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12...h6?? sealed Hari's fate against Karjakin

by Sagar Shah - 29/05/2016

A huge blunder on twelfth move is unheard of in elite grandmaster chess. It does happen, but is an extremely rare occurence. In the third round of Shamkir Chess 2016 Harikrishna made a big mistake against the World Championship challenger Sergey Karjakin which made him land in a completely lost position with no chances of salvaging the game. The rest was not at all difficult for Sergey who mopped up the game efficiently. Pictures, game analysis and critical moments.

Every game that the World Championship Challenger plays before his big duel is interesting for the spectators. Especially when it is against a player like Harikrishna whom Sergey Karjakin hasn't faced that often. After a loss against Giri in round two Karjakin was itching for a win. On the other hand Hari who had just beaten Mamedyarov was on a high. However, the game ended in an absolutely one sided battle as Harikrishna blundered as early as move twelve. And the blunder was so obvious that it was completely unexpected from of Hari's stature.

Sergey Karjakin had the white pieces against Harikrishna
Fearing some high level preparation in sharp lines Harikrishna went for the safe and solid Petroff Defence. The game followed normal lines and on the ninth move Hari came up with a novelty.
9...c5 is a move that has never been seen before
While the move c5 was not bad it had to be followed up correctly. Nf6, Be6 and d5 looks like a logical idea. After two moves the below position was reached:
Harikrishna played the move 12...h6. What would you do as White?
You do not even have to think for more than a minute that 13.Bxh6 is a highly promosing and infact a winning sacrifice. The queen lands on h6, knight comes to g5 and the rook on the third rank. Harikrishna made this losing move after 22 minutes of thinking. After 13.Bxh6 he made his next move 13...c4 quickly, but 14.Bxg7 completely destroyed Black's king cover.
It is hard to say what Hari was thinking when he made the move 12...h6.
Karjakin had three pawns and a rook against Hari's two minor pieces, and the rest was surely a matter of technique

Analysis of Karjakin - Harikrishna

[Event "Vugar Gashimov Mem 2016"]
[Site "Shamkir AZE"]
[Date "2016.05.28"]
[Round "3.4"]
[White "Karjakin, Sergey"]
[Black "Harikrishna, Pentala"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C42"]
[WhiteElo "2779"]
[BlackElo "2763"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "123"]
[EventDate "2016.05.26"]
{After winning the previous round against Mamedyarov, Harikrishna would have
been on a high. But facing the extremely well prepared World Championship
challenger with the black pieces is no easy task!} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 {
Petroff! A not so surprising choice by Hari. It is obvious that Sergey has
prepared intensively for the Candidates and also for the upcoming World
Championship. It makes sense to stay clear off the theoretical lines. That
being said Hari has never played the Petroff since 2009.} 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3
Nxe4 5. Nc3 Nxc3 6. dxc3 {This has become one of the most interesting ways to
combat the Petroff. The slightly mangled pawn structure for White is
compensated by the fact that he has open diagonals for his bishops and free
development.} Be7 7. Be3 O-O {Black often keeps his options open with regards
to his king. But in this game Harikrishna decides that g8 is where he wants
his king to be.} 8. Qd2 Nd7 (8... Nc6 9. O-O-O {is the main line.}) 9. O-O-O c5
$146 {What can be the idea of this move? For once it stops any White piece
from coming to d4. Also it opens the d8-a5 diagonal for the queen. Overall I
am not such a huge fan of this move but if Harikrishna has played it in a well
known position he has definitely spent some time on it.} ({A typical line runs
} 9... Ne5 10. Kb1 c6 11. Be2 {And White has a very comfortable position and
can slowly think about pushing his kingside pawns forward with h4.}) 10. Bd3
Nf6 11. Rhe1 {Karjakin makes the most natural moves in the position.} Be6 (
11... d5 {looks not so bad.}) (11... b5 $5 {sacrificing the pawn is also
interesting as after} 12. Bxb5 Be6 {followed by Rb8 and Qa5 Black has a
dangerous initiative.}) 12. Bg5 h6 $2 {What Hari was thinking at this point is
unclear. Taking the pawn on h6 is so natural. And it is an extremely strong
move. We can say that the game is effectively over after this.} (12... d5 {
If Harikrishna got this position again he would definitely go for this move in
my opinion.}) 13. Bxh6 $1 $18 c4 (13... gxh6 14. Qxh6 {White has so many
attacking ideas here including Ng5, Re3, that the black king is as dead as a
dodo.} c4 15. Ng5 cxd3 16. Rxe6 fxe6 17. Qg6+ Kh8 18. Rxd3 $18) 14. Bxg7 $1 {
This is definitely the best but even Rxe6 works. This just shows that Hari's
idea was really bad.} (14. Rxe6 fxe6 15. Bxc4 $16) 14... cxd3 15. Qg5 (15. Qh6
Nh7 16. Rxd3 $18 {is also winning.}) 15... Ne4 (15... Nh7 16. Qg3 Bg5+ 17. Nxg5
Qxg5+ 18. Qxg5 Nxg5 19. Bxf8 {Transposes to the game.}) 16. Qh6 Bg5+ {The only
way to avert mate.} (16... f5 17. Bxf8 Qxf8 18. Qxe6+ $18) 17. Nxg5 Qxg5+ 18.
Qxg5 Nxg5 19. Bxf8 dxc2 20. Rxd6 Kxf8 21. h4 Nh7 22. Kxc2 $18 {Let's take
stock of what has transpired. White has three pawns and a rook for two minor
pieces. Extremely healthy pawns and the minor pieces are not at all
co-ordinating. Quite bad news for Harikrishna as he hardly got to play and has
landed in a lost position right out of the opening.} Nf6 23. f3 Ke7 24. Rd4 Rh8
25. c4 Nd7 26. b3 a6 27. Kc3 Nb8 28. g3 Nc6 29. Rd2 Kf6 30. Rh2 b5 31. cxb5
axb5 32. Rd2 Rh5 33. Re3 Ne7 34. Re4 Rf5 35. Rd3 Rc5+ 36. Kd2 Nf5 37. Rg4 Rc8
38. Rc3 Ra8 39. Rc2 {This has been some staunch resistance by Hari but once
his activity dies out, which will happen in a few moves from now, the white
rooks and the three pawns will be impossible to stop. So we can say the win is
only a matter of time and not blundering.} Ne7 40. Rf4+ Kg7 41. Ke1 Nd5 42. Rd4
Kf6 43. Kf2 Ke5 44. Re4+ Kd6 45. h5 Ke7 46. g4 Kd6 47. Rd2 f5 48. gxf5 Bxf5 49.
h6 $1 Rh8 (49... Bxe4 50. fxe4 $18) 50. Red4 Be6 51. Rh4 Ke7 52. Rh5 Nf6 53.
Rxb5 Rxh6 54. a4 Rh1 55. a5 Nd7 56. b4 Bc4 57. Rg5 Ke6 58. Rd4 Rc1 59. a6 Rc2+
60. Kg3 Bf1 61. a7 Nb6 62. Rd1 {Quite a depressing loss for Harikrishna who
just didn't get to play in the game.} 1-0


Crosstable after round three

Hari now faces Anish Giri with the black pieces in round four.

Pictures from the official website