13 February 2016
Brave Guardsmen Parade
Dmitry Kryakvin sums up the outcome of the Tata Steel 2016.
Time flies fast. The dust has barely settled on the grand chess festival in Holland, and the door is already being knocked at by an interesting experimental tournament in Zurich, organized by Oleg Skvortsov. Therefore, I will be very brief in summing up the outcome of the Wijk, but will devote attention to each participant nonetheless while at the same time paying tribute to our recent topic that we have opened in our review about Magnus Carlsen, namely the topic of playing with pawns.
Fabiano Caruana with 8 out of 13, sharing 2-3 places
Following the end of the last round the fandoms of Don Fabio and the reigning World Champion erupted with discussion on websites and social networks about evaluation of the Italian American’s performance. Indeed, was it a success or not? Caruana’s support team was painstakingly counting on the losses of their pet player, claiming that both in terms of positions and creative content of the Tata Steel games Fabiano looked preferable to Carlsen. The Norwegian talent’s fans, in their turn, pointed out to a number of games in which the Candidates Tournament participant could have found himself on the verge of defeat, not the least of them being the Carlsen - Caruana game itself.
Nevertheless, I will refrain from taking side with anybody. However, I would like to note at the same time that as opposed to other heavyweights of modern chess, which have won the right to play in Moscow, Fabiano really came to fight for the first place. Whether he succeeded or not, but every game saw him playing fearlessly, craving for the full-fledged combats. In immediate advance to the Candidates Tournament Fabiano tried to prove that his getting access to the match against an invincible chess Thor was historically justified.
Caruana – Eljanov
Although White is down a pawn, he anticipates developing initiative on the kingside. On the other hand, Black has a very powerful d5-knight, which not only does the good job of defending the king, but also has a secluded outpost on b4, from where he can disturb the enemy’s forces. By putting the queen on e8 Pavel prevented the 21.Qh5? shot, which would be met by 21...f5!
Possible is 21.Qg4, even though it carries no threat along with it, which would then be answered by 21…Rd8 with the idea of regrouping via Rd7, Qd7. Therefore Caruana launches his infantryman forward just in case that White might in future decide to set up his battery along the b1-h7 diagonal.
21.h4! Rd8 22.h5 Nb4 23.Bb1 Kh8!
Eljanov does not agree to a draw, while on the other hand the straightforward play for simplifications is counter-indicative for Black right now: 23...Rxd1+ 24.Rxd1 Qc8
The following line, taken from the ChessPro website, is characteristic of the position as a whole: 24...Bd5 25.Nf6+! gxf6 26.Qg4+ Kh8 27.exf6 Bxf6 28.Rxd5! – going the whole hog for the sake of lining up a cherished battery!
25.Nf6+, and now dubious is 25…Kh8 (25...gxf6 26.Qg4+ Kh8 27.Qf4 Kg7) 26.Rc1! Rd8 27.Rxc6, allowing White piling up on the h7-square in yet another instance.
Pavel performs way too stronger, surrounding his king with impenetrable defensive formations.
Again, following 24...Rxd1+ 25.Rxd1 Qc8 White as a minimum has 26.Bxh6 gxh6 27.Qe3 Kg7 28.Qg3+ with a draw at his disposal. After the subtle rook move the immediate threats are thwarted, while the exchange of heavy pieces is next item on the agenda. It was difficult for Fabiano to come up with any sensible move at all.
This is a correct decision! The bishop has trained his guns against the knight and prevents Black from "brushing the rooks away" from the board. At the same time an insidious trap is set, which Eljanov goes on to step into.
This loose rook move allows the American transforming the position to his benefit. Even though 25...Rd7!?, recommended by a number of commentators, would be a more precise move, the prophylactic overprotection was yet a more conceptual idea - 25...Qf8!, and if 26.Bc3, then 27…Rxd1+ 27.Rxd1 Bd5. While it is easier without rooks on the board, the extra pawn is still there for Black as well! My suspicion is that Aron Isayevich Nimtsovich would have been very happy to see the queen move.
It is not easy to calculate all the way to 26...Rxd1+ 27.Qxd1 Bxb4 28.Qd3 f5 29.exf6 gxf6 30.Nxf6 Rxg2+! 31.Kf1 Qe7 32.Rxc6 Rxf2+! in order to understand from afar that the white king cannot escape from harassment so as not to allow the black queen protecting the h7-square at that: 33.Kxf2 Qxf6+ 34.Ke2 Qe5+ with a draw. Moreover, at the time being Pavel Eljanov could still be unaware about the pending troubles that were in store for him.
Bad is 27...Bxd5 28.Rxc7 Bxb3 29.Qd3.
28...Qd7 29.Qd3 g6 30.Ne2 does not change much.
29.Re1 g6 30.Qg4
Right now Black’s position bears no symptoms of any incurable disease: he is both up material and a bishop pair advantage. But it was at this very moment of the battle that Eljanov started miscalculating and crumbled down almost instantly. Given the advantage of a bishop pair, exchanging queens was worth going in for: 30...Qe6?, without clinging to the extra pawn. But again, Pavel was most likely to have overlooked something in his calculations.
30…Qe7 31.Qd4 b6?
This is an error. The fearless gesture of Black runs into a spectacular combinational refutation. Meanwhile, an old-fashioned approach 31...Rg7 is stronger with any outcome of the game still possible.
What a disaster! 32...Rg7 runs into a thunder-like shot 33.exf7! Qxe1+ 34.Kh2 Qe7 35.hxg6, with no defense for Black: 35…Bf6 36.Nf5! Bxd4 37.Nxe7 Rxf7 38.gxf7 Kg7, and one of the bishops goes under either after 39.Nxc6 or after 39.Nf5+.
Although a base pawn is lost after 33...Bg5 34.Qxf7, Eljanov goes down even faster now that he has exposed himself along the key diagonal. The position sings a triumphal anthem to the wise Caruana’ pawn advance as early as moves 21 and 22.
35.Qc2!, and further loss of material was inevitable for Black.
35…Qc5 36.Qxc5 bxc5 37.Nf5 Rg8 38.exf7 Black resigns.
In general, even if the author of these lines were a chess reincarnation of Bubnov, he would still put Caruana an excellent mark for the tournament. Caruana’s TPR was transcendental!
Ding Liren with 8 out of 13, sharing 2-3 places
Ding Liren’s tournament performance completed his march towards the foot of the Mount Olympus and he has thus become rightly viewed as a warrior belonging to the elite cohort. Sharing the second place, featuring the current rating of 2777 (the lucky sevens!) and making it into the top ten world players – according to all indications the senior coach of China, the legendary grandmaster Yue is high time to organize a grand banquet in the heart of Beijing!
After his cooperation with the World Champion, although not such a lengthy one, the leader of the Eastern Army has started improving drastically before your eyes – his style has become much more versatile, a lot more technical, although his famous series of stunning punches and wild kicks against the enemy’s body have not ceased to take place. However, I must say that his victories over Adams, Eljanov and Karjakin were achieved in the endings rather than in any other part of the game.
A pawn storm is one of the favorite techniques of Ding Liren, while his ramming through Michael Adams’s queenside in the first round game can be yet another characteristic example of his play. However, the most striking demonstration of Ding’s powerful and bright performance is his encounter with Sergey Karjakin.
Ding Liren – Karjakin
Although I suspect that at this moment the Chinese chess player was still in his book, the following chain of moves will not leave indifferent a game admirer who knows to appreciate the beauty of chess.
Black’s defensive line is very solid, making it therefore unnecessary to resort to hara-kiri tactics: 17...Nxg4 18.Rg1 Ba6 19.Qe4! Nxf2 20.Qxc6+ Kf8 21.Rxg7!
Of course, no one is going to allow trading of queens: 18...Qd5 19.Qf4, so Sergei first starts with taking care of his king’s safety. Now White can win a pawn, which according to Karjakin’s justified reasoning could be taken back later.
19...Nd5 would have encouraged a direct assault after 20.h4 Qc7 21.Qe4 g6 22.h5, therefore the Russian player parts with his c6-infantryman to make his pieces more active.
20.Qe4 g6 21.Qxc6 Ra7 22.Be4?!
This is White’s only blot in this game! Even stronger was 22.Qb6! Qxb6 23.cxb6 Rb7 24.Be3 Rxb6 25.d5, and with all minor pieces still on board, the Muscovite’s task would have been even harder as the black rook is being tossed here and there under the enemy's blows while being charged with a responsible task of defending the e6-square.
22...Bb7 23.Qb6 Qxb6 24.cxb6 Bxe4 25.Rxe4 Rb7
Black wins his missing pawn back, but it’s Ding Liren’s move and he is in time with his central breakthrough.
Defense is a thankless job, even for such a brilliant master of defense, one of the best defenders of modern times as is Sergey Karjakin. Should the game have seen 26...Bd8 27.d5 exd5 28.Rxd5 Bxb6 29.Bxb6 Rxb6 30.Rxa5 f6, and White ended up winning after that, then the game comments would have said that 26... Rc8+! was a correct continuation.
Computer favors an alternative line, but it is clear that Sergei was not willing to give up on a pawn that simple. The compromised pawn structure of White on the kingside gives a handle for further counterplay, but White’s pieces are active whereas the black knight drags out a miserable existence on h5.
27.Kb1 Rxb6 28.d5 Rd6 29.Rd2 Kf8 30.dxe6 Rxe6 31.Rxe6 fxe6
Although Karjakin has retained material balance, his pieces are far from being consolidated and his pawn structure is weakened.
32...Rxc2 33.Kxc2 Bd8 34.Kd3 Ke7 35.Kc4 loses quickly.
33.Nd4 Ng7 34.Nc6 Rd1+ 35.Rc1 Rd5
Black has everything defended and lacks only a single tempo to reach a draw: 36.h4 Nf5. However, this time proves enough for White to hook up to the a5-pawn at one go.
36.Nxe7! Kxe7 37.Rc7+ Kf8
37...Rd7 38.Bb6 fails to help Black out.
It is impossible to hold the position together without summoning the king into the center: 38...Nf5 39.Rxd5 exd5 40.Bb6 Ne7 41.Bxa5 Nc6 42.Bc7.
39.Rxd5 exd5 40.Bb6
With his last move made prior to the start of the next time control the Russian pins his hopes on building up a fortress, which, alas, turns out to be one defensive rampart too short of impregnable. At first glance good saving chances were offered by 40...Ne6!? 41.Bxa5 (in the case of 41.h4 Kd6 42.Bxa5? Kc5 the bishop is trapped) 41...Nxg5 42.Bxb4+ Kd7 43.a4 Nf3 44.Bc5 Nxh2 45.b4 Nf3 - the White’s connected passed pawns require extensive assistance in their further promotion, whereas the Black’s rook passer is capable of rushing forward remarkably fast: h7-h5-h4-h3! That would have markedly complicated the process of conversion for White.
After the text move, however, Ding Liren had no problem converting his advantage.
41.Bxa5 Kc5 42.Bd8 Nf5 43.Kc2 Nd4+ 44.Kd3 Nf5
Now the h2-pawn will not be harassed because after: 44...Nf3 45.Ke3 Nxh2 46.Be7+ Kb5 47.Bd6, Black’s knight would be in a plight.
45.Bc7 Kc6 46.Bf4 Kc5 47.Be3+ Kb5
There is no straight breakthrough, but the white king can move to f4 to stretch Black’s defenses!
48.Ke2 Nh4 49.Bd2 Nf5
50...Kc5 51.Kf4 is also bad.
51.Kf4 Nc6 52.Be3 Ka6 53.Bc5 Kb5 54.Bd6 Ka5
54...Kb6 doesn’t help in view of 55.Ke3 Kb7 56.f4 Kc8 57.f5 gxf5 58.h4, and the defensive formations are crushed through. Sergey puts his king even further away, leaving Black down a tempo on top of that if compared to above-mentioned line.
55.Ke3 Black resigns.
One can easily imagine the Chinese player (we can now say that not only about Ding, but about Wei Yi as well) in the Candidates Tournament. Will it happen even as soon as the year 2017?
Anish Giri with 7 out of 13, sharing 4-6 places
The first super tournament of the year turned into a serious challenge for the main favorite of the field hosts. It revolved around Giri’s being knocked out in round one in a duel against Wesley So, followed by a hurricane home preparation of David Navara featuring a rook sacrifice and a forced win which was not discovered by Michael Adams who was playing with great enthusiasm against Anish. Despite all that Giri would not give in and eventually went on to show quite a decent result, finishing up "+1", just half a point below his rating-based expected result. In the middle of the distance Anish picked up his points against Mamedyarov and Van Wely and moved up into the top half of the tournament table.
Giri – Mamedyarov
This is a typical position, the payzone of which was largely tapped into during the second match between Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov. Which factor is going to prove weightier: the undeveloped Black’s queenside or the weak pawns of White? It is clear that Shakhriyar planned Rb8, Ne5, b6, but it is White on move, and the native of St. Petersburg found a way to turn his lone infantryman into a capable fierce battering ram!
This natural-looking move immediately landed the Azeri player into a streak of complications. Black’s position required tough approach to address the existing problems - 14...Be5
The ChessPro commentators posted up the following lines 15.Ba5 b6 16.Bxa8 Bxa1 and 15.c5 Bxa1 16.Ba5 b6 17.Bxa8 bxa5 18.Nxa1 Ne5, where Black obtains a decent position: 19.Bg2 Bd7 20.Nb3 (or 20.c6 Be8) 20...Ba4 – the white knights on b1 and а1 need more time to swing into the action.
I suspect that Giri could have tried a pawn sacrifice to lay siege to the queenside and restrict the c8-knight: 15.Bc3!? Qxc4 16.Qd1 Bxc3 17.Nxc3 Qb4 18.Rab1 Rb8, although the issue of evaluation of the final position remains open yet.
The pawn is invincible because after: 15...Nxc5 16.Nxc5 Be5 17.Qa4 Bxa1 18.Nb3, the minor pieces are superior to the rook.
The black army is paralyzed and preventive measures fail to help out either - 16...Nd5 17.Na3, therefore making Shakhriyar to resort to the shock therapy measures.
17.c6 Nf8 18.Nc3 Ng6 19.Rab1 Qe7
Bad is 19...Bxd4 20.exd4 Rxd4 21.Be3 Rc4 22.Qe2 or 19...Ne8 20.Ne4, but now White ends up winning the exchange.
20.c7! Qxc7 21.Nc6, and Anish went on to convert his advantage.
Say what you will, but Giri’s losses are extremely rare, and due to the even nature of his play (not to mention his individual score against Carlsen) he is one of the most dangerous in the Moscow eight.
Pavel Eljanov with 7 out of 13, sharing 4-6 places
Great influence on the overall result of the World Cup semi-finalist was caused by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov’s rook that went under in the most cynical of ways, but in other games the capricious Fortune sometimes deprived of its attention the Ukrainian grandmaster, who performed with great desire and persistence, displaying a meaningful type of game... and getting closer to the top 10 players of the world!
Adams – Eljanov
In our today’s review we have only a single case of the "Berlin", but an interesting one at that. The position is a classical one and goes back to the times when the leading players, apart from Vladimir Kramnik and Alexei Aleksandrov, were just learning to handle this bizarre ending. It was back then, in 2008, that Eljanov fell victim to Alexander Grischuk after 13... Be7 14.Kg2 h5 15.f3 hxg4 16.hxg4 f5 17.exf6 gxf6 18.Bf4, and it is along these lines that the famous ending Jakovenko - Wang Yue proceeded, which had been analyzed by the native of Nizhnevartovsk up to a forced win!
However, time has passed and one of the authors of the book, because of whom thousands of children and adults around the world have stopped playing 1.e2-e4, showed the right path to the proponents of the "Berlin".
Black has an excellent position after 14.g5 f6! 15.exf6 gxf6 16.Ne4 fxg5 17.Bxg5 Bxg5 18.Nxg5 Ke7 19.Re1+ Kf6 20.h4 Bf5, but Adams seeks to limit the c8-bishop’s scope while keeping in mind his old game against the Chinese player.
This is yet another blow to undermine White’s pawn chain with the aim of extending the scope for the bishops. The Chinese played 14...Be6 15.Kg2 Rd8 16.Be3 Be7 17.b3 hxg4 18.hxg4 Rxd1 19.Rxd1 a6 20.Ne2 b6 21.c4 Rh7 22.Bf4 b5 23.Nd4 Bd7 24.Rc1 c5 25.Ne2 bxc4 26.bxc4 g5 27.Bd2 Rh6 28.Nc3 Rb6 29.Rc2 Re6 30.Nd5 Bd8 31.Bc3, as in Adams - Jianchao Zhou, 2007, and was confronted with difficulties. Indeed, Black allowed White materializing all his ideas.
15.exf6 gxf6 16.Ne2 Kf7 17.b3
The game Sutovsky - Lysyj, 2015 saw 17.Bf4 hxg4 18.fxg4 f5 19.g5 Be6 20.Nd4 Rag8 21.Nxe6 Kxe6. Although Igor ended up winning a pawn, the activity of Emil’s pieces proved sufficient for a draw. And in any case, the ACP president, with his vivid style of play, could easily write a book "The Theory of Sacrifice-2" or "The Theory of Sacrifice 100 years later," so he probably viewed the loss of a pawn as nothing out of the ordinary.
Exchanging on g4, followed by the immediate f6-f5 advance was a possibility, but the inclusion of Re8-Nf4 does not change much.
18.Nf4 hxg4 19.fxg4 f5 20.Rf1!?
Michael attempts to indirectly defend his g4-bastion, preventing the bishop diagonal from opening up, but apart from the potential discovered check there are no special resources for White other than that.
20…Bf6! 21.Rb1 Bd4+
This is a significant inaccuracy. Equal game was to be maintained by 22.Kg2! fxg4 23.hxg4, since 23…Bxg4? fails to 24.Nd3+ Kg6 25.Rf4 (ChessPro).
It is difficult to guess, but could it be that Michael failed to calculate that 23.Nd5+? fails to 23…Kg6 24.Nxc7 Re2 25.Nxa8 g3, with mate to follow? A rather more plausible version of events, from my point of view, seems to be that the Englishman embarked on a subtle game with the aim of exchanging the dark-squared bishops and activating his rooks, but underestimated the maneuverability of a very unexpected involvee...
23...Bxb2 24.Rxb2 Re3! 25.c4
White cannot go for 25.hxg4 Bxg4, since the discovered check falls victim to the counterstrike 26…Bf3+!
25...Rf3 26.Rxf3 gxf3
By exchanging rooks Eljanov got rid of the heavy battery that was lined up against his king, and now Adams can win the f3-pawn back. Is it a draw? No! An unexpected "factor wearing a crown" makes its way into the stage!
27.Rf2 Bf5 28.Kh2 Be4 29.Nd3!
29...Ke6! 30.Ne1 Kd6! 31.Kg3 Kc5
This feeling of king is just fantastic! His Majesty writes his own history, profiting from the absence of his counterpart and heading at full speed towards the queenside to treat himself to a phalanx of white pawns.
32.Nxf3 Kb4 33.Kf4 Bb1
Pavel Eljanov’s inventive play has created serious problems for White, and it was before long Michael Adams started giving away his queenside pawns one by one. The victory was close, but... Here, I'll follow the lead of my colleague and old friend Sergey Shipov. When commenting on the Higher League games in Kaliningrad, Sergey was going over one of the endings, the first part of which was handled in a very creative and instructive manner, whereas the second part was teeming with errors. And then, in order not to spoil the overall impression, Sergey gravely stated, “We will refrain from going into the second part!" Therefore, I too will give up on savoring the time trouble errors so as to let your memory capture that spectacular king raid!
Wesley So with 7 out of 13, sharing 4-6 places
Following his brilliant victory over Anish Giri in the initial game, Wesley was looked upon as one of the tournament favorites. But, all of a sudden, the former Filipino started demonstrating the miracles of a too solid type of play with 12 half points in a row to follow! Whether he, being extremely sensitive to everything mystical, was overwhelmed with the spirit of Tigran Vartanovich, or so was the new American’s manner of seeking to take moral revenge for being defeated in the last round in Qatar so as to prove himself that if he does not want to, he would lose to no-one! Even against Adams, Van Wely and Hou Yifan, being the participants who would be attacked fiercely as if they were a red rag to a bull, Wesley So behaved with restraint. He did not leave a lot for the author of these lines to choose from in terms of his creative achievements.
So – Giri
The sight of the black knight on a7 does not look too aesthetically pleasing, but Giri’s position does not yet seem to have any objective reasons for panic from the human player point of view - you can set your pawns along the white squares followed by slow regrouping of your pieces. However, following a series of precise moves by So, there is no more time for it left.
White has to advance his pawn further to f4, because opening up of the center after 19...b5 20.Ne2 h5 21.f4 threatened Black with potential occupation of the weakened e6-square. With the utmost reluctance Anish opens the diagonal for the enemy bishop.
20.Bh3 b5 21.Ne2!
This is a great move that puts Black up against a choice of questions without any correct answers.
21...fxg3 22.fxg3 doesn’t look great, whereas after 21...g5 22.Be6+ Kh7 23.hxg5 hxg5 24.f3 Bh6 25.Kf2 the light squares are significantly weakened. As a best alternative, the engine suggests a dubious piece sacrifice 21...Kh7 22.gxf4 Nxd5!? 23.exd5 Qxh4 24.Kg2 exf4 25.Ng1 Qg5+ 26.Kh1 b4, however, the first computer-unaided impression is that Black is simply a piece to the bad.
The Dutch grandmaster attempted to drive a pawn wedge on f3, but So calculated further than that and correctly assumed that he would be in time to uproot the bold pawn.
21…f3 22.Nc1 h5
Black has to lose more time since 22...a4 fails to 23.Bg4.
23.Nb3 a4 24.Na1!
This study-like pirouette of the knight places the thorn-in-the-flesh pawn on the verge of annihilation. 24...Kh7 25.Nc2 Rf7 26.Ne1 Qf8 27.Be6 Rf6 28.Bg5 leaves Black with no chances; however, a desperate attempt to create imbalance on the opposite flank is clearly suppressed by Wesley.
24…b4 25.axb4 cxb4 26.Qxa4 Nac6 27.Qd1 Nd4 28.Nc2 Nxc2
Following 28...Ne2+ 29.Kh2 Qb6 30.Ne1 Nd4 31.Be3 yet another black infantryman goes under, but after the text move the struggle didn’t last long either.
29.Qxc2 Rb8 30.Rfc1 Rb7 31.Qb3 Kh8 32.Rc4, and So celebrated his victory shortly after.
The game leaves a profound impression, and there is little doubt that sooner or later the native of the Philippines is going to claim his rights in the world championship contest. However, it had better taken place after the 2016 Olympiad, in which the Russian team will not only be faced off with the Chinese, but also with the mighty miracle-triumvirate Caruana-Nakamura-So.
Wei Yi with 6,5 out of 13, sharing 7-8 places
Participation of the Chinese prodigy in Wijk-aan- Zee was anticipated with a great deal of interest. Chess admirers all over the world compared the ascent diagrams of Wei Yi and Magnus Carlsen in an attempt to understand whether it is Wei the Seventeenth (according to the Gregorian calendar) that we see in the face of the eastern genius. It appears that the parallels with the history of the World Champion were also drawn by the young Chinese himself. As is well known, the startup performance of Carlsen in Holland was not especially shiny; therefore the debutant was pointedly aiming at to achieving a decent result. It looks as though Caissa was not too much impressed with it, punishing a young man with a zero in the game against Caruana. However, alongside with a multitude of draws (some of which were made in position that looked promising to Wei Yi) there stands out a furious assault, the victim of which was David Navara.
Wei Yi – Navara
This is a popular tabiya of the Anti-Berlin, which White plays with a checkmate thinking according to the most up-to-date interpretation.
An attempt to launch an assault with the help of another pawn move yielded the former World Champion no significant dividends: 10.g4 Nf8 11.Ne3 Ne6 12.Nf5 a5! 13.h4 a4 14.Ng5 a3 15.b3 Bc5 16.Nxe6 Bxe6 17.Qf3 Bf8 18.Ke2 c5 19.c4 Ra6, as in Anand - Giri, 2015, and a timely Black's counterplay did not allow his counterpart launching a direct offensive…
This very position was tested in yet another game from the main Tata Steel tournament of this year. Sergey Karjakin preferred abiding by the classical patterns: 10...Nf8 11.h5 Ne6 12.0–0–0 c5 13.Qf1 f6 14.Nh4 Nd4 15.c3 Nc6, as in Caruana – Karjakin, 2016, and eventually went on to keep Don Fabio in check.
David Navara opted for mounting his knight on d4 via the bypass route via b8, but in a practical game this plan proved dangerous, to put it mildly.
11.h5 h6 12.0–0–0 Nb8?
This is a nearly decisive error! Black should have undertaken an immediate blockade of the g2-pawn advance via 12...Nf6 13.Ne3 Ng4.
A more stubborn continuation, even though not the one that puts a stop on the kingside onslaught, would be 13...Bg4 14.Ne3 Qc8 15.Rh4 Be6 16.g4 f6 17.Nf5 – and the g4-g5! is in the air again. David brings the knight back into the game, showing his fear of nothing. But Wei Yi will not be confused or misled. The young Chinese military leader sends forward a regiment of soldiers with loaded assault rifles in their hands.
14.g4 f6 15.g5! fxg5 16.Nxg5 Nd4
Black is busted immediately after 16...hxg5 17.Bxg5 Be7 18.Bxe7 Qxe7 19.h6 g5 20.Qh5 g4 21.Ne3. Navara’s idea in the above line was to protect the g5-pawn by placing his knight on e6, underestimating the strong 19-th move of White.
17.Qd1 hxg5 18.Bxg5 Be7 19.Be3!
This is an elegant retreat prior to launching a decisive breakthrough. No good is 19... Kh7 20.Nxe5, so the Czech grandmaster‘s response is forced.
19…Bf6 20.h6 Re7
20...g5 21.Bxg5 Bxg5+ is refuted by 22.f4! exf4 23.Qh5.
21.hxg7 Rxg7 22.Qh5 Be6
The tough computer’s first line is 23.Qh8+ Kf7 24.Rxg7+ Bxg7 25.Nxe5+ Bxe5 26.Rh7+! Kg6 27.Rh6+ Kf7 28.Qxe5, although several other moves win as well. Black will not survive the ordeal with his so much exposed king. Wei Yi found a continuation that ended up winning a piece, and stopped looking for more.
23...Bf7 24.Bxg7 Bxh5 25.Bxf6+ Kf8 26.Bxd8 Ne2+ 27.Kb1 Nxg1 28.Bxc7 Black resigns.
We will return to the creative works of the Chinese prodigy once again when narrating about Hou Yifan.
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov with 6,5 out of 13. 7-8 places
To find pawn breaks and pawn marches in the creative works of such a brilliant master of dynamic play as Shakhriyar Mamedyarov proved to be nothing short of a challenge. The Azerbaijani player is so efficient in deploying his pieces that pawns as such are often unnecessary to achieve a victory, or, to be precise, they have a role of marginal participants. As you know, in this tournament Shah confidently fought fire with fire against the modern leaders of the world chess, easily equalizing as Black with Carlsen, and should only Mamedyarov have won his game against Eljanov instead of losing it... However, the reverse used to be the case also.
Mamedyarov – Karjakin
The Queen's Gambit Accepted is not too frequent a guest in the nowadays elite players’ practice, but as of recently Sergey has been employing it on a fairly regular basis. The disputes as to whether the isolani is strong or weak run like a golden thread through the works of the whole chain of champions and world title candidates. Suffice it to recall such events as the Zukertort – Steinitz and Botvinnik – Petrosian matches and the London battle between Kramnik and Kasparov. I would like to add that the majority of structures that caught on in the XXI century are based on the ideas and inventions of the head coach of the Russian women's national team Sergei Rublevsky.
11.Qd2 Na5 12.Bc2 b5 13.Rad1
The smart Tkachev-Kramnik idea 13.Qf4!? is parried by 13...Bb7 14.Rad1 g6 15.Bh6 Nh5 16.Qg4 Re8 17.Rfe1 Rc8 18.Bd3 Bf8 19.Bxf8 Rxf8 20.a3 Nc4, as in Moiseenko - Rublevsky 2012, and is no longer attractive for White.
An impressive victory of Vladimir Borisovich after 13...Nc4 14.Qf4 Ra7 15.Ne5 Rc7 16.Nxc4 bxc4 17.Bxf6 Bxf6 18.d5, as in Kramnik – Anand, 2002 resulted in Black’s finding the only correct order of moves. Yet another indecisive move and the legacy of Steinitz and Petrosian will triumph, therefore no procrastination should be tolerated any longer.
Recently I have been reading a funny book which says that this breakthrough was first seen in the game Spassky - Avtobotov (!!!). “…Dear programme maker, would reactors not be safer?... ” (a line taken from Vladimir Vysotsky’s poem “A letter to the TV program “Incredible But True””). Well, what about Avtonomov, is he missing or something?
14…exd5 15.Rfe1 Rc8 16.Bf5 Rc7 17.Qf4
This whole line for White was put to an evaluation test in 2013 by a young Austrian grandmaster Markus Ragger. Of course, Marcus’s game was later dissected in the laboratory of Professor Karjakin, upon which Sergey’s lab assistants derived a formula, enhancing the game of the Ragger’s opponent Allan Rasmussen.
17…Nh5 18.Qh4 Bxg5 19.Nxg5?
In response to 19.Qxh5 (Ragger) rather than playing 19…h6 it is more precise to go for 19…g6! 20.Qxg5 Qxg5 21.Nxg5 gxf5 22.Nxd5 Bxd5 23.Rxd5 Rc2, and the draw is knocking at the door. The last move by White looks more like a fruit of Shakhriyar’s improvisation, who wanted to avoid a boring draw and an overly dull ending.
White’s commendable tenacity could have been given an exemplary punishment: 19...g6! 20.Bg4 (20.g4 h6) 20...h6 21.Nf3 Qxh4 22.Nxh4 Nf6 simply ending up a pawn to the good! But the Russian pardoned his partner.
19...h6? 20.Qxh5 Qxg5 21.Qxg5 hxg5 22.Nxd5 Bxd5 23.Rxd5 g6, and the game ended in a draw anyway.
Thus, Shakhriyar wound up scoring fifty percent. On the one hand, the lineup is strong, but on the other hand does the result measure up to his talent and potential? Grandmaster Pavel Smirnov’s favourite saying goes, "Neither good ... nor bad... Just OK!"
Sergey Karjakin with 6 out of 13. 9th place
Sergey Karjakin’s performance is a topic for another conversation. In his recent interviews the Russian grandmaster has repeatedly stressed his self-confidence and a sense of being prepared for the Candidates Tournament. He does not make a secret of his desire to take the first place, and considers the outcome of his match against Magnus Carlsen to be unclear. Karjakin is a player of immense talent and great willpower. Examples of his games in the second round of the Candidates Tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk and in the latest World Cup give us an insight into Sergey’s capabilities of snatching a victory in the nick of time when the game does not go well and the rivals are extremely strong. After all, one of the national team leading scorers won two Stavanger tournaments in a row!
However, in Wijk-aan-Zee Sergey Karjakin made no claims to the World Champion title neither in terms of the overall tournament results, nor in terms of the quality of his games such as, for example, the below discussed game against Michael Adams. However, the Russian fans should not lose their hearts all too early. Experience has shown that the most ambitious of victories were scored by one of our candidates following the tournaments that touched him to the quick. I hope it to be the case now, so that "-1" in the Netherlands will be followed by Sergey’s powerful plus in Moscow.
Karjakin – Tomashevsky
What happened on the board bears close similarity to the Karpov - Timman game from the famous "Montreal Stars." Same lack of counterplay for the weaker side, same mysterious prophylactic maneuvers of the stronger side, followed by the terminal collapse of the defensive ranks according to the principle of "better die quickly than from suffocation."
Now you can immediately take the bull by the horns - 23.Ndf5, but Sergey does not give his national teammate even as much as a ghost of a hope for counterplay.
Black could reroute his bishop into action via 23...Bb6, but then what? 24.Qf2 Bc5 25.Bc2 Ba7 (the heavy pieces will not move: 25...Re7? 26.Ndf5) 26.Kh1 Bb6 27.Qd2, and Black is in bad shape. Tomashevsky continues marking his time.
24...Nc5 25.Bc2 makes no sense at all since there is no follow-up for Black, while the piece on с5 is going to fall under a pawn attack.
25.Nf3! Re7 26.Kh1 Kh8
Karjakin has made all his useful moves and it’s anybody’s guess how disgusted it must have been for Evgeny to have to handle a position like that!
Nothing is achieved by 26...Rde8 27.Nd2 and Black is hard to come up with any useful move once again.
27.Bc2 Ree8 28.b4 axb4 29.axb4
Having deployed his pieces into ideal squares, the native of Moscow embarks on a queenside offensive. Upon opening up of the a-file the rook infiltration is in the air: 29...Kg8 30.Ra1. Tomashevsky was unwilling to go on keeping a low profile for as long as his execution was going to last and tried to bail out at the cost of a pawn, which worsened his situation significantly, however.
29…d5? 30.e5 Ne4 31.Bxe4 dxe4 32.Rxd8 Rxd8 33.Bc5! Qe8 34.Rxe4 Ne7 35.Nd4 b6 36.Bd6 Bxd6, and Black resigned without waiting for his opponent’s reply in view of the line 37.exd6 Rxd6 38.Qe2 Be6 39.f5, winning a piece.
David Navara with 5,5 out of 13, sharing 10-11 places
It does not really matter how many points were scored by David Navara! Such bright players, utterly devoted to chess, would adorn any super tournament. Our game needs them! Navara, Luke McShane, Baadur Jobava... These grandmasters will not cling to their ratings and are known to appreciate the fighting spirit and the beautiful ideas above anything else!
In Wijk-aan-Zee the leading Czech player failed to cope with the invasion from the East, losing not only the already analyzed game to Wei Yi, but to Hou Yifan as well. However, it is the consistent and powerful play of David in his encounter with Fabiano Caruana that mattered for the World Champion’s superiority in the overall number of points at the home stretch of the event. Navara’s offensive would not weaken even when there remained only very few pieces on board. Sometimes it seemed that even if the opposing sides were to be left with the lonely kings, even then the chess knight would have still found a way to put the American up against definite problems!
Navara – Caruana
Can Black salvage this position still? The white pieces dominate the board, and as soon as they form a striking force, "king, rook, bishop and passed pawn", Black will have a hard time to go through. "Ahead with united forces!" is a principle of handling the winning endings that was recommended as far back as a hundred years ago by Savely Tartakower.
Strange as it may seem, but the defensive resources have not been exhausted yet: 49...Kd8!, upon which the direct attempts to breakthrough yield no fruits: 50.h5 Rh6 51.Bf3 g5! 52.a5 bxa5 53.Rxa5 Re6+ 54.Kd4 Rf6 or 50.c5!? bxc5 51.a5 h5!
From the psychological point of view Fabiano’s desire to reduce the amount of material on the board is quite understandable, but now David demonstrates the winning path in the best traditions of... the Czech school of composition chess! The position is material-effective, with no idle pieces on the board for White.
50.a5! bxa5 51.c5 Kd8 52.h5!
In the case of 52.c6 Bxc6 53.Bxc6 Rg6 Black would have had decent chances of trading off the last pawn of White’s. Now the cage is trapped.
52...f4 53.Kd6 Bc8 54.c6 Rg5
55.Bf7 with inevitable mate to follow.
Evgeny Tomashevsky with 5,5 out of 13, sharing 10-11 places
The grandmaster from Saratov has been experiencing certain decline in the recent years, and I do want to believe it to be of a temporary nature and that we will soon witness the former mighty Evgeny Tomashevsky back, who used to qualify into the World Cup semi-finals and was on the verge of being qualified into the Candidates Tournament out of the Grand Prix series. We should pay tribute to endurance and stamina of the Russian Champion because following the severe blows from Karjakin, Carlsen and Ding Liren he did manage to pull himself together to score a consolation last minute goal to Caruana. As no-one dares to face Evgeny in the King's Indian defense, the Russian had to take his point by resorting to the Nimzo-Indian.
Tomashevsky – Caruana
A knight on the rim is known to be dim, while the same is true about the bishop, and even more so indeed! The proof of this old rule was not at all problematic for Evgeny.
15.Bxd5 Qxd5 16.e4!
White could win a pawn in the following way: 16.exd4 Qb3 17.Nxa7, leaving the question of trapping the bishop on the agenda, but Tomashevsky was reluctant about spoiling his perfect pawn musculature.
This is an attempt to muddy the waters. In the case of 16...d3 17.exd5 dxe2 18.Nxe2 Nxd5 White simply grabs a piece via 19.b4 (White may as well begin with 19.Nxa7) 19...Naxb4 20.axb4 Bxb4 21.Nxa7 and should gradually prevail in the subsequent struggle.
17.Bg5 Rc4 18.Rbd1 d3
18...Nc7 19.Nxd4, 18...Rd8 19.e5 or 18...e5 19.Bxf6 gxf6 20.Nf5 just look very grim for Black.
A more clear-cut path to a win would be 20.Bxf6 gxf6 21.Nd4 Qc4 22.Qe3, inevitably followed up by b2-b4 and coupled with White’s launching an offensive against the weakened formations of the black king. However, Tomashevsky’s plan is not hard to understand since he saw that he could win an exchange and stopped looking for more, basing on a principle that enough is as good as a feast.
20...Qxb2 21.Bxc5 Nxc5 22.Qe2 White took long time to convert his advantage, but that day Carlsen was at ease since his competitor’s position was lost beyond any hope of recovery.
Michael Adams with 5 out of 13, sharing 12-14 places
If anyone should be disappointed with the outcome of the Wijk-aan-Zee tournament, it should be the classic of the English Chess School with a horde of ideas, many interesting master plans, great number of promising positions... and such annoying collapses, due to which Adams at some point used to be a lonely tailender. At the finish Michael pulled himself together, delivering a heavy defeat over Karjakin and nearly knocking out Giri, but it proved enough only in terms of not finishing up the competition unaccompanied on the last line. So it goes, the age of 44 is no laughing matter after all. While looking at the performance of his largely historical rival Vishy Anand in Gibraltar, the “Spiderman” could be convinced that his performance was indeed not the worst one after all...
Karjakin – Adams
The idea of resorting to the London system (the Bf4 system acquired its historical name prior to Gata Rustemovich and Boris Pavlovich, being its most fervent of proponents, advanced to the forefront of chess) against the resident of London was not the most successful one, whereas Sergey was far from achieving the same effect as was reached by Carlsen against Tomashevsky. Moreover, it is White who needs to use caution because his f4-pawn will not move in the reverse direction, meanwhile the weakness of the e4-square may be capitalized upon by Black!
The chain of emotional decisions has a gradual effect of putting White on the brink of disaster. The last time I checked, nobody has yet canceled the pragmatic need in sheltering the king by short castling it 13.0-0, but the Russians undoubtedly craved combat, longing to overtake those in the leading group...
13...Nd6! 14.g5 Nfe4 15.0–0–0 c4
For his part Michael has given a very methodical treatment to the central squares and prepared to punish Karjakin for the daring three zeros.
Even though the World Cup winner has clearly underestimated the swiftness with which his royal defensive lines will be crashed into, even following 16.Bxe4 dxe4 17.Qe2 b5 18.h4 Qa5 it would be Black to remain the stronger side.
The last opportunity to defend was 17.Be1 (ChessPro), although the setup after 17...a5 18.h4 b4 would have found very few, if any, of those willing to lay their bets on the position of the native of Moscow. Sergey pins his hopes on doubling up his heavy pieces along the h-file, but it’s nothing but dreams, mere dreams...
17...b4 18.Nxe4 dxe4 19.Be1 Bd5!
This is an excellent move - the bishop is no longer in the way of his own pieces, whereas in the line after 20.cxb4 a5! 21.bxa5 c3! 22.Bxc3 Nb5 Black, having hardly shed any blood, starts smashing the shop windows, behind which the white king has up to recently been quietly engaged in his marketing transactions.
20.Rg1 b3 21.axb3 cxb3 22.Bb1 f5!
This is a finishing touch: unlike in the 22...Qa5 23.Rg4 continuation, any illusions that the light warrior might have cherished until this moment start going south.
23.gxf6 Bxf6 24.Rg4 Nf5
The game did not last long with the white queenside laying in ruins, all key squares being in the hands of White’s opponent, and all white pieces discoordinated.
25.Kd2 Qa5 26.Ke2 Bxe5 27.dxe5 Rad8 28.Kf2 Qa1 29.Bd2 Bc4 30.Qh5 Qxb2 31.Ke1 Rxd2, and Sergey Karjakin stopped the clock.
Hou Yifan with 5,5 out of 13, sharing 12-14 places
The former World Champion and number one in the Women’s Elo rating has created a starting sensation with 3.5 out of 6 and undefeated! Evil tongues say that further progress of Hou was as if jinxed by the arrival of Judith Polgar in Wijk-aan-Zee, with whom the Chinese is struggling in absentia for the right to be called the greatest woman in the history of chess. As soon as the legendary Hungarian opened the seventh round that Maria Muzychuk’s opponent for the match in Lviv began losing game after game. Even in that ill-fated queen ending against Carlsen, which later transposed into pawn ending, it looked as if some external forces prevented the female chess player from reaching a draw.
Meanwhile, during the first six rounds Hou Yifan was indeed as good as any representative of the famous "2750+" club. Moreover, even her fellow countrymen barely escaped punishment from the supposedly weaker sex.
Hou Yifan – Wei Yi
There is nothing wrong to be said about the quiet continuation 13.Ned2, apart from it giving Black enough time to deploy his pieces with feeling, wit and punctuation. Instead, Hou Yifan sacrifices a pawn and starts breaching the citadel of black monarch with the rook pawn.
13...Nxc5 14.Qxc5 Bxa2 15.h4! Bb3
In the case of 15...Nd5 neither 16.Ra1 Nxf4 nor 16.Be5 Qb6! look promising, but there is an opportunity to transpose into an opposite-colored bishop middlegame: 16.Qa3 Nxf4 17.Qxa2+ Nd5 18.h5 with sharp play.
16.Ra1 Nd5 17.Be5
It becomes clear along the way that Black cannot exchange queens because after 17... Qb6 18.Ra3 the bishop is trapped! Wei Yi has to invest time into the efforts at rescuing his lieutenant bogged down in the Cambodia forests.
17…a5! 18.h5 Nb4 19.Bb1
The bishop retreats until better times because the exchanges 19.Bc4+ Bxc4 20.Qxc4+ Qd5 favor the one who stands better from the material point of view.
19...Bd5 20.Bxg7 Kxg7 21.Ne5 Qd6 22.Qc3
To be objective, despite the seeming allure of Hou’s idea, White lacks full compensation for the missing pawn. The former world champion’s army cannot be described as superbly mobilized and prepared for direct confrontation – she might at best boast about exercising control over the black squares. In short, Wei Yi had every reason to try to play for a win. For example, 22...g5 23.h6+ Kh8, and in this position Yifan was most likely to give a try to 24.f3. However, the prodigy did not go for it and in the subsequent game found himself on the verge of defeat.
22…Be4!? 23.Bxe4 fxe4 24.Rh4 Nd5?!
Black opts for the line of least resistance yet another time. Why was it that Wei Yi, being a superb tactician as he is, shied away from the principled continuation 24...Qf6? Let’s go on with the line: 25.h6+ Kg8 26.Rf4 Qg5 27.Rxa5! Rxa5
White is worse neither after 27...Nd3+ 28.Ke2 Nxf4+ 29.exf4 nor after 27...Nd5 28.Qa3 Rxa5 29.Rxf8+ Kxf8 30.Qxa5 Qxh6 31.Qa8+
28.Qxb4 Rb5 29.Qc4+ Rd5 30.Rxf8+ Kxf8 31.Qa4 Qxh6 32.Qa8+ Kg7, and now both after 33.Qxb7 Qh4 or 33.Qe8 Rхe5 34.dхe5 Qg5 Black would have retained reasonable chances for success.
Instead, the Chinese hope seeks a draw in the ending that proved rather precarious.
Black could still go for 25...g5! 26.h6+ Kh8.
26.Qxb4 axb4 27.Rxa8 Rxa8 28.hxg6 hxg6 29.Rxe4 Nf6 30.Rh4
In hindsight it's clear that White has no problems defending the b2-pawn, whereas all Black’s pawns are weak and it the latter that is beginning to tell. However, Wei Yi harnessed his willpower and, having to go through the defense of his life, ended up making a draw after all.
Loek Van Wely with 5 out of 13, sharing 12-14 places
The famous Dutch grandmaster, unless something extraordinary happens next year, will crack the record of the legendary Hein Donner in terms of the number of performances in Wijk-aan-Zee. This time, as well as many years in a row before, Loek has admirably well done his job of being a goat Timur in relation to so many Amur tigers. As soon as any of the chess powers that be would dare hover his mighty claws above Van Wely, he (or she) would instantly get back a strike with horns. Alas, the brave host failed to bring home a victory in his game against Carlsen that was going so well for him up to a certain moment, whereas the victory over Hou Yifan was achieved solely via piece maneuvering. Therefore, this review is concluded by a game in which the pawns were committed to attack against Loek by his opponent, while Van Wely responded courageously by making headway and driving the formidable predator out of his established habitat.
Van Wely – Navara
This is a so-called “Two Novosibirsk presidents’ attack”. This pawn advance was first seen in one of the old games played by Alexander Semenovich Khasin: 8.h4 Be6 9.Nc3 Bxc3!? 10.bxc3 Qd7 11.Re1 Rc8, Skomorokhin – Khasin, 1989. “Musketeers 20 years later” was redeemed to life by his student and heir to presidency Pavel Maletin: 8...Nf6 9.Nc3 0–0 10.Bg5 Bg4 11.f3 Be6 12.e4 Bc4 13.Re1 d5! as in Serov - Maletin, 2009, in which Black prevailed yet another time.
Loek meets the pawn advance in a more modest fashion, without weakening the g4-square, but also hits a bad patch.
8.h3 Be6 9.e4
In the game Petrosian - Mirumian, 2010 there followed 9.N1d2 Qd7 10.Kh2 h4 11.g4 f5 12.g5 Bf7 13.f4 e5, and it was only the timely draw offer that saved Tigran from a great deal of headache.
9...Qd7 10.Kh2 f5! 11.exf5 gxf5
Navara developed serious initiative only after some ten moves since the start of the game, making it hard for White to bail out.
12.N1d2 h4! 13.gxh4 Nf6 14.Nf3 Ne4 15.Bg5 Bc4 16.Re1
This is not the pawn! In the hunt for material bonuses David ignores the safety of his own ruler, who would be better off being evacuated from the burning house in the center of the board: 16...Nxf2! 17.Qd2 Ne4 18.Qe3 0-0-0 with a substantial edge.
This is yet another imprecise move upon which the cheered Dutchman sacrifices his queen, getting rid of the positional bind along the way! 17...Bxa1 18.Qxa1 is nothing to be recommended, but a calmer continuation 17...Nxg5 18.hxg5 Bf7 19.Rb1 Bg7 would have left Black with definite chances of securing advantage.
18.Nxc4 Nxd1 19.Raxd1 Bg7 20.Nxd6+ Kf8 21.Nb5!
In the advanced calculations White's initiative in this position could hardly be anticipated as something substantial. It is clear that the c7-square (21.Nc4 Qc7+) should not be conceded to the black queen.
21...Qc8 22.Bf4 Bf6 23.Nc7 e5
23...Rb8? 24.Ne6+ Kg8 25.Rd5! would have resulted in complete domination of the well-coordinated white army, therefore simplifications are vitally essential for Black.
David makes up his mind to part with the queen, but his last resource still lay in the transition into the ending: 24...Nxe5 25.Rxe5 Rxh4 26.Re8+ (worse is 26.Bg3 Bxe5 27.Bxe5 Rh7) 26...Qxe8 27.Nxe8 Rxe8 28.Kg3 Rh7 29.Rd5 – and although the white bishops are strong, he lacks a pair of connected passed pawns to give it a weightier feel, therefore Black could hope to gradually take aim at the remaining white pawns of Van Wely to eliminate them.
25.Rxe5! Nxe5 26.Bxe5 Rh7 27.Nxa8
It is White that is no longer content with a draw by the perpetual check: 27.Bd6+ Kg7 28.Be5+!
27...Qxa8 28.c4 Qc8 29.Bd6+
The game has seen a great deal of turmoil, and 29...Ke8 30.c5 Qd8 is no longer attractive to David as the raging bishops, supported by pawns, can arrange a hunt for a lonely queen.
30.Bd5+ Kf6 31.Re1 Qd7
Now 32.с5? Rхh4 is not good for White, therefore cessation of struggle is a must.
32.Be5+ Ke7 33.Bf4+ Kd8 34.Bg5+ Kc7 35.Bf4+ Kd8 36.Bg5+ Kc7 37.Bf4+ Kd8 Draw.
We are about to wrap up with the creative review of Tata Steel 2016, whereas in store for us, dear readers, are the national regional championships and the Russian children’s championships in which you can apply this knowledge to stun your opponents with sudden pawn sweeps. Play beautiful chess and see you next time!