Reports Jan 7, 2015 | 1:27 PMby IM David Martínez

Naiditsch pulls off a Swiss double

Arkadij Naiditsch got back on track at the Zurich Christmas Open | photo: Georg Kradolfer

German no. 1 Arkadij Naiditsch has won the traditional Christmas and New Year opens held in Zurich and Basel from the 26-30 December and 1-5 January. Those triumphs must have been a welcome relief for Naiditsch, who returned to the 2700 club after a calamitous performance in the Qatar Open made up the lion’s share of 37 rating points dropped in December.  

Richard Rapport looking quietly satisfied with his 1.Nc3! | photo: Georg Kradolfer

Naiditsch won the Christmas Open in Zurich with a dominant 6.5/7 and a 2855 performance. His main rival for the title on paper, 18-year-old Hungarian star Richard Rapport, showed the unpredictable streak that goes along with his creativity. In the first round he lost to a rival rated 541 points below him. He was unable to overcome that setback and compete with Naiditsch for first place. 

Fellow Hungarian GM Laszlo Gonda instead came closest to challenging Naiditsch after defeating France's Christian Bauer in the final round:

RankNameFEDRatingScoreTB
1GMNaiditsch Arkadij27316.530.0
2GMGonda Laszlo25426.028.0
3IMHansen Torbjørn Ringdal24705.532.0
4GMMeier Georg26405.530.5
5GMRapport Richard27165.528.5

Things weren’t so clear cut in Basel, with Naiditsch only emerging victorious on tiebreaks after five players finished locked on 5.5/6.

RankNameFEDRatingScoreTB
1GMNaiditsch Arkadij27315.525.0
2IMDonchenko Alexander25235.523.5
3GMIturrizaga, Eduardo26545.522.5
4IMThen, Matthias24575.521.5
5GMPavlovic, Milos24725.518.0

It was a great result for 16-year-old German IM Alexander Donchenko, who continues to show signs of progress and can't have long to wait for the GM title. Venezuela's Eduardo Iturrizaga also posted a decent result after struggling with a 2464 performance in Zurich.

The winner's performance was solidity personified, with Naiditsch starting with four wins before easing home with three draws in his final games. Overall in Switzerland the German no. 1 showed a clear tendency to play without any complications, unafraid of entering equal endings where he would then go on to press. A good example was the 107-move last-round game that won him the Zurich Christmas Open:

1. e4 e5 2. ♘f3 ♘c6 3. ♗b5 ♘f6 4. O-O ♘xe4 Surely you didn't think 2015 was going to save you from the Berlin ? 

5. ♖e1 A variation with even more of a drawish reputation than the Berlin Wall endgame!

5... ♘d6 6. ♘xe5 ♗e7 7. ♗f1 ♘xe5 8. ♖xe5 O-O! 9. ♘c3 ♗f6 10. ♖e1 As we'll see, White has no fear of multiple piece exchanges and is looking for an endgame with a minimal edge.

10... ♖e8 11. ♘d5 ♖xe1 12. ♕xe1 b6 13. ♘xf6+ The bishop pair!

13... ♕xf6 14. d3 ♗b7 15. ♕b4 ♖e8 16. ♕f4 We're yet to reach virgin ground, since this is still Giri-Anand from the... Pro-Biz Cup tandem event in London! It's quite possible Georgiev was unaware of that game. Team Anand managed to draw, but with some difficulty... Are we seeing the emergence of a new way to combat the Berlin Wall?

16... ♕f5 17. ♗d2 h6 18. ♕xf5 ♘xf5 Ok, it's hard to ask much of this position, but at least White still has the bishop pair and a chance to press...

19. b4 ♖e6 20. f3 ♘e3 Oops! There goes the bishop pair.

21. ♗xe3 ♖xe3 22. ♔f2 Now Naiditsch wants to try and seize space on the queenside and apply some pressure... Let's see how he does it.

22... ♖e6 23. d4 ♔f8 24. c4 ♔e8 25. ♖b1 Preventing a possible a5.

25... ♔d8 26. ♗d3 ♔c8 27. d5 ♖e7 28. ♗e4 ♗a6 29. ♖c1 ♔d8 30. g4 Preparing a king march into the centre. f5 needs to be stopped.

30... d6 31. ♔e3 ♗c8 32. ♔d4 With very little fuss Naiditsch has kept improving his position so that his advantage has grown, although it's still very difficult to penetrate the black position.

32... g6 33. ♖g1 ♖e8 34. h4 Now it's time to press on the kingside as well. One of the advantages of having more space is precisely the opportunity to play on both flanks since your pieces can easily switch between the two.

34... ♗d7 35. ♗d3 c5+ Georgiev grows tired of remaining passive and chooses to go for a break. It seems to be a good decision.

36. dxc6 ♗xc6 37. f4 ♗f3 38. ♖g3 ♗d1 39. ♗e4 h5 40. g5 ♗g4 Black appears to have solidified the kingside, at least for the moment, so Arkadij looks to do something on the queenside.

41. ♗d5 ♖e7 42. ♖a3 ♗f5 43. c5 dxc5+ 44. bxc5 bxc5+ 45. ♔xc5 An active king!

45... ♗e4 46. ♗b3 ♗f5 47. ♖a6 ♔e8 48. ♖f6 The white pieces are improving step by step, although Black still seems very solid.

48... ♗e4 49. ♔d4 ♗f5 50. ♗d5 ♗c8 51. ♔c5 ♗b7 52. ♗b3 ♖c7+ 53. ♔b4 ♗e4 Essentially nothing has changed in the last five moves. Naiditsch now introduces a new element to the position - the a-pawn.

54. a4 ♖b7+ 55. ♔c3 ♖c7+ 56. ♔b4 ♖b7+ 57. ♔a3 ♖c7 58. a5 ♗f5 59. ♗d5 ♖e7 60. ♔b4 ♖c7 61. ♖c6 ♖e7 62. ♔c5 ♔f8 63. ♔d6 ♖d7+ 64. ♔c5 ♔g7 Georgiev trusts that he'll be able to hold the queenside with the rook alone, using the bishop to give well-timed checks in order to prevent the white king breaking through on the light squares.

65. ♖d6 ♖e7 66. ♔d4 ♖c7 67. ♖d8 Looking for new ideas on the back rank.

67... ♖c1 68. ♖a8 ♖d1+ 69. ♔c5 ♖c1+ 70. ♔d6 ♖d1 Due to the checks and pins the white king has nowhere to hide - the game should be a draw.

71. ♔c6 ♖c1+ 72. ♔b5 ♖d1 73. ♗b3 ♖b1 74. ♔a4 ♖f1 But why? Georgiev changes his strategy just when a draw seemed within touching distance.

74... ♖a1+ 75. ♔b4 ♖b1 would suffice.

75. ♖xa7 ♖xf4+ For a moment I thought Georgiev was trying to play for a win, sacrificing his bishop for the a-pawn and setting the kingside pawns in motion... but the pressure on f7 is too strong and prevents Black from becoming active.

76. ♔a3 ♗d3 77. ♖d7 ♗b5 78. ♖b7 ♗f1 Even now the game should be a draw, but it's all much more complicated!

79. ♔b2 ♗g2 80. ♖c7 ♗f1 81. ♔a3 ♖f3 82. ♔b4 ♗a6 83. ♗d5 ♖f4+ 84. ♔c5 ♗d3 85. ♖d7 ♗e2 86. ♖e7 ♗f1 87. ♔d6 Once again Naiditsch looks to ignite something, though it's far from clear what... This is also part of the art of winning equal endgames - you make faints, threatening to go first one way, then the other. Then as the hours slip by and time pressure builds accurate technique will often bring results.

87... ♖f2 88. ♖a7 ♖f4 89. ♔e5 ♖f5+ 90. ♔d4 ♖f4+ 91. ♔e3 ♖f5 92. ♗e4 ♖b5 93. ♔d4 ♖b4+ 94. ♔e5 ♗c4 95. ♖a8 ♗f1 96. ♖d8 ♖a4 97. ♖d5 ♗c4 98. ♖c5 ♗e6 No! Georgiev moves his bishop so it no longer controls the white pawn.

98... ♗f1 would still be a draw. The Bulgarian may have feared 99. ♗d5 ♗d3 100. ♖c7 but after 100... ♖xa5 101. ♖xf7+ ♔h8 the pinned bishop prevents White from making progress.

99. ♗c6! Pushing the rook off the fourth rank so the black bishop can no longer return to c4.

99... ♖a1 100. ♗b7?

100. ♔d6 , followed by Kc7-b6 was more precise. The black bishop would have had no easy way to sacrifice itself for the a-pawn since its white counterpart could block it at the appropriate moment.

100... ♗h3? Just not here! As we'll see, the bishop is unable to get to the f1-a6 diagonal. Necessary was

100... ♗f5 101. ♗d5 ♗d3 with a possible draw... though it's unlikely Naiditsch would have given up trying anytime soon.

101. ♗d5 ♔f8

101... ♗f1 is now no good due to 102. ♖c7 ♖xa5 103. ♖xf7+ and unfortunately for Black his bishop is hanging.

102. ♔d6 ♔g7 103. ♗c4 ♔f8 104. a6 ♗e6 105. ♗b5 ♔g7 106. ♖c7 ♔f8 107. a7 and Georgiev resigned. A long battle which sums up the style of Naiditsch in these events. He had no fear of endgames and didn't take more risks than required but thanks to his enormous practical strength and technique he managed to win a lot of games. It wasn't exactly spectacular, but it was certainly effective!

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