MTel R2 analysis by GM Mihail Marin

5/13/2006 – A close look at the bloody third round by our star Grandmaster annotator, Romania's Mihail Marin. In-depth analysis of Kamsky-Bacrot, Topalov-Anand, and Svidler-Ponomariov. Dozens of diagrams, PGN download, and online replay are all just a click away. Don't miss it.

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Round two analysis by GM Mihail Marin

The following annotated games can be replayed on a special JavaScript board in a new window. Note that you can scroll the notation (without scrolling the board) and click on it to replay the game. PGN download also available.

The “Sofia-experiment” seems to be crowned by success: all the games from the second day were decisive. Topalov failed to obtain an advantage from the opening against Anand and eventually went down badly after missing a nice but not too complicated tactical trick. Svidler’s pressure against Ponomariov’s queen side eventually resulted in two connected passed pawns, which left little doubt about the final outcome of the game.

The most thrilling confrontation was that between Kamsky and Bacrot. During the 103 moves several mistakes were committed, but White was on top for most of the time. The game was unexpectedly decided in a theoretically dead drawn Rook versus Knight (no pawns) ending.

Topalov,V (2804) - Anand,V (2803) [C88]
Mtel Masters Sofia BUL (2), 12.05.2006
[Mihail Marin]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.h3 Bb7 9.d3 Re8 10.c3 h6 11.Nbd2 Bf8 12.a3 d6 13.Ba2 Nb8 14.b4 c5 15.Nb3 Nc6 16.Rb1 Bc8 17.Be3 Be6 18.Qc2 Rc8 19.Qb2

White has placed some of his pieces on rather unnatural squares, while Black has regrouped in a harmonious way. 19...c4 20.dxc4 Bxc4 21.Nbd2 Bxa2 22.Qxa2 d5 This thematic central break ensures Black at least equal play. 23.Rbd1 d4 24.cxd4 exd4 25.Nb3?! [Still fighting for an advantage, something not surprising in Topalov's games. 25.Nxd4 would have been safer.] 25...Nxe4 26.Bxd4 Nxd4 27.Rxd4

27...Ng5!! A fantastic move, overlooked by Topalov. All of a sudden, White is in trouble. 28.Ne5 [Accepting the "/portals/all/_for_legal_reasons.jpg" with 28.Rxd8 would have led to equally unpleasant consequences after 28...Nxf3+ 29.gxf3 Rxe1+ (This intermediate move is possible only because the back rank is defended by the bishop.) 30.Kg2 Rxd8 with a small material advantage and the safer king's position for Black.] 28...Nxh3+! 29.gxh3 Qg5+ 30.Kh2 [In case of 30.Rg4 Black had an "echo-line" at his disposal: 30...Rxe5! 31.Rxg5 Rxe1+ followed by 32...hxg5.] 30...Qf5! [Avoiding unnecessary complications after 30...Rxe5 31.f4!?] 31.Rde4 Rxe5 32.Rxe5 Bd6 33.Nc5 Bxe5+ 34.Kg2 Rc6 35.Qb3 Rg6+ 36.Kf1 Bg3 Just like in Morelia 2006 and Sofia 2005, Topalov seems to have problems of warming up. From this point of view, the World Championship from San Luis 2005 is an obvious exception: from the first 7 rounds, he only "lost" half a point! 0-1

Svidler,P (2743) - Ponomariov,R (2738) [B90]
Mtel Masters Sofia BUL (2), 12.05.2006
[Mihail Marin]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 Nbd7 9.g4 Be7 10.Qd2 0-0 11.g5 Nh5 12.0-0-0 b5 13.Nd5 Bxd5 14.exd5

14...f5!? I do not know whether this is just a coincidence or Ponomariov intended to face his opponent with a delicate psychological problem, but I cannot help remembering the game Leko-Svidler from Linares 2006, where Black solved the opening problems with the new move 19...f5 in what was considered a dangerous position. Here, the move is not new, however. 15.gxf6 Bxf6 16.Na5 Nf4 [This natural move, placing the knight on an excellent outpost, restricts the activity of the white light-squared bishop. In case of the immediate 16...Qc7 17.Nc6 Nb8 White can indirectly maintain the stability of his knight with 18.Bh3! as in an older game Byrne-Popovych, New York 1972. If 18...Nxc6? 19.dxc6 Qxc6 White wins an exchange with 20.Be6+ Kh8 21.Bd5] 17.Nc6 This square is even more attractive than f4, but the only question that remains open is whether White will manage to ensure stability to his knight here. 17...Qc7 18.c4!? [This logical move, activating the light-squared bishop, is a novelty. About two weeks earlier, 18.Kb1 had been played, when after 18...Nb6 19.Bxf4 exf4 20.c3 Rae8 21.Rg1 Re3 Black had sufficient counterplay in Bologan-Efimenko, Sochi 2006.] 18...Nb8 19.Qa5 Rc8 20.Kb1 bxc4 21.Qxc7 Rxc7 22.Bxc4 Kf8 23.Na5 Nd7 24.Rc1 Bg5 25.h4 Bh6 26.Bb3 Rac8 27.Rc6 Ne2 28.Bxh6 gxh6 29.Bc4 Nd4

Apparently, Black has managed to take over the control of the c6-square, but tactics help White maintain his advantage on this side of the board. 30.Bxa6! Nxc6 31.dxc6 Rxc6 32.Nxc6 Rxc6 33.Bb5 Rc7 34.Rc1 Nc5 35.Bc4 Black can do very little to prevent the connected passed pawns from advancing. 35...e4 36.b4 Rb7 37.a3 exf3 38.Rf1 Na4 39.Rxf3+ Kg7 40.Bb3 Nb6 41.Kb2 Re7 42.a4 Re4 43.Ka3 1-0

Kamsky,G (2671) - Bacrot,E (2708) [C88]
Mtel Masters Sofia BUL (2), 12.05.2006
[Mihail Marin]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.h3 Bb7 9.d3 d6 10.a3

One of the numerous forms of the Anti-Marshall variations. By advancing several of his pawns with just one step in a moment when the whole queen side is undeveloped, White intends to maintain the maximum of flexibility regarding the choice of the main plan. 10...Na5 11.Ba2 c5 A natural reaction in the spirit of the Chigorin variation. Black wins space in the centre at the cost of the relative weakness of the d5-square. 12.Nc3 Immediately taking under observation the newly created weakness. Had White hurried with the development of the knight to d2, he would have needed two additional tempi (Nf1-e3) to approach the critical d5-square. 12...Nc6 The presence of the enemy knight on c3 makes the d4-square available for Black, at least on short term.

13.Rb1!? This is a new move, preparing the advance of the b-pawn in order to put Black under some pressure on the wing where he is supposed to be more active. This method of play (involving a3, Rb1 and Bd2) has been repeatedly employed by the former World Champion Boris Spassky in a completely different opening: the Closed Sicilian. Curiously, in the other game of the second round where the Anti-Marshall was played, White also played b4, although in a different form. Previously to our main game, several other moves have been tried. I shall review them briefly.

[13.Nd5 enables taking the d4-square under control with c3, but has the slight drawback of defining the intentions of the knight too soon.; 13.Bg5 prepares the elimination of the main defender of the critical square, the same as; 13.Nh2 in view of a further Ng4.; 13.Ne2 with the intention of transferring the knight to g3 means abandoning the initial idea behind 12.Nc3. Besides, if White intends to transfer the knight to the king side it is better to do it by means of Nd2-f1, retaining the possibility of choosing between Ng3 and Ne3.]

13...Rc8 14.Bd2 Nd4 With his last two moves Black anticipates White's plan by putting the c2-pawn under indirect pressure. 15.b4

15...Nxf3+?! But this willing exchange of the central knight is an obvious concession. Black should have developed the queen, for instance to c7 in order to increase the pressure along the c-file. 16.Qxf3 c4?! The logical consequence of the previous move, but, in fact, a... further concession. 17.dxc4 bxc4 18.Qe2 Qc7 19.Bg5 Now, besides the d5-square, Black has worries about his c-pawn. 19...Ne8!? [Black obviously disliked such a course of events: 19...Rfe8 20.Bxf6 Bxf6 21.Rbd1 Bg5 22.Nd5 Bxd5 23.Rxd5 when putting the c3-pawn on a safe square with 23...c3 would leave the white bishop unchallenged along the a2-g8 diagonal, while otherwise White would simply play c3 himself maintaining the control of the position. At the cost of losing the weak pawn immediately, Black gets rid of his passive bishop and hopes to get counterplay along the c-file.] 20.Bxe7 Qxe7 21.Bxc4 Nf6 22.Rbd1 a5 Eliminating another weakness: the a6-pawn. 23.Nd5 Nxd5 24.Bxd5 axb4 25.axb4 Bxd5 26.Rxd5 Qc7

The activity of the black pieces along the c-file makes the conversion of the material advantage still problematic, in spite of the mass exchanges. 27.Rc1 Qc3 28.b5 Rfd8 29.Qd1 h6 30.Kh2! [A nice prophylactic move, in the style of Kasparov. White would not make significant progress by the immediate capture of the d6-pawn with 30.Rxd6 Rxd6 31.Qxd6 because of 31...Qb2 , winning the b5-pawn.] 30...Rc5 [But now, in case of a neutral move such as 30...g6 White already could play 31.Rxd6 Rxd6 32.Qxd6 when 32...Qb2 can be strongly met by 33.Qd7 , leaving Black with problems stabilizing the position. However, Bacrot's move is also not without drawbacks: after the exchange of one pair of rooks, the significance of the passed b-pawn increases considerably.] 31.Rxc5 Qxc5 32.Qe2 Rc8 33.c4 Qd4 34.Rc2

White has managed to consolidate, but he needs to find a favorable way to exchange the c4-pawn for the d6-pawn in order to make further progress. 34...g6 35.f3 Kg7 36.Rd2 Qxc4 37.Qxc4 Rxc4 38.Rxd6 Rb4 39.b6 h5 40.h4

Such rook endings are hard to analyses and even harder to play over the board. In order to describe the situation, one cannot use such evaluations as "/portals/all/_for_legal_reasons.jpg" or "+-". The system suggested by Bronstein (for instance: White has 40% chances to win) applies better. 40...f5? [However, if my analysis below is correct, we can safely consider this move the decisive mistake. Bacrot's desire to obtain some counterplay in the centre is entirely understandable, but allowing the enemy pawn to advance to the seventh rank is hardly a wise idea. Black should have adopted a waiting strategy with, say, 40...Kf8 followed by ...Rb2, in order to cross White's plan of transferring the king to the other wing.] 41.Rd7+! Kf6 42.b7 fxe4 43.fxe4 g5

Obviously the only chance for survival. Black tries to get rid of one more weakness before activating his king. 44.g3? [A very "/portals/all/_for_legal_reasons.jpg" answer. By allowing the king side to be blocked, White leaves his king in a very passive situation. True, 44.Kh3 does not seem to suffice for an advantage after 44...gxh4 45.Kxh4 Rxe4+ 46.Kxh5 Rb4 47.g4 Ke6! (It is best to question the stability of the white rook along the seventh rank at once. In case of the careless 47...e4? White gets winning chances with 48.g5+ Ke6 49.Rc7 Kd6 50.Rf7 when 50...Ke6 can be answered with 51.g6 already, while 50...e3 loses to 51.Rf3) 48.Rc7 Kd6 49.Rf7 Ke6 50.Rh7 and now that the rook has no access to the first rank, the advance of the e-pawn with 50...e4 ensures a draw.; However, Kamsky missed the possibility of changing the course of the game to his favor with 44.Rd6+! .

Play becomes very interesting now. 44...Kg7 (The only good square for the king. 44...Ke7? loses immediately to 45.Rh6 gxh4 46.Rh8!; 44...Kf7 is not much better because of 45.Rh6 Kg7 46.Rxh5 gxh4 47.Rxe5 Rxb7 48.Kh3 , leaving White with two sound extra-pawns. In case of 48...Rb2 the simplest answer is 49.Kxh4! since 49...Rxg2 leads to a winning pawn ending after 50.Rg5+!) For a long time I have oriented my analytical efforts in the following direction: 45.hxg5?! Rxb7 46.Re6 Rb3!! (This move, suggested by Levente Vajda, prevents the activation of the white king at the cost of a second pawn. Passive defense with 46...Rb5? would lead Black to defeat after 47.Kh3 Kf7 48.Rf6+ Kg7 49.Rf5 Kg6 50.Kh4 Ra5 51.g4! hxg4 52.Kxg4 Rb5 53.Rf6+ Kg7 54.Kf5 when Black is too passive to put up any resistance.)

47.g3 Re3! Forcing the enemy rook to capture on e5 and allow the activation of the black king. 48.Rxe5 Kg6 49.Kh3 (With the deadly threat of Kh4 followed by Re6. I could not find a way to strengthen White's position after 49.Kg2 Ra3 50.Kf2 Rb3) 49...Re1! 50.g4 Apparently, White has managed to get rid of his weakness and can count on converting his material advantage. 50...Rg1! However, this simple move (once again suggested by Vajda) leads to an easy draw after 51.Re6+!? (The last chance. 51.gxh5+ Kxh5 followed by ...Rxg5 is just too simple.) 51...Kxg5 52.Re5+ Kf4 53.Rxh5 and now the simplest way to a draw is 53...Rg3+! followed by 54...Rxg4,but not 53...Rxg4?? 54.Rf5, winning the rook.;

Quite disappointing, is it not? However, after 44.Rd6+ Kg7 White can do better with 45.Re6! Rxb7 46.Rxe5 gxh4 47.Rxh5 . The endings with the e- and g-pawns are generally winning if White's pieces are placed favorably, but reacquire a lot of technical effort in any case. Here, Black can complicate matters a bit by the radical activation of his forces with 47...Kg6 48.Rxh4 Kg5 49.Kh3 Rb3+ 50.g3 Rb2! (Cutting the retreat of the white king. 50...Re3 51.Kg2 should not be a problem for White.) 51.Rg4+! (51.Rf4? Re2! leads to a curious position of mutual zugzwang. If he is to move, White cannot win!

For instance, if he tries to lose a tempo with 52.Rg4+ Kh5 53.Rh4+ Black has the accurate 53...Kg6! maintaining White in zugzwang.) 51...Kh5 (51...Kf6 52.Rf4+ Ke5 53.Kg4 is just hopeless.) 52.Rf4 Re2 (Relatively best. If 52...Kg5 then 53.Rf5+ Kg6 54.Kg4 with a harmonious position for White.) 53.g4+! Kg5 54.Rf5+ Kh6!? (Playing for zugzwang again.) 55.e5 Re3+ 56.Kg2! (Only not 56.Kh4? when 56...Kg6 leads to another mutual zugzwang, quite similar to the previous.

) 56...Kg6 57.Kf2 Ra3 58.Rf3 and White starts making progress. I do not know whether Nalimov databases have been built for R + 2Ps vs. R and in any case do not have them! Besides, I find myself somewhere in the middle of the nature, together with my team mates, preparing for the Olympiad, which makes the task of finding "/portals/all/_for_legal_reasons.jpg" on this matter quite impossible. However, I hope that the "analogical" analysis presented above is accurate enough. Simplifying a bit the matters, I would say that 44.Rd6+ would have won, although Black's position seems easier to play from practical point of view. After Kamsky's move, the position is dead drawn, but easier to play for White!! In any case, the winner is always right...] 44...Rb2+ 45.Kg1 gxh4 46.gxh4 Ke6 47.Rh7 Kd6 48.Rxh5 [White has to abandon his b-pawn. In case of 48.Kf1 Kc5! Black's counterplay is sufficient for an immediate draw, for instance: 49.Rxh5 Rxb7 50.Rxe5+ Kd4] 48...Rxb7 49.Kg2 Rb4 50.Kf3 Rb1 51.Rg5 Ke6 52.h5 Rf1+ 53.Ke2 Rf4 54.Ke3 Rh4 55.Rf5 Rh3+ 56.Kf2 Rh4 57.Kf3 Rh3+ 58.Kg4 Re3 59.h6 Rxe4+ 60.Kg5 Re1 61.Rf6+

61...Kd5?! [Black creates himself unnecessary problems. By keeping the king on a defensive position with 61...Ke7! he would have obtained an easy draw, because the h-pawn is not dangerous.] 62.h7 Rg1+ 63.Kh6 Ke4 64.Rf8! [Winning an important tempo over 64.h8Q Rh1+] 64...Rh1+ 65.Kg6 Rxh7 66.Kxh7 White has won the enemy rook, but the e-pawn is not easy to stop. 66...Kd3 67.Rd8+ Ke3 68.Kg6 e4 69.Kf5 Kf3 70.Rh8 e3 71.Rh3+ Kf2 72.Kf4 e2 73.Rh2+ Kf1 74.Kf3

74...e1N+ Obviously forced. Black has to promote the pawn with check in order to avoid getting mated. The ending with R vs. N is considered by theory to be easily drawn, but I know from my own experience that things are not that rosy in practice. After a while of moving around with the pieces, the defending side risks losing the automatisms and starting to fear ghosts. The further course of the game seems to sustain my point of view. 75.Kg3 Nd3 76.Rd2 Ne1 77.Rf2+ Kg1 78.Rf8 Ng2 79.Kf3

79...Kf1? [Only five moves have passed and Black already commits a decisive error. 79...Nh4+!= would have maintained things under control.] 80.Kg3+? Kindly returning the favour. 80...Kg1 81.Kf3 Kf1? 82.Rf7! [Finally hitting on the right track. 82.Rf6 would have been just as good, too.] 82...Ne1+ [82...Nh4+ loses the knight to the discovered check 83.Kg3+] 83.Ke3+ Kg1 84.Ke2 Ng2 85.Rh7 Black is in zugzwang now. 85...Nf4+ 86.Kf3 Finally, the knight has been isolated from the own king, which is the start of a tragic end. 86...Nd3 87.Rh4 Ne5+

88.Ke2? [Humanly speaking, it is hard to believe that this move is letting the win slip away, but this is what the computer thinks. Apparently, 88.Ke3! is the correct move, for instance 88...Kg2 89.Re4 Nd7 90.Kf4 Kf2 91.Rc4 Nb6 92.Rd4 (safely trapping the knight.) 92...Ke2 93.Ke4 and Black has to retreat with the king, allowing Kd3 followed by the capture of the knight.] 88...Kg2 89.Re4

89...Nf7? [Apparently, Black could have saved the day with 89...Nd7= , although it is not easy to believe that, either.] 90.Re7 Nd6 91.Rg7+ Kh3 92.Kf3 Now, the black king is in danger, too. 92...Kh4 93.Kf4 Kh5 94.Re7 [Here, 94.Rc7! would have made the win shorter, for instance 94...Ne8 95.Re7

95...Nd6 (or 95...Nf6 96.Kf5 Ng8 97.Rh7+ Nh6+ 98.Kf6 and Black loses the knight because of zugzwang.) 96.Re5+ Kh4 97.Re6 (Threatening mate in one and attacking the knight at the same time.) 97...Nf7 98.Rf6 and Black cannot move the knight because of mate.] 94...Nc4 95.Re6 Nd2 96.Rc6 Nb3 97.Ke3

It's all over now. The knight has been trapped and will perish without glory. 97...Kg4 98.Rc4+ Kg3 99.Rc3 Na5 100.Ke4+ Kf2 101.Kd5 Nb7 102.Rb3 Nd8 103.Rb8 1-0

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Mihail Marin, 41, Romanian Grandmaster, three times national champion (1988, 1994, 1999), nine times member of the Olympic team, participant in two Interzonals (Szirak 1987 and Manila 1990). In 2005 Marin was the second of Judit Polgar at the FIDE world championship in San Luis. Highest rating: 2604. Author of the ChessBase opening CDs English 1.c4 e5 and The Catalan Opening and the books: Secrets of Chess Defense, Secrets of Attacking Chess and Learn from the Legends. Graduate from the Polytechnic Institute Bucharest (Specialty Electrotechnic) in 1989.

If you have enjoyed the commentary provided by GM Mihail Marin you should try the following training CDs by the same author. They are amongst the best in our ChessBase Shop. Get them now:

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