Reggio Emilia - Gashimov beats Paco and catches up

by ChessBase
1/5/2011 – After watching Vallejo Pons take off with a 3.5/4 start, and the rest of the field parked at a squalid 50%, it seemed as if the Spaniard was all but assured of the tournament victory. However, Azerbaidjani Gashimov had other ideas and scored 3.5/4 in the last rounds including a shattering win over Paco himself to tie for the lead. It is anyone's guess for the last two rounds. Illustrated report.

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The 53rd Reggio Emilia masters tournament is running from December 28th, 2010 to January 6th, 2011 with a fascinating selection of international talents, as well as the top two Italian players of the day. The tournament's actual name "Torneo di Capodanno" means "Tournament of New Year's"

The story of the first four rounds of the Reggio Emilio tournament was unquestionably Spain's homebred talent, Vallejo Pons, who started with a blistering 3.5/4 while everyone else (seven players to be exact) were at the 50% mark. Not a massive draw-fest, which is what it might sound like, but whatever the reasons, the results were those.

Short had started with a strong 2.0/2, but the fact that he was consistently in trouble made one wonder how long the logic of these positions would be defied in his favor. Although he chalked up only one further win as yet, no one can complain about his uncompromising play which has left him with only one draw so far. This desire to shake things up has perhaps been a little overboard, as can be seen in his round six game against Movsesian.

Short,N (2680) - Movsesian,S (2721) [B40]
53rd Masters Reggio Emilia ITA (6), 03.01.2011

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.g3 b6 4.Bg2 Bb7 5.Qe2 d6 6.d4 Nf6 7.e5 Nfd7 8.Bg5 Qc8 9.d5 Bxd5 10.Nc3 Bc6 11.exd6 h6 12.0-0-0

A brave and inspired idea. Nigel correctly judged that taking the piece was in his favor. 12...Qa6 Movsesian wisely avoids trouble, choosing a simpler positional continuation. 12...hxg5?! 13.Nxg5 Bxg2 (13...Qd8 14.Nxe6 fxe6 15.Qxe6+ Be7 16.Rhe1)

14.Nb5!! The key. White threatens not only a sac on e6 with extreme prejudice, but also Nc7+ Kd8 Nxf7 mate!

14...Qc6 15.Nc7+ Kd8 16.Nxf7+ Kc8 17.Rhe1 and White will recover material (both black rooks are attacked) with some inititive though nothing immediately decisive. For example 17...Bf3 is not possible because of 18.Qxe6 Bxd6 (18...Bxd1 19.Qe8+ Kb7 20.Nd8+) 19.Rxd6 Qxc7 20.Nxh8] 13.Qe3 Short misjudges now, and had to accept that there would be no brilliancies on Black's king. After this he is not only worse, but soon commits hara-kiri. 13...hxg5 14.Nxg5 Bxg2 15.Nxe6 fxe6 16.Qxe6+ Kd8 17.Rhe1 Kc8 18.Nd5 Kb7 19.Nc7 Rh6 20.Qg8 Qa4 0-1. [Click to replay]

Here is a video of Short analyzing his game against Morozevich in round two:


The last four rounds have been all Gashimov though, who has scored an equally impressive 3.5/4 points, including a tournament-jolting win over Paco in round seven. Though he had started with a disappointing loss to Short in the opening round, his play had been combative and inspired and instead of folding up over the result, he took this with him as a promise of better results ahead. In round six he beat Ivanchuk in a game where the Ukrainian's pieces struggled to get off their starting squares.

Gashimov jokes around while being interviewed by WGM Martha Fierro

Gashimov,V (2733) - Ivanchuk,V (2764) [B12]
53rd Masters Reggio Emilia ITA (6), 03.01.2011

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 c5 6.Be3 Qb6 7.Nc3 Nc6

The general idea of this line is that it is a sort of improved French, since the central structure is the same, but Black has managed to develop his bishop on the nice f5 square. However, things are really not that simple. Black's kingside development is still a dream waiting to happen, and the e5 pawn doesn't make developing that g8-knight any easier. 8.0-0 Qxb2. It is really hard to put any faith in this move frankly. With the king stuck in the middle and the center still under tension, going for a pawn with the queen like this seems utterly crazy. 9.Qe1. 9.Nb5 is the other alternative. Karjakin lost to Morozevich at Amber (rapid game) last year, but the game was not decisive for its evaluation. 9...cxd4 10.Bxd4 Nxd4 The choice under the GM microscope at the moment. 10...Bb4 is also possible but much worse. 11.Rb1 Qxc2 12.Rxb4 Necessary since the threat was Qxb1! (12.Rb3?! Bg4 is a nuisance.) 12...Nxb4 and now White has the remarkable ressource: 13.Qa1! threatening Ne1! Qd2 Be3 winning the queen. 11.Nxd4 Bb4 12.Rb1 Bxc3 13.Rxb2 Bxe1 14.Rxe1 b6 15.Bb5+ Kf8 16.Nxf5 exf5

17.Rb3! White takes advantage of his development. 17...Ne7 18.Rc3 a6. 18...h5 with the idea of developing the rook via h6 was well worth considering. 19.Bd7 g6 20.Rc7 It is hard to make a recommendation. Though Gashimov has no immediate killer shot, Ivanchuk's pieces are so tied-up, it seems merely a question of time before he is zugzwanged. 20...b5. 20...Kg7? 21.e6! 21.e6 f6 22.Re3 Rb8 23.Ra7 Rb6 24.Rc3 h5 25.Bc8 Rh7 26.Rcc7 f4 27.Ra8 1-0. [Click to replay]

Then in round seven he caught up with the leader by beating him in an important game.

Vallejo Pons,F (2698) - Gashimov,V (2733)
53rd Masters Reggio Emilia (7.1), 04.01.2011

1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 c6 4.Nf3 d6 5.Be2 Nf6 6.0-0 0-0 7.h3 Nbd7. Though there is plenty of theory for the Pirc/Modern, these setups tend to be more about concepts and ideas than cutting edge moves. 8.Bf4 Qa5 9.Nd2 A highly unusual continuation that may be a little more creative than is wise. 9.Qd2 e5 10.dxe5 dxe5 11.Bh6 Re8 12.Bxg7 Kxg7 13.a3 Qc7 14.Nh2 Nf8 15.Ng4 Nxg4 16.Bxg4 Bxg4 17.hxg4 Ne6 18.Ne2 Rad8 19.Qc3 Nd4 20.Rfe1 1/2-1/2 Kramnik,V (2775)-Kasparov,G (2775)/Moscow 1996/CBM 052 ext (47) 9...Qc7 10.a4 e5 11.Be3?!

11...Ng4! Vallejo clearly missed this move which gives Black a good game. 12.Bxg4 exd4 13.Bxd4 Bxd4 14.Nc4 Bc5 15.a5 Ne5 16.Nxe5 dxe5 17.Bxc8 Raxc8 18.Qe2 Bb4 19.a6 b5

Gashimov's win over Paco has cast serious doubts over who will win it

20.Na2 Be7 21.Nc1 Rfd8 22.Nb3 Qb6 23.Rfd1 Kg7 24.Qg4 c5 25.Nd2 c4 26.Nf1 Bc5 27.Qg3 Rxd1 28.Rxd1 Qxa6 29.Qxe5+ Qf6 30.Qxf6+ Kxf6 31.Rd5

31...Ke6. 31...a5! and if 32.Ne3 c3! freeing the way for the a-pawn to advance. 32.g4 a6 33.Nd2 c3 34.bxc3 Bb6 35.c4 bxc4 36.Kf1 a5 37.Rb5 Bd8 38.Ke2. 38.Rb7 was better, with the idea of Ra7. Right now the bishop is preventing the white rook from getting behind the a-pawn. 38...a4 39.Nb1 Ra8 40.Na3 Be7 41.Nxc4 a3 42.Rb6+ Kd7 43.Rb1 Kc6 44.c3 a2 45.Ra1 Kb5

46.Ne3? 46.Nb2! was still good enough for the draw. The black king has no entry point, and Paco can position his pawns on white squares to leave no targets. Gashimov's rook is no less tied down to the defense of a2 than White's rook from preventing it from queening. 46...Bc5 47.Kd3 Bxe3 48.fxe3 This changes everything, and now white cannot hold. 48...f6 49.h4 h5 50.gxh5 gxh5 51.Kc2 Kc4 52.Kb2 Rb8+ 53.Kc2 Rg8 54.Rxa2 Rg2+ 55.Kb1 Rxa2 56.Kxa2 Kxc3 57.Kb1 Kd2 0-1. [Click to replay]

With this win, Gashimov not only caught up with Vallejo Pons, but in one swift shot boosted his confidence as well as dealing Paco's a blow. It is also the vindication he has been seeking ever since he was overlooked for the Azerbaidjani team in the Olympiad for "lack of combativity". The last two rounds promise to be tense and action-packed, and it is anyone's guess who will win.

Photos by Maria Bolshakova, Yulia Kochetkova and Martha Fierro

Current standings after seven rounds


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