One of the great virtues of grandmasters demonstrating their games straight after they’re over, as they did at the Russian Championship Superfinal, is that we get to see what they actually thought before switching on a computer. Peter Svidler’s commentary on his win in round 5 is a case in point.
A key moment came on move 27. Suffice it to say that, in full accordance with Murphy’s Law, when Peter Svidler says, “It seems to me I made a very strong move here” about 27…f6, he actually made the move the chess engines least approved of in the whole game. The tricky 28.Ra7! might have led to a different outcome… Fortunately, however, chess is still a game between humans, and we can enjoy Peter Svidler’s analysis rather than computer evaluations.
The commentary below is translated from Vladimir Barsky’s transcription in his photo report for the Russian Chess Federation website.
Alexander Timofeev – Peter Svidler
Notes by Peter Svidler
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nge7 This is a new-fangled variation of the Ruy Lopez. I’ve played like this once before. The move looks a little awkward, but in the last year and a half it’s been played by Grischuk, Aronian… The idea is that there isn’t yet much theory and in the majority of cases you get lively positions, which is something Black welcomes.
5.c3 After 5.Nc3 you can’t play 5…g6 because of 6.d4 exd4 7.Nd5. You have to play 5…d6, and then you get duller positions. In April in the Russian League Frolianov played the following against me: 5.d4 exd4 6.Nxd4 g6 7.0-0 Bg7 8.c3 and we got the same position as in today’s game.
5…g6 6.d4 exd4 7.Nxd4 An alternative is 7.cxd4 Bg7 8.d5 b5.
7…Bg7 8.Be3 0-0 Black has mixed feelings here. On the one hand, White has declined to try and refute his play in the opening. On the other hand, White has a solid position without a single weakness and a certain edge in the centre.
9.0-0 b5 Artyom and I disagreed about the evaluation of the position after 9…d6 10.Nd2 f5 11.exf5 Nxd4 12.Bxd4 Bxd4 13.cxd4 Nxf5 14.Nf3. He tried to explain that everything’s great for me, but it seems to me that Black’s position is strategically extremely dangerous – because the wrong pieces have been exchanged and the pawn’s standing on g6 instead of g7. It seems at some point you’d have to play с7-с6 and d6-d5 in order to get rid of your weaknesses, but then you’d need to plug the whole on e5 with your bare hands. So I didn’t like that plan.
10.Bc2 Ne5 An attempt to refine the structure and place some pawns in the centre.
11.a4 Rb8 12.axb5 axb5 13.Nd2 d6 13…d5 14.N4b3, and the bishop goes to c5. I’ve got some holes in my structure, while White doesn’t have any. If I play accurately I’ll be able to draw.
14.h3 c5 15.N4f3 N5c6 If 15…Qc7, then 16.Nxe5 dxe5 17.Nb3 c4 18.Ra7 Rb7 19.Rxb7 Bxb7 20.Nc5 Bc6 21.b3. Sergey Tiviakov has won a million such games in the Sicilian with 3.Bb5.
16.Bf4 Rb7 Here I was still happy with my position: it seemed to me that I’d manage to play Rd7, Qb6 and Bb7.
17.Qe2 After this move I realised that perhaps everything wouldn’t go quite as smoothly as I’d thought, because I’m not in time to play Qb6 and Rd7.
17…c4 A conceptual move: cutting off the c2-bishop and d2-knight once and for all. I want to play d5-d4.
18…Rd7 It was more accurate to play 18…d5 19.Nf1 (19.exd5 Nxd5 20.Bg5 f6 21.Bh4 Re8 22.Ne4 Rbe7) 19…d4 20.cxd4 Nxd4 21.Nxd4 Bxd4, and there’s no way White can win the bishop.
19.Nf1 d5 20.Bg5 I still hadn’t completely worked out what was going on and this move sobered me up a little. I thought White had to take: 20.exd5 Nxd5 21.Bg5 Qc7 22.Qe4 f5 23.Qh4 Bb7 – and Black’s wonderfully centralised.
20…Qc7 After 20…d4 21.cxd4 h6 22.Bxe7 Qxe7 23.e5 Rfd8 24.Qe3 it’s not even clear how I can attack the d4-pawn again. After 20…h6 I was planning on 21.Be3, but I was incredibly worried about 21.exd5 hxg5 22.dxc6 Nxc6 23.Qe4 Rxd1 24.Rxd1 Qf6 25.Ne3 Ne7 – Black’s position is extremely perilous.
21.Qe3 Here I finally realised I’d ended up somewhere entirely different from where I’d planned, because White’s very effectively defended against the threat of d5-d4, and he’s got a mass of obvious moves that strengthen his position.
21…b4 22.Bf4 Artyom unexpectedly gave me a little oxygen. Probably out of general considerations you had to go 22.Bh6 here – to exchange the dark-squared bishop and then have a think. And after 22.Ng3 bxc3 23.bxc3 Ne5 24.Nd4 Black’s position isn’t quite “the real deal”.
22…Qd8 23.Bh6 There was an unclear position after 23.e5 Rb7.
23…d4 Artyom underestimated this move. I thought that things were suddenly very good for me, but in fact Black is still fighting for a draw.
24.cxd4 Nxd4 I rejected the move 24…b3 for a “Romantic” reason: 25.Bxb3 cxb3 26.Bxg7 Kxg7 27.d5. I’ve got an extra piece, but frankly, it isn’t felt.
25.Bxg7 Nxf3+ I didn’t even start to calculate 25…Nxc2, because I was sure that after 26.Qh6 I’d be mated.
26.Qxf3 The position also continues to remain extremely dangerous after 26.gxf3 Kxg7 27.Rxd7 Qxd7 28.Ra7 (28.Qc5 b3, but not 28…Nc6? 29.Ba4) 28…Qd6.
26…Kxg7 27.e5 It seems to me I made a very strong move here:
27…f6. I include my remaining pieces in the game. Worse is 27…Rxd1 28.Rxd1 Qc7 29.Qf6+ Kg8 30.Qd6, and here the most Black’s dreaming of is to get an endgame with “4 v 3 on one flank”.
28.Ne3 28.Qe2 Rxd1 29.Rxd1 Qc7 30.Rd4 Be6 31.exf6+ Rxf6 32.Re4 Kf7 33.Ne3 b3 34.Bb1 c3 35.bxc3 Qxc3 36.Ng4 Qc1+ 37.Kh2 Qc7+, and move by move I manage to defend everything and draw.
28…b3 This move destroys the coordination of the white pieces.
29.Be4 Qc7 White would like to have his queen standing on e4, but there’s no way of getting it there. Here I didn’t have a single thought about an advantage, but the possibility of setting traps arose.
30.Rdc1 This move would be good and strong if it wasn’t for Black’s reply. Better was 30.exf6+ Rxf6 31.Qe2 c3 with equality.
30…Rd4 Frankly there no longer seems to be equality for White – he’s losing a whole pawn.
31.Qg3 A clever move, but now White gets into tactical difficulties.
31…f5 32.Bf3 f4 33.Qh4 h6 At this point I thought my position was objectively won, and moreover Artyom only had a minute left. I’m often worried about strange things, and here I was worried by the move 34.Nxc4. But after 34…g5 35.Qh5 Rxc4 36.Rxc4 Qxc4 37.h4 Rf5 (37…Qf7 38.Ra7) 38.Qe8 Rxe5 White has neither a piece nor an attack.
With seconds left he made the move 34.Ng4, and after 34…Nf5 White loses his queen. Therefore Artyom resigned.
You can watch Svidler’s demonstration as a video highlight at the official website.
Other demonstrations from the Russian Championship:
- Svidler demonstrates title-winning games (Rd 6)
- Nepomniachtchi demonstrates his win against Morozevich (Rd 5)
- Svidler demonstrates his win against Galkin (Rd 4)
- Morozevich and Grischuk demonstrate their wins (Rd 4)
- Karjakin demonstrates his win against Kramnik (Rd 3)
- Svidler demonstrates his draw against Grischuk (Rd 3)
- Kramnik demonstrates his win against Timofeev (Rd 2)
- Svidler demonstrates his win against Kramnik (Rd 1)