Image by Georgios Souleidis / Grenke Chess Classic
Hou Yifan lost to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in Round 4, while Levon Aronian beat Matthias Blübaum to take over the lead.
Hou Yifan finally lost in the Grenke Chess Classic. The loss, to Maxime Vachier-Lagave, dropped her from the lead after Levon Aronian beat Matthias Blübaum in Round 4 on Wednesday.
Aronian, of Armenia, has 3 points, while Hou, who is from China, is tied for second with Fabiano Carauana of the United States and Arkadij Naidistch of Azerbaijan. Vachier-Lagrave, of France, is tied for fifth with Magnus Carlsen, the Norwegian World Champion.
Georgios Souleidis / Grenke Chess Classic
Levon Aronian took advantage of Matthias Bluebaum's errors.
Blübaum, of Germany, has struggled throughout the tournament and is in last place with half a point. Aronian had little trouble dispatching him, despite having Black.
1. d4d52. c4c63. Nc3Nf64. e3a65. Qc2b56. b3g67. Bd3Bg78. Nf3O-O9. O-ONbd710. Bb2Bb711. h3?!This move is too slow, as Aronian demonstrates.
( 11. Rfd1White should have put his rooks in the center as prophylaxis against any pawn breaks. White would then have a slight edge. )
11... dxc4!12. bxc4c5!Black energetically opens the center. 13. Qe2
( 13. d5Strategically, this move makes sense, but after: 13... bxc414. Bxc4Nb6White will lose the d-pawn. )
( 13... Bxf3!?This was also possible (and the computer's choice) but I prefer Aronian's move for its simplicity. )
( 14. Nxd4Ne5Would be a disaster for White because: 15. cxb5Fails to 15... Nxd316. Qxd3e5 )
14... bxc415. Bxc4Nb6White is left with an isolated queen pawn and a passive bishop on b2, while Black has a very harmonious position. The bishops on the long diagonals will prove very effective. 16. Bb3a5!Another strong move, provoking more weaknesses by threatening both a4 and Ba6. 17. a4Nbd518. Nxd5Nxd519. Bxd5White could not have been happy to make but what else can he do? 19... Bxd520. Ba3Re821. Bc5Bb7
( 21... Bxf3This does not work as well now because of 22. Qxf3Bxd423. Rad1e524. Bxd4exd425. Qd3When White should be okay. )
1. e4e52. Nf3Nc63. Bb5Nf64. d3Bc55. c3d56. Nbd2dxe47. dxe4O-O8. O-Oa59. Bxc6bxc610. Nxe5Ba611. Re1Re812. Nxc6Qd613. Nd4Bxd414. cxd4Qxd415. Nb3Qxd116. Rxd1a417. Nc5Nxe418. Nxa6Rxa619. Be3h520. Rac1c621. Kf1Nf622. Bc5Nd523. Rc4Nc724. a3Rb825. Rd2Nd526. Ke1f627. Kd1Kf728. Kc2Rb529. Kb1g630. Ka2Ke631. f3Rb832. Re4+Kf733. Rdd4Rba834. Rc4Ra535. Bf2R5a636. Bc5Ra537. g3R5a638. h4Ra539. Bf2R5a640. Kb1Rb841. Ka2Rba842. g4hxg443. fxg4Re844. Rxe8Kxe845. h5Kf746. Be1gxh547. gxh5f548. Bd2Nf649. Rc5Black had been defending admirably in a difficult position for a long time, but now she faltered. 49... Ne4?Now Black is lost
( 49... Nd5After this move, White is definitely better because of his outside passed pawn on the h-file and Black's somewhat weak queenside pawns, but Hou would retain fair drawing chances. )
50. Rxf5+!Ke651. Ra5!Rxa552. Bxa5Kf6For a moment it looks like Black is holding as she will scoop up the h-pawn, but White can create a passed a-pawn and it is just fast enough. 53. b3?This is imprecise
( 53. Bd8+!Kg754. Be7!This was the way. Now the Black knight can never reach c5, and after: 54... Kh655. b3The pawn will queen. )
53... Kg5?Black repays the favor.
( 53... Nc5!Black prevents bxa4 and she should hold. For example: 54. bxa4Kg5!And White would be unable to stop the Black knight from reaching c5. After: 55. Bb4Na6!White will be unable to break through because there is no entry point for his king. )
54. Bb4!Now White is winning again. The knight is unable to join the defense via c5, and the a-pawn cannot be stopped. 54... Kxh555. bxa4Nf656. a5Nd557. a6Nc758. a7Kg659. Ba5Na860. Kb3Kf761. Kc4Ke762. Kc5Kd763. Bb6Kc864. Kxc6Nc765. Bg1Na866. Bh2Nc767. Kb6Na8+68. Ka6
I was quite impressed by how Vachier-Lagrave played this game. I think his level of play has fallen off a bit recently, but it is a sign of real class when a player who is off-form can still maintain an even score in a strong round robin instead of crashing and burning.
Georgios Souleidis / Grenke Chess Classic
Arkadij Naiditsch had his chances, but he let Georg Meier escape.
The other two games were draws. Carlsen did not manage to make any headway against Caruana, but Naiditch might lose some sleep tonight. He had Georg Meier of Germany in bad shape but let him off the hook in the time scramble.
1. d4d52. Nf3Nf63. Bf4c54. e3Nc65. Nbd2Bg46. c3e67. Qb3Qc88. h3Bh59. g4Bg610. Nh4Be411. f3Bg612. Be2Be713. Bg3a614. Kf2b515. Qd1Qd816. a4b417. a5c418. Nxg6hxg619. h4Bd620. f4Rb821. Qc2Rb522. h5bxc323. bxc3Qb824. hxg6Rxh125. Rxh1Rb226. Rh8+Ke727. Rxb8Rxc228. Rb7+Nd7?!Black had played some suspect moves before this point, but his position was probably still defensible. Now it no longer is.
( 28... Kd8!29. Bh4fxg630. Rxg7Be7I think Black should be able to hold a draw. )
29. gxf7?!This is imprecise. Both sides play was marred by time pressure. For Naiditsch, that meant letting a victory slip through his grasp.
( 29. Bh4+!This was the strongest move. The point is that: 29... f6Is met by: 30. Bxf6+!gxf631. g7Kf732. Rxd7+Be733. Nf3And White has a decisive edge. )
29... Rxd230. Bh4+Kf831. Rxd7Be732. Bxe7+Nxe7White is up two pawns, but the pawn on f7 cannot be saved and Black is ready to grab the pawn on c3 as well. He has plenty of counterplay. White would have to play very precisely in a complicated position to maintain his edge. Naiditch, with little time left on this clock, did not manage to do that. 33. g5?!
( 33. Ra7!Kxf734. Rxa6Rc235. Rb6Rxc336. g5This was best way for white to continue. )
33... Kxf734. Ra7
( 34. Ke1!This move was more precise. The engine claims Black is dead lost after: 34... Rc235. Bh5+g636. Bxg6+Kxg637. Rxe7Kf5I understand how the evaluation of this position might be unclear to the human eye. For example: 38. Rf7+Ke439. Rf6!Kxe340. Rxe6+Kxf441. g6Rxc342. Rxa6Rg3White is winning, but this is very hard to calculate and assess from 10 moves earlier, and with little time on the clock. The Black c-pawn has the potential to be extremely annoying for White. )
34... Rc235. Ke1Rxc336. Kd2Ra3Black now has enough counterplay to hold a draw. 37. Bh5+g638. Bxg6+Kxg639. Rxe7Ra2+40. Kc3Ra3+41. Kd2Ra2+42. Ke1Kf543. Kf1c344. Rc7Rc245. g6Kxg646. Ke1Kf547. Kd1Rd2+48. Kc1Rd349. Kc2Rxe350. Rc6Rf351. Rxa6Ke452. Rxe6+Kxd453. a6Rf2+54. Kb3Rb2+55. Ka3Rb156. Rc6Kd357. a7Ra1+58. Kb3d459. Rc7c260. Kb2c1=Q+61. Rxc1Rxa762. Rh1Rc763. f5Rc2+64. Kb3Rf265. Rh3+Ke466. Rh4+Kd567. Rh8Rxf568. Kc2Ke4
Magnus Carlsen arrived early, but it did not help as his game against Fabiano Caruana ended in a draw.
Thursday, Hou will have a chance to right the ship as she has White against Blübaum. Aronian will also have White, against Naiditsch, Caruana will get White against Vachier-Lagrave, and Meier will have White against Carlsen, who has yet to win a game in the tournament.
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.