14 January 2016

Round Eleven Compromise

A close-out review of the Paul Keres Memorial – ACP Open from Tallinn by Vladimir Barsky.

In the beginning let’s refresh our memories about the second game day having completed by the Englishman David Howell taking the sole lead in the Keres Memorial. He is yet another representative of the "golden generation" of players born in 1990. At the age of eight the prodigy became famous after playing a blitz game with no less a person than Garry Kasparov and earning praise from the 13th World Champion. A few years later David played an entire blitz match against a new champion Vladimir Kramnik, making a single draw and landing himself in the Guinness Book of World Records. The author of these lines first saw the famous beyond his years Englishman in 2004 at the tournament "Young World Stars" in the city of Kirishi and later even wrote an article about the encounter of his student Ildar Khairullin against David. However, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then and a talented junior has become one of the strongest grandmasters of England, meanwhile bringing up a very promising pupil himself.

Thus, in round nine the leaders’ table saw the tournament leader playing against the tournament Elo-favorite. 

Svidler – Howell

White gave a poor treatment of the Ruy Lopez game, whereas in this position Black could have seized the opportunity to penetrate into his opponent’s camp via 22...Bg4! (with the threat of 23...Be2, while the rook cannot sidestep to g1 due to getting mated from h5) 23.Nc2 Be2 24.Re1 d5! (the bishop is defended indirectly!) 25.Ne3 c6. As a result, Black achieves the same setup as in the game only with his light-squared bishop being deployed actively, thus putting White up against a difficult defensive task.

22...d5 23.Nc2 c6 24.Ne3 Be6 

The black bishop has ended up behind the chain of his own pawns. White embarks on the queenside counterplay without further delay. 

25.b5 Nf5 26.bxc6 bxc6 27.Qa6 Bc7 

This is yet another example of Howell’s playing for the mate and ignoring the loss of pawns – exactly the style in which he won a spectacular game against Jumabayev the day before. However, in this particular position he had better displayed a "healthy greed" via 27...Rb8 28.Kg1 Qe8 in order to gradually displace the white queen from his premises. In this case the initiative would have still remained with Black.



There is no mate at the end of this line – Svidler has thus outcalculated his younger opponent. Correct was 28...Nxg3+! 29.fxg3 Qh5+ 30.Kg1 Bxg3, and here White would have had to go at length to find the way to make a perpetual check: 31.Qb7+ Kg6 32.Ng4! (losing is 32.Rxf8? Qh2+ 33.Kf1 Qh1+ 34.Ke2 Qe1#) 32...Bxg4 33. Qc6+ Kg7 34. Qb7+, with a draw.

29.Bxd5 Nxe3 30. fxe3 Qh5+ 31. Kg1 Bxg3 32. Qb7+

It is not difficult to see that the black king has no convenient square to retreat. 

32…Rf7 33.Rxf7+ Bxf7 34.Qxf7+ Qxf7 35.Bxf7 Kxf7 36.Nxe4 Bb8 37.g4. Black resigns.

Not far away from that table was Boris Gelfand hunting down the black queen. 

Gelfand – Miton

Despite being up a pawn, Black’s position is quite unpleasant as he features no counterplay whatsoever coupled with low mobility of his pieces. Although he has a nice shot at his disposal - 21...Re2!?, it’s rather like hitting the air because following a calm rejoinder 22.Qc3! Black has nothing better than retreating his rook to its previous location – 22…Re8.

21…Ra8 22.Rxa8+ Bxa8 23.Qc3 Bb7 24.Bc2 Qe5

Although Black is, of course, highly unwilling to weaken his dark squares especially in view of his own f8-bishop having left the battlefield, whereas his white c1-counterpart is still there, there is no way for Black to do without 24...g6. It might be roughly followed by something like 25.Bb3 Qe5 26.Bg3 Qe7 27.Nb5, after which White wins his pawn back while retaining his positional advantage, but Black is quite capable of putting up a tough defense in this position as well.  

25.Bg3 Qg5 26.Qe1 h5

Now Black needed to return into the center with his queen – 26...Qd5, although after 27.Nf5 Qc4 28.Qe7 White’s chances are undoubtedly higher. 

27.Nf5! g6

Even though 27...Nh7 28.h4 Qd8 29.Bxd6 is also a rather grim-looking continuation, now the game ends immediately.

28.h4! The queen is trapped, forcing Black into resignation. 

The following game, also played in round nine, is a rather intriguing duel in the French Defence. 

Ganguly – Tregubov

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 Qc7 8.Qxg7 Rg8 9.Qxh7 cxd4 10.Ne2 Nbc6 11.f4 dxc3 12.h4 b6 13.h5 Bb7 14.h6 Rg6 15.a4 Nf5 16.g4 Rxg4 17.Bh3 Rg6

18.Bxf5 exf5 19.Qh8+ Kd7 20.Qxa8 Rxh6

It is obvious that the white queen cannot be recaptured in view of 21.h7, promoting a new queen inevitably. Nevertheless, Black must have pinned his hopes on this zwischenzug.


White, on the other hand, was setting his hopes on this one of his own!


There is no satisfactory recapture for Black. 21...fxe6 is met by 22.Rxh6 Bxa8 23.Rh7+ Ne7 24.Ba3, winning.

22.Qf8 Nd4 23.Rh7 Kc6 24.Rh6 Qd7 25.Be3 Nxc2+ 26.Kf2 


In the case of 26...Nxa1 White is winning after 27.Nd4+ Kc7 28.Nb5+ Kc6 29.Nxa7+ Kc7 30.Nb5+ Kc6 31.Qb4 or 31. Nd4+.

27.Nxd4+ Nxd4 28.Rc1 Rxh6 29.Rxc3+ Kd5 30.Qxh6 Qxa4 31.Rd3. Black resigns. 

After completion of round nine there turned out to be as many as three leaders, them being the first top three tournament Elo seeds at that: Peter Svidler, Igor Kovalenko, and Boris Gelfand.

While there is no special need in sharing a lot of introductory words about Gelfand and Svidler, we should point out that our readers have been recently referred to Igor Kovalenko on our website’s section titled "The Person of the Day." In the past year the young Latvian grandmaster has achieved an impressive progress in the tournaments, especially in the rapid and blitz events, where his rating exceeded the level of 2700. Kovalenko is a very practical, tenacious, and a resourceful player with a well-established opening repertoire. His being charged for struggle and capable of seeking the slightest chances in even the most seemingly "empty" positions is worthy of respect.

In round three of the Tallinn tournament Kovalenko lost to his countryman and coeval Vladimir Sveshnikov: having played for a considerable amount of time on the 10 second time increment and trying to outfox his uncompromising opponent in a slightly better position, he ended up losing on time. This defeat spurred Igor on so that he went on to score 5.5 points in the following 6 rounds. The following game proved decisive in the contest for the first place.

Kovalenko – Svidler

1.c4 g6 2.Nc3 c5 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 Nc6 5.Nf3 d6 6.a3 e6 7.Rb1 Nge7 8.b4 0-0 9.0-0 b6 10.Bb2 cxb4 11.axb4 Nxb4 12.Nd4!

White has handled the opening part of the game in a very offbeat manner, which seems to have disoriented his seasoned opponent to a certain degree.


12...d5 13.Ba3 a5 14.Nc2 Ba6 was leading to rough equality. 

13.Ndb5 Nec6 14.Ba3 a6

This is the only move because 14...a5 15.Bxc6 Nxc6 16.Bxd6 is by no means good for Black.

15.Bxb4 Nxb4 16.Rxb4 axb5 17.Nxb5 Qe7 18.Ra4 d5 19.cxd5 exd5

The resulting position is very unpleasant for Black, especially for a type of game with reduced time control. While Black has two obvious weaknesses - on b6 and d5, White, on the other hand, features a very compact pawn structure and a safe king. Svidler defended stubbornly in the game that followed by launching counterplay on the kingside and succeeding in transiting into the ending with the opposite colored bishops despite being down a pawn.

20.d4 Bg4 21.Re1 Rfe8 22.Ra7 Qd8 23.Qd3 Re7 24.Rxe7 Qxe7 25.e3 Be6 26.Qb3 Qd8 27.Rb1 Bf8 28.Nc3 Rc8 29.Nxd5 h5 30.h4 g5 31.hxg5 Qxg5 32.Qb5 h4 33.gxh4 Qxh4 34.Nf4 Rc2 35.Rf1 Bd6 36.Qe8+ Kg7 37.Nxe6+ fxe6 38.Qd7+ Qe7 39.Qxe7+ Bxe7 40.Be4 Rb2 41 Kg2 Bh4 42.Kf3 Kf6 43.Bd3 Rd2 44.Be2 Rb2 45.Rh1 Kg5 46.Rc1 Kf6 47.Rc6 

Black has managed to hook up to the f2-pawn on the one hand, while not so many pawns have survived the preceding battle on the other hand. With this in mind, Black could have attempted to mark his time further via 47...Ke7, but Peter opted for setting his passed pawn in motion. 

47…b5 48.Rb6 Ke7 49.Rb7+ Kd6

Black must have overlooked the following rejoinder by White; he should have sidestepped with his king into another direction instead – 49...Kf6.


A mate in one threat is in the air, thus leaving Black with no time to reclaim the f2-pawn. 

50…e5 51.Rd7+ Ke6 52.d5+ Kf5 53.Bd3+ 

Stronger is 53.Rf7+! Kg5 54.Rb7 Rxf2+ 55.Ke4, and White should prevail in the final run. 

53...e4+ 54.Bxe4+ Ke5 55.Kg4 Kxe4 56.f3+ Kxe3 57.Kxh4 


Black blunders while being only a step away from the realms of a draw: after 57...Kxf3 58.Kg5 Ke4 59.Kf6 the simplest is 59…Rh2, although Black could even afford himself to “miss” a move by playing 59…Rb3. 

58.Rf7+ Ke5 59.f4+ Kxd5 60.Re7 Kd6 61.Re3 Kd5 Black resigns.

Howell drew against Gelfand on the second table and, prior to the start of the final round, Kovalenko advanced into a clear first place with 8.5 points. Trailing a half-point behind were Gelfand and Ganguly. The fate of the top place was to be sealed in the Gelfand - Kovalenko and Ganguly - Berkes games.

Alas, the entire intrigue died as soon as 10 minutes after the start of the round: a peace agreement was signed in the game played on the second table at first, followed by Gelfand and Kovalenko agreeing to a draw either: Boris obtained nothing out of the opening and congratulated his opponent on the victory in the tournament. May it be so that the local climate is of that peculiar nature which has to do with soothing your fighting spirits in favor of seeking compromises? This is, by the way, how Sergei Dovlatov entitled his famous book about the life in Tallinn. However, something similar to that has been recently observed in the last round of the Qatar event... Well, we are not going to further delve into this topic in our present review.

Excellent performance was displayed in Tallinn by the leader of the Russian women's team Alexandra Kosteniuk who scored as many as 8 points, not only confidently taking the first place among the women, but also breaking into the top ten in the overall standings. The final tournament table saw Alexandra and her husband Pavel Tregubov landing into the neighboring lines, just as befits a perfect couple!

Kosteniuk – Postny

The unexpected maneuver of the white knight allows extricating her monarch from being exposed to mating threats and subsequent pushing of her passed a-pawn in the direction of the coronation field.

45.Na1! Rc8 46.Kg4 f6

Black might have still kept his defensive lines together via 46...h5+ 47.gxh6+ Bxh6 48.a6 Bc1 49.Ra2 Be3, but Postny’ performance in the time trouble was far from being an exemplary one. 

47.gxf6+ Kxf6 48.a6 Ke6 49.Kf3 Bc1 50.Ra2 Kd6 51.Nc2 Bd2 52.Ke2 Bc3 53.Kd3 Bd4 54.Nxd4 exd4 55.a7 Ra8 56.Kxd4 Ke6 57.Ra6+ Kd7 58.Kc5 Kc7 59.Rf6 Kb7 60.Rf7+ Ka6 61.Rxh7 Re8 62.Kd6 Black resigns. 

I would like to give credit to an impeccable and well-coordinated work of the organizers: each round would start well in the prescribed time with no overlaps happening along the way. The arbiter would announce the approaching start of the upcoming round in three languages 1-2 minutes ahead of that, inviting the participants to take their seats. However, when it came to the final round there sounded a super precise announcement: there remains one minute and ten seconds until the start. Peter Svidler smiled and, holding up his index finger, exclaimed, "That’s it!"

At the closing ceremony the prizes and diplomas were awarded to best girls, boys, veterans, women, local players and the winners in the overall standings. In the beginning it was Vladimir Sveshnikov who was on the verge of being summoned to receive the second veteran’s prize, but seeing how young the "veteran" looked, his father’s name was called out instead. In the end it will still be Volodya who is going to get the cash - Evgeny Ellinovich asked his son to leave his ID details with the organizers. The money will stay in the family anyway!

Final standings: 

1st place – I. Kovalenko with 9 out of 11 points; 2-4 places: D. Howell, B. Gelfand, S. Ganguly – with 8,5 points; 5-13 places: J.-K. Duda, K. Georgiev, P. Svidler, F. Berkes, A. Motylev, A. Kosteniuk, P. Tregubov, K. Miton, A. Neiksans – with 8 points, etc.