19 September 2019

Young Classics of Saint Petersburg

Maxim Notkin analyses Round 3 games of the FIDE World Cup. 

Two grandmasters from St. Petersburg became heroes of the “regulation time”. Alekseenko won twice against the World's #19 Harikrishna, Vitiugov convincingly defeated the former challenger Karjakin.


Playing White, both Petersburgers showed remarkable positional skill. These games deserve to be included into future middlegame manuals.


Alekseenko - Harikrishna


Kirill employed a new plan associated with а4-а5 and exchanging the dark-squared bishops, and created pressure on the queenside. Black should probably go for a standard regrouping on the kingside: 13...Nh5 14.d4 Qf6 15.Nbd2 Nf4. Harikrishna starts playing in the zone of his opponent's strength, but such violation of known principles does not pay off.

13...Rb8 14.d4 b5 15.axb6 cxb6 (arecapture with the rook has obvious disadvantages as well) 16.Nbd2 (16.d5 already deserves attention)16...b5 17.Bf1 Qc7 (knowing the fate of theс6-knight, one could recommend trading on d4) 18.d5 Ne7 19.c4



White enjoys spatial advantage on the queenside. Black is outnumbered, lacks counterplay and is unable to prevent further opening of the position. I don't think I can add useful comments for the rest of the game. Just play it out, see how skilfully Alekseenko develops his initiative, learn and admire.


The second game was decorated by simple yet nice tactics.


Harikrishna - Alekseenko



44...Nd6. Black gives up a material advantage in exchange for two connected passed pawns.

45.Rxb4 axb4 46.Rxd6 Ba8! 47.Bb3. The pawns cannot be stopped for much longer.

47...Be4 48.Rd4 Bg6 49.a5 c2 50.Rf4+. If 50.Rc4, then50...Bf7.

50...Ke7 51.Rc4 Bd3! Now 51…Bf7 is met by 52.Re4+ and 53.Bxc2.

52.Rc6 Be4. White resigns. The rook ran out of squares on the c-file: 53.Rc4 Bd5 or53.Rc5 Kd6 54.Rc4 Bd3.




White's play in the opening laid a foundation for future kingside actions. Karjakin's next move suggests that he underestimated this factor.

16.Nxd4 Qxd4?! Positions with mutual chances arise after 16...exd4 17.Nf1 bxa4 18.Ng3 (White is unable to block the queenside:18.Rxa4 c5 19.b3? Bd7 20.Ra1 a4 etc.) 18...c5 19.Qf3 Re6 or 19...c4 20.Nh5 Re6. 

17.axb5 cxb5 18.Qf3 Qd8 (Black must defend againstQf6) 19.Nd5. Compared to the line above, the knight found a much more attractive location. 

19...f5 20.Nxb6 cxb6 21.exf5 Bxf5



Nikita continues with exceptionally interesting queen maneuver, which is aimed against the comfortableе5-е4 push.

22.Qb7! Re7 (after 22...Qd7 23.Qxb6 Black is a pawn down, but now he must always be concerned about Bg5) 23.Qc6 Bd7 (23...e4 does not solve Black's problems either – 24.0-0 exd3 25.Bg5 Qe8 26.Qxb6) 24.Qd5+ Re6 25.0-0. 

The pawn is now pinned to the board. Sublime maneuvers reminding of Akiba Rubinstein followed, and the pawn eventually fell. Black managed to trade the rooks and even got an extra pawn, however, he remained in danger due to a poor cover of his king. In the end Sergey cracked under pressure, blundering badly.



47...Qxb3. The queen comes back to defend in time, yet perhaps expanding the king's living room by47...g5 48.Bxb4 h6 49.Bc3 (49.Qe7? Qd4+ with a draw) 49...Kf7 also deserved attention.

48.Qe5 Qf7 49.Bd4 Kf8 50.Bc5+. 50.Qd6+ Qe7 does not win a piece because Black gives a check from e1. Vitiugov repeats the position once and then defends against the threat.

50...Kg8 51.Bd4 Kf8 52.Kf2. Black could pass the move to the opponent by 52...Qa2+ 53.Kg3 Qf7, as54.Qd6+ is still harmless because of 54...Qe7 55.Qxc6 Qg5+ with a draw.In this case Nikita would probably play54.Bc5+ Kg8 55.Bxb4, continuing to torture the opponent. 




53.Bc5+. Black resigns in view of 53...Kg8 54.Qb8+! (exactly on this square Karjakin took Svidler's rook in the dramatic tie-break of the 2015 World Cup!) 54...Kf7 55.Qf8+ Ke6 56.Qe7+ Kf5 57.g4+ Kf4 58.Be3#.

A tactical motif left off scene in the next game could lead to completely different results depending on the situation on the board.


Xu Xiangyu - Grischuk


The game ended prosaically: 24.0-0-0 Be7 25.Qc6 Bxf5 26.Rdg1 (or 26.Rh1 Qxh1+ 27.Qxh1 Kxg7) 26...Bg6 27.R1xg6 hxg6 28.Rh7+ Qxh7 29.Nxh7 Kxh7, Black gained more than enough material for a queen and won easily.

The computer recommends 24.Qe4!Now24...Bxf5 is bad – 25.Qxf5 Kxg7 26.Qg5+ Kh8 27.Nh5, and Black must give up a queen to defend against a checkmate. The purely defensive 24...Rfd8 (vacating the f8-square for the king) is dangerous practically: 25.Ke2! Bxf5 26.Qxf5 Kxg7 27.Qg5+ Kf8 28.Rg1, and now28...h5! forces White to give a perpetual by Nh7-f6, while 28...h6 allows a highly unpleasant sequence of29.Qg7+ Ke7 30.Rg4!

Let us now consider the main line.



It goes 24...Qh3 25.Rxh7+ Bxh7 26.Nxh7 Qxh7 (White had to foresee that the only reply to26...Rae8 is 27.Ng5! Rxe4 28.Nxh3, maintaining relative material balance) 27.Kd2! Rae8 28.Qf3 Bh2 29.Rh1 Rg8. Now we can see the benefits of including 27...Rae8: 30.Qc6 yields nothing due to 30...Re6. However, White has not ran out of gas just yet.


30.Ne7! Rxe7 (30...f5 does not promise any advantage: 31.Nxg8 Rxg8 32.Qd5) 31.Qf6+ Rg7 32.Qxe7 Qh5. White is down a piece, there is no perpetual, so the only thing he can do is... transpose to an endgame!

33.Qe8+! (the all-important intermediate check in order to deny the black rook the h7-square) 33...Kh7 (or33...Rg8 34.Qe5+ Qxe5 35.dxe5) 34.Qe5! Qxe5 35.dxe5.


If White included 24.0-0-0 Qh3! 25.Rxh7+ Bxh7 26.Nxh7 Qxh7 and then went for 27.Qe4, etc., his king would be standing on c1, allowing a rook trade by Rg1+ in the first place, and way too far from the f2-pawn, thus giving Black a decisive advantage.

Now, however, Black's best chance in to go for an equal rook ending by 35...Rg2 36.Ke2 Kg6 37.Kf3 Rg5 38.Rxh2 Rxe5.

Back to the game. After 24...Be7? the afore mentioned operation could give White a winning position: 25.Rxh7+! Bxh7 26.Nxh7 Qxh7 27.Qe4!



In order to defend against Rh1, the bishop must return, losing a lot of precious time: 27...Bd6 28.Rh1 Bh2, but after the simple29.Qg2 Rg8 30.Ng3 Bxg3 31.Rxh7+ Kxh7 32.Qh3+! aqueen and a pawn are stronger than two rooks. The computer prefers the more tactical30.Qxh2! Rg7 31.Nh6! and promises White an even greater advantage.

Radjabov outplayed Yuffa with White and was close to a victory with Black as well.


Yuffa - Radjabov


38...Rd1 39.Bf2 Rd2 40.Bg1 Rg2 41.Be3 Rxh2 or 39.Ba5 e3 40.Bxc7 Kf7! (some accuracy is necessary) 41.Ba5 Ke7 leaves White no hope.

Teimour figured that placing a rook behind a passed pawn is good enough.

38...Rd8 39.Ba5 Re8+. One could think that 39...e3 is the most direct way to a win, however, this is where miracles begin: 40.Bxc7 Rc8 (after 40...Re8+? 41.Kd6 e2 42.Ba5 Black even loses) 41.Kd6 (after 41.Ba5 Rxc6 42.Kd5 Rh6! 43.c6 Rxh2 the rook completes a tour round the world) 41...Rxc7 (otherwise the bishop returns toа5) 42.Kxc7 e2



43.Kb8! e1Q 44.c7 Qb1+ 45.Ka7! (a final finesse: White loses after 45.Ka8 Qh1+ 46.Kb8 Qxh2 or46.Ka7 Qc6 47.Kb8 Qb5+) 45...Qxf5 46.Kb8 Qb1+ 47.Ka7 Qf5 48.Kb8 Qe5 49.Kb7 Qd5+ 50.Kb8, and this is a draw.

40.Kd4 Re7 41.Bd2 Kf7 42.Bg5 Re8 43.Bf4



43...e3. The computer keeps fighting for a win by 43...Kf6 44.Bxc7 e3 45.Bg3 e2 46.Kd5 (46.c7 Rc8) 46...Rc8 47.Bh4+ Kf7 48.Be1 Rd8+ 49.Ke5 g3! 50.hxg3 (50.Bxg3 Rd3 51.Be1 Ke8!, but not 51...Ke7 52.Bh4+ Ke8 53.Ke6) 50...Ke7. This all begins to remind a study.

Radjabov, however, recalled that a draw seals him the match victory, and went for the most pragmatic continuation.

44.Bxe3 Kf6 45.Bf4 Rd8+ 46.Ke4 Re8+ 47.Kd5 Rd8+ 48.Ke4 (48.Kc4 Rc8)48...Re8+ 49.Kd5 Rd8+ 50.Ke4 Re8+. Draw.


Wesley So won an interesting and instructive rook ending in the first game against Vidit.


So - Vidit



The most accurate reply to 53.Rd7 is 53...Rc5. Black makes a draw in the pawn ending 54.Rd5 Rxd5 55.exd5 by55...Kf8! (55...Kf6? 56.f4 exf4+ 57.Kxf4 Ke7 58.Ke5 or 55...f6? 56.Kh4 are equally bad) 56.f4 (56.Kh4 Ke7 57.Kh5 Kd6 58.Kxh6 Kxd5 gains nothing) 56...f6! 57.fxe5 fxe5 58.Kf3 Ke7 59.Ke3 Kd7, and both kings can only look at the pawns, but cannot touch, I mean, approach them.

Vidit allows the opponent to regroup and carry out g4-g5, which made his defensive task much harder.

53...Kf8 54.Rd5 Re6 55.Rc5 Ke8 56.Kh4 Kf8 57.Kh5 Kg7 58.g5 hxg5 59.Kxg5 Rh6 60.Kf5 Rf6+ 61.Kxe5 Rxf3 62.Rc6.


62...Rh3? 62...f6+ 63.Kd5 (63.Ke6 Rf4) 63...f5 64.Rxa6 fxe4 65.Kxe4 Rh3 leads to a book draw. From now on So plays with extreme precision and never misses a chance.

63.Kd5! The rushed 63.Rxa6 Rh5+ 64.Kd4 allows Black to survive by making several only moves: 64...Rb5! 65.Ra8 Kh7!! 66.a6 Rb6! 67.Kc5 Re6! 68.Kb5 Re5+ 69.Kb6 Re6+ 70.Kb7 Re7+. On 65.e5 Black should also respond by 65...Kh7 (the mutual zugzwang position that arises after65...Kg8!? 66.Ra7 Kf8 should be left for endgame researchers and chess composers).

63...Rd3+ 64.Kc5 Re3 65.Kd4 Ra3 66.Rxa6 Ra1 67.e5. Soon White gave away the e5-pawn, won a rook for the a-pawn, and showed basic technique required for stopping the f-pawn.

Intricacies of rook endings kept bugging players on tie-breaks as well. Fortunately for the World Cup rating favorite Ding Liren, the final mistake of his first 25-minute game was committed by his opponent.


Ding Liren - Firouzja


57.Rb7? Question marks are awarded by the tablebases. Still it is a bit strange that Ding Liren rejected vertical cut. After 57.Kxb6 Rb4+ 58.Kxa5 Rxb3 59.Rf7 Kg6 60.Rf1 White can place a king on а8, put pawn on а7, and transfer a rook to b8. And if Black switches to frontal attack, the game ends as follows: 60...Re3 61.Kb5 Re5+ 62.Kc6 Re6+ 63.Kd5 Ra6 64.Ra1 Kf7 65.Kc5 Ke7 66.Kb5 Ra8 67.a5 Kd8 68.a6 Kc7 69.Rc1+! Kd7 (69...Kb8 70.Rh1 Ra7 71.Rh8+ Kc7 72.Rg8) 70.Rh1 Rb8+ 71.Ka5 Rb2 72.a7 Ra2+ 73.Kb6 Rb2+ 74.Kc5 Rc2+ 75.Kd4 Ra2 76.Rh8!, and White wins.

57...Rb4+ 58.Ka6 Rxb3 59.Rxb6 Rd3? Black draws by 59...Re3 (or 59...Rf3), preparing to check on the 7th rank when necessary: 60.Kxa5 Kf5 61.Kb5 (61.Ka6 Ke5 62.a5 Kd5 63.Kb7 Re7+) 61...Ke5 62.Kc6 Kd4 63.a5 Kc4 64.a6 Re6+ 65.Kc7 Re7+ 66.Kd6 Rh7. 59...Ra3 also works (taking an eye on the pawn) 60.Kxa5 Kf5 61.Kb5 Ke5 62.a5 Kd5.

60.Kxa5 Kf5


61.Ka6? White must push the black king by 61.Kb5 Ke5 62.Kc6! Kd4 63.a5 Rh3 64.a6 Rh6+ 65.Kb5 Rh5+ 66.Kb4.

61...Ke5 62.a5 Rd7? Missing the last chance: 62...Kd5 63.Kb7 (63.Kb5 Rb3+) 63...Kc5 64.Rc6+ Kb5 65.a6 Rd7+ with a draw.

63.Rc6 Kd5 64.Kb6 Rd8 65.a6 Rb8+ 66.Kc7 Ra8 67.Kb7 Black resigns.


We will conclude the report with a few more fragments of the tie-breaks.


Vachier - Lagrave-Jakovenko



42...Kf6?! The king should go in a different direction: 42...Kd6.

43.Bxb7 Bxa5? This could secure a draw as well as a match win, if White did not have the following trick:

44.Bd5! (threatening mate) 44...Rxf2+ 45.Kg1! e4 46.Ra6+ Black resigns.


Giri - Xiong



With his last move b7-b5 Black prepared a combination that could only be stopped by creating astrong opposing threat: 25.Qh3 Rxc3 26.Nxc3 Rxc3, and White can either force a draw by 27.Rxf7+ Kxf7 28.Qe6+ or try to scare the opponent to death by 27.Qe6, initiating crazy complications, which objectively also lead to an equality. 25...Nxd5 is safer, forcing the immediate draw by 26.Rxf7+ Kxf7 27.Qxh7+ Kf8 28.Qh8+.

25.f5? Rxc3! 26.Nxc3 Rxc3! 27.Qe2 (27.Qxc3 Nc4+ wins a queen) 27...Nc4+ 28.Ka1 Ne5, and Xiong celebrated a victory, joining Alekseenko and the main sensation makers of the Third Round.





White played 28.Rxf5? (28.Qf2), expecting 28...Ng4+ 29.Bxg4 Qxg4 30.Rf8+ Rxf8 31.Rxf8+ Kg7 32.Qf1 Rxh3+ 33.Qxh3 Qe2+ 34.Kg1 Kxf8.

However, Black had a different piece in mind. 

28...Qg4!! 29.Rf8+ (29.Bxg4 Nxg4#) 29...Rxf8 30.Rxf8+ Kg7 31.Rf7+ Kxf7 32.Qf1+ (32...Nf3+). White resigns.