The last three rounds of any tournament are what’s known as the business end, the time when the top players know they have to win to keep the possibility of winning the event alive and losing usually means that even if they have played well for the majority of the event it can all fall apart and leave you with an empty feeling as you board the plane out of the country. One thing is certain, grandmaster Abhijeet Gupta from India is in excellent form and seems certain to join the other elite Indian grandmasters at the top end of the world rankings as his rating continues to increase with impressive displays of technical and creative chess. In the eighth round he won an impressive game against the experienced GM Sergei Movsesian to take the sole lead of the Reykjavik Open. What is notable is that Gupta has only two pursuers half a point behind, the top seed Shakh Mamedyarov like the lurking shark who has decided to make an appearance when it actually matters and the Swedish GM Nils Grandelius who after his early round mishap of walking into mate has shown that it does not matter if you make a error, what matters is what you do afterwards to recover from such a moment.
The game between a the leaders was a quiet Nimzo Indian where the experienced Movsesian played teh novelty 13,…Be6 to alleviate the pressure. The Armenian GM reasons he is happy to defend one small weakness for easy piece play.
As the game continued into an endgame of rooks and knights one could not help notice after move 41.Rd1 that every white piece was better than his counterpart.
We often hear of “grandmaster technique” or “technical chess”, the accumulation of small advantages in quiet positions. Here we can see that the original weakness of the pawn on e6 has been added by the weakness of the pawn on b6 making it almost impossible to defend. White can create a passed pawn on the kingside using his 4-3 majority at some stage while enjoying a domination of the remaining pieces.
Here a passive move like 47,…h6 can be met by 48.f4 and black can hardly move as white creates a passed pawn. Movsesian decides he does not want to suffer in passivity and breaks out with 37,…b5.
The final crushing blow is pleasing to the eye, black has achieved some activity for his rook and taken the white h-pawn but everything is now tied down and Gupta cashes in with 58.f5! An excellent game by the impressive Indian GM!
On board two we saw the top seed Azerbaijani Shakh Mamedyarov win against the veteran Alexander Beliavsky using a thematic pawn sacrifice that is becoming popular in modern chess.
Although the above position has only happened in a small number of games it can and did transpose to a now popular position.
The above position is known from Vladimir Kramnik’s victory over Anish Giri and other top level games, playing the bishop to b2 is the normal continuation but Mamedyarov chooses the rarer 11.Bg5 although it ended up on f4 after h6 and the following position was reached quickly.
We can see the pressure exerted on the black position, the inactivity of the bishop on b7, the weakness of the c5 square are all typical symptoms when suffering against this positional pawn sacrifice, Beliavsky does not wish to sit in a passive positions and gives back the pawn for increased activity with 15,….c5.
The critical junction of the game occurred later as Beliavsky went full throttle in search of counterplay.
In the time scramble Beliavsky whipped off the pawn with 30,…Rxh4 and after the forced reply 31.Qg2, Beliavsky took on g2, after all what is more natural to exchange queens and save your attacked rook on h4? In fact he had a move that still kept the balance of the game in 31,…Rhe4!
Here Black seems to have enough to keep the balance in a precarious position but after the exchange of queens it be came apparent that the white c-pawn would decide matters, an impressive game by Mamedyaraov.
It is well known that Richard Rapport is by nature a provocateur in the opening often playing strange moves in order to get an unusual position early on but can you push the boundaries too much? Can black really justify playing 1,…h6 and 2,…g5 in any opening?
The commentators had to search if this opening even had a name, the viewers came up with variations of Zukertort and Basman but the main point was that Russian GM Sergey Gregoriants did not look amused at having to think so early on in the game. His reply was in fact very sensible, he did not try to refute the dubious looking opening but just tried to keep his initial space advantage, the first critical junction happened on move 15.
Gregoriants had had enough of the maneuvering and started direct play with 16.h4, after the black capture on h4 it seemed white enjoyed a space advantage. There is probably only one more diagram to show for this game.
This is the final position where they agreed a draw after Blacks last move 30,..Ba3. White seems to enjoy a pleasant advantage with moves like 31.Bc1 forcing the black bishop to retreat in view of the fork on e7 being continually threatened and once you notice the fork on e7 then variations like 31,..Bf8 32. Bxh6! start to appear. A combination of time trouble, tiredness and Rapports large rating seem to be the main deciders in Grigoriants decision to accept the draw.
A typical view from the tournament hall, how many other tournaments have such a view!
The game between German GM Stefan Bromberger and Bulgarian GM Ivan Cheparinov can be shown in a series of snapshots.
Cheparinov correctly sacrifices the exchange for the central pawn.
Black has just played Rxc3 attacking the white bishop on h3 and now has four (!) pawns for a piece. Black is the driving seat.
Black here plays 40,…Ba3 to meet the threat of 41.Be1 with 41,…Rb2+ and he believes he has found a tactical way to defend the advanced f-pawn if Bd4. Maybe if he had had more time he would have found the beautiful move 40,…g5! in order to meet 41.Be4 with the thematic and beautiful 41,…g4! After 42.Bxf2, Bxf2 white is a rook up but cannot stop the avalanche of pawns about to be pushed towards him!
Instead he found a way to defend the pawns tactically but he missed something important!
Black has just played 43,…Re3 thinking that he was forking the two pieces but has been rudely taken back by 44. Rh3! threatening Bh5+ so the German grandmaster has tricked his higher rated opponent but it can also be described as “fighting spirit”, to not collapse in a difficult position, to continue to give your opponent as many practical problems as you can. Soon the two grandmasters were sharing the point.
Nils Grandelius is a talented 22 year old Swedish grandmaster who has been working hard on his in recent times culminating with him winning the prestigious Abhu Dhabi Open last year. Grandelius suffered an early setback when he walked into mate in an early round and it is pleasing to see him fighting back to reach the top boards with two rounds to go but he really did have to fight! On the black side of g3 Grunfeld opening he seemed to have easy equality but he got himself into a small bind after this position.
Grandelius could have exchanged the strong white bishop by 19,…Bd5 last move but he took the pawn on a2 instead in an ambitious attempt. The young Petrov who himself has been playing an excellent tournament pushes his own trump with 20.c6. Is it too late to play 20….Bd5?
Apparently not! the normal line looks line 21.Rc1, Bxg2, 22.Kxg2 and if 22,..Nd5 then 23.Rc5 looks strong but black can play the surprising 22,..Rd5! instead but it is a very hard move to foresee many moves ahead. Instead Grandelius battened down the hatches and played 20….Rc7 but soon found himself backtracking.
Here Petrov has some advantage but instead of keeping the bind and playing a move like 27.R1b3 he takes on c7 and relieves some of the pressure but white is still better.
Here white took the plunge and played 32.Bb7 but allowed the tactic 32,..Bd4! where after 33.Bd4, Rxc7 Black has avoided the worst and will not lose, the problem is that he needs to win to keep his tournament ambitions alive. Sometimes the the rook versus bishop and knight ending can favour the rook when there are pawns on both sides but since everything is on the same side a draw should be the correct outcome but Grandelius knows he should be trying for a few moves at least.
Ok, it is now 4 pawns to 2, some progress!
Finally the black pawns can make a breakthrough, 62,..f5!
63,..e4! excellent play by the Swedish GM. 64,fxe4 is not possible due to 64,…Rc3+, A normal move like 64.Bb4 would run into 64,..e3 so white decided to sacrifice the bishop for the pawns with 64.Bxe4 but now the tables have well and truly turned and black won soon after.
Tania Sachdev edged close to her GM norm by drawing with English GM Gawain Jones in a Smyslov Kings Indian. She was a little worse but solved her problems tactically utilising the weakness of the black king in the center.
In the above diagram what would you play? No obvious threat for white, the pawn on e4 can be taken, as long as black is careful he should win with his extra material would have been the thoughts of the amicable English grandmaster.
Ok, so 29.Rxc5! looks dangerous but Jones kept his composure knowing the worse that can happen is he would have to force a perpetual check. Always good to know that the draw is still available!
Ok, what to play for Black? 31,..Qe5 runs into 32.d6! Joens has the draw already mentioned with 31,..Qe1+ and 32,..Qe4+. The best move seems to be the cold blooded 31,..Qe1+ and 32,..Qa5 holding the c7 square and prepare to meet 33.d6 with e6! but it takes nerves of steel to convince yourself you have not missed something the choice of Jones 31,..f6 is till ok, at least you know your king will run to safety no matter what!
After a few more adventures in the queen ending they agreed to a draw as Tania proved again she is playing excellent fighting chess this tournament. Today is a special day for her since she only needs a half point to gain her second GM norm. This would mean a performance rating of 2600+ and one step closer to gaining the elusive GM title. The author believes there are only 33 women who are fully fledged grandmasters and you need three GM norms to reach this lifelong ambition. We can only wish Tania the best in her quest that may great players have undergone in chess history.
Armenain grandmaster Gabriel Sargissian has been almost dormant so far in this event, solid but not reaching any special heights. Sargissian knew to make any impression in this years event nothing but a win over American IM Justin Sarkar would be acceptable.
The position looks about equal but the GM’s would point to the weak pawn on a5 that has to be continually protected and the weak c4 square that will be an outpost for a white knight for many hours of slow torture, you have been warned!
After many hours of defending black has taken solace in the infamous bishop of opposite colors ending where he has hopes of defending and would probably make a draw against many people, after all how do you win such a position. Have a close look, formulate your plan and then we will continue along our story.
Did you get to here? Really? How do you win? What is your move?
First, time to deflect the bishop! 49.b4! Bxb4
Now the breakthrough on the other side! 50.g5!
No matter how black captures white will advance the other pawn, we believe 50,..hxg5 to be the better defence but it is tough.
so 50,…fxg5 51.f6! happened and the black position just collapses with Sarkar resigning a few moves later. This is an excellent game in terms of long range plans, breakthroughs and just good endgame play. Certainly the most instructive game of the day!
Here are the top 25 board results of the eighth round. To see the full list please click here
To see the pairings of the ninth round where Indian grandmaster has taken a half point lead over top seed Shakh Mamedyarov and Nils Grandelius please click here.