Round Two of the Tradewise Gibraltar International Chess Tournament 2016, was played on Wednesday January 27th. Obviously, because of the nature of the Swiss format, some pairings saw some players vastly out-rated and this made for another bloody round.
Viswanathan Anand notched up his first full point in round 2, strutting his stuff against FM Matthias Bach of Germany. Playing Black, in a Reti, Anand made light work of equalising and was soon dominating the position. He effortlessly won a pawn, and when he obtained a central passed pawn the writing was on the wall. Bach, over-powered and out-gunned, had no answer and was surrendering on his 32nd move.
Meanwhile, Hikaru Nakamura was making rather light work of his 2nd-round opponent, Tamas Fodor Jr. The top seed equalised very easily, wielding the Nimzo-Indian, and just seemed to take something out of White’s position with each move. White hemmed in his fianchetto’d bishop on g2, and fell foul to some lovely tactical play by Black, which ended up netting a piece. There was no hope, and Nakamura hit 2/2.
The ladies had a good round, firstly Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was under a little bit of pressure against Valentina Gunina. Playing white in a King’s Indian Attack, the Frenchman got himself into a few problems. To me, he seemed to over-reach slightly on the Kingside, and Black rather took things in her stride and made her presence known in the centre and with a Queenside pawn majority — four against one, no less. On top of this, was her active knight, and very well placed remaining rook. White had the bishop pair, but they just didn’t seem to be doing anything, and in chess this counts for a great deal. (Diagram.)
From here, White had to play extremely accurately if he was to salvage anything from the game. And this Vachier-Lagrave did, managing to create just enough pressure on the Kingside to not allow Gunina the time to get her pawns rolling. Infact, perhaps her play became slightly too quiet, and allowed White to improve his position and seize an edge. There followed: 27.Bg5 Rc8 28.f6 gxf6 29.Bxf6 Qd2 with White holding the initiative, (perhaps 29…a5 would have been a little more testing but it is hard to tell), 30.g5 and it was here that Gunina made her fatal error with 30…Nd6?? A very costly lapse and Vachier-Lagrave pounced with 31.g6! From here, all roads led to Rome for White. Something had to be done about the pawn of course, and after 31…Bxg6 (31…hxg6 32.Qh4!) 32.Qe5! White’s threats are numerous. After 32…Rf8 33.Bxd5+ Nf7 34.Bg5! it was all over. A nice finish from Vachier-Lagrave.
Elsewhere, revenge was being taken on behalf of the ladies contingent, by Natalia Pogonina, who would take a point from Arkadij Naiditsch. Their game was a Ruy Lopez, Steinitz Defence, and White got the better of the opening. Gradually, though, pieces were exchanged, and Black managed to get organised. Being fair, mistakes were exchanged by the players, but that is the beauty of human chess, (which is easy to forget whilst kibitzing with the chess engine of choice). The result was that Pogonina obtained an advanced Queenside passed pawn, while those of Naiditsch advanced towards her king. (Diagram.)
From the diagram position, Pogonina dominated the rest of the game, penetrating the Black position and manufacturing exchanges vastly in her favour. Naiditch’s King would be marched from kingside to Queenside, where one wrong move would see him mated. More importantly, though, after unavoidable exchanges, it would be too far away to prevent White from achieving new Queens on the Kingside. And Black resigned.
Perhaps it would be true to say that the shock of the round (based on ratings anyway) was Chao Li (2751) going down to Erik Blomqvist (2492). Blomqvist, playing White in a Richter-Rauzer, played a nice, confident, game, which saw his pawns storm up the Kingside and his Queen and rooks lining up aggressively towards the centralised Black King.
White then temporarily sacrificed a piece for a great initiative, with 26.Qxf3! (shown in the above, diagram). After 26…Qxc4 (which wasn’t the best idea in the world, but to be fair, Black was already up against it) there followed: 27.Qf4! Qc5 28.Rxe6. Blomqvist regained his piece and played powerfully, without allowing Li any chance of recovery. A very nice game indeed!
And with things warming up nicely, what would round three bring?