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Fighting chess in Hari versus MVL

by Sagar Shah - 28/04/2016

Harikrishna against MVL ended in a fighting draw. Magnus Carlsen who was half point ahead won his game against Kramnik and is now a full point ahead of the field. Hari is doing a commendable job of holding his own in such a strong field. However, he has two strong opponents coming up - Kramnik in the eighth round and Aronian in the ninth. We have the analysis of his game against MVL and also the video of an 11-year-old doing some excellent commentary!

The seventh round was extremely crucial for both Harikrishna and Maxime Vachier Lagrave. Both of them were trailing Magnus Carlsen by half a point. Harikrishna showed his intent of playing aggressive chess by choosing the Anti-Grunfeld line with 3.f3. MVL played creatively in the opening by putting his knight on h5 and the bishop on e5 followed by the f5 break. 

Harikrishna kept things under control and very soon had a pleasant advantage. More space, better placed pieces and a clear cut idea of opening the kingside were not enough as MVL defended in active fashion and Hari made a few inaccuracies. The game ended in a draw with a perpetual.

Harikrishna played highly combative chess and also held a slight edge almost throughout the game but it later ended in a draw
[Event "Altibox Norway Chess 2016"]
[Site "Stavanger"]
[Date "2016.04.27"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Harikrishna, Pentala"]
[Black "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[WhiteElo "2763"]
[BlackElo "2788"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "98"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. f3 {Harikrishna is not afraid of his opponent's
preparation and sticks to the same line that he played against Li Chao.} c5 (
3... d5 {No one really seems interested to try and uphold the Grunfeld!}) 4. d5
d6 5. e4 e6 6. Ne2 Bg7 7. Nec3 Nh5 8. Qe2 $5 {This move was made pretty
instantly by Hari which meant that he was prepared. What is the idea of this
move? Black was threatening Qh4+. Now it can be met with g3 Nxg3 Qf2!} (8. Be3
f5 {gives Black counterplay.}) 8... Be5 {Played after 16 minutes of thought.} (
8... Qh4+ 9. g3 $1 Nxg3 10. Qf2 $1 Be5 11. f4 $18) 9. Be3 (9. g3 exd5 10. Nxd5
Nc6 11. f4 Bg7 12. Nbc3 Nd4 {And Black looks completely fine.}) 9... f5 $5 {
Black is playing actively. But with a knight on h5 he has to do that.} (9...
O-O 10. g4 Nf4 11. Qd2 g5 12. h4 f5 $5) 10. exf5 exf5 (10... gxf5 11. f4 (11.
dxe6 $16) 11... Nxf4 12. Bxf4 Bxf4 13. dxe6 Qg5 14. Nd5 Nc6 15. Nc7+ Kd8 16.
Nxa8 Nd4 $19 {And Black is just winning thanks to his immensely active pieces.}
) 11. f4 Bg7 12. Bf2+ (12. Bxc5+ $6 Kf7 {With rook coming to e8 this is
excellent compensation.}) 12... Kf7 (12... Qe7 {was also possible but MVL was
trying for an advantage.}) 13. Qd2 Nf6 14. h3 a6 15. a4 (15. Be2 b5 16. cxb5
axb5 17. Bxb5 Ba6 18. Bxa6 Nxa6 19. O-O Re8 $44 {with excellent play for the
pawn.}) 15... a5 {The downside of this move is that Na3-b5 is a clear plan now.
And the upside is that Na6-b4 is also a good square for the Black knight.} 16.
Be2 Na6 17. O-O Bd7 18. Bf3 Re8 19. Na3 {In general it seems like Black is
going to suffer for the rest of the game due to the lack of space in the
position. White's knight on b5 continuously attacking the d6 pawn will be very
irritating.} Qb6 20. Nab5 Nb4 21. Rae1 Rxe1 22. Rxe1 Re8 23. Re2 $14 Bc8 24.
Bh4 Rxe2 25. Qxe2 Qd8 26. g4 (26. Nd1 $1 {Would have really made Black's life
difficult. The idea is to prevent the queen exchange after Qe7 with the move
Ne3!} Qe7 27. Ne3 $14 {Next up is g4 and White has a very pleasant edge.})
26... Qe7 27. Qd2 (27. gxf5 Bxf5 28. Ne4 Bxe4 29. Bxe4 $16) 27... Bd7 28. gxf5
Bxf5 29. Bg4 Ke8 30. Bxf5 gxf5 31. Kf1 (31. Qg2 $5 Kf8 (31... Kd7 32. Qg5 $18)
32. Qg3 $16) 31... Kd7 32. Qg2 Qf7 33. Bxf6 Bxf6 34. Qe2 Qg8 35. Nd1 Bd4 36.
Nf2 Qg6 37. Nxd4 $6 {A very dangerous way to play.} (37. b3 {keeping control
was the safer way to play.}) 37... cxd4 38. c5 dxc5 (38... Nxd5 39. Qb5+ Kc8
40. c6 Qf7 (40... bxc6 41. Qxc6+ Nc7 42. Qb6 $11) 41. cxb7+ Qxb7 42. Qc4+ Kd7
43. Qxd4 Ke6 $17) 39. Qb5+ Kd6 40. Qxb7 Qe8 41. Qxh7 {The position is quite
complicated but there are enough resources for both sides. The margin for a
draw is pretty huge in this position.} Nxd5 42. Qh6+ Kc7 43. b3 Ne3+ 44. Kg1
Qg8+ 45. Qg5 Qxb3 46. Qe7+ Kc6 47. Qe8+ Kc7 48. Qe7+ Kc6 49. Qe8+ Kc7 {A
fighting draw.} 1/2-1/2

Overall darkness and light on the chessboards. How do you like this setup?

Stylish cars that bring chess players to the playing hall from their hotels (picture by Joachim Steinbru)

WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni invited Nihal Sarin to the commentary box where the 11-year-old had to assess live positions in all the games. It must be said that the young boy did a pretty commendable job.


Nihal in the commentary box is around 2 hours and 53 minutes