Nalchik R1: The Day of Anti-Systems (UPDATE: videos added!)

0 | Chess Event Coverage
Many people say that FIDE is destroying chess with its chaotic handling of the World Championship cycle. The Grand Prix series in particular has been the subject of many debates. Chess politics aside, however, it’s great that these tournaments exist. Six big round-robin tournaments with many fantastic players, that’s 546 high-level games!

By Michael Schwerteck

So let’s look at the bright side, i.e. the games. While Peter is in Nalchik to create another series of videos, the other ChessVibes editors will do their best to keep their readers entertained and up-to-date with tournament reports.

The quality of the games in the first round wasn’t sensational (some players seemed a bit rusty), but we saw a lot of interesting opening choices and good fighting spirit. One aspect was particularly striking: Many players deviated from their usual repertoire to prevent their opponents from reaching their favourite setups. In some cases these anti-systems were even met by anti-anti-systems. This kind of shadow-boxing is quite typical of modern chess, so let’s have a closer look:


Can you remember when was the last time Levon Aronian lost a game with the Marshall Gambit in classical chess? If you can’t, don’t worry about your memory: the Armenian has NEVER lost such a game! His Marshall record so far: three wins, many draws and no losses – against world-class opposition, of course. Impressive, huh? Shakhryar Mamedyarov was so impressed that he decided to avoid the Ruy Lopez altogether and try some rare line of the Vienna Game. There White gives up the bishop pair to create some sort of bind. I’ve tried the line myself and, to be honest, I think it’s rubbish. You might be able to confuse a club player with it, but Aronian soon got the upper hand with a series of very natural moves. When his position was already crumbling, the Azeri lashed out with a double piece sacrifice, but it didn’t work at all. A relatively easy win for Aronian.

The other winner of the day was Alexander Grischuk who managed to beat Boris Gelfand on the white side of a Queen’s Gambit Declined. The Israli usually prefers the Semi-Slav, but Grischuk has been quite successful against it lately. The position looked almost equal after the opening, but Gelfand didn’t seem to feel comfortable and started to make inaccuracies. I don’t like his 25...a6, for instance, which just seems to create a pawn weakness (that later dropped off). Grischuk reached a rook ending with two extra pawns and his technique was good enough.

Has Peter Leko ever begun a game with 1.Nf3? Yes, but only rarely, and mostly not in serious games. Against Gr?ºnfeld specialist Gata Kamsky, however, he had prepared one of the English anti-lines and it was a success indeed. Leko was pressing during the whole game and seemed to have good winning chances, but his opponent defended like a lion and eventually created an impregnable fortress. After an epic 121-move struggle the point was split. Hats off to both players for this great fighting game.

Evgeny Alekseev faced the other big Gr?ºnfeld player in the field, Peter Svidler. He had the same idea as Leko and chose a Nf3/c4-move order to circumvent the main lines. Svidler, on the other hand, had his own plans of tricking the opponent and went for the Slav. I remember that Aronian once called Svidler ‚Äûan expert on the Slav Defence‚Äú, but he might well have been kidding. In my opinion Svidler had a lousy position after the opening, but he somehow managed to escape into a drawn opposite-coloured bishop ending. Alekseev probably went for the wrong simplifications; his 22.Rc8 looks illogical.

In the game Ivanchuk-Bacrot the players tricked each other so much that after only four moves they were already in an almost unknown position. Ivanchuk seemed to be slightly on top, but Bacrot reacted well and after heavy simplifications a draw was agreed.

Karjakin-Eljanov was a well-played and attractive game. Karjakin adopted the method of fighting the Zaitsev Variation that Kamsky used in his match against Topalov. Eljanov reacted adequately with counterplay in the centre. Then Karjakin came up with the spectacular blow 27.Bxh6, which led to interesting complications. The balance was not disturbed, however, and both players gained a well-deserved half point for their efforts.

Akopian-Kasimdzhanov saw the same result, but with less excitement. Petroff, draw, that pretty much sums it up. (Yes, I hate this opening.)


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