The 53rd Reggio Emilia masters tournament is running from December 28th, 2010 to January 6th, 2011 with a fascinating selection of international talents, as well as the top two Italian players of the day. The tournament's actual name "Torneo di Capodanno" means "Tournament of New Year's"
With two rounds to go, it was anyone's guess how the end would unfold. Gashimov's unexpected win over Vallejo, the clear leader, had placed him on equal terms, even giving him a psychological initiative. The first and foremost question entering the penultimate round was how Paco's response would be. Many a player faced with the danger of losing their gains, has gone for the safety-at-all-costs approach, afraid they might end in ignominy. Despite a quietish opening against Onischuk, a Scotch with numerous options for quick exchanges, the queens were left on, mostly at the American's choice. He may have taken these tendered simplifications as a sign of weakness, and hoped to see his opponent wilt at the wrong moment. As result, he fell for a fairly glaring trap, possibly underestimating his Spanish adversary.
Silvano Ferraroni, Francisco Vallejo Pons and Roberto Mogranzini
Vallejo Pons,Francisco (2698) - Onischuk,Alexander (2683) [C45]
53rd Masters Reggio Emilia ITA (8), 05.01.2011
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.Nd2. A rare continuation played mostly in the 90s by Svidler, and more recently a couple of times by Radjabov. 8...Bb7 The only other top game with this is Shirov-Timman (1992). 8...g6 9.c4 Ba6 10.Nf3 Qb4+ 11.Kd1 Rb8 12.Qc2 Ne7 13.Bd3 Bg7 14.a3 Qb7 15.Re1 0-0 16.Bg5 Rfe8 17.b4 d5 18.c5 Bxd3 1/2-1/2 Radjabov,T (2744)-Aronian,L (2801)/Moscow 2010/CB46_2010 9.Nf3. 9.c4 Nf4 10.Qe3 Ne6 11.Nb3 Qb4+ 12.Bd2 Qb6 13.f4 a5 14.f5 Nc5 15.Be2 Nxb3 16.Qxb6 cxb6 17.axb3 0-0-0 18.0-0-0 Bb4 19.Bf4 f6 20.Bh5 Rhf8 21.g4 1/2-1/2 Shirov,A (2710)-Timman,J (2665)/Moscow 1992/CBM 033 (42) 9...Qb4+ 10.Qd2 Qe4+ 11.Be2 Ba6. 11...Nb4 12.Kd1 12.Kf1 Bxe2+ 13.Qxe2 Qf5
The American is seeking more than a quick draw and avoids simplifications, but the queen is somewhat awkwardly placed and subject to harrassment. 14.c4 Nb4 15.Bd2 Bc5 16.Bxb4 Bxb4 17.Rd1 0-0 18.Qd3 Qe6 19.Ng5 Qh6 20.h4 Rad8 21.Rh3
21...d5? Onischuk's position is very unpleasant, but here he had to try and exchange off some of the pieces to relieve the pressure. This attempt at active play blows up in his face. 21...Be7! 22.Re1 Qg6 would have gone a long way towards defusing the bomb. 22.Qf5! Rde8. Now, however, 22...Qg6 loses after 23.Qxg6 hxg6 (23...fxg6 24.Ne6) 24.e6! f6 25.e7! Bxe7 26.Ne6 23.Rf3!?
Objectively 23.cxd5 cxd5 24.a3 Ba5 25.Rxd5 was best, but the move played sets a trap that Black is courteous enough to justify. 23...Qxh4?? Disaster! Since Onischuk is more than strong enough to calculate the consequences, and it was such an in-the-face temptation. Was he short of time, or did he simply underestimate his opponent? 23...dxc4 Is the suggestion of the engines, but despite the moderate evaluation, after 24.Nxf7 (24.Rd7? f6) 24...Qe6 25.Rd7 Qxf5 26.Rxf5 Re7 27.Rxe7 Bxe7 28.e6 it isn't at all clear Black can hold the endgame. The king is cut off while White's king is ready to pluck the pawns on the queenside. 24.Rh3 Qxc4+ 25.Kg1 g6 26.Qf6 Be7
27.Nxh7! Qg4 28.Qxe7! After 28.Qxe7 Rxe7 (28...Qxh3 29.Nf6+ Kh8 (29...Kg7 30.Nxe8+ Rxe8 31.Qf6+ Kf8 32.gxh3) 30.Nxe8 Qh6 31.g3 followed by Kg2 and Rh1.) 29.Nf6+ Kg7 30.Rh7# 1-0. [Click to replay]
This positive result put Gashimov under extreme pressure, who really dodged the bullet. Navara played a very good Breyer and took advantage of some imprecise play by the Azerbadjani to build a decisve attack. Instead he failed to find the winning shot, not at all obvious to be fair, and neglected to give Gashmov's counterthreats sufficient attention. As a result, the roles were soon reversed and it was he who was in an extremely precarious position. Vugar correctly sensed the change in tide and had no trouble switching gears.
Gashimov,Vugar (2733) - Navara,David (2708) [C95]
53rd Masters Reggio Emilia ITA (8), 05.01.2011
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7 11.Nbd2 Bb7 12.Bc2 Re8 13.Nf1 Bf8 14.Bg5 h6 15.Bh4 g6. This is the second Breyer the two players play this year, with Navara seeking to settle the score. 15...exd4 16.cxd4 c5 17.d5 g6 18.Bg3 Nb6 19.b3 Bg7 20.Rc1 a5 21.Bd3 b4 22.N3d2 a4 23.Ne3 axb3 24.axb3 Nh5 25.Bh2 Bb2 26.Bb5 Re7 27.Ng4 Nf6 28.Nxh6+ Kg7 29.Ng4 Bxc1 30.Qxc1 Nxg4 31.hxg4 1-0 Gashimov,V (2719)-Navara,D (2731)/Sestao 2010/CB34_2010 (48) 16.N1h2 Bg7 17.dxe5 dxe5 18.Ng4 g5. 18...Qe7 19.Qd2 g5 20.Nxf6+ Nxf6 21.Bg3 Nh5 22.a4 c5 23.Nh2 c4 24.Nf1 Nf4 1/2-1/2 Gashimov,V (2734)-Svidler,P (2735)/Astrakhan 2010/CB20_2010 (62) 19.Bg3 Nxg4 20.hxg4 Qe7 21.a4 c5
22.Nd2. Obviously, the knight has few options on f3, so it is time to reroute it to the far more attractive f5 square which is just screaming to have a knight placed on it. 22...Nf6 23.Nf1 Qe6 24.f3 h5 25.gxh5. Instead of handing the f4 square to Black's knight, Gashimov might have tried 25.Qd2 Bh6 26.Ne3 Red8 27.Qf2 hxg4 28.Nf5 25...Nxh5 26.Bf2 Rad8 27.Qc1 Nf4 28.Ne3
Although White's knight will finally reach its destination, it is completely balanced by Black's equally well-placed counterpart. 28...Qg6 29.axb5 axb5 30.Ra7
30...g4!! Trouble in paradise! 31.fxg4 Bxe4 32.Nf5 Bxc2 33.Qxc2 Qxg4 34.Be3 c4 35.Rb7
35...Rd3. The Czech player now had a chance to finish Vugar off with the unexpected 35...Bf8! The point is that 36.Bxf4 would no longer effectively defend, since now (If White ignores this and grabs the pawn with 36.Rxb5 then Black forces his opponent's hand with 36...Re6 37.Bxf4 Forced due to the threat of Rg6. 37...exf4 38.Rxe6 Rd1+! 39.Kf2 fxe6 and the knight is lost since if it moves, White is mated with Qg3+ Ke2 Qe1 mate.) 36...exf4 37.Rxe8 Rxe8! and White cannot protect against the fatal rook penetration and the knight at the same time. 36.Bxf4 Qxf5 37.Bc1 Qc8. The natural looking 37...e4 was strongest here. 38.Ra7 Bf8 39.b4 Qe6 40.Qf2 Rxc3 41.Bd2 Rb3 42.Rf1 White's threats are starting to become serious, and Navara is walking on very thin ice here. 42...Qd5?!
42...Be7 43.Ra6 Qd5 (43...Qxa6 44.Qxf7+ leads to mate.) 43.Be3! Rxe3 44.Rxf7! 44.Qxe3 Qd4! and White is in trouble. Ex: 45.Qxd4 exd4 46.Rfxf7 d3! 44...Bh6. The interference return of material with 44...Rf3 was an option to prevent Qf5, though Black is still in big trouble after 45.Rxf3 Bg7 46.Qe2 Qd4+ 47.Kh1 Re6 48.Rh3 45.Qf5 Qd3. 45...Qe4 46.Qd7 Ra8 47.Qe6+- 46.Qg4+ Kh8 47.R7f6 Rh3. Forced. 47...Kh7?? 48.Rxh6+ Kxh6 49.Rf6+ etc. 48.gxh3 Qh7 49.Kh1 Bf4 50.Qf3 Rg8 51.Rb6 Qc2 52.Qh5+ Qh7 53.Qxh7+ Kxh7 54.Rf3. Protecting against Rg3 and ending any hopes for Black. 1-0. [Click to replay]
The players, Caruana, Short, Onischuk, Gashimov, Vallejo Pons (standing behind
WGM Martha Fierro), and Ivanchuk with the tournament staff below.
A magnificent and deserved win by both Vugar Gasimov and Francisco Vallejo-Pons, showing inspiration and strength of character at all the right moments.
Photos by Maria Bolshakova, Yulia Kochetkova and Martha Fierro
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