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Hari beats Shak in Karpov style!

by Sagar Shah - 28/05/2016

It was a show of high class positional chess by Harikrishna as he beat Shakhiryar Mamedyarov in round two of the Shamkir Chess 2016. Playing the Pirc Defence the Azeri player hoped to complicate matters. But Harikrishna was solid as a rock. He chose a simple yet venomous setup and in a symmetrical structure, slowly but surely outplayed his opponent. With this win Hari moves into the lead with Caruana and Giri with 1.5/2. We have critical moments and detailed game analysis for you.

The fans of the twelfth World Champion Anatoly Karpov are missing their man in action for quite some years. Simple opening selection, clear cut middlegame plans, smooth positional play, subtle prophylactic thinking and high class endgame technique. All these features are seen in the games of Karpov. On 27th of May we saw a thirty year old Indian in action, playing in the same style as the great Anatoly Karpov.

The move made by Harikrishna in the position above sums up the game for me. Take just one minute, rely mainly on your intuition, and tell us what would you play as white?
My first instinct here was to play 17.Rd3 and double the rooks on the d-file. However, Harikrishna played the move 17.c3! Why did White play c3? None of Black's pieces are coming to d4. Well, this move has a prophylactic idea to it. First of all 17...Qe6 is met with 18.Qxc7 and after 18...Rec8, the c2 pawn is no longer hanging. But more importantly it improves the position. Have a look at the situation that arose after 31 moves.
While the white pieces are all over black look at the b2 and c3 pawns! They are completely limiting the bishop on f6 and the rook on c6.

Meet Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Ever since he was a little kid he has been a fierce tactician. His combinational vision and trick play has been praised by experts all over the world.

It was a battle between two contrasting styles

Harikrishna opened the game with 1.e4 and Mamedyarov, who loves to play tricky openings went 1...d6

This flexible move 4...a6 has become quite popular recently. The idea is to make White commit. Will he play 5.a4 or allow Black to go 5...b5. After a4 White will never be able to 0-0-0. Harikrishna naturally played the move 5.a4. Against Mamedyarov he wanted to play ultra positional and not allow any sharp positions to arise.

When I watched Master Class Vol.6 on Anatoly Karpov, I realized that Karpov used to love to put his queen on d2 and bishop on e3 against many openings - Najdorf, King's Indian by playing the Saemisch, Be3-Qd2 line against the Grunfeld and also this one that Harikrishna played against the Pirc!

The chairs for the players look quite comfortable!

When Hari took on e5 Shak had a choice. To take on e5 with the pawn or with the knight. What would you do?

The good news if you decided to take on e5 with the pawn is that you played like Mamedyarov. The bad news is that dxe5 is not a good move. Taking the pawn on e5 with the knight was better on two counts:

1. When you are low on space, piece exchanges are always good.

2. The knight on f3 is clearly superior to the knight on d7 and hence it makes sense to exchange them.

After 9...dxe5?! Black's position was unpleasant and slowly but steadily Harikrishna built up the pressure.

The knight on e4 is clearly Black's best piece. Harikrishna went ahead and exchanged it with his f3 knight for 21.Nd2! After Nxd2 22.R1xd2 White was clearly better.
In the end Mamedyarov blundered with 31...Rd8. After Rxd8 Bxd8 33.Rb8 the game was over.
That feeling of not knowing where exactly you have gone wrong!

Analysis of Harikrishna - Mamedyarov

[Event "Vugar Gashimov Mem 2016"]
[Site "Shamkir AZE"]
[Date "2016.05.27"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Harikrishna, Pentala"]
[Black "Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B07"]
[WhiteElo "2763"]
[BlackElo "2748"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "65"]
[EventDate "2016.05.26"]
1. e4 {Harikrishna is known to serve with both hands. Today he opts for 1.e4.}
d6 {Mamedyarov is a champion in playing offbeat systems. Today he goes for the
Pirc Defense.} 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Be3 {Is Harikrishna showing aggressive
intentions? The move Be3 is more often than not associated with f3 followed by
Qd2, 0-0-0 followed by a pawns storm with g4 and h4.} a6 {This move is gaining
popularity. It has been played by Vladimir Kramnik also many times. As White
would like to play Qd2 followed by Bh6 and exchange the bishops, it makes
sense not to develop the bishop on f8 to g7. a6 is also a probe. Do you want
to prevent b5 with a4 when you can no longer 0-0-0. Or are you fine with
allowing b5?} 5. a4 {Harikrishna shows that he has absolutely no ambitions for
an opposite side castling sharp position which would be in Mamedyarov's
interests. Instead he prevents b5 and plans to develop normally.} Bg7 6. Nf3
O-O (6... Ng4 {is always met with} 7. Bg5 h6 8. Bh4 g5 9. Bg3 {When the white
bishop is slightly misplaced but the h6 and g5 pawns don't look pretty either.}
) 7. Qd2 Nbd7 (7... Ng4 8. Bg5 $14) 8. h3 {Hari finally makes some
preparations against Ng4. Not that it was immediately necessary but the move
h3 in general is useful.} e5 (8... c5 {Transposing the game into some sort of
a Sicilian or a Benoni might have been a better idea.}) 9. dxe5 {Typical
Harikrishna who many times strives for clear play rather than complications.}
dxe5 $6 {I would say that this is an error by Mamedyarov. First of all he has
less space and it would have made sense to take with the knight on e5 and
exchange a pair of minor pieces. Secondly the knight on f3 is clearly superior
to the knight on d7 which also is a reason why Nxe5 should have been preferred.
} (9... Nxe5 10. Be2 (10. Nxe5 dxe5 11. Qxd8 Rxd8 12. Bc4 Bd7 13. f3) 10...
Nxf3+ 11. Bxf3 Bd7 12. O-O Bc6) 10. Bc4 $1 {The f1 bishop found a perfect spot
on c4.} b6 11. O-O Bb7 12. Rfd1 $1 {Look how calmly Hari is bringing all his
pieces into the game. The pawn on e4 is taboo because the knight on d7 would
hang.} Qe7 (12... Qe8 13. Nd5 Nxe4 14. Qb4 c5 15. Qb3 $16 {With good
compensation for White.}) 13. Nd5 Nxd5 14. Bxd5 Bxd5 15. Qxd5 (15. exd5 e4 $11)
15... Nf6 16. Qc4 {Have a look at this position. The bishop on g7 is sort of
dead. Its counterpart on e3 is pretty strong. Also the queen on c4 is well
placed and the rook on d1 is on the open file. All in all this is a very
pleasant edge for White. And the symmetrical pawn structure ensures that Black
will not break free for a long time.} (16. Qc6 {was also strong.}) 16... Rfe8
17. c3 {What is the point of this move? Doesn't it looks too slow? And which
black piece was threatening to get to d4 or b4? But I think that c3 was played
so that after Qxc7, the c2 pawn doesn't hang.} (17. Rd3 Qe6 18. Qxc7 Rec8 19.
Qxb6 Qxb6 20. Bxb6 Rxc2 {This pawn falling on c2 might have been the reason
why Harikrishna played the move c3.}) 17... a5 {Taking the a6 pawn off the
white queen's radar.} (17... Qe6 18. Qxc7 $16) 18. Rd3 Qe6 19. Qxc7 $1 {
This time taking the pawn is perfectly justified.} Nxe4 20. Rad1 $1 (20. Qxb6
Qxb6 21. Bxb6 Reb8 $1 $11 {and the b2 pawn falls.}) 20... Bf6 (20... Nxf2 21.
Bxf2 e4 22. Rd6 $18) (20... Nc5 21. Ng5 Qf6 22. Rd6 $18) 21. Nd2 $1 {A very
strong positional move which was missed by Mamedyarov. The black knight cannot
retreat and when he takes on d2, White's advantage increases.} Nxd2 (21... Nc5
22. Bxc5 bxc5 23. Ne4 $16) 22. R1xd2 $16 e4 23. Rd6 Be5 24. Rxe6 Bxc7 {The
material is even but this is a classic case of how activity is often more
important than material.} 25. Rc6 Rec8 26. Kf1 {Of course Hari was not going
to fall for the Bh2 discovered check.} Bd8 27. Rcd6 Rab8 28. Rd7 Bf6 29. Bf4
Ra8 30. Rb7 Rc6 31. Rdd7 {White's position is a picture of harmony. His rooks
are doubled on the seventh rank, his bishop is well placed and his pawns on b2
and c3 limit the bishop on f6 and the rook on c6.} Rd8 $2 {loses a piece but
the position was already very bad.} (31... Rf8 32. Bc7 {Will clean up the
queenside.}) 32. Rxd8+ Bxd8 33. Rb8 {Seeing the style of play, if one was
asked to guess the name of the World Champion who played from the white side,
most probably people would have said Anatoly Karpov. Harikrishna's play
reminds us of the perfect positional play that the twelfth World Champion
revelled in. A beautiful positional masterpiece by Hari.} 1-0


It was clear that Mamedyarov was extremely dejected after the game

Crosstable after round two

In round three Hari faces Sergey Karjakin with the black pieces. It can be his opportunity to not only beat the World Championship challenger but also zoom past Anand in the live ratings.

Pictures from the official website