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Harikrishna consolidates with two draws

by Sagar Shah - 23/04/2016

After losing to Magnus Carlsen in the first round, Harikrishna consolidated his situation in the tournament with two draws in rounds two and three against Pavel Eljanov and Veselin Topalov respectively. Hari can be happy with his round two encounter with Eljanov where he had his chances in the Saemisch Nimzo, but with the white pieces against Topalov he didn't get even the slightest of advantage. In this article we have a look at both these games. 

Eljanov vs Hari

In round two Harikrishna faced Eljanov. The Ukrainian, who had just got back his rating after his Federation made sure to pay the arrears to FIDE, was in a combative mood and made his king run from e1 to c2 right out of the opening. Harikrishna played according to the demands of the position and also seemed to have the initiative in the middlegame. However, pieces kept coming off and in the end we reached an opposite coloured bishop endgame which was drawn.

[Event "4th Norway Chess 2016"]
[Site "Stavanger NOR"]
[Date "2016.04.20"]
[Round "2.5"]
[White "Eljanov, Pavel"]
[Black "Harikrishna, Pentala"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "E20"]
[WhiteElo "2765"]
[BlackElo "2763"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "89"]
[EventDate "2016.04.19"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. f3 {Eljanov signals his aggressive intentions.
He would like to play the Saemisch system and we are in for an exciting game
of chess.} c5 (4... d5 {is the more solid way to play.}) 5. d5 b5 $5 {What can
we say about this line! You can say that it is the Blumenfeld delayed. The
move f3 makes sense because a direct e4 is now possible.} 6. e4 O-O 7. Nh3 (7.
e5 Ne8 $1 {White's centre is over extended and will come under great stress
after the move d7-d6.}) 7... d6 8. Nf4 {This position was reached in the game
Grichuk-Topalov where the Bulgarian went for the Benoni structure with exd5.
Here Harikrishna closes the centre.} e5 9. Nfe2 Nh5 (9... bxc4 10. Ng3 $13) 10.
g4 $5 {Eljanov is ready to forego castling in order to stall the move f5.} Qh4+
(10... f5 $5 {Wow! This move was really possible. But isn't the knight on h5
hanging?} 11. gxh5 (11. exf5 Qh4+ 12. Kd2 Qf2 {With attack.}) 11... Qh4+ 12.
Kd2 fxe4 13. fxe4 Qxe4 14. Ng3 Rf2+ 15. Be2 Qxc4 {And the position is
completely crazy. Something like} 16. Ke1 Rxe2+ 17. Ngxe2 Bg4 {And Black has
some compensation for the missing rook.}) 11. Kd2 Nf4 12. Nxf4 exf4 13. Kc2 {
White has found a safe shelter for his king and his position looks better.}
bxc4 14. Bxf4 Qf6 15. Qd2 Nd7 16. Be2 (16. Bxc4 {was better and after} Ne5 (
16... Nb6 17. Be2 {White can claim a small edge.}) 17. Be2 $14) 16... Qe7 17.
Bxc4 Rb8 18. b3 Nb6 19. Qd3 Bd7 20. Bd2 Nxc4 21. bxc4 Rb6 {Black's position is
much easier to play.} 22. Rhb1 Rfb8 23. a3 Bxc3 24. Bxc3 {It is true that we
have opposite coloured bishop endgame but the White king is weaker than
Black's but White has an extra pawn. So it shouldn't such a huge edge.} Ba4+
25. Kc1 h5 26. Rxb6 Rxb6 27. Rb1 $1 {After the mass rook exchange Black
remains slightly better but White won't be in danger of getting mated.} hxg4
28. f4 $1 (28. fxg4 Qg5+ $17) 28... Rxb1+ 29. Kxb1 Qb7+ (29... Qh4 30. Qg3 {
And there is no way in.} Qxg3 31. hxg3 Bb3 32. Ba5 Bxc4 33. Kc2 Kf8 34. Kc3 Ba2
35. Kb2 Bc4 36. Kc3 $11) 30. Bb2 Qb3 31. Qxb3 Bxb3 {Once the queens are
exchanged, it is just a draw.} 32. e5 dxe5 33. d6 Kf8 34. Bxe5 g6 35. d7 Ke7
36. Kb2 Bxc4 37. Kc3 Bb5 38. Bd6+ Kxd7 39. Bxc5 Ke6 40. Kd4 a6 41. Ke3 Bc6 42.
Bb4 Bb5 43. Bc5 Bc6 44. Bb4 Bb5 45. Bc5 1/2-1/2


Hari vs Topalov

Harikrishna cannot be too happy with this draw. He played quite an unambitious setup with the white pieces and Topalov had no real difficulties to equalize the position. A quick draw with white is not something that you would like but it is not a bad idea to get into the groove in such a strong tournament.

[Event "4th Norway Chess 2016"]
[Site "Stavanger NOR"]
[Date "2016.04.21"]
[Round "3.1"]
[White "Harikrishna, Pentala"]
[Black "Topalov, Veselin"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "E53"]
[WhiteElo "2763"]
[BlackElo "2754"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "45"]
[EventDate "2016.04.19"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 {Hari accepts the invitation of going into the Nimzo
Indian.} Bb4 4. e3 {The Rubinstein Variation is quite contradictory in nature.
White closes his bishop on c1 with this move but still this move is quite
ambitious in nature. The reason: Other pieces have natural squares to develop.
For eg. the knight goes to f3 and the bishop to d3. Later on e4 will liberate
the c1 bishop.} O-O 5. Bd3 c5 6. Nf3 d5 {This is the tabiya of the entire
opening. Now the main move is 0-0. But Hari goes for immediate clarification
in the centre.} 7. cxd5 exd5 (7... Nxd5 8. O-O $1 Nxc3 9. bxc3 Bxc3 10. Rb1 $44
{And with threats like Bxh7, White has excellent compensation.}) 8. dxc5 Nbd7
$1 {Topalov makes use of the fact that he still hasn't developed his knight to
c6 and captures the pawn with his knight.} 9. Bd2 {Not many games have taken
place in this line. Two strong players Wojtaszek and Wesley So who played this
with black won their games. So it is an open question whether Harikrishna
really wanted to go for this line or not.} Nxc5 10. Be2 Ne6 {Immediately
threatening d4.} 11. a3 Be7 12. O-O a6 (12... d4 {Would not have been a good
idea now as after} 13. exd4 Nxd4 14. Nxd4 Qxd4 15. Be3 {White's slight
activity in this symmetrical position, counts for quite a lot.}) 13. Rc1 b6 14.
Na2 {Hari is trying to exchange his d2 bishop with Bb4. But Black doesn't
really have any problems with that.} Bb7 15. Bc3 (15. Bb4 Nc5 {Followed by
Nfe4 gives Black good centre control.}) 15... Ne4 16. Be5 Bf6 17. Nb4 N4c5 18.
Nd3 (18. Bxf6 Qxf6 19. Nxd5 Bxd5 20. Qxd5 Qxb2 $11) 18... Bxe5 19. Ndxe5 Qd6
20. Nc4 Qd8 21. Nce5 Qd6 22. Nc4 Qd8 23. Nce5 {Quite a tame draw. But Hari is
slowly but steadily getting in the groove.} 1/2-1/2

Harikrishna will now face Nils Grandelius in the fourth round with the black pieces. This should be the game where the Indian grandmaster tries to go all out for a win. Join the action live on 22nd of April at 7.30 p.m. IST on the ChessBase India live game page.