Rijeka: Two ahead, two behind, and the masked rider

by Albert Silver
3/12/2010 – No one was spared on the top boards in the European Championship, and exciting, uncompromising games were the result, to the delight of chess fans. Both top boards featuring Efimenko and Jobava against Nisipeanu and Timofeev leave two ahead and two playing catch-up. Also find out about the untitled Belarussian who is +1 against 2600+ competition. Round six report.

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This event is taking place from March 6th to 18th 2010 in Rijeka, Croatia. Top players include Almasi, Bacrot, Movsesian, Navara, Vallejo, Motylev, Adams, Tomashevsky, Alekseev, Baadur, Naiditsch, Akopian, Volokitin, Bologan and Caruana.

Round four + five report

By Albert Silver

Round five started with a quick draw on top board between tournament leaders GM Baadur Jobava and Zahar Efimenko, and others seeking to rejoin them. Both Timofeev and Nisipeanu did exactly that, though Nisipeanu’s game was undoubtedly the game of the round. The Romanian was paired against Swiss GM Yannick Pelletier, and the opening made it clear that he had carefully prepared for the duel.

Nisipeanu,LD (2661) - Pelletier,Y (2611) [E15]
11th EICC Men Rijeka CRO (5), 10.03.2010
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.Qc2 Bb7 6.Bg2 c5 7.d5 exd5 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.0-0 Be7 10.Rd1 Nc6 11.Qf5 Nf6 12.e4 d6 13.e5 Qd7

White has consistently exchanged queens with 14.Qxd7+, as in Carlsen-Pelletier (Biel, 2008). Nisipeanu's novelty 14.Qc2N has his queen hopping around like a Mexican jumping bean. Is it genuinely sound or simply a bold gamble? 14...Nb4 15.Qe2. 15.Qb3? Bd5 16.Qa3 dxe5! 17.Nxe5 Qf5 18.Qa4+ Kf8 19.Bxd5 Nbxd5 20.Re1 Bd6 21.Nc4 Bc7-/+ and Black is simply up a pawn. 15...Ba6. Until now, the game looks more like the Romanian is playing Russian roulette with himself, as he alone appears to be in constant danger of losing quickly and badly. Still, since the prepared novelty is his, one must presume his plan goes beyond simply astounding the audience with his death-defying acts. 16.Qe1. 16.Qd2? Ne4 17.Qe3 d5. 16...Nc2 17.Qd2 Nxa1 18.exf6 Bxf6 19.Re1+ Be7 20.Nc3

Pelletier had managed to acquire some material, but now it was starting to look as if he were the one on a tightrope. He was no doubt anxious to get his king to safety and bring some sanity to the game, however the natural looking 20...0-0? was a mistake, allowing White to exploit the various gaps in his position. Better was 20...0-0-0 as White has no immediate threats, and will need to take the time to capture the knight, allowing Black to consolidate, e.g. 21.Qd5 Bb7 22.Qd3 Rhe8 23.Bd2 Bf6 24.Rxa1. 21.Ne5 Qc8 22.Nc6! Bd8 23.Nd5! White's knights have become shameless bullies, and shape an attractive geometric motif. 23...Qg4 [23...Qxc6?? 24.Ne7+ Bxe7 25.Bxc6] 24.b3 Bb7 25.h3! Qh5 26.Nce7+ Kh8 27.Nf4 1-0. [Click to replay]

A few boards down, top German GM Naiditsch, only a whisper away from also being the first German to break the 2700 barrier, was able to avenge his repeated choice of an opening line.

Rodshtein,M (2609) - Naiditsch,A (2691) [E04]
11th EICC Men Rijeka CRO (5), 10.03.2010
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 Nc6 6.Qa4 Nd7 7.Qxc4 Nb6 8.Qb5 a6 9.Qd3 e5 10.Nxe5 Nb4 11.Qd1 Qxd4 12.Qxd4 Nc2+ 13.Kd1 Nxd4 14.Be3 Nf5 15.Bxb6 cxb6

The German GM has reached this position twice before, against no less than Kramnik and Eljanov, losing both games. For those relying on stats for their opening choices, this would lead it to be buried for good. But the truth is the line wasn't to blame, and, as the saying goes, third time's a charm. 16.Nc3 Bc5 17.Nd3N. Kramnik chose 17.e3 though achieved nothing from the opening after 17...0-0 18.Ke2 Re8 19.Nd3 Rb8. 17...0-0 18.Ne4 Be7 19.e3 Bd7 20.Ke2 Bc6 21.Rhc1 Rfe8 22.g4?

On the surface this might look like a good move as it forces the knight to h6 and restricts its movement. Unfortunately for White, this concept is illusory as it lasts no more than 3 moves and does nothing to improve his position. Better was 22.Ne5 Bb5+ followed by 23.Nc4 Rac8 and 24.b3. 22...Nh6 23.Bf3 Rad8. The idea of 23...Nxg4 planning 24.Bxg4 Bxe4 fails to the zwischenzug 24.Rxc6! bxc6 25.Bxg4. 24.h3 f5 25.gxf5 Nxf5 26.Ne5 Bb5+ 27.Nc4 Bh4 28.Bh1 Rf8?! [with the idea 28...Bc6 29.Ncd2 Rf8] 29.a4 Nd6 30.axb5 Nxe4 31.f4 Ng3+ 32.Kf3 axb5 33.Ne5 Rd5 34.Ng4 Rd2 35.Rc7 Rxb2 36.Rg1 h5 37.Ne5 Nf5 38.Ke4 Rd2 39.Rd7 Nd6+ wins the exchange since 40.Kf3 allows 40...Rf2 mate. 0-1. [Click to replay]

One very strange development was in the game between Bareev and Stocek. Bareev is an odd bird in the world elite in that his positional play and understanding of the game are deservedly ranked among the best, yet he has also been on the receiving end of some of the shortest miniatures in history, and is extremely erratic tactically. Consider the crushing position he set up against GM Stocek.

Bareev,E (2667) - Stocek,J (2591) [A29]
11th EICC Men Rijeka CRO (5), 10.03.2010
1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 Bc5 5.Bg2 d6 6.0-0 0-0 7.e3 a6 8.a3 h6 9.b4 Ba7 10.d3 Be6 11.Bb2 Qd7 12.Qc2 Ne7 13.Rfd1 Bh3 14.Bh1 Nf5 15.c5 Rfe8 16.e4 Ne7 17.d4 exd4 18.Nxd4 Ng6 19.Nf5 Ne5 20.Nd5 Nxd5 21.Rxd5 Bxf5 22.exf5 Qe7 23.Rxe5 dxe5 24.Bxb7 Rad8 25.Bxa6 Qg5 26.Re1 Qd2 27.Qc3 Rd4 28.Bb5 Rb8 29.Rxe5 Qxc3 30.Bxc3 Rd1+ 31.Bf1 Rc1 32.Bd4 Rd8 33.Be3 Ra1 34.Kg2 Rxa3 35.Re7 Bb8 36.f6 Ra4 37.b5 Kf8 38.c6 gxf6 39.Bc5 Kg7 40.Rd7 Rc8 41.Be2 Re4 42.Bd3 Ra4 43.Be3 Rb4 44.Be2 Kg6 45.Bc5

White's winning plan is to position one bishop to hit on f7 and the other to attack f8, preventing the rook from protecting the f7 pawn. Black's sole rook in the battlefield can only delay this but not prevent it, and black will be forced to return an exchange, sealing his fate. 45...Ra4 46.Rd5. This move, taking the rook away from its dream post, is a sure sign Bareev has lost the thread of the position. 46.Bf3 Rc4 47.Be3 Rc3 (47...Rb4 48.Bd5 Rxb5 49.Bxf7+ Kf5 (49...Kh7 50.Bc4+) 50.Kf3 threatening g4+ and Bf4 mate. 50...h5 51.h3 and the mate is unstoppable.) 48.Bd5 Rf8 49.Bd2 followed by Bb4. 46...Kg7 47.Bh5 Re4 48.Bd4 Rce8 49.Rd7 Rxd4 50.Rxd4 Re5 51.g4 Kf8 52.f4 Re2+ 53.Kf1 Ba7 54.Ra4 Rf2+ 55.Ke1 Bb6 56.Ra8+ Ke7 57.f5 Rxh2 58.Rh8 Rb2 59.Rh7 Kd6 60.Rxf7 Ke5 61.Re7+ 1/2-1/2. [Click to replay]

Round six

The sixth round had the four leaders with 4.5/6 playing each other, followed by no less than 23 players with four points. Under the circumstances, it was clear there was no room for a quiet draw as had been the case in round five, and the round did not disappoint, with many a grandmaster’s blood spilled over the board.

In the lead: Georgian GM Baadur Jobava

Timofeev,Artyom - Jobava,Baadur [B12]
11th EICC Men Rijeka/Croatia (6), 11.03.2010
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.f3. This line that had yielded him a quick victory in last year's European Championship. 3...Qb6 4.Nc3 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Bf5. As he knew Jobava had to know the previous game, and undoubtedly smelling a rat, he deviates first with 6.c3

Play proceeded normally, with no edge on either side. 6...Nd7 7.Bd3 e5 8.Ne2 exd4 9.cxd4 Bb4+ 10.Bd2 Ne7 11.0-0 0-0 12.Kh1 Bxd2 13.Qxd2 Rad8 14.Rac1 Bg6 15.Bc4 Qc7 16.b4 Nb6 17.Bb3 Nbd5 18.b5 Qb6 19.bxc6 Nxc6 20.Rc5 Ndb4 21.Qc3 Na6 22.Rd5 Nc7 23.Rxd8 Rxd8

Until now, both sides had played solidly and consistently, but Timofeev is the first to go astray with 24.Qc5. Better was 24.a4 Qa5 25.Qxa5 Nxa5 26.Ba2=. 24...Qxc5 25.Nxc5 Na5 26.Kg1 b6 27.Ne4 Nxb3 28.axb3 f6 29.Kf2 Kf8 30.Rc1 Nd5 31.g4 Ke7 32.h4 Bf7 33.g5. The position continued to degrade and by 33...a5

White was in serious trouble, having to face Black's queenside 2-1 majority and better placed pieces. Jobava never let go and won after 34.gxf6+ gxf6 35.Rc6 Be6 36.Nd2 Rc8 37.Rxc8 Bxc8 38.Nc4 Ba6 39.Nc1 Kd7 40.Ne3 Nxe3 41.Kxe3 Bb7 42.Kf4 Ke6 43.Kg4 Kd5 44.Kf5 Kxd4 45.f4 Kc3 46.Kxf6 Kd2 47.Ke5 0-1. [Click to replay]

Efimenko,Zahar - Nisipeanu,Liviu-Dieter [B04]
11th EICC men Rijeka/Croatia (6), 11.03.2010

On board 2, with Efimenko playing Nisipeanu, opening preparation took an even more radical direction. Right on move one, Efimenko was no doubt taken aback when his Romanian opponent answered his 1.e4 with 1...Nf6 The database says this is the first time Liviu has ever played the Alekhine in a tournament game. Nisipeanu is known to be a loose cannon, and this often works to his advantage, but can this really be the best approach to such a crucial game? Efimenko's opponent-specific preparation may have gone out the window, but that doesn't mean he isn't equipped to handle the Alekhine as a rule. On the other hand, Nisipeanu will be playing an opening with which he has zero experience. Even if he has been secretly readying it to be included in his repertoire, there are better moments to unleash it. The surprise effect doesn't work as hoped, and after 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 dxe5 5.Nxe5 c6 6.Be2 Nd7 7.Nf3 g6 8.0-0 Bg7 9.c4 N5f6 10.Nc3 0-0 11.Bf4 Nh5 12.Bg5 h6 13.Be3 Qc7 14.Qd2 Kh7 15.Rad1

Black is already in trouble with a knight offside, and an underdeveloped position. Efimenko turns this into a huge attack and ten moves later, after 15...Rd8 16.g4 Nhf6 17.Bf4 Qb6 18.g5 Nh5 19.gxh6 Bf6 20.Ne4 Nxf4 21.Qxf4 Rf8 22.c5 Qxb2 23.Bc4

Black's pieces have barely moved off their squares, yet is facing an imminent mate, and calls it a day after 23...Kh8 24.Nfg5 Bxg5 25.Nxg5 f6 26.Nf7+ Kh7 27.Rfe1 Re8 28.Ng5+ Kh8 29.Ne6 b5 30.Bb3 a5 31.Nc7 a4 32.Bf7 e5 33.Qg3 1-0. [Click to replay]

Caruana,Fabiano - Salgado Lopez,Ivan [B04]
11th EICC men Rijeka/Croatia (6), 11.03.2010

Interestingly enough, young Caruana also faced an Alekhine in his game today, and in a black day for the opening, he too put together a devastating attack as can be seen after 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 dxe5 5.Nxe5 c6 6.Bc4 Nd7 7.Nf3 N7b6 8.Be2 Bg4 9.0-0 e6 10.h3 Bh5 11.Ne5 Bxe2 12.Qxe2 Be7 13.c4 Nf6 14.Rd1 0-0 15.Nc3 a5 16.Bf4 a4 17.Rd3 Re8 18.Rad1 Nbd7 19.Qf3 Qa5 20.g4 h6 21.h4 Nxe5 22.dxe5 Nh7 23.g5 a3 24.b3 Rad8

25.gxh6 g6 26.Rd7 Rxd7 27.Rxd7 Bxh4 28.Rxb7 Rf8 29.Ne4 Qe1+ 30.Kg2 Qb1 31.Be3 f5 32.exf6 Nxf6 33.Nxf6+ Bxf6 34.h7+ Kh8 35.Bh6 1-0. [Click to replay]

On an interesting side note, another player drew attention due to both his result and unusual circumstances. Down the list, one will find an untitled Belarusian, rated 2502 no less, who has scored +1 in his five encounters with 2600+ grandmasters. Today he played the experienced Vladimir Belov, rated 2619, who tried as he may to beat the unknown player, but to no avail. The game was nothing any engine would recommend, that is for certain, but it certainly made for some extremely entertaining chess. Except for his opponent that is...

Belov,Vladimir (2619) - Podolchenko,Evgeniy (2502) [A30]
11th EICC men Rijeka/Croatia (6), 11.03.2010

The game started rather normally after 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.Nc3 e6 4.g3 b6 5.Bg2 Bb7 6.0-0 a6 7.Re1 d6 8.e4 Be7 9.d4 cxd4 10.Nxd4 Qc7 11.Be3 Nbd7 12.f4 0-0 13.Rc1 Rac8 14.f5 e5 15.Nb3

when Podolchenko decided to confuse the issue with a speculative queen sac after 15...Qxc4 16.Nd5 Bxd5 17.Rxc4 Bxc4. There is no question this is NOT what White had in mind when facing the hedgehog, and things didn't get any saner down the road as can be seen after 18.Nd2 Bb5 19.g4 h6 20.h4 Nh7 21.Bf2 Nc5 22.Bf1 Bxf1 23.Nxf1 Nf6 24.g5 Nfxe4 25.Bxc5 Nxc5 26.b4 Nd7 27.f6 Nxf6 28.gxf6 Bxf6 29.h5 Rc4 30.Ne3 Rd4 31.Qf3 Bg5 32.Nd5 f5 33.Rd1 Rg4+ 34.Kf1 Kh8 35.Qc3 Rh4 36.Qc7 f4 37.Ne7 Rh1+

After the exchanges, black was able to set up a fortress after 38.Kg2 Rxd1 39.Ng6+ Kg8 40.Nxf8 Kxf8 41.Qxb6 Rd2+ 42.Kf3 Rxa2 43.Qb8+ Ke7 44.Qc7+ Kf8 45.Ke4 f3 46.Kxf3 Rb2 47.Qc3 e4+ 48.Kxe4 Bf6 49.Qc8+ Ke7 50.Qb7+ Ke6 51.Qd5+ Kd7 52.Qb7+ Ke6 53.Qc8+ Ke7 54.Qc7+ Ke6 55.Qc4+ Kd7 56.Kd3 Be5

Black has set up a fortress which White futilely tries to batter down for the next twenty moves. 57.Qf7+ Kc6 58.Qe8+ Kb7 59.Qd7+ Kb6 60.Qd8+ Kb7 61.Kc4 Rc2+ 62.Kd5 Rc7 63.Qh4 Rc3 64.Ke6 Rc7 65.Qe4+ Ka7 66.Qe3+ Kb7 67.Qf3+ Ka7 68.Qe3+ Kb7 69.Qf2 Kc6 70.Qf3+ Kb5 71.Qa3 Kb6 72.Qa5+ Kb7 73.b5 axb5 74.Qxb5+ Ka7 75.Qa5+ 1/2-1/2. [Click to replay]

Top scorers in the men's section (six rounds)

# Ti. Name FED RtgI Pts.
1 GM Efimenko Zahar UKR 2640 5.5
2 GM Jobava Baadur GEO 2695 5.5
3 GM Nepomniachtchi Ian RUS 2656 5.0
4 GM Riazantsev Alexander RUS 2660 5.0
5 GM Mamedov Rauf AZE 2639 5.0
6 GM Almasi Zoltan HUN 2720 5.0
7 GM Vuckovic Bojan SRB 2630 5.0
8 GM Timofeev Artyom RUS 2655 4.5
9 GM Lupulescu Constantin ROU 2598 4.5
10 GM Nisipeanu Liviu-Dieter ROU 2661 4.5
11 GM Szabo Gyula ROU 2525 4.5
12 IM Skoberne Jure SLO 2509 4.5
13 GM Kurnosov Igor RUS 2674 4.5
14 GM Caruana Fabiano ITA 2680 4.5
15 GM Vallejo Pons Francisco ESP 2708 4.5
  GM Inarkiev Ernesto RUS 2667 4.5
17 GM Adams Michael ENG 2704 4.5
18 GM Stocek Jiri CZE 2591 4.5
19 GM Khismatullin Denis RUS 2657 4.5
20 GM Tregubov Pavel V RUS 2625 4.5
21 GM Delchev Aleksander BUL 2625 4.5
22 GM Tomashevsky Evgeny RUS 2701 4.5
23 GM Sokolov Ivan BIH 2638 4.5
24 GM Iordachescu Viorel MDA 2621 4.5
25 GM Movsesian Sergei SVK 2709 4.5
26 GM Akopian Vladimir ARM 2688 4.5
27 GM Zvjaginsev Vadim RUS 2643 4.5
28 GM Reinderman Dimitri NED 2576 4.5
29 GM Motylev Alexander RUS 2705 4.5
30 GM Macieja Bartlomiej POL 2625 4.5
31 GM Georgiev Kiril BUL 2669 4.5
32 GM Fressinet Laurent FRA 2670 4.5
33 GM Hracek Zbynek CZE 2615 4.5
34 GM Sjugirov Sanan RUS 2602 4.5
35 GM Berg Emanuel SWE 2594 4.5

Top scorers in the women's section (six rounds)

# Ti. Name FED RtgI Pts.
1 GM Socko Monika POL 2465 5.5
2 GM Stefanova Antoaneta BUL 2555 5.0
3 IM Cmilyte Viktorija LTU 2485 5.0
4 WGM Galojan Lilit ARM 2380 5.0
5 IM Kosintseva Nadezhda RUS 2554 4.5
6 GM Arakhamia-Grant Ket. SCO 2447 4.5
7 IM Muzychuk Mariya UKR 2444 4.5
8 GM Kosintseva Tatiana RUS 2524 4.5
9 IM Muzychuk Anna SLO 2533 4.5
10 WGM Zhukova Natalia UKR 2492 4.5
11 IM Rajlich Iweta POL 2459 4.5
12 GM Dzagnidze Nana GEO 2479 4.5
13 GM Cramling Pia SWE 2523 4.5
14 IM Khurtsidze Nino GEO 2434 4.5
15 WGM Nebolsina Vera RUS 2310 4.5
16 IM Kovalevskaya Ekat. RUS 2438 4.5
17 IM Dembo Yelena GRE 2457 4.5
18 IM Skripchenko Almira FRA 2456 4.5
19 WGM Savina Anastasia RUS 2391 4.5


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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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