Nalchik R10: Petroff finally loses

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r10Did someone say „Black is hot“? In round 10 of the Grand Prix he was not! The players with the black pieces only scored one draw out of six games plus another draw out of a non-game. Even the Petroff only scored 25 percent. As a result, Aronian is still in sole lead, now half a point ahead of Leko. Video added.

By Michael Schwerteck


Games round 10



Aronian-Eljanov

Aronian kept his sole lead by beating Eljanov

Levon Aronian put his opponent Pavel Eljanov under big pressure and scored a deserved win (already his fourth), although there were some unclear moments. Personally I don’t understand why anybody, as Black, would willingly enter the line that Eljanov chose. White has the bishop pair and a lot of play on the dark squares. It may sound extreme, but to my understanding (true, I’m not a GM) Black’s position after some 15 moves is close to lost. I checked what Rybka says and she actually agrees! Aronian didn’t always find the most incisive moves, though, and his opponent got a bit of counterplay. Eljanov’s decisive mistake was the strange 30...Kf7?, allowing 31.Bc4+ with tempo. After this, there was no defence against Aronian’s raking bishops.

Former co-leader Evgeny Alekseev wasn’t in great shape and lost a rather one-sided game to Alexander Grischuk. The players discussed one of the classical lines of the Nimzo-Indian where White has the bishop pair and and a pawn majority in the centre, while Black relies on active piece play. Grischuk slowly improved his position, while Alekseev just couldn’t find a good plan. His h-pawn advance is just the kind of idea for which I would severely reprimand my pupils. There may be a point behind it, but I don’t see it. Later this pawn just dropped off, as well as another one that Alekseev had desperately sacrificed. There were still some vague drawing chances because of the opposite-coloured bishops, but in the end the two extra pawns prevailed.

Peter Leko did me a great favour by beating the Petroff – a very rare occurence! Serves Boris Gelfand right for giving up the Najdorf! (Sorry for being biased.) The Hungarian’s concept is really interesting and deserves further tests. As far as I know, theory’s assessment of this line so far was that Black is slightly worse, but has very good drawing chances. A Kasparov-Karpov clash of 1985 led to a draw after only 22 moves. Leko, however, had different plans: to activate his forces as quickly as possible and use his f-pawn as a battering ram, without being interested in winning the pawn back at all. It worked perfectly – after Gelfand missed the critical 26...Rac8, he didn’t get a second chance. I’m really impressed by Leko’s play and only due to laziness I refrained from giving an exclamation mark to every single move.

Gata Kamsky was much less successful against Rustam Kasimdzhanov‘s Petroff. With the rather insipid 4.Nc4 line he couldn’t create any problems for his opponent. The Uzbek could even have played for an advantage with 29...Rf8. The game continuation instead lead to mass simplifications and a draw.

Akopian-Bacrot

Vladimir Akopian is doing well in Nalchik

Vladimir Akopian is continuing to impress after his unfortunate 0.5/3 start. After beating Etienne Bacrot, he’s already on +1 and can fight for the top places. The opening, an Accelerated Dragon, was probably not so bad for the Frenchman, but somehow he got into an endgame that wasn’t very pleasant to play. Similarly to Alekseev’s game, I’m not enthusiastic about the a5-a4 idea. It’s far from the decisive mistake and might not even be bad objectively, but is it really necessary to create such weaknesses? Bacrot couldn’t find a recipe against White’s advance of the queenside majority and his tricks on the kingside backfired after the cute 49.Rb4! The rest was plain sailing for Akopian.

Mamedyarov-Svidler was a very complicated, unclear game, typical of Shabalov’s 7.g4!? line in the Anti-Meran. It seems that for a long time the position was approximately balanced, but it was perhaps slightly more difficult for Black to play, whose king remained in the centre. When it seemed that the game was heading towards a draw by perpetual check, Svidler suddenly blundered heavily in timetrouble with 31...Ke7?, missing 32.Rxf2. Mamedyarov didn’t miss his chance and quickly secured the win.

Why did I speak of a non-game in the introduction? Well, Karjakin-Ivanchuk would have been an interesting fight, if almost the whole game hadn’t been played before in Karjakin-So. It was only deeply in the rook endgame, at move 37 (!), that Ivanchuk finally played a novelty, but the position was a dead draw anyway. Nice memorization, but this has nothing to do with chess.

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