Elista Finals round one: GM Mihail Marin comments

6/7/2007 – Great news: the Candidates Finals in Elista will be annotated by Romanian grandmaster Mihail Marin, whose simple and instructive commentary turns the games into a wonderful training session for the ambitious player. Marin will provide express commentary on the day after each round, while the next ChessBase Magazine will carry comprehensive analysis. Look, enjoy and learn.

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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. The prize fund is US $40,000 per match, most of the money ($320,000) coming from a personal fund of FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, FIDE ($160,000) and the general sponsor, Rosenergomash.

Editorial note: Moving to Elista

On Thursday June 7th the editorial team of ChessBase.com is embarking on a somewhat daunting trip to Elista (yes, we located it on Google Maps). After a night in Moscow we are due to board a Yak-40 aircraft and arrive in the capital of the Republic of Kalmykia on Friday evening, where we expect to be greeted with the traditional white shawls – and will be most disappointed if we aren't. We are scheduled to take residence in a cottage of the Chess City, one that has instant Internet access.

We are planning to post the next reports from Moscow, but that of course will only be possible if our hotel has proper Internet service. Otherwise we will resume normal reporting on Friday night, and ask for your understanding if the round two report is delayed. You can get the results, games and pictures from our German language page, or if you habla Espanol, from the Spanish site. Of course you can also follow the action live on Playchess.com.


Finals: Round one game commentary

By GM Mihail Marin


GM Marin en route to Elista (just kidding, this was on a trip to Egypt in 2001)

The following express commentary was provided by Romanian GM Mihail Marin, who is the author of a number of very popular ChessBase training CDs and articles for ChessBase Magazine. GM Marin will study the games of the Candidates Finals in greater detail and provide the full results of his analysis in the next issue of ChessBase Magazine.

Aronian,L (2759) - Shirov,A (2699) [D20]
WCh Candidates Finals Elista RUS (1), 06.05.2007 [Mihail Marin]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4 e5 4.Nf3 exd4 5.Bxc4 Nc6 6.0-0 Be6 7.Bxe6 fxe6 8.Qb3 Qd7 9.Qxb7 Rb8 10.Qa6 Nf6 11.Nbd2 Bd6 12.b3 0-0 13.Bb2

The position is strategically unbalanced. White's structure is more compact, but Black's advantage of space and his slightly better coordination should not be underestimated. 13...Bf4. Putting pressure against the d2-knight, which is one key-piece designed to establish a blockade on light squares. 14.g3. The bishop was situated at the intersection of two important diagonals and now is kindly invited to abandon one of them. 14...Bh6 15.Ba3. White applies the same treatment to the f8-rook. However, moving for the second time with the bishop along the same diagonal before completing the mobilisation of forces is slightly premature, abstractly speaking. 15...Nxe4!?

A courageous exchange sacrifice, offering Black active play in the centre. 16.Bxf8 Nxd2 17.Nxd2 Bxd2. Once the white knights have been eliminated, White has no reliable blocking pieces left and Black can think about advancing his central pawns. 18.Ba3 Qd5 19.Qc4 Qxc4 20.bxc4 Ne5 21.Rab1 Rd8 22.c5 Nc4 23.Bc1 d3. Maybe Black should not hurry to advance his d-pawn. The more restrained 23...Ba5 followed by ...e5 comes into consideration. 24.Rb7 c6?! Perhaps Shirov initially intended to play 24...Bc3 , but saw in the last moment that after 25.Rxc7 d2 26.Rd1 he does not threaten to win material yet because his minor pieces are hanging. However, the position remains highly unclear, because the bishop is trapped after all and maybe he should have sticked to this line. 25.Bxd2 Nxd2 26.Rd1 Ne4 27.f3 Nc3 28.Rd2 Nxa2 29.Rb3

The pawn is safely blocked and the knight is in danger. Black is clearly struggling now. 29...Nc1 30.Rb1 Ne2+ 31.Kf2 e5 32.Ra1 Rd5 33.Rxa7 Rxc5 34.Rxd3 Nd4 35.Rd2 h6 36.f4 Nb5 37.Ra8+ Kh7 38.f5 Nd4 39.g4 Rc3 40.Rb2

40...h5? The fatal last move before control... Black could have prolongued the fight with 40...Nb5 , preventing the invasion along the back rank. 41.Rbb8 and in view of 41...Kh6 42.h4, Black resigned. 1-0. [Click to replay]


Leko,P (2738) - Bareev,E (2643) [B17]
WCh Candidates Finals Elista RUS (1), 06.05.2007 [Mihail Marin]

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Ng5 Ngf6 6.Bd3 e6 7.N1f3 Bd6 8.Qe2 h6 9.Ne4 Nxe4 10.Qxe4 Qc7 11.0-0 b6 12.Qg4 Kf8 13.Re1 c5 14.c3 Bb7 15.Qh3 Rd8 16.Be4 Bxe4 17.Rxe4 Nf6 18.Re1 g6

A fashionable variation of the caro Kann has been played. Black is just a couple of tempi away from completing his development, while the formerly active white queen seems to be restricted in her actions. 19.b3! Underlining the hidden drawback in Black's setup. In order to connect his rooks, he had to play ...g6 with his bishop away from the long diagonal. Therefore, White is well-adviced to occupy this diagonal with the bishop himself. 19...Kg7 20.dxc5 Bxc5 21.Bb2 Rd5 22.c4 Rh5 23.Qg3.

23...Bd6! An interesting moment. Quite frequently, the player with a delay in development is best adviced to... avoid the exchange of queens. The explanation is that this mighty piece can control a whole zone of squares, preventing an early infiltration of the enemy forces. For instance, here, after 23...Qxg3? 24.hxg3 Black cannot prevent a white rook from invading the seventh rank: 24...Be7 Parrying the threat g4. 25.Rad1 Rd8 26.Rxd8 Bxd8 27.Rd1 Bc7 28.Bxf6+! Kxf6 29.b4 Renewing the threat to trap the rook. 29...Rf5 30.Rd7 with decisive advantage. 24.Ne5 Rd8. Both sides have managed to complete their development. However, the black queen's rook is slightly awkwardly placed. If Black will not be able to recycle it or use it for attacking purposes, he will end up in a bad position. However, the situation is not easy to evaluate accurately. We have the famous game Tarrasch-Lasker where Black manoeuvred with his rook in front of the pawns (on the trayectory e5-c5-c4), provoking White to weaken his position in decisive way in his attempts to "punish" such extravagant play. 25.h3 Rf5 26.Re2 Bc5 27.Rf1 Kh7 28.Qh2 g5 29.Ng4 Bd6?! But now Black had no reasons to avoid the queen swap. After 29...Qxh2+ 30.Kxh2 the accurate 30...Bd6+! would have led to a more or less equal position. (The immediate 30...Be7 would be strongly met by 31.Ne5!) 31.Kh1 (If White keeps his king on a dark square with 31.Kg1 or 31.g3, Black can recycle his rook without loss of time after 31...Nxg4 32.hxg4 Rc5 because the generally desirable 33.Rd1? loses to 33...Bh2+! or 33...Bxg3+, respectively.) 31...Be7 32.Ne5 and now 32...Nh5! threatening ...Ng3+ or simply ...Nf4 offers Black active play. 30.g3 Nh5 31.Ne3

Black's play has reached a dead end. White will simply play Qg2, leaving Black terribly undcoordinated. Bareev seems to have had a different opinion. 31...Bxg3? It is hard to guess what he missed, actually. 32.fxg3 Rxf1+ 33.Nxf1 Rd1 34.Re3 1-0. [Click to replay]


Grischuk,A (2717) - Rublevsky,S (2680) [B84]
WCh Candidates Finals Elista RUS (1), 06.05.2007 [Mihail Marin]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2. Grischuk wisely refrains from what is considered to be the main line against this move order: 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.Bd3 d5 and which eventually yielded Rublevsky his only win in the semifinal match against Ponomariov. In that game, Black's strong centre ensured him against a direct kingisde attack and offered him the better chances in the endgame. 6...d6 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Be3 Bd7. This is also one big specialty of Rublevsky. He usually refrains from developing his queen to c7 and prefers activating his queenside pieces as soon as possible. 9.a4 Be7 10.f4

10...Nxd4. The Sicilian does not make part of my repertoire with either colour for over a decade, but I still remember one thing that IM Mircea Pavlov, my first trainer ever, taught me when I was ten: Black should not exchange knights if White can re-capture with the queen (or, in certain lines of the Sozin Attack, with the rook) without loss of time, because this would allow White obtain an advantage in development. More concretely, it is generally recommendable to wait until White moves with his queen before playing ...Nxd4. Of course, there are no rules without exceptions and Rublevsky is entitled to have his own opinion about his main opening variation, but I believe that the further course of the game sustains the point of view that Black's last move was premature. 11.Qxd4 Bc6

12.b4! About one century of practice has taught players of all levels that in the Sicilian White attacks on the kingside, while Black has to look for counterchances on the opposite wing. However, even before the Sicilian became a regular guest in the high level tournaments, it was discovered that the player with an advantage in development should maintain his initiative by any means. Since this rule has a more general character, it should prevail over the specific Sicilian patterns. Let us examine the merits and drawbacks of White's last move. The first thing that comes up to mind in this type of positions is that the resolute advance of the b-pawn weakens the c4- and c3-squares. However, with his incomplete development, Black will not be able to take advantage of this detail in the near future. At the same time, the fact that his bishop will be forced back on a passive position, disturbing the coordination of rooks, will be a more significant factor. Anticipating a bit, this pawn will be the main hero of this game, untill its very end. 12...0-0 13.b5 Be8 14.e5 Qc7

Abstractly speaking, this is a nice move. Black ignores the threat (or rather parries it indirectly) by developing a piece. However, Black's coordination is rather poor and playing in such an ambitious way will just turn against himself, like a boomerang. 15.b6. The pawn advances again, leaving the c6-square at Black's mercy, but increasing the lack of harmony from Black's camp. 15...Qc6 16.Bf3. A strong novelty. Rublevsky had previously managed to defend his position after 16.exd6 against Svidler and Jakovenko. 16...d5. Rublevsky might have been happy to transpose to a French type of structure, just like in his game against Ponomariov. However, there are some significant differences. Here, the d5-pawn is much more vulnerable, while Black's coordination is rather poor. 17.Rae1. White completes his development and over-defends his bishop, which in certain cases makes the threat exf6 real, as we shall see. 17...Nd7. Black practically admits the failure of his previous play. The consequent move (in the same way as ...Qc7) would have been 17...Rd8 but this would have led to disastruous consequences after 18.f5 for instance 18...exf5 (Or 18...Nd7 19.fxe6 fxe6 and now, after the weakening of the a2-g8 diagonal the sacrifice 20.Nxd5! is lethal.) 19.exf6 Bxf6 20.Nxd5! and now we can see why it is important to have the e3-bishop defended: 20...Bxd4 21.Ne7+ Kh8 22.Nxc6 and White has a won ending. 18.Nxd5!

The only way to open the position and put all White's pieces to work. 18...exd5 19.Bxd5 Qc5 20.e6. White does not avoid the exchange of queens, because this would somehow lower the rhytm of his attack. See also the comment after Black's 23rd move in Leko-Bareev. 20...Qxd4 21.Bxd4 Nf6 22.Bb3! White retreats with the bishop to a defended square in order to threaten to win material. The immediate 22.Bxf6? gxf6 23.exf7+ would fail to 23...Bxf7 when the bishop would be hanging, making Rxe7 impossible. 22...Rd8 23.Bxf6.

23...Bc5+. A curious decision, in the style of David Bronstein, who frequently allowed his pawns to be doubled for the mere sake of piece activity. After the more natural 23...Bxf6 24.e7 Bxe7 25.Rxe7 Bc6 26.Rfe1 Rd2 27.R1e2 Black would have a better structure than in the game, but he would have potential back rank problems, whereas White would not. In the game, the situation will be reversed. 24.Kh1 gxf6 25.e7 Bxe7 26.Rxe7 Bc6. Finally, Black can make use of this square. However, the bishop is not stable here as we shall see. 27.Rc7. Putting the bishop under immediate pressure has two purposes. First of all, the threat ...Rd2xg2 is removed because of the possibility of Rxc6. The long term idea will be carried out in the game. Playing in similar way as in the previous comment with 27.Rfe1 Rd2 28.R7e2 would allow Black certain counterplay after 28...Rfd8. 27...Rd2 28.Re1! It will soon appear that the attack against the f7-square will be more efficient than Black's action against g2. 28...Rf2. 28...Bxg2+ 29.Kg1 would leave Black with the same problems as in the game. 29.h3 Rxf4 30.Ree7 Rf1+ 31.Kh2 Rf2

Apparently, Black has managed to create serious threats... 32.Rxc6! White not only stops Black's attack, but also creates an unstoppable passed pawn. 32...bxc6 33.Rxf7! We can see here a drawback of Rublevsly's decision to play with double pawns: the f2-rook is cut off itsown kingside and cannot defend the f7-pawn. General exchanegs on f7 will be followed by b7, whereas the attempt to return with the rook into play along the e- or d-file would lose it to a discovered check. Rublevsky still tried 33...Rf4 and resigned after 34.c3 1-0. [Click to replay]


Kamsky,G (2705) - Gelfand,B (2733) [B92]
WCh Candidates Finals Elista RUS (1), 06.05.2007 [Mihail Marin]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.a4 Nc6 7.Be2. A rather modest variation from Black's point of view. 7...e5! The adequate reaction. In the 6.Be2 e5 lines of the Najdorf, White refrains from playing a4 until Black develops his queen's knight, in order to avoid making the b4-square available for this piece. Here, he did it even before the typical Boleslavsky structure has been created. 8.Nb3 Be7 9.0-0 0-0 10.Be3 Be6

Black has easy play. 11.Bf3 Na5 12.Nxa5 Qxa5 13.Qd2 Rfc8 14.Rfd1 Kf8 15.Qc1 Rc4 16.Rd3 Rac8 17.Qd1 R4c6 18.Rd2 Rc4 19.Rd3 R4c6 20.h3 h6 21.Rd2 Rc4 22.Rd3 R4c6 23.Rd2 1/2-1/2. [Click to replay]

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