17 August 2017

Withdrawn into the Shadows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elite or non-elite tournament of some 5-7 years ago without Evgeny Sveshnikov’s pet line, but since then it has somehow withdrawn into the shadows.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.

Ernesto Inarkiev:

– 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

Sicilian Defense

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