Reports Apr 5, 2015 | 3:40 PMby Colin McGourty

Easter chess bonanza

Today much of the world celebrates Easter, so what do chess players do? Play chess, of course! We take a brief look at the ongoing tournaments, including the Nakamura – So clash in the US Championship and Ian Nepomniachtchi’s victory in both the main Aeroflot Open and the blitz event that followed on Easter Sunday. You can also play chess here on chess24, with an Easter Open Swiss tournament starting at 18:00 CEST!

Easter isn't only about chess :) Estepona, Spain this morning

chess24 Easter Open

To play in the chess24 tournament simply go to the tournament page and click “Join”. You need to be registered to play, but registration is completely free and lets you play unlimited games in the Playzone! The format is Swiss (you play people on roughly the same score as you), so you’ll soon be playing people on your level, whether you’re a strong player or a complete beginner. There are 5 minutes for each player per game.

If you miss that tournament don't worry, you can always find more on our Tournaments Page.

Now let’s take a quick look around the chess world:

US Championships Round 4

For years to come So - Nakamura may be a battle for the US no. 1 spot | photo: official website

Yesterday’s round in St. Louis saw draws in all six open games, though that didn’t quite tell the whole story. The eagerly awaited battle of the favourites, Nakamura – So, looked like being a tame affair, until Wesley So, fearing he’d be worse against the two bishops in a manoeuvring game, sharpened things up with 28…g5!?. It was a very risky idea, but worked to perfection since Nakamura went on to blunder badly for the second day in a row with 31.Bxf4?

31.Qxf4! would have kept White well on top, but after the move in the game So turned the tables with 31…Nf3+! 32.gxf3 Qxf4 when Nakamura had to force an ending a pawn down with 33.Qg3+

The American no. 1 “buckled down” after that and managed to hold things together. So commented:

I thought I had good winning chances but it wasn't very easy and he defended very well.

Watch the full interview:

The other game that had everyone talking was Gareev – Kamsky, where Timur Gareev went for the Wing Gambit, 1.e4 c5 2.b4!?:

The game that followed was a true rollercoaster in which either player – but in fact especially Gareev – could have won. It reminded Spanish no. 1 Paco Vallejo of an incredible game from the Hawaii GM Challenge where Gareev opened 1.d4 Nf6 2.g4!? against Sam Shankland. As a bonus, we have analysis of that game by IM David Martinez that we never got round to using before. It’s a lot of fun! (Hou Yifan won the tournament with a surge of 6 wins in a row after a shaky start – replay all the games here)

1. d4 ♘f6 2. g4 You'll be able to read all this very fast, but I spent a few minutes wondering what symbol to give this move! Perhaps ?!! or even !!??? This is the so-called Humphrey Bogart Gambit, and a move that perfectly matches the cynical and morally questionable leading roles the famous actor would typically play. The surprising thing is that it seems he really did play it in 1933! A myth? Who knows.

2... ♘xg4 3. e4 d6 4. f3 ♘f6 5. ♗e3 White gets a good centre in return for the pawn, but that's where the gambit's virtues end! Black has no weaknesses and should have no trouble developing.

5... e5 6. ♘c3 ♘c6 7. ♗b5 Gareev decides to give up one of his bishops as well - everything for the initiative!

7... ♗d7 8. ♗xc6 ♗xc6 9. ♕d2 exd4

9... g6 , followed by Bg7 and 0-0, was the road to opposite-side castling. White's missing g-pawn makes it far from easy to advance the h-pawn.

10. ♗xd4 ♗e7 11. O-O-O Now it would be more dangerous for Black to castle short, since he'd be forced to play g6 with no bishop behind the pawn to defend his king.

11... ♕d7 12. ♘ge2 O-O-O 13. ♖hg1 ♖hg8 14. ♗e3 Shankland has played a little passively and allowed White to seize the initiative. Bogart, or rather Gareev, isn't going to let his opportunity slip and launches an attack on the queenside.

14... b6 15. ♘d4 ♗b7 16. ♔b1 g6 17. a4 And we're off!

17... ♔b8 18. ♘cb5

18. a5 would be normal, but Gareev decides to attack with pieces, which makes his attack more spectacular (if not more effective!).

18... a6 19. ♖g5 Gareev must have been in a great mood! Who wouldn't want to play in Hawaii? :-)

19... c5 Capturing the knight immediately was possible, but adding another threat that White has to deal with doesn't seem such a bad idea. But wait - is Gareev going to pay attention to the threat?

20. a5! No!

20... axb5 21. axb6 And now he "forgets" about the other knight!

21... b4

21... cxd4 was perfectly possible, since although the white queen gets to a7 it isn't mate.

22. ♘b3 Just when it seemed Gareev was never going to retreat a knight!

22... ♕c6 23. ♗f4 To avoid the necessity of resigning White has to play all his trumps i.e. try every trick in the book! The threat is to take on c5, since the pawn is pinned, but after Ka8 or Kc8 White would be running out of options. However...

23... ♘xe4 Shankland decides to give back material, believing that's the easiest way to convert his edge.

24. fxe4 ♗xg5 25. ♗xg5 ♕xb6 Continuing the idea started with Nxe4 of returning material in order to get to a position that's technically easier to play.

26. e5 Gareev has no interest in material!

26... d5 27. ♖f1 ♖d7 28. ♖f6 ♕b5 29. ♕f2 White has managed to create some threats - he's hitting c5 and f7 - and in a blitz game that might be sufficient!

29... ♖e8? Shankland allows a capture on c5, when he could have defended it. But then again, since when has this game been normal!

30. ♖xf7

30. ♘xc5 ♖c7 must have been Black's idea, but it fails to a tactic that's difficult to spot in a quick game. 31. ♘a6+! ♗xa6 32. ♖b6+ Winning the black queen.

30... d4 31. ♘xc5 ♖xf7 32. ♕xf7 ♖c8 White is now "only" an exchange down, but Gareev keeps trying to attack.

33. ♘d7+ ♔a8

33... ♔a7 would have eliminated White's last trick.

34. ♕a2+ ♗a6 35. ♕e6 Threatening Nb6+, which could be stopped with Rc6 or Kb7, but...

35... ♕f1+ Shankland moves his queen away from the defence, which makes the white attack much stronger than it would otherwise have been.

36. ♗c1 ♔b7 37. ♕d5+ ♔a7?

37... ♖c6 still holds.

38. ♕xd4+ ♔b7 39. ♕d5+ And now it's White who's winning!

39... ♔a7 40. ♕d4+ ♔b7 41. ♘c5+ ♖xc5 42. ♕xc5 White has turned the tables and now has an extra pawn, although the opposite-coloured bishops mean Black still has some drawing chances.

42... ♕b5 43. ♕e7+ ♔a8 44. ♕d8+

44. b3 would have totally prevented Black's counterplay, but such is time trouble!

44... ♕b8 45. ♕d5+ ♕b7 46. ♕c5 b3 Weakening the black king.

47. ♕f8+ ♕b8 48. ♕f3+ ♕b7 49. ♕xb3 ♕xb3 50. cxb3 And the madness is over, since we get an opposite-coloured bishop ending where the doubled extra pawns are impossible to exploit. Gareev tries, but he gets nowhere.

50... ♗c8 51. ♔a2 ♔b7 52. ♔a3 ♗e6 53. ♔b4 ♔c6 54. ♗d2 ♗d5 55. ♗c3 ♗e6 56. ♔a4 ♔b6 57. ♗d4+ ♔c6 58. b4 ♗c4 59. ♔a5 g5 60. ♗e3 g4 61. ♗f2 ♔d5 62. b5 ♔xe5 63. ♔b6 ♔d5 64. ♗g3 h5 65. b3 ♗xb3 66. ♔c7 ♗c4 67. b6 ♗a6 68. ♔d7 ♔e4 69. ♔e6 ♔f3 70. ♔f5 ♗b7 71. ♔g5 ♔e4 72. ♔xh5 ♔f5 73. ♔h6 ♔f6 74. ♗h4+ ♔f7 75. ♔g5 ♗c8 76. ♔f4 ♔e8 77. ♔e5 ♔d7 78. ♔d5 ♗b7+ 79. ♔d4 ♔c6 80. ♗d8 ♗c8 81. ♔e5 ♔b7 82. ♗c7 ♗d7 83. ♔d6 ♗c8 84. ♔e5 ♗d7 85. ♔d4 ♗c8 86. ♔e3 ♗d7 87. ♔f2 ♗c8 88. ♔g3 ♗d7 89. ♔f4 ♗c8 90. ♔g5 ♗d7 91. ♔f6 ♗c8 92. ♔e7 ♗f5 93. ♔d6 ♗c8 94. ♔c5 ♗d7 95. ♔d4 ♗c8 A difficult game to categorise, except to say that Bogart would have been very satisfied!


In the US Women’s Championship favourite Irina Krush got back to winning ways, while Katerina Nemcova won again to move into the sole lead on 3.5/4.

On Sunday evening, the last game before a rest day in St. Louis, one of the highlights will be So – Gareev. So had commented on the Wing Gambit, “I hope he plays that again tomorrow!” That’s not going to happen as Gareev has Black, but no doubt he can come up with something special for Black as well!

Women’s World Championship final

Natalia Pogonina has been the comeback queen in Sochi but after Mariya Muzychuk scored a fine win in Game 2, Pogonina faces her hardest task yet today. The fourth and final game is a must-win for her, and at the moment of writing she was struggling to get any activity with the black pieces. If she did win, though, we’d go to playoffs on Easter Monday!

One thing's for sure - Natalia Pogonina won't go down without a fight!

Aeroflot Open and Blitz

The formidable main Aeroflot Open finished on Saturday and was wrapped up with an even more star-studded blitz event on Easter Sunday. The man of the moment was Ian Nepomniachtchi, who won both events to earn not only €18,000 €16,000 (main - see Thomas' comment) and €5,000 (blitz) but also qualify for a spot in the Dortmund Supertournament later this year.

In the main tournament he scored 5 wins, including a crushing victory against Krishnan Sasikiran in the penultimate round, and 4 draws. Daniil Dubov’s performance rating was even better (2869) and he matched Nepomniachtchi’s 7/9, but he could only have himself to blame for taking 13 and 16-move draws against his main rivals when he knew he was worse on the first tiebreak of no. of games with Black. 

The final standings at the top were:

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2 
12GMNepomniachtchi IanRUS27147.052615
222GMDubov DaniilRUS26277.042660
326GMBukavshin IvanRUS26186.542647
443GMLu ShangleiCHN25706.052645
541GMJumabayev RinatKAZ25726.052597
628GMAnton Guijarro DavidESP26146.052592
721GMKhairullin IldarRUS26306.042639
817GMKhismatullin DenisRUS26506.042588
932GMSalem A.R. SalehUAE26036.042573

How tough the tournament was can be seen by the performance of the other 2700+ players:

  • Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (3 wins, 4 draws, 2 losses: 16.3 rating points lost)
  • Richard Rapport (3 wins, 2 draws, 4 losses: 17.7 rating points lost)
  • Paco Vallejo (2 wins, 6 draws, 1 loss: 8.1 rating points lost)
  • Ernesto Inarkiev (2 wins, 3 draws, 4 losses, including 3 in a row at the end: 24.4 rating points lost)

A special mention has to go to 19-year-old Spanish GM David Anton, who beat both Mamedyarov and Rapport in fine games, to finish sixth overall.  

You can play through all the games with computer analysis here on chess24.

The blitz moves weren’t transmitted live, although there was live video with Russian commentary. Nepomniachtchi’s victory there was even more convincing, since he won every 2-game mini-match except for drawing against 3rd placed Alexander Grischuk. Lu Shanglei, who inflicted Magnus Carlsen’s only blitz defeat in the last World Blitz Championship, again showed his talent to finish second. The standings at the top were as follows:

13GMNepomniachtchi, IanRUSB 279814.5102.00878;75;35;38;28;15;4;9;
215GMLu, ShangleiCHNB 270713.0104.50690;53;36;10;4;12;
31GMGrischuk, AlexanderRUSB 285213.0102.00592;72;46;11;14;
414GMMatlakov, MaximRUSB 270913.096.00589;51;31;37;43;
59GMKarjakin, SergeyRUSB 275112.5102.50584;54;74;70;21;
612GMIturrizaga Bonelli, EduardoVENB 272012.5100.00483;65;35;23;
721GMFedoseev, VladimirRUSB 267812.599.00596;58;16;39;5;
88GMPonomariov, RuslanUKRB 275412.597.505139;57;29;9;25;
913GMAndreikin, DmitryRUSB 271612.595.505108;76;30;28;2;
106GMMamedov, RaufAZEB 276712.594.00681;73;50;25;23;5;
1138GMMotylev, AlexanderRUSB 260212.588.005109;101;65;74;16;
1244GMSjugirov, SananRUSB 258812.576.50499;88;29;87;

The Neckar Open

This is Germany’s biggest open and drew around 750 participants to the small Southern German town of Deizisau. The 2700+ stars Li Chao, Arkadij Naiditsch and Etienne Bacrot cruised through the first five rounds with wins, but the action is beginning to heat up in rounds 6 and 7 on Easter Sunday, as the four players on 5.5/6 (Poland’s Kacper Piorun joins the stars) face off against each other. You can follow all the action today and on Easter Monday here on chess24.

Li Chao - Etienne Bacrot on top board in Round 7 | photo: Georgios Souleidis, official website 

The Philadelphia Open

Finally we have another event from the US, the 9th Annual Philadelphia Open. The healthy $80,000 prize fund has attracted players from all around the world, with Cuba’s Yuniesky Quezada leading on 6/7 going into the final two rounds on Easter Sunday. Boris Avrukh (Israel) is among 5 players on 5.5/7, while Russian veteran Aleksey Dreev is among another 7 players still in the chase on 5/7.

You can watch the top four boards here on chess24.

Finally we’d like to wish a Happy Easter to everyone following or playing chess on chess24!

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