The Bilbaos 2014 – Penultimate Round

A peculiar thing happened today – in all the three tournaments (men’s ECC, women’s ECC and the Masters) the winner is already known one round before the end! Incredibly rare occurence in a 7-round Swiss event, the first one being having two elite tournaments at the same time in the same place.

Anand played it safe today against Ponomariov, another Ragozin, where they followed the game of Carlsen’s second Hammer against Mamedyarov (Anand is known for quickly picking up new lines, sometimes in a matter of days, like here), just three days earlier at the ECC – Ponomariov deviated with 11 Qc2 (instead of Mamedyarov’s 11 e4) but didn’t get much either. 
11 Qc2 Ponomariov, 11 e4 Mamedyarov
The comp says black could have tried for more later in the game, but I have the impression Anand wasn’t interested in squeezing out tiny advantages today, especially as with this draw he secured his victory in the tournament. Wonderful result for Anand that will further boost his confidence for the upcoming match.
Aronian played a novelty on move 11 (11 Bd2) against Vallejo’s Semi-Tarrasch with 5…cd4 (instead of 5…Nd5 which would have been the proper Semi-Tarrasch). 
11 Bd2, a new attempt
This line, made popular by Keres in the Zurich Candidates in 1953 got back into fashion again recently, but not as a sharp weapon (as used by Keres – he beat Geller and Stahlberg and drew with Najdorf in the mentioned tournament), but as a way to get to an inferior endgame and draw. Vallejo managed both, but it seems Aronian was a bit indecisive in the four-rook endgame that arose by force after his innovation.
The ECC brought a lot of action and a 5-1 victory for SOCAR in the decisive match for first place – they destroyed Malakhite, with only Grischuk (who was also lost in the endgame a piece down; earlier he could have drawn several times) and Lysyj managing a draw! Amazing performace by the impressive Azerbaijan juggernaut team, securing the final win with a round to spare – I don’t think this has happened before, particularly in a 7-round team Swiss event!
In the position below Mamedyarov’s last move 24…Rdf8 is a good positional exchange sacrifice based on white-square blockade (everybody’s mentioning Petrosian when it comes to positional exchange sacrifices, so I won’t). White (Karjakin) declined and tried to wrestle the white-square control from black, but that made it even worse for him because of another exchange sacrifice:
25 Bf4? Bf4! 26 Bf3 Nh2 27 Rh1 Nf3 28 gf4 Rf4
Black dominates and went on to win
Wang Hao-Bologan saw a spectacular king march reminiscent of the famous Short-Timman, Tilburg 1991, with the difference that black wasn’t completely paralysed:
29 Kg3, 30 Kh4, 31 Kh5
Great technical game was played by Durarbayli who beat Kamsky with white from this position:
To beat Kamsky from here is an incredible feat!
Worth mentioning is that Caruana won again, with black against GM Swinkels, rated 2493, and he introduced a very rare move in an otherwise popular position – in the position below the main move is 8…Bb7, with 8…Nh6 being played sporadically. Caruana’s 8…b4 is played even less, but it may introduce a new development of this line:
8…b4!?
Usually the last rounds decide everything, but in Bilbao they will decide nothing. That leaves us with the hope that the players will not be burdened by the pressure of getting a result and will play interesting and creative games.
Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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