Ding and Nepomniachtchi score crucial wins

by Venkatachalam Saravanan
8/27/2019 – Ding Liren and Ian Nepomniachtchi showed their guts to rise to the occasion and score crucial wins in the ninth round of the Sinquefield Cup, to jointly jump into the lead with 5½ points. Vishy Anand once again enjoyed a clear advantage against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who fought back admirably to draw the game. World Champion Magnus Carlsen failed to capitalise on chances offered to him by Aronian and drew yet again. IM VENKATACHALAM SARAVANAN reports all action from the venue. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

Power Play 23: A Repertoire for black with the Queen's Gambit Declined Power Play 23: A Repertoire for black with the Queen's Gambit Declined

On this DVD Grandmaster Daniel King offers you a repertoire for Black with the QGD. The repertoire is demonstrated in 10 stem games, covering all White's major systems: 5 Bg5, 5 Bf4, and the Exchange Variation.

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Ding and Nepomniachtchi take joint lead

Ding Liren's win over joint leader Fabiano Caruana was the best game of the day, earned with the typical ability of the Chinese ace to play steady positional chess.

 

Just a regular position, with no semblance of advantage for white. But a curious point is that Caruana's typical deep opening preparation and ability to spring new schemes haven't worked this time — careful play by Ding to not allow any surprises, perhaps?

Ding gained, inch by inch, in the middlegame, although it appeared harmless.

17.e5!

Very precise, threatening e3-e4 — watch why the bishop has to go to e5 first: 17...b6 18.a4 White is threatening dxc5 and / or a4-a5 18...ac7 

 

19.dxc5 xc5 20.bc1! The rook on b1 gets out of the pin, and now there is strong pressure on the c-file. 20...xb5 21.xc5 and White is slightly better as the dark bishop is ready to play its role in the centre generally — remember we asked you to watch that bishop! The last four moves have been glorious bit of positional play, gaining that mild initiative typical of positional players.

 

23.xd6!? Why the hullabaloo about the bishop if it is going to be exchanged off?! Because, as we studied in school, when it comes to exchanges, it is not about what is exchanged, but what is going to remain — remember? 23...xd6 24.fc1 and White surely has made progress in the transition from the opening to middlegame — the a5-pawn gives him a certain control of the queenside squares, combined with the doubled rooks on the c-file. Black's knight on d5 can be kicked off anytime, which is the prime reason that white may take over the initiative any time.

Though subsequent play wasn't perfect from both sides, White always kept up the pressure.

 

It is not obvious how white could increase his pressure here. 34.♘xf7 is a blunder because of 34...♜d1+ 35.♔h2 ♛e1! 36.♖xd8 ♛g1+ 37.♔g3 ♛e1+ with a draw.

Ding went 34.h2! and f7 is indefensible now. The tactical point is that, after 34...♛e1 35.♖xd8 ♜xd8 36.♖xf7 ♜d1 is met with...

 

37.♖xf6!! ♛g1+ 38.♔g3 ♛e1+ 39.♔g4 gxf6 is met with 40.♕b7+ winning.

Though the game wasn't without mutual mistakes, Ding's play was more impressive among both. He won in 57 moves. What was the main reason was his win? 'Of course, I wanted to win!' as Ding stated.

Ding Liren — wanting to win | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour 

 

Just as his game against Carlsen in the seventh round, where he was successful, Nepomniachtchi decided to solve his opening problems with the straightforward 17...xd4 18.xd4 xd4 19.xd4 xd4 20.ad1 f6 21.xd8 xd8 22.d1 e8 23.h3! and White has more than compensation for the pawn. Almost all White's pieces are dynamically placed, whereas Black's pieces are confined to the first rank and has a poor pawn structure.

Nepomniachtchi

Ian Nepomniachtchi — taking his chances | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

So missed many chances to gain the upper hand.

 

Here, White had the straightforward 25.♘c3! aiming to play ♘c3-e4 from where he will have access to both the d6 & f6 squares, exploiting the dark squares in Black's position. Or, he could play 25.♕d6! ♜b7 26.♘c5 ♜e7 27.♘e4 with the same result.

But he preferred to regain the pawn playing a lengthy sequence: 25.a5 g7 26.d8 e7 27.b6 xd8 28.xe5+ f6 29.xb8 with an equal position.

 

White can simply force 30.♘a4 ♛a1+ 31.♔h2 ♛xa2 32.♕e5+ with a draw.

Instead, he gave up a pawn with 30.g3 h5 31.a4 a1+ 32.h2 xa2 33.c5 e2 where he has to carefully hold the position again.

 

44.e4 xe4 45.xe4 d7 and now he had a straightforward equality with 46.♕d4+ ♚c8 47.♕c4! ♛b7 48.g3 and Black cannot make progress easily.

A funny incident happened in the resultant endgame:

 

Here, Wesley So stopped the clocks and claimed to the arbiter that, his move 81.♕e7 would make the position to be repeated thrice, as the same position appeared on moves 74 and 76. His claim was true partially, as the same position had indeed appeared, but with an important difference: whereas after the 81st and 74th moves it was black's turn to move, after the 76th move it was white's turn to move, which means that it was a wrong claim!! So, two more minutes were added to his opponent's clock and the game continued. You don't see such instances in top-level chess often!

Wesley So with Chief Arbiter Chris Bird checking his three-fold repetition | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

The point was that, the position was equal anyway, as there was no easy way for Black to make progress. So's slip came after another 21 moves. 

 

White could have maintained parity with 90.♕f3+ ♚e5 91.♕f8 here. However, White allowed a concession with 90.g1?! xb4 91.f3+ e5 92.xh5 after which though it might have still been possible to draw, So had too little time on his clock to play perfectly. He had only three minutes here. It almost doesn't matter as to how he managed to lose the game from here on, with his last minutes ticking on his clock ticking down...

Carlsen once again tried to cook up a fighting position from a Sicilian defence, but messed up the only chance to seize the initiative. 

 

20.e5? A faulty combination where almost any other reasonable move would have been fine for White. 20...dxe5 21.b3 c5? A counter-mistake. The simple 21...♛xe3 22.fxe3 ♞c5 23.♘xa5 ♝a6 followed by ...♞c5-d3 would have preserved Black's advantage. After this, the game did not offer anything for either player.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave played aggressively and originally from the opening stages against Nakamura to build up a sizable advantage.

 

9.fxg3!? An unusual move, aiming to use the f-file for play later on. 9...cxd4 10.0-0 c6 11.e2 h6 12.a3 d7 13.g3!? and White managed to create chances for himself. A very interesting game followed.

 

23...f5? 24.xf5 exf5 25.gxh6 ae8 26.d2 b6+

 

27.d4?! An inexplicable move. White could have obtained a clear advantage with the simple 27.♖f2 ♛xh5 28.♕xd5 where he is a pawn up!

27...xh6 28.xh6 gxh6 and though he pressed on for another 30 moves, White didn't get substantial chances in the endgame.

Vachier-Lagrave — bravely fighting on but falling short | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

Vishy Anand once again gained a better position in the opening with active play, but it was probably more about Mamedyarov's dubious opening treatment rather than Anand's play. 'Shakh' got into trouble early on, when Anand produced a novelty.

 

10.a4 A new move 10...c6?! Better was 10...a5 with an interesting position after 11.dxe5 ♞g4 12.♖f1 ♞g6!? with interesting play. 11.dxe5 g4 12.f1 xe5 13.xe5 dxe5

 

14.Qh5! and White gained a decisive advantage.

After winning a pawn, the game turned into a test of Anand's nerves, as he had to withstand Mamedyarov's aggressive play for initiative for the cost of the pawn.

At this point, the commentary box with Yasser Seirawan, Jennifer Shahade and Maurice Ashley were discussing Anand's play in this tournament, especially against Wesley So, Anish Giri and Ding Liren, where he missed winning chances. It is obvious that Anand hasn't been playing at his best of strength here, missing so many positions which he might have converted on his better days.

Vishy Anand — not utilizing his chances | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

There was one common thread through all this games: missing tactical wins in positions needing accurate calculations, when he held an overwhelming advantage. In the present game against Mamedyarov, he didn't hold such an advantage, but he always had an extra pawn.

Jennifer Shahade and Yasser Seirawan (right) with Armenian-American GM Varuzhan Akobian, a trainer at the Saint Louis Chess Club | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

The commentary team at Saint Louis uses chess engines during analysis, which is a double-edged sword. On one side, the commentators do not go wrong in tactical positions. On the other hand, it is impossible to expect human brains — even the best of them — to match the engines in their calculations all through. The very reason why chess remains a difficult game full of mistakes at any level.

When the commentary team were using engines for analysis and comparing them with the actual games, it invariably led to situations where many decisions made by the participants were found to be sub-standard and pointed out.

When the commentators got passionate, the criticisms invariably became melodramatic too! At one point, Seirawan said, if Vishy doesn't win this game, I will have to check myself into a mental hospital...!” That sounded especially harsh!

A case in point is the following position.

 

Anand erred with 27.d3? here, allowing black to start a dangerous counter-attack with 27...e4!?

Here, the computer analysis goes 27.c4 as one of the best moves (apart from 27.b4) Is it even possible for a human player of any level to play such a move, giving a cushy outpost for the black knight on d4!?

 

37...a5!?

This might be termed as the moment when Mamedyarov started playing ambitiously, playing for a win. Even though the engines adjudged the position to be better for White, it's not the case in practical play. Black has a semblance of an attack on the kingside; his pieces are more active, and most importantly, Anand was down to twelve minutes in his clock at this point. He simply weathered the storm and forced a draw, rather than play for a win here due to the extra pawn.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov with admirable courage | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

Was Vishy's play so sub-standard when compared to the engine's perfect play? Or was it too much to criticize him to be playing just as any other human would under such pressure? We leave it to you, dear readers!


Round up show by Daniel King


Round 9 games analysed by IM V. Saravanan

 

Standings after round 9

 

All games

 

Commentary webcast

Commentary by WGM Jennifer Shahade and GMs Yasser Seirawan and Maurice Ashley

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Saravanan is an IM from Chennai, the southern-most state of Tamil Nadu, India. He has been an active chess player in the Indian circuit, turning complete chess professional in 2012, actively playing and being a second to strong Indian players. He has been consistently writing on chess since late 1980s and is a correspondent to national newspapers and news channels.

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