For the first time in Istanbul! (27 August – 2 September, №35)

The key Russia – Armenia match

“Normal time” hadn’t yet run out when Kramnik scored his first win in Istanbul – which was also Aronian’s first defeat. Two hours later the situation was repeated in a mirror image on the second board. Sergei Movsesian scored his first full point for his team, while Grischuk left the playing area with nothing for the first time…

Match result 2:2.

Read on

Author: Alexey Kuzmin

I’ve actually intruded on the domain of the second half of the Olympiad and the next, thirty-sixth week of the year. However, would it be fair to pass over the Russia-Armenia match in silence just because it was played on a Monday!

Russia – Armenia

Kramnik,V (2797) - Aronian,L (2816)

40th Olympiad Istanbul TUR, 03.09.2012


If it was “simply a grandmaster” playing Black I’d have written, “Black played the peaceful Exchange Variation of the Slav Defence carelessly, and here’s the result!” But I can’t talk like that about Aronian…

23...Rxb7 24.Qxa6 Rbc7 25.b4 Qd7 26.Qb6!

Perhaps this is the move that escaped Levon’s attention when he was doing his preliminary calculations of the consequences of White’s knight manoeuver Nb3-a5xb7.

Black’s position is already hopeless. He can’t save himself with either 26...Rb7 27.Rxc6! Rxb6 28.Rxc8+ Kf7 29.R8c7, or 26...Kf7 27.b5 Rb7 28.Qxc6! Qxc6 29.Rxc6 Rxc6 30.bxc6 as in both cases there’s an easy win.

26...Qe8 27.b5! Nxd4 28.Rxc7 Ne2+ 29.Kh1 Nxc1 30.Rxc8 Qxc8

31.Qc6! Black’s extra knight isn’t in time to come to the rescue, and there’s no obstacle to the pawn queening.

31... Qd8 32.b6 Kf7 33.Qc7+ Ke8 34.Qa7 d4 35.b7 1–0

…And now we’ll return to episodes from the first rounds of the Olympiad. Vladimir had a chance to open his account with a win on the third playing day.


Round of rook endings

Russia – Latvia

Kramnik,V (2797) - Shirov,A (2706)

40th Olympiad Istanbul TUR , 30.08.2012

Kramnik already had a small edge out of the opening, but the game went on. Shirov was under pressure, but he successfully simplified the position. Then on the last move bishops were exchanged on b3.

38...Ra3 39.Rxc6 Rxb3 A 4 v 4 rook endgame arose, but the evaluation remained “more pleasant for White.”

40.Ke4 b4 41.c4

Despite the active position of the white king Black’s position looks fairly solid. Pushing the pawn quickly would indeed have resolved his problems: 41...Rb1 42.Rb6 b3 43.h5 (43.Kd5 b2 44.Kc5 h5) 43...b2 44.Kf5 Rc1=. Alexei decided to begin with an undermining move on the kingside: 41... h5?! 42.g5 fxg5 43.hxg5! Ra3 Now the identical plan is too slow: 43...Rb1? 44.g6+ Kh6 45.Kf5 and the black king is hopelessly caught in a mating net. 44.Rb6 Diagram

44...b3? Now it was essential to distract the rook by pushing a pawn, but a different one: 44...h4! 45.Kf5 h3 46.Rxb4 h2 47.Rb1 Ra2=

45.f5 h4 46.Rb8 Ra4 47.Kd4 Ra5 48.c5 Ra4+ 49.Kd5 Rf4 50.Ke6 Re4+ 51.Kd5 Rf4 Diagram

52.f6! gxf6 After 52...h3 53.Rxb3 the c-pawn easily decides the outcome.

53.c6 Rf5+ 54.Kd6 Rf1 55.c7 Rc1

Vladimir had played the endgame wonderfully and it was very annoying that he was only missing a couple of brushstrokes to complete the canvas: 56.c8Q! Rxc8 57.Rxc8 Kg6 58.Kd5!!

In the game there followed 56.gxf6? Kg6 57.Rxb3 Kxf6 and Black escaped...

In the same third round a rook endgame also occurred in the game of the man possessing the highest rating of all the Olympians – Levon Aronian.


Armenia – Spain

Aronian,L (2816) - Vallejo Pons,F (2697)

40th Olympiad Istanbul TUR, 30.08.2012

The opening didn’t bring Levon any tangible benefits. He held on to the initiative half because of the resources of the position and half directly as a result of his energy. How else can you characterise the move 16.g4!? that followed in this position…

Ten moves later a rook endgame had arisen.

White can take the pawn, but with such a structure it won’t fundamentally alter anything. The endgame makes the impression of one that’s “almost equal”, but…

26.Rc7! Rf7 27.Rxf7 Kxf7 28.Rd7+ Kg8 29.Rb7 b5 30.Rb6 Rc8 31.b4 Ra8 32.a3 Kf7 33.Kg2 h6

34.f4! gxf4

It’s curious that for a moment Black even has an extra pawn, but there shouldn’t be any illusions: he’s the one who needs to play accurately to achieve a draw.

35.Kf3 Rc8 36.Rxa6 Diagram

36...Rc2? This looks natural, but it’s actually a mistake. A draw could have been achieved with the manoeuvre: 36...Rc3+ 37.Kxf4 Rh3 38.Ra5 Rxh2 39.f3 Rh5.

37.h4 g5? He should have waited: 37...Ra2 38.h5 Ke7 39.Ra5 Ke6 40.Rxb5 Rxa3+ 41.Kxf4±, although I wouldn’t claim this was a guaranteed path to a draw.

38.Rxh6 Rc3+

39.Ke4! Now Levon gradually eliminates all his opponent’s pawns.

39... gxh4 40.Rxh4 Rxa3 41.Rxf4+ Ke6 42.Rf5 Ra2 43.f3 Re2+ 44.Kf4 1–0

Incidentally, an extremely interesting rook endgame also occurred on the next day in the Hungary – Slovakia match.

Hungary – Slovakia

Almasi,Z (2713) - Petrik,T (2529)

40th Olympiad Istanbul TUR, 31.08.2012

Petrik should have taken a very difficult decision – to immediately give up his pawn - 37...Kf7! 38.Kxe5 Rfe2 39.Rxe2 Rxe2+. 37...Rfe2 38.Rxe2 Rxe2+ 39.Kf5 Diagram


There was no salvation after 39...e4 40.Rd8+ Kh7 41.Re8 Rd2 42.Re5! White also wins after 39...Rf2+ 40.Kxe5. But if on the 37th move Black had voluntarily given up the pawn this position would have occurred with the king on f7, which fundamentally alters the situation.

40.Ke6! Rxg3 41.Rc6!

41... Rf3 There was no longer any escape. After 41...Rxh3 there’s the winning 42.d6 Rd3 43.d7 Rxd7 44.Kxd7 and the king + rook tandem easily restrains the three black pawns. 42.d6 Rf6+ 43.Kxe5 Kf7 44.Rc8 Re6+ 45.Kd5 Re3 46.d7 Rd3+ 47.Kc6 Ke6 48.d8Q Rxd8 49.Rxd8 Ke5 50.Rg8 1–0

Olympic attacks

In the fourth round Ivanchuk and Grischuk finished their games with mating attacks.

Ukraine – Poland

Ivanchuk,V (2769) - Wojtaszek,R (2717)

40th Olympiad Istanbul TUR, 31.08.2012

35.Nf6+! gxf6



It’s a shame that Wojtaszek didn’t retreat his king - 35...Kh8 36.Ng6+! fxg6 37.Qxh6+!! gxh6 38.Rh7# Diagram





and the game ended with the “prosaic” 36.Qg3+ Kh7 37.Rxf7+ 1–0


China – Russia

Wang,Yue (2685) - Grischuk,A (2763)

40th Olympiad Istanbul TUR, 31.08.2012

25...Rh2+! 26.Kf1 Rh1+ 27.Kg2 Rh2+ 28.Kf1 Qh7! Diagram

It was still possible to give two checks 29.Qf6+ Kg8 30.Qg5 Kf7, but there was no way to defend against mate!

Black resigned.

The next day as well Alexander Grischuk’s attack was irresistible!

Russia – Hungary

Grischuk,A (2763) - Almasi,Z (2713)

40th Olympiad Istanbul TUR, 01.09.2012

30.N5h4! This only seems to be a retreat! Alexander is creating the threat of the e5-e6 break in order to dramatically weaken the light squares around his opponent’s king! Here’s an indicative variation: 30...Rcd8 31.e6! Rxe6 32.Rxe6 fxe6 33.Rxb7! Qxb7 34.Bc4 Qb6 35.Qg6 Nf6 36.Ne5 and the assault of the white pieces can’t be withstood!

30... Rc6 31.Be4 Even more energetic is 31.Bh7+! Kh8 32.Bf5 Nb6 33.e6+-. 31...Rb6 32.Bh7+ Kh8 33.Rxb6 [33.Bf5!] 33...Nxb6 34.e6 Bxf3 [34...Bd5!] 35.Nxf3 g6 Diagram

36.Bxg6! fxg6 37.Qxg6 Qc8 It doesn’t help to play either 37...Re7 38.Ne5 Qe8 39.Rb1, or 37...Nc4 38.e7 Rxe7 39.Rxe7 Bxe7 40.Qxh6+ Kg8 41.Qe6+.

38.Ne5 Bg7 39.Nf7+ Kg8 Diagram

40.Nxh6+ and without waiting for the quick denouement after 40... Kh8 41.Nf7+ Kg8 42.Nd6 Black resigned.


In this final round of the first half of the Olympiad Levon Aronian brought his team the decisive point in a crucial match. Again, as in the Grischuk game, the weakness of the white diagonal played a fatal role for Black.


Armenia – Ukraine

Aronian,L (2816) - Ivanchuk,V (2769)

40th Olympiad Istanbul TUR, 01.09.2012

15...d4? Agreeing to the destruction of your king cover, especially while your opponent has an unopposed light-squared bishop on the board, is too dangerous. 16.Bxb7 Rb8 17.Ng4 dxc3 18.Bxf6 gxf6 19.Be4 The bishop switches from the long white diagonal to another, which although not so long is more dangerous for his opponent’s king! 19... d5 20.Bc2 f5 21.Nh6+ Kh8 22.Nxf5 Qf6 23.a3 a5 24.Qd3 Rg8 Diagram

25.b4! Pawns don’t count! The option of invading on the a-file is much more important! 25... b4 26.axb4 Bxb4 27.Ra7 Ne6 28.Ne7 Qg7 You have to give up the exchange. After 28...Rg7 29.Nxd5 you’d suffer even heavier losses. 29.Nxg8 Kxg8 30.Qxd5 Diagram

White is an exchange up, his pieces are actively placed and his opponent has no counterplay whatsoever – a won position. 30...Bc5 31.e3 b5 32.Ra8 Rxa8 33.Qxa8+ Qf8 34.Qe4 Qh6 35.Ra1 b4 36.Ra5 Bf8 37.Qg4+ Qg7 38.Qh4 h6 39.Ra8 Nc7 Diagram

40.Rxf8+! An elegant finishing touch. If the king took there would follow 41.Qxb4+ Kg8 42.Qb8+, winning the knight. 40...Qxf8 41.Qg4+ Kh8 42.Qf5 1–0

… Ivanchuk’s misfortunes at this Olympiad started in the second round in a game against the Qatari grandmaster Al-Modiahki.

I’ve been working as coach of the Qatar team for twenty years, so not to mention this game would simply be beyond my power. My students had never yet played at the Olympiad on the top table, and a win on the first board in the first match was an absolute first in the chess history of Arab countries!


Qatar – Ukraine

Al-Modiahki,M (2542) - Ivanchuk,V (2769)

40th Olympiad Istanbul TUR, 29.08.2012

Ivanchuk managed to seize the initiative out of the opening, but Al-Modiahki put up stubborn resistance for thirty moves, continually posing problems. Mohammed managed “to drag” Ivanchuk with him into time trouble. On his last move the Qatari player took a pawn with 49.Qxg4.

If Ivanchuk had now played 49...Qb7! 50.Kh2 Nd5 he’d also have had chances of converting his edge into a win, but Ivanchuk blundered.

49...Qd5? 50.Kh2! Ne4 51.Rf4 f5 52.exf6 Nxf6 53.Qc8

After 53...Qh5+ 54.Kg2 Qe2+ 55.Kg1 Qd1+ 56.Kg2 Qxc1 57.Qf8! you have to give perpetual check - 57... Qd2+ 58.Kg1 Qe1+ 59.Kg2 Qe2+. Ivanchuk of course saw that variation, but he kept looking and looking: “what happened to the win?!” And when eventually he nervously played 53...Rc6?? his clock showed he’d lost on time... However, after the obvious reply 54.Qf8 Black no longer had perpetual check... 1–0

And that, it seems, is all…