Round four of the Tradewise Gibraltar International Chess Tournament 2016, was played on Friday the 29th of January. A rather quiet affair by comparison of the earlier rounds, (which is not surprising now that ratings and scores are beginning to balance out), it would see a mere two decisive games at the top.
The first would go to Etienne Bacrot, who took his chance with the Black pieces, against Aleksandra Goryachkina. White started well enough, but thanks to some slow (and rather unclear) play, Black began to seize the initiative. Goryachkina found herself in a situation where her bishops were muted behind her own pawns. (Diagram.)
In her attempts to free herself, White probably got a little too bold with her pawn advances on the Kingside, and this allowed Black to counter very nicely on the Queenside, and he was soon a pawn up. The situation did not improve for White, and Black then obtained a passed pawn on c2, solidified by his light-squared bishop on e4. What really did the damage, however, was the air that White had inflicted upon her own King, and Black was soon piling up against it. This pressure led to a humungous blunder by White with 45…Rb6?? Which dropped a whole rook.
The other win of the round was by Austria’s Markus Ragger. He played Anna Muzychuk, who had had such a good game against Laurent Fressinet in the previous round. In an anti-Meran, things were rather balanced until Black adopted a rather passive line of pieces on her second rank. Her position began to show cracks, especially her Queenside pawn minority of 2 against 3. She was forced to fight it out and this left White with two passed pawns on the Queenside. Though unconnected, they were threatening and this led to Muzychuk tying herself in knots trying to deal with them. Her 37…Nxc5? (diagram, below) looks all kinds of wrong, and was. White illustrated this with 38.Rc2! There followed 38…e5 39.Qe3! and Black resigned, way beyond lost and in virtual zugzwang.
This left the leaders shortened from eleven to two, with Bacrot and Ragger setting the pace. Round 5 would be the halfway stage, and if the players chasing the leaders did not want to risk being left behind, it was likely to be an eventful one.