Four Are Tied for Lead of a Tournament Named for Karpov
ByParimarjan NegiJul 27 — 9:00 PM
Image by Stefan64
The field includes some top players and a couple of them have produced really exciting games.
In a summer of so many great chess tournaments, it is possible to overlook one named for Anatoly Karpov, the former World Champion, that is taking place in the Siberian town of Poikovsky in Russia. Over the years, the tournament has become an important part of the chess calendar. The competition usually consists of an interesting stylistic mix of generally Russian-speaking grandmasters rated between 2650 and 2750. Though it isn’t a top, top event, it often produces some great chess!
This year, the field is quite evenly matched. In the first four rounds, before the rest day on Wednesday, none of the players managed to break away from the pack. Indeed, four players, including Radoslaw Wojtaszek, the highest ranked player, who is from Poland, share the lead, each with 2.5 points.
So far a majority of the games have been drawn, and a few of them, especially the matches between the Russian players, haven’t been too exciting. There have been some draws which went deeply into well-analyzed variations, as often happens in games between old friends. And some of the draws were a consequence of the positional style of several of the players, which was developed during the Soviet era when some of them learned to play. But a majority of the games have been pretty hard fought.
A few of the decisive games have been exceptional because of the efforts of some of the players. In the past, Emil Sutovsky of Israel, 38, and Viktor Bologan of Moldova, 44, liked to play magnificent attacking games. Both are past their prime, but they continue to have interesting ideas and their energetic play in the tournament has been refreshing.
Sutovsky is president of the Association of Chess Professionals, which takes up a lot of his time. But his play hasn’t been disappointing. In the following game he was surprised in the opening by Dmitry Jakovenko of Russia, 33, who came up with a mind-blowing idea of how to gain an enormous initiative and dominate a position:
1. Nf3Nf62. c4c53. Nc3d54. cxd5Nxd55. e4Nb46. Bc4Nd3+7. Ke2This is a well-known variation. Now Black usually continues Nf4 7... Nxc1+!?8. Rxc1a6This is an idea for Black that was recently played by a couple of ambitious players. It is very provocative to continue so blatantly to ignore development -- just compare the White and Black pieces! But Black's plan does force White to react quickly, because if Black is able to complete his development, he will have a perfect position. 9. d4b510. Bd5Ra711. Ne5!?This is quite new territory, but I suspect that both players had some knowledge about this position from home preparation. If they didn't, it would be remarkable, as finding good moves in such a position is very difficult during a game. 11... e612. Bc6+Ke7!Black is threatening f6, and though his development lags, he doesn't seem to be doing so badly because it is not clear how White can create any threats.
( 12... Nxc613. Nxc6would be an unpleasant fork )
13. Qd2f614. Nd5+!I feel this was probably prepared by Jakovenko. I don't imagine anyone finding such an idea over the board. Sutovsky was probably caught off guard, but he responds admirably. 14... exd515. Rxc5!dxe4
( 15... fxe516. Qg5+Kf717. Qxd8 )
16. Rhc1It is amazing how White can continue playing with an initiative as if nothing happened; fxe5 seems impossible, so how is Black supposed to develop? 16... Be617. Qe3Qd6!Sutovsky continues to find sensible moves. 18. Qxe4
( 18. d5Bf519. Rxb5!Threatening Qxa7 was the strongest idea. )
18... Kd8White is no longer dominating the position because Black is about to complete his development. White also might lose a second piece. 19. Bb7!the only way to survive. 19... fxe520. Rc8+Bxc821. Rxc8+Kd722. dxe5White should be completely lost -- he is basically down a rook and a piece! But, for the moment, he is actually able to continue with few problems: 22... Qe623. f4!!Who is counting the material!! The rook on c8 completely controls the position. 23... Qg4+24. Ke3I can barely express how ridiculously crazy this position to me. White is threatening Qd5, so Sutovsky naturally plays 24... Ke725. Rxb8Perhaps too ambitious.
( 25. Qb4+!?would force the situation, but I don't think White thought his position was better. 25... Kf726. Bd5+Kg627. Rxf8Rxf828. Qxf8Nd729. Qd6+Nf6and Black will probably be able to survive. I would even prefer his position as the White king looks very shaky and the Black king will be perfectly safe on the kingside. )
25... g5!A straightforward move - Black wants to play Bg7 and creates annoying threats as well. 26. f5?
( 26. g3!had to be played. It is hard to imagine that White does not have to be continually aggressive when he is down a rook, but he can. 26... gxf4+27. gxf4threats like Qb4+ keep Black in the game. And after 27... Qg1+28. Ke2Qxh2+29. Kf1it doesn't look like Black has more than a perpetual check. In addition, Bg7 would be very bad because 29... Bg730. Qb4+Kf731. Bd5+Kg632. Qe4+Kh633. Rb6+! )
26... Qxe4+27. Kxe4Bg728. f6+Kd7!This is perhaps what Black missed.
( 28... Kf729. Bd5+Kg630. Rb6would still not be easy to win for Black. )
White’s play was incredible, but the sudden way Black turned things around was equally impressive. The win put Sutovsky among the leaders, but in the fourth round he was outplayed by Wojtaszek which brought him back to an even score.
Another amazing initiative was created by Bologan against Anton Korobov of Ukraine:
Bh511. e4!?A bizarre novelty. White doesn't seem to be developed enough to play this way.
( 11. O-O-Ois a more common move. )
11... dxe412. fxe4O-O13. e5Very aggressive. At this point, it is not clear if White is self-destructing, or playing some amazing moves. 13... Nfd714. Bg2f6
( 14... Bxh415. gxh4would be very dangerous for Black -- without the dark-squared bishop the Black king is very exposed. )
15. c5!Bf716. O-Ofxe517. Bh3!An amazing sequence of moves is finished and White's pieces seem a lot better co-ordinated than Black's and Black also has no easy way to develop. 17... Bxh418. Rxf7!The idea behind Bh3! White needed to be very accurate at this point and Bologan clearly took a lot of time on his clock. 18... Rxf719. Bxe6Nf820. Bc4It is remarkable that White is able to play calm moves like this and maintain his initiative. His threat is Rf1, which would be crushing. 20... Bf621. Ne4!and another piece gets involved! The coordination of White's pieces is like a symphony. 21... Ng622. Nd6Nh8Ugly, but it is the only way to defend. 23. dxe5Bxe524. Rf1??Alas, White misses that after Bxd6 - cxd6 - Qb6!+ forces the exchange of queens. Then Black is ahead too much material. Instead, White had a beautiful win:
( 24. Re1!!Bxd625. cxd6if Qd7, then just Re7 is crushing. 25... Qb6+26. Qxb6axb627. Re8# )
Bologan played an absolutely marvellous game, but chess can sometimes be cruel. What a tragedy! Korobos’s win put him among the leaders, while Bologan slipped to last place.
More than half of the tournament still remains and I think that first place will probably come down to a battle between players like Dmitry Andreikin of Russia and Wojtaszek. Since none of the players have found it easy to score points, first place might be decided by whichever player is able to better capitalize on a small advantage in one of the remaining games.
Parimarjan Negi is an Indian grandmaster who is the second-youngest ever to earn the title (at 13 years 4 months and 22 days). Ranked No. 90 in the world, he just finished his sophomore year at Stanford University. He can be found on Twitter at @parimarjan.
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