Dennis M's Chess Site

This is a blog for chess fans by a chess fan. I enjoy winning as much as anyone else, and I've had a reasonable amount of success as a competitor, but what keeps me coming back to the game is its beauty. And that, primarily, is what this site will be about! All material copyrighted.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Linares: Round 4 Recap

Today's round was far more interesting than its immediate predecessor, but as if by fate this round, like all three before it, concluded with one win and two draws.

Anand-Kasimdzhanov was the first game to finish, drawn in a relatively brief 33 moves - but not for want of effort! Anand maintained a real initiative from early on and even managed to win a pawn, but Kasimdzhanov, who is rapidly developing a reputation as a defensive genius, capitalized on an Anand error to achieve a position in which all his pieces were active, White's pawn majorities were blockaded and in which his passed a-pawn was the most dominant feature of the position. Incredibly, it seems that if anyone was better in the final position, it was Kasimdzhanov.

Anand,V (2786) - Kasimdzhanov,R (2678) [C88]
XXII SuperGM Linares ESP (4), 26.02.2005

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.h3 Bb7 9.d3 d6 10.a4 Na5 11.Ba2 c5 12.Nbd2 Nc6N 13.Nf1 Nd7 14.Ne3 Nb6 15.Nf5 Bc8 16.Nxe7+ Qxe7 17.Bg5 Qc7 18.Nh4 Be6 19.Nf5 c4 [The knight is annoying, but capturing is bad, as after 19...Bxf5 20.exf5 White will follow up with f6.] 20.dxc4 Nxc4 21.b3 Nb6 22.c4 bxc4 23.bxc4 Nd7 24.Qxd6 Qxd6 25.Nxd6 Nc5 White has won a pawn, but his queenside structure and Ba2 are less than impressive. If he can safeguard the queenside and get the light-squared bishop into the game, he will have good winning chances. 26.Be3 Nd4 [26...Nxa4 27.Bb3 Nb2 28.Re2 Nd3 29.Rd2 Ndb4 30.Ba4+/- transforms the position: Black has restored material equality, but White's pieces completely dominate.] 27.Rad1 Rab8 28.Bb1 Nxa4 29.Bxd4 exd4 30.Rxd4 Rb2 31.e5 Nc5

32.Bf5? [Black has done a good job the last few moves: he has managed to restrain White's pieces to some degree while activating his own, but 32.f4 - getting the kingside majority rolling - leaves White with a clear advantage. Anand's move impedes that idea and wastes time, immediately allowing Black to equalize.] 32...a5 33.Bxe6 [33.Bxe6 fxe6 34.f3 a4 35.Nb5 Ra8 and now White has just as much need to be careful as Black does.] 1/2-1/2

The next game to finish was Adams-Vallejo. Vallejo is the second-lowest rated player in the tournament, and now, with two consecutive losses, is in danger of becoming the event's official punching bag. In today's game, he was in trouble very early with a loose kingside, and although Adams may have missed some easier wins, Black's chronic weaknesses made the loss a matter of time against a player of Adams' caliber.

Adams,Mi (2741) - Vallejo Pons,F (2686) [B90]
XXII SuperGM Linares ESP (4), 26.02.2005

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 Ng4 This move is less popular than 6...e6 and 6...e5, but it's also important and creates positions of a radically different sort than the English Attacker generally hopes for. 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Bg3 Bg7 10.h3 [10.Be2 is the most common move.] 10...Ne5 11.Be2 This is much less common than 11.Nf5 or 11.f3, and not particularly testing according to Sammalvuo. Of course, Adams is a little stronger than Sammalvuo... 11...Nbc6 12.Nb3 b5N However, we won't get to discover what Adams had in mind, as Vallejo is the first to offer a new move. 12...Be6 is the usual move, and the results have been good for Black. 13.Nd5 Nc4 14.Bxc4 bxc4 15.Nd2 Bxb2 16.Rb1 Be5 [16...Bg7 17.Nxc4 Be6 18.0-0 Rb8 looks safer, keeping the f-file closed and the kingside dark square situation under control.] 17.Nxc4 Bxg3 18.fxg3

Okay, White has a pawn structure only a mother could love, it's true. But let's ask ourselves some questions here: (1) How is Black going to attack any of these White pawns? (2) How is Black going to achieve any activity at all? And (3), where is Black's king going to reside? Black isn't losing yet, but just six moves after his novelty, his position is unpleasant at best. 18...Be6 19.0-0 Rb8 20.Rb3 A nice move, giving White the option of swinging along the third rank (to f3 or even a3), of possibly doubling on the b-file. Further, if Black wants to exchange the rook, it fixes White's queenside pawn structure and opens the a-file to a possible massaging operation on the Black a-pawn. 20...Rb5 21.Kh2 0-0 Looks suicidal, but again, the king wasn't going to be safe anywhere. 22.Nce3 Ne5 23.c4 Rc5 [23...Rxb3 24.axb3 Bxd5 25.exd5 e6 Trades off a couple of pieces, thereby increasing his king's safety, but at the cost of fixing White's structure. Here White still has a big advantage: Black's king isn't completely safe yet and his position is riddled with pawn weaknesses.] 24.Qh5 Kh7 25.Rb7 Re8

26.Nf5 [26.Rf5 was a very interesting idea recommended by an online kibitzer. The threat is to capture on g5, and most of Black's defenses lose immediately: 26...Bxf5 27.Nxf5 and the threat of Qxh6+ followed by Qg7# decides. Or if 26...Rg8, White plays 27.Nxe7, winning. 26...f6 hangs the f-pawn due to the pin: 27.Rxf6 or 27.Nxf6+ are both lethal. 26...Kg7 is best, but here too White's attack is very powerful after 27.Rxe5 dxe5 28.Nf5+ Bxf5 29.exf5 and now White is threatening 30.f6+, when a king retreat hangs either h6 or f7, while 30...exf6 allows 31.Qxf7+ and mate next move. Black has two choices here, and White is winning in either case. 29...Rxd5 (29...Rf8 30.Rxe7 Rc6 31.Rxe5 leaves Black in a lost but at least not yet resignable position.) 30.f6+! Kxf6 31.Qxh6+ Kf5 32.cxd5+- Qxd5 33.g4+ Kf4 34.Qxa6 and the remainder will resemble the culmination of a a nature program's chase scene, where the rapid cheetah tracks down and kills the defenseless deer. In the interests of not traumatizing any small children who may be playing through this game, I'll stop the variation here.] 26...Bxf5 27.exf5 Once again, 28.f6 is the threat, and Black can't prevent it with 28...f6 because of 29.Nxf6+, exploiting the pin. 27...Rf8 28.Nxe7 Qa8 29.Rfb1 [29.f6 with the idea of 30.Nf5 might look like an easy winner, but it's not quite: 29...Qxb7 30.Nf5 Ng4+ 31.hxg4 Rxf5 32.gxf5 Qe4 and Black can still resist.] 29...Rb5 30.cxb5 Qxb7 31.f6 threatening 32.Nf5 31...Qe4 32.Rf1 Rh8 33.Nf5 [33.Rf5 looks even more efficient - threatening both 34.Rxe5 (34...Q/dxe5 35.Qxf7#) and 34.Rxg5, and Black can't prevent both threats. Even so, Adams' move is more than sufficient.] 33...Kg8 34.bxa6 1-0

Finally, Topalov-Leko. In a Sveshnikov Sicilian - one of the hottest opening lines in contemporary chess - Topalov offered an interesting pawn sac with the dual purpose of opening the h-file and gaining a tempo for kingside expansion. Normally sacrificing something against Leko is a nice way to ensure a losing endgame against him, but Topalov's judgment was correct.

Sure enough, Topalov eventually regained the pawn and took another for good measure, finding himself with a completely winning position, no time trouble...and at the end of the day, only half a point for his troubles.

Topalov,V (2757) - Leko,P (2749) [B33]
XXII SuperGM Linares ESP (4), 26.02.2005

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Nd5 Be7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.c3 0-0 12.Nc2 Bg5 13.a4 bxa4 14.Rxa4 a5 15.Bc4 Rb8 16.b3 Kh8 17.Nce3 g6 18.h4 Not a novelty, but rare. 18...Bxh4 19.g3 Bg5 20.f4N exf4 21.gxf4 Bh4+ 22.Kd2 Ne7 23.Kc1 Nxd5 24.Nxd5 Be6 25.Qd4+ Kg8 26.Ra2 Bxd5 27.Qxd5 Qf6 28.Qd2 Bg3 29.Rf1

So far, Black has played quite well, and White has at best adequate compensation for the pawn but nothing more. 29...h5 [29...d5!?=/+] 30.Rxa5+/= Ra8 31.e5 Qf5 [31...dxe5 32.Rxa8 (32.fxe5?? Qxf1+ 33.Bxf1 Rxa5-+) 32...Rxa8 33.fxe5 Qe7 (33...Ra1+ 34.Kb2+-) 34.Rxf7 Ra1+ 35.Kc2 (35.Kb2? Qa3+) 35...Ra2+ 36.Kb1 Rxd2 37.Rxe7++/-] 32.Rxa8 Rxa8 33.Kb2 h4 34.Qxd6 Re8 [34...Bxf4 35.Qe7 h3 36.e6] 35.Bb5 Rf8 36.Bd3 Qe6 37.Qd4 Qe7 38.Bc4 Kh7 39.b4 h3 40.Qd3 Qh4 41.f5 Bf4 [41...Bxe5 42.fxg6+ Kg7 43.gxf7 h2 44.Qe2 Qg3 45.Rf3! Qg5 46.Rh3+-] 42.e6 fxe6 43.Qd7+ Kh6

Now comes the first in a series of bad moves for Topalov - tragically, considering that he has a completely winning position and has made the time control. 44.fxe6? [44.fxg6 is completely crushing. For example, if 44...Kxg6 45.Bd3+ Kf6 46.Qd4+ Ke7 47.Qc5+ Kf7 48.Qc7+ wins everything after 48...Kf6 (48...Kg8 49.Rg1+ Bg5 50.Rxg5+ Qxg5 51.Qh7#; 48...Ke8 49.Bb5#; 48...Qe7 49.Rxf4+) 49.Rxf4+] 44...Bc1+ A very high-class bluff! Simply 45.Rxc1?? [45.Kxc1 Rxf1+ (45...Qxc4 46.Rxf8 Qxc3+ 47.Kd1 and there is no perpetual.) 46.Bxf1 h2 47.Bg2 h1Q+ 48.Bxh1 Qxh1+ 49.Kb2 Qg2+ 50.Kb3 and White wins easily: White will promote a pawn and Black has no chances for a perpetual.] 45...Qxc4 46.e7? [46.Qd2+ Kh7 47.Qe3 h2 48.Ra1 still seems to keep White in the driver's seat, though it's nowhere near as clear as it was before White's 45th move.] 46...Ra8 47.Qxh3+ Kg7 and now the threats of Ra2+ and better still, Qa2# mean that White's advantage is almost entirely gone. 48.e8N+ Kg8 49.Nf6+ Kf7 50.Qd7+ Kxf6

Now White faces a fundamental choice: go for a queen ending or a rook ending? Neither is clearly winning nor completely clearly drawn; it's just a matter of practical judgment. 51.Qd4+ [51.Rf1+ Qxf1 52.Qc6+ Kf5 53.Qxa8 Qe2+ 54.Ka3 Qc4 might be the place to start looking for the truth here.] 51...Qxd4 52.cxd4 g5 Is this ending a draw? Probably, but there's not even a question about it after White's next move. 53.Rc6+ This move is just incomprehensible: it aids the Black king in becoming active, doesn't help advance the queenside pawns and places the rook where it's less able to combat the g-pawn. (Note White's "apology" on move 56.) The problem, as I'm sure all of us have experienced, is that once a player realizes he or she has blown a win, the psychological momentum starts to carry one ever further down the hill. So there's at least some good news for Topalov here: his position is unloseable! 53...Kf5 54.b5 g4 55.Kb3 g3 56.Rc1 Ke4 57.Rg1 [57.Rg1 Kxd4 58.Rxg3 Kc5 59.Rg5+ Kb6 60.Kb4 Ra1 61.Rg6+ Kb7 is a trivially easy draw for Black, who will just check the White king until it either costs him the b-pawn or until White blocks with the rook, when it's a standard king and pawn ending draw. Here's how that might go, for the sake of those for whom this isn't all obvious: 62.Rg4 (62.Rh6 Rb1+ 63.Kc5 Rc1+ 64.Kd4 Rb1 65.Kc4 Rc1+ 66.Kb3 Rb1+ 67.Ka4 Ra1+ etc.) 62...Rb1+ 63.Kc5 Rc1+ 64.Rc4 Rxc4+ 65.Kxc4 Kb6 66.Kb4 Kb7 67.Kc5 Kc7 68.b6+ Kb7 69.Kb5 Kb8 (69...Ka8?? 70.Ka6 Kb8 71.b7 Kc7 72.Ka7+-) 70.Ka6 Ka8 71.b7+ Kb8 72.Kb6 stalemate.] 1/2-1/2

Standings after Round 4:

Anand, Kasparov: 2/3
Leko, Kasimdzhanov, Adams: 2/4
Topalov: 1.5/3
Vallejo Pons: .5/3

Round 5 Pairings:

Vallejo Pons-Anand
Leko - bye


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