This game extended the theory of the Romanishin Variation of the Nimzo-Indian. White’s 9.Bd2 had been considered harmless for Black. Mamedyarov tried to shake this evaluation by his novelty 12.Rxb7!? It seems Kasimdzhanov’s reaction was the most accurate. After the opening Rustam was a pawn down, but gained strong initiative. In the subsequent game he regained the pawn and equalized, but it is possible that Black could aim for more by 16…Ne5 17. Qb3 h5! or 19…h5. Anyway, the conclusion about the line remained the same: Black is okay.
Shakhriyar MAMEDYAROV: - In the concluding position I had a spare pawn, but Black had sufficient game compensation.
Rustam KASiMZHANOV: - For me the opponent’s choice of the opening became an utter surprise, because Shakhriyar usually plays on the third move either Nf3 or on the fourth move f3 in the Nimzovich defense. The system played in this game was very surprising for me, and perhaps, it became a novelty in this opening. There were a lot of hidden points. In this particular position after the sacrifice of the pawn, to my mind, Black had a good position, and everything was based on tactics.
A laborious game, in which both grandmasters made a number of strong moves. It seems Leko spotted the weakness of the Dragon Variation – his position after the opening looks promising and comfortable. I think Peter could gain more than a slightly better ending, if he played 19.Qe3!? instead of 19.Qe5. With the queens on the board White could develop a mating attack by g2-g4. However, this is largely a matter of taste.
In the game Leko did not manage to break the opponent’s persistent defense, although after 28.Nf2 many experts including me considered his chances to be very good. However, Radjabov found an excellent reply 28…g5! 29.hxg5 Nd5, which completely turned the course of the game. Black pieces developed strong activity, and the game ended in total annihilation of forces.
Peter LEKO: – Yes, it was a good and sophisticated game. My opponent played very accurately. I tried to play accurately to show that the White had an advantage. The moment when I used Kf2 to use Bf5 was crucial but Teimour was good and got counter play.
Teimour RADJABOV: - The applied Dragon variant implies a sharp standoff. It seems to me that I’ve blundered. It’s a very complicated game I have to analyze it. We played well without obvious mistakes. Of course the computer will make corrections but from human point of view we made a live draw.
The Berlin System of the Ruy Lopez is Jakovenko’s bread and butter for many years. Dmitry handles it very skillfully with White. However, this time he was unable to squeeze out a victory. Dmitry got his usual slight plus after the opening, and maintained the pressure, but the opponent defended calmly. When White’s grip threatened to become dangerous, Etienne quickly delivered a blow, which spoiled the opponent’s plans: 24…b5! I did not manage to find any disadvantages of Bacrot’s idea. A draw in this game is a just result.
Dmitry JAKOVENKO: - In the opening I had a small advantage, later on I could even fight for the initiative, but at the end when we both had a rook and a knight, I was looking for the most precise way to a draw.
- What can you say of the tournament and other players’ performance after four rounds? Who looks, in your opinion, the most favourable?
- I would note Teimur Radjabov’s performance. By the way, I am playing with him tomorrow. I am not satisfied with my performance.
Etienne BACROT: - I think that the draw result is quite natural, though in the opening I had some difficulties.
An entertaining and bloody fight. The Bulgarian players proved stronger in tactical play. Ivan took some risks in the opening and had to part with a pawn. White could develop the initiative by sacrificing an exchange by 17.Rxd6!, while the move played by the Russian allowed his opponent to create serious pressure in the center.
Turning to defense was difficult for Ernesto. His carried out a risky and unsound combination: 22.Nc5?! In the subsequent complications both players committed slight mistakes, and the evaluation changed from “Black is better” to “Black wins” a few times. Inakriev’s ambition ended in a position with extra piece and strong attack for Black...
Ernesto INARKIEV: - Today I’ve chosen a risky variant with the f5 move. The position offered mutual chances. My opponent fell behind a little and I tried to discover his lines and make problems to have time before Black would finish developing his pieces and start realizing the advantages of his position. The position when I had a spare pawn I’d chosen is objectively complicated and I don’t think that White had got an advantage. Then I made a bad mistake with a Ra7 move and Black took the initiative. My intuition says that after the 23rd Qd7 move, White in case of a precise game won’t have a worse position.
Ivan CHEPARINOV: - The opponent played a rare variant. Though my pieces fell behind in development, White didn’t gain an advantage. In the following time trouble my opponent made some mistakes.
Alexander did not deserve losing this game. He was clearly unlucky. Vugar demonstrated tenacity and grip of a bulldog.
Black won the opening duel in the Najdorf Sicilian – White’s novelty 14.0-0 was unconvincing. I’d like to mention an interesting opportunity on the 18th move – 18…Nc6!? – that could give Black an even greater advantage. Yet, Grischuk’s move was also good: he won a pawn and gained certain initiative.
The most interesting events started after the correct blow 29…e3! Both players got into serious time trouble, which prevented them from playing more accurately. Instead of 35…Nf2?, Grischuk could obtain a decisive advantage by 35…Bxe2 36.Rxe2 Qc6! On the next move, he had to force a draw by 36…Qg6!, but Alexander did not find this move, lost a pawn, and ended up in an inferior ending, which he didn’t save. Gashimov ended the game with fearful precision.
Vugar GASHIMOV: - After the opening I made up my mind to stray a bit away from the trodden path. Until a certain moment Sacha played very well, but then made a couple of gross mistakes when there was mutual time trouble. I managed to seize the initiative. The game was very absorbing, because it contained a great many variants to consider. I had to play with extreme caution and at some moments make the only possible moves. As a matter of fact today’s game was very interesting, because I haven’t had the opportunity to play such a sharp position for a very long time, my games are usually dry and boring.
Alexander GRISCHUK: - I had large advantage, even in the time trouble I tried to win with complex attacks but failed to find the right way. As a result I began to make mistakes and after the control I lost everything possible.
The players fixed an obvious hole in the Anti-Moscow Gambit of the Slav Defense. In Sakaev-Gelfand, Calitea 2008, Black played the losing 20…Bf2?, but after 21.Bxf2 Qxf2 22.Qd6+ Ke8 White failed to spot the winning 23.Rhf1! Qe3+ 24.Rd2!, and forced a draw instead. Of course, Gelfand’s opening authority could lure someone to the wrong path, but Akopian was alert and found a stronger move – 20…Be7!, which forced the move repetition. I don’t see how White could avoid it. If 23.Qe3, then 23…Rg4! looks good, and on 24.Qd7 Black can at least equalize by 24…Be7. It is possible that we saw depletion of another theoretically important variation.
Pavel ELJANOV: - I must say that I didn’t expect this opening variant. I expected another opening and I didn’t pay much attention to this variant in my preparation. I considered this variant probable actually. I believe that this position is favourable but in the endgame I could not find the way to continue the game because Black had some difficulties with the King and some lack of co-ordination of his pieces. But, as a matter of fact, it is not clear whose King was weaker as my King feels out of place on c1 as well.
Vladimir AKOPIAN: - We agreed for a draw on the 25th move in a very sharp position. We started to repeat moves not to take risks. The concluding position needs comprehensive analysis. It is difficult to understand whose position was better or worse. As a matter of fact, one wrong move could have ruined the game. In the given conditions, I think, the repeated moves were the right decision.
This marathon struggle, which is almost impossible to annotate, ended in a draw. The Chinese grandmaster obtained a big advantage in the middlegame, but then started to make mistakes, probably due to tiredness. One can find many improvements for Black, especially during the late stage of the game. For instance, instead of 53…Bxe5 Wang Yue had 53…h4! 54.Nxf5 a5!, and the a-pawn tears White’s defense apart.
The last critical moment occurred on the 56th move. Wang Yue was carried away by a piece sacrifice, and overlooked a nice counterblow 60.Nxf4!, while he could simply play 56…Qg5! and regain the piece with decent winning chances.
I would like to note composure and tenacity of Alekseev, who achieved the result that looked almost impossible during the game.
Evgeny ALEXEEV: - After the opening I got a favourable position. After that my performance was not superb. At some moment I was going to make a draw via repeated position but the opponent managed to avoid it. After the control my position was pathetic, I could even be defeated in case of an enhanced attack but the opponent missed the chance and made a blunder, therefore the outcome of the game became evident.
Wang YUE: - Yes, I had fair chance to win in this game but the fortune turned its back on me.