Reggio Emilia - Paco blasts Short and leads with 3013 performance

1/2/2011 – While Nigel Short had seemed constantly to rise from the ashes in his games, Vallejo-Pons had been the most inspired player so far. Their game confirmed the Spaniard's great form as he played an exceptional game, winning with a beautiful middlegame melee. On the rest day, Morozevich started his year with a win over Navara, joining Short and five others on 50%. Illustrated round four 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 fountains around the city share the festive spirit

Dinner where the players and staff celebrated the arrival of the New Year

After three rounds, two players had broken early from the pack: Nigel Short, and then Spaniard Vallejo-Pons. Short had reached his score almost by miracle, reaching dire to lost positions in all his games, and yet somehow coming back, distributing bad beats to his opponents' pocket aces. Paco had reached his front-runner position via a different route, and their round four encounter was looked forward to, to see whether it was better to be lucky or inspired.

Short,Nigel D (2680) - Vallejo Pons,Francisco (2698) [C11]
53rd Masters Reggio Emilia ITA (4), 31.12.2010

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 In round two, Short played dxc5 against Morozevich, and got into all kinds of trouble. Clearly he found no special improvement and goes back to one of the mainlines. 6...Nc6 7.Ne2 Be3 is the most common guest but Ne2 has already been played by Short more than once and it is unlikely Vallejo was unprepared. 7...Be7 8.c3 a5 9.h4

The main caveat of this move is that it assumes White's king is safe in the center without castling, or at the very least will compensate any risk taken by creating threats against Black's king. It is really not clear how this can be true after 0-0 and f6, opening the f-file and undermining the center. 9...0-0 10.Rh3 f6 11.a3 Rf7 12.Be3 Nb6 13.b3 Qf8 14.Qb1 a4 15.dxc5 Bxc5 16.Bxc5 Qxc5 17.b4 Qf8 18.Ned4?

Although a mistake, its refutation is a brilliancy that Nigel should be forgiven for missing. 18...fxe5! 19.Nxc6

19...e4!! 20.Nce5 Rxf4! The point is that not only is black threatening f1 behind the knight, but the knight on e5 is actually trapped and has nowhere to escape to.

Paco shares insights to his beautiful win with the audience

21.Nh2 Qf5 22.Neg4

22...Rxf1+. The engine say that 22...h5! was stronger, and while there is no doubting their analysis here, the line is really not obvious and one cannot blame Paco for shirking this choice even had he seen much of the idea. With so many possibilities at every move, simplicity was much preferable. 23.Ne3 Qf6 This move is the key as it pressures c3 and h4. The attack on c3 gains time now, but by freeing the c8-h3 diagonal, e5 will hit hard. 24.Qc2 e5 25.g4 Forced since Rg3 is countered by Qxh4. 25...hxg4 26.Rg3 Qxh4 27.Qg2 d4 And the combination of steamroller center with pieces tied up in knots is winning. 23.Nxf1 Qxg4 24.Ne3 Qg6 25.Kf2 e5 26.Rg3 Qf6+ 27.Kg1 Be6 28.Qe1 Rf8 29.Rd1 Kh8 30.h5 Qh4 This was the point Kh8, to be able to play this and not suffer a fatal discovered check with Rxg7+. 31.c4 d4 32.c5 Nc4 33.Nf1 Qxh5 34.Rc1 e3 35.b5 e4 It is all over needless to say. 36.Qb4 e2 37.Nh2 Qf5 38.Nf3 Qf4 39.Qe1 Qe3+ 0-1. [Click to replay]

This game relegated the English player to the 50% mark, together with six(!) other players, while Vallejo-Pons is king of the mountain with 3.5/4, a 3013 performance, and a 1.5 point lead over the pack.

January 1st, or New Year's was to be the rest day, but one game was played: Morozevich-Navara, which had been rescheduled after the Russian had been delayed by the snow blizzards plaguing Europe. Alexander was not inclined to a peaceful draw, especially after some frustrating near-misses, and played a very strong game, jumping on his opponent's inaccuracies.

Alexander Morozevich being interviewed by WGM Martha Fierro

Morozevich,Alexander (2700) - Navara,David (2708) [D47]
53rd Masters Reggio Emilia ESP (1), 01.01.2011

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5 8.Bd3 Bd6 9.0-0 0-0 10.Qc2 Bb7 11.a3 a6 12.b4 a5 13.Rb1 axb4 14.axb4 Qe7 15.e4 e5 16.Ne2 Bxb4 17.Ng3 g6 18.dxe5 Ng4 19.Bg5 Qc5 20.e6 fxe6 [20...Nde5 21.Nxe5 Nxe5 22.Bf6 Qxc2 23.Bxc2 Bd6 24.Bb3 fxe6 25.Bxe6+ Nf7 26.f4 Bc8 27.Bb3 Re8 28.f5 1-0 Svidler,P (2746)-Karjakin,S (2732)/Baku 2008/CBM 124 (40)] 21.Qb3 Nde5 22.Qxe6+ Rf7 23.Nxe5 Nxe5 24.Be2 Bc8 [24...Qd6?! 25.Qb3 Bc5 26.Rbd1 Ra3 27.Qc2 Bd4 28.Be3 Rxe3 29.fxe3 Bxe3+ 30.Kh1 Qe7 31.Rxf7 Nxf7 32.Qb3 Bb6 33.Bg4 Kh8 34.Rd7 1-0 Kasimdzhanov,R (2672)-Aronian,L (2768)/Jermuk 2009/CBM 132 (41)] 25.Qb3 Bc3 26.Be3 Qa3?! 27.f4 Ng4 28.Qxa3 Rxa3 29.Bc5 Ra4 30.Rbd1

30...Ba5? 30...Bf6 had to be played instead. 31.h3 (31.e5 Bh4) 31...Nh6 32.Rd6 Ra6 33.Rfd1 Kg7 34.Rd8 31.Rd6 Nf6. It is possible that the Czech played the bishop to a5 instead of f6 to reply now with 31...Rf6? noticing too late that after 32.Bxg4 Rxd6 33.Bxc8 Rd2 34.Be6+ Kg7

35.Bb3! the rook has nowhere to go. 32.Bd1 Nxe4 33.Nxe4 Rxe4 34.Bb3 Rc4 35.Bxc4 bxc4 36.Ra1 Bc7 37.Ra8 Bxd6 38.Bxd6 Black loses a piece. 1-0. [Click to replay]

While Francisco's win was the last of 2010, Morozevich will have started 2011 with a win from day one.

Photos by Maria Bolshakova, Yulia Kochetkova and Martha Fierro

Current standings after four rounds


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