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.
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 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+ )
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
46. ♕e7+ Khismatullin decides to repeat moves before going for the winning variation.
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.
50. ♕xf6 Black has managed to delay the hunt for his king, but the outcome remains inevitable.
The standings with one round to go are as follows:
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!
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