Round 6: Naiditsch wins a stunning game
“The guy’s on fire – he’s been like this for weeks!” That was World Champion Viswanathan Anand on Arkadij Naiditsch, who today overwhelmed Daniel Fridman with a brilliant sacrificial attack to move into second place at the GRENKE Chess Classic. Elsewhere Georg Meier missed a nice win against Fabiano Caruana, while Vishy and Mickey Adams drew a well-played game.
The other games in Round 6 were totally overshadowed by the goings on in Fridman – Naiditsch. When IM Lawrence Trent welcomed Adams and Anand into the live broadcast room with, “we were getting distracted,” Anand immediately flashed back, “so were we!” The players then spent the next ten minutes analysing that game before getting to their own, although their game was actually only dull in comparative terms.
Anand managed to surprise his English opponent with the early 9.Nc3 in a Ruy Lopez, but Adams held his own in the strategic wrestling that ensued. Black’s knight on b7 looked awkward, but Anand noted, “Black can live with that weakness until the queenside is opened up”. He thought the bishop on e7 was holding Black’s position together and decided to swap it off with 17.Bg5, and after 17…Rae8 18.a4! it seemed Anand was applying pressure. He identified the moment he went wrong as coming after 21…axb5. He played 22.Qd2?! and commented:
“Usually when you make sophisticated moves like this it means you’ve lost track somewhere” (the blunt 22.Rc1 may be better). After that Adams equalised with energetic play in the centre, where he pushed his e-pawn and found the nice geometric 29…Rxe3!
Anand had seen a clear way to stifle any black initiative, however, with the precise 30…Qb6. The players showed some nice lines they’d been considering in the latter stages (e.g. 35. Rc1 Rc8 36. Nd4 Nd6 37. Nc6 and Black has the only move 37…Ra8! to equalise, as 38. Rxc5 Ra1+! 39. Kf2 Ne4+ loses a rook). Essentially, though, they had other things on their minds. Adams: “39.Rc5 immediately was no good because we have to wait to move 40 to offer a draw!”.
We can’t put off the Fridman – Naiditsch game any longer! After his fifth draw in a row in Round 5 Fridman had joked that he was now “the only solid player left in the tournament”, while Naiditsch’s results in Baden-Baden could be mistaken for binary notation. Something had to give, and it was Naiditsch who continued his streak of decisive games with a mind-blowing effort. His intentions were clear from the moment he played the King’s Indian Defence.
Perhaps 13…Kh8!? was a novelty (Naiditsch and his friend Etienne Bacrot just burst into laughter when asked about theory after the game), but Pandora’s Box was only opened when Fridman played 21.Bd3!? (he was considering 21.Qd3 and later deeply regretted not playing it). Naiditsch unleashed 21…Ndf3+!! It took even Houdini a while to realise that this brilliant knight sacrifice is absolutely sound.
There followed 22.gxf3 Qd7 23.Be2 Rf6 and Naiditsch thought he was winning almost immediately as he’d missed the move his opponent found here: 24.Nd5! Fridman explained his problem was that this move took him too much time. He’d thought he could defend with 24.Ne3 Qh3 25.Ng4 Bxg4 26.fxg4, which even wins against every move other than the problem he discovered: 26…Raf8! (with …Rfh6 to follow).
For a computer White’s position still holds, but it’s hard for a human to avoid all the beautiful mates – for instance, after 24…Rh6 25.f4 Nh3+ 26.Kg2 Lawrence Trent in the commentary box showed the fantastic line: 26…Nxf4+ 27.Kf3 Rh2!! (Fridman: “If you find Rh2 you get disqualified immediately”) 28.Bxh2 (objectively the king should flee to the queenside, but few would bet on it surviving…) 28…Qh3+ 29.Bg3 Ng2!! and mate can’t be stopped. In the game Naiditsch played the equally good 26…exf4.
Fridman understandably retreated the bishop with 27.Bh2. Although Houdini claims 27.Nd4! should hold the super-GM commentators couldn’t work out why and as Fridman explained: “It’s not a blunder. There are too many moves and I only had 4 minutes”. Naiditsch played a very strong sequence of moves: 27…f3! 28.Bxf3 Ng5 29.Nf4 Rxh2+! 30.Kxh2 Be5 (here and on the next move the computer recommends …Qf7!, as after the moves in the game White is still hanging on) 31.Kg2 Bxf4 32.Rh1 Qg7 33.Kf1 Be6 34.Nd4 Bc4+ 35.Be2 Nxe4! 36. Bxc4 This was ultimately the losing move.
After the game Fridman suggested 36.Nf3, although here that solidifying try fails to 36…Nxf2!, but he could have prepared it first with 36.Rg1! and Black may end up only slightly better. Still, that would have deprived us of perhaps the moment of the game after 36…Nd2+ 37. Ke2:
Black should be doing well after simply taking the bishop with 37…Nxc4, but he needs to avoid the cunning trap Fridman had seen during the game: 37…Qxd4?! 38.Rxh7!! Kxh7 39.Qh1+ when the black king is suddenly also in danger. The computer, however, was showing the remarkable 37…d5!! as by far the best move.
It turns out that diabolical jab renders White totally helpless – there’s no way to save material and 38.Bxd5 is mate after 38…Re8+ 39. Kd3 Qg6+. Still, the consensus in the press room, which included some very strong kibitzers, was that it was unlikely the move would be played. After Naiditsch made it World Champion Vishy Anand simply uttered, “very impressive”.
Fridman found the best move in response, but the forced sequence that followed led to an ending that White had no chances of saving. Resignation came on move 45, but it was noticeable that Fridman was far from downhearted after the game – in chess you still need two players to compose a masterpiece.
For the sixth day in a row one game – no more and no less – finished decisively at the GRENKE Chess Classic, but that’s something of a statistical anomaly. Georg Meier was one move away from pulling off a sensation in his game against the tournament leader Fabiano Caruana. It wouldn’t have been against the run of play, as the Italian was unhappy with how he played the opening. He said his plan with 13…g5 and 14…g4, “was probably a bit ambitious – the pawn on g4 just turned out to be a little weak”, and added, “the position looks normal but I just didn’t see any plan”. He explained the concrete problems for Black with an “attacking” line where he wins the h2-pawn but is going to get crushed in the centre after 15…Qa5?! 16. Bd2 dxc4 17. bxc4 Qh5 18. c5 Qxh2+ 19. Kf1.
In the play that followed Black was always living on the edge (Caruana regretted not including a well-timed …a6) but ultimately the Italian solved his problems… with a blunder! 29…Bxd4?
The win is surprising and pretty, but also forced and relatively simple: 30. Qf4!! Qc8 (30…Qxf4 loses a piece) 31. Bxf5 Bxb2 32.Rxd7 Rxd7 33.Rxd7 Qxd7 and after everything has been traded off there’s the final blow 34. Qb8+, and mate.
The players explained afterwards that they’d missed that line because they were both calculating another much more complicated forced line: 30.Bxf5 Bxb2 31.b6 axb6 32.cxb6 Qc8 33.Bxe6 Rxd3 34.Bxc8 Rxd1+ 35.Kg2 R1d4 36.Qe2 Rxc8 37.Qxb2 Rxa4 and the position’s equal. In the game everything was exchanged on d4, but even the nice finesse 33.Bh7+! couldn’t bring Meier anything more than a drawn queen ending.
That draw means that Fabiano Caruana continues to lead on 4/6, while Arkadij Naiditsch joins Viswanathan Anand in second place on 3.5. The full standings are:
1. Caruana: 4/6
2-3. Anand, Naiditsch: 3.5
4-5. Adams, Fridman: 2.5
6. Meier: 2
In the same venue as the GRENKE Chess Classic a strong 9-round open tournament is also being played. With two rounds to go we finally have a sole leader – Argentina’s Ruben Felgaer, who today defeated Tornike Sanikidze. He face a tough challenge in Round 8 as he’s drawn against top seed Etienne Bacrot, who’s currently clear second only half a point behind. You can find all the tournament results at Chess-Results (http://www.chess-results.com/tnr87512.aspx) and also play through a selection of games at the GRENKE Chess Classic website (http://grenkechessclassic.de/en/grenke-chess-classic/games– take a look at some of Felgaer’s final moves!).
The pairings for Thursday’s Round 7 could prove crucial for the final tournament standings:
Meier – Fridman
Caruana – Anand
Adams – Naiditsch
Follow the live coverage on the GRENKE Chess Classic website from 15:00 CET:
Report: Colin McGourty
Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar