by GM Dorian Rogozenco
The fifth round of the Kings Tournament finally brought the second decisive game. Topalov against Nisipeanu played in his trademark style: the ex-World Champion sacrificed a pawn in the opening and then crushed opponent’s defense by a powerful exchange sacrifice. The Romanian GM was under constant pressure right from the beginning and in spite of tenacious defense, he finally succumbed in time-trouble.
Caruana against Ivanchuk also sacrificed the exchange for better control over light squares. As the young Italian said afterwards “visually it looked strong, but it is not clear that White can reach any advantage after that". Both opponents missed a tactical possibility for White at move 25, after which Black’s chanced already started to look preferable. However, on move 30 the players suddenly agreed to a draw…
Thus, before the last round two players are leading with 3 points out of 5: Ivanchuk and Topalov. In the last round they’ll face each other to decide the winner of the tournament. Theoretically, if they make a draw and Caruana wins against Nisipeanu, the Italian GM can join the leaders. In case of a tie, the winner will be decided in a rapid match.
Topalov,Veselin (2769) - Nisipeanu,Liviu-Dieter (2668) [E15]
A popular opening variation lately: White sacrificed a pawn to open files and set pressure on opponent's center. It must be said that both players are good specialists of this opening line.
Below are few examples of the previous games in this line played by present players. Notice that Topalov won his both games.
10...Nc6 11.Qf5 Nf6 12.e4 d6 13.e5 Qd7 14.Qf4 (14.Qc2 Nb4 15.Qe2 Ba6 16.Qe1 Nc2 17.Qd2 Nxa1 18.exf6 Bxf6 19.Re1+ Be7 20.Nc3 0-0 21.Ne5 Qc8 22.Nc6 Bd8 23.Nd5 Qg4 24.b3 Bb7 25.h3 Qh5 26.Nce7+ Kh8 27.Nf4 1-0 (27) Nisipeanu,L (2661)-Pelletier,Y (2611) Rijeka 2010) 14...Nh5 15.Qc4 0-0 16.Nc3 Rae8 17.Be3 Nb4 18.Rd2 Ba6 19.Qb3 Nd3 20.Qa3 Qc8 21.exd6 Bxd6 22.Rad1 Be7 23.Nd5 Nb4 24.Ne5 Nxd5 25.Bxd5 Nf6 26.Bg2 c4 27.Qc3 Bb5 28.h3 Bc5 29.Bxc5 Qxc5 30.Rd5 Nxd5 31.Rxd5 Qc7 32.Rxb5 Rc8 33.Nc6 Rfe8 34.Rb4 Re2 35.Bf3 Re6 36.Rxc4 Rce8 37.Kg2 1-0 (37) Topalov,V (2803)-Bacrot,E (2716) Nanjing 2010;
10...Qc8 11.a3 (11.Nh4 Bxh4 12.Rxd5 Be7 13.Nc3 Nc6 14.Qe4 0-0 15.Rh5 g6 16.Rh3 f5 17.Qe3 Rf7 18.Bd5 1/2-1/2 (18) Nisipeanu,L (2689)-Baklan,V (2618) Germany 2007) 11...Nf6 12.Bg5 d5 13.Bxf6 Bxf6 14.Nc3 Bxc3 15.bxc3 Na6 16.Nh4 g6 17.Bxd5 Bxd5 18.Rxd5 0-0 19.Rad1 Nc7 20.Rd7 Ne6 21.Qe4 Qe8 22.Nf3 c4 23.Qh4 Nc5 24.Re7 Rd8 25.Rf1 1-0 (25) Topalov,V (2777)-Anand,V (2798) Bilbao 2008. 11.Nc3 a6
The plan with Nc7 and a6 didn't get much praise from Topalov after the game.
A new move in this particular position. 12.Qf5 and 12.Ne4 have been played before.
12...0-0 13.e3 Ra7 14.Rd2 Ne6 15.Rad1 Nxf4 16.exf4 Qc8 17.h4
White has good positional compensation for the sacrificed pawn. Together with being under pressure in the center, Black must always reckon with Nf3-g5.
In such positions Black should always consider to eliminate the potentially very dangerous knight on f3. Therefore serious attention deserved 17...Bxf3 18.Bxf3 Nc6, although it seems that this doesn't fully solve the problems: 19.Nd5 Bd8 (19...Qd8 20.Qe4 Bf6 21.Nxf6+ Qxf6 22.Rxd7 Rxd7 23.Rxd7 Nd4 24.Bg2 Rd8 25.Rxd8+ Qxd8 26.Qb7 wins a pawn for White.) 20.h5.
According to Topalov the best was 17...h6.
A somewhat unexpected waiting move. Clearly, taking away square b4 from the black knight is good for White, but the question is whether he can allow himself playing such quiet moves.
Strong looked 18.Ng5 Bxg5 (18...g6 19.Nge4) 19.hxg5 Nc6 (Both 19...Bxg2 20.Kxg2 Nc6 21.Rh1 g6 22.Nd5 and 19...Re8 20.Rxd6 Bxg2 21.Kxg2 Nd7 22.Qf5 are just bad for Black) 20.Nd5 Qd8 21.Be4 h6 Black is obviously playing with fire. White has more than one way to achieve advantage 22.Nf6+!? (22.gxh6 Nd4 23.Rxd4 cxd4 24.hxg7 is also dangerous for Black) 22...gxf6 23.Rxd6 Nd4 24.Rxd8 Nxc2 25.Bxc2 White is better.
According to Topalov good is also 18.Nd5 Bxd5 19.Rxd5 Nc6 20.a3.
Again a principled option is 18...Bxf3 19.Bxf3 Nc6, after which White can consider playing something like this: 20.Bxc6 Qxc6 21.Nd5 Bd8 22.Qe4 (threatening a check on f6) 22...Qe8 23.Qf3 with good compensation for the pawn thanks to the mighty knight on d5.
19.Nd5 Bd8 20.Ne3 Bf6
Both players agreed after the game that 21.Nf5 was a worthy alternative.
21...Nd4 22.Nxd4 Bxd4 23.Bxb7
White is also better after 23.Rxb6 Bxg2 24.Kxg2 Qd8 (In case of 24...Rb7 25.Nf5! White remains with a pawn up in all variations) 25.Nc4, or 23.Nf5 Bxg2 24.Kxg2.
23...Rxb7 24.Nf5 Qb8
24...Bxb2 25.Rxb6! and due to the threat Nd6 White wins. Black cannot take the rook in view of the fork on e7.
25.Rd5 avoids the exchange of pieces and therefore deserved attention as well.
Connected with the following exchange sacrifice, a very strong idea from Topalov.
26.Nxd4 brings little: 26...Qxd6 27.Qxb7 cxd4 (27...b5 28.Qc6 Rd8 29.Qxd6 Rxd6 30.Kf1 cxd4 31.Ke2 leads to unpleasant rook endgame for Black.) 28.Qxa6 Re8 29.Qd3 Qd5 30.Kh2 Re4 and Black has little to fear, according to Topalov.
26...Kg7 27.R1xd4! cxd4 28.Qxd4+ f6 29.Nc6 Qc8 30.Kh2!
30.Qd5 Qh3 allows unnecessary counterplay.
White doesn't have concrete threats, but he is playing for domination. Considering that Nisipeanu was in time-trouble, Black's position is extremely difficult.
Probably more tenacious was 31...Qb7 32.h5 gxh5.
After the game Topalov regretted that he didn't go for 33.Rxb6, but in fact the move from the game is stronger, since here Black plays 33...Rd7! 34.Ne6+ Kh8, followed by Rd2 and Black gets counterplay.
The only move to stay in the game was 33...Re5, after which White still keeps better prospects with the precise 34.Qf3! (34.Rd7+ R8e7! 35.Ne6+ Kf7 and surprisingly White has no more than repetition in spite of the discovered double-check: 36.Ng5+ Kg7 37.Ne6+ Kf7 38.Ng5+ Kg7=) 34...gxf5 35.Rxb6.
Now White is winning.
Or 34...Kh6 35.Qd4.
35.Qd4 Qc2 36.Qxf6+ Kg8 37.fxg6 Qxg6 38.Qxg6+ hxg6 39.Nf4 Rg7 40.Rxb6 a5
Caruana,Fabiano (2786) - Ivanchuk,Vassily (2763) [B90]
6th Kings Tournament Bucharest (5), 12.11.2012
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.Qd2 Nbd7 9.0-0-0 Be7 10.f4 b5 11.Kb1 0-0 12.f5
If immediately 12...Bxb3, then after 13.cxb3 White can later prepare g2-g4 with Be2. If then Black continues 13...b4 14.Nd5 Nxe4, White plays 15.Qxb4.
A well-known pawn sacrifice. However, so far it didn't bring Black problems in practice and the present game confirms that Black should be doing fine after accepting the sac.
By taking immediately on b3 Ivanchuk wanted to avoid a possible improvement from his opponent over the following game: 13...Nxg4 14.Rg1 Nxe3 15.Qxe3 Bxb3 16.Qh6 (Here White can play 16.cxb3 which transposes to our main encounter, so in any case Ivanchuk's immediate 13...Bxb3 makes perfect sense, since it limits White's options.) 16...Bxc2+ 17.Kxc2 Bf6 18.Rxd6 (Ivanchuk was worried about 18.Rd3!? Kh8 19.Qh5, but apparently Black defends here with 19...h6! 20.Rh3 Kh7) 18...Kh8 19.Qd2 Ra7 20.Kb1 Qc7 Nisipeanu,L (2668)-Karjakin,S (2694) Khanty-Mansiysk 2007.
14.cxb3 Nxg4 15.Rg1 Nxe3 16.Qxe3 Kh8 17.a4
Caruana would like to get square c4 for his bishop in order to increase control over light squares.
A strong idea by Ivanchuk, who doesn't want to hand over the initiative to his opponent. The tactical justification is that white queen and rook are on the diagonal a7-g1.
In case of 18.Qg3 Ivanchuk wanted to activate his bishop 18...Rg8 19.Nxd5 Bc5 20.Rg2 Bd4.
This was one Black's ideas: to drive away the knight from square d5.
With this positional exchange sacrifice Caruana establishes full control over light squares in the center. However, with accurate play Black has little to fear.
19...Qxd7 20.Nd5 Qd6 21.Bc4 a5
Caruana rejected 22.Qg3 Rg8 23.Ne3 in view of 23...Qd4, but this was better than the game, since 24.Bxf7 Qxe4+ 25.Ka2 Bh4 26.Qh3! is good for White. Black cannot save the exchange: 26...Rgf8 27.Rg4 winning.
22...Bd8 23.Rd3 Rc8 24.Qg3 Rc6
With 25.Nb6! Qc7 26.Nd7 White could win back the exchange, keeping slightly better prospects. The point is that 26...Re8 runs into 27.Nxe5! and Black cannot recapture the knight due to the back rank weakness. Both opponents were short on time though and this resource might have escaped their attention.
25...Rc8 26.Bc4 Rc6 27.Ne3 Qc7 28.Qg2 Qe7 29.Nd5 Qh4 30.Rh3 Qe1+
A somewhat unexpected draw. After 31.Ka2 Qc1 32.Rg3 h6 33.Qe2 Bg5 Black is better.