Withdrawn into the Shadows
Classical game four of the Inarkiev – Gelfand match in Nazran in the review of Vladimir Barsky
Classical game four was a witness to a minor emergency as sometime around move 30 the Palace of Culture (maybe the entire Nazran, for that matter) experienced a power outage. As twilight embraced the stage, the grandmasters moved into the rest room. While trying to find out what was up and for how long, the chief arbiter Artiom Akhmetov was busy arranging an “alternate airfield” to resume the game in a bright and cool enough hall accommodating a children’s tournament scheduled in the morning hours. As luck would have it, no relocation was needed as the power was back exactly when the chief arbiter was on his way to pick up the board and the clock. An unscheduled break lasted some 5 to 7 minutes and did not have much say on the battle flow as neither opponent was in time trouble at the moment.
That day Inarkiev had a change of serve as he gave up on the Rossolimo system, a four-time and a one-time guest in the previous and the current matches respectively, to allow Gelfand delve into the Chelyabinsk variation. It is hard to imagine any elite or non-elite tournament of some 5-7 years ago without Evgeny Sveshnikov’s pet line, but since then it has somehow withdrawn into the shadows. However, things coming in and out of fashion ever so quickly, a new wrinkle to the Sicilian 5…е5 is likely to be not that far away.
– Indeed, the Chelyabinsk variation has been on the decrease lately. We have got a sharp position with opposite-colored bishops and a very dynamic type of play. Such positions resist easy evaluation, each side playing along the squares of his bishop’s color.
In my opinion, a critical setup arose on move 20, when Boris decided to launch an offensive against my king and I opted for 21.a4. He could have ditched a pawn with 21…b4, although it is hard to say as to how stronger it is, if at all. Black banked on the offensive, but it did not pan out. This said, I could not see how it was going to work for my opponent. Once the offensive failed, Black’s weaknesses started to tell. I think that when my queen landed on b6, Black was in bad shape already. Boris hoped to profit from practical chances that come with the offensive, but it only worsened his position, as I see it. Instead, Black should have hunkered down into the defensive. Then the onus was on me to come up with a sequence of precise moves, 31.b4 being one of them to have с5 covered. The b5-pawn capture might have been to my advantage as well, but the game move prevented the Black pieces from springing into life.
Therefore, we have been playing principled chess. Boris essayed an offensive, but when it failed, my trump cards took over.
Inarkiev – Gelfand
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Bxf6 gxf6 10.Nd5 f5 11.Bd3 Be6 12.0-0 Bxd5 13.exd5 Ne7 14.Re1 Bg7 15.c3 0-0 16.Qh5 e4 17.Bf1 Re8
17...b4 18.cxb4 Bxb2 fails to 19.Rab1 Bxa3 20.Re3.
18.Nc2 Nxd5 19.Qxf5 Re5
The move seems to be a novelty. A predecessor game saw 20.Qg4 h5 21.Qd1 Qg5 22.a4 Rae8 23.axb5 axb5 24.Ne3 b4 25.Nxd5 Rxd5 26.Qa4 Rde5 27.Qxb4, and Black’s compensation for the missing pawn proved insufficient, as in Fier - Matsuura, Sao Paulo 2006.
This is an aggressive approach. The engine votes for 20...Nb6 21.Rad1 d5, barricading along the white squares. Nevertheless, a slight initiative is still with White after 22.Re3.
Worthy of attention was 21...b4 22.cxb4 (White is unlikely to count for much after 22.Nxb4 Nxb4 23.cxb4 d5) 22...Nf4 23.Qb3 d5 24.g3 Rh5!? with a compensation for the missing pawn.
22.axb5 Nf4 23.Qe3 axb5 24.Qb6 Kh8 25.Ne3 Rg8 26.g3 Bf8
While the bishop and knight reliably safeguard access roads to the white king, the heavy pieces are busy preparing a counter-offensive.
27...Ne6 28.Rd1 h5 29.Rd5
An excellent maneuver as White trades off yet another opponent’s piece, any moment ready to plug into the offensive.
29...h4 30.Rxe5 dxe5 31.b4
“An important line is 31...hxg3 32.hxg3 Qf3 33.Bh3! Ng5 34.Bg4, trapping the queen, or 33...Nf4 34.Qf6+, and Black’s defenses are collapsing. These options no longer viable for Black, the position may be classified as a technically winning one” (E. Inarkiev).
“I think White has other good moves at his disposal either” (E. Inarkiev).
An essential point is that 32...Ng7 (to reroute the knight to h5 with a tempo) fails to 33.Rxe5! Qxe5 34.Qh6#.
33.hxg3 Qh5 34.Qxb5 Bh6 35.Be2 Qg5 36.Bc4 Black resigns.
Thus, the match score has become 7:5 in Inarkiev’s favor (4:4 in the classical section and 3:1 in his favor in the rapid section). Let us remind ourselves that a classical game brings two points for a victory and one for a draw, whereas a rapid game brings one and half a point respectively.
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The children’s tournament “The Hopes of the North Caucasus” is part of the international chess festival “Tower of Concord.” Given below is a small picture gallery. Here is a brief tip for those who are new to our website and willing to download pictures to their liking. Position the cursor right over the picture's center so that the cursor turns from a "handle" into an "arrow", then right-click and select "save image as" from a drop-down menu. Enjoy viewing!
Pictures by Vladimir Barsky