Ivanchuk ahead of all, Fridman ahead of Naiditsch
Preface: This article was initially published in German aimed at a German audience. It might be worthwhile translating it (even with a delay of about one week) because this tournament got relatively limited international English-language media attention, despite the participation of several (former) world-top players. I left the bits and pieces (including the second part of the subtitle) primarily relevant for German readers.
During the decisive phase of this tournament, I mostly watched the last round of the European championship; later I reconstructed what had happened in Jurmala. In rapid chess, particularly in rapid chess, it might be questionable to apply engine standards to all moves – but that’s the only way to “make sense” of many games with limited time (and limited own chess understanding).
It might not be the case for every single game, but generally Ivanchuk and Mamedyarov played creative-complicated chess, while Gelfand and Karjakin had a more dry-positional approach to their games. Among the German-Latvian GMs, Naiditsch is more adventurous like those first named, and Fridman more of a quiet and solid player. How would they fare in the tournament as a whole, and particularly against the mentioned world-top players? I cannot answer these question(s) completely. First the final standings: Ivanchuk 9/11, Karjakin, Gelfand and Rapport 8.5, Mamedyarov, Sakaev, Fridman 8, Shirov, Tomashevsky, Khalifman, Fedorov, Krasenkow, Popov, van Wely 8. Some names are missing, e.g. Naiditsch (7/11) and Morozevich (5.5/10 – then he left the tournament and forfeited his game against German IM Olaf Heinzel).
As already mentioned, the tournament got limited coverage elsewhere. Chessbase (in German and English) essentially just mentions that the tournament took place and that Ivanchuk won, plus many photos. Chess.com (their article appeared a bit later than my initial one and is therefore not mentioned in the German version) also focuses on Ivanchuk, mentioning the King’s Gambit in the title – oops, now I already revealed the possible story behind one of the photos (see below). They attribute photos from jurmalachess.com to Maria Emelianova.
Generally, day one in such tournaments is often a formality – favorites beating “fishes”, those who don’t manage are already behind in the race for tournament victory. Now already Round one had half-surprises just below the first nine boards transmitted live: Table 10 Klimakovs(2252) – Naiditsch 1/2 und Table 11 van Wely – FM Maevsky(2249) 1/2. As only the live games are available, I cannot comment on these games. Not all favorites won convincingly: GP-hero Tomashevsky won only because his opponent Kristaps Ketainis (yes, a Latvian, Elo 2285) lost on time in a totally drawn position, despite six seconds increment per move. Is it “OK” for the underdog to offer a draw in such a situation (obviously before flag fall), and if so does the favorite have the “moral right” to turn down this offer? Could Ketainis claim a draw? Something one has to think about in the heat of the fight … .
Round two already had GM-duels, and Karjakin only got a draw against Stocek’s Pirc defense (apparently offered by the black player). Slightly further down the first complete surprises: Tomashevsky apparently played for a win in a slightly worse rook endgame against veteran Sveshnikov … and lost:
The photo shows the final position, and Tomashevsky in a relatively good mood. Also from a German and Dutch perspective, there were “wrong” results: IM Ladva (Latvian born in 1997) – GM Fridman 1-0, GM Schlosser – WGM Girya 1/2 also not according to Elo expectations, Table 26 Olkhovskiy(2124) – GM van Wely 1-0.
In Round 3 the favorites generally won on the top tables, the occasional draw was no longer that surprising. Further down (Table 20) a semi-success for the German delegation: IM Troyke – GM Tomashevsky 1/2. [Germany contributed ten participants, the biggest delegation from a non-ex-Soviet country ahead of Poland with seven players.]
Only eight players started with 4/4, hence Round 4 already had clashes between favorites: Rapport-Ivanchuk 0-1 – the young Hungarian sacrifices incorrectly, maybe he overlooked the Zwischenzug 26.-Sh5 [as far as I know, Zwischenzug is English chess vocabulary]. Fedoseev-Mamedyarov 0-1 – also a counterattack victory after white played for an attack a bit too wildly. Malakhov-Morozevich 1-0 in a rook endgame. Gelfand-Lysyj 1/2, black (Elo 2691) had no problems whatsoever. Karjakin-Schlosser 1-0 was close to another sensation: 20.Ne6??! was objectively just a bluff (20.-fxe6! 21.Bxe6+ Bf7 22.BxQc8 BxQa2), but Philipp Schlosser believed the world-top player and had to resign after 20.-Re8? 21.Rg3 Bg6? (21.-g6 is complicated and roughly equal) 22.Nxg7 d5 23.Nxe8 1-0.
Round 5 had many games between players of roughly equal nominal strength, thus six draws on the top nine boards. An exception was Table 9 with a medium-sized drama: Naiditsch had black against GM Socko, not Bartosz but Monika. The evaluation kept changing after move 28: 28.RxBb7 (forced but playable exchange sacrifice) 28.-Nxb7 29.Qc6? (now white doesn’t get enough compensation) 29.-Nc5 30.Bc8 Qb8? (too greedy, he also wants to eat the black bishop) 31.d6! (now this passed pawn gives white enough compensation) 31.-g6? 32.Qc7 Qxc7 33.dxc7 and the passed pawn wins the black rook, with an extra piece for black at the very end. I don’t know how Fridman lost on board 10 against veteran Ehlvest. van Wely showed solidarity with his German GM colleagues and lost against a certain IM Ottomar Ladva.
So far for day one, most favorites had 4.5 or 4 points from five rounds – like some less famous players, e.g. the Russian GMs Dobrov and Sakaev. In Round 6 Ivanchuk had to be satisfied with a draw against Dobrov, while Mamedyarov won with black against Malakhov who had probably missed 28.-RxNe4! and the (now) passed d-pawn cannot be stopped. Now Mamedyarov was sole leader, only to be crushed by Ivanchuk in Round 7:
I don’t include diagrams, but if the tournament photographer does it for me … . Mamedyarov had white – also most amateurs will understand why he resigned here. Morozevich had 5/6 before the round and 5/7 afterwards – loss against countryman Shomoev. This turned into 5/8, 5/9 and 5,5/10 (draw against Latvian FM Lavendelis). Now five players were on top with 6/7, favorites Ivanchuk, Gelfand und Karjakin and not-quite-favorites Shomoev und Sakaev.
In Round 8 Gelfand with white had a quiet game against Ivanchuk – draw. Karjakin beat Sakaev in the style of Karjakin, i.e. positionally. Mamedyarov won a tactical slugfest against Shomoev. Fridman had to be patient to beat Monika Socko (is there an English term for the German ‘Arbeitssieg’?). He had to survive a scary moment – if he knew during the game, it might have been just a few seconds: after 45.-Qe4! (45.-Qe6?) white has two extra pawns, and black a mating attack despite reduced material (just queens and rooks). Punishment for Mrs. Socko: removal from the live transmission and a game against husband Bartosz in the next round.
Karjakin was in the sole lead and would face Ivanchuk in the next round – after the lunch break, did Ivanchuk prepare something special in the meantime?
In hindsight it appears that Ivanchuk doesn’t look at his opponent, but at his f-pawn – 1.e4 e5 2.f4!!??! Karjakin played ‘principled’ defending the gambit pawn with -g5, probably OK but Ivanchuk won later – not with a direct kingside attack but more in positional style by winning the advanced black pawns on the kingside.
Now Ivanchuk was in sole lead and had to defend this position in Round 10 with black against Fridman. Unlike Mamedyarov and Karjakin he reached a draw – OK, he probably wanted more and had an extra pawn in a rook endgame, not enough to win. A solid game from Fridman, Ivanchuk didn’t get the complications he might have wanted. Karjakin beat Khalifman, Gelfand beat Fedorov – three leaders before the final round. But the photo goes to Fridman:
Round 11: Gelfand and Karjakin played a quick draw – 20 moves, one piece and two pawns were already swapped. Ivanchuk had a symbolically better rook endgame against Fedoseev, until the Russian youngster lost patience with 45.-f5 – now Chucky had winning passed pawns in the center. Sometimes the art of chess also means to do nothing and to keep waiting. Mamedyarov avoided a Petrov on board 3 against Fridman and rather played (1.e4 e5) 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3. [BTW the Petrov opening is named after the Russian Alexander Petrov (1794-1867), not after Vladimir(s) Petrov(s) (1907-1943)] Fridman had no problems but rather the slightly better position. The endgame was unclear or dynamically equal until Fridman wanted to force perpetual check – which wouldn’t have worked but lost against best white play. But at one moment Mamedyarov didn’t play the best move, and Fridman got his perpetual check. Rapport-Naiditsch 1-0 was chaos, typical for both players. Rapport likes to play g2-g4 as early as possible and whenever it makes (some) sense, but he missed the opportunity after 1.b3!? Nf6 2.Bb2 g6 – now 3.g4 was probably as good or bad and in any case non-theoretical as the game move 3.Bxf6. Naiditsch prevented g2-g4 first with 5.-f5, then radically by placing one of his pawns on g4. The kingside was locked, and the action took place on the queenside: the white a- und d-pawns were on b6 and c5, the black a- und b-Bauern on a5 and b4 – the Rapport-Naiditsch interpretation of the en passant rule! The white passed pawns were more dangerous and decided the game.
In Round 12 Ivanchuk (as before Mamedyarov And Karjakin) lost against Ivanchuk. Nonsense – he can beat himself any time, but this pairing is against the rules and the tournament was over after 11 rounds with Ivanchuk as sole winner. I couldn’t answer one question: How did Naiditsch perform against the world elite? He didn’t meet such players during this tournament.
Some photos to conclude:
No sound to go along with this photo, in any case Ivanchuk received the trophy (and 1420 Euros prize money – relatively moderate but there were probably also appearance fees).
Also here Ivanchuk is talkative towards Gelfand, Shirov (participant and tournament director!) and Karjakin. The rest as gallery – apparently the women prize was shared between Gunina and Girya: