GM Evgeny Miroshnichenko comments on the games of the 2nd round

Detailed analysis of the FIDE Candidates tournament second round games by GM Evgeny Miroshnichenko.

Levon Aronian – Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
Queen’s Gambit D38

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Bg5 Nbd7 6.cxd5 exd5 7.Nd2.


This move is not the most principled one, but definitely contains some poison.

7…c6 8.e3 Nf8. Black tries to be smart – transfer the knight to g6 before castling, thus saving a tempo on Rе8. Much more popular is 8…0–0, and after 9.Bd3 Re8 10.0–0 (10.Qc2 Nf8 11.0–0–0 is interesting) 10…Nf8 11.a3 Bd6 White’s extra tempo hardly matters – Black has a decent game.

9.Bd3 Ng6 10.0–0 0–0 11.f4. According to my database, this standard move was not tested in this position before.

11…h6 12.Bxf6 Qxf6 13.f5.


13…Ne7?? Clearly this knight maneuver is a favorite for “blunder of the tournament” nomination! Shakhriyar said that he spotted White’s next move after touching the knight, but somehow did manage to force himself playing 13…Nh8.

The computer seems nothing fatal in 13…Nh4, too. After 14.Qh5 (on 14.g3 Nxf5 15.Bxf5 Bxf5 16.g4 Qg5 17.Rxf5 Qxe3+ 18.Kg2 Qxd4 White loses the entire center) 14…Bxf5 15.Rxf5 (after 15.Bxf5 g6 16.Bxg6 fxg6 17.Rxf6 gxh5 18.Rxh6 Nf5 White’s advantage is far from obvious, too) 15…Nxf5 16.Qxf5 Qxf5 17.Bxf5 White’s chances are higher, but Black is alive and kicking.

13…Nh8 looks hopeless indeed – it feels the knight will stay there forever. White continues 14.Qc2, and on 14…Qd6 plays the piercing 15.f6! with a huge advantage.

Deserves attention – before touching the knight, of course – 13…Qg5! (I am sure Shakhriyar could easily find this move), and after 14.Qe2 Nh4 there is everything to play for. According to the computer, White is not better here.

14.Nde4! One could pick either knight.

14…dxe4 15.Nxe4 Qh4 16.g3 Qh3 17.Nf2.


The mission is complete!

 17…Qxf1+ 18.Kxf1 Nxf5 19.Qf3 Nd6. There is no doubt about the assessment of the situation, but Black maintains certain practical chances, especially if he manages to consolidate his pieces.

20.e4 f6 21.Bc2 Be6 22.Nd3 Nc4 23.Kg1 Bd6 24.Nf4 Bxf4 25.gxf4 Rad8. On blockade-setting 25…f5 White responds with 26.d5 cxd5 (26…fxe4 loses immediately to 27.Qxe4 Bxd5 28.Qh7+ Kf7 29.Re1) 27.exd5 Bd7 28.d6, and Black is hopeless.

26.f5 Bf7 27.Qc3 Rfe8 28.Bd3 Nb6 29.a4 a6 30.a5 Nc8 31.e5! White keeps gaining space. The end is near.

31…Ne7 32.e6 Bh5 33.Be4 Nd5 34.Qh3 Be2 35.Kf2 Bb5 36.Rg1 Kh7.


37.Qa3. At the press-conference Levon said that he just wanted to reach the time control and then look for a winning plan. The text-move does not spoil anything, but White had a rather brutal way of crushing the opponent’s defense: 37.Rxg7+ Kxg7 38.Qh5! with a straightforward idea to trade on d5, pick up Black’s f- and h-pawns with checks and carry out f5-f6.

 37…Bc4 38.Rg4 Bb5 39.Rg1 Bc4 40.Rc1. The idea behind White’s last moves is the same – making it to the time control. Taking on g7 was still possible.

40…Bb5 41.Bf3 Nf4 42.Rd1 Kh8 43.d5! Nxd5 (43…cxd5 44.Rd4! Nh3+ 45.Ke3 followed by Bh5 and e7) 44.Bh5. Black resigns.


Veselin Topalov – Vishy Anand
English Opening А11

1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 c6 3.e3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Nbd7.


A surprise on the move 4! Not a novelty, of course, but the main lines are e6 and g6, which lead to Meran-like and Schlechter-like positions. After some thought Topalov decides to allow Black carrying out е7-е5 at once.

5.Qc2. White could return to the Meran by 5.d4 e6, but that would be a small psychological victory for Black, as White’s tricky move order would turn rather pointless.

5…e5 6.cxd5 Nxd5. Of course not 6…cxd5? 7.Nb5 Bc5 8.b4 Bb6 9.Nd6+ Ke7 10.Ng5!+-.

7.d4. White’s ambitions are limited after the sleeky 7.Be2 – Black is fine after 7…Bd6 8.0–0 0–0 9.b3 N7f6 10.Bb2 Bg4 11.h3 Bh5 12.Rad1 Qe7, Fressinet-Kasimdzhanov, Nancy 2011.

7…Bd6. This natural move is a novelty, and the computer does not approve it at first. Black has to be prepared to sacrifice a pawn, and it seems Vishy was ready for it. Earlier Black played 7…Nxc3 8.bxc3 Bd6 9.Bd3 h6 10.0–0 0–0 11.Bh7+ Kh8 12.Bf5 Qe7 13.Rb1 Nb6 14.Bxc8 Raxc8 15.c4, draw, Tal-Bagirov, Jurmala 1987.

8.dxe5 Nxe5 9.Nxe5 Bxe5 10.Qe4.


10…Qe7! The only defense, but it is sufficient. At the press-conference both grandmasters showed the refutation of 10…f6 – 11.f4 Nxc3 12.bxc3 Bf5 13.Qxf5 Bxc3+ 14.Kf2 Bxa1 15.Ba3!, and White wins.

11.Nxd5 cxd5 12.Bb5+ Kf8 13.Qxd5 g6. White is a pawn up, Black’s king cannot castle, but it is White who must play with care – the bishop on e5 is just too strong.

14.Bd2. White decides to simplify the game, which is probably correct. The following variation, given by Veselin at the press-conference, supports this conclusion: 14.e4 Kg7 15.f4? Bf6 (Anand mentioned that Black has sufficient counterplay after 15…Bc7, too) 16.e5 Bh4+ 17.g3 Qb4+ 18.Kf2 Be6, and Black seizes the initiative. The machine agrees with that – after 19.Qd3 Bd8 20.Be3 Bb6 21.Bxb6 axb6 Black puts his rooks to c- and d-file, and White faces difficulties.



15.Qxe5+! Trading just bishops is not enough: after 15.Bc3 Bxc3+ 16.bxc3 Rd8! White suddenly fails to castle – 17.Qb3 (17.Qf3? Qe5!, attacking on b5 and с3) 17…Qg5!, and has to retreat – 18.Bf1 (18.g3 is bad due to 18…Bh3), which does not strike as fighting for an advantage.

15…Qxe5 16.Bc3 Qxc3+ 17.bxc3 Be6. White’s extra pawn is negated by his queenside weaknesses. In addition, most endgames with 4 pawns against 3 on the same flank are drawn, and this fact was utilized by Anand in the game.

18.Ke2 Rac8 19.Rhc1 Rc5 20.a4 Rhc8 21.Ra3 a6. Anand decides to annihilate the queenside, which is enough for a draw, although Black has to suffer a bit more. The computer recommends 21…Rh5, however, after 22.h3 Rg5 23.g4 h5 24.f4 Rgc5 25.Kf3 Black has to return to the plan above.

22.Bd3 b5 23.axb5 axb5 24.Rb1 Rxc3 25.Rxc3 Rxc3 26.Rxb5 Bc4 27.Bxc4 Rxc4.


After forced simplifications the players arrived at the iconic endgame with 4 pawns against 3. A book draw, which, however, occasionally caused trouble even for top players. Frankly speaking, in this version of the endgame Black is completely out of danger, as White cannot even play the desired g2-g4.

28.Kf3 h5 29.h3 Rc2 30.Rb1 Kf6 31.Re1 g5 32.Ra1 Kg6 33.Ra6+ f6 34.Ra4 h4 35.g3 hxg3 36.Kxg3 Rb2 37.e4 Rb1 38.f3 Rg1+ 39.Kf2 Rh1 40.Kg2 Rb1 41.Ra6 Kf7 42.Ra5 Kg6 43.Ra6 Kf7 44.Ra2 Ke6 45.Kg3 Rg1+ 46.Rg2.


Black can just retreat with the rook, but Anand takes his time and finds a concrete way to force a draw.

46…Rxg2+! 47.Kxg2 Ke5 48.Kf2 Kf4 49.Kg2 Ke5 50.Kg3 f5! This is a position of mutual zugzwang: Black loses with his move and draws if it’s White to move.

51.exf5 Kxf5 52.h4 gxh4+ 53.Kxh4 Kf4 54.Kh3 Kxf3. Draw.


Peter Svidler – Dmitry Andreikin
Sicilian Defense B32

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5 5.Nb5 d6. At the press-conference after the game Svidler confessed that he was struck by surprise by his opponent’s opening choice, so he wisely decided to avoid the most principled 6.N1с3.

6.c4. This is also one of the main lines, however, according to Svidler, it hardly gives White any advantage.

6…Be7 7.N1c3 a6 8.Na3 Be6 9.Be2 Bg5.


10.Nc2. 10.0–0 is more popular, but Black can still go for 10…Bxc1 11.Rxc1 Qg5 12.Nd5 (12.Qxd6? Bh3 13.Bf3 Rd8 followed by …Nd4 is bad for White) 12…Rc8, and here the most energetic 13.c5 dxc5 14.f4!? (14.Nc4 Rd8 15.Nc7+ Ke7 16.Nxe6 fxe6 is not very promising) is calmly met by 14…Qd8 15.Nc4 b5 16.Nxe5 Nxe5 17.fxe5 Ne7 18.Nf4 Ng6 19.Qxd8+ Kxd8 20.Nxe6+ fxe6, and Black should be able to hold.

10…Bxc1 11.Rxc1 Qg5. The active queen hampers White’s typical development with Qd2.

12.0–0 Rd8 13.b4 Nf6 14.Qd3 0–0 15.Rfd1 Rc8?! Interesting is 15…Nh5!? 16.Bxh5 Qxh5 17.b5 axb5 18.cxb5 Ne7 with counterplay.

16.Nd5. Now Black faces a tough choice.


16…b5?! Perhaps this move is not as bad as its consequences – in the resulting sharp and dynamic struggle Svidler outplayed his opponent.

16…Bxd5 looks like a decent alternative, and the reply is forced – 17.exd5 (17.cxd5 is good structurally, but is refuted by 17…Nxb4–+) 17…Ne7 (17…e4 18.Qg3 Qxg3 19.hxg3 seems to favor White, who puts a knight on e3 and begins to prepare his queenside assault) 18.Ne3, and Black cannot prevent с4-с5, for example, 18…b6 19.c5! bxc5 20.bxc5 dxc5 21.d6 Rfd8 22.g3 with a big advantage.

17.Qg3!? Qxg3. Looks like Black can hold after 17…Nxe4 18.Qxg5 Nxg5 19.Nb6 Rb8 20.Rxd6 Rxb6 21.c5 Ne4 22.Rxe6 fxe6 23.cxb6 Nd6 – this line was demonstrated by Svidler after the game. Yet it is difficult to believe that the text-move is so wrong.

18.Nxf6+ gxf6 19.hxg3 bxc4?! This runs into a strong reply. Black’s position is unenviable after 19…Bxc4 20.Bxc4 bxc4 21.Rxd6 Rfd8 22.Rxd8+ Rxd8 23.Ne3 Nxb4 24.Rxc4 Nxa2 25.Nd5 as well.


20.f4! The only way to make progress. 20.Rxd6 Rfd8 21.Rxd8+ Rxd8 gives Black sufficient counterplay.

20…f5. Dmitry Andreikin confessed that he was quite optimistic about his position at this moment, however, neither during the post mortem nor at the press-conference was he able to cure Black’s problems.

20…Ne7 is unlikely the answer – 21.Rxd6 Rfd8 22.Rcd1 Rxd6 23.Rxd6 f5 24.g4!, and White’s advantage is decisive. Totally depressing is 20…Rcd8 21.f5 Bc8 22.Bxc4 Bb7 23.Bd5, although the resourceful machine defends here tenaciously.

An attempt to get some activity by 20…Na7 deserves attention. After 21.Rxd6 (maybe 21.f5 Bd7 22.Ne3 is more ruthless) 21…Nb5 22.Rxa6 Ra8 23.Rxa8 Rxa8 24.Ne3 Rxa2 25.Bxc4 Bxc4 26.Nxc4 Black at least creates serious technical difficulties.

21.exf5. A logical continuation of White’s play aimed at creating and utilizing weaknesses around Black’s camp. Andreikin considered 21.g4?, to which he planned building a powerful pawn phalanx in the center – 21…fxe4 22.f5 d5 23.fxe6 fxe6, and Black is better.

21…Bxf5 22.Ne3.


22…Bd3? A decisive mistake. After 22…Be4 23.Nxc4 Nxb4 24.Nxd6 Rxc1 25.Rxc1 Nxa2! 26.Rc5! White retains an advantage, but the struggle goes on.

The way to victory after 22…Nd4!? is not obvious: 23.Rxd4! exd4 24.Nxf5 d3 25.Ne7+ Kg7 26.Nxc8 Rxc8 27.Bg4 d2 28.Rc2 c3 29.Kf2, and the king arrives to e3, effectively ending the game.

23.Bxd3 cxd3 24.Nf5 e4 25.Nxd6 e3. Someone at the press-center mentioned the famous McDonnel-Labourdonnais game, however, Black has three connected passed pawns then!

26.Nxc8 d2 27.Rxc6 e2 28.Rcc1. The intermediate 28.Ne7+ is stronger – after 28…Kh8 29.Rcc1 dxc1Q 30.Rxc1 Re8 31.Kf2 Rxe7 32.Re1 the resulting rook ending is even easier than in the game.


28…exd1R+ 29.Rxd1 Rxc8 30.Rxd2 Rc3 31.Rd5! Black resigns.


Vladimir Kramnik – Sergey Karjakin
Queen’s Gambit Accepted D20

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4 Nf6 4.e5 Nd5 5.Bxc4 Nb6 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.Be3 Nb4 8.Be4 f5 9.a3!?


Earlier this move (by the way, highly approved by the computer) occurred just once and in a game between lesser known players, so one can consider it a novelty. Previously White preferred 9.exf6 exf6 10.Nc3, but Black once again goes 10…f5! and entrenches on d5 with a solid position. 11.Bb1 N4d5 12.Nf3 Nxe3 13.fxe3 Bd6 14.0–0 0–0 15.e4 c6 16.exf5 Bxf5 17.Bxf5 Rxf5 18.Qb3+ Kh8 19.Rae1 Qd7 20.Ne4 Raf8 21.Nxd6 Qxd6 22.Re6 Qd7 23.Rfe1 Nd5 24.R6e5 Rxe5 25.dxe5 Qg4 26.Kh1 Nf4 27.Qc2 h5 28.Ng1 Ne6 29.Nf3 Nf4 30.Ng1 Re8 31.Qe4 Rxe5, Black wins, Ding Liren-Karjakin, Beijing 2012.

9…fxe4. The most principled reply. If 9…N4d5, White may go for 10.Bf3 (the aforementioned game continued 10.Bd3 Nxe3 11.fxe3 e6 12.Nf3 g5 13.Nc3 g4 14.Nd2 c5 with very sharp action, 15.Nc4 cxd4 16.Nxb6 Qxb6 17.Bb5+ Kf7 18.exd4 Bh6 19.Qd3 a6 20.Bc4 Qxb2 21.0–0 Kg7 22.Ra2 Qb6 23.Kh1 Rd8 24.d5 Qe3 25.Qxe3 Bxe3 26.dxe6 Bd4 27.e7 Re8 28.Nd5 Be6 29.Rd2 Bxe5 30.Re2, draw, Janczarski-Michal Bartel, Warsaw 2013) 10…Be6 (after 10…Nxe3 11.fxe3 e6 12.Ne2 Be7 13.0–0 0–0 14.Nbc3 White maintains pressure) 11.Ne2 g6 12.Nbc3 Nxe3 13.fxe3 c6 14.Nf4 Qd7 15.a4!? a5 16.Nxe6 Qxe6 17.Ra3 with a very unclear game.

10.axb4 e6 11.Nc3.


11…Bxb4?! It’s hard to blame such a natural recapture, but after this move the computer gives White a big edge. Black should insert 11…Nd5 12.b5 (otherwise Black takes on b4 on the next move) 12…Bb4!, and White has no time to write a check from h5, as his c3 is weak. Black has nothing to worry about after 13.Nge2 Bd7 14.0–0 Bxc3 15.Nxc3 Nxc3 16.bxc3 Bxb5.

12.Qh5+ g6 13.Qg4. 13.Qh6!? offers too little – after 13…Bf8 14.Qf4 Nd5 15.Qxe4 Nxc3 16.bxc3 Qd5 17.Qg4 Black transfers the queen closer to its White counterpart – 17…Qc4 18.Ne2 Qd3 and …Qf5.

13…Bxc3+. An optimistic attempt to seize light squares while completely conceding dark squares should be criticized. 13…Nc4 is a decent alternative – 14.Nge2 Nxe3 15.fxe3 0–0, although White is still better after 16.Nf4 Rf5 17.0–0.

14.bxc3 Qd5 15.Ne2 Bd7 16.0–0 Qc4 17.Ng3 Bc6.


18.Ra5!? A strong practical solution! White plans sacrificing an exchange. In the case of 18.Nxe4 Bxe4 19.Qxe4 Nd5 Black may stand even better, at least in a human game.

Also deserved attention 18.Qh4!?, preventing long castling, which can be met with an exchange sacrifice: 18…0–0!? 19.Bh6 Na4 20.Bxf8 Rxf8 21.Nxe4 Bxe4 22.Qxe4 b5 with mutual chances.

18…0–0–0 19.Rc5 Qb3 20.c4. One could play 20.Rxc6 bxc6 21.Nxe4 immediately, for example, 21…Kb8 22.Nc5 Qc4 23.Qf3 Qd5 24.Qe2 Qc4 25.Qb2, and White slowly, but surely gets to the enemy king.

20…Kb8 21.Qxe6 Rde8 22.Qh3 Nxc4 23.Rxc6.


23…bxc6? Black misses a sudden tactical chance: 23…Nxe3! 24.Nxe4 Qd5! (Kramnik said he only considered 24…Qb5 25.Rfc1 bxc6 26.Qxe3, transposing to the game) 25.Rc5 Qxe4 26.fxe3 Rhf8, and White is only slightly better.

24.Nxe4 Nb6 25.Nc5 Qd5 26.Rc1. Black’s position is objectively very difficult, and defending it against Kramnik in a serious time trouble is just hopeless.

26…Ka8 27.Na6 Kb7 28.Nb4 Qf7 29.Qg4?! A slight inaccuracy, which doesn’t change the big picture. 29.Bh6! wins at once, threatening to transfer the queen on the 3rd rank. Black is forced to play 29…a5 30.Nxc6 Ra8, and White wins by 31.Qc3! with the idea Nа5.

29…Nd5 30.Nxc6 Re6 31.Na5+ Ka8 32.Qe4 Rb6 33.g4 h5 34.Rc5.


34…Rd8. After the game the players discussed 34…c6, but here White wins by 35.e6!, and Black cannot hold on d5 – 35…Qg7 36.Rxc6 Rb5 37.Rd6 Rxa5 38.Rd7!

35.Nc6 Rxc6 36.Rxc6 hxg4. Here White chooses one of many winning continuations, while Karjakin is almost lost on time.

37.Rf6 Qh7 38.Bg5 Qg8 39.Rxg6. Black resigns.