The Tradewise Gibraltar International Chess Tournament 2016, continued with round three being played on Thursday 28th January.
The round would see Viswanathan Anand continue his winning ways, notching up a point against Xiangyu Xu. Actually, the former World Champion made extremely light work of it. The problem with Black’s game appeared to be … well … everything, to be honest. His pieces became cut off from each other and his King stuck in the centre. The situation after Anand’s 22.c4 shows this.
White’s position is extremely flexible, with play possible on either the Kingside or Queenside, whichever he chooses. Black, on the other hand, has problems to solve and that is clear to see. Xu chose to go about this with 22…Qc6 and this allowed Anand to continue a little too freely with his Kingside intentions: 23.Rh3 Bg5 24.g3 e6.
This is where Black had been placing his hopes of counter chances, the classical central thrust against play on the wings. Unfortunately, though, this only works if it proves a distraction to the opponent’s undertakings. Anand continued, unphased: 25.gxh4 Bxh4 26.Nc3 (26.Rxh4 Rxh4 27.Nf6 was also possible) Ke7. Only here does Black connect rooks, but it is now too little too late and White has a huge initiative. Anand demonstrates this powerfully: 27.Nb5 Bf2 28.Nxd6 Rcd8 29.Nxf7 Rxh3 30.Nxd8 and claimed the point.
Grigoriy Oparin stopped the surge of Hikaru Nakamura, by holding him with Black. To be fair, Nakamura did not really try for very much, and this allowed Oparin to equalise without too much pressure. Things started looking a little dicey for Black when White won a pawn, and established a nice passer in the centre. However, the tournament favourite did not try to do much with it, and the game just fizzled to a dead draw.
Elsewhere, the likes of Jakovenko, Vachier-Lagrave, Rapport, and Bacrot, were all winning their games, to be part of a group of 11 players on 3/3.
Also on 100% was Harika Dronavalli, who notched up a point by beating Nigel Short with black. Short got very little out of his opening, as White in the French Defence – apart from, perhaps, demonstrating how one would not want to open a game. He undertook an early Queen excursion, stuck a knight on the rim, and then retreated his queen to block in his light-squared bishop, which only ended up moving as the game was about to end. To boot, the dark-squared bishop returned to c1, where it was nothing but a liability, crucially cutting the White rooks off from opposing Black along the b-file. I think, sometimes, Nigel tries a little too hard to mix things up – and this is by no means a criticism of him.
Dronavalli, meanwhile, made good, sensible developing moves. She took Short’s play in her stride, equalised with no problem at all, and had much more harmony in her position. Black began to edge forward and White’s pieces looked like mere spectators. Then came Dronavalli’s 28…Bb5! (Diagram.)
The threat is simply …Ba4. And this is a threat not only because of the position of White’s Queen and d1-rook, but also because of the predicament of the White King. Black is threatening to swamp the White position (…d4 is also a serious possibility in some cases) and mate along the open b-file. Short’s 29.Rxd5 made very little difference either way, but to be fair, there was very little to do and the position was already resignable. Dronavalli continued unabashed, 29…Ba4! And after Short’s 30.Qd2 there came 30…Qxd5! 31.Qxd5 Bc2! And here, a whole rook down, without compensation or counter play, Short resigned.
Continuing a rather nice day for the female players, Anna Muzychuk was also demonstrating her ability on the chessboard, in fine style against Laurent Fressinet. Anna chose the Scotch Four Knights in order to take the battle to her opponent, and she will be very pleased with the outcome. It saw Black saddled with doubled pawns on both the a and b files, while White’s structure sang. Black was completely outplayed and out-manoeuvred, seeing Muzychuk win a pawn and penetrate to the 7th rank in a very potent attack, which would leave Fressinet defenceless. A very well played game.
At the end of this round, eleven-players would lead the tournament. Surprisingly the group would not include the top seed, or the former World Champion, and inarguably one of the best players ever to touch a piece.