Round 6 of the Tradewise Gibraltar International Chess Tournament 2016, took place on Sunday 31st of January. It would see the number of leaders raised from four to ten. One of the four, Etienne Bacrot of France, would opt for a day off and take a half-point bye. The other three leaders, Pentala Harikrishna and Abhijeet Gupta of India and Markus Ragger of Austria, also drew – Harikrishna and Gupta in a 60-mover against each other, and Ragger against the tournament ratings favourite, Hikaru Nakamura. This presented opportunities of catching the leaders, to those only just off the pace.
Steady pressure was the order of the day for Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in his win against Gawain Jones. With the bishop pair, and nicely active rook, White picked holes in his opponent’s position, won a pawn, and turned his extra bit into a passer to boot. It was always going to be a tough situation to hold, and although Jones made a valiant attempt, it was futile.
Richard Rapport took advantage of a bad blunder by Anand-slayer, Adrien Demuth, who will I am sure be quite disappointed. As White, he obtained quite an initiative in a Leningrad Dutch, before misjudging things and turning the situation in favour of his opponent. (Diagram)
In the diagram position, Demuth is standing very well, but seemed to have either panicked or lost patience as to his d6-pawn. Maintaining the tension was the order of the day, with 17.Na4, for example. The knight has the option of heading to b6, eyeing d7, and there is also the possibility of Ba5 and then going to c7. Perhaps Demuth considered that this was insufficient, and that Black had sufficient in response with …Nd5 and …Be6. However, the continuance that Demuth chose instead was hugely counter-productive for him. He played 17.dxe7? which immediately dissolved the tension and simplified the position. After 17…Qxe7 18.Rd6 Ne8 White really shot himself in the foot with 19.Rcd1?? surrendering a rook for absolutely no compensation. After 19…Nxd6 20.cxd6 Qf7, Black was simply winning. Ironically, White then went for the Na4 and Ba5 plan, but black had everything in hand, and not long later had the point too.
Yu Yangyi got the better of Edouard Romain in a Sicilian Dragon. White obtained the better structure, (having lumbered Black with three pawn islands), and slight space advantage. Black seemed to have enough resources to hold things together, however. White seemed to play the double rook ending a little more positively, and increased his edge. Both players obtained a central passed pawn, but Black’s was a mere pretender. White’s active King and well centralised rooks decided the day. A very nicely played endgame.
I wonder what Lazaro Bruzon Batista had for breakfast, as he was in no mood for a quiet game against Alexander Donchenko. The Cuban chose the English opening, and the game took on a sharp, open, nature, which White quickly got the better of. The real fun began with Bruzon’s 11.Nxe5! (Diagram.)
Black was on the back foot. I am not sure whether Donchenko walked in to a prepared trap, or if Bruzon Batista spotted it over the board, but whatever it was, White is in total command. There followed: 11…Bxg2 12.Qxg4! (with the threat towards g7) Qf6 13.Qd4 Bxh1 14.Bg5! (not Qxd7+ when after …Kf8, White has nothing) …Qf5; and here, unfortunately, Bruzon Batista got a little too eager, with 15.Qxd7+? (More to the point, here, was 15.Qd6! This move forces 15…Bxc5 which is a big thing as it lifts the pin on the c3 knight, and therefore Black has no tempo checks on e4 now – White wants to play f4 and g4, so this check possibility on e4 is a big thing for Black! What a huge difference a square makes.)
After 15…Kf8 White went further awry with 16.Be7+ Kg8 17.0-0-0? When Black is actually equal at worst. White was then saddled with trebled c-pawns and must have been wondering what on earth had happened. Luckily, Black did not capitalise as he might, 19…Bf3 was a little too slow, (19…f6 was more relevant), and allowed White to regain the initiative. After 20.Rd4, Bruzon Batista took a firm grip on the game, and Black’s position quickly collapsed.
Harika Dronavalli had been having quite a good campaign, and was on 4/5 going in to the round. Unfortunately things would take a downward turn against David Anton Guijarro. Dronavalli was doing rather well actually, and spend most of the game equal at worst. However, her opponent, (who at 20 is showing great potential, it has to be said) outplayed her in the endgame. With the much more active pieces, Guilarro gradually took space and obtained a passed pawn that was so dangerous, Dronavalli felt compelled to sacrifice her last minor piece to get rid of it. Unfortunately, after this, she was far too outnumbered, and quickly resigned.
White didn’t have a great time in the opening in Ly-Vidit. In the Pelikan Sicilian, Black quickly got the upperhand, all the more thanks to the White King being totally neglected and left in the centre of the board. This allowed Black to seize the initiative, as well as the advanced passed pawn, on which his opponent’s attention had been focussed. White’s position deteriorated rather rapidly and Black finished the game very confidently.