Elista Tiebreak: Grischuk beats Rublevsky to qualify

6/13/2007 – Alexander Grischuk beat Sergey Rublevsky in two games and drew one to qualify for the world championship in Mexico. The tiebreak was over four rapid chess games (25 minutes plus five seconds increment per move). Grischuk won the first and third, each time with the black pieces. We bring you a full report with pictures and instructive commentary by GM Mihail Marin.

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The Finals of the Candidates Matches for the 2007 World Chess Championship Tournament are being held in Elista, Russia, from June 6th to June 14, 2007. Eight candidates advanced from the first stage and are now playing six-game matches to fill four places in the 2007 World Championship in Mexico City.

Finals: Tiebreak Grischuk-Rublevsky

Finals Tiebreak: Wednesday, June 13th 2007

Sergei Rublevsky 
0-1
 Alexander Grischuk
Alexander Grischuk 
½-½
 Sergei Rublevsky
Sergei Rublevsky 
0-1
 Alexander Grischuk

Finals Tiebreak

Over the last days, most of the players started showing signs of fatigue. Some of the games ended in draws after a relatively small number of moves and some of them were not too consistent. Fortunately, the last day was a true delight from the spectator's point of view. All games were rich in strategic and tactical content and the final outcome of the match remained uncertain for a long time.


Preparing for the final showdown, outside the thater: Alexander Grischuk

Grischuk outplayed his opponent with Black in the first game and starting with a certain point never gave him a chance for survival. Rublevsky displayed superb opening preparation in the second game, where he obtained a very promissing position with Black. However, his nerves let him down at the critical moment and he went for a tempting forced line which led to simplifications and an inevitable draw. Instead, he could have squeezed his opponent in a long game, but this is history already... In the third (last) game, Rublevsky pushed a little too hard in an approximately equal position. On the 26th move he overlooked Black's simple tactical resource and went down quickly – in the game and in the match as well.


The setup: an arbiter notes the moves, a video camera records the game, so the players do not have to use scoresheets at this fast time control (25 minutes for the entire game plus five seconds increment per move)


Alex Grischuk thinking, while Sergei Rublevsiky waits to see his decision

Rublevsky,Sergei - Grischuk,Alexander
FIDE candidate matches Tiebreak Elista (1), 13.06.2007 [Mihail Marin]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5 5.Nxc6 Qf6 6.Qf3 bxc6 7.Qg3 h5 8.h4 Nh6 9.f3 d5 10.Nc3 Bd4 11.Bd2 Rb8 12.0-0-0 Be5

13.f4. A new step in the theoretical dispute initiated by the 4th game of the match. 13...Bd4 14.Qd3 Bg4 15.e5 Bxc3! 16.Qxc3. We are familiar already with this kind of pseudo queen sacrifice. In case of 16.exf6 Bxb2+ 17.Kb1 Bxf6+ 18.Kc1 Bb2+ 19.Kb1 Black can force an immediate draw or play on with 19...Bxd1!? 16...Qe6 17.Re1 0-0 18.Be3 Rfd8

The opening is over and time has come to draw some conclusions. Each part has important strategic achievements on one of the wings, where the opponent's structure is safely blocked. From static point of view, White's perspectives are better, because Black's quenside pawns are not only immobile but also weak! However, Black is much better developed and this detail weights quite heavily in the positional balance. White needs to develop his king's bishop in such a way that it does not get exchanged, which would increase the significance of his kingside weakneses in radical way. However, this is not easy to achieve, as the further course of the game shows. These kind of complex startegic evaluations is quite typical for the Scotch Opening. The absolute truth is not easy to discover, which partly explains why it used to be such a terrible weapon in Kasparov's hands.

19.Qc5. White needs to block the c6-pawn by physial means in order to prepare Ba6. The careless 19.Ba6? would unexpectedely lose to 19...d4! 20.Bxd4 c5!! (But not 20...Qxa2 because of 21.Bc4 Qa1+ 22.Kd2 Qxb2 23.Qxb2 Rxb2 24.Kc3 when White remains in control. The exchange sacrifice 24...Rxc2+ does not work because of 25.Kxc2 Rxd4 26.Kc3 Rxf4 27.Rhf1 and White has every chance to win this.) After 20...c5!! White loses a bishop, for instance 21.Bc4 cxd4! 19...a5. Just in time. The bishop will not enjoy the desired stability on a6 any more. Needless to say, White is not interested in "winning" the a-pawn because this would open lines for Black's attack. 20.Kb1 a4 21.Bd3 Bf5 22.Rc1?! Too optimistic. As a compensation for the exchange of the light-squared bishops, White hopes to get pressure along the c-file, but Black counterplay will prove much stronger. It would have been wiser to play 22.Be2 although Black can more or les force a draw in this case with the perpetual pursuit starting with 22...Bg4. 22...Bxd3 23.cxd3 Nf5 24.Bf2

From strategic point of view, this is a complete triumph for Black. However, he still needs to work out some tactical details. 24...Rb5! 25.Qxc6 Rdb8 26.Qxe6 Rxb2+ 27.Ka1 fxe6 28.Rb1 a3! In case of general exchanges on b1, White would soon have captured the a4-pawn, creating a very dangerous queenside passer. 29.Bc5 Nxh4! Harvest time. 30.Rxb2 axb2+ 31.Kb1 Nxg2 32.f5 Nf4 33.fxe6 Nxd3 34.Ba3 Nxe5

My first thought in this position was: "Even I would win this!" The rest of rthe moves were played by inertia. 35.Kc2 Nc4 36.Bc5 Nd2 37.a4 b1Q+ 38.Rxb1 Nxb1 39.a5 Rb5 0-1. [Click to replay]


Grischuk,Alexander - Rublevsky,Sergei
FIDE candidate matches Tiebreak Elista (2), 13.06.2007 [Mihail Marin]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 Qc7 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Be3 Be7 9.f4 d6 10.a4 0-0 11.Kh1 Re8 12.Bf3 Bf8 13.Qd2 Rb8 14.Rad1. For the decisive game, Grischuk switches to the main continuation. Two days earlier he preferred 14.Qf2. 14...e5!? Rublevsky plays in the same way as in the previous Sicilian game, but here the move is "almost" a novelty. 14...Nd7 is the usual continuation. 15.Nde2 b5 16.axb5 axb5 17.f5 b4 18.Nd5 Nxd5 19.Qxd5.

It might seem that the opening has ended very successfully for White. He has maintained the control of the d5-square and the c6-knight does not seem to have any good squares at its disposal. However, Rublevsky has "seen" a bit further. 19...Ba6 20.Qd2. Grischuk retreats with his queen from what started becoming an exposed position and enables such threats as f6 followed by Bh6. In case of 20.Rfe1 b3! (But not 20...Nd4? 21.Nxd4 Bc4? because of 22.Qc6! , retaining the material advantage.) 21.c3 Na5. 20...Nd4! 21.Bxd4 exd4 22.Rfe1 Bxe2 23.Qxe2 Be7 24.Rxd4 Bf6. As a result of the pawn sacrifice, the position has changed abruptly. Two of Black's pieces have been activated in radical way (the bishop and the e8-rook). Ironically, the earlier advance of the f-pawn, which allowed White win space on the kingside and weaken the d5-square has only resulted in chronic weaknesses on dark squares. Black has excellent compensation for the pawn. 25.Rc4 Qa5 26.c3. A wise decision. White needs the enemy bishop to be vulnerable on c3. After 26.b3 d5 27.Rc6 Bc3 the position would be very much to Black's favour compared to the game continuation. 26...bxc3 27.bxc3 d5 28.Rc6 Bxc3

29.Rd1. White does not threaten anything yet (Rxd5? Qxd5), meaning that Black is not forced to make up his mind about the tension in the centre yet. 29...Bf6! By placing the bishop on the most stable square from the whole board, Black increases the force of both his basic threats. In case of a further ...d4, the bishop would control the crucial e5-square while after ...dxe4, Bxe4, the moves ...Qxf5 or ...Qe5 become possible as the bishop is not hanging any more. 30.Qc2. Still no threat (dxe5? Q or Re1+) 30...Qb4?! It is hard to say whether Rublevsky missed his opponents defensive resources (Bxf7+!) or overestimated his chances in the ensuing endgame with 6 major pieces. From practical point of view, 30...dxe4 31.Bxe4 Qe5 32.Bd3 Rbd8 would have been more unpleasant for White, who cannot exchange pieces easily and has to endure long term pressure. Black's main trumps would be the safer position of his king and the more active bishop.; Maybe the most promissing continuation would have been 30...d4 , with the idea of installing a rook on c3 and create threats along the e5-h2 diagonal. 31.e5! Bxe5 32.Bxd5 Qh4 33.g3 Bxg3?! He could still have stopped here, but with a bishop on d5 White would have had less worries than in the line from the previous comment. 34.Bxf7+! Kxf7 35.Qa2+ Kf8 36.Qa3+ Re7 37.Qxg3 Qe4+ 38.Qg2 Rb1 39.Rcc1 Qe1+ 40.Qg1

A remarkable position. However, Black cannot hope for a real advantage because his own king is also exposed. 40...Qe4+ 41.Qg2 Qxg2+ 42.Kxg2 Rb2+ 43.Kg3 Rb3+ 44.Kf4 Rb4+ 45.Kg3 Re3+ 46.Kf2 Re5 47.Rc8+ Kf7 48.Rc7+ Kf6 49.Rd6+ Kxf5 50.Rf7+ Ke4 51.Rxg7 Rf5+ 52.Ke2 Rb2+ 53.Rd2 Rxd2+ 54.Kxd2 Rf2+ 55.Ke1 Rxh2 56.Kf1

"Even I could hold this!" 56...Ke5 1/2-1/2. [Click to replay]



Alexander Grischuk in action with the black pieces


A group of Kalmyk spectators in the theater

Rublevsky,Sergei (2680) - Grischuk,Alexander (2717)
[C45] FIDE candidate matches Tiebreak Elista (2.9), 13.06.2007 [Mihail Marin]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5 5.Nb3. A possible sign that Rublevsky was coming short of bullets in the Scotch Opening. The knight retreat is not supposed to cause Black any problems. 5...Bb6 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.Qe2 d6 8.Bg5 h6 9.Bh4 g5 10.Bg3 Qe7 11.h4 Rg8 12.hxg5 hxg5 13.0-0-0 Be6 14.Rh6 0-0-0 15.Nd5 Bxd5 16.exd5 Ne5 17.Bxe5 dxe5 18.Qf3

Black has a comfortable development and a mighty bishop. This is compensated by the relative weakness oh his kingside. The position is about equal. 18...Rd6 19.Nd2. Aiming to activate the knight, but leaving the d5-pawn vulnerable. 19.c4 would have been answered by 19...Nd7 , safely blocking White's queenside majority. 19...Ne8 20.Rh5 Nf6 White is attacking with only two pieces, which makes Black's task rather easy. 21.Qf5+ Kb8 22.Rh6. 22.Rxg5 would lead to equality after 22...Rxg5 23.Qxg5 Rxd5. 22...Ne8 23.Qh7 Qf8 24.Rh1 Nf6 25.Qf5 Nxd5

26.Ne4?! Probably overlooking Black's reply. Maybe White should have completed his development with 26.Bc4!? maintaining the balance approximately even?! 26...Ne7! 27.Qh7 Rxd1+ 28.Kxd1 f5. White is in trouble now. 29.Bc4. The only attempt to complicate matters. 29...fxe4 30.Bxg8 Nxg8 31.Qxe4

Black has a material advantage but his coordination is not perfect yet. Possibly, Grischuk committed some inaccuracies in the next phase but remained in control all the way. 31...a6 32.Rh8 Ka7. After ensuring his king, Black is ready to start his own attack. 33.Qxe5 Qf7 34.Qxg5 Nf6 35.f3 Qd7+ 36.Qd2 Qb5. The endgame would be lost for Black, but with queens on board White is in permanent danger, especially in rapid chess. 37.c3 Nd5 38.Rh1 Be3

39.Qe2? and Rublevsky resigned without waiting to see the variation 39...Nxc3+! 40.bxc3 Qb1# 0-1. [Click to replay]



Rublevsky, Grischuk at the press conference after the final tiebreak game


The winner in a somber, pensive mood...


... cheers up when he is congratulated by colleagues in the press center


Sergei Rublevsky joins Peter Leko at the computer terminals

Photos by Frederic Friedel in Elista

Final standings

 Player
Rating
1
2
3
4
5
6
TB
 Tot. 
 Perf. 
 Levon Aronian
2759
1
½
½
½
½
½
 
3.5
2758
 Alexei Shirov
2699
0
½
½
½
½
½
 
2.5
2700
 
 Peter Leko
2738
1
½
1
½
½
   
3.5
2790
 Evgeny Bareev
2635
0
½
0
½
½
   
1.5
2591
 
 Alexander Grischuk 
2717
1
½
½
0
½
½
2.5
5.5
2680
 Sergei Rublevsky
2680
0
½
½
1
½
½
0.5
3.5
2717
 
 Gata Kamsky 
2705
½
½
0
½
0
   
1.5
2586
 Boris Gelfand
2733
½
½
1
½
1
   
3.5
2852

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