Friday, 26 December 2008
| A dull and boring draw. White was unable to show any improvement over countless draws of the Exchange Slav. Symmetrical pawn structure and equally active pieces led to logical simplifications and a draw.
An excellent achievement of the Bulgarian grandmaster! He played this game with great finesse and power. The players went for a well-known line of the Slav Defense, in which White obtains the bishop pair, and Black enjoys certain initiative. Ivan skillfully provoked unnecessary activity from his opponent, luring Black’s knight to a2 and Black’s rook to c2. The impression of Black’s advantage was completely refuted in the post-game analysis. White’s potential queen on b6 outweighed all achievements of Black’s pieces. I was unable to find the way to equalize for Akopian. For example, natural exchange operation 28…axb6 turned out insufficient in view of 29.Rxb6 Ra8 30.Rb5!
Two promising-looking replies to 30.Re2! – 30…Nc3 and 30…Rc1 – also did not stand the analytical test.
White confidently cruised to a victory, pleasing the crowd with spectacular 41.a6! bxa6 42.Bd7+! and 55.g5!
|It was a long but not very interesting game. The players created a fortress of the Chebanenko Slav, and were unable to break it despite all the fine maneuvering. The post-game analysis didn’t bring any promising ideas: the outcome of the game was determined in the opening...
Shakhriyar decided to put everything at stake in this game, and the risk was rewarded! White’s gambit play in the early middlegame was objectively unsound. For instance, I could not find anything good for White after 17…cxb3 (instead of 17…Bd5?) 18.d5 Be7! 19.dxe6 Nb6, and Black’s passed pawns are too strong.
Mamedyarov excellently exploited the opponent’s mistake, and created a crushing attack by 18.Ra4! and 22.Qe4! Having gained a decisive advantage, he gave Eljanov another chance by 30.Rxa7 (better is 30.Bd4!).
Black’s 35th move was critical. The accurate rearrangement 35…Rg7! 36.Qxh3 Re7! allowed Black to coordinate his pieces and create the counterplay that was sufficient to equalize. However, Pavel went for 35…Qc3?, losing another tempo. Shakhriyar’s blows 38.Ba3+! and 40.Qf5! created new and this time irresistible threats.
Finally Peter Leko managed to convert a huge advantage, showing his real skill. Peter created a masterpiece showing strength of the bishop pair. I can give exclamation marks to several moves: 10.h4!, 20.b4!, 44.Kb1!, 45.Ka1!, 46.Ka2! (what a calm play in a very sharp position!). These moves were the most accurate and set the outcome of the game. The final blow 52.Rxd7! served as a small addition to the piece of art.
Yet, White’s play was not completely flawless. It seems trading the light-squared bishops was a bit premature, as Vugar had an interesting opportunity: 33…Re2!, and Black makes a draw. The branch of variations grows too big, so I will mention just one line: 34.Rh2 (not forced, of course) 34…Nc4+ 33. Ka2 Rxd4! 34.Rxd4 Rxc2+! 35.Qxc2 Qa3+ 36.Kb1 Qb4+ , and Black forces a draw, having only a knight for two rooks.
However, this does not diminish the achievement of the Hungarian grandmaster.
|The deciding factor in this game was the players’ psychological state.
It looks like Evgeny was unable to recover after the preceding losses.
Teimour wisely selected the most unpleasant strategy for the opponent:
applying pressure in an unhurried manner in a non-principled opening
Black played quite well until 16…Nf6? The idea of creating
a target on f6 was fatal: White gained too many tempi to improve his
position. Better is 16…Rfe8!?, intending to meet 17.Bg2 with 17…e5!,
and on 17.d4 Black has 17…Nf6 18.Bg2 c5!
Alekseev was eventually forced to move the knight away from f6, but it
was too late, as White dramatically improved his position in the
center. Radjabov started his decisive attack with the spectacular
25.Ne5! Soon the evaluation became completely clear – White is winning.
|Playing backward moves is more difficult than playing forward. This
psychological phenomenon was clearly demonstrated in this game. A quiet
game was ruined by the 15…e5 blow, which led to a game that demanded a
lot of accurate calculation.
In my opinion, Inarkiev was a bit
carried away by his attack, and missed the moment to turn to a more
cautious play. The natural 18…Red8? led Black to serious problems,
while after the (backward!) 18…Rdd8! White’s advantage is difficult to
It worth noting that after 20.Na4! Black could not play 20…Rc2, as
after 21.Rd1 Nxa4 White wins by the fairy-tale 22.Qe4!! – which is also
the only winning move.
Jakovenko transferred the knight to с5 and than happily traded the
rooks by 23.Rd1. In my opinion, White has more winning chances after
the modest 23.Rb1!
The resulting endgame was playable for both sides, but in the
subsequent play Jakovenko was more accurate and squeezed the victory.