MTel R5 analysis by GM Mihail Marin

by ChessBase
5/17/2006 – The Sofia anti-draw rule is working. In all the games from this round, White had the opportunity to force a draw by repetition and bravely rejected it! Topalov interrupted Kamsky's ride into the stars, when the American GM decided to use a double-edged a6-Slav against the FIDE world champion. That is part of Topalov's own repertoire. Commentary by Mihail Marin.

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Round five commentary

Round 5: Monday, May 15, 2006

Veselin Topalov 
 Gata Kamsky
Peter Svidler 
 Vishy Anand
Ruslan Ponomariov 
 Etienne Bacrot

All games so far in PGN


Commentary by GM Mihail Marin

There are just a few days left until the start of the Turin Olympiad. As a member of the Romanian team, I shall try to get a bit focused on this important event, which will result in much shorter reports on the Sofia tournament from now on. However, I will give full annotations in the next issue of ChessBase Magazine.

I would like to thank to all the readers who have expressed their appreciation for my work so far. I am deeply flattered and touched by their messages. I will quote and answer here Marco Naletto from São Paulo, Brazil, who just yesterday wrote:

“Congratulations on ChessBase and Mihail Marin!! Most of chess players in the world are composed of amateurs. We have been tired of extensive and complicated game analysis. I always wanted to know why GM "X" didn't play this or that, but as an amateur my doubts probably were too basic to be contemplated in the previous analysis. With the commentaries by Mihail Marin this is no more a problem. He knows what goes on our amateur minds and answers the "basic" questions we usually do to the chess board when we see a GM playing an unexpected move (at least what seems "unexpected" to us). Congratulations on the best chess site of the web.”

Well, actually that is very simple to accomplish, since, quoting the great Mikhail Tal, I consider myself an amateur, too. There is nothing more rewarding than looking at a game of chess with the fresh eyes of a beginner, trying to understand the very essence of our beloved game. This is precisely what I have tried to do while writing the tournament reports.

Now, about the fifth round. The Sofia-rule seems to work well. In all the games from this round, White had the opportunity to force a draw by repetition and bravely rejected it! Topalov finally got warmed up and won a brilliant game against the leader, Gata Kamsky. Svidler-Anand was a relatively uneventful draw, where White’s damaged queenside structure prevented him from enterprising anything active. The same seemed to be about to happen in Ponomariov-Bacrot, but mutual mistakes gave the game a thrilling course. The draw by perpetual check was a more or less logical result of the “exchange of amiabilities”.

Topalov,V (2804) - Kamsky,G (2671) [D15]
Mtel Masters Sofia BUL (5), 15.05.2006 [Mihail Marin]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 a6. Given the fact that Topalov himself included the a6-Slav in his repertoire recently, Kamsky's opening choice can be regarded as double-edged. From psychological point of view, Topalov could possibly face slight problems playing "against himself", but on the other hand, one would expect that he is well-versed in all the subtleties of this variation. 5.c5. This is one of the most ambitious continuations. White not only prevents in radical way Black's plan to win space on the queen side by means of ...b5, but also takes under control the b6-square, which has just been weakened on the previous move. We can see a similar way to meet ...a6 in other closed variations. For instance, in the Swiss Variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined, characterized by the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e3 0-0 6.Nf3 Nbd7 7.Rc1 a6!?, one of White's main options is 8.c5.

Analysis diagram

After 5.c5 from the Slav Opening, the queen side position usually remains blocked for a long while. The pawn break ...b6 would leave the c5-square weak (here we can notice the small damaged caused by the advance of the a-pawn: Black cannot meet cxb6 with ...axb6 any more) while White's plan based on b4, a4, b5 is too time consuming for the moment. These aspects transform the centre into the main theatre of operations, with the pawn breaks e4 and ...e5 as the main topic. 5...Nbd7 Nowadays, this is considered to be the most flexible continuation. 5...g6 leads to more or less similar play, in which White has some more liberty of development in the first phase of the game. Here is a famous example where both thematical pawn breaks were carried out at the same time: 6.Bf4 Bg7 7.h3 0-0 8.e3 Nbd7 9.Bd3 Ne8 10.Rc1 f6 11.e4 e5

Analysis diagram

The position becomes very sharp now. During the next sequence of moves, one of the greatest players of the history was completely outplayed by a machine. 12.dxe5 Nxc5 13.exd5 fxe5 14.Be3 Nxd3+ 15.Qxd3 e4 16.Qxe4 Nf6 17.Qc4 Nxd5 18.Nxd5 Be6 19.0-0 Bxd5 with a huge advantage for Black, who, nevertheless went on losing as a consequence of exaggerated greediness in Kasparov-Comp Chess Genius 3.0, Cologne 1995.

6.Bf4 Nh5 Black does not tolerate the bishop on this active square. One of the ideas behind playing ...Nbd7 at such an early stage is to take the e5-square under control in order to prevent (or, better said,discourage) Be5, which would caused Black some lack of coordination if he had played ...g6 instead. 7.Bd2 Only years of practice have revealed some of the hidden subtleties of this position. Earlier, 7.Bg5 was frequently played. However, in the absence of the move ...g6, the weakness induced by the move 7...h6 is not too relevant and Black can orientate his play in accordance with the new circumstances. Here are two examples from Kasparov's practice. 8.Bd2 Nhf6 (Earlier, Kasparov played 8...Qc7 when after 9.e4 dxe4 10.Nxe4 Ndf6 11.Nc3 Be6 12.Ne5 the main purpose of the move 12...g6 was, surprisingly, not to develop the bishop to g7, but transfer the h5-knight to a better square! 13.Qf3 Rd8 14.Be3 Ng7 15.Bc4 Bxc4 16.Nxc4 Ne6 17.0-0 Bg7 Now that the knight has crossed this square and has put the d4-pawn under pressure, the bishop can be safely developed here. A remarkable optimization of the development, characteristic for Kasparov's play. 18.Rfd1 0-0 19.Rac1 Nd5 and Black successfully solved the opening problems in Sasikiran-Kasparov, Bled 2002.) 9.Qc2 Qc7 10.e4 dxe4 11.Nxe4 Nxe4 12.Qxe4 Nf6 13.Qc2 Be6 To a certain extent, the utilization of the e6-square is similar to that of the g7-square from the previous comment. The bishop transits it to reach a nice central position and then the e-pawn advances one square, preparing the development of the other bishop without weakening the king side structure with ...g6. 14.Bd3 Nd7 15.0-0 Bd5 16.Rfe1 e6 17.Ne5 Nxe5 18.dxe5 Be7 19.Rac1 0-0 20.Qa4 Black has a solid position and a very active light-squared bishop, but not too much space. The following precise move will solve this problem completely. 20...f5! 21.exf6 Bxf6 with approximate equality in Topalov-Kasparov, Linares 2004. 7...Nhf6 8.Rc1 A useful half-waiting move, discouraging ...b6 even more and indirectly defending the c5-pawn for the eventuality of a black pawn break with ...e5. Previously, Topalov played 8.Qc2 in a couple of games.; Of course, Topalov was not interested in "tricking" the Sofia-non-draw-offer-rule, created by his own manager, by means of 8.Bf4

8...g6 9.h3 Aiming to ensure stability to the bishop on the h2-b9 diagonal. 9...Qc7 10.g3!? White insists with the idea of developing the bishop on f4, which Black cannot prevent actually. 10...Bg7 [Topalov knew from his won experience that 10...e5 is rather risky: 11.Nxe5 Nxe5 12.Bf4!? Nfd7 13.e4 g5 14.Bxg5 Ng6 15.exd5 Bg7 16.Qe2+ Kf8 17.d6 Qa5 18.Be3 with three pawns for the sacrificed knight and considerable spatial advantage for White, Vallejo-Topalov, Monte Carlo 2006] 11.Bf4 Qd8 It might seem that Black has just lost two tempi. However, precisely these two moves (g3 and h3) cause some slight contradiction: The bishop's development on f4 has been enabled, but its stability on the h2-b8 diagonal is not too reliable. 12.Bg2 Nh5 13.Bg5 h6 14.Bd2 0-0 15.e4 dxe4 16.Nxe4 Nhf6 17.Nc3 Re8 18.0-0 Nf8 19.Qb3! Ne6 20.Be3 Nc7 21.Ne5 Nfd5 22.Nxd5 Nxd5 23.Bd2

In spite of Black's control of the d5-square, White has strong pressure. For Black it will be not easy to develop his queen side. 23...Bxe5 This is an obvious concession, but the generally desirable 23...Rb8? , preparing ...Be6, is impossible in view of 24.Nxc6. 24.dxe5 h5 25.Rfe1 Qc7 26.e6! Finally, Topalov gets a chance to carry out his emblematic exchange sacrifice in this tournament. 26...Bxe6 27.Rxe6 fxe6 28.Re1 The lack of communication between Black's wings leaves the king in a dangerous situation. 28...Qd7 29.Qd3 Kh7 30.Re5 Nf6 31.Qe3 Kg7 32.Be4 Kf7 After 32...Nxe4 33.Rxe4 planning Qh6 and Rf4 leaves Black under powerful attack. 33...e5. 3.Bc2 Rad8 Kamsky intends to solve his problems by centralising his major pieces. However, the weakness of his king side is so pregnant that this generally good method does not help. He should have played something very unaesthetical like 33...Rg8 followed by ...Rg7, although White's compensation would have been obvious in this case, too. 34.Qh6 Rg8 35.Ba5 Qd4 36.Bc3! White's bishop display strong activity. I cannot help remembering the game Topalov-Anand from San Luis, where Black's extra-exchange hardly made itself felt against the mighty bishops. Black's idea would be justified in case of 36.Rg5?! Ne4. 36...Qc4 37.Bb3 Qd3 38.Bxe6+ Ke8 39.Kg2 A nice prophylactical move, threatening Re3 followed by Bxf6 and underlining Black's helplessness. 39...Rf8 40.Qg7 Rd5 41.Bf5 Rf7

2.Rxe7+! A nice way to finish the game. Black will get mated soon. 1-0

Svidler,P (2743) - Anand,V (2803) [C88]
Mtel Masters Sofia BUL (5), 15.05.2006 [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

By leaving the d-pawn on its initial square, Black maintains the possibility of developing his dark-squared bishop on more active positions than e7 or f8 or, in certain cases, to break the centre with ...d5, in the spirit of the "rarely seen" nowadays Marshall Attack. 10.Nc3. If White prevents the pin of this knight with 10.a3 , Black can nonetheless obtain good play with 10...Bc5 11.Nc3 d6 12.Nd5 h6 13.c3 Ba7 14.Be3 Bxe3 15.Rxe3 Nd7 16.Ba2 Ne7 17.Nxe7+ Qxe7 18.Nh2 Nf6 19.Ng4 and a draw was agreed in Kramnik-Anand, Dortmund (m/3-rapid) 2004. 10...Bb4 11.Ng5. The immediate 11.a3 Bxc3 12.bxc3 also left White with structural problems after 12...Na5 13.Bg5 h6 14.Bh4 c5 15.Bd5 Bxd5 16.Bxf6 Qxf6 17.exd5 Qd6 18.c4 bxc4 19.Qd2 Nb7 20.dxc4 e4 21.Nh2 Qg6 22.Qf4 Nd6 23.Nf1 f5 in Kasimdzhanov-Anand, Bundesliga 2005/2006.] 11...Rf8 12.a3 [If White finds himself in a peaceful mood, he can offer a repetition of moves with 12.Nf3. 12...Bxc3 13.bxc3. The weakness of the c-pawns will considerably restrict White's active possibilities. 13...h6!? A novelty, aiming to prevent White from opening the position with an early f4. True, in a previous game where this position was seen, White did not get any advantage out of this pawn break: 13...Na5 14.Ba2 c5 15.f4 exf4 16.e5 Nd5 17.Bxd5 Qxg5 18.Bxb7 1/2-1/2 Kramnik-Leko, Brissago Wch m-2 2004. 14.Nf3 d6 15.Nh4 Bc8 16.Qf3 Na5 17.Ba2 c5 18.Nf5 Bxf5 19.Qxf5 c4

There is little life left in the position now. 20.Rd1 Qc8 21.Qf3 Qe6 22.a4 Rfc8 23.Ba3 Ne8 24.Qe2 Qd7 25.Bb4 Qc7 26.dxc4 Nxc4 27.Bxc4 bxc4 28.a5 Qe7 29.Rd2 Rc6 30.Rad1 Qe6 31.Qf3 Rb8 32.Rd5 f6 33.R5d2 Rb7 34.Kh2 Kf7 35.Qh5+ Kg8 36.Qf3 Kf7 37.Qh5+ Kg8 38.Qf3 1/2-1/2

Ponomariov,R (2738) - Bacrot,E (2708) [C88]
Mtel Masters Sofia BUL (5), 15.05.2006 [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.a4 b4 9.d3 d6 10.a5 Be6 11.Nbd2 Rb8 The main alternative is 11...Qc8 . The reader might remember that after 12.Nc4 Rb8 13.Bg5 Aronian surprised Leko in the last round of Linares 2006 with the slightly exotic 13...Kh8!? . Leko went down quickly and in the notes to that game I recommended 14.d4 as a possible improvement for White.

Apparently, Leko came to the same conclusion, and tried it with the very next occasion, but the king move proved to be more than just an experiment: 14...exd4 15.Nxd4 Nxd4 16.Qxd4 Ng8 17.Bf4 f5 18.exf5 Bf6 19.Qd3 Bxf5 20.Qg3 Bg6 21.Bg5 Rb5 22.Bxf6 Nxf6 23.f3 Nh5 24.Qh4 Nf4 25.Ne3 Rh5 26.Qg3 Qd8 and, just like against Aronian, Leko found himself under very strong king side pressure in Leko-Anand, Monte Carlo 2006.

12.Bc4 Qc8 13.b3 Nd7 14.Nf1 Bf6 15.Ne3 g6 16.Bb2 Bxc4 17.Nxc4 [After this re-capture, the whole knight maneuver can be regarded as a loss of two whole tempi, leaving Black with an entirely adequate position. However, in case of 17.dxc4 , aiming to strengthen the control over the d5-square, White's structure would have lost flexibility, allowing Black prepare the thematic king side break ...f5 by means of, say, 17...Nc5 18.Nd5 Bg7 19.Qd2 Qd7] 17...Re8 18.d4 Slightly careless. 18...exd4 19.Nxd4 Nce5. Black misses the opportunity to win a pawn with the simple trick 19...Bxd4!? 20.Bxd4 d5 , when the exposed position of the bishop does not allow White obtain counterplay along the a1-h8 diagonal easily, something Bacrot might have feared when refraining from this line. 20.Nxe5 Bxe5 21.Rb1 Qb7 22.f3 Nf6 23.Qd2

23...c5?! Offering White an unexpected chance. Black could have played 23...Nh5 with the idea of activating his position by means of ...Nf4, ...Qa7-c5, ...d5, etc. If 24.g3 then 24...c5 25.Ne2 Bxb2 26.Rxb2 d5!? could raise interesting complications, where White pieces would be slightly uncoordinated. 24.Nf5! Black's king starts feeling uncomfortable now. 24...Bxb2 25.Rxb2 Rbd8 26.Rbb1 Qc7 27.Qh6 Nh5 28.Ne3 Nf6 29.Nf5 Nh5 30.Rbd1 (White had no reasons to agree to a draw by repetition, of course.) 30...gxf5

31.Qxh5?! [Ponomariov misses the chance to obtain a powerful attack with 31.exf5!? ] 31...fxe4 32.Qg5+ Kf8 33.Rd5 Re6 34.Rxe4 Rde8 35.Qh5 Qxa5 36.Qxh7 Qa1+ 37.Kf2 Rxe4 38.fxe4 Re6 39.Rd3 Rf6+ 40.Rf3 Rxf3+ 41.gxf3 Qc1 42.Kg3 Qxc2 43.Qh6+ Kg8 44.Qg5+ Finally switching to the B-plan: giving perpetual check. 44...Kh7 45.Qh5+ Kg7 46.Qg5+ Kh7 47.Qh5+ 1/2-1/2.

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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.

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