Reports | April 19, 2009 16:53

Nalchik R4: Exciting draws

Chess fans generally want as many decisive games as possible, but a fighting draw with strong play from both sides can be very attractive as well. There were as many as six draws in the fourth round of the Nalchik Grand Prix, but one should not complain – all of them were hard-fought and some even highly interesting. Update: video added!

By Michael Schwerteck

It’s not easy at all to provide competent analysis of such complicated games with very little time available, but I will do my best to highlight the critical points and show a few interesting lines. Readers are encouraged to analyse the games even further.

My colleague Merijn van Delft recently argued that the player’s fighting spirit is more relevant than their opening choices and that even the Petroff (hard to believe, but true) can lead to attractive battles. This was also shown in Nalchik. There were two encounters with the 4.g3 Ba6 5.Qa4 line in the Queen’s Indian, which often leads to a slow manoeuvring game. Here, however, White found more creative continuations and the games were very lively indeed.

This was especially the case in Gelfand-Bacrot. White came up with the interesting 14.g4!? (perhaps prepared at home) and sacrificed a piece to tie the opponent down. A very nice idea, although express analysis seems to suggest that it is only good enough for a draw. Gelfand eventually got three pawns for a knight, but it wasn’t sufficient to win the game.

Press room

The press room with Aronian and Grischuk giving their press conference

Mamedyarov-Akopian was amusingly similar – exactly the same opening variation and once again a somewhat unconventional pawn advance 16.g4!? was played. Interesting again, but not really sufficient for an advantage either. Akopian managed to simplify the position and after 39 moves the game was drawn.

The Ukrainian duel Eljanov-Ivanchuk was also quite original. In the middlegame Ivanchuk gave up his queen for rook and bishop and a very complex position arose. When the dust had finally cleared, it became apparent that Black had built a fortress. White has a material advantage in the final position and the engines even think he’s winning, but there simply is no way to make progress.

Leko-Karjakin was another complex tactical fight. The Hungarian has hired Jan Gustafsson (a 1.d4 player) as a second, therefore it’s not a huge surprise that he plays closed openings with White. This time he decided to tackle Karjakin’s a6-Slav with an improvement over a game that Ivanchuk lost against Bacrot. Further analysis is required to determine what is really going on, but anyway Karjakin’s cold-blooded defence deserves praise. He managed to extinguish White’s activity and even won a pawn, but with very little material left the draw was inevitable.

The only winner of the day was Gata Kamsky who ground down Peter Svidler in 74 moves. Black was probably okay after the opening, a closed Ruy Lopez, but then underestimated White’s passed pawn(s). Svidler decided he should sacrifice the exchange and grovel, but eventually he couldn’t hold the endgame. Well, as he said himself, he can’t always be lucky. I would like to draw your attention to 38...Nxf2!?, which might have been worth trying.

Kasimdzhanov-Alekseev was a more or less balanced game, until Black miscalculated something and had to defend an inferior endgame. White was a pawn up, but due to his split structure and the reduced number of pawns Black retained decent drawing chances and indeed the point was split after 79 moves, when only the two bare kings were left.

Playing the tournament leader Alexander Grischuk with White, Levon Aronian opted for a very solid approach, trying to obtain a small advantage without any risk of losing. There have been quite a few games in this harmless-looking line where Black got into serious trouble, but against Grischuk’s competent defence, it proved simply too tame. Soon the position was completely level and the draw was the logical outcome.




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Castro's picture

Sometimes one trusts the oponent... That's the problem! :-)

Castro's picture

As for the "silent offer" of a draw: I thought of that myself, but I don't think so in this case. Let's wait for their statments post-mortem, maybe they enlight it.

Castro's picture

Thomas, I answered you in the afternoon, but... 2 lost posts.
Yes, I checked, I think 93.Be7?? and 3 other alternatives were the only to a draw. Everything else won.
And yes, they updated the score, it was a game for Akopian.
Go Gata! :-)

GG's picture

Good job for Akopian, and high time to rejoin the 2700 club. After winning Aeroflot in 2006 and Gibraltar in 2007, it is also high time to show his best game.

Castro's picture

In today's round 5:

Aronian-Kamsky What a bad finish by both!! Shortness of time it must be!

93.Bd7?? (almost everything else wins) Rb8+?? (Rxd7 is imediate draw by stalemate!)
94.Kc7 Rb7+ 95.Kc6 Ra7 96.Bd8 Rh7 97.Bc7 Rh6+ 98.Bd6 draw.????

Draw?? White has mate in 6, and that if Black imediately gives his rook away, otherwise it is mate in 4!
Anyway, poor Akopian today, but GO GO Gata!

Castro's picture

Of course I meant Akopian x Kamsky (not Aronian).

Thomas's picture

At TWIC, the result of Akopian-Kamsky is (I presume correctly) given as 1-0. Kamsky's fourth consecutive 'marathon' game, and this time things went wrong ... .
Regarding 93.Le7 (not d7), Castro you are right that this allowed immediate stalemate, but I am not sure that other moves would have been winning. Did you check with a tablebase? I don't have one available ... .

Castro's picture

Yes, the result has been updated. It looks like Akopian indeed won. 1-0.
93.Be7?? (sure) Rxe7!!! draw (if 94.Rxe7 stalemate) and I'd say GoGoGo Gata!!!
Yes, I checked online. Not all, but almost all wins (I think only 3 other would also led to a draw).

Castro's picture

The Case of the Lost Posts begins again... :-(

Castro's picture

And again! What a drag!!!

Thomas's picture

(Unless tablebases prove me wrong,) 93.Be7 may even have been a 'silent draw offer' [to me it appears that white hadn't made real progress over the 15 previous moves]. Kamsky "declined" the offer - of course because he didn't see it with seconds left on the clock, not because he was playing for a win himself :)

fido's picture

I just don't get Kamsky missing that Rxe7 draw on the 93rd move, it's not as if he was in bad time trouble, I think it was ten minutes left on his clock by then and it wasn't exactly a tricky move to see.

Thomas's picture

I may be wrong, but I think Kamsky had around ten seconds left on the clock (not ten minutes). Still it's strange, he used stalemate defences three times before (83.-/86.-/90.-Rb7) ... .

Thomas's picture

I can't wait for the pertinent thread (round 5 report) to appear ... . So far, FM Monokroussos (Chessmind) and GM Shipov have commented on the R+B vs. R endgame in Akopian-Kamsky, both giving three (or four) critical moments:
75. Kc6? (at the very beginning) should draw, whereas 75. Rd7 wins. Monokroussos gives a tablebase variation with mate in 28, saying "I won't even pretend to understand the machinations of the following variation ..." [this comes from a 2300 player who had ample time available, no pressure (it wasn't his own game), no ticking clock ...]
80. - Rh8+? should lose, 80. - Rh5! (stalemate defense) would have held the draw.
93. Be7?? ["an unbelievable blunder" (Shipov), "a blunder that works" (Monokroussos)]. Given that white hadn't made noticeable progress over the previous 12 moves (which included some repetitions!) it could also be considered a "final winning attempt which has a minor problem". It is rather irrelevant from a practical (over-the-board) point of view that most other moves win (eventually) according to the tablebases?
My conclusion: Castro's initial comment ("What a bad finish by both!!") may be as absurd as cheating allegations against the winner if he had demonstrated perfect tablebase play. This is a rare case where one might need computer help _for every single move_ - yet as their time was nearly up, neither player could go to the toilet even once in the final phase :) . Even top GM's are only human ... .

BTW, GM Shipov mentions an earlier win for Akopian (62. Rc7! intending 63.Bc5), and speculates that Akopian might have avoided this line because it could have led to a Q vs. R endgame !!?

Castro's picture

I also read Shipov's comments.
Not knowing exactly your notion of "absurd", I must in any case stress something about my inicial comments:
I came to the live transmision very near the end. In fact I didn't think of the 80. ...Rh5! defense, but I saw the bad doble blunder 93.Be7?? Rb8+??, and then the (wrong) score 1/2-1/2. It felt like "WHAT??"
In any case, it was a bad BAD finish! By the reasons I told, and also by your complementing informations. In normal circunstances of a classic-time top chess game, all those blunders are not posible.
I think that last 3rd period shouldn't be allowed to be so... fast. Or at least these games shouldn't be taken for ELO purposes.
Now, I don't think the players are to blame! Of course they are human, and those are human-like blunders (even top-GMs). I just think it is a big big shame.

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