SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
It was a very bloody round today, but the apparent ease and speed with which Radjabov dispatched Ivanchuk must stand out as the outstanding achievement of the day. Both players will go to the tie-breaks tomorrow , along with Grischuk and Navara, to see who will join Svidler and Ponomariov in the semi-finals.
IMAGINATION AND COURAGE WIN THE DAY!
After his crushing loss the day before, I was wondering about what kind of mind-set Radjabov would come to the game with. Would he feel demoralized and offer an early draw like Morozevich did against Grischuk earlier in the World Cup (and then go home) or would he come out with guns blazing?
It turns out neither! Radjabov played the calm 1.Nf3 and pretended that yesterday never happened. Soon the game turned into a symmetrical English (A37), an opening known to lead to complex and dynamic positions where even the theorists can argue for hours on end as to who is better!
Here White played the unusual 7.h4!?
This move has been played before, but does not have a very good reputation. The idea –clearly– is to open up a second front on the Kingside and to provoke …h6 , which might or might not be a weakness of some consequence later in the game.
From a strategy point of view I can not fault White’s idea, and given the special circumstances underwhich the game was played I think that the move rises to the situation. Soon both players will be in a messy, virtually unexplored position; they will have to rely on their own resources. There followed:
The standard response; you don’t want to allow the White h-pawn to advance all the way down your throat! Now 8.h5 will be met by 8…g5.Radjabov , before making his 8th move8. Bd2 !?
In my database I count 11 games that reach this position. In 8 of these games Black plays the logical 8…d5 (!) and scores some 81%. Ofcourse, these stats are irrelevant because most of the players are unknown and probably not very strong. Never the less, 8…d5 is a move that must certainly be good (and strong), much as 8…d6.
Curiously, in as much as Black soon finds forced to make some not very easy decisions, Ivanchuk’s next move must be considered something less than perfect solution to his development:
Understand that I am not really criticizing this move or suggesting that there is something wrong with it. But much of what soon transpires is made possible by this apparent tempo loss. Especially, the d6-square is being neglected by Black. These factors allowed Radjabov to complicate the game with an absolutely brilliant twist, bringing about a situation very difficult to properly evaluate!
Radjabov immediately before making his 9th move. A brilliant concept is hatched!
9. h5! g5 10. Nxg5!! hg 11. Bxg5
White has only 2 pawns for the Knight but his h-pawn is threatening to advance and cause Black serious problems. For example,where will he put his King Bishop when this happens? In addition, in some lines the White Knight can go to b5 (or e4), with the idea of giving check on d6 (f6).
These lines show some of the problems that Black must deal with: (A) 11… Rg8?! 12. h6 Bh8 13. Qc1 f6 (13… Bb7 14. Ne4!) 14. Bf4 with threats of the White Knight coming into play: (B) 11… Bh6?! 12. Bxh6 Rxh6 13. Qd2! Rh7 (13… Rh8 14. Ne4) 14. Ne4 and soon the White Queen will come into g5 or f4.
Ivanchuk contemplating his 11th move.
The best move is the paradoxical 11…Be5!, with the idea of playing …f6 , driving the White Queen Bishop away from the dark squares (f6 in particular). Here are some ideas: (A) 12. Qd2 (A)12. f4 Bd4 13. Nb5 f6! and the danger has passed; (B) 12. Ne4 Bxb2! 13. Nf6 Bxf6 14. Bxf6 Rh6 15. Bg7 Rh7 16. h6 Nf5!; (C)12. h6 f6) (D) 12.Qd2 f6! 13. Bf4 Bxc3 14. bc Bb7 (or14… e5 15. Be3 Bb7)
(Note that 11…Bb7!? and if 12.h6 Be5! might amount to be the same thing.)
In all of these lines White has (reasonable ?) compensation for the piece that he has sacrificed, but Black’s position remains resilient and healthy. INSTEAD, Ivanchuk is not able to rise to the occasion today and plays a dubious plan that soon leads to hot water:
11… Bxc3-ch ?! 12. bc Bb7?! (12…Qc7! was the only real try)
White has significantly increased his positional assets : the Bishop pair and absolute control of f6 (Bf6 followed by the rapid advance of the h-pawn can not be prevented for long).
13. Qd2 Qc7 14. Bf6 O-O-O [14… Rh7 15. Be4 Ng8 16. Qg5±] 15. O-O-O
The immediate 15.h6 might have even been stronger!
White is not in a rush to capture the exchange and prefers to maintain the pressure. His last move connects his 2 Rooks and prepares his Kingside pawn advance. It is not clear what Black should do. Or can do. Somewhat disoriented, Ivanchuk quickly jumps from the pan into the fire:
15… Rhg8?! [15… Rhe8 is a bit better: 16. h6 Ne5 17. Bxb7 Kxb7 18. h7 N5g6] 16. Bxc6!
Another very unpleasant move for Black to have to meet
16… dc (16… Nxc6 Hás been suggested as better, but I think it makes little difference)17. h6! Rg6 18. h7 Rxf6 19. h8Q Rxh8 20. Rxh8 Kd7
21.d4! (better late than never)
BLACK IS BUSTED! THE GAME WAS SOON OVER