Aronian back in business!
Aronian, Levon - Svidler, Peter
FIDE Candidates Tournament 2014 2014.03.17
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5
The Grunfeld. Not much else could be expected from Peter!
4.Nf3 Bg7 5.cxd5 N6xd5 6.e4 Nxc3 7.b2xc3 c5 8.Rb1
One of the main lines. What is the purpose of this slightly mysterious move? Black's main idea in the position is to start hitting the centre with moves like Nc6 and Bg4. With his last move White prepares to meet 8...Nc6 with 9.d5! while 8...B
g4 is discouraged since it leaves the b7-pawn en prise. Last but not least the rook feels a lot safer on b1, out of range of the g7-bishop.
8... O-O 9.Be2 cxd4 10.c3xd4 Qa5+ 11.Bd2 ( 11.Qd2 Q5xd2+ 12.B1xd2 was seen in one of the Karpov-Kasparov matches but is known to be rather harmless long since. The game continuation is a far more critical test.)
11... Qxa2 12.O-O
This is a huge theoretical battleground that features well over a 1000 games. At first sight it looks great for black; his a- and b-pawn are free to run towards the other side of the board and there are no immideate dangers. It's all not that simple though. Pushing the pawns might easily make them weak, the queen is misplaced on a2 and quickly needs to get to safety, furthermore it's not easy for Black to finish his development. For all this discomfort a pawn is in the bag though!
( It would be interesting to see what Aronian had in store for us after12... Bg4 which is the main continuation. But Svidler decides to be the first to surprise his opponent!)
13.Qc1 Bb7 ( The attempt to bring the queen back straight away has a bad reputation. After Qe6 14.Re1 ( 14.Bc4!? 14... Qxe4 15.Re1 Qb7 16.Bb4 Be6 17.R1xe6 f7xe6 18.Ng5 is the another way to proceed.)14... Bb7 15.Bb5 Na6 16.Bf4 Qc8 17.Qe3 White had beautiful compensation in Bacrot-Ivanchuk, Thessaloniki 2013.)
14.Bc4 Qa4 15.Bb5 Qa2 16.Re1 Rc8 17.Qd1 Qc2 18.Qe2 Nc6 19.Bd3 ( Only here does Aronian deviate from a rapid game he played against Grischuk in the World Mind Games in Beijing. That game continued 19.e5 Nd8 20.Bd7 Rcb8 21.h4 Bd5 22.Rbc1 Qa2 23.Ng5 h6 24.Nh3 Ne6 and Black was surely not worse!)
(Photo: Courtesy of FIDE)
19... Qa2 20.Bc4 ( 20.Ra1 Qb2 21.Reb1 traps the queen but21... Nxd4! shows that Black has some threats of his own! Now 22.Rxb2 Nxe2+ 23.B3xe2 Bxb2 is game over.)
20... Qa4 21.Bb3 Qa3 ( As Svidler mentioned in the press conference, this is a novelty. Previously Qa6 had been seen but 22.Qe3 Na5 ( e6 23.d5 e6xd5 24.e4xd5 Na5 25.d6! is no solution either.) 23.Bxf7+! is incredibly dangerous for Black.23... K8xf7 24.Ng5+ Kg8 25.Qh3 h6 26.Qe6+ ( The simple 26.Ne6!? may be a good alternative, just eliminating the bishop on g7.26... g5 ( or26... h5 27.Qg3 Kh7 28.Nxg7 K7xg7 29.Qg5 Kf7 30.Re3! with an incredibly strong attack.) 27.Nxg7 K8xg7 and now both 28.Qd7 ( and 28.d5 look attractive.))26... Kh8 27.Nf7+! ( 27.Re3 b5 28.Nf7+ Kh7 29.Ng5+ Kh8 30.Nf7+ Kh7 31.Ng5+ was agreed drawn in Lautier-Shirov, Belgrade 1995.)27... Kh7 28.Bxh6! 28... b5! the only serious defence. ( In Lobron-Konguvel, Linares 1996 Black immideately collapsed with28... Qc4 (28... B7xh6 29.Qxe7! 29... Bg7 30.Ng5+ Kh8 31.Ne6! 31... Rg8 32.Qh4+ is another important point.) 29.d5 Qc3 30.Bxg7 Q3xg7 31.Ng5+ Kh8 and the rooklift 32.Re3 forced resignation.) 29.Qh3 Kg8 30.Bxg7 K8xg7 ( Kxf7 31.Qh7 Ke8 32.d5 is just awfull for Black. There are too many enemy pieces staring at that king on e8.) 31.Ng5 Rh8 32.Qd7 Qf6 and Black is still kicking!)
Of course! But this had obviously been anticipated by Svidler in his home preparation.
22... K8xf7 23.Qc4+ e6 ( It's important to include this little pawn move, otherwise Ke8 24.Qg8+ Bf8 25.d5 followed by Bh6 is just lost.)
24.Ng5+ Ke8 25.Nxe6 ( Much more natural then 25.Qxe6+ Qe7 26.Qg8+ Bf8!? and Black should be doing fine after for instance 27.Be3 Nxd4 28.B3xd4 Qxg5 29.Bg7 Qe7 30.Bxf8 Q7xf8 31.Qxh7 Qf7 .)
25... Qe7 26.Nxg7+ ( In a matter of hours it's not easy for me to figure out the extend of Svidler's Candidates preparation on which he has surely spend considerably more time! I'm assuming he wanted to meet 26.d5 with26... Nd4 though after (26... Ne5 27.Qb3! is rather difficult for Black.) 27.Nxg7+ ( 27.Qa4+ b5 28.R1xb5 N4xb5 29.Q4xb5+ Kf7 looks completely fine for Black.)27... Q7xg7 28.Qd3 I'd take White. As they say, this line surely requires more serious tests!)
26... Q7xg7 27.Bc3 Nd8 ( Svidler first long think in the game 40 minutes!. Most probably this move is incorrect both on objective as well as practical grounds. Svidler assessed Nxd4 28.Q4xd4 ( Aronian showed the entertaining variation 28.Qa4+ Bc6 ( Qd7! ) 29.Qa1 Rd8 30.Rb4 Nc2 31.Qb2 Nxe1 32.Bxg7 Rd1 33.Qe5+ Kd7 34.Rd4+ where he thought Black is winning with 34...Nd3 check!)28... Q7xd4 29.B3xd4 Rc4 30.Ba1 Rd8 as slightly worse for Black since the a- and b-pawn are difficult to push forward. This seems a bit too pesimistic, for example 31.f3 Rd2 32.Rec1 R4xc1+ 33.R1xc1 Kd7! is a sharp endgame where I'd definitely take Black.)
28.Qb3 Rc7 ( I like Rxc3!? 29.Q3xc3 Ne6 30.Rbd1 Rd8 though 31.Qa3 ( 31.e5 Bd5! is the idea; immobilizing White's once impressive centre.)31... Rxd4 32.Qxa7 Rxd1 33.R1xd1 Qc7 34.f3 remains somewhat unpleasant for Black.)
29.Ba1 ( 29.Bb2!? is not entirely unimaginable since the a3-square may one day prove usefull for the bishop. One sample lines runs29... Nc6 30.d5 Na5 31.Qg3 Qf7 32.Re3!? 32... Nc4 33.Rf3 Qe7 34.Rf6 Nxb2 35.Re6 Q7xe6 36.d5xe6 Rac8 37.h3 Na4 38.Qe5 Bxe4! 39.Re1 ( 39.Q5xe4 Nc3! )39... Nc5 40.Qf6 and I dont know exactly what's going on. I am pretty sure though this line is not forced! The game continuation is logical because White wants the b2-square to be available for his queen.)
29... Rac8 30.d5 Qd7 31.Qb2 Qe7!?
( Qf7 32.Rbd1 Rc2 33.Qe5+ Kd7 34.Qg3 was Aronian's suggestion, where Svidler felt34... R8c4 35.e5 Bxd5 ( Even stronger is Qf4! 36.e6+ Ke8 when, surprisingly, there is no clear follow-up.) 36.e6+ N8xe6 37.Rxd5+ Kc8 would be fine for Black.)
32.Rbd1 Nf7 33.e5 Rc2 34.Qb5+ Qd7 ( I hesitate to give this move a question mark as both players felt it was the right move. Furthermove, the alternative Kf8 doesn't promise Black an easy life either, although computerlike precision would be required to show just why that is. 35.Qd3! ( 35.e6 Nd6 36.Qa4 R8c4 37.Qxa7 Bxd5 ( Rf4!? ) 38.Qxb6 Re4 was given by Svidler but Black will still not to do a bit of work after 39.R1xe4 B5xe4 40.Bb2! 40... Rc6 41.Qd4 Qxe6 42.Ba3 .)35... R8c4 (35... Ra2 36.e6 Nd6 37.Qd4 Ke8 38.Rd3! ) 36.e6 Nd6 37.Be5 Ke8 38.Qb3 ( 38.Qa3 Nf5 39.d6 N5xd6 40.B5xd6 Rg4! is a trick to avoid!)38... Rc5 39.Bxd6 Q7xd6 40.Qa4+ b5 41.Qxa7 Rc7 42.Qb8+ Bc8 43.Qxb5+ and with three pawns and an ongoing initiative White should win.)
35.Q5xd7+ K8xd7 36.e6+ Kd6 37.exf7 ( This move was widely condemned in favour of the computer suggested 37.Bf6! and37... Ng5 ( not37... Rf8 ( nor37... R2c7 38.Bh4! ) 38.Bg7! ) 38.Be5+ ( 38.B6xg5 ( 38.e7 Nh3+ 39.g2xh3 Re8)38... Bxd5)38... Kc5 (38... Ke7 39.d6+ Kxe6 40.d7) 39.e7 ( 39.d6 Nxe6 40.d7 Kb5 41.dxc8=Q B7xc8)39... Bxd5 40.Bd4+ Kd6 41.e8=Q R8xe8 42.R1xe8 Ne6 43.Be3 should be technically winning and is indeed better then the position Aronian got in the game.)
37... Rf8 38.Re6+ Kd7 39.Rf6 Re2 40.f4!
( Hugely important! Instead 40.Bd4 Re7 41.Ra1 Rfxf7 42.R6xf7 R7xf7 43.Rxa7 Kd6 44.Bxb6 Bxd5 hardly gives any winning chances.)
40... Re7 41.Be5 Rexf7 ( When deciding his 34th move Black's intention had been to continue Rfxf7 but upon arriving here realisation struck that this would end the game abruptly following 42.d6! )
( Ke7 is stronger as it prevents the e5-bishop from moving. After 43.Re6+ Kd7 44.Ra1 Ra8 45.Kf2 Black is still very passive though.)
43.Re1 Re7 44.Rc1 Rff7 45.Bf6!
45... Rd7 ( The exchange sacrifice45... R7xf6 46.R6xf6 Bxd5 would make sense if Black were to be able to trade off a pair of rooks. He would then be able to push his passed pawns forward. With two white rooks on the board the ending looks rather hopeless.)
46.Re6+ Kf8 47.d6
White is obviously making major progress.
47... Kg8 (47... a5! has to be played for better or worse! 48.Rc3!? ( The logical 48.Kf2 a4 49.Ke3 b5 50.Kd4 a3 may not be that simple because White's king can't cross the c-file.)48... a4 49.f5! 49... g6xf5 50.Rg3 Bd5 51.Be7+ R7fxe7 52.d6xe7+ R7xe7 53.Rxb6 seems like a more or less adequate response but I invite the readers to find such a continuation over the board!)
48.h4 ( 48.Kf2)
48... Rf8 ( Unfortunately for Black the prepared48... Bd5 is losing after ( Now48... a5 would likely be met with 49.h5! 49... g6xh5 50.f5 a4 51.Rc3 with strong threats against the Black king.) 49.Re8+ Rf8 50.Re7 Rfd8 51.Rc7 ( But not Aronian's suggestion 51.Re5 because of51... Rf8 52.Be7 Rf5! saving the piece and the game.)51... R7xc7 52.d6xc7 Rc8 53.Rg7+ Kf8 54.Rxh7 and making a second passed pawn on the kingside will quickly decide.)
49.Bg5 Kf7 50.Rce1 ( But not the hasty 50.Re7+ R7xe7 51.B5xe7 Rc8 52.Rd1 Ke8 53.d7+ Kxe7 54.dxc8=Q B7xc8 which is the ending we discussed before. With a pair of rooks off the board this may just hold for Black.)
50... Bc6 51.h5?!
( 51.Re7+ Kg8 52.Rc1 Rxd6 53.Rc7! was an elegant way to wrap the game up. When the bishop moves Be7 will decide the game. It should be said that practically speaking the game continuation doesn't spoil much.)
51... a5 52.Re7+ ( 52.hxg6+ h7xg6 53.Re7+ Kg8 54.R1e6 is a more precise move-order.)
52... Kg8 53.hxg6 h7xg6 ( Bad as it looks, Rxd6 was the last serious chance. Also here 54.gxh7+ ( 54.Bh6?
54... Rxg6 55.Bxf8 Rxg2+! )54... Kh8 55.g4 looks awfull.)
with the g-pawn falling, it's all over.
54... Rf7 55.Rxg6+ Kh7 56.Rh6+ Kg7 57.Ree6 ( Black resigned. Play could continue 57.Ree6 Rf8 58.g4 a4 59.f5 with a mating attack. One of the most entertaining games we have seen in the tournament so far and one that brings Aronian back in the tournament!)