25 Jan

The Guns of Navara-won

All good things must come to an end.  And it certainly did for Magnus Carlsen, as the World Champion’s three-game winning-streak came to a halt at the 78th Tata Steel Masters in Wijk aan Zee,  as he was easily held to a draw in round eight by Russian Candidate Sergey Karjakin.  But it turned out to be a big round for Carlsen, as he strolled into the sole lead in the tournament by virtue of an endgame virtuoso performance from the Czech Republic’s No. 1 player.


Based on his inconsistency and unfilled potential, David Navara, 30, is one of the more enigmatic of the world’s elite players. In flashes of brilliance at the board, he often reminds me of Vassily Ivanchuk in his pomp, displaying a mix of inspirational play and resilience that suggested he could well have become a contender for the world championship.

But alas, with no consistency and many disasters, he lost his confidence and, from his early promise of rising to world No.13, he slipped as far back as No. 99; thankfully now though on the comeback trail, by steadying himself to No.25 in the latest January Fide Rating list. Despite Navara’s trials, he is popular among his peers and is a star in his homeland, where he has been his country’s top player now for more than a decade.


Here in Wijk, his games - win, lose or draw - have been wonderful entertainment value; and his enthusiasm during his post-game summary of his near-brilliancy against Anish Giri in round three was a joy to watch. And in round eight, he again regaled us with his enthusiastic post-game summery after outgunning overnight co-leader, Fabiano Caruana, in the endgame.

Photo © | http://www.tatasteelchess.com/

Round 8
Karjakin draw Carlsen
Adams draw Eljanov
Giri draw Tomashevsky
Hou 0-1 Van Wely
So draw Mamedyarov
Ding draw Wei
Navara 1-0 Caruana

Round 8 Standings: 1. Magnus Carlsen (Norway) 5.5/8; 2. Fabiano Caruana (USA) 5; 3-5. Wesley So (China), Anish Giri (Netherlands), Ding Liren (China) 4.5; 6-10. David Navara (Czech Rep.), Wei Yi (China), Sergey Karjakin (Russia), Shakriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan), Pavel Eljanov (Ukraine) 4; 11. Hou Yifan (China) 3.5; 12-13. Evgeny Tomashevsky (Russia), Loek Van Wely (Netherlands) 3; 14. Michael Adams (England) 2.5.

Rest day Monday 25th Jan.

Round 9 (Tues 26th Jan): Caruana-Karjakin, Wei-Navara, Mamedyarov-Ding, Van Wely-So, Tomashevsky-Hou, Eljanov-Giri, Carlsen-Adams. There’s live video commentary with host GM Yasser Seirawan and his guest each round, starting at 13:30 local time (07:30 ET, 04:30 PT) by clicking here.

GM David Navara - GM Fabiano Caruana
78th Tata Steel Masters, (8)
Nimzo-Indian Defence, Capablanca Variation
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 The Capablanca variation, named after former World Champion José Raúl Capablanca (1888-1942), and one of the most popular lines against the Nimzo-Indian. 4...0-0 5.Nf3 c5 6.dxc5 Na6 7.g3 Nxc5 8.Bg2 Nce4 9.0-0 Nxc3 10.bxc3 Be7 11.e4 d6 12.e5 dxe5 13.Nxe5 Qc7 14.Qe2 In his excellent post-game summary with Yasser Seirawan, Navara said that he had experimented with this line during a few blitz games in December with a friend. 14...Nd7 Also an option is 14...Ne8, but after 15.Bf4 Alexey Dreev obtained a good game last year against Ivan Ivanisevic, Kragujevac 2015. 15.Bf4 Nxe5 16.Bxe5 Bd6 17.Rfe1 Rb8 According to Navara, the "principled continuation" is 17...Bxe5 18.Qxe5 Qxc4 where after 19.Red1 White has compensation for the pawn, but no more. 18.Rad1 Bxe5 19.Qxe5 Qxe5 20.Rxe5 b6 21.c5 f6 22.cxb6 axb6 23.Re2 It came as a surprise to Navara when he discovered from Seirawan that this was a novelty, and previously seen had been 23.Re3. However, both Navara and Seirawan concurred that the "natural square" for the rook was e2. 23...Kf7 24.f4 Navara is looking to "make something" happen with this move, and instead he should have played 24.Rb2 with an equal game. 24...e5 The skewer with ...Bg4 is tempting. 25.fxe5?!? Typical of Navara! He slightly misplays the position with 24.f4, but manages to come up with a very resourceful solutions. 25...Bg4 26.e6+! Kg6 Ambitious stuff from Caruana, who thinks he can win this. If he wanted the draw, he could have bailed-out here with 26...Bxe6 27.Rd6 Bc4! (Navara demonstrated a study-like finish after 27...Rfe8? 28.Rdxe6! Rxe6 29.Bd5 Rbe8 30.g4! h6 31.h4 g6 32.a4! f5 33.g5 and Black will run out of moves and be in Zugzwang; White will playKf2-f3-f4 etc.) 28.Rd7+ Kg8 29.Rb2 and admittedly White has a little pull in this position, but Caruana should be able to safely see this being a draw. As it is, the route he takes is somewhat more complex than I think he believed. 27.Be4+ f5 Navara wasn't convinced with 27...Kh6, as he believed he'd be OK after 28.Rdd2 Bxe2 29.Rxe2 Rbc8 (Not seen by Navara, but more or less the same applies for the better option of 29...Rfc8! 30.Bd5 Rc7 31.c4) 30.Bd5 and the pawn can't be taken, as White has e7 and Bf7, so he gains an invaluable tempo to play c4. And yes, very difficult to see how Black can win this. 28.e7! Bxe2 29.Rd6+ Kg5 Caruana can play 29...Rf6 but it gets tricky and complex after 30.Rd8 Bb5 31.Bd5! and Black is forced into 31...Rb7! 32.Bxb7 Kf7 33.Rd5! Bc4 34.Re5 (If 34.Rd7 Black keeps a cool head and plays 34...Bxa2 and a draw is coming.) 34...Re6 35.Rxf5+ Kxe7 and White's emerged with an extra pawn, but in this sort of position I would expect nothing other than draw. 30.exf8R Rxf8 31.Bd5! Navara's initial thoughts was to force the draw with 31.Kf2 fxe4+ 32.Kxe2 - but then he realised that with 31.Bd5!, he had the guns to win. And if you excuse the movie title pun, I suppose we could say "The Guns of Navara-won”! 31...Rf6 32.Rd7 Kh6 33.Kf2! Crucial, as after 33.c4 f4! and Black is escaping the worst. 33...Bb5 34.Rc7 Rd6? An error, according to Navara, who thought Black had to play 34...f4 35.g4 (Not mentioned by the Czech GM, but there may well be milage in: 35.gxf4!? Rxf4+ 36.Ke3 Ra4 (There's also the third rank defence with 36...Rf6 37.c4 Be8 38.Ra7 and White definitely has a pull in this ending.) 37.Rb7 Ra6 38.c4 Be8 39.Kd4 and White's active king looks a winner to me - but what do I know? 35.c4 Be8 36.Rc8 Bd7 37.Rd8 Kg6 38.Ke3 Kf6 39.Kd4 White's active king is the deciding factor here - that and the lack of mobility for Black's pieces. 39...Ke7 40.Rg8 Rg6 41.Ke5 Rg5 When opponent's get into these sort of squeeze-like positions against Navara, the Czech GM is in his element and can find all the study-like finishes. Another he demonstrated was: 41...h5 42.Rh8 Rg5 43.Bf3 Be8 44.Rxe8+! Kxe8 45.Kf4! Rg6 46.Bxh5 with the sort of finish that Yochanan Afek, the resident Tata Steel Chess study guru would have been proud of! 42.Rb8 Rg6 43.Rh8 Rh6 44.h4 Be6 All the defences here are problematic. The other option pointed out by Navara was 44...Rg6 45.Rxh7 Rxg3 46.h5 Kd8 47.Kd6 and Black can't survive this. 45.Ra8! (See Diagram) Of course, most rook and pawn ending can be the chess equivalent of a Get Out Of Jail Free card, and Navara can't be too hasty here with 45.Bxe6? Rxe6+ 46.Kxf5 Rc6 47.Rxh7 Kf7! 48.Rh8 Rc5+ 49.Ke4 Rxc4+ and Black has excellent chances of saving this. 45...Bd7 This time the rook and pawn ending is lost after 45...Bxd5 46.cxd5 Rg6 47.Ra7+ Kd8 48.Ra3 Kd7 49.h5 Rg5 50.Ra7+ Kc8 51.d6 Rxg3 52.Kxf5 g6+ 53.Ke6! and White will win by wandering his king over to capture on b6. 46.Rh8 Be6 47.a4 Bd7 48.Ra8 Navara rejected 48.Rg8 as he was fearful Black could hold with 48...Rg6 49.h5 Rg5 (49...Rxg3? 50.h6!) 50.Rb8 Rxh5 51.Rxb6 f4+ 52.Kxf4 Bxa4. 48...Rg6 49.Ra7 Rxg3? Sometimes the pressures of defending such position can become too much of strain that you crack. And here, Caruana cracks as his move loses more or less on the spot. Instead, Navara pointed out the better defence with 49...Kd8! 50.h5 Rh6 51.Bf3 Re6+ 52.Kf4 and he wasn't convinced at the board if he had winning chances here. 50.a5! Now the passed c-pawn decides the game quickly. 50...bxa5 51.c5 Kd8 52.h5! The only winning move, as it secures d6 for the king - and to Navara's credit, he found it! 52...f4 53.Kd6 Bc8 54.c6 Rg5 Also there the possible 'Hail Mary' chance with 54...Rd3 and hope White falls for 55.c7+? Ke8 56.Ra8 Rxd5+ 57.Kxd5 Kd7 with saving chances. But instead of 55.c7+?, White easily wins with 55.Rxg7. 55.Bf7 1-0

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