pawn on its initial square, however). The last Black's move is the only way to save the f7-pawn... 

43.Q:c7 b4 44.Qc2+ Kh8 45.Qc4 Re5 46.g3 Kh7 47.Kg2 b3 48.Q:b3 Kh8 49.Kh3 Rh5+ 50.Kg4 Rg5+ 51.Kh4 Re5 52.f4 Ra5 53.Qc3 Rd5 54.Qb4, and Black's torments were interrupted by the decisive zugzwang.. A fragile barrier along the fifth rank finally collapses, allowing free access to the white king to step into the opponent's camp to join in the black monarch' massacre. 

Aronian – Giri
English Opening

In addition to his own excellent performance, a great benefit to Jan was fetched by Levon Aronian's quick victory over the sole leader Anish Giri. 

1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 d5 4.cd N:d5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.0-0 Nb6 7.d3 Be7 8.Be3 0-0 9.Nbd2 

Levon often pretends not to be overly ambitious with his openings. Nevertheless, he has surpassed even himself now. It is not easy to get at White's idea behind committing his knight to d2. 


A self-suggestive 9...Nd5 was undoubtedly looked into when preparing for the game. I will refrain from guessing as to what the Armenian grandmaster was exactly about to do in this case. Thus, after 10.Rc1 (after 10.Nc4 Black is not bound to take the bishop immediately and instead go for 10...f6 with decent game) 10...N:e3 11.fe Qd6 and the black queen's landing on h6 will deprive White of his gaming comfort.

10.Rc1 Qd7 11.a3 Bh3?! 

This is a severe inaccuracy. The g2-bishop is not so fierce as to eliminate it at the cost of losing control over the center.

Better is the already familiar 11...Nd5 12.Bc5 (or 12.Ne4 f6 13.Nc5 B:c5 14.B:c5 Rfd8 with equality, as in Khasin - Smirin, Israel, 1998) 12...f6, White's achievements are rather modest.


While there is not checkmating the white king, this is not the only argument in favor of trading on h3. Even a brief exile of the black queen to the edge of the board leads to a dramatic increase of White's activity on the queenside and in the center. 

12...Q:h3 13.b4 Bd6

13...a6 14.B:b6 cb 15.Nc4 Qe6 16.N:b6 Rad8 17.Qc2 would have been a pawn down for Black. Nevertheless, given the degree of white pieces' activity resulting from the decision taken by Anish, you really want to believe this material sacrifice to be the best approach to the situation. However, pawns are not sacrificed like that for no reason in particular.

14.Qb3 Ne7 15.d4 ed 16.B:d4 Nc6

After 16...Qg4 17.e4 Nc6 18.Bc5 Rfe8 19.a4 White's initiative is obvious without having to go into a deep analysis. 

17.Ne4 N:d4 18.N:d4 Qd7?! 

Black commits a decisive error on move 18. Neither great specialists nor, most importantly, fans of a passive type of defense are to be found among chess players at all levels. 

18...Be5 19.Nf3 Rae8 20.Rfd1 c6 would have afforded a lot more stubborn defense. 

19.Rfd1 Be5 20.Nc6 Qe8 21.Na5! Rb8 22.Nc5 

A cute little dance of white horses created powerful threats. Too passive deployment of the black pieces does not allow him fending off the opponent's offensive. 

22...Qc8 23.Qf3 c6 24.b5! Bb2 25.bc B:c1 26.R:c1 Qc7 

This is one of the shortcuts into the abyss. Anish wraps up the game by allowing Levon create another entry into a manual of chess combinations.

The resistance could be dragged out further by 26...bc 27.N:c6 Re8 28.N:b8 Q:b8, although an extra pawn advantage with knights on the board lends itself to conversion without any significant problems.

27.cb Na4 28.Ncb3 Qe7 29.Nd4 Qg5 

30.Qf4! Q:a5 31.Q:b8 R:b8 32.Rc8+ Qd8 33.R:d8+ R:d8 34.Nc6

Well, the b-pawn does not queen after all because it is stopped by a funny maneuver 34...Rb8 35.N:b8 Nc5 36.Nc6 N:b7. Nevertheless, Black resigns because playing a knight ending down two pawns would be a real shame. 

Svidler – Li Chao
Reti Opening

Glancing over the point-scoring games of round six with a critical eye, I would rate Shakhriyar Mamedyarov's not very stubborn play as an example of the most tenacious defense! Since we have already acquainted ourselves with Anish Giri's defeat from Aronian, below-given are a couple of other examples. 

1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 d4 3.b4 Bg4

I spent a lot of time analyzing 3...f6 with my computer. Meanwhile, the move chosen by the Chinese grandmaster was subjected to further testing in a number of ICC blitz games!


I have employed this move on several occasions myself. It is not difficult to realize that what we see on the board is a well-known line 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 c5 3.d5 b5 4.Bg5 Qb6 with the colors reversed. However, when playing the blitz games I would have a feeling that this extra tempo does more harm than good to White. However, this is no more that illusion because only a weak performance is likely to hurt the first player. Svidler has benefited from this line, thus much at least is clear. The victory came easy to him. 


There is no theory of this line existing at the moment, as far as I am aware. It is likely to be generated by upcoming games. It goes without saying that these are going to be other than 3-minute internet games. 

5.g3 a5

Along the lines of the above-mentioned 4.Qb3 system, possible also is 5...B:f3 6.Q:f3 c6 7.d3 e5, in which the extra tempo plays into White's hands to a certain degree.

6.b5 a4 7.Qd3 B:f3 

This is an ill-timed decision. 7...c5 suggests itself. Also very interesting is 7...Nbd7!? 8.N:d4 (it is highly unlikely that Peter would have ventured into 8.Q:d4 e5 9.N:e5 Bc5 10.Qf4 g5 11.Q:g5 B:f2+ 12.Kd1) 8...e5. 

8.Q:f3 c6

Although a pawn sacrifice 8...e5 9.Q:b7 Nbd7 is an interesting option, it is not a completely correct one.

9.Bg2 e5 10.0-0 Be7

10...e4 11.Qf5 yields no benefits to Black, while the evaluation of the position following the text move is largely defined by White's having the h1-a8 diagonal owner, as opposed to Black. 

11.d3 0-0 12.Nd2 


A weird combination of a precautious 10...Be7 and pseudoactive 12...h5 lands Li Chao in a difficult situation.

Correct was 12...Qc7 13.Rb1 Rc8 with the idea to set the knight free. In this case, White would have enjoyed some advantage, while Black would have markedly increased his defensive opportunities. 

13.h3 g6 14.Rb1 Nh7 15.e3 Re8 

Strictly speaking, this is a losing move. However, good advice is beyond price for Black in this position. Thus, after 15...Ng5 16.Qe2 Ne6 (Black is in a bad shape after 16...de 17.Q:e3 Qc7 18.Bb2 Nd7 19.bc bc 20.d4 as well) 17.ed N:d4 18.Q:e5 Bf6 19.Qe1 White is up a pawn and with a bishop pair, while the black knight is only temporarily active.

16.ed ed 17.Re1 h4 18.bc bc 19.Rb7 hg 20.fg 

This is an inaccuracy to a certain degree. It can be attributed to a weak (I fail to find any better word for it) performance of his opponent in this pilot opening chosen by Peter.

20.Q:g3 would have been a killer, e.g., 20...Nf6 21.Nf3 Nh5?! 22.Qc7 etc.


Missing the last opportunity – 20...Nd7, and if 21.Q:c6 Nc5 22.Q:e8+!? Q:e8 23.Rb:e7, then 23…Qb8!, and there is no sureproof guarantee of White's victory in the upcoming complications.

21.Ne4 Nd7 22.Rf1 

The rest is a simple matter of bringing advantage home. 

22...R:e4 23.Q:e4 Nc5 24.Q:c6 Rc8 25.Qb5 N:b7 26.B:b7, and White won the game. 

And, at last... 

Kramnik – Gelfand


Well, Vladimir has resumed playing 1.е2-е4. Boris was highly unlikely to have expected the Russian to steer his white opening into one of the sharpest lines of the Najdorf Defense. Kramnik has never attempted to lift this hugest of chunks of the modern theory since the times of his old and bitter defeat as White from Topalov. Were Gelfand better prepared, he would not have opted for the diagram position. 

15.f5!? e5 16.Nb3 hg 17.Q:g4 b4

Without trying to find his own game, Black lands into great difficulties – 17...Bh6+ 18.Kb1 Ke7 19.Rhd3. 

18.ab Q:b4 19.Kb1 Nb6 20.Qe2! Bh6 21.Qf2! 

The White pieces exercise control over so many squares on the queenside, exactly where Black is supposed to launch... not an offensive, of course, but at least some active play. 


The b6-knight safety was to be secured by its trading – 21...Na4 22.N:a4 (more risky is 22.Nd5!? B:d5 23.R:d5 Rc7 24.B:a6 Ke7 25.Rhd3, although even here White's chances are preferable, however) 22...Q:a4 23.R:d6 B:e4 24.Bd3 with a superior but by no means winning position.

22.Na2 Qa4 23.Rc3! 

Kramnik is impeccable when it comes to taking precise positional decisions at the board. It is White who is going to carry out a queenside offensive upon the exchange of a pair of rooks! 

23...Ke7 24.R:c6 Q:c6 25.Na5 Qc7 26.N:b7 Q:b7 27.Nb4, and Black's weaknesses are indefensible. 

With Evgeny Tomashevsky and Vishy Anand being full of mutual respect, no real fight happened in their game. 

I would like to wrap up my review by wishing good luck to Ian Nepomniachtchi! The main thing is to believe in yourself and go on performing as precisely and creatively as in the previous rounds.