Two world championship warriors and rivals from the past generation are set to make dramatic wildcard appearances in next month’s Croatian leg of the $1.25m Grand Chess Tour, with multi-time champions Garry Kasparov and Vishy Anand joining the field that will also include the new World Championship title challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi.
The Croatia Rapid & Blitz will take place in Zagreb, running 6-11 July, with six-time former world champion and now human rights activist Kasparov, aged 58 – the brainchild behind the Grand Chess Tour – participating in the blitz, and his 1995 title challenger, Anand, 51, who went on to become a five-time former world champion following Kasparov’s retirement, competing in both the rapid and blitz events.
Also competing as a wildcard entry in both events in Zagreb will be Nepomniachtchi, who was originally scheduled to be a full Tour participants, but the Russian had to decline his full tour card in order to concentrate on preparing for his upcoming title match with Magnus Carlsen.
The opening Tour event, the Superbet Chess Classic Romania in Bucharest, is heading into the homestretch with Russia’s Alexander Grischuk and Azerbaijan’s Shakhriyar Mamedyarov – with big wins respectively in Friday’s round 6 against Constantin Lupulescu and Levon Aronian – breaking away from the pack on +2 to take the joint lead on 4/6.
Coverage of the final rounds of the Superbet Chess Classic continues Saturday, June 11, at 6:50 AM CDT with live coverage from GMs Alejandro Ramirez, Yasser Seirawan, and Maurice Ashley on grandchesstour.org.
1-2. Alexander Grischuk (Russia), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan) 4/6; 3. Wesley So (USA) 3½; 4-6. Bogdan-Daniel Deac (Romania), Fabiano Caruana (USA), Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan) 3; 7-9. Anish Giri (Netherlands), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France), Levon Aronian (Armenia) 2½; 10. Constantin Lupulescu (Romania) 2.
Photo: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov can’t believe his eyes as Aronian blunders | © Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov – GM Levon Aronian
Superbet Chess Classic Romania, (6)
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Ragozin variation
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Bb4 Something akin to the Nimzo-Indian, the Ragozin variation – named after the leading Soviet player and opening theorists of his day, Vlacheslav Ragozin (1908-1962) – is a very flexible, solid and a reliable system against the QGD, that found a new lease of life following the publication a decade ago of a refreshing new book on it from IM Vladimir Barsky, The Ragozin Complex (New in Chess, 2011). 5.Qa4+ Nc6 6.e3 0-0 7.Bd2 dxc4 8.Bxc4 Bd6 9.Qc2 e5 10.dxe5 Nxe5 11.Nxe5 Bxe5 12.f4 Bxc3 13.Bxc3 Ng4 14.Bd4 c5 15.Bxc5 Re8 Looks can often be deceptive in chess. White looks to have a big advantage with the extra pawn and the bishop-pair – but the uncastled king should offer Black enough for near equality. 16.0-0 Nxe3 I wonder if Aronian simply got his theory confused? The reason I say this is I’ve seen at least one Nimzo-Ragovin online course where recommended here is 16…b6 before chopping on e3 – which at the very least solves the problem of the b7 pawn! 17.Bxe3 Rxe3 18.Rfe1 Rxe1+ 19.Rxe1 Being behind in development is Aronian’s only problem here – and unfortunately, he doesn’t follow-up with the right dynamic move that would have kept the game in the balance. 19…Bd7? A blunder from Aronian that Mamedyarov couldn’t believe his eyes – even to the comical extent on the live board webcam of vigorously rubbing his face with both hands in utter disbelief. The only way to survive was with 19…b5! 20.Qe4 and only now 20…Bd7 the tactical point being that 21.Bxf7+ Kxf7 22.Qd5+ Kf8 23.Qd6+ Kg8 24.Rd1 Rc8! 25.Qxd7 Qxd7 26.Rxd7 Rc1+ and the game will just fizzle out after 27.Kf2 Rc2+ 28.Kf3 a5 29.b4! axb4 30.Rb7 Rxa2 31.Rxb5 Rb2 32.Rb7 to a technically drawn R+P ending. 20.Qb3! And of course, this is the reason for Mamedyarov’s reaction: with one very simple queen move, he hits two key pawns, and one has to fall – but which do you let go? 20…Qf6? Wrong answer! Better was letting the f7 pawn fall with 20…Bc6! 21.Bxf7+ Kh8 22.Qe3 Qd7 where at least Black’s bishop is more actively placed on c6, and …a6 (or even …a5) followed by …Rd8 is coming to dominate the d-file, so it’s not easy to convert for the full point – certainly a lot of work will need to be done. And note that if 23.Qe7? Qd4+ 24.Qe3 Qxb2 Black has the upperhand now. 21.Qxb7 Qd4+ 22.Kh1 Re8? 23.Rxe8+ Bxe8 24.Bxf7+! [see diagram] It suspiciously looks as if opting for 20…Qf6, that Aronian has overlooked this further tactical shot from Mamedyarov; and a shot that give the Azeri a big winning advantage now. 24…Kf8 The (full!) point being the tactic is that 24…Bxf7 25.Qc8+ quickly mates. Not only that, but there’s an easy defence to Black’s back-rank mate and capturing on b2. 25.Bb3! Defending the vital d1 square for the back-rank mate – and note that now if 25…Qxb2?? it’s 26.Qb4 mate! 25…Qc5 26.Qd5 Qc1+ 27.Bd1 Qxf4 Forced, as 27…Qxb2 28.Qd6+ Kf7 29.Bb3+ and Black can resign. 28.Qc5+ Kg8 29.Qxa7 What’s not to like here for Big Shak? He’a a clear two pawns up in the ending, and those passed queenside pawns will ultimately prove decisive, and his queen can track all the way back to g1 to defend against the back-rank mate. 29…h5 30.h3 Creating a little breathing space for the king; and with it, the end is nigh, as those placard waving newspaper cartoon street doomsday soothsayers would have it. 30…Bc6 31.Bb3+ Kh7 32.Qf7 Qc1+ 33.Kh2 Qc5 34.Qg8+ The engine will tell you that the clinical kill was 34.Qc7! not only stopping any ideas of a perpetual with …Qe5+, but now a problematic pin on the c-file that you can’t escape from – that said, Mamedyarov simply went for the most pragmatic way to win, as he traps Aronian’s king in a potential mating net that forces a trade of queens and an easy endgame win. 34…Kh6 35.Qe6+ g6 36.Qf6 Bd7 37.h4! Aronian’s king is well and truly snared now – and the only way to avoid the mate is to trade queens! 37…Qc7+ 38.g3 Qc8 39.Qf4+ Kh7 40.Qf7+ 1-0 Aronian resigns, as he’s either losing a third pawn or 40…Kh6 41.Qg8 and the choice between the queens being traded or a mate on h8.