Nalchik R7: Curious opening choices

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Eljanov beats Gelfand with BlackIn round seven of the Nalchik Grand Prix, Karjakin and Eljanov won their games, while Aronian maintained his lead. The round was also notable for the players‘ opening choices – some were unusual, some instructive and some rather strange. Update: video added!

By Michael Schwerteck

Games round 7

The greatest revelation, as far as openings are concerned, was made by Gata Kamsky. In his match with Topalov he greatly surprised his opponent by playing the French Defence for the first time in his life. Topalov decided to avoid the sharpest lines and chose 3.Nd2. The big question was: what had Kamsky prepared against the most principled move 3.Nc3? Now, after the game against Sergey Karjakin, we probably know the answer – the pawn sac line in the Winawer with the slightly unusual twist 11...dxc3 and 12...d4 instead of the well-known 11...Bd7 and 12...dxc3.

Karjakin and Kamsky at the press conference

Karjakin and Kamsky at the press conference

I checked what French Defence stalwart Wolfgang Uhlmann has to say about this line: he thinks that 13.Nxd4 is critical and feels that White should be better (details in the game commentary). Apparently Kamsky’s team have reached their own conclusions.

Karjakin chose 13.Ng3 [at the press conference he admitted that Nxd4 was the critical choice, but he decided to avoid Kamsky's preparation - PD], but the opening was a success for Black who obtained dangerous compensation for a pawn. We will probably see this line more often now! The final phase of the game was weird: Kamsky had a winning attack, but somehow completely lost his head, ruined his position and finally lost on time. What happened to his nerves of steel? The French doesn’t bring him luck – he keeps getting decent positions, but his score his 0/4!

Another theoretically important game was Grischuk-Akopian, which started with 22 moves of sharp theory in the Slav 6.Ne5 line. It’s not easy to understand what attracted Akopian to play the black side, however. The position isn’t very pleasant for Black and after theory was left, he was soon much worse. Grischuk won a pawn, but then probably chose the wrong plan and misplaced his rook. Akopian managed to activate his forces and got enough counterplay for a draw.

In the clash of two Marshall Gambit experts, Bacrot-Aronian, another long theoretical line was played. As usual, the Armenian parried his opponent’s ideas pretty easily and made a comfortable draw. We have already seen a lot of games like this, where Black’s bishop pair and/or light-square blockade controls White’s queenside majority and we will probably see many similar games in the future. Yawn.

What’s even more annoying for the 1.e4 player than the Marshall Gambit? The Petroff, of course. According to Mig Greengard, every time this defence is beaten, an angel gets its wings (this is how it looks). The poor angels have to be very patient, however. This time it was Peter Svidler who couldn’t do anything to create problems for Rustam Kasimdzhanov. The Russian’s pawn sacrifice 14.b4!? was original, but as he commented himself, it was already played with the aim to make a draw. Does a devil get its horns now?

Gelfand losing to Eljanov

Gelfand often works together with Eljanov, and this time he lost to his young colleague

I generally have a lot of respect for Boris Gelfand, due to both his play and his personality. The way he went down with the white pieces against Pavel Eljanov, however, was painful to watch. Gelfand didn‚Äôt follow his usual opening repertoire and played some unusual R?©ti system, but I don‚Äôt know why he did it, because he got nothing at all. Then he was positionally outplayed in the middlegame and tactically crushed after chasing some meaningless pawns. This was certainly not the real Gelfand playing, but still his opponent deserves praise. Especially Eljanov‚Äôs 16...Bxc3 was noteworthy ‚Äì not everybody would correctly assess the knights‚Äò superiority over the bishops.

Vassily Ivanchuk is another player who has been in poor form so far. This time, after leaving theory very quickly, he got a promising position against Peter Leko, only to spoil it by missing 38...Bb3. An Ivanchuk in normal shape would never miss such a relatively simple tactical motif. A lucky draw for Leko, who had completely misplayed the early middlegame.

Evgeny Alekseev for a long time played very well against Shakriyar Mamedyarov, but he too only got a disappointing draw in the end. From a deceptively harmless Fianchetto Pirc with an early queen trade, the Russian had slowly outplayed his opponent, only to stumble shortly before the time-control (39.Kd2?). Well, „chess is brutal“ (Shipov). Sometimes.




More from ChessVibes
A lengthy interview with David Navara (part 2 of 2)

A lengthy interview with David Navara (part 2 of 2)

Robots in a Moscow park... playing chess (VIDEO)

Robots in a Moscow park... playing chess (VIDEO)