Vishy: three steps from the world title

When V is for Victory. Vishy (Anand) is three steps (games) from the world chess title after winning against Alexander Morozevich in round 11. He is now on 7.5 and has a 1.5 points lead over Israeli GM Boris Gelfand, who scored only three draws in the last four rounds (with a loss against Grischuk). Vladimir Kramnik, Peter Leko and Levon Aronian follow on 5.5: Vlad won’t (probably) retain his title, but he will play a 12 games match against the new world champion – Vishy :-) - next year (and Topalov is supposed to play against the World Cup winner). The official site of the competition is http://www.chessmexico.com/; you can also find photos (by Cathy Rogers), results and download/reply games on my Italian site, www.messaggeroscacchi.it (link to the WCC page is http://www.messaggeroscacchi.it/mondo/mondiale07.html).
Meanwhile, the Fide Presidential Board, held in Mexico City on September 13 and 14, confirmed Grandmaster, Woman Grandmaster, International Master, Woman International Master, International Arbiter and Fide Arbiter titles achieved last months (full story at http://www.fide.com/news.asp?id=1466). This means that Fabiano Caruana is officially the youngest Italian GM ever: he will have 2594 rating points on October 1, but he has already gained 7 more points in Trieste, so that he could be over 2600 in January 2008.
Some more news about Italian young stars. The 17th European Youth Chess Championship took place in Šibenik, Croatia, 14th-23th September. There were five sections for Boys and five for Girls: U10, U12, U14, U16 and U18. Croatian IM Ivan Saric took the title in the main U18 section with 7 points out of 9; FM Denis Rombaldoni from Pesaro was placed 7th on 6.5, while FM Niccolò Ronchetti from Ravenna scored 5.5 points and achieved his last IM norm. In the U14 Female section, Marina Brunello from Bergamo was placed 11th on 6. Official site: http://www.euroyouth2007.com/.
And now here is the clash of the giants Elista: Kramnik pushed hard to get some advantage against Anand in round 10, but he couldn't get more than a draw, an almost decisive result in Vishy's favour.

Kramnik,Vl. (2769) - Anand,Vi. (2792) [D43], Mexico City 24.9.2007
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 dxc4 7.e4 g5 8.Bg3 b5 9.Be2
In his game against Aronian (round 2) Vishy faced 9.Ne5 h5 10.h4 g4 11.Be2 Bb7 12.0–0 Nbd7 13.Qc2 Nxe5 14.Bxe5 Bg7 etc.
9...Bb7 10.0–0
The other main line is 10.h4
10...Nbd7 11.Ne5 Bg7
11...h5 12.Nxd7 Qxd7 13.Qc1N was played in Kramnik-Gelfand (round 7).
12.Nxd7 Nxd7 13.Bd6 a6
13...Bf8 is the main alternative.
The game Deep Junior-Deep Fritz, Elista 2007, continued 14.a4 e5 15.Bg4 exd4 16.e5 c5 17.Bf3 Nxe5 18.Bxb7 Qxd6 19.Bxa8 0–0 with an unclear position.
And not 14...e5?! 15.f4! , Agrest-Kulaots, Turin 2006.
15.Bxf8 Rxf8 16.e5 Qb6 17.b3!?
A new move, 17.Ne4 has been played so far: 17.Ne4 0–0–0 18.Nd6+ Kb8 19.b3 (19.Nxf7 Rxf7 20.Bxf7 Nxe5= Radjabov-Anand, Mainz m-7 2006) 19...f6 20.bxc4 fxe5 with an unclear position, S.Ernst-Van Wely, Dutch Cht 2006/7.
If 17...c5 then 18.d5!? looks interesting.
18.bxc4 Nxe5 19.c5
The only way to hold the center.
19...Qc7 should be a valid alternative, e.g.: 20.Re1!? Nc4 21.Be2 Na3 22.Ne4 Kb8 23.Nd6 Rxd6 24.cxd6 Qxd6 with a good compensation in return for the exchange.
20.Ne4 Qb4 21.Nd6+ Rxd6 22.cxd6 Nd7
22...Nc4 was also to be considered. Now Black has two pawns and a solid position in return for the exchange.
23.a4 Qxd6 24.Bf3!? Nb6 25.axb5 cxb5 26.Bxb7+
After 26.Rc1+ Nc4 Black has nothing to be afraid of.
26...Kxb7 27.Qh5
A pawn exchange d4 for h6 will open the d-file for the white rooks, but this doesn't mean that Vlad can get any edge. 27.Qf3+!? Nd5 28.g3 was an interesting alternative.
After 27...Qxd4 28.Qxh6 Qd8 Black is solid as well.
28.Qxh6 Nf4!
With the beautiful idea 29.Qxg5?? Ne2+ 30.Kh1 Qxh2+! 31.Kxh2 Rh8+ and then mate.
The most precise defence. If 29.g3?! Ne2+ intending Qd5 and Rd8 (Anand); while 29.Rfe1? Qd5 is winning for Black.
29...Qd5 30.f3 Rd8
Kramnik has achieved nothing so far.
31.Qg7 Rd7
31...Qf5!? intending Qg6 was good as well.
32.Qf8!? Ne2
In the post-game press conference Anand said that 32...Qd6! was even stronger, e.g.: 33.Qg7 Qd5=; 32...Qxd4?! was not good because of 33.Rfc1
After 33.Qa3 Rd6!? (33...Qd6 34.Qe3 Nxd4 35.Qxg5 b4!? with some counterplay) 34.Rad1 Nxd4 35.f4 g4= the position is dinamically equal.
The endgame looks not easy for White because Black has two connected pawns supported by the king.
Neither side can improve the position seriously, but 34.Rad1!? was probably more precise.
The immediate 34...Qd6 was more precise.
White misses his only chance to get some initiative: 35.Qh6! Qd6 36.Qxg5 f6 37.Qd2 and Black has to defend accurately.
35...Qd6 36.Qg8
36.Qc8+ looks better.
Now Anand has an excellent solid position and can start thinking about pushing the a-pawn.
37.Rc8 a5 38.h3
Obviously not 38.Rdc1? Nc6! 39.h3 Ne7 and Black wins; but 38.Qh8 or 38.Ra8 were probably more accurate.
The black king may go forward under the protection of the pawns if needed.
If 39.Rdc1 then 39...Nb3! (Kramnik); 39.Qh8 and 39.Ra8 came (again) into consideration.
39...Kb6 40.Rb8+ Ka5
40...Rb7!?= leads to an equal position according to Anand.
41.Ra8+ ½–½
After 41.Ra8+ Kb4!? (41...Kb6=) 42.Qg8 (42.Rb8!?), intending Qa2, White should save the day. Apparently Anand didn't want to risk in such a good tournament situation, so a draw was agreed.


Mexico, Vishy on top at half way

The world chess championship is half-way and there were many exciting battles in the last three rounds, 5, 6 and 7, with five decisive games, all in White’s favour. Vishy Anand is in sole lead on 5/7, but his closest opponent is not who you would expect to be: GM Boris Gelfand, the oldest player of the event (he is 39 y.o.), won two games in a row (against Aronian and Morozevich) and is now on 4.5, after a fighting draw against world champion Vladimir Kramnik in round 7. The Russian superGM is still unbeaten, but he is only third on 4 (six draws and only onw victory). Alexander Grischuk is half a point behind him, after losing the only decisive game of round 7 against Anand. Peter Leko and Levon Aronian follow on 3, Svidler and Alexander Morozevich are on 2.5. Anything can happen, but it looks like Vishy, Boris and Vlad have better chances to be crowned world champions than all other players.
The official site of the competition is http://www.chessmexico.com/; you can also find photos (by Cathy Rogers), results and download/reply games on my Italian site, www.messaggeroscacchi.it (link to the WCC page is http://www.messaggeroscacchi.it/mondo/mondiale07.html).
And now here is a really spectacular draw from round 6...

Grischuk,Al. (2726) - Svidler,P. (2735) [D43], Mexico City 19.9.2007
1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.c4 c6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4
Svidler also faced 6.Bxf6 against Kramnik in round 1: the game continued 6...Qxf6 7.e3 Nd7 8.Bd3 g6 9.e4 dxc4 10.e5 Qe7 11.Bxc4 Bg7 12.0–0 0–0 13.Re1 Rd8 14.Qe2 b6 15.Rad1 a5 16.Bd3 Bb7 17.Be4 b5 18.h4 Nb6 19.Bb1 c5 20.Nxb5 Ba6 21.h5 g5 22.Nh2 Rxd4 23.Rxd4 1/2–1/2
6...dxc4 7.e4 g5 8.Bg3 b5 9.Be2 Bb7 10.h4 g4 11.Ne5 h5 12.0–0 Nbd7 13.Qc2 Nxe5 14.Bxe5 Bg7 15.Bg3
15.Rad1 was Aronian's choice against Anand in round 2. After 15...0–0 16.Bg3 Nd7 17.f3 c5!? 18.dxc5 Qe7 19.Kh1? a6 Black soon got the initiative.
15...Qxd4 16.Rfd1 Qc5!?
This looks to be a new move, which invites White to play 17.Bd6 with tempo: 16...Qb6 was seen in five earlier games.
Grischuk takes the challenge. After 17.e5 Nd5 18.Ne4 Qb6 (18...Qe7!? 19.Nd6+ Kf8 20.a4 a6 21.Qe4 c3!? is an alternative to be considered) 19.b3 cxb3 (19...c3 20.Nxc3 Qc5 21.Rac1 Nxc3 22.Qxc3 Qxc3 23.Rxc3 gives White good chances to equalize the position.) 20.Nd6+ Ke7 21.axb3 a5 Black is two pawns up with just a little compensation for White.
17...Qb6 18.a4 a6 19.e5 Nd7 20.a5 Qa7 21.Ne4 c5
Black can't obviously take the pawn: 21...Bxe5?? 22.Bxe5 Nxe5 23.Qc3 Ng6 24.Qg7+-; 21...0–0–0 was an interesting alternative, e.g.: 22.Qc3 c5! 23.Ng5 Rhf8 and Black is slightly better.
22.Ng5!? Nxe5?!
This is not a smart choice: White takes a strong initiative in return for the sacrificed material. 22...Rh6 looks more accurate, e.g.: 23.Qd2 (intending 24.Bb8) 23...Bd5 24.Qf4 Nf8 25.Ne4 Bxe4 26.Qxe4 Rc8 with chances for both sides.
23.Bxe5 Bxe5 24.Bxc4!
Brilliant and virtually only move.
This is not forced and the "positional" alternative 24...Bc8 was probably more precise, although after 24...Bc8 25.Bd5! Rb8 (25...exd5 26.Rxd5 Bf6 27.Rxc5 Bd7 28.Rc7 Qd4 29.Rd1+-) 26.Bc6+ Ke7 27.Re1 Bd4 28.Qf5 White gets a strong attack, e.g.: 28...Rf8 29.Rxe6+!? Bxe6 30.Re1 Bxf2+ (30...c4 31.Rxe6+ fxe6 32.Qxe6+ Kd8 33.Qd6+ Kc8 34.Qe6+ Kd8 35.Qd6+=) 31.Qxf2 Rbd8 32.Ne4 f5 33.Nxc5 Rf6 34.b4 Rd6 35.Bb7 f4 36.Bc8 with good compensation.
25.Qa4+ Kf8 26.Rd7 Bd5
26...g3 27.Rxf7+ Kg8 28.fxg3 is even most favourable to White.
Better than immediate Rxa7: Queen won't run away.
27...Bd4 28.Rxa7
The immediate 28.b3 was also playable.
28...Rxa7 29.b3 Kg7
29...cxb3!? is risky, but probably leads to a draw after the spectacular 30.Rxd4 cxd4 31.Qxd4 Rb7! 32.Qxh8+ Ke7 33.Qb2 (33.Qxh5 b2 34.Qxf7+ Kd6 35.Qf8+ Kd7 36.Qf7+ Kc8 37.Qe8+ Kc7 38.Qe7+ Kb8 39.Qf8+ Ka7 40.Qc5+ Ka8 41.Qc8+ Ka7=) 33...f6 34.Nh7 (34.Qa3+ Kd7 35.Qa4+ Rb5 36.Ne4 Bxe4 37.Qxe4 b2 38.Qb1 Kc6=) 34...e5 35.Qa3+ Ke6 36.Nf8+ Kf7 37.Qd6 Be4 38.Qe6+ Kxf8 39.Qxf6+ Kg8 40.Qe6+ Kf8 41.Qf6+ Kg8=
30.bxc4 Ba8 31.Qc2 g3 32.Rxd4?!
32.Qb3 was the best chance to retain some winning chances, e.g.: 32...gxf2+ 33.Kf1 Rd7 34.Qg3 Kf8 35.Rb1 Ke7 36.Nf3 Bxf3 37.Qxf3 intending Rb6 - with some initiative.
32...cxd4 33.Qe2 gxf2+ 34.Qxf2
The game looks about equal now, but both players are in time trouble.
34...Rd8 35.Qg3 Kf8 36.Qe5 Ke8?
The game is immediately drawn after 36...Rad7! 37.Nh7+ Ke7 38.Qc5+ (38.Qf6+ Ke8 39.Qh8+ Ke7 40.Qf6+=) 38...Rd6 39.Qg5+ Kd7 40.Nf6+ Kc8 41.c5 Rc6 42.Ne4 d3 43.Nd6+ Kc7 44.Nxf7 Rd5 45.Qf4+ Kc8 46.Nd6+ Rcxd6 47.cxd6 Kd7 48.Qf7+ Kxd6 49.Qf8+ Kd7 50.Qxa8 d2 51.Qb7+ Ke8 52.Qc8+ Ke7 53.Qc7+=.
Missing the lucky chance in time trouble. White could win by 37.Qh8+ Ke7 38.Qg7.
37...fxe6 38.Qh8+ Ke7 39.Qg7+ Ke8 40.Qh8+ Ke7 41.Qg7+ ½–½
Time control has just passed and Grischuk decides he doesn't want to take any risk by playing 41.Qh7+ Ke8 42.Qxa7 , probably because he calculated that after 42...d3 White is almost forced to give perpetual, e.g.: 43.Qxa6 d2 44.Qxe6+ Kf8 45.Qf5+ Ke7 46.Qg5+ Ke8 47.Qxh5+ Ke7 48.Qd1 Be4! 49.a6 Bc2 50.Qe2+ Kf6 51.Qf2+ Bf5 52.Qb6+ Ke7 53.Qc7+ Rd7 54.Qe5+ Be6 55.Qg5+= A really amazing game!


Anand, Kramnik and missed opportunities

After two more rounds (I wrote my last post after round 2), Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik still share the lead in Mexico City. But they both missed a good opportunity to strengthen their leadership in round 4. Anand won a pawn with Black against Morozevich. His position remained more or less winning for a long time, but he missed several favourable possibilities (the last one at move 56, when he played 56...Re8? instead of the natural 56...Rd2). Even in the moment when he forced a draw by repetition, White was still far from equality, but Vishy was probably a bit tired. Kramnik once again proved his excellent home preparation against Grischuk. Later, he converted his slight advantage into a decisive one, but during his opponent's time trouble transposed to an endgame (by playing 38.Rxa7? instead of 38.Qc2) which offered him only slim chances for success. Grischuk defended accurately and obtained a draw. In the meantime, Morozevich and Aronian has won their first game, against Peter Svidler (round 3) and Peter Leko respectively (round 4), and they now share the third place on 2/4 with Grischuk and Boris Gelfand, while the two Peters follow on 1.5. Anything can still happen.
The official site of the competition is http://www.chessmexico.com/; you can also find photos (by Cathy Rogers), results and download/reply games on my Italian site, www.messaggeroscacchi.it (link to the WCC page is http://www.messaggeroscacchi.it/mondo/mondiale07.html).
And now here is an annotated game from round 2...

Aronian,L (2750) - Anand,V (2792) [D43], Mexico City 14.9.2007
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 c6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4
In case of 6.Bxf6 (as played just one day earlier in Kramnik-Svidler), play takes a positional course.
6...dxc4 7.e4 g5
An extremely sharp line. 7...b5 8.e5 g5 9.Nxg5 hxg5 10.Bxg5 Nbd7 has been tried by all top players in past 10 years, with various success.
8.Bg3 b5 9.Ne5 h5 10.h4 g4
Black is a pawn up, but White has a strong centre and better prospects of transferring his king to a safe location.
11.Be2 Bb7 12.0–0 Nbd7 13.Qc2 Nxe5 14.Bxe5 Bg7 15.Rad1 0–0 16.Bg3 Nd7 17.f3
White finally establishes a centre of pawn tension and aims to open the f-file for his king's rook. But Vishy has an unpleasant surprise...
After his win Anand said: "The game revolved around this move 17...c5. It's a very interesting idea. We found it just here - Nielsen suggested it about three days ago. Sometimes if you can surprise your opponent it is worth almost as much as making a lot of good moves, because he has to deal with a lot of problems over the board". Previously, 17...Qb6 was considered best.
18.d5 can be strongly met by 18...Bd4+ 19.Kh2 (19.Kh1 Be5 20.f4 Bxc3 21.bxc3 exd5 22.exd5 Re8 -/+) 19...Be5 20.f4 Bxc3 21.bxc3 exd5 22.exd5 Qf6 with strong initiative.
Key idea behind c5 novelty. White can not play 19.Nxb5?? because of 19...Qxc5+, so Aronian has to find something to keep pace with his opponent.
Not a brave move indeed. 19.Bd6?! was too risky, e.g.: 19...Qxh4 20.fxg4 Be5! 21.Bxe5 Nxe5 22.gxh5 b4 23.Nb5 Bxe4 24.Qc1 Bxg2 25.Kxg2 Kh7 26.Rf4 Rg8+ 27.Kf1 Qh2 28.Ke1 Rg2 and Black wins; but 19.a4 was an alternative to be considered: after 19...b4 (19...a6!?) 20.Nb5 Qxc5+ 21.Bf2 Qe7 22.Qxc4 gxf3 23.gxf3 the position is unclear, but chances look about equal.
19...a6 20.a4 Bc6
Black has stabilized the position and threatens to win the c5-pawn with ... Nxc5. Since 21.Rd6 can be strongly met by 21...Be5!, White is forced to resort to radical measures.
After the game Aronian was critical of this move, but it doesn't look he has better alternatives.
21...exd5 22.exd5
Normally, this kind of operation would yield White an advantage...
...but White's king is unsafe and Vishy forces his opponent to release the kingside tension and consolidates his advantage.
23.Bxe5? loses because of 23...Qxh4+! 24. Kg1 Nxe5 25.fxg4 Nxg4 26. Bxg4 hxg4 and Black has a winning position. Also 23.Be1? loses because of 23...g3!, so it seems that 23. f4 is forced.
"He played 21.Nd5 fairly quickly", said Anand after the game, "and I think he missed this plan of 22...Be5 and 23...Bg7, or he underestimated it. As you can see, in the whole game I am playing against this bishop on e2 - my pawns on h5 and g4, and b5 and c4 control this bishop. This turned out to be the deciding factor in the game".
24.dxc6 Nxc5
Both White's bishops are very passive.
But this is not the way to play for a counterplay! 25.Qf5!? comes into consideration, e.g.: 25...Nxa4 26.Rfe1 Qc5 27.Rd5 Qxc6 28.Qxh5 Qg6 29.Qxg6 fxg6 30.Bxg4 Nxb2 31.Re7 and Black has winning chances, but White gets some active play at least.
25...Ne4 26.Be1 Qe6
Very powerful choice by Anand.
White has temporarily won a pawn, but his rook is miserably placed. 27.Qd1 Qxc6 28.b3 Rfe8 29.Rxh5 is probably more precise, although Black is better anyway.
27...Qg6 was a good move as well, e.g.: 28.f5 Qxh5 29.Qxe4 Rfe8 30.Qc2 Be5 31.g3 Bc7 32.Bf2 Qh6 33.Bxg4 Qxc6+ 34.Kh2 Rad8 35.axb5 axb5 and Black must win.
28.Kh2 Rac8 29.Bb4 Rfe8 30.axb5
White doesn't have a good defence. After 30.Bd1 Qf7 31.Rg5 Rxc6 32.g3 Rce6 33.axb5 axb5 Black is winning anyway.
30...axb5 31.Re1 Qf7 32.Rg5 Nxg5 33.fxg5 Rxc6 34.Bf1 Rxe1 35.Bxe1 Re6 36.Bc3 Qc7+ 37.g3 Re3
Black's position is now completely winning.
38.Qg2 Bxc3 39.bxc3 f4 40.Qa8+ Kg7 41.Qa6 fxg3+ 0–1


Mexico city: first blood in round 2

Blood and excitement, at last! After four boring (in my opinion) draws in round 1, the World chess championship saw some really amazing games in round 2. Only Gelfand and Grischuk decided to share the point after 23 moves. In the remaining games, Vishy Anand outplayed Levon Aronian with Black pieces after a complicated and thrilling middlegame, where the Armenian #1 made the last mistake; Vladimir Kramnik, White, sacrificed a piece against his compatriot Alexander Morozevich and soon got some initiative, Black didn't find the better defence and made a terrible and decisive blunder in severe time pressure; Svidler pushed for a win after gaining a pawn on move 33, but he soon realised that he had nothing more than a draw, which was agreed ten moves later. I really appreciated the fight spirit of all participants in this round (all but Gelfand and Grischuk: their position was about equal, but still playable) and I hope we will see more interesting battles in round 3, where Anand and Kramnik, who share the lead on 1.5/2, will play each other. The official site of the competition is http://www.chessmexico.com/; you can also fine results and download/reply games on my Italian site, www.messaggeroscacchi.it (link to the WCC page is http://www.messaggeroscacchi.it/mondo/mondiale07.html).
And now here are some annotations to the exciting Kramnik-Morozevich game...

Kramnik,V (2769) - Morozevich,A (2758) [E04], Mexico City 14.9.2007
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.d4
Catalan system, one of Kramnik's favorites.
4...dxc4 5.Bg2 a6 6.Ne5 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Nd5 8.0–0!?
I could be wrong, but this sacrifice looks to be a new idea. 8.Bd2 is the most common reply, while 8.Qc2 has been played a few times.
After 8...Nxc3 9.bxc3 Bxc3 10.Rb1 Qxd4 11.Qxd4 Bxd4 12.Nxc4 White has full compensation for the sacrificed pawns. 8...Bxc3 9.e4! Bxb2 10.Bxb2 Nb6 11.Rc1 is ok for White as well.
9.Qc2 b5 10.Nxd5 exd5 11.b3 c6 12.e4!
After logical and positional moves by both sides, Kramnik decides to sacrifice a piece (home preparation, I guess). 12.bxc4 bxc4 (12...dxc4 13.Rd1 gives White enough compensation) 13.e4 was less risky, e.g.: 13...a5 (13...f6? 14.Nxc4) 14.exd5 cxd5 15.a3 Be7 16.Rb1 Be6 17.Nxc4 Nc6 with an equal game.
12...f6 13.exd5
13.Nf3 dxe4 14.Qxe4 Re8 15.Qc2 Be6 looks good only for Black.
13...fxe5 14.bxc4 exd4 15.dxc6 Be6
Black must be careful. After 15...Ra7 16.Qb3 Bc3 (16...Bc5 17.cxb5+ Kh8 18.b6 Qxb6 19.Qxb6 Bxb6 20.Rb1 Bc7 21.Ba3 Rg8 22.Bc5 Ra8 23.Bxd4 and Black is paralysed) 17.cxb5+ Raf7 (17...Kh8 18.b6 wins) 18.b6 Nxc6 (18...Qf6 19.c7 Be6 20.Qa3! Bxa1 21.Bf4 Bc4 22.Rxa1 Qxb6 23.Rc1 with good winning chances) 19.Bxc6 Bxa1 20.Ba3 Qf6 21.Bd5 Bc3 22.b7 Bxb7 23.Qxb7 and White has some initiative.
White tries to keep the position as much complicated as possible. 16.c7 Qxc7 17.Bxa8 Qxc4 18.Qxc4 Bxc4 19.Bf4 Nd7 is good for Black.
First inaccuracy. 16...Ra7 looks more precise, although after 17.Rb1 d3 (17...Ba5 18.Be4 Kh8 19.Ba3 Re8 20.Bc5 Rc7 21.Qa4 and White is at least slightly better) 18.Qb2 d2 19.Bxd2 Bxd2 (19...Qxd2 20.b6+-) 20.b6 Raf7 21.Rbd1 Nxc6 22.Rxd2 Rd7 23.Rfd1 Nb8 24.b7 Rxd2 25.Rxd2 White has more than enough compensation for the piece.
17.c7! Qd4
17...dxc2 was a practical alternative to be considered: after 18.cxd8Q Rxd8 19.Bxa8 axb5 20.Be4 Rc8 White has winning chances, but Black can fight.; 17...Qd6 was not much better than the text move: 18.Qb2 (18.Qa4 Nd7 19.Bxa8 Nb6 20.Qxa6 d2 21.Bxd2 Bxd2 22.Bg2 Qxc7 and Black has good drawing chances) 18...Nd7 19.Bxa8 Rxa8 20.Bf4 Qf8 21.Rfd1 with excellent winning chances for White.
18.Qa4 Nd7 19.Be3 Qd6 20.Bxa8 Rxa8 21.Bf4?
A serious mistake. After 21.Qxa6! Qxa6 22.bxa6 Bd6 23.Rac1 White has an almost decisive advantage.
A blunder made in severe time trouble. 21...Qd5 was the only way to survive, although after 22.bxa6 (22.Rac1 also deserves attention) 22...Qf3 23.Qd1 Qe4 24.Rb1 Bh3 25.f3 Qd4+ 26.Kh1 Bxf1 27.Qxf1 White retains some winning chances.
22.b6 Ne5
Desperation. 22...Nxb6 23.Qc6 Bd5 24.Qxb6 a5 25.Qd4 wins anyway.
23.b7 Nf3+ 24.Kh1 Bd5 25.Qxb4! Nd2+ 26.f3 is even stronger.
23...Qf3 24.Qd1 Qe4 25.b7 Rf8
25...Qxb7 26.Qxd3 Bh3 27.f3 is hopeless anyway, but the text move loses on the spot.
26.c8Q Bd5
26...Rxc8 27.bxc8Q+ Bxc8 28.Qb3++-
27.f3 1–0


Mexico: are you ready for the show?

On your marks. Get set. Go! The 2007 World chess championship will start tomorrow (with an inaugural ceremony) in Mexico City and the first round will be played on Friday afternoon (2pm local time, 9pm in Italy). "Following the historic reunification match between bulgarian champion Veselin Topalov and russian new weltmeister Vladimir Kramnik in late october 2006", you can read on the official site, "the Fide World Chess Championship will prove whether Kramnik is strong enough to defend again his title, this time facing 7 of the best players from around the globe".
The upcoming 8 players tourney is one of the strongest tournament ever in chess history, with an average rating of 2752 (XXII cat.). Vlad will face Vishy Anand, Levon Aronian, Peter Leko, Boris Gelfand and compatriots Peter Svidler, Alexander Morozevich and Alexander Grischuk. I can't see a clear favorite, but if I was forced to place a bet, well, I'd bet on Kramnik. My second choice would be Anand, then Aronian. I think the new world champion will be among one of these three players. Indian news portal DNA asked Garry Kasparov to predict a winner: "I'm in no way trying to please your readers by saying that Vishy Anand is the clear favourite", he replied. Well, Garry, we'll see... Anand is now the highest rated player in the world and he won Linares/Morelia six months ago, but Vlad looks in good shape as well: he took clear first in the "Melody Amber" rapid event and in Dortmund and he was placed fourth in Wijk aan Zee, last January, without any loss. Aronian has a good score against both of them in their most recent games; so, it will all depend on their preparation and their mood, as usual :-)
The last issue of the popular Daily chess web-zine "Chess Today" (www.chesstoday.net) also provides some opinions about the WCC. GM Alex Baburin writes: "Most of all I hope to see interesting chess – who will win in the end, is of less interest to me. I believe that every player has a chance to win that tournament, though with a different likelihood. A lot will depend on their general form, which should be evident after the first 3-4 rounds. In my opinion the most likely winners are: 1. Anand; 2. Leko; 3-4. Kramnik and Aronian".
Coming back to Garry's interview to the DNA portal, he also said that "my decision in 1993 to break away from the world chess federation, Fide, with Nigel Short was the worst mistake of my career. It was a serious miscalculation on my part. I thought we could start fresh with a professional organisation, but there was little support among the players. It led to short-term progress in commercial sponsorship for chess, but in the long run hurt the game. I tried many times to reunite the chess world, but as usual the strong personal interests on all sides prevented this. There is apparent unity now, but it is extremely superficial because Fide still puts its own petty interests ahead of those of the players and the players themselves will not sacrifice to fight for their rights against Fide". Will Kasparov the politician ever become Fide president? You can read the full interview to Garry at http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?newsid=1120623.
And now let's speak about Italian tourneys. Czech GM Igor Rausis took first place in Cesenatico (178 players): he scored 7 points out of 9 and edged out on tie break German IM Mathias Roeder. Italian GM Lexy Ortega, Bulgarian GM Milko Popchev, German GM Arkadij Rotstein, Greek GM Spyridon Skembris, German GM Felix Levin, Bulgarian IM (and Elo-favorite) Nikolai Ninov and German FM Peter Dittmar shared third place on 6.5. Official site: http://www.antiquascom.it/risultati2007.htm.
Croatian GM Nenad Sulava won the 47th Imperia Chess Festival: he scored 7/9 and edged out by half a point Italian FM Raffaele Di Paolo and Czech GM Tomas Likavsky. 143 players took part in the event. Official site: http://imperiascacchi.altervista.org/.
Do you miss my annotated games? Well, just wait for Mexico City...


Chess in Trieste, Ankara and... Lugano

Do you remember Boris Spassky? Obviously you do. The former world chess champion was in Mantova, Italy, yesterday and today: he spoke about chess and cold war (his match with Bobby Fischer - what else?) and gave a simul against 20 opponents. Unfortunately I wasn't there: I had a hard week at work (too many football matches - holidays are over :-( ) and, today, I went to Lugano... not for chess, but for family reasons :-) Walking along the centre of the little and beautiful Swiss town, I took this photo...

Yes, two giant chessboards in the middle of one of the main streets. I played a couple of games last year on one of them: anybody can have fun and challenge an opponent. So, if you go to Lugano during the Summer, don't forget it!
While I was in Lugano, the 2007 Trieste international open came to an end. Elo favorites Sergei Tiviakov (NED) and Vladimir Baklan (UKR), both rated 2648, shared first place on 7/9; Tiviakov won due to a better tie break. Italian GM Fabiano Caruana, 15 y.o., took clear third on 6.5: he only lost to Tiviakov in round 5 and gained 7 rating points at last. IM Willy Hendriks (NED), IM Jure Borisek (SLO) and GM Giorgi Bagaturov (GEO) were placed fourth on 6, while surprising Croatian wIM Lara Stock (left - photo from the official site) leads the group at 5.5 (she made a 2549 performance and gained 44 rating points). Final results at http://chess-results.com/tnr7621.aspx?lan=1. Games at http://www.sst1904.com/partite/partite.html.
FM Vytautas Vaznonis from Lithuania took clear first in the 2007 Nato chess championship, which ended yesterday in Ankara (Turkey): he scored 6 points out of 7 and edged out by half a point FM Mark Helbig and Philip Mai, both from Germany. Elo favorite wGM Elisabeth Paehtz and and IM Lorenz Drabke both finished on 5; Germany (Helbig, Mai, Drabke and Paehtz) won the team competition with 21 points out of 28 (the four highest-scoring players from each country counted towards the team score). Official site: http://natochess2007.tsf.org.tr/index.php.
And now here is a convincing win by Caruana in Trieste: he showed an impressive endgame technique... (no annotations: too many moves).

Borisek,J (2506) - Caruana,F (2549) [B41], Trieste 7.9.2007
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Bb4 7.Bd3 Nc6 8.Nde2 Qc7 9.a3 Be7 10.Bf4 Ne5 11.Rc1 b6 12.0–0 Bb7 13.b4 d6 14.Bxe5 dxe5 15.Ng3 0–0 16.Qe2 a5 17.Rb1 Ba6 18.Rfc1 Rfd8 19.Qe3 h6 20.Bf1 Ne8 21.Qe1 Bg5 22.Rc2 axb4 23.axb4 Nd6 24.Na4 Bb7 25.Nc3 Ba6 26.Na4 b5 27.Nc5 Nxc4 28.Bxc4 bxc4 29.Nxa6 Rxa6 30.b5 Rad6 31.Nf1 Rd4 32.b6 Qb7 33.f3 Be7 34.Ne3 Bc5 35.Kh1 Bxb6 36.Nxc4 Qc7 37.Rbc1 Ba7 38.h3 f6 39.Kh2 Qd7 40.Na5 Rd1 41.Rxd1 Qxd1 42.Qxd1 Rxd1 43.g4 Be3 44.Nc6 Kf7 45.h4 Rd2+ 46.Rxd2 Bxd2 47.Kg2 Ke8 48.Nb8 Ke7 49.Kf1 Kd6 50.Ke2 Ba5 51.Kd3 Kc7 52.Na6+ Kb6 53.Nb8 Bb4 54.g5 Be7 55.gxh6 gxh6 56.Kc4 h5 57.Nd7+ Kc6 58.Nb8+ Kd6 59.Na6 f5 60.Kd3 Bxh4 61.Ke2 Bg3 62.Kf1 h4 63.Kg2 Be1 64.Kh3 Kc6 65.Nb8+ Kc7 66.Na6+ Kd6 67.Kg2 Ba5 68.Kh3 Bd8 69.Kg2 Kc6 70.Nb8+ Kc7 71.Na6+ Kb6 72.Nb8 Kc5 73.Nd7+ Kd4 74.Nf8 fxe4 75.fxe4 Kxe4 76.Nxe6 Be7 77.Ng7 Kf4 78.Ne6+ Kg4 79.Nc7 h3+ 80.Kh1 e4 81.Nd5 Bg5 82.Kg1 Kg3 83.Kh1 Bf4 84.Kg1 Kf3 85.Kh1 Be5 86.Kg1 h2+ 87.Kh1 Bd6 88.Nc3 e3 89.Nb5 Be5 0–1


Trieste, Nato champ and more

Dutch GM Sergei Tiviakov beat Italian prodigy Fabiano Caruana, 15 years old, for the second time in a row. It happened yesterday in Trieste, where the 9th edition of the Chess Festival is under way. Caruana had Black pieces and chose the French defence after Tiviakov’s 1.e4: he reached a lost endgame and couldn’t do anything but resign. The duel was not as thrilling as the one in Vlissingen, where Fabiano lost (resigning a drawn position in deep time trouble), but eventually won the tourney. After round 6 Tiviakov is in sole lead with 5.5 points, while Caruana share the second place on 4.5 (best Italian player by now). The tourney will end on Saturday. Results at http://chess-results.com/tnr7621.aspx?lan=1. Games at http://www.sst1904.com/partite/partite.html.
The 18th Nato championship takes place in the Gendarmerie Schools Command in Beytepe, Ankara (Turkey), until Saturday. The tournament follows the structure laid down by the Regulations of the International Military Chess Committee (IMCC) and is a seven-round individual Swiss tournament, with the four highest-scoring players from each country counting towards the team score. Italy doesn’t take part in the competition this year, but many Italian players know at least one participant: German IM Lorenz Drabke (photo), who played in Castione a few days ago, has been living in Northern Italy for many years. He is the second highest rated player of the competition, while his team mate wGM Elizabeth Paehtz is the Elo-favorite. Vytautas Vaznonis from Lithuania is the sole leader with 4.5 points after 5 rounds; Mark Helbig (GER), Drabke, Abel Carrascoso (ESP) and Guido Schott (GER) follow on 4. Official site: http://natochess2007.tsf.org.tr/index.php.
Tom Panelas from Chicago wrote a new post about Italian prodigy Marco Codenotti a few days ago: Marco took part in the Knights Quest tourney, finishing second in his division. Full story: http://raychess.blogspot.com/2007/08/reunited.html.
And now here is a brilliant win by Tiviakov in Trieste...

Tiviakov,S. (2648) - Borisek,J. (2506) [C77], Trieste 2.9.2007
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.Qe2
Tiviakov chooses a secondary line he has already played several times. This was an usual continuation in the 18th century.
5...b5 6.Bb3 Be7
The main line, but 6...Bc5 is popular as well.
Tiviakov is fond of this variation. 7.0–0 and 7.c3 are more common.
7...Rb8 and 7...b4 has also been played.
8.c3 0–0 9.0–0 d5 10.d4
10.d3 is less risky; Tiviakov had already played the text move against Bareev in Madrid 13 years ago.
This looks to be a new move, The above mentioned game continued 10...dxe4 11.Nxe5 Bd6 12.Bf4 Qe8 13.axb5 axb5 14.Rxa8 Bxa8 and a draw was agreed.
11.dxe5 Nc5 12.Bc2 b4!? 13.Rd1 Ne6
13...f6 was an interesting alternative.
14.a5 bxc3 15.bxc3 Na7?!
Too slow. After 15...Rb8 16.Bb3 d4 Black can easily hold on and can fight to get some counterplay.
16.Na3 c5 17.Nc4!? Qc7?
Black had to be consistent and play 17...Nb5 ; after 18.Qd3 g6 19.Nb6 c4 20.Qd2 Rb8 Black has good defensive resources.
18.Nb6 Rad8 19.Nxd5!
A nice blow, although not difficult to be seen.
19...Bxd5 20.Rxd5 Rxd5 21.Qe4 g6 22.Qxd5
Now White is simply a pawn up.
22...Nc6 23.h4 Rd8 24.Qe4 Nxa5
Black takes the pawn back, but it is just an illusion...
25.h5 c4 26.hxg6 hxg6 27.Be3 Nb3?
27...Nc5 28.Qg4 (intending Bxg6) 28...Nd3 29.e6 was much better for White anyway, but the text move loses on the spot.
28.Rxa6! Nbc5?!
28...Qc8 29.Ra7 Nbc5 30.Qxc4 Rd7 was at least more stubborn.
29.Bxc5 Nxc5
There were no better alternatives, e.g.: 29...Qxc5 30.Rxe6 fxe6 31.Qxg6+ Kf8 32.Qh6+ Ke8 33.Ba4+ Kf7 34.Qh5+ Kg8 (34...Kf8 35.Nd4 Qd5 36.Bc6+-) 35.Ng5 Bxg5 36.Qxg5+ Kh7 37.Qxd8+-
The decisive blow. Black has no defence.
30...fxg6 31.Qxg6+ Kf8
31...Kh8 32.Qh7#
32.Qh6+ Ke8 33.Bg6+ Kd7 34.Bf5+ Ke8 35.Qh5+ Kf8 36.Qh8+ 1–0
And Black resigned in view of 36...Kf7 37.Ng5+ Bxg5 38.Qh7+ Kf8 39.Qxc7 etc.


A sea of norms in Italy

How many norms! Two in Porto San Giorgio, four in Castione della Presolana. But only for foreign (= not Italian) players. English GM Gawain Jones took clear first in PSG: he scored 7.5 points out of 9 and edged out by half a point Spanish IM Sergio Estremera Panos, Russian GM Oleg Koreev, German GM Arkadij Rotstein and Ukrainian GM Sergey Fedorchuk. Estremera Panos scored a GM norm, while German FM Thomas Michalczak gained an IM norm. Official site: www.torneoscacchi.it.
Russian GM Vladimir Burmakin was placed first (thanks to a better tie-break) in Castione on 7/9; Croatian GM Miso Cebalo took second place with the same score. Four players scored a GM norm: Filipino IM Rolly Martinez, German IM Sebastian Siebrecht, Scottish IM and British champion Jacob Aagaard (all with 6.5 points) and Turkish FM Yakup Erturan (6). Official site: www.scaccobratto.com.
Many more strong tourneys has started between yesterday and today in Italy: Trieste, Cesenatico (http://www.antiquascom.it/risultati2007.htm), Imperia (http://imperiascacchi.altervista.org/) and Siracusa (http://www.chessfestivalsiracusa.it/). The 2007 Trieste festival is probably the strongest of all: GMs Vladimir Baklan (UKR), Sergei Tiviakov (NED), Dusko Pavasovic (SLO), Philipp Schlosser (GER), Dimitri Komarov (UKR) and 15 y.o. Fabiano Caruana (ITA) are among the participants. Results at http://chess-results.com/tnr7621.aspx?lan=1.
It’s late now: I came back from Vienna just yesterday (wonderful town: it worth a visit) and I haven’t had any time to annotate a game, since I worked the whole day (football championships has already started and I'm a sport journalist...). So... wait for more exciting posts in the next few days :-)
Before going to bed, anyway, here are the games which won the beauty prizes in Porto San Giorgio and Castione.

Castaldo,F. (2345) - Bianchi,Al. (2019) [D37], Porto San Giorgio 24.8.2007
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Be7 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Bf4 c6 6.e3 0–0 7.Qc2 Nbd7 8.Rd1 Re8 9.Bd3 dxc4 10.Bxc4 Nd5 11.Bg3 Nb4 12.Qe2 b5 13.Bb3 a5 14.a3 a4 15.Bxe6 fxe6 16.axb4 Bxb4 17.0–0 Bxc3 18.bxc3 Qa5 19.Qc2 Nf6 20.Be5 Qd8 21.Ng5 Qe7 22.f4 h6 23.Qg6 Bd7 24.Rf3 Rec8 25.Nh7 Nxh7 26.Rg3 Ng5 27.fxg5 Be8 28.Qe4 hxg5 29.Rh3 Qf7 30.Qh7+ Kf8 31.Bd6+ Qe7 32.Rf1+ 1–0

Lanzani,M. (2336) - Pomaro,A. (2149) [E70], Castione 28.8.2007
1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 g6 3.e4 d6 4.d4 Bg7 5.Nge2 0–0 6.Ng3 e5 7.d5 c6 8.Be2 cxd5 9.cxd5 a6 10.0–0 Nbd7 11.Be3 h5 12.Bg5 Qe8 13.Rc1 Nh7 14.Be3 Bf6 15.Qd2 Qd8 16.b4 h4 17.Nh1 Bg5 18.Bxg5 Nxg5 19.a4 f5 20.exf5 gxf5 21.f4 Qb6+ 22.Nf2 Ne4 23.Ncxe4 fxe4 24.Kh1 e3 25.Qd3 exf2 26.Qg6+ Kh8 27.Qh6+ Kg8 28.Qg5+ Kh8 29.Qxh4+ Kg7 30.Qg5+ Kh8 31.Qh6+ Kg8 32.Qg6+ Kh8 33.Rc3 Nf6 34.Rg3 Qc7 35.fxe5 Nh7 36.e6 b6 37.Qg4 Bb7 38.Qd4+ Rf6 39.Rxf2 Raf8 40.Rg6 Qe7 41.Bc4 b5 42.axb5 axb5 43.Bb3 Ba8 44.h3 Bb7 45.Kh2 Ba8 46.Rf5 Bb7 47.g4 1–0

P.S.: do you remember my game by postcards? After 1.e4 c5, my second move was 2.d4. This won't be a boring game...