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Hari's Evergreen game!

by Sagar Shah - 01/06/2016

In the fifth round of Shamkir Chess 2016, Hari was up against Pavel Eljanov. The Ukrainian grandmaster is famed for his solid play and theoretical knowledge. In order to negate that the Indian played a less known line and was ready to sacrifice pawns and pieces in order to complicate the battle! Although the attack wasn't theoretically winning, Pavel was walking on a thin rope. He had to be accurate on each and every move. Not an easy task. He blundered and the reward was a full point to Harikrishna!

The stage was set for the fifth round of Shamkir Chess to get underway
Harikrishna hadn't had the best of results in the last two rounds - two losses with the black pieces against Karjakin and Giri. But today was a new day...
Today he had the white pieces against Pavel Eljanov
The last time Hari had the white pieces he had played a positional masterpiece against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. It was now time to switch on the attack mode. First thing that should be known about Pavel is that he is a big theoretical expert. In order to take him out of his favoured territory Harikrishna played the...
...the Four Knights! 
Of course, it would be too naive to expect that playing the four knights would get your opponent out of his preparation. Hence Hari, went a step further and in the following position came up with a completely new idea.
In a position where majority of the games continued with 8.Bg5, Hari played the move 8.Nd2!? This has only been played in two games before. A classical game between Kholmov and Smyslov and a recent one between Kovalenko and Meskovs. The idea is obvious - to break with the move f4.
The fireworks began with the move Qh5! While White was planning to go full throttle on the kingside with Rh4 and Rf1, Black had made plans for counterplay on the other wing with b5.
It could be a good idea to stop reading further, get out your chess board and taking around 15 minutes on your clock think about the repercussions of the move 21.Nxf6+ played by Harikrishna. (You can find the detailed analysis below)
In a complex position, where Eljanov had been defending excellent for the last few moves, the Ukrainian GM finally blundered with 26...exd4 and Hari was able to cash with 27.Bxh6! Meanwhile instead of 26...exd4, 26...Qb6 or 26...Qb4 or 26...Nd6 would have drawn the game. 
The final position! A picture of complete domination!
A staunch defensive effort by Pavel but in the end he fell short
Hari can be proud of the fact that he has two points out of his two white games!

Detailed Analysis of Harikrishna vs Eljanov

[Event "Vugar Gashimov Mem 2016"]
[Site "Shamkir AZE"]
[Date "2016.05.30"]
[Round "5.5"]
[White "Harikrishna, Pentala"]
[Black "Eljanov, Pavel"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C49"]
[WhiteElo "2763"]
[BlackElo "2765"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "81"]
[EventDate "2016.05.26"]
{This is the second game in the tournament where Harikrishna has the white
pieces. In the first one where he was white against Mamedyarov he played a
sublime positional game. Well, it's time for some attacking chess now.} 1. e4
e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 {The four knights. Ever since I was a young kid I
have never really understood what is going on in this opening. Basically when
there is some imbalance I find it easier to assess the position, but when it
is dead symmetry it becomes trickier to evaluate. However, this is just the
start of the game. Let's see if we can understand the opening together as the
game progresses!} 4. Bb5 {I would say that this opening is one where classical
knowledge is much more useful that concrete theory. The first game was played
way back in 1857. I think people developed their knights on f3 and c3 often
and later realised that Nc3 is not the most ideal piece. Hence, Ruy Lopez
gained in popularity, which is effectively the same setup without the knight
on c3.} Bb4 5. O-O O-O (5... Bxc3 {does not win a pawn because of} 6. bxc3 Nxe4
7. Qe2 Nf6 8. Bxc6 dxc6 9. Qxe5+ Qe7 10. Qxe7+ Kxe7 11. Ba3+ $1 $14 {And the
black king is uncomfortable in the centre.}) 6. d3 Bxc3 (6... d6 {looks like a
natural move and is the main line in the position. How exactly do we break the
symmetry?} 7. Bg5 {Now Bg4 looks odd because of Nd5, but is still possible.}
Bg4 (7... Bxc3 {is the main line but I would like to see what happens when
both sides keep making symmetrical moves.}) 8. Nd5 Nd4 9. Bc4 (9. Bxf6 gxf6 10.
Nxb4 Bxf3 11. gxf3 Nxb5 $11 {With an equal position!}) 9... Bc5 10. Kh1 Kh8 11.
Nxf6 Nxf3 12. gxf3 gxf6 13. Bh6 Bh3 14. Rg1 Rg8 15. Bxf7 Bxf2 16. Bxg8 $1 (16.
Rxg8+ $2 Qxg8 17. Bxg8 Rxg8 18. Qf1 Bxf1 19. Rxf1 Bh4 $11) 16... Bxg1 17. Bc4
Bc5 18. Qe1 $1 {And it is White who emerges victorious as his queen arrives on
h4 or g3 with decisive effect.}) 7. bxc3 d6 8. Nd2 $5 {The idea is to break in
the centre with the move f4.} (8. Bg5 {is the main move here but Harikrishna
has his own ideas.}) 8... Bd7 (8... d5 {The knight has just left the centre
and hence it makes sense to break.} 9. exd5 Qxd5 10. Rb1 {followed by Ba3 will
give White a pretty active position with the two bishops.}) 9. f4 exf4 10. Rxf4
Ne7 11. Bxd7 Nxd7 12. c4 {It can be said that the opening has gone just the
way Harikrishna wanted. He has an unknown, imbalanced position, something
which is not so easy to get against a theoretical expert like Pavel Eljanov.}
Ne5 13. Bb2 f6 14. Nf1 $1 {The knight will be perfectly placed on e3, ready to
jump to d5 or f5.} Qd7 15. Ne3 a6 $5 {This is a very common idea when your
opponent has the doubled c-pawns. The a2 pawn is isolated. Hence Black often
goes a6 and b5, which looks counter-intuitive as it straightens the doubled
pawns. However, there would be pressure down the a2 point which would be quite
irritating.} 16. Qh5 b5 17. Rh4 h6 {White position looks dangerous but Black
is hanging on.} 18. Rf1 $5 {Hari is taking quite a bit of risk in the position.
But once you have started with Qh5, it makes sense to continue the attack.}
bxc4 19. d4 $1 Nf7 $6 (19... Qb5 $5 20. Bc1 (20. dxe5 Qxb2 21. exd6 (21. exf6
Rxf6 $17 {leads nowhere as the queen covers f6.}) 21... cxd6 $15 {And the
position is complex but Black's position looks pretty solid.}) 20... Nf7 {
With the bishop back on c1, it is not as scary as before.}) 20. Ng4 {The
knight also joins in the attack. White has almost each and every piece in the
attack. Also the pawn is ready to push itself to e5 and open more lines.} Qb5
21. Nxf6+ $5 {Let's switch on our calculation hats. White has just sacrificed
a piece on f6. Let's try to calculate as deeply as you can.} gxf6 {How do we
continue?} (21... Kh8 {hardly makes sense as after} 22. Qxb5 axb5 23. Nd7 $14 {
White wins an exchange and is better.}) 22. e5 $1 {Of course! Stopping the
queen exchange.} Kh8 $1 {Eljanov finds the staunchest defence.} (22... Qxb2 23.
exf6 $1 {White is two pieces down but the black queen is out of the game and
the king is shuddering in the corner. This looks like a decisive attack.} Qc3
$5 {The only real move to stay in the game. fxe7 won't work now because of
Qe3+ and Qxe7. But White still has a winning attack after} 24. Qg4+ (24. fxe7
Qe3+ 25. Kh1 Qxe7 $17) 24... Ng5 25. Rxh6 Qe3+ 26. Kh1 Nd5 27. h4 $16 {Winning
back one piece and more importantly the pawns on f6 and g5 would be monsters.})
(22... dxe5 23. Rxf6 $1 {Curtains!} exd4 24. Rg6+ Nxg6 (24... Kh7 25. Qxh6+
Nxh6 26. Rhxh6#) 25. Qxg6+ Kh8 26. Bxd4+ $18) (22... fxe5 23. Rf6 $18) 23. Bc1
{Now threatening to take on h6.} (23. Rxf6 {will not work because of} Ng8 $1
24. Rxf7 Rxf7 25. Qxf7 Qxb2 $17 {And the knight on g8 saves everything!}) 23...
Ng8 24. Qg6 {Now sacrifices on h6 are threatened.} dxe5 {This looks pretty
natural.} 25. Rxf6 (25. Bxh6 Nfxh6 26. Rxh6+ Nxh6 27. Qxh6+ Kg8 {And there is
nothing more here than a perpetual.}) 25... Qb1 $1 {Eljanov is a staunch
defender and keeps finding the best moves!} 26. Rf1 {now threatening a
dangerous discovered attack with Bxh6 and much more dangerous - Ba3!} exd4 $2 {
That's the problem of being a defender. One wrong move and you are gone!} (
26... Qb6 $1 {looks like a natural retreat.} 27. Qxb6 cxb6 28. dxe5 Nxe5 29.
Rxf8 Rxf8 30. Bb2 Re8 31. Re4 Kh7 32. Rxe5 Rxe5 33. Bxe5 Kg6 $11 {And this
position should be drawn.}) (26... Nd6 $1 {Opening up the attack against the
f1 rook.} 27. Rxh6+ (27. Bf4 $2 Qxf1+ 28. Kxf1 Rxf4+ $19) 27... Nxh6 28. Qxh6+
Kg8 29. Qg6+ Kh8 $11) (26... Qb4 {stopping Ba3 also makes sense.} 27. Bxh6
Nfxh6 28. Rxh6+ Nxh6 29. Qxh6+ Kg8 $11) 27. Bxh6 $1 Qxf1+ 28. Kxf1 Nfxh6+ 29.
Kg1 $1 {This is what Hari had seen. The knight on h6 will fall and so will the
weak pawns. That's why he wasn't too worried about the discovered check on his
king on f1.} Rab8 30. Rxh6+ Nxh6 31. Qxh6+ Kg8 32. Qg6+ Kh8 33. h3 d3 34. Qh6+
Kg8 35. Qxa6 $1 dxc2 (35... Rf7 {could have been stronger but after} 36. cxd3
c3 37. Qc4 Rb2 38. Qxc3 Rxa2 $16 {White should win this.}) 36. Qxc4+ Kh8 37.
Qc3+ Kg8 38. Qxc2 {Only the c7 guy remains. The queen is too swift and the h
and g pawns are ready to roll. Yet, Eljanov doesn't defend in the staunchest
possible manner.} Rfc8 $6 (38... Ra8 $1 {It is important to stay active.} 39.
Qxc7 Rf6 40. Qc4+ Kg7 41. Kh2 Rfa6 {was a better defense. now the rooks are
co-ordinated and it might not be the easiest task to win.}) 39. Qc6 Kf7 40. a4
Ke7 41. a5 {The rest is just easy. A very exciting game by India number two,
who didn't really care about the theoretical evaluations in the opening but
just opted for an interesting game with chances for both sides.} 1-0

 Crosstable after Round five

Harikrishna now faces Hou Yifan in the sixth round on 1st of June with the black pieces. You can watch the game livehere.

Pictures from the official website