Reports Mar 8, 2015 | 10:52 AMby IM David Martínez

European Championship 10: Move of the year?

After ten rounds of the European Individual Championship in Jerusalem Evgeniy Najer is the sole leader on 8 points, half a point ahead of Denis Khismatullin, who he meets in today’s final round, and David Navara, who comes up against Ivan Cheparinov. The sensation of Round 10, however, was a single move. 

Khismatullin - Eljanov will almost certainly be the most memorable game of the 2015 European Championship | photo: Yoav Nis, official Facebook page

Leaving aside the standings and everything else at stake, Round 10 of the European Championship will go down in history for a single moment - a spark of genius from Russian player Denis Khismatullin, who surprised everyone with a brilliant move that enabled him to defeat Ukraine’s Pavel Eljanov.

After a tough fight the players have reached a heavy-piece ending where passed pawns are important, but not so important as king safety. Khismatullin managed to see that despite the attack on his rook he could relocate his king in order to trap the opposing monarch.

44. ♔g1 Absolute genius. The white king moves away from the action, taking two small steps to h2. From there it will not only be protected by its pawns but will also play a vital role in capturing the enemy king. The move combines all the features required to be unforgettable: it's surprising, original and visually attractive. The idea of trapping the black king was far from obvious, while Khismatullin not only had to see that idea but also delve deeper and find out how it could actually work. Surely the most aesthetic move made by Denis Khismatullin in his long career.

44... ♕xd1+ The queen captures the enemy rook with check. Who could turn down such a gift? The alternatives would also be unlikely to save Black.

44... ♖xc6 would be similar to the game after 45. ♕xf7

44... ♕xc6 eliminates the passed pawn and returns the queen to the defence, although the black position is still difficult after 45. ♕xf7 threatening mate on f4. 45... ♖f6 46. ♕e7! (46. ♕b3 , capturing the d3-pawn immediately, would be the most human approach, although the b-pawn might still allow Black to put up a real fight.) 46... ♕d6 47. ♕xh7 and although the black pieces are well-placed there's no way to quickly support the pawn while also attacking the white rook, which means the white queen has time to return to the defence. The only serious attempt would be 47... d2 , aiming to play Qd3 followed by Qe2, but Black's not in time. 48. g3 There are various winning moves, but this one strikes me as the most natural, combining the return of the queen via h4-g4 with strangling the black king. 48... ♕d3 (48... ♔f5 , trying to anticipate White's plans, can simply be met with 49. ♕b7 and the white queen returns to defend.) 49. f4+ ♔f5 50. ♕e7 Threatening mate. 50... ♖e6 This doesn't save the situation due to 51. g4+ or the even more attractive (51. e4+ )

44... ♖d5! was the best option to continue the fight. 45. ♔h2! (45. ♕xf7 no longer wins after 45... ♕xd1+ 46. ♔h2 ♖f5 since the rook is defended and White can't force victory.)

a) 45... ♕xd1 now loses to 46. c7

b) 45... ♕xc6 could be met by the very fine engine move 46. ♕g7 followed by f4 and the black king has no escape. (46. ♕xf7 ♖f5 47. ♕e7+ ♔h6 48. ♖xd3 is undoubtedly more human.) 46... ♕e6 (46... d2 is impossible due to mate on e5. 47. ♖xd2 ♖xd2 48. f4+ ♔f5 49. ♕e5# ) 47. f4+ ♔f5 48. e4+! ♔xe4 (48... ♕xe4 49. ♕xf7# ) 49. ♖e1+ Winning the black queen, although it's not so easy to convert - in fact it's far from it! 49... ♔f5 50. g4+ ♔xf4 51. ♖xe6 fxe6 52. ♕f6+ ♔e4 53. ♕xe6+ ♔d4 54. ♕xb6+ ♔c4 55. ♕c6+ ♔d4 56. ♕c1 and White has managed to blockade d2, which should suffice for victory.

c) 45... ♔f6

45. ♔h2 ♖xc6

45... ♖f6 is no solution since Black can no longer avoid the mating nets. 46. f4+ ♔f5 (46... ♔h5 47. g4+ ♔h4 48. ♕h6# ) 47. ♕e7 Threatening Qe5#. 47... ♖e6 48. ♕xf7+ ♖f6 49. ♕d5#

45... ♖d5 would be met by 46. c7 as we saw before.

46. ♕e7+ Khismatullin decides to repeat moves before going for the winning variation.

46... ♔h6

46... f6 doesn't work due to 47. f4+ ♔h6 48. ♕f8+ ♔h5 49. ♕g7! (49. g4+ is no good because the ending after 49... ♕xg4 50. hxg4+ ♔xg4 is a draw since the passed pawn gets a lot of support from the black pieces.) 49... h6 50. g4+ ♕xg4 51. hxg4+ ♔xg4 52. ♕xg6+ and the d3-pawn falls.

47. ♕f8+ ♔g5 48. ♕xf7! Despite being a rook down White once more makes a move without check and it's again incredible to see how incapable the black pieces are of coordinating in order to counter the threats to their king.

48... ♖f6 Eljanov gives up his rook in a desperate attempt to find salvation.

48... ♖c4 avoids the queen check on f4 but succumbs to what has already become a familiar manoeuvre: 49. f4+ (49. ♕xc4 shouldn't even be considered since it allows the black king to breathe again after 49... ♔f6 ) 49... ♔h6 50. ♕f8+ ♔h5 51. ♕g7 and White wins.

49. f4+ ♔h6

49... ♔f5 50. ♕d5#

50. ♕xf6 Black has managed to delay the hunt for his king, but the outcome remains inevitable.

50... ♕e2 51. ♕f8+ ♔h5 52. ♕g7! A finesse we've seen before.

52... h6 53. ♕e5+ ♔h4

53... g5 54. ♕e8+ ♔h4 55. ♕g6! Twice in a row we see the same theme of attacking the backwards h-pawn.

54. ♕f6+ ♔h5 55. f5! Geographically speaking the black queen doesn't seem so far from her king, but there's no way she can lend a hand!

55... gxf5 56. ♕xf5+ ♔h4 57. ♕g6 Black resigned since mate-in-two is impossible to stop. Denis Khismatullin can be very proud of the way he finished off this game.


The standings with one round to go are as follows:

Rk.SNo NameFEDRtgIPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 
137GMNajer EvgeniyRUS26348.0263457.562.0
21GMNavara DavidCZE27357.5263960.065.0
328GMKhismatullin DenisRUS26537.5253753.057.5
411GMKorobov AntonUKR26877.0264658.563.0
571GMVovk YuriUKR25887.0264656.059.5
64GMNepomniachtchi IanRUS27147.0264059.064.5
722GMMotylev AlexanderRUS26657.0262458.062.5
833GMVolokitin AndreiUKR26467.0261658.062.5
97GMMatlakov MaximRUS26957.0261053.058.5
1013GMSjugirov SananRUS26787.0260554.058.5
11128Iljiushenok IliaRUS24507.0259155.058.5
1220GMSargissian GabrielARM26687.0258858.063.0
1339GMBartel MateuszPOL26317.0258855.059.0
1419GMLaznicka ViktorCZE26707.0258351.056.0
1535GMPopov IvanRUS26397.0257357.061.0
1612GMCheparinov IvanBUL26817.0257250.054.0
1726GMRodshtein MaximISR26607.0256755.059.5
1892GMCan EmreTUR25557.0244048.052.0

The final round, that will determine not just the European Champion but also the 23 qualifiers for the World Cup, starts at 12:00 CET. Will we see more fantastic chess, or a swathe of quick draws (Carlos Martínez examined that phenomenon in a new article) as players conclude that’s all they need to qualify? We’ll soon find out - live here on chess24!

IM David Martínez

David is the current coach of both the Spanish Women's Team and the 2014 European Championship runner-up David Antón. He edits the Spanish pages of chess24 and has also worked on a number of videos both on our site and our YouTube channel.

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