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:
( 11. b3is also very common, especially as a transpositional possibility. )
11... Rc812. cxd5
( 12. Nc3is also common. )
( 12... cxd5 )
13. Nc3Few have braved
( 13. Nxc6, but it's possible. Best play from here seems to
be 13... Nb414. Qa4Nxc615. Bxc6Bxe216. Rc1Nb817. Bg2Qd718. Qxd7Rxc1+19. Bxc1Nxd7 )
13... Nxe514. Bxe5The 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... Nxc315. bxc3Bc416. e4A 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. Be4h617. Bh7+Kh818. Bd3Bxd3is 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. f5exf519. exf5Bg5 )
17. Bxd6Qxd618. Qa4Otherwise Black has no problems. 18... b519. Qxa7Ra8White'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
1. d4Nf62. c4e63. Nc3Bb44. Nf3The 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-O5. Bg5h66. Bh4c57. Rc1cxd48. Nxd4d59. cxd5g510. Bg3Qxd5White 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. e3Only chosen once before, in a correspondence game. 11... Ne4For 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.
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
( 12. f3is suggested by the engine. 12... Bxc3+13. bxc3Nxg314. hxg3Kg7Here 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... e5!13. O-O!?Bxc314. Nb5!Ba515. Bxe4Qxe416. Nd6Bg4!17. f3Qxe3+18. Bf2Bxf319. gxf3Qf4!20. Qd5Bb621. Rc4Qf622. Qxb7Na623. Ne4Bxf2+24. Rxf2Qb625. Qe7Rad826. Nf6+Kg727. Qxe5Qxf628. Qxf6+Kxf629. Rc6+Kg730. Rxa6Rd7At 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. bxc3White's edge is very comfortable here. 13... Nd714. 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... Qxe415. O-Ob616. Nb5Maybe
( 16. Qe2followed by f3 was
better, restricting Black's pieces. )
16... Nc517. Nd6Qg618. Qf3Ba619. c4Rad820. Rcd1
( 20. Rfd1Nd3 )
20... Rd721. Rd4f622. Rfd1?!
( 22. Qd1was better, clearing the way for the f-pawn to advance, both for offensive and
defensive purposes. )
( 22... e5first and then ...Rfd8 was
better, with an advantage for Black thanks to White's lousy bishop. )
23. h4e524. h5!Qh7?Although
( 24... Qg7!allows 25. Nf5to come with tempo,
it was the correct choice - provided Black now finds the right move. 25... Bb7!26. Qg4Qh727. Nxh6+Kh8!28. Rxd7Rxd729. Rxd7Qxd730. Qxd7Nxd731. Nf7+Kg732. Nd6Ba633. f3Kh6 )
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... exd426. Nf5Threatening Nxh6+, to
which there is no good defense. 26... dxe3
( 26... Qh8avoids losing the queen
immediately and gives the Black king a flight square. Unfortunately for
Inarkiev, there's still another problem. 27. Nxh6+Kh728. Qg6#Black did
have a brilliant defense, however, even if it comes up a little short. )
( 26... Ne4!27. Nxh6+Qxh628. Qxh6Rd629. Bxd6Rxd6White's queen is trapped as
well! If one just counts the pieces after 30. Qxd6Nxd631. Rxd4Nxc4Black 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. Rd7Ne533. Rxa7Bc434. f3White's win will be easily achieved. )
27. Rxd7Rxd728. Nxh6+Qxh629. Qxh6exf2+
( 29... e2Hope springs eternal, but
White can collect the pawn. 30. Qg6+Rg731. Qe8+Kh732. Qxe2 )
30. Bxf2Black has no
chance of erecting a fortress, so the game is lost. 30... Bxc431. Bxc5bxc532. Qxg5+Rg733. Qxc5Bf734. Qf5Be835. g4Bd736. Qd5+White plays g5 next,
and more or less wins as he pleases. Not a perfect game by Gelfand, but a very
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 ChessLecture.com. Between 1995 and 2006, he taught philosophy, including a four-year stint at the University of Notre Dame.
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