There are three top-level tournaments underway right now, but there is also a great match that may not be getting a lot of attention.

Between elite tournaments underway in Danzhou, China; Dortmund, Germany; and Bilbao, Spain, there is an embarrassment of riches for fans of top-level chess. Indeed, with all that is going on, it would be easy to miss a fourth elite event that is being contested in Ingushetia, Russia: A 12-game match between Boris Gelfand of Israel and Ernesto Inarkiev of Russia.

Gelfand is one of the greatest players of the last quarter of a century, and as many readers doubtless know, he came extremely close to defeating Viswanathan Anand in their world championship match in 2012. Though he turned 48 years old a couple of weeks ago, he remains a very solid 2700-rated player, and is currently ranked No. 21 in the Live Ratings list.

Inarkiev is considerably younger at 30 years of age, but he is no junior either. He has had some great results lately, most notably his victory in the European Championship this past May. He is now at his career peak rating of 2729 and seems to be on his way up.

The match is divided into two halves: six classical games followed by six rapid games. The classical games will count double relative to the rapid games, so the current score of 1½-½ in Gelfand’s favor is actually a 3-1 lead. In Game 1, Inarkiev had the White pieces, but was unable to achieve an advantage and the game was rapidly drawn:

Inarkiev, Ernesto vs. Gelfand, Boris
Gelfand-Inarkiev Classical | Magas RUS | Round 1 | 13 Jul 2016 | ECO: E10 | 1/2-1/2
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Bb4+ 5. Bd2 Be7 6. Bg2 O-O 7. O-O c6 8. Qc2 Nbd7 9. Rd1 b6 10. Bf4 Ba6
10... Bb7 is a standard alternative.  )
11. Ne5
11. b3 is also very common, especially as a transpositional possibility.  )
11... Rc8 12. cxd5
12. Nc3 is also common.  )
12... Nxd5
12... cxd5  )
13. Nc3 Few have braved
13. Nxc6 , but it's possible. Best play from here seems to be
13... Nb4 14. Qa4 Nxc6 15. Bxc6 Bxe2 16. Rc1 Nb8 17. Bg2 Qd7 18. Qxd7 Rxc1+ 19. Bxc1 Nxd7  )
13... Nxe5 14. Bxe5 The last few moves have taken the game off the beaten track, and here it departs a little further from recent practice, which has seen 14...f6 15.Bf4 Nxf4 be played. The whole line is a bit surprising from Inarkiev, as Black's results from here have been excellent: six draws, two wins and no losses.
14... Nxc3 15. bxc3 Bc4 16. e4 A new move, whether prepared at home or chosen over the board. Previously everyone had played 16.Be4, in every case finishing the day with a handshake.
16. Be4 h6 17. Bh7+ Kh8 18. Bd3 Bxd3 is equal regardless of which piece White recaptures with.  )
16... Bd6! Gelfand finds a nice temporary pawn sacrifice that lets him achieve a drawn ending. What ending? Watch:
16... Bg5! is an odd-looking move favored by Komodo, but one important point is that the bishop is stranded on e5 and has to concern itself with a possible ...f6. This is especially true in case of the semi-dubious
17. f4 , e.g.
17... Be7 (threatening ...f6)
18. f5 exf5 19. exf5 Bg5  )
17. Bxd6 Qxd6 18. Qa4 Otherwise Black has no problems.
18... b5 19. Qxa7 Ra8 White's queen is trapped, and while it needn't be lost it can't avoid being exchanged. However he allows it to happen, he'll wind up with a weak pawn that will soon be lost.
20. e5
20. Qc5 Qxc5 21. dxc5 Ra3 22. Rd6 Rc8 23. e5 Bd5 24. Bxd5 exd5  )
20... Rxa7 21. exd6 Bd5 22. a4
22. Bxd5 exd5 23. Re1 Rfa8 24. Re7 Rxe7 25. dxe7 f6 26. Kg2 Kf7 27. Re1 Ke8 28. Re6 Kd7 29. Re2 Re8  )
22... Rfa8! Now White has to be a little accurate.
23. Rdb1! Kf8 24. a5
24. Bxd5 exd5 25. Re1 bxa4 26. Ra3 is probably the most precise method.  )
24... Bxg2 25. Kxg2 Ke8 26. c4! Just in time.
26... bxc4
26... Rxa5 27. Rxa5 Rxa5 28. c5  )
27. Ra4 Kd7 28. Rxc4 Kxd6 29. Rb6 Rxa5 30. Rbxc6+ Ke7 Short, but well played.

Game 2 was much livelier, however, as Gelfand won with some spectacular play.

Gelfand, Boris vs. Inarkiev, Ernesto
Gelfand-Inarkiev Classical | Magas RUS | Round 2 | 14 Jul 2016 | ECO: E21 | 1-0
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 The so-called Flexible Variation, sometimes named after Kasparov for his successful use of the line against Karpov in their world championship matches. It has the first moniker because White can choose between many setups: transposition to a Rubinstein with e3, a setup with a kingside fianchetto, and still other lines where White plays Bg5.
4... O-O 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4 c5 7. Rc1 cxd4 8. Nxd4 d5 9. cxd5 g5 10. Bg3 Qxd5 White has almost always chosen 11.a3 here, and Black's results have been pretty good: a win, a loss, and four draws. Gelfand tries something else.
11. e3 Only chosen once before, in a correspondence game.
11... Ne4 For some reason many players don't check for correspondence games, and they often pay the price as a result. Whether this was the case here or not is unclear, but the engine does prefer the move played in the correspondence game to the one chosen by Inarkiev.
11... Qxa2 12. Qc2 Nd5 13. h4 Nxc3 14. hxg5 Na4+ 15. Kd1 Qxb2 16. Qxb2 Nxb2+ 17. Kc2 Be7 18. Kxb2 Bxg5 19. Be5 Nd7 20. Bd6 Rd8 21. f4 Bf6 22. Bc7 Re8 23. Rxh6 e5 24. Nf5 exf4+ 25. Ka3 Be5 26. exf4 Bxc7 27. Rxc7 Nb6 28. Rh5 1/2-1/2 (28) Cavajda,I (2465)-Peuraniemi,P (2440) ICCF email 2012  )
12. Bd3!? Prep by Gelfand? Black does have one move that equalizes, but if he doesn't find it White's advantage is greater than it would have been after 12.f3. Moreover, Black has to find a number of unobvious moves to achieve that equality, so it's possible that this tricky move was part of Gelfand's homework.
12. f3 is suggested by the engine.
12... Bxc3+ 13. bxc3 Nxg3 14. hxg3 Kg7 Here White's position is a little better, but it isn't clear what the best plan is. One interesting idea is
15. f4 , looking to start some trouble on the kingside.  )
12... Bxc3+?!
12... e5! 13. O-O!? Bxc3 14. Nb5! Ba5 15. Bxe4 Qxe4 16. Nd6 Bg4! 17. f3 Qxe3+ 18. Bf2 Bxf3 19. gxf3 Qf4! 20. Qd5 Bb6 21. Rc4 Qf6 22. Qxb7 Na6 23. Ne4 Bxf2+ 24. Rxf2 Qb6 25. Qe7 Rad8 26. Nf6+ Kg7 27. Qxe5 Qxf6 28. Qxf6+ Kxf6 29. Rc6+ Kg7 30. Rxa6 Rd7 At last Black can breathe a sigh of relief. Finding all of this over the board - assuming Gelfand had prepared White's best moves - would not have been easy at all.  )
13. bxc3 White's edge is very comfortable here.
13... Nd7 14. Bxe4!? Surprising and probably inaccurate, but White's idea is to play for domination of the dark squares. To that end, his light-squared bishop is superfluous, so it exchanges itself for one of the Black pieces that can defend those squares. The result is a middlegame with opposite-colored bishops, and it's well-known that this imbalance favors the side with the initiative. Given Black's potentially overextended kingside, Gelfand is confident that he'll be the one calling the tune, but it doesn't turn out to be so simple.
14. f3  )
14. Qh5  )
14... Qxe4 15. O-O b6 16. Nb5 Maybe
16. Qe2 followed by f3 was better, restricting Black's pieces.  )
16... Nc5 17. Nd6 Qg6 18. Qf3 Ba6 19. c4 Rad8 20. Rcd1
20. Rfd1 Nd3  )
20... Rd7 21. Rd4 f6 22. Rfd1?!
22. Qd1 was better, clearing the way for the f-pawn to advance, both for offensive and defensive purposes.  )
22... Rfd8?
22... e5 first and then ...Rfd8 was better, with an advantage for Black thanks to White's lousy bishop.  )
23. h4 e5 24. h5! Qh7? Although
24... Qg7! allows
25. Nf5 to come with tempo, it was the correct choice - provided Black now finds the right move.
25... Bb7! 26. Qg4 Qh7 27. Nxh6+ Kh8! 28. Rxd7 Rxd7 29. Rxd7 Qxd7 30. Qxd7 Nxd7 31. Nf7+ Kg7 32. Nd6 Ba6 33. f3 Kh6  )
25. Qxf6! Inarkiev either missed or underestimated this move, or underestimated his resources after 24...Qg7. Whatever the explanation, this spectacular blow leaves White with a winning advantage.
25... exd4 26. Nf5 Threatening Nxh6+, to which there is no good defense.
26... dxe3
26... Qh8 avoids losing the queen immediately and gives the Black king a flight square. Unfortunately for Inarkiev, there's still another problem.
27. Nxh6+ Kh7 28. Qg6# Black did have a brilliant defense, however, even if it comes up a little short.  )
26... Ne4! 27. Nxh6+ Qxh6 28. Qxh6 Rd6 29. Bxd6 Rxd6 White's queen is trapped as well! If one just counts the pieces after
30. Qxd6 Nxd6 31. Rxd4 Nxc4 Black is doing well, but White will be way ahead in the pawn count, Black's king is cut off, and the knight and bishop don't coordinate well at all. After
32. Rd7 Ne5 33. Rxa7 Bc4 34. f3 White's win will be easily achieved.  )
27. Rxd7 Rxd7 28. Nxh6+ Qxh6 29. Qxh6 exf2+
29... e2 Hope springs eternal, but White can collect the pawn.
30. Qg6+ Rg7 31. Qe8+ Kh7 32. Qxe2  )
30. Bxf2 Black has no chance of erecting a fortress, so the game is lost.
30... Bxc4 31. Bxc5 bxc5 32. Qxg5+ Rg7 33. Qxc5 Bf7 34. Qf5 Be8 35. g4 Bd7 36. Qd5+ White plays g5 next, and more or less wins as he pleases. Not a perfect game by Gelfand, but a very interesting one.

So, fans who are enjoying the tournaments in Danzhou, Dortmund, and Bilbao, may also want to look in on the match in Ingushetia. 


Dennis Monokroussos is a FIDE master who has written about chess on his blog “The Chess Mind,” since 2005. He has been teaching chess for almost 20 years and for the last 10 years has been making instructional chess videos, which can be found at Between 1995 and 2006, he taught philosophy, including a four-year stint at the University of Notre Dame.