A Russian scored a big win this week; though admittedly he sounds more Spanish than he does Russian - but there’s a very revolutionary reason for this. He is Ernesto Inarkiev, a 30-year-old originally from the small village in Osh in deepest Kyrgyzstan, who was named by his parents in honour of Marxist revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, whose iconic poster adorned many student walls and halls of residence through the 1970s.
But this Ernesto started his own personal revolution by scoring the biggest win of his career, as he dominated the mammoth field of 245 players to surprisingly win the 17th European Individual Championship title at Gjakova, Kosovo. This tournament is always guaranteed a strong contingent of grandmasters who will fight to the end, as the top 23 qualify for the 2017 World Cup, a 128-player knockout that’s seen as the first rung of the World Championship ladder, where even the first-round losers go home with $6,000.
And this year was no different, with more than 100 GMs from 39 countries in contention for the title and one of the lucrative World Cup qualifying spots. But Inarkiev, the No.12 seed, proved to be impressive throughout. He got off to a good start, and then seized his chance in round eight by outplaying and beating the top-seed, David Navara of the Czech Republic, to take the sole lead.
Inarkiev never looked back after that win, as he was thrust into the media spotlight as he took the title with his winning-score of 9/11; a half point ahead of Latvian GM Igor Kovalenko, with Georgian GM Baadur Jobava taking third. There was a big fight over the remaining 20 World Cup qualifying spots - the highlight being the young 16-year-old Norwegian GM Tari Aryan, a product of the Magnus Carlsen chess-boom in his homeland, who just sneaked in to grab one.
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GM David Navara - GM Ernesto Inarkiev
17th European Individual Ch., (8)
Nimzo-Indian Defence, Rubinstein Variation
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 The Rubinstein variation, one of White's most popular replies to the Nimzo-Indian. 4...0-0 5.Bd3 d5 6.cxd5 exd5 7.Nge2 Rubinstein’s well-known idea. White protects c3 and now the capture of …Bxc3 is not met with the drawback of recapturing with the b-pawn. 7…Re8 8.0-0 Bf8 The bishop has done its job of pinning the knight on c3; and White's dark-squared bishop still has to become active. Now, with White castled, Black simply want's to preserve his bishop to keep control of the dark-squares, and not let it get in the way of his plan of now setting-up his ...c5 break in the centre. 9.Bd2 b6 Black is going to hammer down on his control of the e4 square with ...Bb7; a move that also defends his weak-point of ...d5. 10.Nf4 Bb7 11.Qf3 a6 12.Rad1 Ra7 Right now, this move looks a little funny - but it serves a great purpose by defending the bishop on b7, because if Black plays ...c5 and White captures, then ideas such as ...d4 becomes a problem for White. And from a7, the rook can perhaps later swing over to d7 or e7. 13.Bc2 c5 The thematic break here. On the one hand, the hanging pawns can become a liability, but on the other they strike into enemy territory to control more space. 14.dxc5 White has to capture, because if Black can play ...c4, then he will follow-up with ...b5 and a big pawn-push on the queenside is hard for White to meet. 14...bxc5 15.Qh3 g6 Now we see the point of Black earlier retreating his bishop all the way to f8 - from there, it now defends the dark-squares in Black's position. 16.Nce2 Bc6 17.Bc3 Nbd7 18.Bb3 Qa8! And now we see another reason for ...Ra7 as Black , a la hypermodern hero Richard Reti, can put his queen here on a8 to bolster d5 and look to open up the long diagonal towards White's king. 19.g4? Navarra simply lost the plot here. While it looks aggressive, its just plain wrong to be lashing out like this by volunteering to open up the white-squares around his king. 19...Ne5 20.g5 White is in a mess of his own making with the bizarre attempt at aggression with g4 that now backfires as Inarkiev blows open a path through to Navarra's king. 20...d4! (See Diagram) The simple threat now of ...Nf3+ is deadly. 21.f3 dxc3 22.gxf6 c4 23.Bc2 White is just dead here. The game opens up with Black's pieces beautifully poised to take full advantage - and all because White lashed out very prematurely with his g4. 23...Nxf3+ 24.Kf2 cxb2 In such positions, Black would willingly have sacrificed a piece for this - but he hasn't! 25.Qg3 Qb8 Defending his booty on b2 and stopping White from moving his knight on f4, as then the queens get exchanged. 26.Nc3 Ne5 More clinical and winning quicker is perhaps 26...Bd6! - but from here, all roads lead to Rome for Black. 27.h4 Desperate situations calls for desperate moves. When you are hopelessly lost, as Navarra is here, then the only option you have is to try and rattle your opponent with a desperate lunge at his king. 27...Rd7 And when such tactics come from your opponent, then - just as Inarkiev correctly assesses - often the best thing to do is just to systematically look to exchange as many pieces as quickly as you can, as this will leave few behind that can perhaps be sacrificed for a 'Hail Mary' saving attempt by bludgeoning a way through to the king. 28.h5 Qd8 29.hxg6 fxg6 30.Rxd7 Qxd7 31.Kg1 Kf7 Cool-as-a-cucumber, Inarkiev puts his king on f7 and immediately closes down any sacrifices on g6 and also perhaps any tricks from White with f7+. 32.Ne4 Bh6 Stopping any ideas of Ng5+. 33.Qh4 Bxe4 34.Bxe4 Navarra would like to play 34.Qxh6 ...but 34...Qg4+ sees Black safely exchanging off the queens now, as after 35.Kh2 Qh5+!! 36.Qxh5 (36.Nxh5? Ng4+!) 36...gxh5 37.Bxe4 Ng4+ 38.Kg1 Rxe4 and Black has an easy win. 34...Qg4+ Mission accomplished, as now the queens are exchanged leaving Inarkiev with an easy win to convert. 35.Qxg4 Nxg4 36.Bd5+ Kxf6 37.Nxg6+ Kg5 0-1 Inarkiev's position is so overwhelming, he could even have played 37...Kxg6 38.Bf7+ Kg7 39.Bxe8 Bxe3+ and still have won easily. But like a true professional, he picks the cleanest win, because now if 38.Nf4 Nxe3 forks the rook and bishop and also protects c4.