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    Entries in Geneva Masters (2)

    Sunday
    Jun302013

    A Deep Look at Mamedyarov-Kramnik From The Geneva Finale

    As mentioned in the previous post, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov's win in game one of the final match against Vladimir Kramnik was impressive, and I decided to take a closer look. Between what I saw watching live and worked out analyzing afterward, it looked like a nice, clean game, and this was seconded once I switched on the engine - for the first part of the game.

    What came as a big surprise was the second phase of the game, the part that should have been a mopping-up operation. Mamedyarov really misplayed the ending, to the point where Kramnik may have had a draw near the end. More importantly for us as chess fans, there are some fantastic variations that emerge at that stage where the balance between a win and a draw is precariously poised. It's a very long analysis, but one I hope you'll enjoy.

    Sunday
    Jun302013

    Mamedyarov Wins Geneva Masters

    In the last few weeks Shakhriyar Mamedyarov has managed to win two impressive rapid events. First there was the world rapid championship, and now the Geneva Masters.

    In the first semi-final, Vladimir Kramnik squandered several winning opportunities against Hikaru Nakamura before finally cashing in in a big way in their second blitz game. Kramnik was winning in the first rapid game - at least twice - but the horrible 52.Kxe4?? (overlooking 52...Kd6, as Kramnik freely admitted after the game and as his body language admitted during the game) let Nakamura escape.

    Game 2 was a respite for Kramnik, as Nakamura seemed more eager to go for blitz (a la Grischuk in the previous Candidates' cycle). In fact, the game itself was blitz-like, as Nakamura wound up with several seconds more than he started with when the draw was agreed after 43 moves.

    In the first blitz game, Kramnik was winning once again, and once again let his resourceful opponent. The mistake this time (46...Qf6 rather than 46...Rc3) was less glaring, in part because of time trouble, and in part because there was more work to do than in the other game.

    In game four, Kramnik finally broke through. Nakamura played a Hippopotamus with a King's Indian twist, something he has done with lots of success on ICC. Here, he didn't react well to Kramnik's energetic 12.c5, and soon he was flat busted. The engine suggests that he may have made some chances to grovel with 20...Rbc8; after 20...Kg7 Kramnik played accurately and energetically, and Black never got another chance.

    In the second semi-final, Mamedyarov won game 1 with Black when Etienne Bacrot desperately went all-in with 21.Bf6 and 22.Ng5. Mamedyarov collected the material, repulsed the attack, and won the game.

    To Bacrot's credit, he came back in the second game, winning a nice game with the Dutch Defense. Bacrot was pressing throughout, and when Mamedyarov fell into a nice trap with 32.Rd3? the game ended with the pretty 32...Rxd3 33.Kxd3 c5! Taking on e5 allows 34...Nxf2+ winning the rook; retreating the bishop to e3 is met by 34...f4, either winning the bishop or again forking on f2 (unless White plays 35.Rg1, and then the win is 35...fxe3 36.Rxg4 exf2, when the threat of promotion wins the knight after 37.Ke2 Bxc3+); finally, 34.dxc6 Rd8 again either wins a piece or, after something like 35.Ne2, the rook to the 35...Nxf2+ fork.

    If there was any momentum from this save, it was quickly erased in the first blitz game, which was an absolute massacre. At first I thought 18...c6 was the losing move, refuted by the simple 19.Nxg5 - as played in the game. It was a blunder, that's true, but even the better 18...Be7 is still met by 19.Ng5! White wins there too, but it's more complicated and Black can still resist. After 18...c6 19.Nxg5 it was sheer destruction, and Mamedyarov rounded the game off with a nice final move.

    Bacrot was unable to make a second comeback in their second blitz game. He enjoyed a slight edge with White, but it didn't last long, and Mamedyarov was able to liquidate into a drawn rook ending. In fact he wound up with an advantage, primarily due to the gyrations Bacrot was forced to undergo to try to keep some play alive. Ultimately, Mamedyarov was happy to force a draw rather than go for a win, and so he advanced to the final against Kramnik.

    On the very first day of the tournament, in the very first set of matches, Mamedyarov defeated Kramnik 1.5-.5. Then he drew the first game with White and won the second with Black; this time he did things the usual way and won with White and drew with Black. The first game was a Four Knights with 4.g3, a tactical shootout that saw Mamedyarov fire the best shots. Impressive play by Mamedyarov, and the kind of game that makes for a deserving tournament winner.

    The opening of game two was a bit odd. Kramnik played a rare gambit in a Symmetrical English, and then seemed completely dumbfounded when Mamedyarov accepted it. Kramnik spent several minutes in thought, and didn't manage to achieve very much by way of compensation; if anything, he consistently lost ground over the next 10-15 moves. Soon enough an ending was reached where Black kept his extra pawn and had the more comfortable-looking position and not even a shred of danger anywhere on the horizon. That Kramnik somehow managed to regain his pawn and even press a little was incredible, but even so the position was too drawish for him to really get anything going. As in the final game with Bacrot, Mamedyarov didn't play ambitiously with the advantage, knowing that the most important thing was to keep control and hold the position. Normally, the game would have been agreed drawn at move 55 (if not sooner), but Kramnik tried for another 48 moves before running out of mating material.

    In sum, an impressive success by Mamedyarov. Will the boost in confidence translate into success at the World Cup in August? Conversely, will Kramnik pull himself out of his funk by then and regain his best form? Beats me, so I'll leave the prognosticating to the experts - my readers.