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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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... 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.
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.
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...
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...
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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