Wijk R04: A spectacular round, with three decisive games

1/16/2008 – And with several hard-fought draws. Judit Polgar beat Boris Gelfand with the black pieces, using a far advanced d-pawn combined with a kingside attack; Topalov's opening experiment with black against Van Wely ended in a total fiasco and, although he put up tough resistance until the 81st move; Kramnik's win over Eljanov was a characteristic squeeze. GM Mihail Marin comments.

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Wijk aan Zee 2008

GM Mihail Marin at work in a tournament

The following express commentary was provided by Romanian grandmaster Mihail Marin, who is the author of a number of very popular ChessBase training CDs and articles for ChessBase Magazine. GM Marin will study the games of the World Championship tournament in much greater detail and provide the full results of his analysis in the next issue of ChessBase Magazine.

Round four commentary by GM Mihail Marin

A spectacular round, with three decisive games and several hard-fought draws.

Judit Polgar, the strongest women ever to play chess

Playing with black against Gelfand, Judit Polgar gradually burned all the bridges behind her, putting her bid on the far advanced d-pawn combined with an eventual kingside attack. Further analysis might prove that Gelfand could have defended, but for the spectator it is refreshing to watch such neo-romantic chess for once in a while.

Topalov's opening experiment with black against Van Wely ended in a total fiasco and, although he put up tough resistance until the 81st move, the final result was quite predictable since an early stage of the game.

Kramnik's win over Eljanov is characteristic for his play nowadays. He obtained the better structure, then retained an extra pawn in a simplified position and squeezed his opponent slowly but systematically.

From the games that ended in draws, the confrontation between the two leaders was the most entertaining. Playing with black, Aronian sacrificed an exchange for purely positional compensation. At some point he probably went wrong and got into time trouble, too. With lots of time remaining on his clock, Carlsen continued to play in blitz tempo, missing a very promissing continuation on the 35th move.

Ivanchuk gave up the right to castle in a theoretical line of the Caro Kann. His structure proved solid enough to resist Leko's attacks. When, finally black managed to connect rooks after the 30th move, White hurried to force a draw by perpetual.

For the second time in a row, Adams had the better part of a queens and opposite coloured bishops ending, but could not achieve anything against Anand's careful defence.

Shakhryar Mamedyarov, top GM of Azerbaijan

In Radjabov-Mamedyarov Black employed an old-fashioned variation in the Russian system of the Grünfeld Defence. White played without sufficient resolution (he should have tried f4 at some point) and the position simplified to an equal endgame.

All pictures by courtesy of

Gelfand,B (2737) - Polgar,Ju (2707) [E01]
Corus A Wijk aan Zee NED (4), 15.01.2008 [Mihail Marin]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 c5. This move might have come as a surprize for Gelfand, since prior to this game Judit usually played 3...d5 here. 4.Nf3. There has been some intense theoretical and practical discussion at top level in the variation 4.d5 exd5 5.cxd5 b5 . White has been quite successful sofar and Gelfand himself had won a good game against Aronian in Mexico. By refraining from the advance of the d-pawn, he probably wanted to avoid Judit's specific preparation. It should be said that 4.Nf3 is part of Gelfand's repertoire, too. 4...cxd4 5.Nxd4 d5 6.Bg2 e5 7.Nf3 d4 8.0-0 Nc6

The game had started as a Catalan, offered some hopes for a Benoni, transposed to the English opening instead and, finally, reached a position that is classified under Catalan ECO codes anyway! Could they not have come here straight somehow? What's even more weird is that, having prevented Judit for playing a Benoni structure, he has got a position that strongly resembles the reversed version of this opening! Just move the e2-pawn to d3 and you will understand what I mean... 9.e3. White is slightly better developed and has a strong light-squared bishop, but has to question Black's advanatge of space in order to avoid being just worse. 9...d3!? A courageous move. The pawn will remain cut from the rest of his colleagues, but will not be easy to eliminate. 10.Nc3 Bb4 11.Bd2 0-0 12.a3 Bxc3 13.Bxc3

13...Ne4!? An interesting pawn sacrifice for the initiative. If allowed to play Nd2 and b4, White would get good control on dark squares. 14.Bxe5 Bg4 15.Bd4 Ng5 16.Bc3 Rc8 17.b4 Re8

Black has more or less finished her development and has active play. Strategically, White has a nice position, but is confronted with the irritating problem of how to unpin his knight. Also, the far advanced pawn hinders the communication between White's opposite wings. The position is very sharp, with approximately equal chances for both sides. 18.h4 This is a radical solution to the Gordian knott, but now the kingside will remain weak. 18...Ne4 19.Bb2 Qd7 20.Qc1 d2. The pawn becomes threatening. It was impossible to block while on d3 and even now it faces White with problems of coordination. Placing a rook in front of it would leave the knight pinned again. However, it would have also made sense to refrain from this new advance for the time being and play some strategically useful move such as 20...Bh3 . One should note that the mini-group formed by e4-knight and the d3-pawn create some sort of barrier for the white pieces (c3, c2, d2, e2), while after ...d2 the queen will get the possibility of being activated.n 21.Qc2 Bf5 22.Qb3 Be6 23.Qc2 Bf5

24.Qa4. Gelfand bravely decides to avoid the repetition, but sending the queen in a mission far from the centre is a bit risky. 24...Qd3. Burning all the bridges behind... Before activating her play, Blac could have considered taking some preventive measures on the queenside with 24...a6 or 24...b6. 25.b5 Nd8 26.Qxa7 Ne6

Black only needs one tempo to consolidate with ...N6c5, with crushing domination. White has to hurry. 27.g4!? Bxg4 28.Ne5 Qc2 29.Nxg4 Qxb2 30.Bxe4 Rxc4

White has won a piece, but his king is weak, the queen somewhat out of play and the d-pawn... alive! 31.Bf3? This loses material. The only way to try questioning the corectness of Black's 24th move was 31.Rab1!? 31...Rc1! 32.Raxc1 dxc1Q 33.Rxc1 Qxc1+ 34.Kg2 h5

Black is an exchange up and has attacking chances. For a player of Judit's style, the rest must have been easy. 35.Nh2 Nc5 36.Bxb7 Qc2 37.Bd5 Qg6+ 38.Kh1 Nd3 39.Nf3 Nxf2+ 40.Kh2 Ng4+ 0-1. [Click to replay]

Kramnik,V (2799) - Eljanov,P (2692) [A16]
Corus A Wijk aan Zee NED (4), 15.01.2008 [Mihail Marin]

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Qa4+ Bd7 5.Qb3 dxc4 6.Qxc4

6...c5!? A very rare move. Black sacrifices a pawn, hoping to decoy the white queen onto an exposed square and win time for his development. 7.g3. However, Kramnik is not in a hurry to take the pawn. He prepares developing the king's bishop like in his pet Catalan, hoping that the relative weakness of the c5-pawn will hinder Black's coordination in the next phase of the game. 7...Nc6 8.Bg2 Qb6 9.0-0

9...Qb4!? Eljanov decides to solve the problem of the c5-pawn in radical way. However, I am not sure whether it is a good idea to spoil one's own structure when facing Kramnik. He will know how to take advantage of the opponent's structural deffects. 10.Qxb4 cxb4 11.Nb5 Rc8 12.b3 e5 13.Bb2 Be7 14.d4 e4 15.Ne5 Be6

Black has got absolutely nothing to compensate for White pawn superiority in the centre. 16.d5!? This move leads to a very pleasant ending for White, but 16.Rac1!? , putting the enemy queenside under strong pressure, is an important alternative. After 16...Bd5 17.Bh3 we would get a similar position as in the game, with the difference that White did not give up his d-pawn. Kramnik probably wanted to have his b2-bishop open for the eventuality of 17...Rd8 , but here, too, White gets an advantage with 18.Nc7+ Kf8 19.Nxd5 Nxd5 20.Nxc6 bxc6 21.Rxc6 and the relative stability of the knight in the centre only partly compensates for the missing pawn.] 16...Bxd5 17.Bh3 Be6 [Now, 17...Rd8 would be met by 18.Nc7+ Kf8 19.Ng4. 18.Bxe6 fxe6 19.Rfc1 0-0 20.Nxc6 Rxc6 21.Rxc6 bxc6 22.Nxa7 c5 23.Nc6

Let us look at it this way: your structure is in ruins and you face Kramnik. Do you have hopes for more than hanging on until move 68 or so before resigning? 23...Nd5 24.a4 bxa3 25.Rxa3 Rc8 26.Ra6 Bf8 27.e3 Nc7 28.Ra7 Nd5 29.Ne5 Rb8 30.Nd7 Rxb3 31.Ba3 Be7 32.Bxc5 Bxc5 33.Nxc5 Rb1+ 34.Kg2 Rb2 35.Ra3 Nf6 36.Ra8+ Kf7 37.Ra7+ Ke8 38.Ra6 Ng4 39.Nxe4 Nxe3+ 40.Kf3 Nd5 41.Rxe6+ Kf8 42.Rd6 Ne7

Black has managed to simplify the position, but his situation remains far from rosy. The endgame with this material balance is not examined in books as far as I know, but I can try to make some comparison with known endings in order to find an approximate evaluation. N + 4 Ps vs. N + 3 Ps on the same wing is supposed to be winning, if the structure is more or less normal. If we take away one pawn from each side, the result becomes uncertain, depending greately on the concrete structure. But if we add a pair of rooks to "/portals/all/_for_legal_reasons.jpg" for the missing pair of pawns, the balance should once again inclined to White's favour. From recent practice, I remember a game Karpov-Judit Polgar, where this endgame was reached and White won, too! 43.Rd8+ Kg7 44.Rd7 Kf8 45.Nf6 h5

In the absence of rooks, this is the recommended way to arrange the pawns. If White tries to create a passed pawn (which is his only constructive idea), he will have to allow further simplifications with inevitable draw. However, with rooks on board the weakness of the g5-square will make itself felt at some point. 46.Ra7 Rb5 47.Ke4 Rb4+ 48.Ke3 Rb5 49.Ne4 Re5 50.f3 Rb5 51.h3 Nd5+ 52.Kd4 Ne7 53.Ra6 Rf5 54.Ke3 Nd5+ 55.Kf2 Ne7 56.Ra8+ Kg7 57.Ra7 Kf8 58.Rb7 Ra5

59.g4! Finally, Kramnik initiates active operations, without fearing additional pawn exchanges. 59...hxg4 60.hxg4 Rd5 61.Kg3 Ra5 62.Kh4 Re5 63.Nf6 Kf7 64.f4 Ra5 65.Nd7

Black is under unbearable pressure. He cannot stop the invasion already. The arrangement of White's pieces is very instructive. It keeps the enemy knight and king under pressure and takes away from the rook several squares along the fifth rank. 65...g5+!? A desperate move, aiming to deprive the enemy king of the g5-square. It must be said that other moves would not have saved either, for instance 65...Rd5 (The only available square along the 5th rank) 66.Ne5+ Kf8 (The knight ending arising after 66...Ke6 67.Rb6+ Rd6 68.Rxd6+ Kxd6 69.Kg5 is hopless, too.) 67.Rb6 Kg7 68.Kg5 and Black's position will collaps soon.; Abandoning the fifth rank with 65...Ra1 allows a similar course of events with 66.Ne5+ Kf6 67.Rb6+ Kg7 68.Kg5. 66.fxg5 Ke6 67.Kh5 It appears that the h5-square is also comfortable for His Majesty. 67...Rd5?! A blunder in a difficult position. 68.Nf8+! Black will lose his knight soon. 1-0. [Click to replay]

Van Wely,L (2681) - Topalov,V (2780) [A43]
Corus A Wijk aan Zee NED (4), 15.01.2008 [Mihail Marin]

1.d4 e6!? 2.c4 I wonder whether Topalov was prepared to play the French Defence arising after 2.e4 . Maybe not, but Van Wely does not play 1.e4, so the whole discussion is slightly pointless. 2...c5 3.d5. Finally, Topalov is placed on the right side of the Benoni. Earlier in this tournament against Ivanchuk, he had, somewhat unexpectedly, the white pieces. 3...exd5 4.cxd5 d6 5.e4 g6 6.Nf3 Bg7 7.Bd3. Somewhere I read that one should develop knights and only then bishops, but both sides had secret plans for their knights... 7...a6 8.h3

For a while, both players seem to have been concerned by some sort of symmetry with respect to the central point of the board. The last two moves are part of this mutual "/portals/all/_for_legal_reasons.jpg". 8...Ne7!? So, it will only look like a Benoni now. I do not now how to call this hybrid, although I have also played it occasionally, too. 9.0-0 h6 10.Re1 0-0 11.a4

11...g5. This move makes part of Black's general plan to consolidate on dark squares with ...Nd7, ...Ng6, ...Nde5, etc. This might work out well in the positions with White's queen's knight on c3, but here White will have to say a word about the e5-square, too. I believe that it would have been safer to continue developing, leaving the move ...g5 for a more favourable moment. For instance 11...Nd7 12.Nbd2 Rb8 13.Nc4 Nb6 14.Ne3 f5 and Black seems to be OK. 12.Nbd2! And this is the symmetric reply to ...Ne7, but, more important, an anticipation of Black's plan. 12...Nd7 13.Nc4 Nf6. The weakness of the d6-pawn forces Black abandon his initial plan, but I do not find it wise to tolerate the knight on c4. I would prefer 13...Nb6 , for instance 14.Ne3 Rb8 15.a5 Na8 followed by ...b5 and ...Ng6. Oh, and he finally has to abandon symmetrycal play, because 13...Nf5 (which would be not bad at all, since it would dfeends the d6-pawn) is impossible. 14.Bd2 Rb8 15.Bc3

White's pressure in the centre has become unbearable. 15...g4!? Aiming for some counterplay, but ruining his kingside structure. 16.hxg4 Bxg4 17.e5 dxe5 18.Bxe5

18...Nexd5. This exchange sacrifice does not save the game, but offers at least some practical chances. After 18...Rc8 19.Bxf6 Bxf6 20.d6 Nc6 21.Qd2!? White enjoys stability in the centre and on the queenside, while retaining attacking chances on the kingside. 19.Bxb8 Qxb8 20.Nce5 Be6 21.Qb3 Ne3 22.Qb6 Ned5 23.Qxc5 Rc8 24.Qd4

The game is basically over, but Topalov will fight until the bitter end. 24...Ng4 25.Rad1 b5 26.axb5 axb5 27.Qe4 Ndf6 28.Qe2 Qb6 29.Bb1 h5 30.Rd2 Re8 31.Qd3 Bh6 32.Qd4 Qb8 33.Rdd1 Bg7 34.Qd2 Qb6 35.Qd4 Qb8 36.Qd2 Qb6 37.Nxg4 hxg4 38.Qd4 Qb8 39.Ng5 Bb3 40.Rc1 Rd8 41.Qe3 Bd5 42.Rcd1 Re8 43.Qd3 Rxe1+ 44.Rxe1 Bc4 45.Qe3 Bh6 46.Qe5 Qxe5 47.Rxe5 g3 48.fxg3 Ng4 49.Rc5 Kg7 50.Be4 Nf6 51.Kh1 Nd7 52.Rf5 Nf6 53.Bc2 Ng4 54.b3 Ne3 55.Rc5 Be2 56.Nf3 Nf1 57.Nd4 Nxg3+ 58.Kh2 Bf4 59.Nxe2 Nxe2+ 60.Kh3 Nd4 61.Kg4 Bd2 62.Rd5 Be3 This central fortress will not resist for too long. In fact, the same ending without any pawns on board is pretty unpleasant for Black, because the presence of opposite coloured bishops increase the white attack's chances for success. I remember a game Nikolic-Kortschnoj (somewhere in 1988) in which White won. 63.Be4 Kf6 64.Rh5 Bd2 65.Rd5 Be3 66.Bf5 b4 67.Bd3 Kg7 68.Rd7 Kf8 69.Be4 Ke8 70.Rb7 Bd2 71.Bd5 f6 72.Kh5 Nf5 73.g4 Ne7 74.Be6 Kf8 75.Rb8+ Kg7 76.Re8 Nc6 77.Rg8+ Kh7 78.Rc8 Ne5 79.Rc7+ Kh8 80.Rb7 Be1 81.g5 1-0. [Click to replay]

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