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Tata Steel 02: Harikrishna's knights trump Adhiban's bishops

by Sagar Shah - 16/01/2017

Harikrishna has a unique way of playing chess. His opening preparation is not the most ambitious in the world, but he likes to pose small problems to his opponents. He likes to get playable positions which he enjoys, it doesn't matter if the computers shout out =(0.00). This faith in his ability to outplay his opponents is what helped him to overpower Adhiban in the second round of the Tata Steel Masters 2017. In-depth analysis and explanations.

Pictures by Alina L'Ami

Smiles before the game, firm handshakes and tremendous fight on the 64 squares

The second round of the Tata Steel Masters 2017 was an exciting day for the Indians. Harikrishna and Adhiban were pitted against each other. The good thing about these young Indian players is that they loathe short draws. Both of them decided to fight it out and in the end it was Harikrishna who emerged victorious. Let's have a look at this interesting battle.

Key points of the game Harikrishna - Adhiban

Adhiban chose the Arkhangelsk Variation with 6...Bc5, which already showed his intentions of a fighting game of chess

The players went for a weird line, not played much, where Black sacrifices a piece, but later traps the white bishop as can be seen above. Hari had to sacrifice on h7 to recover the pawn.

Let's take stock of the situation. The right way to realize what's going on is to list down the imbalances in the position.

1. White has two knights against Black's two bishops. Usually it's the side with the bishops that has an advantage. However, in this case, it is not so easy to activate the bishops.

2. White has three pawn islands, Black has two. So that's to Black's advantage. However, the c-pawn is backward on the open file.

3. It's much easier to attack the c6 pawn than the e3 pawn.

4. The knights have squares like c5 where they would like to sit as an outpost via d3.


All in all I would say that Black's double bishop advantage is neutralized because of some other factors in White's favour. The position is dynamically equal.

With the move h4! Black's king suddenly starts to feel very uncomfortable. The position is still equal, it's just that Black has to be careful.

The final error of the game. Black had to play his king to f7. Instead he went to f5 and got hit by four of White's pieces - two rooks and two knights.

There is no way to stop Rhxh3 mate. It's not often that you seen the Lawnmower's mate at top level chess.

Harikrishna proved that went it came to practical chess, he was the stronger player
[Event "79th Tata Steel Chess 2017-Masters"]
[Site "Wijk aan Zee"]
[Date "2017.01.15"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Harikrishna, Pentala"]
[Black "Adhiban, Baskaran"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C78"]
[WhiteElo "2766"]
[BlackElo "2653"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "85"]
[EventDate "2017.??.??"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventCountry "NED"]
[SourceTitle ""]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[TimeControl "40/6000+30:20/3000+30:900+30"]
1. e4 {0} e5 {5} 2. Nf3 {0} Nc6 {4} 3. Bb5 {6 This time Harikrishna chooses
the Ruy Lopez over Guioco Piano. The latter he used successfully to beat
Sergey Karjakin at the Olympiad.} a6 {5} 4. Ba4 {6} Nf6 {4} 5. O-O {29} b5 {8}
6. Bb3 {9} Bc5 $5 {1 The Arkhangelsk Variation of the Ruy Lopez which is much
more active than the closed Ruy Lopez, but also riskier.} 7. c3 {326} d6 {5} 8.
d4 {21} Bb6 {6} 9. Be3 {236} O-O {9} (9... Nxe4 10. Bd5 $18) 10. h3 {86} (10.
Nbd2 {is more common.}) 10... exd4 {666 Adhiban has already played this before
against Kuzubov in 2011, but he thought for 11 minutes which means that he
wasn't expecting this line.} 11. cxd4 {23} Nxe4 {11 Seeing that nothing is
wrong with grabbing the pawn, Adhiban goes ahead.} 12. Bd5 {618 Harikrishna
also thought for 10 minutes recollecting his lines.} Qe8 $1 {5} 13. Qc2 {28}
Nb4 {19} 14. Qxe4 {12} Qxe4 {3} 15. Bxe4 {10} d5 {2 And the bishop is trapped
in a very novel manner.} 16. Bxh7+ {122} Kxh7 {2 Overall it would seem that
the central e4 pawn is much more important than the h7 pawn. And this is true.
Black has a very comfortable position. But it's a complex middlegame, so both
sides have to play accurately.} 17. Nc3 {175} c6 {1426 23 minutes for the move
c6. Adhiban would have surely been looking at ...Nc2 options. Finally he
didn't like them and continued with this little pawn move.} (17... Nc2 18. Rac1
Nxe3 19. fxe3 Bb7 20. Ne5 {Somehow I feel that the bishops are a tad too
passive.}) 18. Rad1 {1329} (18. a3 Nc2 19. Rac1 Nxe3 20. fxe3 $11 {might have
been a better way to play according to Harikrishna.}) 18... a5 {1273} 19. a3 {
576} Nc2 {345} 20. Rd2 {386} Nxe3 {353} 21. fxe3 {10 The computers like
Black's position because of the bishop pair. Objectively the position is equal.
But with all these imbalances, the situation is rich and the better player has
chances to outplay his opponent.} f6 {188} 22. Rc1 {26} Bd7 {53} 23. Kf2 {
117 Hari just makes normal, natural moves, not worrying about what he is
trying to achieve in the position. If his pieces are on good squares something
will turn up. That being said Adhiban has nothing to worry. His position is at
least equal, maybe even slightly better.} Rae8 {24} 24. Ne2 {230} Re7 {116} (
24... g5 $5 $15) 25. Nf4 {45} Rfe8 {291} (25... g5 26. Nd3 Kg7 27. Nc5 Bf5 $15)
26. Re2 {159} g5 {27} 27. Nd3 {25} Kg7 {134} 28. Nc5 {601} Bf5 {22} 29. Ree1 {
459} Kg6 $6 {335} (29... Rh8 {Makes sense in order to prevent g4.} 30. g4 Bc8 {
The h3 pawn is weak.} 31. Rh1 Bxc5 $1 32. dxc5 (32. Rxc5 Bxg4 $15) 32... Kg6
33. Nd4 Bd7 $11 {Black doesn't have any reali problems.}) (29... Bg6 {is a
good idea as well. As Harikrishna said after the game that if the knight moves
from c5 then Re6 keeps Black solid.}) 30. Nd2 {128} (30. g4 Bc8 31. h4 $5 Bxg4
32. hxg5 Bxf3 33. gxf6 Rh7 34. Kxf3 $11) 30... Kg7 {75} 31. Nf3 {98} Kg6 {
165 Adhiban must have felt that Hari would be fine with a draw. After all it's
not so easy to make progress. But Harikrishna fights on.} 32. g4 {180} Bc8 {32}
33. Nd3 {6} Bd7 $6 {285} (33... Rc7 $5 {makes sense in order to take on g4
when h4 is played.}) 34. h4 $1 {84 Very alert.} gxh4 {279} 35. Nxh4+ {249} Kg5
{204 The king has to move in. But as we already know, the knight are tricky
creatures. Hence, Black must remain careful.} (35... Kh7 36. Nf5 Bxf5 37. gxf5
Rc7 38. Rh1+ Kg7 39. Rcg1+ $19) 36. Nf3+ {101} Kxg4 {157 Good or bad, this
pawn had to taken.} (36... Kg6 37. g5 $1 fxg5 38. Nde5+ Kf5 39. Rg1 $16) 37.
Rh1 $1 {230 The black king is beginning to feel uncomfortable. Two knights and
two rooks are trying to trap it.} Kf5 {225 Adhiban's king makes a dash.} 38.
Rh5+ {46} Ke6 {31} (38... Kg6 39. Nf4+ Kf7 40. Rg1 $16) 39. Rh6 {299} Kf5 $2 {
250} (39... Kf7 40. Nf4 (40. Rg1 Bf5 $19) 40... Rg8 41. Nh5 Rg6 42. Rh7+ Kf8
43. Rh8+ Kf7 $11) 40. Nh4+ {0} Kg5 {138} (40... Ke4 41. Rc3 $1 {The threat now
is to take on f6.} (41. Ke2 $5 Bxd4 $1 42. Nf2+ Ke5 43. Nf3+ Kd6 44. Nxd4 Rxe3+
45. Kd2 $16) 41... Rf7 42. Rh5 {Nf3-d2 looks deadly.} Bg4 43. Kf1 $1 Kxe3 44.
Nf2+ Kd2 45. Nxg4 $18) (40... Ke6 41. Nf4+ Kd6 42. Rxf6+ Kc7 43. Nxd5+ $18) 41.
Rg6+ {84} Kxh4 {29} 42. Rh1+ {9} Bh3 {4} 43. Rg3 {10 Not often do you see the
Lawnmower's mate at such a high level! A very interesting game where
Harikrishna showed that practically he is a stronger player.} 1-0

"This position with two knights versus two bishops should be around equal"

Magnus Carlsen played some tremendous chess to beat...

...Poland's number one Radoslaw Wojtaszek

The move a3 was played by Karjakin as well, but Carlsen found that after ...e5 he can shift his knight to f5. This is what is truly amazing about these top players. They learn a new idea and quickly make it their own. I we can do that as well, improving at chess won't be so difficult.

Daniel King explains to you the intricacies of Carlsen's brilliant play
Karjakin was a huge inspiration for my choice of opening today!
Anish Giri couldn't achieve much in his game against Wesley So
Pavel Eljanov managed to beat Loek van Wely and is now the sole leader with 2.0/2
A draw between the two Russians
Talent overload?!

Masters standings

Some spectators like to stand and watch the game
Others like to watch the commentary by Hans Bohm
An interesting interview with Hans Bohm
The best spot in the house!
Impressions of Round two. Does anyone know which song is this? I simply love the tune!