Old kings have lost their fighting spirit

Alexander Khalifman is the king of all (old) kings. The Russian GM and former world champion took clear first place in Bazna (Romania), where the "Kings tournament" ended today. Khalifman scored 7 points out of 10 by beating Rafael Vaganian in the last and decisive game: they were tied going into the final round. The Armenian GM was placed second on 6, Slovenian GM Alexander Beliavsky follows on 5.5. Unfortunately it was not a really exciting event: 43 games out of 55 ended in draws, 21 of them in 22 moves or less. Hungarian GM Zoltan Ribli (average moves per game: 23) and Swedish GM Ulf Andersson (a.m.p.g.: 21) both drew all their "battles". Beliavsky won only one game (against the winner) and share all other points, but he was much more fighting, with an average of 43 moves per game. This was a category 13 tournament. Official site: http://www.clubulregilor.ro/.
Vassily Ivanchuk beat Sergei Rublevsky in round 8 of the Aerosvit supertournament and joined compatriot Sergey Karjakin on 5.5/8, a point clear of Spanish GM Alexei Shirov. Five players follow on 4: Onischuk, Van Wely (who won against Indian GM Krishnan Sasikiran), Dominguez, Svidler and Jakovenko. Official site: http://www.ukrchess.org.ua/aerosvit2007/index_e.htm.
Gianpietro Pagnoncelli, president of FSI (Italian Chess Federation), was awarded with the "Silver Star for sports merits" by Coni (Italian National Olympic Committee). Pagnoncelli was born on February, 1950, near Bergamo (my hometown :-) ). He is a Fide International arbiter since 1998 and he is a great tournaments organizer, too (the Presolana Chess Festival is his best known creature). I know him since I was 15 or 16 (I will be 32 on June 28 :-) ) and I've sometimes played against his son Marco, a master class player. Congratulations, Gianpietro!
And now here is our game of the day, the decisive battle of the Kings tournament...

Khalifman,A (2624) - Vaganian,R (2590) [C09], Bazna 26.6.2007
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5
3...Nf6 is a totally different continuation.
4.Ngf3 Nc6
4...cxd4 5.exd5 Qxd5 is more popular, but this "old" line is perfectly playable. The main continuation is 6.Bc4 Qd6 7.0–0 Nf6 8.Nb3 Nc6 9.Nbxd4 Nxd4 10.Nxd4 a6 etc.
5.exd5 exd5 6.Bb5 Bd6 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.0–0 Nge7 9.Nb3 Bd6
9...Bb6 is an interesting alternative.
10.Re1 0–0 11.Bd3
11.Bg5 Bg4 leads to an approximately equal middlegame.
11...h6 12.h3 Nf5 13.c3 Qf6
13...Bc7 has also been played.
14.Bc2 Rd8 15.Qd3 g6 16.Nh2
Probably a new move. 16.Qd2 Bf8 17.Nh2 Qg7 and 16.Bd2 a5 17.a4 b6 are more common continuations.
16...h5 (to prevent Ng4) 17.Nf3 Nh4 18.Nbd4 was slightly better for White.
17.Kxh2 Nh4?
Such a blunder is rare for an experienced (and French expert) player like Vaganian...
18.Bxh6 Ne5??
When he played 17...Nh4, Vaganian probably intended to reply with 18...Qxf2 to 18.Bxh6, but he must have seen that White gets a huge advantage after this move, e.g.: 19.Re2 Qf6 20.Qd2 Nf5 21.Bg5 Qd6+ 22.Bf4 Qf8 23.Rae1 and Black is almost paralyzed. But the text move is even worse and loses immediately.
19.Qg3 Nef3+
19...Ng4+ 20.hxg4 g5 21.Bxg5 Qxg5 22.Re5 Qf6 23.Rae1 was not better.
20.gxf3 Nxf3+ 21.Kg2 1–0
After 21.Kg2 Nxe1+ 22.Rxe1 Bd7 (22...Qd6 23.Re8+; 22...Qb6 23.Qe5) 23.Bg5 Qh8 24.Bxd8 Rxd8 25.h4 White is simply a piece up, so Black resigned. Thanks to this miniature Khalifman took clear first place in the tournament.

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