FIDE Candidates Finals G2: Grischuk close to win against Gelfand

5/20/2011 – It was an exciting game with the players opting for a complicated Symmetrical English. Gelfand got the worst of it and ended up with a rook for two pieces. In the ensuing endgame the two fought hard and Grischuk seemed to have a winning position. However with an array of paths to choose, a clear victory never materialized, and Gelfand held. GM commentary by Alejandro Ramirez.

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From 3 to 27 May 2011 the FIDE Candidates matches are being held in Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, with eight strong GMs competing to qualify as Challenger for the 2012 World Champion match. Time controls in the four regular games are 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, 60 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game, plus an additional 30 seconds per move starting from move 61. In case of a tie there will be four rapid chess games, and if the tie is still not broken then up to five two-game blitz matches 5'+3". Finally there may be a sudden-death final decider. The prize fund of the candidates is 500,000 Euros.


Boris Gelfand
Alexander Grischuk

Finals – Game two

Gelfand,Boris (2733) - Grischuk,Alexander (2747) [A37]
Candidates 2011 Kazan, Russia (3.2), 20.05.2011 [Ramirez,Alejandro]

1.Nf3 c5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 e5. Grischuk relies on this defence against the English for a second time in this event. He had used it successfully against Levon Aronian in his first series. 4.g3 g6 5.Bg2 Bg7 6.a3. Gelfand takes a completely different approach then Aronian. Whereas Levon tried to use the weakness of the d5 square in a slow way, Gelfand tries to immediately rip apart the queenside. 6...Nge7. 6...a5 Makes Black's lightsquares look like swiss cheese, but it is definitely a playable alternative. 7.b4

7...d5. 7...cxb4?! 8.axb4 Nxb4 9.Ba3 gives white too much compensation, and scores horribly.; 7...d6 is the solid choice, but White basically gets his queenside advance for free.] 8.cxd5 [8.bxc5 dxc4 is a complex game that is hard to assess. 8...Nxd5 9.Ng5!? The new move of the game, and the computers recommendation. This move is extremely aggressive. 9...Nc7. 9...Nxc3?! 10.dxc3 Qxd1+ 11.Kxd1+/= gives white a comfortable edge in the endgame. 10.d3 cxb4 11.axb4

11...e4! A counter sacrifice, if you will. 11...0-0 12.0-0 Nxb4 13.Nge4 gave white a fair amount of compensation. Grischuk takes up the gauntlet instead. 12.Ngxe4. This piece sacrifice cannot be calculated all the way. Intuitive, at the very least, White is relying on his initiative and Black's exposed king to balance the material deficit. 12.Qb3 0-0 13.Ngxe4 Be6 14.Qb2 Nd5 and black has the initiative, although white should be ok. 12...f5 13.Bg5 Bxc3+. 13...Qd4!? Deserves analysis as well. 14.Kf1 Qd4

15.Nxc3! 15.Bf6 Bxa1 16.Bxd4 Bxd4 17.Nd6+ Ke7 18.Nxc8+ Rhxc8 and black has a serious material advantage, although his coordination does not exist. White may be able to survive this, but I doubt he can achieve more than that. 15...Qxc3 16.Bf4. It's not easy to see how black can defend the knight. 16...Nb5. 16...Ne6 17.Rc1 and the queen can't defend c6. 17...Qxb4 18.Rxc6! with a very messy position.

17.Rc1 Qf6 18.Rc5! a6 19.Bxc6+ bxc6 20.Be5 Qf8 21.Qc1 Bd7 22.Bxh8 Qxh8

23.Qe3+? 23.h4 forcing 23...h5 24.Kg2 and bringing the rook out made sense. 23...Kf7 24.Re5. Black has slightly more material than white, but his king is exposed and his pieces uncoordinated. However, white still has the issue of the h1 rook being far from play, and cannot allow black to regroup. 24...Qf8 25.h4 h5 26.Qf4

The Qe3-f4 maneouvre was a little clumsy, and Grischuk uses this time to force some trades. 26...Qd6! 27.Kg2 Kf6 28.Re4 Qxf4 29.Rxf4 Be6. The endgame is favorable to black, but is by no means winning. 30.Rc1 Ke7 31.f3 Kd6 32.Kf2 Rb8 33.e4 Nc7

34.g4! white's rook had no prospects, so Gelfand hurries to free it, even at the cost of a pawn. 34.Ra1 Bc8 35.Ra5 Ne6? (35...Rb5! retains a strong advantage) 36.e5+ Ke7 37.Rc4 holds. 34...fxg4 35.Rf6 gxf3 36.Rxg6 Rxb4 37.Rh6 a5 38.Rxh5 a4 39.Rhc5 Bd7 40.Kxf3 Ne6

41.R5c4?! This move is too passive, but it seems it barely holds. 41.Ra5 following the old maxim: "rooks belong behind passed pawns!" 41...c5 42.h5 Rb2 43.Rh1 Nd4+. 43...a3 44.h6 a2 45.Ra1 Bb5 46.h7 and white will successfully trade the h pawn for the doomed a2 pawn, with a probable draw. 44.Ke3 Be6

45.e5+! 45.Rxa4! was also good 45...Ke5 46.Rxd4 cxd4+ 47.Kf3 Rb8 (47...Rb7 48.h6 Rf7+ 49.Kg3 Rh7 50.Rh5+ Kf6 51.Kf4=) 48.h6 Rh8 49.h7 Bf7 50.Rh6=. 45...Kxe5 46.Rxc5+ Bd5 47.Rxd5+ Kxd5 48.h6. Black can't comfortably stop the pawn, and the rook endgames are all drawn. 48...Re2+ 49.Kf4 Ne6+ 50.Kg3 Nf8 51.h7 Nxh7 52.Rxh7 a3 53.Kf3 Re1 54.Ra7 Ra1 55.Ke3 a2 56.Ra5+ Kc6 57.Kd4 Kb6 58.Ra8 Kb7

An exciting game to say the least! Grischuk might have had chances, but at no point could it be said that he had a clear win. 1/2-1/2.

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Gelfand loves to play with captured pieces – here he in fact tosses a black knight in the air

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Remaining schedule

All games start at 15:00h local time – 13:00h Berlin/Paris, 07:00 New York (check your local time here)

Day Date Game
Commentary on Playchess
Thursday May 19 Round 3 Game 1 van Wely/Gustafsson   live
Friday May 20 Round 3 Game 2 Dejan Bojkov live
Saturday May 21 Round 3 Game 3 Sam Collins live
Sunday May 22 Free day    


May 23 Round 3 Game 4 Loek van Wely live
Tuesday May 24 Round 3 Game 5 Daniel King live
Wednesday May 25 Round 3 Game 6 Daniel King live
Thursday May 26 Tiebreaks, closing    
Friday May 27 Departure    


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