21 January 2016

Tomashevsky -- Eljanov, Tata Steel 2016

Blogging Round Five

Through the first four rounds of this year's Tata Steel Chess Tournamnet, I started my blog post each day the previous night and scheduled it to post at 3:30 am. The games begin at 4:30 am my time; 1:30 pm in the Netherlands. Today, the games are being played in Amsterdam, instead of Wijk aan Zee, and start half an hour later. For me, that made it possible to have my iPad on following the moves before play reaches the middle game.

Due to a gift on Monday and a nice trap on Tuesday, Pavel Eljanov is one of the players currently in second place. Evgeny Yomashevsky has shown in previous events that he plays interesting chess. I decided a couple of nights ago that I would concentrate on their game today.

Tomashevsky,Evgeny (2728) -- Eljanov,Pavel (2760) [E00]
Tata Steel Chess Amsterdam, 21.01.2016

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 Bb4+ 4.Nd2 

I was happy to see this position in the game that I decided to follow because White's play looks like a set-up that I often find myself in. I have had good games on both sides of the Catalan.

4...c5 5.a3 Bxd2+ 6.Qxd2 cxd4 7.Nf3 b6 8.Bg2 Bb7 

Black's Bogo-Indian set-up strikes me as a smart choice against the Catalan. So often, normal Queen's Gambit Declined moves seem to give White a nice position and Black little play.

9.0–0 Bxf3 10.Bxf3

Black to move

Knights against bishops!

Tomashevsky has been on the Black side of this position after Black's ninth move. His opponent, however, played 10.exf3.

Volkov,Sergey (2615) -- Tomashevsky,Evgeny (2707) [E00]
RUS-ch Higher League 64th Taganrog (7), 22.06.2011

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 Bb4+ 4.Nd2 c5 5.a3 Bxd2+ 6.Qxd2 cxd4 7.Nf3 b6 8.Bg2 Bb7 9.0–0 Bxf3 10.exf3 Nc6 11.f4 0–0 12.b4 Rc8 13.Bb2 d6 14.Bxd4 Nxd4 15.Qxd4 Qc7 16.Rfc1 Rfd8 17.Qe3 Qd7 18.Qd4 Qc7 19.Qe3 Qd7 20.Qd4 ½–½

10...Nc6 11.b3

Played in one prior game that can be found in my database.

11...0–0 12.Bb2 Rc8N

12...e5 was played in the sole remaining reference game.

Mikhalevski,Alexander (2485) -- Sturua,Zurab (2595) [E00]
Biel MTO op Biel (10), 1998

1.d4 e6 2.c4 Bb4+ 3.Nd2 c5 4.a3 Bxd2+ 5.Qxd2 cxd4 6.Nf3 Nf6 7.g3 b6 8.Bg2 Bb7 9.0–0 Bxf3 10.Bxf3 Nc6 11.b3 0–0 12.Bb2 e5 13.e3 e4 14.Bg2 d5 15.exd4 Na5 16.Qc2 dxc4 17.bxc4 Rc8 18.c5 Qd5 19.Bc3 Nb3 20.Rab1 Nxd4 21.Bxd4 Qxd4 22.c6 Qc5 23.Qxc5 bxc5 24.Rb7 Rxc6 25.Rxa7 Rfc8 26.Re7 Kf8 27.Re5 Ra6 28.Bxe4 Rxa3 29.Rc1 c4 30.Rc2 c3 31.Bf3 g6 32.Kf1 h5 33.Re3 g5 34.Rd3 g4 35.Bg2 h4 36.gxh4 Nh5 37.Rd4 Re8 38.Bc6 Ra1+ 39.Kg2 Ree1 40.Rxg4 f5 41.Rc4 Nf6 42.R2xc3 Ng4 43.Rf3 Rg1+ 44.Kh3 Ra3 45.Rc2 Rxf3+ 46.Bxf3 Kg7 47.Bg2 Ne5 48.Kg3 f4+ 49.Kxf4 Nd3+ 50.Ke3 Rxg2 51.Kxd3 Rxh2 52.f4 Rxh4 53.Ke4 Rh5 54.Rc7+ Kf6 55.Rc6+ Kf7 ½–½

13.Bxd4 Nxd4 14.Qxd4 Rc5 15.b4 Rc7 16.e4

Black to move

What's going on here?

White has a bishop for a knight and more space. Six minor pieces and one set of pawns have come off the board. It is not surprising that the two reference games both ended in draws. Despite the imbalance in the pawn structure and minor pieces, this position must give bothe sides equal chances. In order to win such a position, a player must take some risks.

16...d6 17.Rfd1 e5 18.Qd3 Qc8 19.Be2 Rd8 20.Qe3 g6 21.Rd2 Kg7

White to move

The broadcast today is lively with Yasser Seirawan and FM Tex de Wit sitting on a stage in the NEMO Museum in front of a live audience. The banter between them is interesting, as is the discussion of chess in the Netherlands.

Seirawan and de Wit are looking at several exciting games, analyzing possible variations. If they have mentioned the game that I am following, it was when I was inattentive. Tomashevsky -- Eljanov seems a bit sedate compared to Ding Liren's queenside castling against Anish Giri or Hou Yifan's nice position on the Black side against Fabiano Caruana.

On the other hand, sedate play is the bread and butter of a Grandmaster's existence. Moreover, learning to play seemingly even positions is necessary for the improving club player. Tomashevsky and Eljanov could make a few more moves, risking nothing, and agree to a short draw. On the other hand, both are systemically improving the position of their pieces.

22.Rad1 Qe6 23.Kg2 h6 24.f3

These little pawn moves and the quiet position reminds me of a tournament game that I played in 2012. In my game we exchanged queens and most minor pieces early leaving rooks, one knight each, and most of the pawns on the board. we brought our rooks to the only open file, kept our kings on adjacent files, deprived one another's knights of certain squares, and then repeated the position. I would have been happy with a draw. My opponent, rated about 200 Elo higher than me did not want to share second place in the tournament with as many as half a dozen other participants, so he struck with a pawn break that convinced me that the game was likely to be decisive and that I was a little worse.

Then, the knights came off the board and I had a pawn structure that looked weak. During a nine minute think after exchanging one set of rooks, I discovered that the mutual zugzwang that our kings would find themselves in after the other rooks came off actually favored me, despite initial appearances to the contrary. I won the game and finished the tournament in sole second place behind IM John Donaldson, winning $250 (see "Pawn Wars").

In this game, however, there is a minor piece imbalance and the queens are still on the board. Jeremy Silman, in his popular How to Reassess Your Chess and other books, asserts that with an imbalance, one should play so as to make your minor piece better than your opponent's minor piece. For Tomashevsky, that means looking for a way to open up the position. On the other hand, a knight often works better with a queen, while a bishop works better with rooks. Seeking to swap queens also could be a long-term strategic goal for White.

24...Rdd7 25.Bf1 Qe7 26.Kg1 Qe6

Moving towards the time control, or avoiding risk? Tomashevsky has 23 minutes; Eljanov has 45.

27.Kg2 Qe7

I predict a draw in this game.

Navara -- So ended in a draw after 46 moves. All other games are continuing.

28.Kg1Qe6 29.Re1

29.Kg2 would draw by repetition: the same position occuring with Black to move after 25.Bf1, 27.Kg2, and 29.Kg2. I believe that under FIDE rules, the proper method of claiming such a draw is to write the move on one's scoresheet and notify the arbiter.

Black to move


Maybe there is yet a battle brewing in this quiet game.


Perhaps Tomashevsky has decided to play against the backwards d-pawn, the most glaring weakness in the pawn structure. I can see Re1-e3-d3 and Qf2-e2-d1. Black, however, has plenty of time to meet this threat.


I suddenly noticed that my plan to build up on the d-file hangs White's c-pawn, White's most vulnerable point.

31.Ra1 Qe7 32.Re1 Qe6 33.Ra1 Qe7 34.Qe3

Loek van Wely is playing on the increment in a difficult position against Magnus Carlsen. It is hard to attend to Tomashevsky -- Eljanov.

34...Rc6 35.Rad1 Rcc8 36.Qf2 Kg7 

White to move

37.Qe3 Nh7 38.Rd5 1/2-1/2.

My chosen game ends with a quiet draw while there are fireworks on other boards. Even so, it is not without instructive value.

Standings after five rounds.

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