Firouzja and Vitiugov in turbulent draw, Vidit maintains sole lead

by Tanmay Srinath
2/16/2020 – When two sides play a perfect game of chess, the game more often than not ends up a draw. Today, while all the five games ended up as draws, three of them didn't follow the stated script. Alireza Firouzja exhibited passion and imagination, confusing Nikita Vitiugov with a speculative knight sacrifice to gain a decisive advantage, but made two inexplicable moves to gift the latter a draw. Duda was seriously worse after nine moves, but his opponent Anton failed to find the most incisive continuation, continuing his roller-coaster ride in the tournament. Harikrishna played the forgotten Sozin Attack, and had to soon defend for a while to see out the game to a draw. Markus Ragger was tortured by the exchange down by David Navara for a while before concluding the game in peace, and Nils Grandelius signed a rather tame draw with the tournament leader Vidit, who retains sole lead. | Photo: Official site

Navigating the Ruy Lopez Vol.1-3 Navigating the Ruy Lopez Vol.1-3

The Ruy Lopez is one of the oldest openings which continues to enjoy high popularity from club level to the absolute world top. In this video series, American super GM Fabiano Caruana, talking to IM Oliver Reeh, presents a complete repertoire for White.

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A day of draws

Has there been a pact with the Gods — wins in odd rounds and draws in even? Well, the players don't seem to think so, even if the results reflect the following statistic — three wins in rounds one and three, and five draws in rounds two and four. Well, this tournament has had games that have made us feel as if chess is so abstract that it is completely impossible to predict what is happening and what can happen! The Russian Roulette tendency of the games has been really exciting for the fans, but the players are definitely ageing at the speed of light! Before another philosophical outburst happens, I will quickly redirect the readers to the following position:

 

Black to play - what is the only move to diffuse White's initiative?

Firouzja - Vitiugov ½-½

Ivan Sokolov, former coach of the Iranian national team, had remarked previously that Firouzja reminded him of a young Anand. Well, I don't disagree, but Firouzja also reminds me of a young Tal in the 21st century, with his amazing imagination, zest for the game, and penchant for sacrificial play. Today he played a crazily complex battle in a 6.d3 Ruy Lopez against Vitiugov, in what was clearly the game of the round. But the end must have left a bitter taste for the young phenom. Let's have a look at one of the most complex games played in this tournament

 

The game began with the 6.d3 Ruy Lopez. Since we have a lot to discuss I wanted to start from here. 10...♝b7 is not a move you make on general grounds, as with White's centre this move has more of a restrictive nature (e4-d3-c3). Black is hard-pressed to find counterplay against the e-pawn. However, Vitiugov has two concrete reasons for his decision — one is the fact that sooner or later White will try to play d4 to conquer space, which will be dissuaded by the ♝b7, and the other is to play for the d5 break.

 

A very complex decision in front of you now. Which is better :15.♘e3 as played by Firouzja, or inserting 15.axb5 axb5 before going 16.♘e3?

 

Firouzja played the natural 18.♕f3?! in the game, which is an inaccuracy. White had to go 18.exd5! if he wanted to play for an advantage — see the notes to the game to understand why.

 

Another question: Is 22...♚h8 as played in the game Black's best defence?

 

Firouzja threw the dice with 28.♘f6!?, and luckily for him Nikita tried to call his bluff with 28...gxf6?, losing all his advantage. Instead, the counter-attack 28...♛b6 gives Black a large advantage.

 

After Nikita panicked and blundered, the players reached this position. White to play his 36th move. Here Firouzja went astray, but what is the best way for White to win?

 

Okay, you've got the point now — how do you finish Black off? Is 37.f2 the only winning move in the position?

The notes to the game should not only give you an idea of what happened in this game, but also focuses on how to convert an advantage and understanding the Ruy Lopez.

 

Caissa is rewarding Vitiugov after the sad end to his World Cup | Photo: Petr Vrabec

A lot to take away for Firouzja | Photo: Vladimir Jagr

Anton - Duda ½-½

After his first round stunner, Duda has boiled off, making three successive draws. Today, he could have been in serious pressure had Anton found the best 10th move:

 

White's best move please. Note that the natural 10.d4?!, played by Anton in the game, allows Black to slowly equalize.

 

Four great positions, two points — Anton would surely want to start converting those | Photo: Peter Vrabec

Ragger - Navara ½-½

One's heart goes out for David Navara. He fought like a man possessed, but Markus Ragger wasn't perturbed and managed to hold the draw. A few critical positions.

 

White's only chance for an advantage lies in 13.d4!. Instead, 13.♘g3 by Ragger allowed Navara to equalize slowly.

 

Here Black is forced to give up an exchange after 21.g4!?, but Navara soon had excellent compensation.

 

Can White strive for activity in such a position?

 

Ragger soon built a fortress, and the draw was signed.

 

One of the most uncompromising players on the circuit — David Navara | Photo: Petr Vrabec

Harikrishna - Shankland ½-½

Fischer's beloved Sozin Attack was resurrected in this game, but apart from this nothing much happened: two players struggling for form signed a quiet draw.

 

Hari's A-game has been missing this tournament and so is Shankland's | Photo: Vladimir Jagr

Grandelius - Vidit ½-½

Vidit came excellently prepared with black, and Grandelius couldn't really find any advantage.

Vidit maintains his sole lead with 3.0/4 | Photo: Petr Vrabec


Standings after Round 4

 

Replay all games

 

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Tanmay Srinath has been writing for ChessBase India since quite some time now. His tournament reports and depth of analysis have been widely appreciated. Pursuing a full-fledged career in engineering Tanmay doesn't get enough time to pursue chess, but he loves to follow top-level encounters and analyzes those games with his Fat Fritz engine. We hope you find his analysis useful in your games.

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