XV Karpov-Poikovsky: Moro and Saric at 3.5/4

by Albert Silver
5/16/2014 – It was gratifying enough to fans, to see the players opt for the most combative openings there are, such as Sicilian Najdorfs (yes, that is a plural), Classical King's Indians, and a Dutch Defense, but what's more two players have had a blistering start with 3.5/4: Morozevich and Saric, each with 3000+ performances. All accomplished in chess full of guts and gore.

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The 15th Anniversary edition of the Karpov-Poikovsky international tournament is underway and is being played at Nefteyugansk in the district of Ugra, Russia. It is a ten-player round robin competition played at 100 minutes for 40 moves, followed by 50 minutes for the rest of the game, with a 30-second increment as of move one.

While the playing venue is a bit odd (a gymnasium), the organizers covered the
playing area with elegant rugs, tables, tabgle lamps, and posh armchairs

After a 2.0/2 start, to report now that Alexander Morozevich is in the lead with 3.5/4 and a 3005 performance will surprise no one, but what will take many aback is that he is not alone, and the person sharing that lead is Ivan Saric. It isn’t that the reigning Croatian champion is not an excellent player, but bear in mind that at 2665 he is ranked 8th of the ten players taking part, all with significant pedigrees.

In round three, Morozevich faced a player who is his match in imagination: Alexey Shirov. The repatriated Latvian chose the Sicilian Kalashnikov with Black but a miscalculation late in the opening cost him a pawn after which he spent much of the game trying to neutralize White’s winning chances, succeeding after 68 moves. Jakovenko and Motylev drew fairly quickly, while Bologan tried his best to convert an endgame advantage against Bacrot, but gave up after 107 moves.

Viktor Bologan has been having a rough tournament with only 0.5/4

Etienne Bacrot saved a difficult position in round three and has 50%

The incredibly creative Alexei Shirov is also on 50% with four draws

Nepomniachtchi and Eljanov exchanged blows in a Four Knights with g3, but neither player was ever in real danger, and they also drew. Emil Sutovsky started very well against Saric in a Closed Ruy Lopez in which White refrained from 9.h3 and allowed …Bg4, and was rewarded with a huge advantage after 21 moves. Then White began to lose the thread of the game, and after losing the advantage, began to make mistake after mistake and a few moves later was fighting for his life, and lost. With this reversal, Saric joined Morozevich in the lead with 2.5/3.

Nepomniachtchi and Eljanov were unable to give each other any real problems

Still not recovered from his round three loss, or revealing a vulnerable lack of form, Sutovsky squandered a healthy opening advantage against Morozevich in round four, not because of the latter’s sometimes mind-boggling tactics, but simply by losing focus. From better to equal and then worse, he lost the game.

Morozevich scored his third win, this time against Emil Sutovsky

Ivan Saric, full of confidence after his unexpected windfall in the previous round, played strongly against Pavel Eljanov, whom he outplayed in a Caro-Kann Advance with a bind the Ukrainian never really resolved. The third decisive game of the round was Viktor Bologan against Ian Nepomniachtchi in a no-holds barred Dutch Defense.

Ian Nepomniachtchi is decidedly unimpressed with White's choice of 6.c3

[Event "15th Karpov GM 2014"] [Site "Poikovsky RUS"] [Date "2014.05.14"] [Round "4.5"] [White "Bologan, Viktor"] [Black "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A80"] [WhiteElo "2655"] [BlackElo "2735"] [PlyCount "78"] [EventDate "2014.05.11"] 1. d4 f5 {Dutch fans will be rubbing their hands in glee.} 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. O-O O-O 6. c3 {Nepomniachtchi was understandably surprised at this. It isn't just that the overwhelming topical move is 6.c4, followed by a distant 6.b3, but the last time this was played between grandmasters at standard time controls was in the 90s, and even then a handful at most.} a5 7. Nbd2 Nc6 (7... Na6 8. Nc4 c6 9. a4 d6 10. Qb3 Be6 11. Ng5 Bxc4 12. Qxc4+ d5 13. Qd3 Qd7 14. Bf4 Rac8 15. Be5 Bh6 16. Nf3 Qe6 17. b4 axb4 18. cxb4 Nd7 19. Rab1 f4 20. Bxf4 Bxf4 21. gxf4 Rxf4 22. b5 Nc7 23. e3 Rff8 24. bxc6 bxc6 25. Rfc1 Ra8 26. Qc3 Ra6 27. Rb7 Rc8 28. a5 h6 29. Ne1 Ne8 30. Nd3 Nd6 31. Rxd7 Ne4 32. Bxe4 dxe4 33. Ne5 {1-0 (33) Gligoric,S (2510)-Kovacevic,V (2555) Bugojno 1984}) 8. Re1 d5 {Since White is not planning on challenging the pawn....} 9. Nb3 Ne4 {Come to papa!} 10. a4 e6 11. Bf4 g5 12. Be5 Bh6 $1 {Fine play by the Russian. His idea is g4, chasing the knight away, followed by Nxe5 and dxe5, after which he will have the bishop pair and better structure.} 13. Rf1 g4 14. Ne1 Nxe5 15. dxe5 c5 16. Bxe4 dxe4 17. Nxc5 Qb6 18. b4 $2 {White can't protect his e5-pawn as it stands, so chucking the b-pawn as well is not going to provide any relief.} (18. Nb3 {was better.} Bg7 19. Ng2 Bxe5 20. Qc2 {followed by Rfd1, and though worse, White will at least begin to fix his piece coordination.}) 18... Rd8 19. Qb3 Rd5 {[%cal Rd5c5,Rb6b3] Threatening Rxc5.} 20. Qc4 Qc7 {Now the threat is ...b6 and White cannot prevent loss of material since} 21. Nc2 ( 21. Qa2 axb4 22. cxb4 Rd2 23. Qb1 Qxe5 {and White's position collapses.} 24. Ng2 (24. e3 {is unplayable due to} b6 25. Nb3 Rb2 $1 {and the knight is lost.}) 24... Rxe2) (21. Qb3 b6 {and the knight has nowhere to flee to.}) (21. Qb5 Kf7 ({Not} 21... b6 $2 22. Qe8+ Kg7 23. Nxe6+)) 21... b6 {[%cal Rc7c4]} 22. Nd4 Rxe5 ({The immediate} 22... bxc5 {was stronger. If} 23. Nxf5 Bg7 (23... exf5 $4 24. Qxd5+) 24. b5 Rxe5 25. Ne3 Bb7 {and Black is just up a piece.}) 23. Nb5 Qe7 24. Nb3 e3 25. Qd4 (25. N3d4 {was stronger and logical. White was probably already despairing, and no longer thinking straight.} Bb7 26. f4 gxf3 27. Nxf3 Re4 28. Qc7 $15) 25... exf2+ 26. Rxf2 Re4 $1 27. Qxb6 axb4 28. cxb4 Be3 29. N3d4 Bb7 30. Rd1 Ra6 31. Qc5 Qxc5 32. bxc5 Re5 33. Nd6 Ba8 34. Nc4 Bxf2+ 35. Kxf2 Rxc5 36. Ne3 Kf7 37. Nb3 Rc3 38. Nc1 Be4 39. Na2 Ra3 0-1

Ivan Saric is having the tournament of his life so far. After a long diet of swiss
opens, it seems that round-robins agree with him.

Standings after four rounds

Photos by Evgeny Vashenyaka 


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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, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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