MTel Round 4 analysis by GM Mihail Marin

5/16/2006 – In this round Kamsky maintained his lead with an unexpectedly easy win against Svidler. Anand-Ponomariov lasted much longer, but the game did not pose too many technical problems for the Indian player either. Bacrot surprisingly forced a draw against Topalov in what looked like a better ending for him. Look and learn.

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Round four commentary

Round 4: Sunday, May 14, 2006

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

All games so far in PGN


Commentary by GM Mihail Marin

First of all, I wish to thank to all the readers who have pointed out some analytical mistakes from the game Kamsky-Bacrot, played in the third round. My general assessment of the line starting with 44.Rd6 seems to be correct, but the Nalimov table bases proved several of my moves after 50.g3 to be wrong. As pointed out by Robert Offinger from Magdeburg, the correct winning plan involves the transfer of the rook to e8, in order to support the e4-pawn and harass the enemy king from the back rank.

My conceptual mistake consisted of the fact that I tried to keep White’s pieces grouped together. This is to a certain similar to the “strategy” employed by the football team Steaua Bucharest after having won the first UEFA semi-final match with 1-0 and taken the lead by 2-0 in the return match against Middlesbrough: play with seven defenders in front of the own goal-keeper. They simply stepped onto each other feet and deservedly got eliminated.

Oh, and I actually remembered that I have the table bases at home and that I had used them before. In the meanwhile I had to reinstall Windows and apparently installed only some of the Nalimov-disks.

But back to the tournament. Kamsky maintained his lead with an unexpectedly easy win against Svidler, who allowed a simple tactical trick in a more or less normal position. Anand-Ponomariov lasted much longer, but the game did not pose too many technical problems for the Indian player either; Ponomariov managed to activate his knight only when his queen side was in ruins already. Bacrot surprisingly forced a draw against Topalov in what looked like a better ending for him.

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.

Kamsky,G (2671) - Svidler,P (2743) [B83]
Mtel Masters Sofia BUL (4), 14.05.2006 [Mihail Marin]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Be2 Nf6 7.0-0 Be7 8.Be3 0-0 9.f4 e5

This variation used to be fashionable quarter of century ago. It made part of the repertoire of such players like Ulf Andersson and a very young Garry Kasparov. By the way, they also reached this position via Paulsen move order. 10.Nxc6 Not a very popular continuation. In the days of highest popularity of this line, the main directions of investigations consisted of 10.Nb3 exf4 11.Rxf4 Be6 reaching a position typical for the Najdorf variation but with the minor difference that the black a-pawn finds itself on its initial square and; 10.fxe5 dxe5 11.Nf5 . As we shall see, Kamsky followed his own footsteps. 10...bxc6 In spite of ensuring Black a good control of the central squares, the pawn tandem c6-d6 an easily become the object of attack of White's pieces. 11.Kh1 exf4 Refraining from this exchange for too long proved to be sangerous for Black after 11...Be6 12.Bf3 Bc4 13.Re1 Nd7 14.b3 Ba6 15.f5 Nf6 16.g4 in Kamsky-Khalifman, Las Vegas FIDE KO 1999. 12.Bxf4 Be6 13.Bf3 Qb6 14.b3 Rfd8 Not a very inspired novelty. The king side will remain vulnerable now. In a recent game, 14...Rad8 was tried: 15.Qe1 Kh8 (Not easy to understand. 15...Rfe8 , completing the development, looks more natural.) 16.Rd1 Qa5 17.Bd2 Qe5 18.Ne2 d5 19.Bf4 Qb2 20.e5 Ne4 21.Nd4 Bc5 22.Nxe6 fxe6 23.Bxe4 dxe4 24.Qxe4 Rxd1 25.Rxd1 Qxa2 26.h3 with a better coordination of White's pieces in Xu Yuhua-Kovalevskaya, Ekaterinburg 2006. 15.Qe1

15...Nd7? A terrible blunder. Svidler's desire to transfer the knight to e5 is understandable, but he obviously missed White's simple tactical blow. 16.Nd5! cxd5 17.exd5 Bg4 18.Qxe7 Bxf3 19.Rxf3 Nf6 20.Be3 Qa5 21.Rxf6! Black's king is helpless now. 21...gxf6 22.Qxf6 Re8 23.Qg5+ Kf8 24.Bd2. 24.Bd2 The only way to prevent Qf6 followed by Bh6+ consists of 24...Qd8 but then 25.Qh6+ Kg8 26.Bc3 ensures White a decisive advantage. 1-0.

Bacrot,E (2708) - Topalov,V (2804) [E20]
Mtel Masters Sofia BUL (4), 14.05.2006 [Mihail Marin]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 c5 5.g3. An interesting psychological moment. Both players are specialists of this system with White. See for instance their interesting games against Aronian played at Linares in 2006. 5...Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Qa5 A relatively rare variation, brought into the attention of theoreticians by Viktor Kortschnoj. 7.Bd2 The most common answer. Caught by surprise, Polugajevsky did not react too accurately with 7.Qd3 and allowed his opponent obtain a nice position after 7...Ne4 8.Bd2 f5 9.Bg2 Nc6 10.d5 Nd8 11.0-0 Nf7 12.Rfd1 0-0 13.a4 d6 , Polugaevsky-Kortschnoj, Linares 1985; The newest try consists of ignoring the threat with 7.Bg2 . In the only game where this was played so far, Black declined the sacrifice, but failed to equalize completely: 7...cxd4 (7...Qxc3+ 8.Bd2 Qxc4 9.dxc5 offers White obvious compensation, but has to be checked concretely.) 8.Qxd4 Nc6 9.Qd3 d5 10.cxd5 exd5 11.0-0 0-0 12.c4 Qa6 13.Bb2 Qxc4 14.Qxc4 dxc4 15.Rfc1 Re8 16.e3 Be6 17.Nd2 Nb4 18.Bxf6 gxf6 19.Nxc4 Rac8 20.Nd6 with a small but persistent advantage for White in Moiseenko-Epishin, Albox 2005. 7...0-0 Topalov deviates from 7...b6 where both players had some experience with White. 8.Bg2 Bb7 9.0-0 0-0 10.d5 (The most active continuation. Black had no problems after 10.Qb3 Qa6 11.Bg5 Ne4 12.d5 d6 13.Rad1 Re8 Topalov-Kramnik, Monte Carlo 2003) 10...Qa6 11.Re1!? Ne4 12.Qc2 f5 13.Ng5 exd5 14.cxd5 Bxd5 15.Nxe4 Bxe4 16.Bxe4 fxe4 17.Qxe4 Nc6 18.Qd5+ Rf7 19.Bf4 Re8 20.e4 Na5 and the control of the c4-square counter-balanced White's superiority on the other wing in Bacrot-Ponomariov, Cap d'Agde 2003. 8.Bg2 Nc6 9.0-0 Qa6 10.Ne5.

10...d5!? An interesting moment. In the Nimzo Indian, the control of the c4-square is more important than the weak pawn itself. This explains why Topalov willingly allows his opponent get rid of the doubled pawns. 11.Qc2 Re8 12.Bf4 cxd4 13.Nxc6 Qxc6 14.cxd4 b6. Same policy. Black prepares to increase the pressure against the c4-square by means of ...Ba6, thus completing his development at the same time. 14...Qxc4?! would have left Black behind in development after 15.Qxc4 dxc4 16.Rfc1. 15.Rfc1 Ba6 16.cxd5 Qxc2 17.Rxc2 Nxd5 18.Bd6 Rac8 19.Rac1 Rxc2 20.Rxc2 Rd8 21.Ba3 f5 22.e3 Rc8 23.Rxc8+ Bxc8.

24.Bxd5?! Quite surprising. White had no need to force a draw so soon. He could have parried the threat ...Nc3xa2 with 24.Bd6 and then centralise his king and prepare the pawn break h3 and g4. In spite of Black's stability in the centre and of his queen side majority, White's pair of bishops would have offered him the better chances. 24...exd5 25.Bd6 Kf7 26.Bb8 a6 27.Bc7 b5 28.a3 g5 29.f4 g4 1/2-1/2.

Anand,V (2803) - Ponomariov,R (2738) [B19]
Mtel Masters Sofia BUL (4), 14.05.2006 [Mihail Marin]

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.Nf3 Nd7 7.h4 h6 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3

From the opening variations that are frequently seen at top level, this is one of the oldest. Commenting on his win (as Black) against a young Boris Spassky, back in 1966, "the Patriarch" wrote that he does not understand why his opponent chose a line where during the past 50 years White made only one or two major discoveries. This statement looks somewhat outdated nowadays. In fact, White does not need to make any revolutionary discoveries, since his considerable advance of space is not easy to neutralize. The final outcome of the game ususlly depends on small nuances, not always too easy to grasp. 10...e6 11.Bf4 Ngf6 12.0-0-0 Be7. In Botwinnik's time, Black usually castled long. By transferring the king to the opposite wing (as frequently happens in modern games), Black intends to keep his slightly vulnerable pawns safely defended. 13.Ne4. A thematic exchange aiming to clear the way to the g-pawn and cause Black problems with carrying out the pawn break ...c5. Anand knew quite well what kind of problems Black can have after the ensuing simplifications from the following game: 13.Kb1 0-0 14.Ne4 Nxe4 15.Qxe4 Nf6 16.Qe2 Qd5 17.Ne5 Qe4 (17...Qxg2 loses to 18.Bxh6! or to the simpler 18.Rh(d)g1.) 18.Qxe4 Nxe4 19.Rhe1 Nf6 (Of course, not 19...Nxf2? because of 20.Rd2 , trapping the knight.) 20.g4 Rfd8 21.Be3 Bd6 22.f3 Rac8 23.c4 a5 24.a4 Nd7 25.Bd2 Bc7 26.Bc3 Nxe5 27.dxe5 c5 28.Kc2 Kasparov-Anand, Linares 2003. In spite of the blocked character of the position, White's advantage of space on the king side faces Black with serious dangers. Kasparov pushed his pawns prematurely and reached a rook ending with only vague winning chances, which Anand misplayed terribly and lost. 13...Nxe4 14.Qxe4 Nf6 15.Qd3 Qd5 16.c4 Qe4 17.Qxe4 Nxe4.

The main difference compared to the game Kasparov-Anand consists of the fact that the moves Ne5 and ...0-0 are missing. This detail slightly restricts White's posibilities, forcing him to defend the f2-pawn with the apparently passive 18.Be3 However, as we shall soon find out, Black is better adviced not to rely on this small achievement too much. 18...0-0. One of Black's main problems in this line is to find a good square for his knight. My personal feeling is that Anand's plan from the aforementioned game (to exchange it for the e5-knight) is the most appropriate, although it does not guarantee 100% equality. Here is a game where Black managed to obtain the perfect d5-square for his knight, but for several other reasons could not make use of it! 18...Nd6 19.b3 Bf6 20.g4 b5 21.Nd2 Kd7 22.Kc2 Bd8 23.Nf3 Bf6 24.Ne5+ Kc7 25.c5 Bxe5 26.dxe5 Nc8 If Black could jump with his knight directly to d5, his position would be not worse at all. However, one can only make one move at a time. 27.Rh3! Ne7 28.Rf3 Rhf8 29.Rd6!

After the radical activation of White's rooks, Black was reduced to complete passivity in Kramnik-Bareev, Wijk aan Zee 2003. In case of 29...Nd5, the knight would stand "nicely" but would fail to counter White's simple plan: Bd2, followed by the transfer of the king to e4 and the opening of the king side by means of g5, hxg5 Bxg5 followed by h6, which would win the f7-pawn. At the same time, Black has no time to expell the enemy rook from d6 with 29...Nc8 because of 30.Rd4 followed by Rdf4.

19.Ne5 Bd6. A new move, putting the e5-knight under pressure and thus preparing the thematic break ...c5. The more natural 19...Rfd8 , completing the development, does not promisse complete equality either, for instance 20.g4 c5 21.f3 cxd4 22.Rxd4 Rxd4 23.Bxd4 Ng5 24.Rf1 Re8 25.b3 and White managed to gradually amplify his advantage of space in Strikovic-Kortschnoj, Val Maubuee 1990. 20.f3 Ng3. A questionable decision. It is hard to refrain from "winning" several tempi by jumping around with the knight, but the more restrained 20...Nf6 , more or less transposing to Kasparov-Anand, seems a safer choice. In the game, the knight will soon land on a very passive square. 21.Rh3 Nf5 22.Bf2 Rad8. By taking the d7-square under control, Black intends to play ...c5 with all the comfort. One natural question is why didn't Black place the other rook on d8 with 22...Rfd8 After the game continuation 23.g4 Ne7 24.Nd3 b5 25.b3 he could try to open a new file on the queen side with 25...a5 . However after the accurate 26.a4! Black would be simply left with an additional weakness on a5, while his counterplay along the b-file is not too realistic, for instance 26...bxa4 27.bxa4 Rab8 28.Kc2 followed by Rhh1 and Rb1. One can feel the perfect placement of the white knight.; With hindsight, it is easy to recommend the immediate opening of the position with 22...c5 . Even though White seems to be able to maintain an advantage, the situation would have been less one-sided than in the game. Here is a possible continuation. 23.Nd7 Rfd8 24.dxc5! (In case of 24.Nxc5 Bf4+ 25.Kb1 Be3 26.Bxe3 Nxe3 White's central pawns are suddenly vulnerable.) 24...Bf4+ 25.Kb1 Be3 26.Bxe3 Nxe3 27.Rd4 . Black can now win his pawn back, but the control of the d-file would leave White on top, for instance 27...Nxg2 (Ledaing to a more unbalanced situation than after the capture on c4) 28.Rh2 Ne3 29.Rhd2. 23.g4 Ne7 24.Nd3!

It becomes clear now that Black is reduced to absolute passivity. His knight has no good squares at its disposal, while after White's last move it is hard to play ...c5. 24...b5 25.b3 Bc7 26.Rhh1 Bb6 27.Nc5 Rfe8 28.Kc2 bxc4 The double exchange that follows might seem premature, but after a neutral move such as 28...Kf8 White could force the events with 29.a4 anyway. 29.bxc4 Bxc5 30.dxc5 The following phase of the game is a perfect illustration of Siegbert Tarrasch' statement that if a piece is badly placed, the whole position is bad. Finding a good square for the knight will cost Black so much time that White will manage to obtain a decisive advantage on a different area of the board. If we compare with the position from the game Kramnik-Bareev, we can safely state that the double pawns are more of a strength than a weakness. Just try to remove the pawn from c4 and place it on e5: Black would get chances to consolidate with a further ...Nd5.

30...e5 31.Rd6 Rb8 32.Rhd1 The immediate occupation of the seventh rank with 32.Rd7 looks playable, too, since the counterplay basedon 32...Rb4 can be easily parried with 33.Kc3 . Anand might have felt uncomfortable to move again with his d6-rook and preferred to take the d-file under even stricter control first. 32...Rb7 33.Rd8 Exchanging one pair of rooks makes part of White's main plan and pursues two main aims: to prevent a possible black counterplay and to open new perspectives for the remaining rook. 33...Rxd8. 33...Kf8 could be answered with 34.R1d7. 34.Rxd8+ Kh7 35.Rf8

35...f6. The sophisticated plan of freeing the knight initiated by this move will result just too slow. The immediate 35...Ng8 , creating the additional threat of ...e4 followed by ...Nf6 deserves being mentioned. White would probably have to spend a tempo on preventing this idea with 36.Re8 but, as we shall see, this is hardly a loss of time since the rook is well placed on the e-file. 36...f6 (Exchanging rooks with 36...Re7 37.Rxe7 Nxe7 would leave Black helpless against the white king's marching in starting with 38.Kb3 and heading for a7.) 37.Be1 Rd7 38.Bc3 g6 (Black is not sufficiently well prepared for this pawn break, but 38...Ne7 would just transpose to the game joyless continuation after 39.Rf8 Ng8 40.a4) 39.hxg6+ Kg7 40.Re6! A very good square for the rook. 40...Ne7 (40...Rc7 allows the simple 41.Rxe5!) 41.Rd6 Rc7 42.Kd3 and Black has no adequate way of capturing on g6, for instance 42...Nxg6 43.Ba5 or 42...Kxg6 43.Bxe5, leaving him helpless against the centralisation of the white king. 36.Be1 Rd7 37.Bc3 After this accurate bishop maneouvre it appears that the black rook enjoys no greater mobility than the knight. 37...Ng8 38.a4! With the brutal threat of advancing the pawn to a6 and transfer the rook to b7. 38...g6 39.a5! White ignores the king side situation. In case of 39.hxg6+ Black would win a tempo with 39...Kg7 followed by ...Ne7, with chances for survival. 39...gxh5 40.gxh5 Kg7 41.Rb8 Ne7 42.a6 Kf7 The king hurries to support the rook in view of the threat Rb7. However, White has an additional idea of attacking the a7-pawn.

43.Ba5! Nf5 44.Bb6! It is all over now. White's advantage of space is decisive. 44...Ne3+ 45.Kc3 Ke6 46.Rc8 Kf5 47.Rxc6 Nd1+ 48.Kb4 Rd2 49.Bxa7 I suppose that Ponomariov played the following sequence of moves by mere inertia. He could have safely resigned already. 49...Rb2+ 50.Ka3 Rb1 51.Rb6 Ra1+ 52.Kb3 e4 53.fxe4+ Kxe4 54.c6 This was precisely the moment when I incidentally connected to through my mobile phone. I first thought that the position was filipped, not believing that the game was still on with such advanced white pawns. The detail that made me understand my mistake was that Black's next move is legal.

54...Kd3. Indeed, with the position flipped, the king would be in check here. 55.c7 Rb1+ 56.Ka3 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.

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