Marin on round five: After the rest day draws and blunders

1/18/2008 – The free day seems to have had a relaxing effect over most of the players. Three draws were agreed in 25 moves or less, while in the decisive games unexpected mistakes could be seen. Especially poignant: Boris Gelfand, 2nd/3rd in the World Championship in Mexico, blundered his queen in one. And that a round after he missed a great chance against Judit Polgar. Mihail Marin comments.

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Wijk aan Zee 2008

GM Mihail Marin in his analysis kitchen at home in Romania

The following express commentary was provided by Romanian grandmaster 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 World Championship tournament in much greater detail and provide the full results of his analysis in the next issue of ChessBase Magazine.

Round five commentary by GM Mihail Marin

In Topalov-Gelfand Black's attention was focused on the main strategic theme of the position, and he blundered the queen. Black obtained comfortable play after the opening in Eljanov-Radjabov. White ruined his position with a strategic blunder and then overlooked a decisive threat in what could have been a playable position still.

Black's premature activity left him struggling in Mamedyarov-Van Wely. In a difficult position, Black carelessly advanced his a-pawn and the weakness of the b4-square immediately decided the game. Leko managed to hold his own in a Marshall Attack, which resulted into a typical drawn ending with opposite coloured bishops.

There was practically no play left in the final positions of the games Adams-Kramnik and Ivanchuk-Carlsen, but in Aronian-Anand a draw was agreed in a complex position with chances for both sides.

Group A: Round 5 - Thurs. Jan. 17th
Shak. Mamedyarov - Loek van Wely
Pavel Eljanov - Teimour Radjabov
Michael Adams - Vladimir Kramnik
Levon Aronian - Vishy Anand
Vassily Ivanchuk - Magnus Carlsen
Judit Polgar - Peter Leko
Veselin Topalov - Boris Gelfand

Topalov,V (2780) - Gelfand,B (2737) [C42]
Corus A Wijk aan Zee NED (5), 17.01.2008 [Mihail Marin]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.0-0 Be7 8.Nc3 Nxc3 9.bxc3 Bg4 10.Re1 0-0 11.Bf4 Bd6 12.Bxd6 cxd6

Both players treated the Russian defence in original way. Double pawns are known to be weak, but also to control important groups of squares and leave files open for the major pieces. The weakness of the c3- and c2-pawns would be less relevant if the c-file would not be available for Black. In principle, the d5-pawn looks more exposed than the c3-pawn (even if for the simple reason that it is physically blocked; compare to White's possibility of playing a sacrificial c4 at some moment, provoking structural changes that could eventually offer him an initiative). On the other hand, the squares controled by the d5- and d6-pawns is more central, which can have an important influence over the outcome of the game. Anyway, it is not easy to give a final evaluation of the position, but both players had probably their own opinion about it. Topalov had had this structure before (against Bacrot, in Morelia 2006), with the only difference that the bishops were exchanged early in that game. He maintained some pressure until deep in the endgame, but the result was a draw. 13.Re3 Qd7 14.h3 Bh5 15.Qd2 Rae8 16.Nh4 Rxe3. In tensioned situations, it is generally recomendable to refrain from carrying out the exchanges and provoke the opponent to do it himself. 16...Qd8 17.Nf5 Bg6 deserves attention, preventing the radical activation of forces carried out by Topalov in the next phase of the game. 17.Qxe3 Qe6

The situation repeats itself in a slightly different form. Neither player is interested in strengthening the enemy centre by exchanging queens himself. The ladies will be throuwing furious glances at eachother, but nothing more than that. 18.Nf5 Rd8 19.Qg5 Bg6 20.Ne3

White has regrouped in optimal way, putting the d5-pawn in serious danger. 20...Be4 21.Re1. White systematically increases his tension. It can be felt that the c6-knight is not participating to the defence in any constructive way. Well, it defends the d8-rook and prevents Black from losing material after 21.Bxe4 dxe4 22.d5 by enabling 22...Qe7! , but this has little strategic significance from a wider point of view. 21...h6 22.Qh4 Qg6

It might seem that Black is better placed in this new tensioned situation. However, the better coordination of forces allows White to sidestep the tension, by sacrificing a pawn! 23.Be2! The start of a new regroupment, aiming to put the enemy kingside under pressure. 23...Bxc2. After this move, Black will be slightly hanging. Gelfand probably thought that the worse that could happen to him is lose the d5-pawn, when his structure would remain acceptable, but neglected certain tactical nuances... 24.Bh5 Qe4 25.Qg3 Bd3 26.f3

26...Qe7? This blunder offers the confirmation of my supposition from the previous comment. Black should have played 26...Qh7 , but his position would have been anything but harmonious in this case. After his move, Gelfand was probably expecting 27.Nxd5 Qg5, with approximate equality. 27.Ng4! Qg5. It would be pointless to attach a question mark to this move, since any other queen move would lose the h6- and f7-pawns, with decisive attack for White. Gelfand probably was a victim of inertia in thinking; in the aforementioned line the queen would occupy precisely this square... 28.f4!

All of a sudden, the queen is trapped. The h5- and f5- squares are not available because of knight forks on f6 or h6, respectively. "How could he have done this?" some reader may ask. "The occupant of the 2nd-3rd position at the Mexico World Championship blundered his queen in one move! Not even the early version of my Fritz would have played so weakly..." Indeed, but humans are not computers and blunders can happen at the highest thinkable level. As you might have noticed, the main drama of the game seemed to be the mutual weaknesses in the centre. A strong player only "needs" some lack of flexibility at the critical moment to overlook that there are small concrete things happening around, too, and this must have been precisely the case with Boris... 1-0. [Click to replay]

In fact, Gelfand seems to be not in his best form these days. Just one round earlier, he missed the possibility of eliminating the important d2-pawn agains Judit

Gelfand,B (2737) - Polgar,Ju (2707) [E01]
Corus A Wijk aan Zee NED (4), 15.01.2008
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 c5 4.Nf3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 d5 6.Bg2 e5 7.Nf3 d4 8.0-0 Nc6 9.e3 d3 10.Nc3 Bb4 11.Bd2 0-0 12.a3 Bxc3 13.Bxc3 Ne4 14.Bxe5 Bg4 15.Bd4 Ng5 16.Bc3 Rc8 17.b4 Re8 18.h4 Ne4 19.Bb2 Qd7 20.Qc1 d2 21.Qc2 Bf5 22.Qb3 Be6

23.Qc2 [23.Nxd2! Nxd2 24.Qc3 f6 25.Rad1 Red8 26.Bc1] 23...Bf5 24.Qa4 Qd3 25.b5 Nd8 26.Qxa7 Ne6 27.g4 Bxg4 28.Ne5 Qc2 29.Nxg4 Qxb2 30.Bxe4 Rxc4 31.Bf3 Rc1 32.Raxc1 dxc1Q 33.Rxc1 Qxc1+ 34.Kg2 h5 35.Nh2 Nc5 36.Bxb7 Qc2 37.Bd5 Qg6+ 38.Kh1 Nd3 39.Nf3 Nxf2+ 40.Kh2 Ng4+ 0-1. My thanks to Albert Silver from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for notifying me about this possibility. [Click to replay]

Eljanov,P (2692) - Radjabov,T (2735) [E70]
Corus A Wijk aan Zee NED (5), 17.01.2008 [Mihail Marin]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Bd3 0-0 6.Nge2 c5 7.d5 e6

8.Bg5. Rather unusual. After 8.0-0 exd5 9.cxd5 we would reach the tabyia of the Penrose system, named after the Birtish player who used it to defeat the Legendary Mikhail Tal. White's standard plan of development consists of h2, Ng3, f4, Be3, Qf3. The bishop goes to g5 only in case of certain black setups (such as ...b6 followed by ...Ba6). 8...h6 9.Bf4. Another unexpected move. White intends to prevent the natural development of the enemy queen's knight to d7. However, by blocking the f-pawn, he ensures temporary stability to the other knight on e5. 9...Ng4! 10.Qd2 Na6 11.a3 Nc7 12.f3 Ne5

Black wisely delayed the exchange on d5. In a "/portals/all/_for_legal_reasons.jpg" Benoni, White could simply retreat with the attacked bishop to c2, but here the c4-pawn is hanging. 13.0-0 exd5 14.cxd5 Nxd3 15.Qxd3

The first comment that comes up to one's mind is "/portals/all/_for_legal_reasons.jpg". However, I believe that for a Benoni it is more relevant that he managed to exchange one pair of minor pieces (other than his g7-bishop!) which allows him find comfortable squares for the remaining pieces. This is quite a logical aim for Black, who has constant problems with space. 15...b6! Completely in accordance with... Philidor's recomendations. If one has a light-squared bishop, he should arrange his pawns on dark squares, in order to prevent restricting the bishop's action and, in fact, "complete" it. In our concrete case, the other bishop does not mind: he has a wonderful diagonal at its disposal... 16.Qd2 Kh7 17.Ng3 Ba6

The bishop stands nicely here, but the final result of this hyper-activity might come as a slight surprize... 18.Rfe1 Re8 19.a4 Bc4 20.Nf1

20...Bxf1! Despite losing a tempo, this new exchange solves Black's spatial problems completely! His pieces will soon be placed in very harmonious way, enabling favourable pawn moves on both wings. This does not mean that White is worse already; his advantage of space and the compact centre ensures him against trouble in the near future. However, from practical point of view, Black's play is much easier to carry out, while White should restrain himself to defensive measures. 21.Rxf1 a6 22.Bg3 Qd7

23.Rae1. This is not a real mistake yet, but it prepares a strategical blunder. With black, I would be more worried about 23.Rab1 , aiming to keep Black's queenside play under control, for instance 23...b5 24.b4 (24.axb5 would leave Black the choice between 24...axb5, which opens the a-file for the rook and 24...Nxb5 activating the knight. Now, 25.Nxb5 axb5 26.b4 would be less effective because after 26...c4! the c4-pawn would not be blocked.) 24...cxb4 (24...c4?! would allow White block the position to his favour with 25.a5!

Analysis diagram

This last move is essential in order to prevent ...bxa4 followed by ...Nb5. This is a typical (unfavourable) situation for the Benoni player. The knight that has been so useful to help the queenside pawns get into motion, is placed very passively now and could become the main cause for Black's troubles.) 25.Rxb4 . White plans to increase his pressure with Rfb1, while after 25...a5 he has the thematic exchange sacrifice 26.Rxb5 at his disposal, when the permanent weakness of the d6-pawn would offer him reasonable compensation.


24.f4? The position has lost its initial character of a Penrose Attack long time ago. The last move only creates weaknesses, without creating real chances for an attack. It would have been better to restrict Black's initiative with, say, 24.b3. 24...b4 25.Nd1 f5! The point. The g3-bishop is reduced to passivity now, while the d5-pawn becomes chronically weak. Eljanov probably counted on 25...Qxa4?! 26.f5 with attack. 26.exf5 Qxf5 27.Ne3 Rxe3! Further simplification... 28.Rxe3 Bd4 29.Bf2 Bxe3 30.Bxe3. The bishop has changed diagonals, but is far from reaching any form of activity. 30...Nxd5 31.Rd1

31...Re8 31...Nxe3 32.Qxe3 Qf6 was an important alternative. Radjabov probably feared that the vulnerability of his king would make itself felt in the presence of queens and preferred not to give up his centralization so easily. 32.Bf2? The losing move. Why preserve such an awfully passive from exchange? It is true that the andgame arising after 32.Qxd5 Qxd5 33.Rxd5 Rxe3 34.Rxd6 Rb3 35.Rd2 c4 looks promissing for Black, in view of his huge advantage of space on the queenside and his active rook, but White would have been alive. 32...Nxf4

33.Qxd6? Qe4 Suddenly, there is no reasonable defence against the threat of mate in one. 0-1. [Click to replay]

Mamedyarov,S (2760) - Van Wely,L (2681) [B20]
Corus A Wijk aan Zee NED (5), 17.01.2008 [Mihail Marin]

1.e4 c5 2.b3

From all the sidelines of the Sicilian, this is the less popular, at least starting with a certain level. With other words, an excellent opportunity to sidestepping mass theory on the second move already! 2...d6 3.Bb2 Nf6 4.Bb5+ Bd7 5.Bxd7+ Qxd7 6.d3 Nc6 7.f4 d5 8.Nd2 0-0-0 9.Qe2 dxe4 10.dxe4

Both sides' play has been quite logical so far. 10...Nd4. This might be OK, but personally I would prefer inserting a developing move with 10...e5!? and only after 11.fxe5 jump with 11...Nd4 for instance 12.Bxd4 (Or 12.Qd3 Ng4 with active play, since 13.Ngf3 can be answered with 13...Ne3!) 12...Qxd4 13.Rd1 Qxe5 and Black's position looks OK. White's knights are far from the weak d5-square, while the e4-pawn and the e5-square offer Black possibilities of counterplay. 11.Bxd4 Qxd4 12.Rd1 Qc3 13.Ngf3

13...Qxc2. This pawn will be slightly less yummy than intended. 14.Ng5. We can notice that Black is strongly underdeveloped, which leaves him a mere spectator against such a primitive threat like Nxf7. 14...Rd4 15.0-0 e6 16.Nxf7

This certainly looks yummier than c2, because it weakens an area from the neighbourhood of the enemy king. 16...Rg8 17.Ng5 Be7 18.Nxe6 Rxe4 19.Qf3 Rxe6 20.Qh3 Ng4 21.Qxg4 Qg6 22.Qh3 Qh6 23.Qf3 Bf6 24.Kh1 Bd4

The position has calmed down and Black has almost completed his development and has a strong centralzied bishop. However, his coordination is far from perfect yet, the g8-rook is vulnerable and the king's position is wide open. This allows White retain dangerous initiative. 25.b4!? Immediately questioning Black's stability in the centre. 25...cxb4 26.Ne4 Bb6. Possibly not best. He should have defended the bishop by completing the development of the last piece with 26...Rd8. 27.f5!

The start of a glorious marching on of this pawn. 27...Bc7 28.h3 Rc6 29.Qg4! Kb8 30.f6. With the enemy king's rook on virtually any other square, this move would have been harmless. 30...a5 31.f7 Rf8 32.Qf5 White's advantage is obvious now. 32...Qh4 33.Rd7 g6 34.Qd5

34...a4? Almost anyrthing else would have been better than weakening the b4-square. 35.Qd4! With the pawn on a5 astill, this move could have been answered with ...Rc2, when Qg7? loses to ...Qxe4! The way it is now, White has the additional possibility of Qxb4, attacking the rook and maintaining the knight defended at the same time. 35...b3 36.axb3 axb3 37.Qg7 Winning a rook for nothing. 37...Rxf7 38.Qg8+ Ka7 39.Qxf7 Qxe4 40.Rxc7 b2 41.Rxb7+ 1-0. [Click to replay]

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