USA Championships

The weather changes very quickly in Saint Louis. One day is hot and humid, the next day the temperature drops down about twenty degrees. It rains and rains and then suddenly the sun appears as if nothing happened.
The USA championship was following the weather forecast. No one knew what happens until the very end. Especially, at the gentlemen’s tournament.
It was Alex Lenderman who took the lead after four rounds, scoring excellent 3.5/4. His tournament preparation seemed perfect.
However, two losses after and Alex got overshadowed by Varuzhan Akobian. The latter started solidly with four draws but those were followed by four straight wins. Var was greatly supported by his good friend GM Gabriel Sargissian and was not shy of opening preparation either.
In the meanwhile, the rating favourites were not doing that well. Timur Gareev started well with 3/4, but then lost a game and… made only three draws till the end of the event. It seems as Timur before and after a loss are two completely different players.
The reigning champion Gata Kamsky was having trouble in scoring full points. He stood solidly on +2 score almost till the end of the tournament. He did not lose a game, but everyone was extremely solid when playing the champion and Gata just could not score.
It was not a great surprise that somewhere around the tournament equator Kamsky was very pessimistic about his chances.
Contrary to him, Lenderman kept optimistic and after his second straight loss posted the following comment on his facebook page: ”Behind all the clouds and rain there still always is sun!”
And the sun shone on his street again. In the next rounds he took back his plusses to make it to a decisive final round game against Akobian.
None of them was able to score though and they were caught up by Kamsky who won his last game to Josh Friedel. It was a three-way tie!
Surprisingly, it was the champion who had the best tie-break. Thus, he could wait for the finalist in the Armageddon game between Lenderman and Akobian. According to the rules, in case of a tie the champion had to be determined in a rapid play-off, and if needed an Armageddon game should have been played. Akobian won with Black and had to play Kamsky in the final.
In the meanwhile, the ladies section looked no less thrilling.
The main contenders for the title Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih were caught up by the “Blue Penguin” Tatev Abrahamian in the final round (purple here). Krush had the best tie-break, thus Zatonskih and Abrahamian had to define the second finalist in yet another Armageddon game.
An excellent opportunity for all the spectators!

Zatonskih was the favourite and she quickly got great attacking position. Alas, she forgot to give a couple of forced (and needed checks!) and instead of converting the attack into a win felt into desperate position. Abrahamian on her behalf did not even care about the win and forced a draw to secure her final spot. This was already a sensation!
The final matches were Kamsky-Akobian and Krush-Abrahamian.
The more experienced player though kept their own. Both Kamsky and Krush won their white games and drew with black. The champions defended the titles.
Krush won her sixth championship and Kamsky-fifth!
Looking back at the championship one can only admire to the excellent organization.
The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis CCSCSL which hosted the event is situated at the best part of the city, surrounded by original and beautiful private residences. While walking around you can spot squirrels and wild rabbits walking freely in the bushes.
The park and the zoo are situated in Forrest Park within a walking distance as well as the Historical and Art museums. The luxurious Chase Plaza hotel hosted the players and on their way to the venue they had plentiful choice of excellent food. They could also visit the Lester’s restaurant which is literally attached to the club whenever they like.
Facing the CCSCSL is the Hall of fame with the largest chess piece in the world in front of it. There on the free day a chess/music show took place where the games were accompanied by psychedelic music.
The organizers have provided tickets to all the players for the baseball match of the local St. Louis Cardinals team but it was cancelled due to the rain.
The main sponsor of the event and founder of the club Rex Sinquefield lived with the chess battles and did not miss a move of the tournaments.
My young student Ashritha Eswaran did very well at the event and scored 3.5/9. Unfortunately, she came one point short to the WIM norm. A draw in the final round (in a very promising position!) would be sufficient for a fifth place.
This is irrelevant though as a much more important and valuable thing is the experience that she got from the tournament. A curious fact is that Ashritha is the only USA born player in the ladies ‘section.
Oh, yes, she was also awarded the best game price of the women event for her first round win:
A game that I liked (ChessBase 12)

[Event "USA-ch (Women)"]
[Site "Saint Louis"]
[Date "2014.05.08"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Ni, Viktorija"]
[Black "Eswaran, Ashritha"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A46"]
[WhiteElo "2206"]
[BlackElo "1979"]
[Annotator "Dejan Bojkov"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "8/8/4p1k1/1pR3p1/1PbP3p/P6K/8/8 w - - 0 55"]
[PlyCount "58"]
[EventDate "2014.05.08"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "USA"]
[EventCategory "1"]
[Source "Chessbase"]
[SourceDate "2014.05.24"]

{Viktorija had conducted the middlegame very well and achieved much better
position. However, this took plenty of time on her clock and she was already
feeling the discomfort of the second time trouble.} 55. Re5 {A step in the
wrong direction. White could have won with the study-like:} (55. a4 $1 Bf1+ 56.
Kh2 bxa4 57. b5 g4 (57... a3 58. b6 Ba6 59. Ra5) 58. Kg1 $3 {[%csl Rf1][%cal
Yg1f1] Which wins decisive tempo in comparison to the line:} (58. b6 g3+ 59.
Kg1 Ba6 60. Ra5 $2 {when it is Black who wins:} Bb7 61. Ra7 Bf3 62. b7 h3 63.
b8=Q h2+ 64. Kf1 h1=Q#) 58... Bd3 59. b6 Be4 60. d5 $1 $18 {[%csl Ye4][%cal
Rb6b7,Ye4b7] Diagram [#]}) 55... Kh5 56. a4 $6 ({It was probably not too late
to admit the mistake-} 56. Rc5) 56... bxa4 {Now a forced line runs:} 57. b5 a3
58. b6 a2 59. Ra5 Bd5 60. Kh2 (60. b7 Bxb7 61. Rxa2 g4+ 62. Kh2 Kg5 {does not
seem like something that White would like to play.}) ({It was only here that
White realized that the calculated "coup the grace":} 60. Rxa2 {has a flaw:}
g4+ 61. Kh2 g3+ 62. Kh3 (62. Kg1 h3 $19) 62... Bxa2 63. b7 {Diagram [#]} Bc4 $3
{[%csl Rf1,Yh3][%cal Rc4f1,Rf1h3]} 64. b8=Q (64. Kg2 Bd5+ {[%csl Yb7,Yg2][%cal
Rd5b7,Rd5g2]}) 64... Bf1# {[%csl Yh3]}) 60... g4 61. Ra3 Kg5 62. Ra5 Kh5 63.
Ra3 g3+ {Ashritha realized that she has no losing chances anymore and started
looking for the win.} 64. Kh3 {The only move.} (64. Kg1 h3 {[%cal Gh3h2] loses
on the spot.}) 64... Kg5 65. Ra5 Kh5 66. Ra3 Kg5 {Ashritha was also low on
time and decided to repeat the moves to gain some time.} 67. Ra5 Kh5 68. Ra3
Kg5 69. Ra5 Kh5 {True, she repeated them four times instead of two and
Viktorija could have claimed the draw. In the meanwhile the annotators J.
Shahade and Y. Seirawan as well as M. Ashley were somewhat disappointingly
anticipating the draw offer, when the thunder came:} 70. Ra3 {Diagram [#]} e5
$3 {A bautiful winning theme. Ashritha have spotted it long before the move
repetition!} 71. dxe5 {Played with seconds on the clock, I do not think that
anyone can blame Viktorija for not finding the idea:} (71. b7 $1 Bxb7 72. Rxa2
Bc8+ ({Or:} 72... exd4 73. Ra5+ Kg6 74. Ra4 $11) 73. Kg2 Kg4 74. dxe5 h3+ 75.
Kg1 {[%csl Yg3,Rh2,Yh3][%cal Ra2h2,Rh3h2] and White is saving herself thanks
to the sacrficie of the rook for the two pawns.}) ({One point of the idea is
seen in the line:} 71. Rxa2 Bxa2 72. b7 Be6+ 73. Kg2 Bd5+ $19) 71... Bc4 $1 {
[%cal Rc4f1] This bishop is a magical piece!} 72. Kg2 (72. b7 Bf1#) 72... Kg4 {
[%cal Gh4h3,Ga2a1,Rc4d5] All of a sudden all the black pieces are perfectly
co-ordinated.} 73. b7 Bd5+ {A tempo! And... wrong... The win was instant:} (
73... h3+ $1 74. Kg1 h2+ 75. Kg2 Bd5+ {[%cal Rh2h1]}) 74. Kf1 Bxb7 75. Ra4+ Kf3
76. Rxa2 {Diagram [#] It is once again a draw. But it ain't over until it is
over...} h3 77. Kg1 Bd5 78. Rd2 Bc4 79. Rc2 {White slips one more time and one
more study idea will appear on the board.} ({White does not need the pawn-} 79.
e6 $1 {was the cleanest road to the draw-} Bxe6 80. Rd3+ Kf4 81. Rd4+ Ke3 82.
Rh4 $11) ({It was not that obvious which square to choose for the rook, but
the fourth rank check was needed! Therefore:} 79. Rb2 $1 Be2 (79... Bd5 80. e6
Bxe6 81. Rb5) 80. Rb3+ $1 {This is the big difference!} Kf4 81. Rb4+ Kg5 82.
Rb1 Bf3 83. Rb2 $11) 79... Be2 $1 {[%csl Ge2,Gf3,Yg1,Gg3,Gh3][%cal Rh3h2] The
black pieces surrounded the king.} 80. Rc3+ ({No time for queening-} 80. e6 h2+
81. Kh1 Kf2 82. Rxe2+ Kxe2 83. Kg2 h1=Q+ $1 84. Kxh1 Kf2 85. e7 g2+ 86. Kh2
g1=Q+ 87. Kh3 Qg3#) 80... Kg4 81. e6 h2+ 82. Kg2 {Diagram [#]} ({Or the
familiar checkmate:} 82. Kh1 Bf3+ (82... Kh3 {[%cal Re2f1,Rf1g2] would also
work.}) 83. Rxf3 Kxf3 84. e7 Kf2 85. e8=Q g2+ 86. Kxh2 g1=Q+ 87. Kh3 Qg3#)
82... Bf1+ $3 83. Kh1 Kh3 {Checkmate is inevitable.} (83... Kh3 84. Rc2 g2+ 85.
Rxg2 Bxg2#) 0-1


The First Free Day

Roughly a month ago my student's father wrote an email. "Ashritha got a wild card for the USA women championship. Should she accept?" "Of course she should, if she could. This is a chance that you might get only once in your life."
Ashritha Eswaran is only 13 but for the last three years that we worked she made a lot of a progress. Three years ago she had the rating of 1400. Currently Ashrtha is above 2200 (USCF) which makes her a national master and had already won the USA national title for girls twice.
In order to take part in the event the youngster had to receive a special permission from her school authorities.
Here we are in Saint Louis, the chess capital of USA. The official recognition of the city came from the United States Senate on 6-th of May, just a couple of days before the start of the new significant event.
No other city deserves this title more that Saint Louis.
“Since 2009, we’ve worked to raise the prominence and profile of the U.S. Championships,” Rich said. ”We’re honored the U.S. Chess Federation once again awarded these prestigious events to Saint Louis, and we hope our U.S. Champions will continue to serve as role models for young chess players across the country.” 
“Since 2009, we've worked to raise the prominence and profile of the U.S. Championships,” said Toni Rich
executive director of the CCSCSL. ”We’re honored the U.S. Chess Federation once again awarded these prestigious events to Saint Louis, and we hope our U.S. Champions will continue to serve as role models for young chess players across the country.” 
This is the sixth time in a row that the club hosts the championship. The conditions are fantastic. I have never seen anything that well organized.
The players are treated like kings. Royal price fund, first class hospitality, exclusive photo sessions for each participant. Everything is set up to the every little detail.
The audience is spoiled by the exceptional coverage of the event. Three of the best American commentators explain the games for all the major sites. Gorgeous Jennifer Shahade and lucid Yasser Seirawan make a great TV couple while the expansive Maurice Ashley appearances on air make the shows even more entertaining.
GMs Robert Hess and Benjamin Finegold annotate life for the visitors of the Leste'sr restaurant.
The commentators were very excited about Ashritha's win in the first round. In a study-like endgame she managed to pull out the point with a beautiful maneuver. Some of their comments:
"The position is too complicated for the annotators"- Ben Finegold.
"I would like to take her (Ashritha Eswaran) home and be her trainer." Maurice Ashley.
Second round was tough for my young student. She lost basically out of the opening to the reigning champion Irina Krush. However, on the third round she managed to score her second point.
Her game ended last once more, juts like in the first round and was once again very entertaining:
A game that I liked (ChessBase 12)

[Event "U.S. Women's Championship 2014"]
[Site "Saint Louis"]
[Date "2014.05.10"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Eswaran, Ashritha"]
[Black "Baginskaite, Camilla"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B92"]
[WhiteElo "1979"]
[BlackElo "2267"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "7Q/6Q1/3p4/3q4/Pp6/6K1/2k2P2/4q3 w - - 0 58"]
[PlyCount "9"]
[EventDate "2014.??.??"]
[EventCountry "USA"]

{[%csl Gd5,Ge1,Yg7,Yh8]} {As you can easily guess, the game was very
complicated prior to this moment. At first Baginskaite outplayed her young
opponent, but then Ashritha managed to muddy the waters and turn the tables.
She won a pawn and entered a complicated queen and pawn endgame. It was once
again Kamila Baginskaite who showed great understanding in the endgame. She
centralized her pieces to the maximum to get dangerous counterplay which led
to the posiiton on the diagram. It is White who starts the checks, but Black
is better co-ordinated. The main problem for Baginskaite was that she felt in
time trouble again.} 58. Qb2+ Kd3 $1 {Once again the best move.} ({Black can
draw after:} 58... Kd1 59. Qa1+ Ke2 60. Qe8+ Qe5+ 61. Qaxe5+ dxe5 62. Qxe5+ Kd1
63. Qxe1+ Kxe1 64. a5 b3 65. a6 b2 66. a7 b1=Q 67. a8=Q Qg6+ $11) 59. Qh7+ Qde4
60. Qb3+ {The culmination of the dramatic battle.} Kd4 {The most experienced
player blunders.} ({Both players missed that after:} 60... Qc3 $1 {The
seemingly deadly check:} 61. Qd1+ $2 ({White should instead play for a draw
with:} 61. Qxe4+ Kxe4+ 62. f3+ Kd4 $17) {would be answered with a counter-check
} 61... Kc4+ $1 {[%csl Rh7][%cal Rc3g3,Re4h7]}) 61. Qxe4+ Qxe4 (61... Kxe4 62.
Qe6+ {[%csl Re1,Re4][%cal Re6e1]}) 62. Qxb4+ {Here Baginskaite wanted to play
the move Kd4-d5 but instead took the queen by mistake. While the arbiter was
preparing to add two minutes on Ashritha's clock the frustrated Camilla
resigned explaining that she is just lost. Indeed, it is so. The cameras then
showed the frustrated Baginskaite analyzing the game on her own at the empty
hall, trying to fugure out what went wrong. Chess can be a cruel game.} 1-0

Sunday was a free day for the ladies tournament. It is Mother's Day in USA and women are celebrating. The long-time rivals Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih are co-leading after three rounds with 2.5/3.
The man tournament has a convincing leader. Alexander Lenderman shows great preparation and has achieved 3.5/4. The reigning champion Gata Kamsky have scored his first full point only on Sunday.
Unfortunately no player will be eligible for the Fischer price these year as all the players have lost points.


Ashritha's Interview

The USA championships starts today in Saint Louis. The youngest player in the event is my student Ashritha Eswaran.
A short interview with her was taken a couple of days ago for CBS:


Exclusive Peek at Modernized KID

My second book is out! It is a great feeling to know that all the years of playing chess will not be that easily forgotten. After all the tournament wins and honors are temporary, new faces come and are lately replaced by others. Writing a book is another feeling though, it is something that you can always refer to and look back with satisfaction.

Anyway, here is a short description of the book for the chess.com site:
This book holds a complete repertoire of the King's Indian Defense from Black's perspective. By analyzing many theoretical games from recent Grandmaster practice (as well as a number of classical examples), Bojkov covers every major line in depth, with due coverage given to all sidelines as well. The reader will also become familiar with many strategic ideas, thematic tactics, and the abundance of imaginative possibilities the King’s Indian Defense is famous for.
The following lines are covered in great theoretical detail through the use of recent games:
Chapter 1 The Classical Variation
1a Flexibility in the Classical Variation
1b The Gligoric System
1c The Exchange System
1d The Petrosian System
Chapter 2 The Sämisch Variation
Chapter 3 The Four Pawns Attack
Chapter 4 The Averbakh System
Chapter 5 The Bagirov Line
Chapter 6 The Fianchetto System
GM Bojkov does an excellent job of sharing his childhood enthusiasm for the opening (which has clearly bled into his professional career), and instills a profound understanding of the various structures that may occur in this rich and complex opening. Moreover, in an effort to increase understanding, at the end of each chapter are memory markers - chess diagrams reminding the reader of the most important motifs/novelties throughout the chapter, as well as practical exercises for solving and internalizing the material. After reading this book, one will feel as though they will be able to play the KID for the rest of their life!
Now we'd like to present a game from the book:
Note: the following game have been trimmed and shortened - in the actual book there are many more detailed variations within each game!
Let's start off with a fascinating struggle between Kramnik & Ponomariov in the Classical Variation:
A game that I liked (ChessBase 12)

[Event "Dortmund SuperGM 39th"]
[Site "Dortmund"]
[Date "2011.07.21"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Ch 1a Game 5. Kramnik, Vladimir"]
[Black "Ponomariov, Ruslan"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E94"]
[WhiteElo "2781"]
[BlackElo "2764"]
[Annotator "Dejan Bojkov"]
[PlyCount "49"]
[EventDate "2011.07.21"]
[EventRounds "10"]
[EventCountry "GER"]
[EventCategory "20"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Be2 O-O 6. Nf3 e5 7. O-O exd4 {
Ponomariov wants to surprise his mighty opponent and chooses this rare and
fresh line.} 8. Nxd4 Re8 9. f3 c6 10. Kh1 Nbd7 11. Be3 {Still, Kramnik shows
some quality prep, and this line might be Black's main source of concern
nowadays. Despite the fact that the bishop stays on the road of the e8 rook,
it is surprisingly difficult for Black to make use of this.} ({White has one
more prophylactic retreat in his disposal,} 11. Nb3 {. But here, the knight
simply invites the black a-pawn to advance with tempo, starting with} a5 {Note
that the pawn on d6 is not delicious at all:} 12. Qxd6 a4 13. Nd2 ({Even worse
is} 13. Nd4 $2 Nh5 14. Nc2 Be5 15. Qd2 Qh4 16. f4 Ng3+ 17. Kg1 Nxf1 {.}) 13...
Ne5 14. Qxd8 Rxd8 {, and Black has full compensation for the sacrificed pawn.
White is underdeveloped, and the positional threat of a4-a3 with the bishop
ranging on the long diagonal cannot be prevented so easily. One sample line is:
} 15. f4 Nd3 16. Bxd3 Rxd3 17. e5 a3 $1 18. exf6 $6 axb2 19. Bxb2 Rxd2 20. Bc1
Rc2 {Now back to our game:}) 11... a6 {This was prepared by Ponomariov at home.
Black takes control over the b5 square, and intends to play b7-b5 or d6-d5 in
the future.} ({Ponomariov liked the Grischuk-style provoking idea of} 11... Nh5
{but I am not quite convinced, after} 12. g4 $1 Nhf6 13. Qd2 h5 14. g5 Nh7 15.
Nb3 Qe7 16. Rad1 Be5 17. f4 $1 {This pawn sacrifice is something that we
should always be afraid of! White does not mind spending some material in
order to gain the black dark-squared bishop, and we agree!} Bxc3 18. Qxc3 {and
now:} Nc5 (18... Qxe4+ 19. Bf3 Qxe3 (19... Qe7 20. Rfe1 Qf8) 20. Rde1 Qxc3 21.
Rxe8+ Nhf8 22. bxc3) 19. Nxc5 dxc5 20. e5 ({or} 20. Bd3)) ({Another
interesting and typical plan for Black is} 11... a5 $5 12. Qd2 a4 {continuing
with Qd8-a5, Nd7-c5, Nf6-d7-e5(or b6), and a4-a3 at the proper moment. The
arising positions are similar to those that can arise in the Fianchetto Line
of the KID, but there the white light-squared bishop is placed on g2, and the
d3 square is somewhat loose. I consider this to be in White's favor, but I
believe that Black's resources should not be underestimated.}) 12. Nc2 {Let me
quote Ponomariov: "Judging by the times, I think here Vladimir started to play
on his own resources. "The move he played is quite ambitious; he emphasizes
the main weakness of the black position, the weak pawn on d6. But at the same
time, without positional grounds, White retreats his knight from the center.
"However, at the board it is impossible to calculate every line and the choice
is about one's confidence in one's own strengths."} ({If} 12. Qd2 {, Black
shows that the move a7-a6 is not played only in order to prepare the b7-b5
advance:} d5 $1 13. exd5 cxd5 14. cxd5 ({or} 14. Nxd5 Nxd5 15. cxd5 Nb6 16.
Rfe1 Nxd5) 14... Nb6 {Similarly, as in the 11...Nd7-b6 line from above, White
lacks the resource Nd4-b5-d6, and the c4 square for the bishop. The game is
level.} 15. Bg5 Nbxd5 16. Rfe1 Nxc3 17. bxc3 b6 {.} (17... Qb6)) ({In his
notes Ponomariov also mentions} 12. Bg1 {But the Ukrainian GM also shows the
best response:} c5 $1 ({White's idea is revealed in the line} 12... d5 13. cxd5
cxd5 14. exd5 Nb6 15. Qb3 $1 {The queen has this extra square!} Nfxd5 (15...
Nbxd5 16. Bc4) 16. Nxd5 Nxd5 17. Bc4 {, and even though Black has freed
himself from the backward pawn, White has an irritating initiative:} Bxd4 18.
Bxd4 Be6 19. Rfd1 Nf4 ({or} 19... Qg5 {(Ponomariov)} 20. Bf1 Re7 21. Rac1 {
with the two bishops}) 20. Bxe6 Nxe6 21. Bc3 {.}) 13. Nc2 Ne5 {"and the later
possibilities include Be6, Nc6, and Nfd7. In general, Black has sufficient
counterplay."}) 12... Ne5 {Active play is required, as usual, to prevent White
from developing harmoniously. Do not forget that fundamentally, White has the
better pawn structure, and this might tell in the long run if we do not use
the tactical chances that our position provides.} (12... Qc7 13. Qd2 b5 14.
Rfd1 {is a good example of slow play, as Black is now forced to defend
passively.}) 13. f4 {The principled move. However now, as we know, the e4 pawn
becomes a target, too.} ({White can play more solidly with} 13. Qd2 {, but
then Black can successfully hit the center with} Be6 14. b3 (14. f4 $2 Nxc4)
14... d5 {White can also trade on d5 first} (14... b5 {is another possible
attack in the center.}) 15. cxd5 ({After the immediate} 15. f4 Neg4 {It's a
messy position in which Black seems OK.}) 15... cxd5 {And then play} 16. f4 (
16. exd5 $6 Nxd5 17. Nxd5 Qxd5) 16... Nc6 17. e5 Ne4 18. Nxe4 dxe4 19. Nd4)
13... Neg4 14. Bg1 h5 ({Slow is} 14... b5 $6 15. c5 dxc5 16. Bxc5 {.}) 15. Bf3
({Here the direct attempt} 15. h3 {will unleash the power of the black pieces:}
Nxe4 $1 16. Nxe4 Rxe4 17. hxg4 Qh4+ 18. Bh2 hxg4 19. g3 Qe7 20. Bd3 Bf5 $1 {
with the idea} 21. Bxe4 $2 Qxe4+ 22. Kg1 Qxc2 {.}) 15... Be6 16. b3 Qa5 {Black
now starts creating concrete problems, and the positions become extremely
sharp.} 17. Qe1 {Ponomariov considers this dubious, and had not even
considered it during the game. Indeed, the queen now steps onto the file of
the black rook, and this gives Black some additional tactical chances.} b5 $2 (
{Instead of this, Black can get a good game in two ways:} 17... Nd7 $5 18. Nd4
({The endgame is good for Black after} 18. Ne2 Qxe1 19. Raxe1 Ngf6 20. Nc3 Bg4
{.}) 18... Nh6 {:} 19. h3 f5 20. Rc1 (20. Rb1 Bf7) 20... Nc5 {.}) ({The other
route was offered by the Ukrainian GM:} 17... Bf5 {, when he provides the
lines:} 18. h3 $6 ({or} 18. Nd4 Qd8) 18... Qd8 {Ponomariov: 'after which White
has very serious problems with the e4 pawn. But such retreating moves are not
so easy for a human to see, especially when the queen has only recently come
from d8. Instead of this, I played another natural move, keeping the tension.'
This line might continue} 19. Rd1 Nxe4 20. Nxe4 Bxe4 21. Bxe4 Nf6 {.}) 18. c5
$2 ({Kramnik misses a good chance to consolidate his position with} 18. h3 $1 {
:}) 18... b4 19. Na4 Bc4 $2 {The critical moment of the game!} ({Ponomariov
saw the blow} 19... Nxe4 $1 {but for some reason discarded it. Black is better
in all lines:} 20. Bxe4 (20. Qxe4 Bxb3 21. axb3 Rxe4 22. Bxe4 Bxa1 23. Rxa1 {
Ponomariov: "I was afraid that I could lose all my queenside pawns and the
minor pieces would be stronger than the queen. But in reality, White has more
problems here, because of the bad position of his king. The computer suggests:}
dxc5 (23... Re8 $1 24. cxd6 (24. Bxc6 Re2 25. Nb6 $4 Nf2+ 26. Bxf2 Rxf2) 24...
Qd8 25. Bxc6 Re6 {with excellent play as the white king is not that well
protected.}) (23... Qc7) 24. Nxc5 Qc7 25. Nxb4 Qxf4 {Black is somewhat better
here."}) (20. Qxb4 Qxb4 21. Nxb4 Nxc5 {.}) 20... Bd5 21. Qxb4 Qxb4 22. Nxb4
Bxe4 23. Rae1 {with an unclear situation, in which Black is not worse.}) 20.
Qxb4 $1 {Kramnik has a great sense of danger, and here he immediately
understood that parting with the exchange is the lesser evil for him than
allowing Black to have the initiative with queens on the board. Now the
endgame is difficult for Black.} Qxb4 21. Nxb4 Bxf1 22. Rxf1 Nxe4 23. Nb6 $1
Ra7 {'!?' Ponomariov.} ({Black will have to return the exchange anyway:} 23...
dxc5 24. Nxc6 {.}) 24. cxd6 Nxd6 25. Bxc6 $1 {Kramnik has achieved what he
wanted. His endgame technique is legendary, and even though he faced one of
the greatest defenders in the world, he managed to crack his defense. Watch
out for such endgames, they are always very difficult for Black!} 1-0


A Devilish Trap

Yesterday I had a wonderful experience annotating the games from the final round of the Gashimov Memorial online for the chess.com server with the fellow GM Simon Williams. The accent was naturally put on the decisive game of the event between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana. The world champion played a brilliant game and achieved an easily won position. However, Black kept on playing.
Was Caruana simply reluctant to resign due to the frustration, or did he have something deeper on his mind?
Check out for yourselves:
A game that I liked (ChessBase 12)

[Event "Vugar Gashimov Memorial 2014"]
[Site "Shamkir"]
[Date "2014.04.30"]
[Round "10"]
[White "Carlsen, Magnus"]
[Black "Caruana, Fabiano"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D02"]
[WhiteElo "2881"]
[BlackElo "2783"]
[Annotator "Bojkov, Dejan"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "3R4/2P3bk/q5r1/1N2n2p/4Q3/2P4P/6B1/6K1 w - - 0 47"]
[PlyCount "5"]
[EventDate "2014.??.??"]
[EventCountry "AZE"]

{[%cal Ge6a6]} {The pawn is unstoppable, hite is two pawns ahead, his king is
secure. Nevertheless, Caruana have just played the move 46...Qe6-a6. Was it
just a desperation, or as Simon thought, Fabiano was preparing mentally for
the resignation?} 47. c8=Q Qa1+ {The last desperate check. Where will the king
go?} 48. Kf2 $1 {Played instantly. The world champion knows his busyness!} ({
What would be more natural than the retreat-} 48. Kh2 {Diagram [#] Black is
completely tied up and his pieces are scattered around, correct? This move
however will activate devilish trap number one:} Nf3+ $3 {[%csl Yh2][%cal
Ra1g1,Rg7e5,Rg6g1] When suddenly it is Black who wins!} 49. Qxf3 ({In the line
} 49. Bxf3 Qg1# {[%csl Rg1][%cal Rg6g1,Ra1g1] it is the pinned rook which
helps.}) 49... Be5+ {with checkmate on the next move.}) 48... Qb2+ {One more
desperate (useless) check?} 49. Ke1 $1 {Nope. This was one more devilish trick.
} ({Devilish trick number two is revealed in the line:} 49. Qe2 $4 {[%csl Rh7]
[%cal Re4h7] Diagram [#]} Rxg2+ $1 {The rook is free!} 50. Kxg2 Qxe2+ 51. Kh1 (
51. Kg3 Qf3+ 52. Kh2 Qf2+ {would lead to the same.}) 51... Qf1+ 52. Kh2 Nf3+
53. Kg3 Be5# {Checkmate! The moral of the story is to always ask yourself the
simple question: "What does my opponent want?"}) 1-0