Carlsen-Anand rematch in the making?
Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar - Aronian, Levon
FIDE Candidates Tournament 2014 2014.03.23
In this blog post I'd like to have an indepth look at a game that may very well cost Aronian the chance of having a match with Carlsen.
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.f3
The sharpest way of meeting the Nimzo-Indian. White intends to occupy the centre in the most direct way.
4... O-O ( Provocative, allowing White to execute his plan. For4... d5 see my previous blog post on the game Nakamura-Carlsen.)
5.e4 d5 6.e5 Nfd7 7.cxd5 e6xd5 8.a3 Bxc3+ 9.b2xc3
An important moment, and a good time to take stock. Black has given up his bishop-pair and the centre is in White's possesion. Given time, White will finish his development, stabilize the centre and have a huge advantage. It is important for Black to make use of his lead in development - he therefor has to act fast!
10.e5xf6 ( Here 10.f4 fxe5 11.d4xe5 would be excellent for White were it not for ( 11.f4xe5 Qh4+! )11... N7xe5! 12.f4xe5 Qh4+ 13.Kd2 Qf4+ winning back the piece with interest. So exchanging on f6 is forced.)
( Taking back immideately would make things to easy for White. He would simply continue10... N7xf6 11.Bd3 followed by Ne2, 0-0 etc. with a pleasant advantage. With the game continuation Aronian is aiming to disturb this scheme of development.)
11.Qe2 ( 11.Kf2 is dangerous in view of ( And after 11.Ne2 Nxf6 the e2-knight blocks White from developing further which shows the point of the check on e8!)11... Nxf6 when checks on e4 or g4 are in the air.)
( Very energetic! Of course not11... Nxf6 12.Qxe8 R8xe8+ 13.Kf2 with a rather depressing endgame for Black.)
12.fxg7 Re8 13.Be3 Nc6
This is the position Aronian had been aiming for. White is two pawns up but there is some serious disharmony within his ranks. First of all the threat of Nc6-a5-c4 has to be dealt with.
14.Qd2 ( 14.f4 has the idea of planting a knight on e5 but White is not in time:14... Nf6 15.Nf3 Bg4 with a huge advantage.)
14... Na5 15.Rb1 Nb6 16.Rb4
A forced sequence of moves. Mamedyarov is prepared to give an exchange on c4 to stabilize his position.
( In the press conference Aronian indicated16... c5 ( It should be noted that Black also had the option of repeating moves with16... Nc6 17.Rb2 Na5 since playing on with 18.Qc1 Nac4 19.B1xc4 N6xc4 20.Re2 Bf5 seems rather dangerous. Black has an ongoing initiative: 21.Kf2 Bd3 22.Re1 Re7 23.Bh6 ( also 23.Nh3 Rae8 24.Bg5 Re2+ 25.Kg3 Nd6! 26.Nf4 Nf5+ 27.Kh3 h6 looks problematic.)23... Rxe1 24.Q1xe1 Re8 25.Qc1 Re6! 26.Qf4 Nb2 27.Qxf7+ ( 27.Nh3 Bf5! )27... K8xf7 and even in the endgame White suffers from his lack of development.) 17.d4xc5 d4 which he thought was the most critical test. I spend considerable time going through these lines. 18.cxb6 ( 18.R4xd4 was Mamedyarov's suggestion. He had calculated the line18... Nb3 19.Qd1 Rxe3+ 20.Kf2 Nxd4 21.Q1xd4 Qa2+ 22.Kxe3 Nd5+ 23.Ke4 Be6 24.Bc4 Qb1+ 25.Qd3 and felt that White was OK. Aronian couldn't quit believe this line and his intuition didn't prove him wrong as Black wins following25... Qe1+ 26.Ne2 Qh4+ 27.f4 Rd8! with letal threats. Not very surprising given White's overly centralized king.)18... dxe3 19.Qb2 ( 19.Qc2 Bf5 20.Bd3 B5xd3 21.Q2xd3 Rad8 gives Black plenty of play.)19... axb6 with completely unclear play. One rather surreal variation given by the computer is 20.Bd3 Nc6 21.Rh4 Qf6! and whichever way White takes on h7, the position remains messy and unclear.)
( N6xc4 18.R4xc4 d5xc4 19.Ne2 Bf5 20.Kf2 is the game apart from the fact the queen is now on f7 instead of d5. That makes a lot of difference as in many lines Black would like to take on g7 with the queen.)
18.Rb5 Bf5 ( Perhaps Nd5 was more logical, restriciting White in his options.)
19.Kf2 ( 19.Re5!? was a fine alternative, since19... R8xe5 20.d4xe5 Qe7 21.Ne2 should favour White. But during the game both players felt the upcoming exchange sacrifice was an even better option.)
Photo: Courtesy of FIDE
19... Nd5 20.Rxd5 Qxd5 21.Ne2
Another good moment to take stock. Material is equal, White has two pawns for the exchange, but what makes the position special is the presence of opposite-coloured bishops. In the game White executed a clear plan, he pushed his h-pawn forward, ideally all the way to h6 in order to defend the g7-pawn, and if Black were to take off the g-pawn then an attack on the dark squares will be initiated. It is much less clear were Black's play will be coming from, I feel that at the very least from the practical sense the position already favours White strongly.
Aiming for counterplay on the queenside.
22.h4 ( Definitely not the only way to play. 22.Nf4 Qf7 23.d5! looks very strong. The bishop is going to d4 were it will be worth much more then any of Black's rooks!)
22... b5 23.h5 b4 24.c3xb4 a5xb4 25.a3xb4 Qb5 ( This move was widely condemned but Bd3 26.Nf4! 26... Qd6 27.h6! isn't much fun either.)
26.Re1 ( 26.d5! is more convincing but Mamedyarov simply completes his development.)
26... Bd3 27.Nf4 Ra3 28.d5!
With all White's pieces mobilized and his bishop coming to d4, the game is simply over.
With a small threat on a2.
29.Kg3 c3 30.Qc1 Rb3 31.Bc5 Rxe1 32.Q1xe1 Qd7 33.h6 Qf7 34.Nh5 ( This caused a bit of a stir in various commentary room but Mamedyarov accurately calculated and evaluated the endgame that is about to appear. Your engine will spit out 34.Qe5 Bf5 35.Nh5 ( 35.d6 is just as fine.)35... Q7xh5 36.Qe7 and despite a few checks36... Qg6+ 37.Kf2 Rb2+ 38.Ke3 Qxh6+ 39.f4 Re2+ 40.K3xe2 Qh5+ 41.Ke3 it will be mate on f8 in the end!)
34... Bg6 35.Qe8+!
35... Qxe8 36.Nf6+ Kf7 37.Nxe8 Ra3 38.Nf6 Ra8 39.g8=Q+ Rxg8 40.Nxg8 Kxg8
This is the forced line Mamedyarov had seen advance. The ending is easily won despite the presence of opposite-cloured bishops.
41.Kf4 Bd3 42.Ke5 Kf7 43.Be3 Bf1 44.g4 ( Aronian resigned. After for example 44.g4 Be2 45.Ke4 c2 46.g5 Kg6 47.f4 Bg4 48.Ke5 Bf5 49.d6 c7xd6+ 50.K5xd6 Bd3 51.Kc5 the b-pawn, supported by the king, is marching. Note the excellent job the bishop on e3 is doing: defending the kingside pawns and simultaneously guarding square c1.)