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Reports May 18, 2014 | 1:49 AMby GM Jan Gustafsson

Saric stumbles, Moro leads

The Karpov Tournament in Poikovsky witnessed a dramatic turnaround on Saturday as Ivan Saric fell to a bitter defeat against Viorel Bologan. Jan Gustafsson takes a closer look at that extraordinary roller coaster of a game which allowed Alexander Morozevich to move into the sole lead.  

by Jan Gustafsson

No sooner had we proclaimed Morosaric to be the best double-header since Kobe and Shaq than Saric was dethroned. (At this point I’d like to offer a quick apology for the lack of football references: I don’t follow the Bundesliga, which at least isn’t likely to make me stand out in Hamburg next year...) His opponent in Round 6, Viorel Bologan, is not only a strong grandmaster with a fighting style – no less than five of his six games in Poikovsky have now ended with a winner...  

I also ask myself whether he had anything to do with the Canadian television series Endgame, although he denies it. In Endgame a traumatised Chess World Champion solves murder cases from a luxury hotel in order to pass the time.

The protagonist is called Arkadij Balagan…

In his Round 6 game against Saric the endgame also played an important role, although initially it looked unlikely Bologan would ever get that far.

1. e4 c5 2. ♘f3 g6 A very rarely seen move which nevertheless suits Bologan's fighting style.

Hmmm, 2...g6? | photo: ruchess.ru

3. d4

3. c3 is considered the principal antidote, but after 3... d5 4. exd5 ♕xd5 5. d4 ♘f6 the ensuing variation of the 2. c3 Sicilian has proved itself to be quite playable for Black.

3... cxd4 4. ♘xd4 ♘c6 5. ♘c3

5. c4 , switching to the Maroczy structure, was already possible on the third move and doesn't appear to be to Saric's taste.

5... ♗g7 6. ♗e3 ♘f6 A well-known position from the Accelerated Dragon. White needs to be careful as in contrast to the "normal" Dragon Black hasn't touched his d-pawn here, so d7-d5 should be prevented if at all possible.

7. ♗c4

7. f3 0-0 8. ♕d2 d5! illustrates the point.

7... 0-0

7... ♕a5 is also a popular move, forcing 8. 0-0 and leading to calmer waters where both kings are on their traditional side of the board. (8. ♕d2? ♘xe4 is a trick to be aware of.)

8. ♗b3 The bishop often aims for this square in the Dragon, and due to the tricky black move-order it needed to go there before Qd2, f3 and 0-0-0. Bologan tries to exploit that in the play that follows.

8. f3 e6

8... d6

8... a5

9. f3 ♗d7 10. ♕d2 ♘a5 This is Black's attempt to profit from his move-order. Play would transpose to the main line after

10... ♖c8 11. 0-0-0 ♘e5

11. 0-0-0 ♘xb3+ 12. cxb3! At first glance this exchange is very advantageous for Black: White's attacking bishop has been eliminated and the b-pawns are doubled. That's only half the picture, though: White is very happy to play cxb3! as his king will now find a calm spot on b1 and the b3-pawn is enormously useful: it controls the c4-square and is a great hinderance to Black's pawn storm with a5-a4 and b5-b4-b3. And even if b3 falls, a2 and b2 are still always there... White therefore has a totally free hand on the kingside, which is why I was never a great fan of Black's approach here.

12... ♖b8 13. ♔b1 b5 14. g4!

14. h4 could be met by 14... b4 15. ♘ce2 h5 and White's attack would be somewhat slowed down, so 14. g4 is directed against h5.

14... b4 15. ♘ce2 ♕a5

15... a5 was also worth considering, but here as well the black counterattack is rather slow.

16. h4 If undisturbed White will follow a familiar pattern with h5, Bh6 and so on.

16... ♖fc8

16... h5 suggests itself at this point and has actually been played. It seems to me, though, that White is ready to land sacrificial blows: 17. ♘g3! hxg4 18. h5! looks very dangerous, with play continuing something like: 18... ♘xh5 19. ♘df5! ♗xf5 20. ♘xf5 ♖fe8 21. ♖dg1! gxf3? 22. ♖xh5

17. h5 Black's problems are ever more apparent: there's nothing to catch hold of on the queenside, while the white advance is proceeding smoothly on the kingside. Bologan is aware of the danger and therefore takes drastic measures.

17... ♘xe4 At the cost of a knight the character of the game is radically altered - the g7-bishop awakes and the white pawns on e4 and g4 are isolated and weak. A piece is a piece, though, and objectively this simply can't work.

18. fxe4 ♕e5! This was the idea. e4 seems impossible to defend, or is it?

18... ♗xg4 is too slow, 19. hxg6 hxg6 20. ♖dg1 with an attack and an extra piece...

19. hxg6

19. ♘g3 here and on the next move is the resource that both players missed. e4 would be covered and the knight would sell its life at a horrendous price: 19... ♕xg3 20. ♗f4 ♕xg4 21. ♖dg1 Trapping the queen. Black doesn't get enough e.g. 21... ♕xf4 22. ♕xf4 ♗xd4 23. hxg6 hxg6 24. ♖h7 ♗g7 25. ♖gh1

19... hxg6 Giving White a second chance.

19... ♕xe4+ 20. ♔a1 hxg6 leads to the game.

20. ♔a1

20. ♘g3 would still have decided matters. 20... ♕xg3 21. ♗f4 ♕xg4 22. ♖dg1

20... ♕xe4 This position is also good for White, but at least Bologan has achieved his goal of sharpening play and not getting mated according to the book...

21. ♘g3 ♕e5

21... ♕xg4 22. ♖dg1

22. ♗f2 A little passive. When armed with a computer it's child's play to recommend

22. ♘gf5! gxf5 23. gxf5 with a withering attack, but at the board the step from "chaos with an extra piece" to "chaos a pawn down" is much tougher to take. And not everyone considers chaos a ladder...

22... ♗xg4 23. ♖de1 ♕d5 Black now has three pawns for the piece (ok, e7 is hanging) but White is still clearly on top. The deciding factor is, as before, his safer monarch on a1.

23... ♕f6 24. ♘e4 is no improvement.

24. ♕f4!

24. ♖xe7 ♖e8! 25. ♖xe8+ ♖xe8 26. ♕xb4 f5 was less clear.

24... e5

24... f5 25. ♕g5! e5 26. ♕xg6 exd4 27. ♖h7 ♖c7 28. ♖eh1 is just an example of how quickly the black king can be caught here.

25. ♕g5

25. ♕xg4 exd4 26. ♘e2 clarifies the situation and was perhaps the simpler solution.

25... ♖c7

25... ♗d7? 26. ♘h5 gxh5 27. ♖hg1 ♗g4 28. ♘f5 and mate.

26. ♘e4! Saric doesn't let up and is now threatening the crushing Nf6+.

26... ♖bc8! Parrying the threat. Even if things still look bleak Bologan deserves great credit for constantly posing new problems.

27. ♕xg4!

27. ♘f6+ ♗xf6 28. ♕xf6 ♕xh1! 29. ♖xh1 ♖c1+ and suddenly the tables are turned.

27... exd4 28. ♕f3? From this point on Saric loses the thread.

28. ♗h4! renews the Nf6+ threat and wins. Play might go something like: 28... f5 29. ♕xg6 fxe4 30. ♗f6 e3 31. ♕h7+ ♔f8 32. ♗xg7+ ♖xg7 33. ♖ef1+ ♖f7 34. ♕h8+ ♔e7 35. ♕xc8 Houdini is also undoubtedly useful when calculating this variation...

28... ♕c6 29. ♕d3? Once against too passive/human. Black seizes control once and for all. The three pawns + activity promise more than enough compensation for the piece.

29. ♕f4! d5 30. ♘d6

29... d5 30. ♘d2 ♕c2! In the endgame the black passed pawns will grow in value.

31. ♖h3 g5 And it's off! You can also see that by this stage it's the white king that's struggling with a lack of space while the black king is perfectly relaxed. It was already possible to play

31... ♕xd3 32. ♖xd3 ♖c1+ 33. ♖xc1 ♖xc1+ 34. ♘b1 g5

32. ♗xd4

32. ♖b1 had to be played, however miserable it seems.

32... g4! The 180-degree turn is complete. White is lost as the black g and f-pawns will either win the race or win material.

33. ♗xg7

33. ♖g3 ♕xd3 34. ♖xd3 ♖c1+ 35. ♖xc1 ♖xc1+ 36. ♘b1 f5  would be scenario 1, while in the game we'll see no. 2.

33... gxh3 34. ♕xh3 ♕h7!

34... ♔xg7 35. ♖g1+ would lead to perpetual check or a black king walk with far from clear consequences. 35... ♔f8 (35... ♔f6 36. ♕h6+ ♔e7 37. ♕g5+ ♔d6 38. ♕f6+ ♔d7 39. ♕xf7+ ♔c6 40. ♕e6+ ♔b7 41. ♕xd5+ ♕c6 42. ♕h5 ♔a8 ) 36. ♕h8+ ♔e7 37. ♕e5+=

35. ♕xh7+ ♔xh7 36. ♗e5 ♖c1+ 37. ♖xc1 ♖xc1+ 38. ♘b1 The ensuing endgame is unholdable for White. His problem isn't the material but the passivity of the knight on b1 and the king on a1, which will be held at bay by the b4-pawn. The bishop alone can't win the fight against the passed pawns supported by the black king and rook.

38... ♔g6 39. a3 ♔f5 40. ♗d6 bxa3? A real error on the last move before the time control, which lets White back into the game. Bologan hugely complicates the conversion of his advantage.

40... d4 41. ♗xb4 ♔g4−+ should have been easy. The f-pawn is a runner!

41. bxa3 ♔e4 42. ♔b2 ♖c6 43. ♗b8 ♔d3! 44. b4

44. ♗xa7 ♖c2+ 45. ♔a1 f5

44... a6 45. ♔b3 f5 46. a4 d4 47. ♘a3?

47. ♗f4! was the last chance, and would have promised good drawing chances. The bishop should seek to cooperate with the knight and secure the d2-square. 47... ♔e4 48. ♗g5 f4 49. ♘d2+ ♔f5 50. b5! axb5 51. axb5 ♖c3+ 52. ♔b4 ♖c2 53. ♗xf4 ♔xf4 54. ♘c4 would be a conceivable continuation, when White holds on.

47... ♖c3+! 48. ♔b2 ♖c8! 49. ♗d6 ♔e2! The white pieces are again caught on the wrong foot. The a3-knight can't do much against the rolling d-pawn. The rest is easy.

50. b5 d3 51. ♘b1 axb5 52. axb5 ♖c2+ 53. ♔a1 d2 54. ♘xd2 ♖xd2 55. ♗c7 ♖d4 56. ♔a2 ♖b4 57. b6 ♔d3 58. ♔a3 ♔c4 59. ♔a2 ♖b3 60. ♔a1 ♔d3 61. ♔a2 ♔c2 A bitter defeat for Saric, who seemed on course for victory out of the opening and missed various chances to secure the win. Bologan nevertheless earned his win as his play was totally fearless, and starting with the wild Nxe4 he constantly managed to pose new problems.

0-1

Thanks to that defeat a draw against Jakovenko was enough to give Morozevich the sole lead. Saric and the same Jakovenko lie only half a point behind, so that with four rounds at least three candidates for tournament victory remain.

PlayersRating12345678910Score
A. Morozevich2719½½1½11
D. Jakovenko2730½½½11½4
I. Saric2666½½10114
A. Motylev26870½½1½1
A. Shirov2703½½½½½½3
E. Bacrot2721½½½½½½3
I. Nepomniachtchi273500½½1½
V. Bologan2655001½01
E. Sutovsky2642000½½½
P. Eljanov2732½00½½0

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