2009 Politiken Cup: Negi Nails Nordic Natives

8/4/2009 – The Politiken Cup has been an annual tradition, as a part of the Copenhagen Chess Festival. This year's edition, running from July 18-26, served also as the Nordic Chess Championship. GMs Parimarjan Negi and Boris Avruk ultimately emerged victorious in the overall championship, though the locals gave them a run for their money. Annotation by Negi.

2009 Politiken Cup, Copenhagen, Denmark

Report by Jan Løfberg

The Politiken Cup, an annual tournament since 1979, serves as the cornerstone of the Copenhagen Chess Festival. With a number of side events, typically many interesting stories emerge. For instance, after Dortmund, Norwegian star Magnus Carlsen stayed a few days in Denmark with his friend GM Peter Heine Nielsen. The players and spectators were surprised when they saw Magnus Carlsen at Peter Heine Nielsen's simultaneous exhibition at the Copenhagen Central Station. As a joke, they had signed up Magnus at the website as a participant, but the organizers cancelled Carlsen's name immediately. The organizers did not think it was true – but, in fact, it was!

Magnus arrived, luggage in hand, to find out he was removed from the participant list for Peter Heine Nielsen's simul.

With a heavily Nordic field, offset by a few handfuls of foreigners, the Copenhagen Blitz Championship also served as an entertaining side event. After sudden death, Swedish GM Emanuel Berg won against GM Alexey Dreev, by a score of 2-1.

Copenhagen Blitz Champion, GM Emanuel Berg, 2601

As for the main event, the 307 participants in the Politiken Cup set a new attendance record for the tournament, played since 1979. The Nordic players in the field were playing for two titles: that of Nordic Chess Champion, determined by the top-finishing qualifying player in the tournament, as well as that of Politiken Cup Champion. This year, congratulations are in order for GM Peter Heine Nielsen, who took the Nordic title, with a convincing score of 8.0/10, wresting the title from the champion of last year, GM Emanuel Berg.

Nordic Chess Champion, GM Peter Heine Nielsen, 2680

Of course, the winner of the Nordic Championship is not necessarily crowned the winner of the Politiken Cup, as highlighted this year. GMs Boris Avruk and Parimarjan Negi tied for joint first, with Negi taking the title on tiebreaks. He has been kind enough to annotate one of his key encounters, against this year's Nordic Champion, for us:

Negi,P (2590) - Nielsen,PH (2680) [B19]
Politiken Cup Helsingor DEN (7), 23.07.2009 [Commentary by Parimarjan]

GM Parimarjan Negi, 2590, this year's victor at the Politiken Cup

It was my second time in Denmark for the Politiken Cup, the last time being three years back. This time though, the tournament was held in a much nicer place with a spectacular view of the sea and a continuous stretch of green fields. Perhaps I have that as an excuse for my good performance. The tournament, once again, had a large number of players, so I breezed through the first four rounds. Facing weaker players gave me ample time to get into a good routine. At the stage this game was played, I had scored 5.5/6, among a group of a few players trailing Jonny Hector who was on a perfect 6.0/6.

1.e4 c6. A surprise. I didn't really know what to expect because he had played much less in the last few years, but, looking through his games, the Petroff or Spanish seemed much likelier alternatives. Incidentally, I got another white in the next round against Evgeny Postny – my second double white, something that I didn't have anything to complain about, as it gave me six whites from ten games – and he also surprised me with the Caro Kann. That game was a real marathon, with me missing a win in the endgame, and finally ending with a draw. 2.d4. I had experimented a couple of times with 2.Ne2, but this didnt feel like the right choice against an experienced grandmaster. 2...d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 e6 11.Bd2 Ngf6 12.0-0-0 Be7. Postny went for the more solid 12...Qc7 in the next game. 13.Rhe1!? I spent a few minutes to choose the variation. On the previous two occasions, I had successfully employed 13.Ne4, with plans revolving around a quick g4-g5. Of course, that brutal attack on Black's position was clearly not the most efficient, and Nielsen was ready for it. This line, on the other hand, has recently come into prominence, and I had tested a few interesting ideas in the last few games. 13...0-0 14.Qe2

14...a5. This has been played far fewer times, and looks a bit dubious. It was played after Nielsen had thought a long time. I guess he was debating whether or not to test my preparation after the more direct c5. 14...c5 is definitely the critical line here. The continuation goes as follows: 15.Nf5 cxd4 16.N3xd4 Bc5 17.Nxh6+ gxh6 18.Bxh6 Re8 19.g4!? - the novelty played by Landa, upon which the assesment of this variation depends. I suppose he wasn't well-prepared for this variation, which would explain his decision to avoid it and go for a5. 15.Ne5. For a while during the game, I also considered playing Kb1, but then I didn't see any point in moving the King from c1. So, I decided to try to build up pressure immediately: 15...a4. This looks like a somewhat inaccurate move to me. The idea of a3 is easily dealt with, and Black's camp gets weaker dark squares which I might be able to utilize through threats like Ng6, targetting the e7 Bishop. 15...Bb4 is !?, getting the Bishop out of the way of various shots involving Ng6, and continuing 16.c3 Bd6 17.f4 /\Qf3 -- Ne2 -- g4 -- g5, which was the plan Movsesian used very effectively against Morozevich. 17...a4 would, perhaps, irritate White a bit, by creating weaknesses on the queenside.

16.a3 16.Ng6 would not bring any dividends in this position: 16...a3! 17.b3 Re8 18.Nxe7+ Qxe7 and White doesn't keep any control of the dark squares.

16...c5? This move was played after some thought. I think he was only considering the lines with dxc5, which, opening up the d-file, looks optically dangerous for Black. He may have missed 19.d5!, though I would still not expect him to voluntarily allow me to take the e7-bishop. 16...Nxe5 17.dxe5 Nd7 18.f4 /\f5, and White maintains pressure; 16...Qc7 17.Ng6 also looks unpleasant for Black. 16...Re8 was an option to avoid Ng6 ideas, though it looks a bit shaky, with moves such as Nf7 hovering in the air. 17.f4 was what I had planned to played, taking a solid grip in the centre with ideas like either f5, or even a slow plan with Qf3 -- Ne2 -- g4, etc. 17.Nxf7 Kxf7 18.Qxe6+ Kf8 19.Nf5 Bxa3 20.Qa2 Be7 21.Nxe7 (21.Nxh6 Nd5) 21...Rxe7 22.Bb4 Nd5 23.Bxe7+ Nxe7 24.Qa3 was also possible.

17.Ng6! Perhaps he missed this, or 19.d5. In any case, this move was extremely unpleasant for Black. 17...Re8. 17...cxd4 was a plausible exchange sacrifice, as suggested by the computer. I seriously doubt this gives Black enough compensation, however, after: 18.Nxf8 Bxf8 19.Ne4. 18.Nxe7+ Qxe7 19.d5! The opening of central files is, as usual, unpleasant for Black. 19.Qf3 cxd4 20.Bb4 Qd8 21.Rxd4 Nd5 was another possibility. 19...Qd6. 19...Qf8 20.dxe6 (20.d6 Ra6!) 20...Rxe6 21.Qf3 arguably better places the queen because it's out of the way. That said, I think it's too passive. 21...Ne5 22.Qf4+/= (22.Qxb7 Rb8) ; 19...Nxd5 20.Bxh6 Qf6 21.Bd2 looks extremely good for White, with Ne4 -- c4 -- Bc3 to follow. 20.dxe6 Rxe6. Better was 20...Qxe6. Accepting a slightly worse endgame, after 21.Qxe6 Rxe6 22.Rxe6 fxe6, seems to be a much better idea. With all of Black's pawn weaknesses, he clearly has a worse position. In this position, however, nothing comes easily to White and Black remains a bit more solid. Though, as is clear from his move choice, he wrongly overestimated his chances for initiative. 21.Qf3

21...Ne5? Better was 21...Qc6, of course, but after having avoided the queen exchange on the last move, to play this here would have been akin to admitting that Rxe6 was a ?! move. Clearly, this move was still something he wanted to justify. After 22.Qxc6 Rxc6 23.Bc3 Re6 24.Rxe6 (24.Nf5!?+/= also needs to be considered, as it wasn't clear to me during the game.) 24...fxe6, White simply has a tempo more than in the 20...Qe6 line, though it isn't clear that it makes any difference. 25.Rd6 Kf7 26.Ne4 (26.Bxf6 Nxf6 27.Rb6 Rb8) doesn't work, due to 26...Ke7!-/+.

22.Qxb7 Initially, I was slightly worried about taking the pawn, but then I realised the open files don't promise Black anything. 22.Rxe5 had been my original idea when I played Qf3, but 22...Rxe5 (22...Qxe5 23.Bf4 is a really nice Queen trap) 23.Bf4 Qe7 24.Bxe5 Qxe5 seems fine for Black. 22.Qf4 Nd5 would keep the position more complicated. 22...Rb8 23.Qa7 Nc6 23...Nc4 24.Rxe6 fxe6 25.Bxh6! is an important resource. 23...Rxb2 24.Kxb2 (24.Bc3) 24...Nc4+ 25.Kc1, and the attack is over, though I also noticed that 24.Bc3 is, perhaps, even easier.

24.Qxa4 There is nothing like greediness. Not that I had choice in the matter. 24...Nd4 24...Rxe1 worried me much more. Allowing Qc4 isn't a very good idea, as that more or less cuts all counterplay for Black. 25.Bxe1 (25.Rxe1 Qd5) 25...Qe6 (25...Nd4 26.Qc4 Qe5 27.Bc3 Qg5+ 28.Kb1 Nb5 29.Ka2+/-) 26.Bc3 Qa2 27.b3 doesn't seem to be a problem for White. 25.Qc4! Otherwise, the ideas with Qd5 would really get irritating, and the pawns might easily lose value. 25...Nd5 26.Rxe6 26.Ne4 was my original idea, but 26...Qb6 27.b3 Qa7! suddenly gets into weird complications. For example, 28.Qxc5? (28.Nxc5 Qxa3+ 29.Kb1, where White may still be good, but is unnecessarily complicated.; 28.a4 Nb6! is getting tricky.) 28...Nxb3+! was the point. Now, 29.cxb3 Rc6 30.Qxc6 Qxa3+, and White gets mated. Calculating this line was a rude shock, highlighting the fact that positions can change quickly. It made me realise all the dangers that a move like Qb6 can pose, influencing my following play. 26...Qxe6 26...fxe6 27.Ne4 Qb6 28.b3 Qa7 29.Qxc5 was another possibility. With the rooks exchanged, I can easily grab this pawn.

27.Ba5!? I guess White has other ways to win, but this one looks pretty smooth. It stops Qb6, which was causing me unnecessary weaknesses on the queenside, and nicely places the bishop for control of the d8-square – keeping it from the black rook. My opponent was also running out of time here, and with the position near collapse, I just needed to keep my nerves in check for the remainder of the game. 27...Qe5 28.Re1 Ne2+. A final attempt.

29.Rxe2 Qxb2+ 30.Kd2 Qxa3 31.Qxd5. This was the only move, but it wasn't hard to find, as the king makes an easy escape. The final moves were not of much consequence. 31...Qxa5+ 32.Ke3 Rd8 33.Qe5 Qa3+ 34.c3 Qc1+ 35.Kf3 Rd3+ 36.Re3 Qd1+ 37.Kf4. A nice square for the king. 37...Rd6 38.Nf5 Rf6 39.Kg3. With this win, I was among the leaders on 6.5/7, with three rounds to go. The next game was a long affair, which required three scoresheets, but I wasn't able to bring home the point, despite excellent chances against Postny. A short draw in round nine with black against Malakhov left me with white in round ten against Berg, against whom I lost three times in 2007. This time with white, however, I succeeded in utilising his passive play in the opening. This victory ended a great time for me in Lo Skolen. As an aside, the curious thing about the last round was that there were nearly no draws on the top ten boards, a rare sight in open tournaments.
1-0. [Click to replay]


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