Image by Georgios Souleidis / Grenke Chess Classic
But three players are only a half point back.
Hou Yifan of China, the world’s best woman player, had Magnus Carlsen, the Norwegian World Champion, on the ropes in Round 3 of Grenke Chess Classic, but she let him escape with a draw. Still, that was enough for her to continue to hold the lead in the elite tournament.
While Hou drew, three other players — Levon Aronian of Armenia, Arkadij Naiditsch of Azerbaijan and Fabiano Caruana of the United States — all won to close the gap on Hou to half a point.
Caruana was the first to win, beating Georg Meier, one of the local players in the tournament. After losing to Hou in Round 1, Caruana has recovered well to put himself back in contention for first place.
1. e4e62. d4d53. Nc3dxe44. Nxe4Nd75. Nf3Ngf66. Nxf6+Nxf67. Be3Bd68. Bd3O-O9. Qe2b610. O-O-OBb711. Kb1c512. Bg5h613. Bh4Rc814. c3Be715. Bg3cxd416. Nxd4Rc517. Rhe1Qc818. Be5Nd719. Bf4Nf620. h4Rd821. Be5!White puts his pieces on their most aggressive spots. He is ready to play g4 next.
( 21. g4!?This was also possible. White has a very strong attack, but after 21... Nd5f4, h4, and c3 are all attacked. I prefer Caruana's move. )
( 21... Nd7!?This may have been stronger. It looks absurdly risky after: 22. Bxg7Kxg723. Qg4+Kf824. Nxe6+fxe625. Qxe6Ne526. Qxh6+Kf7But the computer cannot find a way for White to gain a decisive edge. )
22. f3Bd6Not a happy move, but what else? The threat was g4. 23. Bxf6gxf624. Qe3!Eyeing the weak h6 square 24... Kg7
( 24... Bf825. Bc2The same plan is very effective at this point. )
25. f4Definitely not the only good move, but I like it. White is ready for f5 at some point and clears the g3 square for his queen. 25... Rg826. Bc2!Bb8
( 26... Bf8This would offer a bit more resistance, but after: 27. Bb3f528. Nxe6+fxe629. Qd4+Black's position is hardly a bed of roses. )
27. Bb3!White is ready to sacrifice on e6, and Black can't do much to stop it. 27... f5
( 27... e528. fxe5Rxe529. Qd2Be4+This would offer more resistance, though Black would still be in big trouble. )
28. Nxe6+!fxe629. Qd4+!It is always necessary to play accurately until the end.
( 29. Bxe6?Be4+!And the tables would turn )
29... Kh730. Rxe6Be4+31. Ka1Rg732. Qf6!Black will be checkmated. 32... Bxf433. Rd8Qa634. Ree8Qf1+35. Bd1
1. Nf3c52. c4Nc63. Nc3e54. e3Nf65. d4e46. d5exf37. dxc6dxc68. Qxd8+Kxd89. gxf3Kc710. b3Be711. Bb2Rd812. h4g613. Ne4Nxe414. fxe4h515. Be5+Bd616. Bf6Re817. f3a518. a4Be719. Bc3Be620. O-O-Ob621. Be2Red822. Rdg1b523. Kc2b424. Be5+Kb7To the untrained eye (and to the computer) this position looks completely equal. But Black's crippled queenside pawn majority will never play an active role, while White can hope to play f4-f5. 25. Bf4!An excellent start to White's plan. Before anything else, he makes sure he always has e5 at his disposal. 25... Rd726. e5!Bf8
( 26... Rad827. e4Black dominates the open file but there are no useful squares for his rooks. White will soon play
Be3, f4, and possibly f5. )
27. Rd1Rxd128. Rxd1Bg7This is an attempt to prevent Bg5 by tying the bishop down to the defense of the pawn on e5, but it won't give White problems for too long. 29. Bd3!The threat of Be4 followed by Rd6 compels: 29... Rd8But now White is able to play: 30. Bg5!Another good move. White can now play f4. 30... Rd731. f4Bg432. Be2Bf5+33. Kc1Kc734. Bf3Bf8?I don't understand this move.
( 34... Rxd1+35. Kxd1Kd7Black should bring the king over to the defense of the kingside as soon as possible. The position is definitely
Unpleasant, but he still has good drawing chances. )
35. e4!Bh336. f5!The pawns have been set in motion and there's no stopping them. 36... gxf537. Bxh5The passed h-pawn will decide the game. 37... fxe438. Rxd7+Kxd739. Bxf7Bg740. e6+!The final finesse. 40... Bxe641. Bxe6+Kxe642. Kd2Black resigned as he cannot prevent both Ke3-xe4 and Bd8-xa5.
1. d4Nf62. c4e63. g3d54. Bg2dxc45. Nf3a66. O-ONc67. Be3Bd78. Qc1b59. b3cxb310. axb3Bd611. Ne1Nd512. Nc3Ncb413. Nxd5exd514. Bd2c615. Bxb4Bxb416. Nd3Bd617. Nc5O-O18. Nb7Qc719. Nxd6Qxd620. Qd2Ra721. Rfc1h622. Rc5Rfa823. Qa5Be824. e3g525. Rc2Qg626. Rca2Bd727. Bf1Kg728. b4Black's rooks look totally ridiculous, but White has to devote a lot of resources toward stopping a5. This leaves the kingside unattended: 28... h5!Black wants to open lines on the other side of the board. 29. Qb6h430. Qc5Bf5!31. Rc1A very sad move for White to make, but it's hard to suggest anything better.
( 31. Bg2Just waiting might have been better, but Black has no shortage of strong continuations. For example: 31... hxg332. hxg3Bd3!And the bishop will land on c4. Note that while Black's rooks are still passive for the moment, the threat of Rh8 and Qh5 can be played quickly and is very strong. )
31... a5!Simple and strong. Black finally mobilizes his extra pawn and his previously passive rooks enter the game with devastating effect. 32. Qb6Ra633. Qc7axb4The rest requires no comment. 34. Rxa6Rxa635. Qb7Ra236. Rxc6Be637. Qe7Qf638. Qxf6+Kxf639. gxh4b340. hxg5+Kxg541. f4+Kh442. Bd3Rd243. f5Rxd344. fxe6b2
Hou played cautiously against Carlsen, choosing a low risk, but toothless line on the White side of a Najdorf Sicilian. This turned out to be an effective strategy as Carlsen eventually lashed out, trying to create winning chances in an equal position. That got him into some trouble, but Hou failed to put the game away.
Hou Yifan vs. Carlsen, Magnus
? |? |Round 3 |17 Apr 2017 |1/2-1/2
22. g3b5?This is a mistake, and one Carlsen played after a minute's thought. I can't imagine him playing such a move against one of his top rivals. Structurally, this only makes sense if White has already played c4.
( 22... Ne6A simple move like this keeps the position balanced. )
23. axb6Rxb624. Rd5!Hou finds the problem in Black's position -- he cannot stop Nd2-c4. This is specifically because he has not yet forced White to play c4. Once the knight lands on c4, Black will have a lot of weak pawns and no counterplay 24... Rcc6
( 24... Nd7?25. Nxe5! )
( 25... Rb4!?This looks more natural to me as I despise passive defense. 26. Nc4Rxc427. bxc4a5I think Black should be able to hold this. His knight is excellent, the a-pawn is secure, and White has some pawn weaknesses. Still, an exchange is an exchange and only White could play for a win. )
26. Nc4Rb527. Qa7Qc728. Rxb5?This releases the tension far too early. White should not have rushed.
( 28. h4What is Black's next move? There was no reason not to slowly improve White's position before opening the game. 28... h529. Ne3 )
28... axb529. Nxd6?Another mistake. Now Black can hold a draw rather easily.
( 29. Ne3White has lost some of her advantage but can still press a bit. For example: 29... Nc530. Qxc7Rxc731. Nd5Ra732. Nf6+Kg733. Ne8+Kf834. Nxd6Rd735. Rd2 )
29... Nxd630. Qxc7Rxc731. Rxd6Rxc232. Rd5Re2!It's possible Hou missed this move when she took on b5. White it unable to keep her extra pawn. 33. Rxe5
( 33. Rxb5Rxe4 )
33... b4!And Rb2 will win the b3 pawn. White tried to prevent it with 34. Rb5But after 34... Rxe4Black is fine. 35. Kg2Rd436. Kf1Re437. Kg2Rd438. Kf1
Tuesday is a rest day; the tournament picks up again on Wednesday.
Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 4 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He was also a member of the team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter, has his own site, and is also on Facebook.