18 February 2016

A Tournament with the Prefix "Super"

Photos of the Zurich Chess Challenge 2016 opening by Vladimir Barsky.

This year's Zurich Chess Challenge started with a friendly game between Boris Gelfand and Oleg Skvortsov. The tournament organizer and sponsor chose the black pieces ― probably to test again his favorite Benko Gambit, where he had come up with a raft of new ideas. Once again, a novelty awaited the world vice champion, and an absolutely incredible one! In the main variation of this opening, where Black gives away a pawn from the outset, Skvortsov decided to sacrifice a second pawn, and a very important one: the c5 pawn, the backbone of Black's counterplay on the queenside. But this was not all: in a couple of moves Black gave away a knight!

Of course, Oleg understood all too well that the novelty wasn't quite correct: the computer assesses White's advantage as +3 or more. But given the rapid control (20 minutes per 40 moves), Gelfand was facing challenging practical problems.  

Gelfand – Skvortsov

White has an extra knight and three pawns, but he is lagging in development greatly, and his king is a bit weak. Boris finds a subtle tactical solution. 

26.Be3! Qxb2

If 26...Nxa1, White has prepared 27.Nd4!, and Black will have to sacrifice his only defender, the bishop, after which it's White that will attack. A possible continuation is: 27…Bxd4 28.Qe6+ Kf8 29.Bxd4, and 29…Qf5 has to be played; Black can still resist, but his position is gloomy.

27.Rf1 Qxc3 28.Qb6!

An excellent consolidating move enabling White to quench the opponent's initiative.

28…Be5 29.Nf4 Bxf4 30.Rxf4 Qd3 31.Qe6+ Kh8 32.Rf7 Qd1+ 33.Kf2 Qc2+ 34.Kf3 Rf5+ 35.Rxf5 gxf5 36.Qxh6+ Kg8 37.Qe6+ Kh8 38.Re1 Rxa4 39.Qe8+ Kh7 40.Re2 Qd1 41.Kf2 Ra1 42.Bc1 Qd4+ 43.Kg2 Qxd5+ 44.Kh3 Ra7 45.Qh5+ Kg7 – Black lost on time. A nice game that was fun to watch and commentate (the game was broadcast).

The opponents started to analyze the game enthusiastically, and two world champions joined them, Anatoly Karpov and Vishy Anand. The analysis could have lasted even longer, but then musicians came who needed to rehearse before the concert. At the last moment, there was a replacement in their team: the violinist Alena Baeva wounded her arm, but another famous performer, Ilya Gringolts agreed to play his priceless violin instead. Celloist Boris Adrianov and classiс guitarist Dimitri Illarionov came to Zurich for the second time in a row. The musicians played with inspiration and worked miracles, captivating the audience with their music.       

Anatoly Karpov admitted in an interview to the TASS agency:

"I've seen, and played at, thousands of tournaments in my life, but Zurich really amazed me! Along with the fact that only top level grandmasters play here, I liked the tournament opening very much, where our great musicians played brilliantly. On the whole, Zurich 2016 started, as always, with the prefix 'super'. " 

Another honorable guest at the tournament was, like in previous years, Viktor Korchnoi. The world ex-champion greeted his historical rival and talked to him for a while. Both famous grandmasters watched with great interest the traditional blitz tournament that decided the draw. Same as last year, Hikaru Nakamura was the winner, gaining 3.5 points out of 5, with Vishy Anand (India) and Alexei Shirov (Latvia) half a point behind. They were followed by Vladimir Kramnik (Russia) ― 2.5 points, Levon Aronian (Armenia) ― 2 points, and Anish Giri (the Netherlands) ― 1 point.

Today the grandmasters are to play two rounds with a time control of 40 minutes per game plus 10 seconds per move. Wins in the "new classical games" will be calculated as 2 points, and draws as 1 point. Also today, a two-game match with the same time control will be played between Boris Gelfand (Israel) and Alexander Morozevich (Russia). If their score is the same, they will play two blitz games. If the winner is still not determined, an Armageddon will be held.