30 May 2016

Sudden Plight of a Queen

Round two of the Vugar Gashimov Memorial in the review of Eteri Kublashvili.

Round two of the Shamkir event proved a lot more dynamic than the first one, bringing us us as many as three decisive games. 

The first to snap a drawish streak was Pentala Harikrishna, who defeated Shakhriyar Mamedyarov with white pieces. The Azerbaijani grandmaster handled the opening into the Pirc Defense, which used to be the ECU President Zurab Azmaiparashvili's trademark for many years. Shakhriyar explained his choice by the desire to strike up an interesting type of struggle. However, Black failed to achieve equality: the central confrontation was won by White, who took hold of the d-file. Shakhriyar embarked upon the piece exchange combination in an attempt to simplify the position, but missed the strong rejoinder by Harikrishna, upon which Black's position became difficult. 

Harikrishna - Mamedyarov  

21. Nd2! Exchanging the most active piece of Black's. 

21…Nxd2 22. R3xd2 e4 23. Rd6 Be5 24. Rxe6 Bxc7 25. Rc6 etc. White got an overwhelming advantage and soon literally pinned his opponent to the ropes. 

Another victory in round two was scored by Fabiano Caruana over Pavel Eljanov. The Italian, playing the black side of the Grunfeld Defense, managed to break through the defensive lines of the white king using good collaboration of his bishop and queen: the white monarch fled to the queenside and it started to seem as if the worst for him was behind already.  However, before the end of time control (let me remind you that this competition features time increment only starting with move 61) Pavel committed an error. 

Eljanov - Caruana 

38. Kc1? 

As was noted by both grandmasters during the press conference, stronger was 38. Rc2, and it is not entirely clear how Black is supposed go about building up his initiative. 

In the game, however, Caruana refuted his opponent's ideas with precise moves: 38…Qf3 39.Rc2 Ra8 40.Qe2 Qh1+ 41.Kd2 Ra1 42.Qe8+ Kg7 43.Qe5+ Kh7 44.Qe2 Rb1 45.f3 Rg1 White resigns. 

Anish Giri defeated Sergey Karjakin. The most part of the game, which evolved out of the English Opening, saw the opponents maneuvering their armies, and the Russian got a good position. As Sergey said at the press conference, the game was lost for reasons not related to the choice of opening. It was an unfortunate  combination of his queen's foray into the enemy camp and lack of time that failed him in the final run: 

Giri – Karjakin 

When playing 34…Rhe8?!, Sergey Karjakin missed the 35. f5 shot, which forced him to part ways with his queen: 35…gxf5 36. Nf2 Qg6 37. exf5 Rxe2 

Bad is 37…Qf7 in view of 38. Rxe7 Rxe7 39. Rxe7 Qxe7 40. Qxh5 with a rather grim-looking position. 

38. fxg6 Rxe1 39. Qxh5, and queen proved superior over a pair of rooks in this position due to better deployment of White's pieces and the robust pawn skeleton on the kingside. Despite putting up a stubborn defense, Sergey had to acknowledge his defeat on move 68. 

The Azerbaijani derby Mamedov - Radjabov was opened by the Caro-Kann Defence. Black demonstrated deep home preparation and keen comprehension of the positional nuances by avoiding all pitfalls, and on move 21 the opponents agreed to a draw by repetition in an approximately equal position. At the press conference Rauf admitted that Teimour's choice of opening came as a surprise for him and that he was not especially prepared for such a turn of events. Therefore, when he detected the repetition of moves idea, he decided to go for it. 

Hou Yifan continues displaying stable and confident type of performance: in round two she negotiated a draw from the position of strength with the recent winner of the Nakhichivan Open Eltaj Safarli. The opponents challenged each other in the French Defense, where both kings stuck in the middle of the board for a lengthy period of time. The World Champion, playing White, did not shy away from the most principled continuations. Having successfully sorted out all complications on the queenside, Yifan switched into attack on the other side of the board. Safarli, however, was on the alert and fended off the feeble attacking efforts by White with precise play. Besides, Hou Yifan lacked resources for a full-scale offensive in the first place, and afterwards it became even less when the opponents went on to trade queens altogether. A draw was agreed in the ending with rook and bishops of opposite color.  

After two rounds Fabiano Caruana, Anish Giri and Pentala Harikrishna are in the lead with 1.5 points.

Round three features the following pairings:

Teimour Radjabov - Anish Giri, Eltaj Safarli - Rauf Mamedov, Fabiano Caruana - Hou Yifan, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov - Pavel Eljanov, and Sergey Karjakin - Pentala Harikrishna.