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Norway Rd.4: Hari misses the 'Grand'elius opportunity

by Sagar Shah - 23/04/2016

Hari started his fourth round with a score of 1.0/3. His opponent was Nils Grandelius, the last seed at the event, and right after the opening Black had an excellent position. It seemed as if Hari would win this game but a few inaccurate moves and staunch defence by Grandelius meant that almost all of Hari's advantage had evaporated. A good defensive effort by the Swedish GM but Harikrishna would be kicking himself for missing out on the golden opportunity. In-depth game analysis.

Style personified!
A huge thanks to Fiona Steil-Antoni for this wonderful picture.

This position tells you the story of what happened in the game. In the press conference Nils said that he was sure that by this point he was already lost. "25...Rg8 is a stupid move. I should have just gone 25...Qb6. Even Rh8 is interesting." Hari's discontent was quite apparent after the game. And it was completely justified. After playing a fantastic opening (one in which he has a 3.0/3 score) and with precision in the middlegame, Hari would have been extremely happy with the position that he got. Grandelius's idea of taking his queen to pick the h7 pawn didn't really work out and he was left with a passive and awkward position. At first sight it is not quite apparent that Black is completely winning, but play around a bit and you will realize how helpless White is without the dark squared bishop. It was quite a heartbreak for Hari and Indian fans that he couldn't convert this position.

Here's the game with some analysis to give you an idea of what transpired:

[Event "4th Norway Chess 2016"]
[Site "Stavanger NOR"]
[Date "2016.04.22"]
[Round "4.5"]
[White "Grandelius, Nils"]
[Black "Harikrishna, Pentala"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C11"]
[WhiteElo "2649"]
[BlackElo "2763"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "89"]
[EventDate "2016.04.19"]
1. e4 e6 {The French is one of Harikrishna's main weapon against 1.e4.} 2. d4
d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 dxe4 $5 {This release of pressure in the centre is
something that Harikrishna has played three times recently. He has a 100% with
his opponents being Naiditsch, Maze, and Libiszewski.} 5. Nxe4 Be7 6. Bxf6 gxf6
{Vidit Gujrathi also plays this line quite often, hence it is very much a
possibility that Hari and Vidit prepared this together.} 7. Qd2 b6 8. O-O-O Bb7
9. Nc3 c6 $5 {Very interesting prophylactic move against White's idea of d4-d5.
c6 looks weird but is not so bad because after Black develops, say, Nbd7 and
Qc7 and 0-0-0, then he can go for the c5 break.} 10. Nf3 Nd7 11. Qh6 Qc7 $5 {
Hari doesn't really care about his h7 pawn.} 12. Qg7 Rf8 13. Qxh7 f5 14. Bc4
Nf6 15. Qh6 {It looks like the white queen will go back to d2 and White would
be a pawn up. However, here Black should have either 0-0-0 or started a
queenside pawn expansion.} Ng4 $6 (15... b5 16. Bb3 a5 $1 17. d5 (17. a3 a4 $1
18. Ba2 b4 19. axb4 a3 {and Black is breaking through.}) 17... Ng4 18. Qd2
O-O-O {Regaining the pawn.}) 16. Qd2 O-O-O 17. h3 Nf6 18. Ne5 {Threatening
moves like Nxf7 followed by Bxe6.} Kb8 19. Rhe1 b5 $1 20. Bb3 b4 21. Ne2 (21.
Na4 c5 $1 22. Qf4 c4 $1 23. Bxc4 Ne4 $1 {Bg5 is really a difficult threat to
meet and so is f6.}) 21... c5 (21... Ne4 22. Qe3 c5 {transposes to the game.})
22. Qe3 Ne4 23. f4 cxd4 $1 {This along with f6 are strong continuations.} (
23... f6 $1 24. Ng6 (24. Nc4 cxd4 25. Nxd4 Bc5 26. Kb1 Rxd4 27. Rxd4 e5 $19)
24... c4 25. Ba4 (25. Nxe7 cxb3 $19) 25... Rf7 26. Nxe7 Rxe7 $17) 24. Nxd4 Bc5
{This pin is quite irritating.} 25. Nef3 Rg8 (25... Qb6 {Increasing the
pressure on d4 puts White in a real bind. The idea is to simply follow up with
f6 and e5.}) 26. g4 fxg4 (26... Qb6 $1) 27. hxg4 Rxg4 {Black has recovered the
pawn and still keeps his edge.} 28. Ne5 Rxd4 $1 29. Rxd4 Rg3 30. Qxe4 {The
queen sacrifice is forced. Or else you lose the rook on d4.} Bxe4 31. Rdxe4 {
Even though Black is better, this position is not so easy to play. Mainly
because the Black king isn't very secure. Harikrishna tries to exchange a pair
of rooks but in that process gives up the b4 pawn.} Rg1 $6 (31... Ka8 {was
better.}) 32. Rxg1 Bxg1 33. Rxb4+ Bb6 34. a4 {Now White shouldn't have too many
problems to hold this.} Ka8 35. Kb1 Qe7 36. Rc4 Bc7 37. Nd3 Bd6 38. a5 Kb8 39.
Ba4 Qb7 40. Rc6 Bxf4 41. Nc5 (41. Nxf4 $2 Qb4 $1 $17) 41... Qe7 42. Na6+ Kb7
43. Nc5+ Kb8 44. Na6+ Kb7 45. Nc5+ {An excellent game by Harikrishna who
really outplayed Nils in the opening and the middlegame. Bu the Swedish player
showed great tenacity and was able to find some nice resources to hold the
draw.} 1/2-1/2

In the fifth round Hari faces Li Chao with the white pieces. 23rd April is a rest day. The round will begin on 24th April 2016 at 7.30 p.m. IST and you can watch it live here.