Nalchik R11: Aronian still in the lead

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r11Levon Aronian and runner-up Peter Leko both did their job by drawing their black games in the eleventh round in Nalchik and therefore nothing significantly changed in the standings. Because Ivanchuk and Gelfand won their games, the rest of the field has become very tight. With two rounds to go, Leko may want to try hard with White against Kasimdzhanov, since in the last round he has Black against Aronian. Video added.

By IM Merijn van Delft

It looks like Kasimdzhanov has found a way to make Black work hard for the draw in the Meran. Of course tournament leader Aronian proved to be equal to the defensive task and after 67 moves two naked kings remained. What the real novelty is, is a matter of definition. 14.Qd3! was new in tournament practice, 16.Qf4! was new if we include correspondence chess (this is the definition we tend to use at ChessVibes) and 18.Nd4! was the first move not mentioned in the Rybka 3 book (which includes many computer games). With the surprising 16.Qf4!, allowing doubled f-pawns, White exchanges queens at a for Black somewhat awkward moment, since he hasn't achieved the freeing c5 yet. With 21...Bd4! Black had to give up the bishop pair, with 29...b4!? he looked for counterplay and with 31...h5! he created luft for his king. Defending such positions and doing everything at the right moment is a very tricky business. I imagine Aronian was relieved when he reached the rook ending (unless the whole thing was home preparation). It looks like Black has some homework to do.

Eljanov-Leko was another Meran, in which White deviated with 12.e4 from Akopian-Leko played in the third round. The surprising bishop capture 14...Bxe5 may well be preparation. When Eljanov played 18.f3! killing the activity of the black pieces, the position looked unpleasant for Black on first view, as the opposite coloured bishops tend to give White attacking chances. As it was, Leko was in time regrouping his knight in the direction of d3. The basically balanced position became a bit messy again when White played 33.Nd5!?, either sacrificing or blundering the g4 pawn. With 36.Qc5 Eljanov may have pushed it a bit too much, since Black could have tried 40...Qd5 instead of taking the perpetual.

Games round 11

Ivanchuk may be at the bottom of the standings, but that doesn't mean that he gives up playing his usual imaginative chess. Against Grischuk's King's Indian he did play the fashionable Bayonet Attack, but followed up with the uncommon 10.c5. True King's Indian players may only know this move from the game Kamsky-Kasparov, New York 1994, which was naturally won by Black. Ivanchuk showed a whole rang of positional ideas, starting with the fascinating 14.h3!?. I am not sure I understand this move, but my guess is that a g6-g5 can be answered by Bg4! putting pressure on the white squares. The show continued with the positional exchange sacrifice 17.Qxf4! which forces Black to give up his pride: the black-squared bishop. Another one of my favorites is 27.a3! keeping all lines closed so the black rooks are doomed to passivity. It may be a trivial move, but I still like the look of it. In the final tactical phase before the time control White kept a cool head and won in style with 37.e5!.


Karjakin's Najdorf couldn't do it against Bacrot either

Karjakin would have had a fairly decent tournament if it wasn't for his disastrous 0 out of 3 with the Najdorf. Maybe he shouldn't have pushed his luck with the 6...Ng4 variation after he won the all-decisive last-round encounter against Dominguez in Wijk aan Zee. Here in Nalchik 6...Ng4 brings nothing but bad luck: in round six Akopian won a good game against Karjakin, in round eight Karjakin with White was close to beating Grischuk and now in round eleven things looked even more one-sided than before in Bacrot-Karjakin. If 16...Bf5 was to be the novelty repairing the line for Black, he might as well stop playing it. Black had structural weaknesses everywhere, his queenside was a disaster and the white c-pawn duely decided the game. A nice positional, model game by the Frenchman.


Gelfand recovers as Mamedyarov slips in a rook ending

Gelfand deviated from Leko-Alekseev played in round six and tried to put Mamedyarov under pressure with 18.Nf3!?. White made some progress as he got a defended passed pawn on c5. More in the spirit of the position seemed to be 32...h5!?, but trading all the pieces into a single rook ending also looked defendable for Black. All two-against-one-on-the-kingside scenarios look fairly drawn. My analyses may be a bit sloppy, but my express view is that 48...Kxe5 would have been more natural and 51...Rg4! 52.c6 Kd5 53.c7 Rc4 would have been the last chance to safe the game. It wasn't instantly obvious to me why Black resigned in the final position and I refer to the gameviewer for the winning lines.

Alekseev-Kamsky was a fairly balanced game. White didn't follow Khalifman's clever recipe 9.Qe2! and soon ran out of big ideas. With 20...Bxf3! Black made sure all direct threats were eliminated. After most pieces were exchanged, Black's easiest way to a draw would have been the straightforward 35...Nxd3. In the final position it is not entirely clear why Alekseev didn't play on with 43.h4 instead of repeating moves.

Svidler choose a very quiet line of the Ruy Lopez against Akopian, in which he has experience with both colours. The typical 10...d5 break was the first new move. With both players very focused and not making any mistakes, the draw by move repetition was a logical outcome.




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