Nalchik R9: Alekseev rises to the occasion

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
In another excellent round fight in Nalchik, Evgeny Alekseev climbed to shared first place after a fine win over Sergey Karjakin. Gata Kamsky finally won again, beating Grischuk with Black, and Etienne Bacrot scored his first win of the tournament after drawing eight. The rest of the games were very interesting draws. Video added.

By Arne Moll

I have to admit that when I hear the name 'Alekseev', I still find myself thinking sometimes: 'Sorry, Who?'. Alekseev is not a name as familiar yet as Aronian or Karjakin, but yesterday, the Russian showed how unfair this is. In a great game he beat young Sergey Karjakin on his own territory: the Najdorf Sicilian. For this occasion, Alekseev had prepared the little Fischer line 6.h3!? The players followed an old game Bronstein-Gufeld from 1965, but on move 12, Karjakin already played the rather strange move 12...Nc6?! after which White was able to gain the pair of bishops. Personally, I find it hard to imagine why Karjakin chose for this kind of position, for the rest of the game was a fine and instructive display of how to make use of your centralized bishops. I liked the moves 22.b2-b3 and 25.b3-b4 with the idea of gaining space on the queenside. Karjakin got a weak pawn on b5 and Alekseev won it quickly, after which Black's counter play wasn't sufficient to confuse the Russian, who moves into first place.

Super-theoretician Levon Aronian scored yet another opening success with Black. In a sharp Vienna Variation, 19...Rg8! was only the first new move, and it was also a strong one. Boris Gelfand, no less a theory expert himself, thought for a long time, and with a few sharp moves and an exchange sac, it looked like he refuted Aronian's preparation, but in the end a draw was agreed on anyway, despite Black's isolated doubled f-pawns. Aronian is simply in great shape and is still in shared first place.

In the game Eljanov-Kasimdzhanov, Black also had to accept isolated doubled f-pawns, but at least White had the same problem since his h-pawns had the same defect. One of the main features of these structures is that you control a lot of squares and this was exactly what could be seen in the current game. The subtle manoeuvring and fight for important squares reminded me of some of the classic manoeuvring games from long gone days: knights making long trips to get to the vital squares, rooks occupying outposts on open files and bishops attempting to attack weak pawns. I felt as if I was a live witness to a Capablanca or Rubinstein game! I imagine that normally it would have been Kasimdzhanov, who had the worse bishop, being the one most happy with the final result (draw), if he hadn't hadn't missed the win twice at the very end.

Games round 9

Vassily Ivanchuk again failed to convert a good position to a win, this time against Vladimir Akopian. As GM commentator Sergey Shipov noted, 16.f3! was the start of White's way of make 'elbow room' after a quiet but interesting English Opening. I really thought Chuky was going to make it this time, but it must be said that Akopian put up a great defensive show and after some fruitless attempts to break Black's wall, White settled for a move repetition.

If you replay the game Svidler-Leko quickly without paying attention, you might think it was just another uneventful theoretical Ruy Lopez draw, but looks deceive. First of all, the opening line, the "Anti-Marshall Marshall Gambit" with 8.h3 and 9...d5, with which both Svidler and Leko have experience, was not uninteresting. Then, as was mentioned by Shipov, Svidler could have won with the nice thematical bishop sac 27.Bxg7+! which completely destroys the defence of the black king, but the Russian either didn't see it or didn't calculate it well! After this missed chance, rooks and queens were swapped and a draw was agreed upon.

Bacrot and Mamedyarov at the press conference

Bacrot scores a nice attacking victory over Mamedyarov

The other Ruy Lopez of the day was Grischuk-Kamksy. Kamsky employed his beloved Breyer variation but it was Grischuk who gained the advantage, occupying the a-file and the 7th rank with his rooks in the middlegame. However, not for the first time during this tournament, he got into timetrouble more than once. After he missed a few great winning opportunities around move 50 (admittedly in a very complicated position!), his sharp play backfired against him: suddenly Kamsky was a piece up! It seems the American missed a few simpler wins but in the end, victory couldn't escape him in the queen ending. This was yet another extremely long game for Kamsky, who I think (and hope) will use his rest day not to prepare or think about chess, but to sleep, sleep and sleep.

Last but not least, we are happy for Etienne Bacrot for scoring his first win of the tourney. This game too, reminded me of classic games from the old days, but this time it could well have been grandmaster vs. N.N. The Frenchman punished Shakhriyar Mamedyarov for his too risky opening play, a sharp Sicilian Taimanov/Paulsen hybrid in which Black was stuck with a king in the middle of the board. 12...c5 was already slightly unusual: normally, 12...Qa5 is played. Mamedyarov played Qa5 a move later, but it's debatable whether combining it with c5 is such a good idea. As Shipov points out, 16...Bf8 was the last chance for a decent game. After that, it was just one-way traffic and after a mere 31 moves, it was all over.




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