Fabiano Caruana matched Magnus Carlsen’s great escape by surviving a dead lost position, against Luke McShane in Round 5 of the FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss. Co-leaders Wang Hao and Parham Maghsoodloo also drew a topsy-turvy game to allow Vladimir Fedoseev, Alexander Grischuk and Alexei Shirov to join them in a 7-man leading pack. Shirov was the only player not paired against another leader in Round 6, but Black against Carlsen is arguably not the easiest pairing in chess! Magnus followed Shirov’s example to beat Ganguly in a razor-sharp Sicilian.
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The incredible resilience of the world’s very best players was again on display in Round 5, though as in Round 4 for Magnus, everything seemed to start off perfectly well for Fabiano Caruana. Luke McShane played the Four Knights and went for the Spanish version with 4.Bb5, with Fabi responding 4…Bd6. That move was covered by Jan Gustafsson in his recent Four Knights video series, where although his focus was on what he considers the best move, 4…Nd4, he gave a nice summary of the strange bishop move:
This looks very clumsy, I have to admit, but it makes a lot of sense. You cover the pawn on e5, so you rule out any Bxc6, and your plan is just to castle, go h6 usually, Re8, put the bishop either on f8 or c5 once the rook hits e8, and then continue development with d6, and this is a very reasonable plan. It turns out there's nothing too dangerous that White can do in the meantime, so Bd6 normally leads to a decent game with a board full of pieces. And the good thing is with everything I've said in the last 30 seconds you can more or less play it - there's not that much theory you need to know at all!
Sure enough, Fabiano followed that plan while Luke used up half an hour on the clock, with the only difference being that after the English grandmaster’s perhaps dubious 8.Bxc6!? Fabiano took the chance to play d5 rather than d6. Black soon had a clear advantage as well as an edge on the clock, until move 21:
Black has pressure on the e5-pawn and only one issue – the lack of squares for the bishop on h5. Computer-approved solutions include 21…f6, 21…Bxf3 (Black can give up the f7-pawn in return for the critical e5-pawn) and 21…Bg6, but instead Fabiano opted for 21…Qd7?!
Sure enough 22.g4 Bg6 23.Ng2! c4 24.Nf4! happened, and Fabiano found himself essentially playing for tricks in a strategically difficult position. After 24…cxd3 25.cxd3 Bb4 26.Rd1 there was a critical moment:
White is attacking both the e6-rook and the a7-pawn, but what should Black do about it? One suggestion is to play 26…c5!? and trust in the bishop pair and control of the centre making up for the loss of the exchange. The computer’s first choice, and one that at first glance looks obvious, is to play 26…Ra6!, evacuating the rook and defending the a7-pawn. It’s not quite so simple, however, since 27.e6! would then force Black to give up the exchange on e6 anyway – the computer says the resulting position is equal, but it would be a bold choice.
Instead Fabiano tried to hold things together with 26…R6e7?!, giving up the a7-pawn, but soon after that the black position began to collapse. The parallels with Carlsen’s game the day before were impossible to miss as computer evaluations climbed above +4 while Fabiano’s hopes seemed to lie in the fact that Luke was in serious time trouble. Once again salvation was on offer just before the time control when, with 15 seconds on his clock, McShane played 39.e6?!
The narrative differed here, however, as Fabiano, with 10 minutes on his clock, responded quickly rather than looking deeper into the position. 39…Qxg5!! 40.exd7 Re4! would have saved him 3 hours of agony, since after the queen moves 41…Rxg4+! 42.hxg4 Qxg4+ would be a draw by perpetual check.
Instead with 39…fxe6?! 40.Nxe6 Qb8 41.d6! Rxd6 42.Nc7+! Rde6 43.Rd7! Luke again went on to show his class as he reached another totally won position. The clearest moment was perhaps after 52…Qe2:
53.Nc1! is not a move that jumps out at you, but it wins almost on the spot. If the queen retreats to b5 (and it has to or the e8-rook falls with check) the black king can’t be defended against the threats connected to Rf4 and Qh5+ (54.Rf4 is even mate-in-20, according to Stockfish).
Here again, though, there was an echo of Vladislav Kovalev against Carlsen, as Luke, down to under 5 minutes, captured on b4 the way Vladislav had captured on c5 against Magnus. Once again the position was still winning, but a few moves later queens had been exchanged and what at first looked an easily won ending turned out to be anything but after some precise defence from Fabiano:
This position might actually still be won for White (it’s been suggested to start 61.Rd3 Bf7 62.Rg3 instead of 61.Kg3 in the game), but if it is it would truly be worthy of a study - most lines given by the computer turn out to be drawn the instant a pawn is captured and we can consult the 7-piece tablebases. In any case, the game continued another 25 moves before a draw was finally agreed:
That draw on the top board meant a winner in Wang Hao-Maghsoodloo would be the sole leader at the halfway stage of the tournament, but a fantastically unbalanced game – lit up by an exchange sacrifice by the Chinese player – eventually ended in a draw.
Parham Maghsoodloo had most of the chances, but the last one fell to Wang Hao:
The game fizzled out after 46.Rd7+, but 46.Qc3+! would have posed unanswerable questions! The threat is to trap the black queen with Ra1, and if you give the queen a retreat with 46…Rf6 then White wins material however Black responds to 47.Rd7+!
Those two draws on the top two boards presented an opportunity that was seized upon by some of the remaining players. Alexander Grischuk got an edge over Ivan Cheparinov after the Bulgarian player rashly went for an early d5-break, and eventually converted in a rook ending. After the game Grischuk was his typically forthright self when he referred to Anish Giri’s late withdrawal from the tournament:
Giri may not be there, but his wife Sopiko Guramishvili might have been a useful advisor for Radek Wojtaszek. The usually brilliantly prepared Polish player was facing 4.f3! against the Nimzo-Indian, which is the title of a chess24 video series by Sopiko. Vladimir Fedoseev followed her recommendations and when Radek took on c3 and blocked the position with 8…b4 Fedoseev went on to instantly play Sopiko’s line with the “very important” 10.Be3! (with the point that a later Nh5 g4 Qh4+ could be blocked with the bishop coming to f2). This had never been played before, and the game only deviated from her analysis after 11.cxd5:
Sopiko felt White had nothing to fear in this position, while Radek’s 11…a5 may have been inaccurate. 12.a3!? from Fedoseev certainly worked out perfectly for White after 12...bxa3!? abandoned the blockade of the position, though 12...Nxe4!? might be the critical test.
The third player to join the leaders was Alexei Shirov, who showed he was on top form on the Isle of Man by spotting that 26…Rxf6? (26…gxf6! and Black is fine) was a mistake by his Armenian opponent Gabriel Sargissian. The key move could be played immediately (with extra style points!), but it was still good after 27.Rxf6 gxf6:
28.b4! The undefended rook on a8 means that White picks up a pawn, and the way Alexei converted that into victory after the time control was nothing short of brilliant.
His reward was not to be paired with one of his co-leaders in Round 6, but instead after losing a game to world no. 2 Caruana he’s now going to play world no. 1 Magnus Carlsen, with the black pieces! Their lifetime score is 6 classical wins to 2 in Carlsen’s favour, though they last played a classical game 8 years ago.
Magnus set up that showdown by playing 8.g4 in the 6.h3 Najdorf against Indian GM Ganguly:
The curiosity is that Shirov was the last player to make that move, in a crushing 29-move win over Kirill Alekseenko in the Spanish League on August 31st this year. Magnus commented after his game:
I’m not sure I would recommend this whole a4-business. If you go a4 and h4 there’s no way you can castle, and king safety is very important in the Sicilian.
But that’s exactly what Shirov had done, as well as pushing g5, with the only difference perhaps stylistic. Alexei went on to win with some beautiful sacrificial motifs on the kingside…
…while Magnus kept making seemingly quiet moves as computers registered his growing advantage. By the end, with no open warfare having taken place, it was Ganguly desperately tossing in a piece to try and avert the inevitable. Resignation came on move 41:
Elsewhere there were plenty of draws, but also some memorable moments. Adhiban bounced straight back from the loss to McShane to mate Luke's English colleague David Howell, while Wesley So and Vishy Anand moved to a plus score with wins over 15-year-old Danish IM Jonas Bjerre and Paraguay’s Axel Bachmann respectively.
That latter game was a nice outing for Vishy’s beloved knights – here’s the position after 22…Ndxe3!
The knights both soon disappeared from the board, but they’d done their job. Up next for Vishy is a game against 15-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov, which you wouldn’t rule out being a clash between former and future World Champions:
As well as Carlsen-Shirov the other games between the leaders in Round 6 are Caruana-Fedoseev, Maghsoodloo-Grischuk and Wang Hao-McShane. They can perhaps afford to put in maximum effort, since Wednesday is the tournament’s one rest day. Tune into all the live action here on chess24 from 16:00 CEST!
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