19 January 2014

Gelfand -- Aronian, Tata Steel 2014

In round seven of the Tata Steel Grandmaster tournament in Wijk aan Zee, Levon Aronian has Black against Boris Gelfand. So far, Gelfand has been having a poor tournament, although he seemed to have the advantage for a time yesterday against Anish Giri. Aronian is leading the event a full point ahead of Giri and Sergey Karjakin.

I am following Aronian's games live, but am not getting out of bed early enough in the morning to see them from the beginning. When I awoke this morning after sleeping in past 6:00 am, 25 moves had been played. As has been the pattern in this event, Aronian had a substantial lead on the clock and the position appeared to be one that calls for some subtle maneuvers.

Gelfand,Boris (2777) -- Aronian,Levon (2812) [D39]
Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee (7), 19.01.2014

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Bg5 dxc4

Aronian last played this move against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in 2006.


Gelfand's move transposes to a position these two players have contested before.

Reference Game:
Gelfand,Boris (2733) -- Aronian,Levon (2754) [D39]
Nalchik FIDE GP Nalchik (9), 24.04.2009
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.e4 Bb4 6.Bg5 c5 7.Bxc4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bxc3+ 9.bxc3 Qa5 10.Bb5+ Bd7 11.Bxf6 gxf6 12.Bxd7+ Nxd7 13.0–0 a6 14.Rb1 Qc7 15.Qh5 Nc5 16.Rb4 Qe5 17.Qh4 Rd8 18.Nf3 Qxc3 19.e5 Rg8 20.Qxh7 Ke7 21.Rf4 f5 22.Qh4+ Ke8 23.g3 Ne4 24.Rxe4 fxe4 25.Qxe4 Rd5 26.Qf4 Qc2 27.Ng5 Qf5 28.Qxf5 exf5 29.Nh7 Rg6 30.Nf6+ Rxf6 31.exf6 Rd6 32.Re1+ Kf8 33.Re5 Rxf6 ½–½

6...b5 7.a4 c5

Aronian's last two moves have drawn this game into positions rarely seen. Gelfand used nearly two minutes for 7.a4 and nearly eight for the next move.

8.axb5 cxd4

White to move


Gelfand spent eighteen minutes on this move.

9...gxf6 10.Qxd4 Nd7

Here Aronian thought for four and one-half minutes, his first move that exceeded the increment. 10...Qxd4 had been played in Glek -- Sveshnikov 1983 and the game was drawn in fifteen moves.

11.Qxc4 Bc5 12.Be2 Bb7 13.0–0 Rc8 14.Qd3 Bb6 15.Na4 Nc5

White to move

16.Qxd8+ Rxd8 17.Nxc5

My initial impulse says to grab the bishop, but then White's doubled b-pawns are going nowhere. Gelfand chooses a dynamic route.

17...Bxc5 18.Rfc1 Bb6 19.Rc4 Ke7 20.Kf1 Rd6 21.e5 Rd5 22.exf6+ Kxf6 23.Rf4+ Ke7 24.Bc4 Rh5

White to move

The moves had been coming fast, but here Gelfand thought for six minutes, followed by another ten for the next two moves. Aronian used nearly twelve minutes for the next three moves.

25.h3 Rc8 26.b3 Bc7 27.Rxa7!? Bxf4 28.Rxb7+ Rc7

White to move

I like Gelfand's play here. The imbalances that he created seem to give Aronian no winning chances. But if Black gets sloppy, the White pawns will become a menace.

29.Rb6 Rd7 30.Ke2 Bd6 31.Ra6 Bb4 32.h4 Rc5 33.Ra8 Bc3 34.g3 h6 35.Bd3 Rcc7

White to move

36.Ra6 Rd6 37.Ra8 Bd4 38.Nxd4 Rxd4 39.Bc4 Rd8 40.Rxd8 Kxd8

The players have made the time control. Gelfand had been playing on the increment for the past few moves.

White to move

41.g4 1/2-1/2

Gelfand was in time pressure, but to my eyes his position was never worse. Indeed, he seemed to be the aggressor for a portion of the game. This game was the first to finish today.

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