Nalchik R2: Aronian sole leader

IM Rooie2016
0 | Chess Event Coverage
Levon Aronian very patiently scored his second victory in a row against his fellow country man Vladimir Akopian and is the sole leader of the tournament after two rounds. Peter Svidler also won his game against Vassily Ivanchuk and is sharing 2nd/3rd place with Alexander Grischuk, who drew comfortably with Black against Pavel Eljanov. Video added!

By IM Merijn van Delft

Basically watching these elite chess tournaments on the computer is like watching soccer on TV. One can be watching for over an hour without any goals being scored. Many of us just keep watching, others turn off the TV/computer and rather enjoy playing a game or two themselves. I'm always slightly surprised when people complain about the low entertainment level. I mean, you don't have to watch.

The tournament in Nalchik is no exception. All fourteen participants are heavyweight professionals who just don't crack after been under pressure for many hours. Without the extra-class Topalov/Anand/Carlsen who can mix things up single-handedly, we just may have to be patient. So be ready for a lot of 1.e4 e5 trying to equalize and 1.d4 as the ultimate Anti-Petroff weapon. But of course we are there for you to highlight the occational fireworks.

Peter Svidler scored a nice win over Vassily Ivanchuk, but modestly called it "another lucky game".

Speaking of the Petroff: even for the world's best players it may not be profitable to play the Petroff all the time. On the FIDE site the percentage scored with both colours is now directly monitored for every player. Out of all top ten players Kramnik has the worst score with Black (0% won, 87% drawn, 13% lost). Compare this for example with Anand's Black score (23% won, 66% drawn, 11% lost). In computer chess the Petroff is also not very popular for similar reasons: just reducing oneself to a draw at maximum simply isn't profitable. To put a bit of nuance in this, I would add that it is mainly the mindset of playing for a draw that is doing the harm, since the Petroff itself is a surprisingly active opening (try it yourself!).

Turning to the games played in round two, we have to conclude that Aronian makes a superior impression. Akopian chose the Meraner/Chebanenko hybrid line and possibly inspired by the recent game Gelfand-Miroshnichenko, Austrian League 2009, Aronian went for the 6.c5 clamp and got a useful space advantage. After 94 moves of torture Black had to acknowledge defeat. Careful analyses of this game may reveal many fine points, but simply playing through the game also leaves a very pleasant impression (as long as you look at it from the white side).

One of the very few players who always looks good playing the Chebanenko Slav is Sergey Karjakin. Rustam Kasimdzhanov played the currently fashionable 5.a4 e6 6.g3 followed by quick exchange of queens, but with the novelty 9...Bd7! Karjakin may have found the right antidote and comfortably equalized. [After the game Kasimdzhanov was complimenting his opponent for his excellent preparation -PD]

Svidler recently said in an interview that he is a much better player than he has recently shown and I'm sure he was eager to prove that when he played 13.g4 against Ivanchuk. In a way it reminds of Mamedyarov in the first round who also seemed to deny reality and wanted to win at all costs. We all know how that ended, and the same could have happened to Svidler. Ivanchuk did everything right, countering in the centre and opening the long diagonal. It all took too much time though, and in severe timetrouble he lost the game in a few moves. Of course the winner is always right and Svidler does deserve praise for his risky approach and entertaining chess. Have a look at our detailed analyses.

Grischuk is another hot candidate for tournament victory. Against Eljanov he deviated with 11...a5 from the high-profile game Anand-Aronian, Linares 2009 and then uncorked the pretty equalizer 15...c5!. The most spectacular variations remained under the surface, for example check out the variation starting with 16.Bxb5. Of course it's a 28-move draw, but from a pure chess point of view very nicely done.

The game between Gata Kamsky and Etienne Bacrot shows why the Marshall Attack is slowly losing its magic. It is no longer an attack, it's an ending a pawn down. It takes an Aronian (or indeed a Bacrot) to draw that ending, especially since Volokitin has been working on the white case. In this case Black was even two pawns down in the ending and it looked like Kamsky had real winning chances. More analyses is needed to confirm that.

Peter Leko versus Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was a Sicilian Rauzer in which White never got a real advantage. When studying the line myself I thought 11.Be2 Be7 12.Bf3 was the right way to start as White. After the exchange of queens White got some mild pressure with the thematical 16.Bh5, but backed up by the opposite coloured bishops Black never really worried. After 26.d5 it was clear that the point was going to be split. [Mamedyarov thought Kb1 couldn't be critical. - PD]

After yesterday's painful loss Boris Gelfand chose a modest approach in the opening with White today against Evgeny Alekseev. After White refrained from pawn exchanges in the centre, Black did the swapping himself, thereby transforming the position to a typical middlegame structure with hanging pawns that is usually balanced. After some tactical action followed by mutual positional exchange sacrifices a dead drawn ending remained.



A video of the second round will be added later today!


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