Baku 5.1: Eljanov!

by Alejandro Ramirez
9/23/2015 – The man seems to be unstoppable. After winning his first six classical games and cruising through the first three rounds, he managed to eliminate Jakovenko in in the tie-breaks. And now Eljanov is going for even further glory: he was involved in the only decisive game of the day as he took down World #2 Nakamura. Eljanov is half a point away from the semi-finals.

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World Cup

10th September – 5th October

Baku, Azerbaijan

Round Five - Game One

Only eight players left, but enough to create some unexpected games:

In Svidler vs. Wei Yi they traded pieces quickly. The symmetrical structure didn't help either side to create real chances, and an early repetition sealed the draw. Wei Yi will have the chance to push with white against one of Svidler's ultra-solid defenses.

Xu Jun, who helps the Chinese squad, now helps only Wei Yi

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was held to a draw rather easily by Anish Giri's Petroff. After a series of trades a very equal endgame was reached and the game was swiftly drawn.

Tukmakov (Giri's second) relaxing while watching the game

Karjakin suffered, but held

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov played with white against Sergey Karjakin and sacrificed an exchange relatively early in the game. He had very good compensation, but the resilient Karjakin defended tenaciously. He sacrificed a piece for the passed d-pawn of the Azerbaijani, playing with rook against two pieces, thus creating a situation that was certainly dangerous for Black. But it is hard to say if White was winning at any point: the computers give Mamedyarov a big advantage in the endgame, but there was never any clear win for White – at least, I saw none. Endgame experts might find a winning plan but in a practical game with the seconds ticking down it was very hard to find.

Nakamura was surprised!

The game of the day, was, without a doubt:

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2015"] [Site "Baku AZE"] [Date "2015.09.23"] [Round "5.4"] [White "Eljanov, Pavel"] [Black "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E06"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "115"] [EventDate "2015.09.11"] [SourceDate "2015.02.07"] 1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. g3 Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O dxc4 7. Qc2 a6 8. a4 Bd7 9. Qxc4 Bc6 10. Bg5 Bd5 11. Qc2 Be4 12. Qc1 h6 13. Bxf6 Bxf6 14. Rd1 a5 15. Nbd2 Bh7 {A novelty. Before this Bxf3 was played universally.} (15... Bxf3 16. Bxf3 c6 17. Nc4 Nd7 {is a typical Catalan position for this variation. White has a bit more space and a bit more pleasant position, but Black is ultra solid. This was, among others, Sasikirian-Svetushkin from earlier this year.}) 16. Nb3 c6 17. Qc3 Be7 18. Nc5 Qc7 19. Ne5 Na6 20. Nxb7 $5 {In my opinion the only real try for an advantage, but it's hard to look at this and say White will emerge with a better position. Black's two pieces are very active.} Qxb7 21. Bxc6 Qc7 $2 (21... Qa7 $1 22. Bxa8 Bb4 23. Qc6 Qxa8 {Black's knight on a6 is awkward, but Black shouldn't have real problems.}) 22. Bxa8 Qxc3 23. bxc3 Rxa8 24. Nc6 {Now White definitely has some chances to push. He has a passed pawn, the a6 knight is bad and the h7 bishop will soon be bullied out of the game by White's pawns.} Bd8 (24... Kf8 $5 {going for active play.} 25. Nxa5 Rc8 ) 25. Nxd8 Rxd8 26. f3 Rc8 27. Ra3 Bg6 28. Kf2 Rb8 29. Rd2 f6 30. Raa2 $1 $16 { Gaining control of the open file. The a5 pawn will be hard to defend. Nakamura takes the c3 pawn in return, but Black's pieces simply don't coordinate well.} Rb3 31. Rab2 Rxc3 32. Rb5 Bc2 33. Rxa5 Nc7 34. Ra7 f5 35. a5 {Look how difficult it is to play with Black. White simply has to push his pawn, Nakamura has to try to get his pieces to play together. That is easier said than done.} Kh7 {That being said, it is strange to go to h7 instead of towards the queenside.} 36. Rb7 Rc4 37. Rb6 Ba4 38. a6 Bc6 39. a7 Bd5 40. Ra2 $1 {A timely move. The threat is Ra5-c5.} Rxd4 41. Rc2 Na8 42. Ra6 Rd1 (42... g5 43. Rb2 Kg6 44. Rb8 Kf6 45. Ra5 Kg7 $18) 43. h4 h5 44. Ke3 $18 {The king marches in since Black can't do anything.} Rg1 45. Kf4 Rg2 46. Rd6 Rg1 47. Rc8 Ra1 48. Kg5 $1 Rxa7 49. Rdd8 g6 50. Rh8+ {The only blemish in Eljanov's otherwise perfect play.} (50. Kf6 Kh6 51. Rh8+ Rh7 52. Rcg8 {would have finished the game off in fewer moves.}) 50... Kg7 51. Rcg8+ Kf7 52. Rxg6 Ra6 53. Rh7+ Kf8 54. Kxh5 Nb6 55. Kg5 {White is simply and obviously winning. Black's pieces aren't playing and the h-pawn is unstoppable.} Nc4 56. h5 Nd6 57. Rf6+ Kg8 58. Rd7 1-0

Eljanov is half a point away from knocking out Nakamura. So far, he has won 33 rating points in the World Cup and now is number 15 on Live Chess Ratings – all this while having the two chess weeks of his life. We remind our readers that Pavel has recorded a very interesting DVD on the Breyer:

Pavel Eljanov:
The Ruy Lopez Breyer Variation

The Spanish or Ruy Lopez is often called the "Queen of Openings". If you master it you understand a lot about chess.

One of the most popular systems in the Ruy Lopez is the Breyer Variation in which Black retreats his already developed knight from c6 to b8 to relocate it via d7 to better squares. The Hungarian chess master Gyula Breyer recommended this move in 1911, but was far ahead of his time with this idea. It took decades before the power of this move was understood, but now the Breyer variation, which begins with 9...Nb8, is part of the repertoire of many top players, among them the last four World Champions Kasparov, Kramnik, Anand, and Carlsen.

On this DVD, Pavel Eljanov, one of the greatest experts of the Breyer Variation, shows all important lines of this system. In 14 video lectures he gives an overview of the current state of theory. Eljanov shows the moves and explains the ideas behind them while evaluating the arising positions from a black perspective and with a view to the coming middlegame.

  • Video running time: 5 hours 13 min (English)
  • With interactive training including video feedback
  • Training database with 50 essential games and analyses
  • ISBN 978-3-86681-493-6
  • Delivery: download, post
  • Price: €29.90; €25.13 without VAT (for customers outside the EU); $28.41

All Round 5.1 Games

Round five pairings

Player Rtg
G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Peter Svidler (RUS) 2727
Wei Yi (CHN) 2734
Player Rtg
G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Anish Giri (NED) 2793
M. Vachier-Lagrave 2744
Player Rtg
G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 2814
Pavel Eljanov (UKR) 2717
Player Rtg
G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
S. Mamedyarov (AZE) 2736
Sergey Karjakin (RUS) 2762

Photos and information from the official website and their Facebook page


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 12 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez has been playing tournament chess since 1998. His accomplishments include qualifying for the 2004 and 2013 World Cups as well as playing for Costa Rica in the 2002, 2004 and 2008 Olympiads. He currently has a rating of 2583 and is author of a number of popular and critically acclaimed ChessBase-DVDs.
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tigerprowl2 tigerprowl2 9/25/2015 07:33
"If you see something suspicious" - yeah, the problem is there was absolutely NOTHING suspicious."

How far does your "NOTHING suspicious" attitude go? You bring up pronged attacks, like India and China (a bit biased and racist) confronting the goods of security checks. Well, security checks are a reality. If Wei Yi is packing a cell phone like Gaioz Nigalidze then we should all be concerned and check. I take your challenge, not for only Chinese and Indian players, but for all of us. You and me.

Either you agree or you flee. Your choice.
FOSS FOSS 9/24/2015 07:13
Lets not undermined the power of Svidler
GregEs GregEs 9/24/2015 09:01
Not just Eljanov, Maxime Vachier Lagrave was underestimated too. MVL won.
I wonder why Eljanov missed Kf6 mating Naka on next move. Can accurately calculate deep lines but not a one mover?
High Anchor High Anchor 9/24/2015 06:05
You guys underestimated Eljanov in your predictions.
johnmk johnmk 9/24/2015 05:19
Push your product man.
gurutactician gurutactician 9/24/2015 12:56
You gotta love chess punditry these days! Weaker players (with the help of engines or not) wonder "There was nothing special at all about moving the king forwards to take away escape squares from the other king." Nevertherless, recognizes (correctly) that certain exclams are not timed well. And certainly Raa2 ("to claim the open file") is nothing to brag about, it is simply natural. That said, the author reached the finals of the US Championship (where he gave ironman Kamsky a run for the title) and no doubt is very strong!! However, for aighearback, to suggest that Kg5 is not special strike me as having no respect for the title GM.

What has the title Chess Grandmaster become of late? Let me remind you, chess games aren't like random puzzle you pull out of a hat where the leading clue is like: "white to play and win". Do we know how many moves ahead Eljanov saw Kg5? The mating pattern as suggested by GM Ramirez surely would have ended the game beautifully, but perhaps, Eljanov never saw that far. Perhaps, in his calculations (several moves ago) he saw the ensuing position as winning and besides, he's not exactly known to be a tactical guru.

Let's not be quick to lessen the result, by saying this kind of win "makes his games less beautiful", who says stuff like that. The romantics played reckless games. Wei Yi for instance won this beautiful game recently by having an eye for tactics. But it could as well be said that his opponent, that day, was not up to par tactically.

Eljanov played a beautiful game in the Catalan--a Kramnik Specialty! While I agree with the notation given for Raa2, you are way off in the rest of your assessment of the game. Perhaps, in chess in general.
Carlos Raffo Carlos Raffo 9/23/2015 11:58
Finales, Giri - Kariakin
Truffaut Truffaut 9/23/2015 11:35
This is the first time I've seen Nakamura losing/lose a game and not be too concerned about it. He already qualified for the candidates. He would have played differently if he was still trying to qualify.
Rational Rational 9/23/2015 11:23
Amazes me how some players seem to completely waste their White game, especially if they are White in the first game of the match.
genem genem 9/23/2015 09:10
Nakamura's challenge tomorrow amounts to having to win a long time-control Armageddon game.
Eljanov essentially has draw-odds by virtue of winning one game.
Ginto Ginto 9/23/2015 08:20
Good game
Aighearach Aighearach 9/23/2015 08:18
@KevinC if Eljanov was 18 points lower rated, then he'd have a different round number at the start and people would surely accuse him! lol

He's playing good, but not like any superman. Nakamura played a dangerous "bad" novelty to create complications, in the style of Tal, and was punished by an opponent who was smart enough not to try to punish the move directly, but just kept playing good moves and waited patiently. I find the combination of patient solid play and a stubborn insistence on retaining his advantages to be very pleasing, though obviously not very flashy. Both the supposed exclam moves from the game above are ho-hum moves, obvious and without another move that is more natural or obviously enticing. I understand the desire to find a couple moves to put that notation next to when a guy is having such a spectacular tournament, but that game had no exclam moves... just a couple question-mark moves from one side, and a conspicuous absence of them from the other.

48.Kg5 for example, threatens mate in a position where he's already threatening the back rank, and the most obvious line that even a club player would calculate is exactly what Nakamura attempted to defend it; because there was nothing else to try, and what there was to try didn't leave anything but a hope and dream of a blunder. There was nothing special at all about moving the king forwards to take away escape squares from the other king. If there was more material on the board maybe it would be less obvious. My feeling is it actually makes his game look less nice, to create this false emphasis on a couple moves by adding exclams, because those moves weren't why he won, or different from his other moves.
KrushonIrina KrushonIrina 9/23/2015 08:04
Look for Naka to come in with all guns blazing tomorrow.
KevinC KevinC 9/23/2015 07:36
Eljanov is clearly cheating...check him for electronics, and his fellow competitors had better start writing letters. You know the drill.

(Yes, all sarcasm...I don't believe for one second he is cheating.)
gmwdim gmwdim 9/23/2015 07:28
If Eljanov wins, he faces the Mamedyarov-Karjakin winner in the semifinal, not the Wei-Svidler winner.
truthadjustr truthadjustr 9/23/2015 07:27
I am predicting the top 2 remaining would be Karjakin and Giri.
idratherplay960 idratherplay960 9/23/2015 07:17
Shak and Eljanov are just in incredible form. Been watching all the rounds and these guys are just playing so consistently at a high level it's insane that we are talking about 2 let alone 1 player not named Magnus (before 2015).
disneychannel disneychannel 9/23/2015 06:57
My predictions-Giri,Wei,Eljanov,It is hard to say abut Karjakin-Mamedyarov,but I am keeping my hope on the local player as he looks highly motivated.How does all that sound?
disneychannel disneychannel 9/23/2015 06:55
Whoa!Eljanov at his best.He is playing like a superman!But his tactical skills are yet to be tested.If Wei Yi wins with Svidler,then surely he is the favourite vs Eljanov in the semi-final.Nontheless,great reports,Alejandro Ramirez!I look forward to a great report on round 5.2 tommorow.Thanks!
ChessUser21 ChessUser21 9/23/2015 06:23
Wei vs Eljanov! in the Final