Vaccinated from Suffocation by Draws
Dmitry Kryakvin analyzes rounds one through three games of the FIDE Grand Prix leg in Moscow
Everyone lamenting about endless draws has become a universal complain of nowadays. Let’s refer to a small Mikhail Osipov, for that matter: adult persons would drag him into TV shows to play a game of chess, and then what? That’s right, they would invariably offer Misha a draw while the game is still in the opening. It happens both on and out of TV programs. What if Osipov happens to be a Grand Prix event participant some twenty years from now? When we start appealing to his fighting qualities, he will come back with, “Sorry, this is not what you taught me when I was three!”
Touching upon this subject made me recall an amusing caricature from a Spanish magazine. A pictured man with birthmarks bears resemblance to a well-known Bulgarian organizer, who cries out while concocting a document: "Mister Secretary of State, it is of no importance to me that he played Hussein and Gaddafi! I hate it that he made agreed draws with them! He neglected the Sofia regulations! “
This said, the initial rounds played in the Telegraph building have brought us little joy in terms of fireworks. Alexander Grischuk came out into the open about not feeling well and that even as much as making it to the playhall was a small victory for him in itself. Some players felt tired arriving from the team championship in Sochi, while others kept true to their predetermined Grand Prix strategy. Nevertheless, the start was not entirely without its bright moments for fans who invested in broadcasting or entrance tickets. The latter, by the way, can be secured for free if taken care of in advance.
Tomashevsky - Svidler (Round 1)
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.h4 c6 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bxf6 Bxf6 8.e3 e6 9.Qc2 Nd7 10.0–0–0 0–0 11.Kb1 Bg7 12.g4 Qe7 13.cxd5 exd5 14.Bd3 Nb6 15.Rhg1 Bd7
Here Evgeny started a combination that was supposed to end up in a perpet, thus admitting that Black had successfully solved his opening problems.
16.Ne5!? Bxe5 17.dxe5 Qxe5 18.f4 Qxe3
Having taken up the gauntlet in the form of two pawns, there is no longer any way back for Svidler.
19.Bxg6 Qxf4 20.g5?
Same idea should have been preceded with an intermediary 20.Rdf1 Qe3 21.g5, at which point there is nothing better for Black than agree to a draw by taking on g6. Had Peter Veniaminovich come up with a brilliant 20...Nc4!! 21.gxh6 Kh8, White would have been up against substantial problems. Although White does not lose an exchange, the combination of a pesky e3-knight, an extra f7-pawn and the "pawnwood" on the h-file, arising after 22.Bd3 Ne3 23.Qc1 Rae8, would have given the native of St. Petersburg sufficient grounds to count for a success. In the game, however, the Saratov grandmaster escaped with nothing worse than a fright.
20...fxg6? 21.Qxg6+ Kh8 22.Qxh6+ Kg8 23.Qg6+ Kh8 24.Qh6+ Kg8 25.Qg6+ Draw.
He that was thirsty for battle in round one more than anyone else, ended up suffering instead. Having bumped into an excellent preparation by Hou Yifan, Ian Nepomniachtchi ventured iinto an enterprising sacrifice-involving continuation only to fall victim to an aftermath of its complex ramifications.
Nepomniachtchi – Anand (Round 1)
1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d4 Nf6 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 c5 7.Rb1
There is no shortage of ideas thrown against Kramnik's bulletproof 1.d4. It has been all for nothing, though...
7…Be7 8.Bb5+ Bd7 9.Bxd7+ Nxd7
Even though 9...Qxd7 10.d5 also resulted in a draw in the game Aronian - Vallejo Pons played in Sharjah 2017, Hou Yifan recaptures with a knight to make her intentions of trapping the rook clear should White dare take the b7-pawn. What else is there for White anyway? Since 10.Nf3 Qc7 is totally harmless, Ian plunges headlong into complications.
10.Rxb7 cxd4 11.cxd4 Nb6 12.Qd2 Qc8
White has nothing better than selling its trapped “turret” as dear as possible, hoping for the compensation that comes with it.
13.Rxe7+ Kxe7 14.Nf3 f6 15.0–0 Kf7 16.e5 f5
Nepomniachtchi pieces’ activity will not be subdued completely: 16...Nd5 17.exf6 gxf6 18.Qe2 Qc6 19.Bh6, intending 19...Rac8 20.Ne5+ or 19…Rhg8 20.Nh4.
This error allows Black consolidating his position and start exploiting his material edge. The Russian must have missed the correct 18.gxf5 exf5 19.e6+! Kg8 (or 19...Kxe6 20.Ng5+ Kf6 21.Qf4) 20.Re1 with a powerful compensation. The situation is such that a single error is sufficient to doom its author.
18...Kg8 19.Qh5 Rf8 20.Ba3 Qc6!?
Also good is 20...g6 21.Qh6 Rf7, but the Chinese returns the exchange to harvest the opponent's pawns instead.
21.Bxf8 Rxf8 22.Ng5 h6 is outright bad for White.
21...h6 22.Rc1 Qd7 23.Bxf8 Rxf8 24.Nh3 Qxd4 25.gxf5 Qxe5! 26.Qg6 Rf6 27.Qg4 Rxf5
Black is up a pawn and her pieces active, whereas White’s compromised pawn structures leaves him with nothing to hope for.
After 28.Qg3 Qd4 29.Re1 Rf6 30.Qg2 Nd5 the former World Champion converted her edge in a confident manner.
Noteworthy of the remaining pairs of the first game day was the Harikrishna-Hammer encounter. Both players’ surnames start with a letter most beloved by the most popular musician of the modern Russian music scene (Denis and Alexander Valerievich are free to disagree on that, but they are definitely our country’s best). The Norwegian came up with a smart queen sacrifice, but Pentala stood firm in a position that was far from easy to defend.
Despite a relatively high ratio of draw in round two, the degree of fighting spirit was on a marked increase already. Ernesto Inarkiev went down in a lengthy ending struggle against Ding Liren, which is a regretful thing to say.
Ding Liren – Inarkiev (Round 2)
Where should the king retreat? Correct is 64...Kf7! 65.Ra8 Bd1+ 66.Kg3 Rh5; with so few pieces remaining on the board, Black has managed to hook up to the h6-pawn at that. Ernesto is known for his great skills and patience in holding such positions together, but a lengthy struggle with its fatigue must have taken its toll in the end.
64…Kd7? 65.Ra8! a4
Black drops a piece after 65...Ke7 66.Ra7+ or 65...Ke6 66.Ra6+! Kf7 67.Ra7+ Kg8 68.h7+ Bxh7 69.Rg7+.
66.h7 Bxh7 67.Ra7+ Kc6 68.Rxh7 Ra5 69.Rh6+ Kd7 70.Kf4 a3 71.Rh1 a2 72.Ra1, and the Chinese grandmaster scored and easy victory by marching his king all the way to b2.
Being upset as he was, Inarkiev went on to lose to Hammer as well, upon which the website editorial board received a letter from participants of the training shift in Sirius with a request from the children to lend their moral support to Ernesto, who visited them in March, as well as urge him not to give up as it was not over yet! There is nothing to add to this message of comfort. Ernesto, please pull together, we are here to root for you!
Francisco Vallejo, on the other hand, failed to convert his edge in a very instructive opposite-colored bishop ending against Harikrishna. Having demonstrated high class and remarkable technique, the Spaniard suddenly misfired only a step away from the coveted goal.
Vallejo Pons – Harikrishna (Round 2)
With the black pieces frozen on the last frontier, Francisco should have simply started rerouting his king to f6 with 55.Ke3! Harikrishna’s rook would have failed to cut the king along the third rank for the need to guard against the crushing е5-e6.
While Vallejo was busy grabbing a second pawn, the Indian succeeded in engineering a fascinating fortress.
55.Bb4 Bb3 56.Ke4 Kd8 57.Kf3 Be6 58.Be7+ Kc8 59.Bb4 Bf5 60.Ra7 Rc4! 61.Rxa4 Kb7 62.Ra5 Kb6
It turns out that the white rook has no easy way out of the a-file. 63.Ra8? fails to 63...Be4+, whereas the g3-king position enables black to shatter the central pawn chain.
63.Kg3 Be6 64.Ra8 g5! 65.fxg5 Rg4+ 66.Kf2 Rxg5
White is not without practical winning chances, but the trade of rooks is an immediate draw since the a8-square is not controlled by the bishop. The stronger side is likely to dream of no more than a rook and bishop versus rook endgame, but Vallejo failed to achieve even this much.
67.Rb8+ Kc6 68.Bd6 Rg4 69.Re8 Kd5 70.Kf3 Rh4 71.Rb8 Bd7 72.Rb1 Bc6 73.Ke3 Re4+ 74.Kd3 Rd4+ 75.Kc3 Rc4+ 76.Kb2 Ba4 77.Re1 Rc2+
The white king has been forced to retreat, and there is no way to set it free without exchanging the heavy pieces.
78.Kb1 Rd2 79.Kc1 Rc2+ 80.Kb1 Rd2 81.Kc1 Rc2+ 82.Kb1 Draw.
Meanwhile, Ian Nepomniachtchi came back brilliantly. The Moscow chess player opted for the Pirc Defence against Hammer and whitewashed his opponent in a style of the famous Matulovich-Botvinnik game from the USSR vs Rest of the World match.
Hammer – Nepomniachtchi (Round 2)
Who stands better? On the one hand, White has a powerful knight on c5 and a potential offensive along the h-file. Nevertheless, Ian’s next move stands to show the vanity of the above-mentioned as the white knight is to be traded off to give up the main role to the mighty dark-squared bishop.
15... Na4! 16.Nxd7 Qxd7 17.h5 0–0 18.hxg6 hxg6 19.Ne2 Qd6 20.c3
There exist no good alternatives to the text. 20.Kb1 is met by 20...c5, and 20.Qb3 is nicely refuted by 20...c5 21.Qxb5 Nb6 22.dxc5 Rxc5! 23.Rxd6 Rxb5 24.Nd4 Rc5, and White loses material.
20...b4 21.c4 c5 22.b3 Nc3! 23.Nxc3 bxc3 24.Qxc3 Bxd4 25.Qd2 Qa6!
With opposite side castles and opposite-colored bishops, Carlsen second’s king is in dire straits, and the Russian’s followup attack is of a textbook nature.
26.Kb1 Rb8 27.g4
27.Qd3 Bg7 is no better than that.
27...Bg7 28.g5 Qxc4 29.Bd5 Qg4 30.Rhe1
30.Qe3 Qf5+ 31.Kc1 Bd4 would drop White’s pawns anyway.
30...e6 31.Be4 c4!
Now that the black pieces are on the shooting positions, White is quickly done away with.
32.Qe3 cxb3 33.axb3 Rb4 34.Rd3 Rfb8 35.f3
35.Qg3 is refuted even by 35…Rxb3+ 36.Rxb3 Qxg3 37.fxg3 Rxb3+.
35...Qg2 36.Re2 Qh1+ 37.Re1 Qh2 38.Re2 Qe5 39.Ra2 a5 40.Kc2 a4 41.Rxa4 Rxa4 42.bxa4 Qa1 43.Rd2
It is a pleasure to deliver a checkmate. After 43.Rb3 Qa2+ White drops a rook.
However, when it came to round three, it seemed as though the players had been vaccinated from the flu of draws! The current Grand Prix history has never had so much blood spilled with as many as five games opening scores and some guilt-edged chances missed as well.
Giri – Vallejo Pons (Round 3)
Here Francisco came up with an unexpected draw offer. This said, the diagram features him not only being up a pawn, but with a potential to create a remote passer as well.
White is up against difficulties both after 39.Nxh7 b5 40.Nf6 b4 and 39.Kf1 b5 40.Ke2 d4!, intending 41.exd4 Ne6. I am confident that there would be even not a few chess players’ wives to persist further with the black pieces!
The duel of leaders was a battle between the former World Champion and the leader of Chinese chess. “Will they just make a draw?” the experts wondered, but Ding would go at Hou with such a fury as though the latter had cheated him out of daily allowances assigned by the sports committee of the Celestial Empire.
Hou Yifan – Ding Liren (Round 3)
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d3 Bc5 5.0–0 0–0 6.a4 d6 7.c3 a5 8.Bg5 h6 9.Bh4 g5 10.Bg3
This Giuoco Piano line featuring the development of bishop to g5 has been gaining more and more popularity lately. Even though Jose Raul Capablanca is likely to turn over in his last small wooden box every time this line is employed at the elite level, it is far from easy to have the dark-squared bishop isolation theme exploited by Black who has also created some weaknesses along the way. The engine prefers White, by the way.
Thus, after 10...Bg4 11.h3 Bh5 12.Nbd2 the white knight is on his way to f5. There had been an attempt to start complications on the royal flank via 10...g4 11.Nh4 Nh5 12.Na3 Qg5 13.Nb5 Bb6, as in Nijboer - Janssen, 2017, but Ding Liren carries it out in a different way.
11.Re1 g4 12.Bh4
This is a draw offer, as opposed to 12.Nh4 Nh5.
“Paul Petrovich, why are you giving me such an evil look?” The 2014 Olympic champion team leader rejects 12...gxf3 13.Qxf3 Be6 14.Qg3+ Kh7 15.Qf3 Kg7 almost without any hesitation.
If willing, Hou could have plunged into some incredible complications arising after 13.d4!? Ng6 14.Nxe5 Nxh4 15.Nxf7. Instead, Yifan preferred to drag the black king into the open and go on with mobilization of her pieces.
13.Bxf6+ Kxf6 14.d4 Bb6 15.Nh4?
This is a grave error. Tarrasch would have been displeased. Correct was 15.Nfd2 exd4 16.Be2 h5 17.Nc4, when the black king’s position on f6 gives White an excellent compensation.
15...Kg7 16.Na3 exd4 17.cxd4 Nc6
Ding Liren has put more pressure on the white center, the knight is hanging. Therefore, the world's strongest female chess player has to give up the pawn in an already much worse situation.
18.Nf5+ Bxf5 19.exf5 h5 20.Nc2 Qf6 21.Re4 Qxf5 22.Bd3 Qg5 23.g3 f5 24.Rf4
Nevertheless,White’s potential should not be underestimated. This said, a clear edge could have been claimed only by a study-like 24...Ne5!? 25.dxe5 dxe5 26.Rc4 Rad8, winning back the piece forcibly (27.Ne1 e4).
24…Rae8?! 25.h4 gxh3
25...Qg6 26.Qd2 d5 is a more tranquil continuation, but it was already in this position that Ding Liren had a typical exchange sacrificed in store for his opponent.
This is another instance of Hou underestimating her inventive opponent's resources, which makes her prestart-declared intention of qualifying into Carlsen out of this cycle suspend in the air. After 27.Rh4! Kh6 28.Be2 White creates a serious amount of pressure against h5, and the struggle is in full swing.
27...Re4! 28.Bxe4 fxe4 29.Qe3 Rxf4 30.Qxf4 Qxf4 31.gxf4 Ne7?
Although Ding plants his knight on f4, White has now got a good chance to bail out. A king march is a lot more effective: 31...Kf6! 32.Kh2 Nb4 33.Nxb4 axb4 34.Kxh3 Kf5 35.Kg3 h4+ 36.Kxh4 Kxf4, and the last white pawns fall like ripe pears.
This is an effect of time pressure, coupled with fatigue. It is all the more strange that an otherwise so persistent player would not find 33.f3 Nxf4 (or 33...exf3 34.Kxh3 Nxf4+ 35.Kg3) 34.fxe4 dxe4 35.Re1, with excellent chances to escape the worst. Hou Yifan was tempted by another way of undermining the e4 pawn, but ran into a very unpleasant surprise.
33...Nf4 34.f3 c6! 35.fxe4 dxe4 36.Re1 Bc7
This is an extremely nice geometry! Ding Liren has the key pawn defended indirectly as 37.Rxe4 fails to 37...Nd3+. A commonwealth of minor pieces and passed pawns breaks through the opponent's last defensive line.
37.Rg1+ Kf7 38.Rf1 Kf6 39.Kg3 Kxf5 40.Ne3+ Kg5 41.Nc4 h4+ 42.Kf2 Nd3+ 43.Ke2 Bf4 44.Nxa5
44.Ne5 Nc1+ 45.Kf2 e3+ 46.Kf3 Nb3 47.Rd1 h2 or 44.Ne3 Nxb2 changes nothing as the passers march forward to become queens.
44...h2 45.Nxb7 Nc1+ 46.Kf2 e3+ 47.Kg2 e2 48.Re1 Bd2 49.Rh1 Nb3 50.Kxh2 e1Q 51.Rxe1 Bxe1 White resigns. This is a typical Chinese duel sporting the use of bladed and piercing weapons!
A newly baked 2800-player Shakhriyar Mamedyarov dashed after the leader by scoring an unexpectedly easy victory over Michael Adams.
Mamedyarov – Adams (Round 3)
With the black pieces stuffed up on the queenside, Shakhriyar takes a reasonable course on besieging the royal bastions. Adams should have played 19...g6 now. Since 20.Bxc6 fails to 20...Bf5, Mamedyarov's choice would be either 20.Re1 or 20.Bg5.
19… h6?! 20.Re1
White is not lured into taking a pawn, which would be far from easy to convert after 20.Bxc6 Bb7.
Taking the last step into the abyss. 20...Qd8 21.Bxc6 Bb7 22.Re8+ loses as well, but worth trying was 20...Qf8! in the hope of somehow holding together down a pawn.
21.Bh7+ Kf8 22.Ne5 Nd5
Although 22...Bxe5 23.Rxe5 Nd7 24.Re4 is no good either, a petite combination proves decisive now.
Or 23...Kxf7 24.Qg6+ Kf8 25.Re8#.
24.Bg6 Bf5 25.Bxf5 Nxb4
The atonement piece sacrifice does not help as the black king is way too exposed.
26...Re8 27.Be6 changes nothing.
27.Be6 Qf6 28.Rxb8+ Rxb8 29.Qh7 g5 30.Qg8+ Black resigns.
What a benefit for the modern chess Shakhriyar Mamedyarov is, being such a vivid player as he is!
An instructional lesson for a better understanding of Grunfeld has been delivered by its main proponent Peter Svidler. Harikrishna has uncorked a novelty, but... It was the case of Peter Veniaminovich either having it all analyzed during long St. Petersburg nights or otherwise feeling quite at home in all these setups.
Harikrishna – Svidler (Round 3)
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Be3 c5 8.Rc1 0–0 9.Nf3 Qa5 10.Qd2 Rd8 11.d5 e6
This position is a classical tabiya, in which 12.c4, 12.Bg5 and 12.Be2 used to be popular continuations as time went by. The Indian grandmaster came up with a new word in theory, but would he find any disciples?
One of the Chinese tournaments saw 12...Nc6 13.Bh6?!, at which point an exchange sacrifice 13…Rxd6! 14.Qxd6 Bxh6 is an excellent solution for Black. The Russian player’s move is to keep an eye on the e4-pawn.
White should have perhaps given a try to 13.e5 Nd7 14.Bg5 Re8 (or 14...f6!? 15.exf6 Nxf6) 15.Qe3 (the trade of queens brings no harm to Black since after 15.Qf4 Qxf4 16.Bxf4 f6 he is going to take the d6-pawn in siege) 15...b6, although Black’s play revolves around the blockading themes here as well. What if this is no novelty but simply Harikrishna’s confusion?
Anyway, his offensive was refuted by Svidler’s surgical precision moves.
13...Qxe4 14.h5 Qd5! 15.Qc2
The trade of queens would have emptied White’s position completely: After 15.Qxd5 exd5 16.Bxc5 b6 17.Ba3 Nd7 18.Be2 Nc5 he loses the pride of his position, the d6-pawn, without any compensation whatsoever.
15...Rxd6 16.hxg6 hxg6 17.Ng5 Nc6 18.Ne4
After 18.Be2 Ne5 19.0–0 b6 White is simply down a pawn. Meanwhile, the opponent’s attempt to infiltrate via f6 was met by the St.Petersburg native’s crushing blow.
A pawn deficit could have been restored, but after 19.Nxc5 Rc7 20.Ne4 f5 21.Ng5 Bd7 White is about to cave in through the c-file. However, it was by all means preferable to a shortage of many pawns. Svidler’s hand swept over the board ...
19...Bxc3+! 20.Qxc3 Qxe4+ 21.Be3 e5 22.Qxc5 Nd4 23.Bb5 Qxg2! 24.Rh8+!? Kxh8
Everything has been calculated precisely, as is always the case with Peter Veniaminovich: 25.Qxe5+ Kh7 26.Bxd4 Rxd4 27.Qxd4 Be6 does not work, same as the desperado shot seen in the game.
25.Qf8+ Kh7 26.Bxd7 Qf3! 27.Qh6+
Another defense against a checkmate fails immediately: 27.Bxd4 Bxd7 28.Qxa8 Bg4 29.Kd2 exd4.
27...Kg8 28.Bxd4 Bxd7 29.Bxe5 Qe4+ 30.Qe3 Qh1+ 31.Kd2 Qd5+ 32.Qd4 Qxa2+ 33.Rc2 Qa5+ 34.Kc1 Re8
Black is up as many as three pawns, but prior to the time control move Harikrishna got a chance, which he failed to put to his advantage, though.
35.f4 Bf5 36.Rc7
It has to do with a time trouble. Instead, 36...Qa3+! 37.Kd2 (37.Qb2 Qd3 38.Qa2 Rf8) 37...Qa2+ 38.Ke3 f6 was an immediate crusher.
37.Qc4+ Be6 38.Qc3 Qa4 39.Bd6?
With only seconds on his clock, the Indian grandmaster turns down the obvious 39.Bxf6 Qxf4+ 40.Kb2, although it is here that he would have received his counter play against the black king, as well as some practical chances.
39...Bf5 40.Kd2 Qa2+ White resigns.
Another blow was in store for Ian Nepomniachtchi. A boring position with a double fianchettoed bishops was transformed by Ian into a real action, but the Arab grandmaster’s performance was in no way inferior to White's. However, when a draw was already around the corner, there happened a failure.
Nepomniachtchi – Saleh (Round 3)
The final simplifications are forced by 46.Qe4 Rxf4 (46...Bb6 47.b5 Bc7 48.bxc6 Rxf4 49.Rxf4 Bxf4 50.Qg2 bxc6 51.Bd3) 47.Rxf4 Qxf4 48.Qxf4 Nxf4 49.Nf3, but the queen commits a misstep.
46.Qe6?? Ne5! 47.Rh3
What a horror! With 47.fxe5 failing to 47...Rxf3, Nepomniachtchi is after hunting down the opponent's king, who, in his turn, escapes the pursuit like a real sprinter.
47...Qxf4 48.Qe8 Qe4+ 49.Nf3 Rxf3 50.Qh8+ Kf7 51.Rh7+ Ke6 52.Qc8+
However incredible it might seem, there is no bringing any harm to His Majesty: after 52.Qe8+ Kf5 53.Qh5+ Kf6 54.Rh6+ Ke7 Black is ready to use his rook as a tempo cover.
53...Kg5! 54.Qh6+ Kf5 55.Qf8+ Kg4!
Calculated precisely! The Russian stopped the clock in view of 56.Rg7+ Ng6.
Nevertheless, Ian came back as soon as round four. However, this is coming in our follow-up review!
The tournament standings after round three are as follows:
1st. Ding Liren with 2.5 points; 2-4. Peter Svidler, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Saleh Salem - with 2; 5-14. Hou Yifan, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Anish Giri, Alexander Grischuk, Francisco Vallejo Pons, Teimour Radjabov, Hikaru Nakamura, Boris Gelfand, Evgeny Tomashevsky, Jon Ludwig Hammer - with 1.5; 15-17. Ian Nepomniachtchi, Pentala Harikrishna, Michael Adams - with 1; 18th. Ernesto Inarkiev - with 0.5 point.