Nalchik R6: Aronian regaining pole position

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Mamedyarov beats GrischukThe 4th Grand Prix tournament is becoming a nice and bloody one, as tournament leader Alexander Grischuk was beaten by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in round six. As it turns out anyone can beat anyone. Levon Aronian took advantage by beating Vassily Ivanchuk and thereby regaining the tournament lead.

By IM Merijn van Delft

Grischuk is finding himself under more pressure in every black game. Four rounds ago things looked very comfortable, two rounds ago he still survived a slightly inferior ending, but now he had to acknowledge defeat. Mamedyarov played his pet line against the Chebanenko Slav, which he had done before in several other Grand Prix tournaments. Grischuk played the logical novelty 11...Bd6, but with 14...d4? he prematurely tried to solve all problems at once, when the more patient 14...Be6 was called for. Black's lack of development was felt until the very end of the game. One can't help but thinking the more active Semi-Slav would have fit Grischuk's mood better.

Aronian's play can make a marvellously natural impression at times, since he has the ability to slowly outplay his opponent. Ivanchuk's 6...Qc7 was almost new and his next move definitely was. The action started when Aronian played the well known tactical device 13.Nd5!, usually leading to some sort of structural advantage. In this case things were less obvious and it may well be that Ivanchuk underestimated the resulting position. Personally I learned about the dangers of queen endings with opposite-coloured bishops the hard way during a game against my good friend Sipke Ernst (Ernst-Van Delft, Dieren 2007, the game is added to the analysis). Just like in the middlegame, the opposite coloured bishops benefit the attacker. The danger is everywhere and mistakes easily creep in. 36...fxe5?? was the blunder waiting to be made, after which Black was mated by force.

Akopian beats Karjakin

Akopian finishing his game against Karjakin in style with a knight promotion

Akopian-Karjakin featured a Sicilian Najdorf with 6.Be3 Ng4. Both players can be considered true experts on this line, since Akopian has beaten Kramnik with it five years ago in Wijk aan Zee and Karjakin won the decisive last-round encounter against Dominguez with it during the most recent edition of Wijk aan Zee. It looks like 16...b5 may be an unfortunate novelty over two rapid games by Shirov, since compared to Anand-Shirov, Villarrobledo rapid 2001 Black no longer has the resource Qa4. As the game went, Black had to bury his own bishop with 23...f6 and never recovered from that. It still took a lot of hard work from White to convert the advantage, but 51.Qb5! sacrificing the bishop and the elegant underpromotion to a knight on the final move were pretty enough to make up for it.

Games round 6

Leko-Alekseev was a Catalan with 4...Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Be7. White produced the first new move with 13.Bb2. Maybe Black should have prefered the profylactic 15...Rc8 since with 17.e4 and 18.e5 White managed to mark a nice space advantage. Piling up all his heavy pieces against the poor pawn on a5 followed by gaining some more space on the kingside actually looked promising, but we never got to know the real value of these positional gains, since 45.Kf2 allowed the tension-releasing 45...Na6. Shortly after that the game ended in a repetition of moves.

Kamsky-Gelfand was an even more interesting Catalan with 4...dxc4, 5...a6 and 6...Nc6. Instead of the most common 7.e3 or Avrukh's recommendation 7.Bf4, White unleashed the natural looking and almost new 7.Bg5!?. Only then White played e3 and regained his pawn without any difficulty. In the Catalan that would mean that Bg2 is simply dominating Bc8, so Black tried to free himself with 14...e5. After the powerful 17.Nd6+! the Black king was stuck in the centre though and White had a highly promising attacking position. Strangely enough Kamsky then continued to play positionally on the queenside instead of hunting down the enemy king by all means (Rybka suggests 24.Qe4 to start with). The black king escaped and the white initiative evaporated.

Eljanov and Svidler at the press conference

Svidler showing his game to the present journalists, with Eljanov watching

Eljanov-Svidler was not a very inspired effort by White. Last month they already drew with this line ??n the Bundesliga and again the queens were swapped very quickly, leaving a level endgame. In fact the white a-pawn is a potential weakness, so it is really not clear what Eljanov was hoping for. 21.Ne4? was a lapse of concentration and with 21...Bxd4! Svidler immediately grabbed his chance. 22.exd4 keeping all the rooks on the board looks like a much tougher defence, since even though the game lasted for many moves, Black was steadily sailing towards victory.

The remaining game, Kasimdzhanov-Bacrot, was an uneventful draw. 11...Qh3 was the first new move and four moves later a repetition ended the fight.




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