Alexander Morozevich wins Barcelona

by Albert Silver
11/10/2015 – From November 4-8, a modest sized, yet prestigious six-player round-robin was held in the city of Barcelona, organized by the Catalonia Chess Federation and sponsored by the Barcelona City Hall. Although there was a large number of draws, the life of the event was also its winner: Alexander Morozevich. He brought his usual creativity and fighting spirit.

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The players were IM Hipolito Asis Gargatagli (Spain), GM Marc Narciso Dublan (Spain), Aexel Bachmann (Paraguay), Csaba Balogh (Hungary), GM Karen H. Grigoryan Karen (Armenia), and GM Alexander Morozevich (Russia).

In the last couple of years, many tournaments have resorted including their own specific addendums to FIDE's controversial Zero Tolerance rule, and The Barcelona International was no exception, setting the limit at 20 minutes.

Taking advantage of the presence of the ever popular Russian, Morozevich held a simul against
20 players, scoring 17 wins, two draws, and one loss

The time control was 90 minutes + 30 sec increment per move from move one for 40 moves, then 30 minutes knockout, with a 30-second increment per move. Draw offers were not allowed until the first time control had finished.

Perhaps due to the nature of the short five-round event, the draw rate was quite high, since any loss would be the much harder to recover from. That did not prevent Morozevich from playing his brand of volatile chess, as seen in the very first round:

The lowest rated player, Hipolito Asis, almost caused an upset in the first round

[Event "Barcelona GM 2015"] [Site "Barcelona ESP"] [Date "2015.11.04"] [Round "1.1"] [White "Asis Gargatagli, Hipolito"] [Black "Morozevich, Alexander"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B90"] [WhiteElo "2483"] [BlackElo "2695"] [PlyCount "93"] [EventDate "2015.11.04"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e5 7. Nb3 Be7 8. h3 Be6 9. f4 exf4 10. Bxf4 Nc6 11. Qe2 Nd7 12. O-O-O Nde5 13. Kb1 O-O 14. Nd5 Re8 15. g4 Bf8 16. Qf2 a5 {A very strange move. There are certainly lines of the Sicilian where ...a5 makes plenty of sense, but it usually involves a Nb3 lacking good squares. Here the knight can easily and happily leap to d4, and now b5 is debilitated making a queenside attack very hard to articulate.} 17. a4 ({With the house vacated, why not continue development with} 17. Bb5 { pinning the knight and also preventing Nb4 as in the game}) 17... Nb4 18. Nxb4 axb4 19. Bxe5 Rxa4 $2 ({The normal move was} 19... Bxb3 20. cxb3 Rxe5 {with a very ugly position for Black, thanks to the weak pawns, bad bishop, and feeble white squares.} 21. Bc4) 20. Bb5 Ra5 {It is hard to comment properly on this move and the previous one. On the pure side, this is a tremendous blunder, and the engines will gladly sing songs of +5 to any willing to listen. The problem is that the word "blunder" suggests it was inadvertent, and the result of a lapse of judgement or calculation. However, neither is true, and Morozevich knew exactly what he was doing. Preferring not to go down in a bad position with no fight in it, he chose to play arsonist and throw all the gasoline on it to see who burns first.} 21. Nxa5 Ba2+ 22. Kxa2 Qxa5+ 23. Kb3 Qxb5 24. Bxd6 $2 {White misses a chance to do his own counter striking.} (24. Rhf1 $1 { threatening Qxf7+} f6 (24... Qd7 25. Bd4) 25. Bxf6 gxf6 26. Qxf6 Qd7 27. Qf5 { would not leave Black much hope.}) 24... Rxe4 25. Rd4 (25. Qc5 $1 {was strongest, with the idea} Qxc5 26. Bxc5 Bxc5 27. Rd8+ Bf8 28. Ra1 $1 {and Black may avoid mate, but he cannot stop Raa8 and Rxf8.}) 25... Bxd6 26. Rf1 Qxf1 $1 {The only move, but a good one, which makes the win by White far more problematic. It no doubt came as a quite a shock and White's play begins to falter considerably.} 27. Qxf1 Rxd4 28. Qb5 Re4 29. Qb6 Bf8 30. Ka2 Re2 31. Kb3 Re6 32. Qxb7 Re3+ 33. c3 bxc3 34. bxc3 Rxh3 35. Qd5 g6 36. Qg2 Re3 37. Qf2 Re5 38. Qf4 Rc5 39. Qe3 h5 40. g5 $2 {White will now lose the g5 pawn as it cannot be defended against the Tag Team of rook and bishop.} Rf5 41. c4 Bc5 42. Qd2 Be7 43. Qd7 Bxg5 44. Qe8+ Kg7 45. Qe4 Bf6 46. Kb4 Re5 47. Qe1 0-1

In spite of this brush with disaster, he was true to himself, and was directly involved in three decisive games out of five, including a loss in the last round to Axel Bachmann. The Paraguayan grandmaster tied him with 3.0/5 at the end, but the Russian took it on tiebreak, with the largest number of blacks being the first criteria. Morozevich played three to Bachmann's two, and thus took the title.

Alexander Morozevich (right) was involved in more decisive games than not, and ensured
there were always entertaining games to watch

The South American grandmaster Axel Bachmann had an excellent tournament, undefeated,
and scoring a win against the winner, Alexander Morozevich

Final standings


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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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