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Andrei Volokitin - Fabiano Caruana

Round 1
Corus 2009
Wijk Aan Zee

17.01.2009

The first round of the Corus chess tournament begins at 13:30 CET. Chessdom.com will provide live commentary. The featured game of group A will be Carlsen - Radjabov, the game of group B Volokitin - Caruana, and the game of group C Nijboer - Wesley So. Good day everyone, welcome to the Chessdom live coverage of Corus Chess Tournament. Andrei Volokitin is fearless fighter from Ukraine and his entertaining games are always pleasure to the eye. He is mostly opening with 1.e4, but he has achieved tremendous success against very strong opposition in those few games that he started with 1.d4. Andrei is also co-author of the highly acclaimed book "Perfect Your Chess". Fabiano Caruana qualified for the B Group by convincingly winning the last year's C Group, two points clear ahead of the others. He is also fostering sharp play, particularly when he enters the Naidorf Sicilian with Black. The action is about to begin, enjoy!

1.e4 e5!? Already surprise! Caruana usually defends with Sicilian or, sometimes, French. Obviously, he and his coach Alexander Chernin decided to expand the opening repertoire.

2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6!? The Exchange Ruy Lopez is considered to be rather harmless at the top level, but Black still has to be careful.

4... dxc6 5.O-O Qf6!? Favorite move of Michael Adams and also recommended in the book of another English GM - Nigel Davies. This gives dynamic play, with more active possibilities as compared to the main 5...f6.

6.d4 exd4 7.Bg5 Qd6 Immediate 5...Qd6 is also a popular variation, but in our game Black didn't really lose tempo (Qf6-d6) as Bishop is not ideally placed on g5 and might even become a target.

8.Nxd4 Bd7 9.Nc3 Ne7 10.Nb3 Inviting Queen's exchange. Another possibility was to redeploy the Bishop, by moving it to its natural square - e3, or more controversial 10. Bh4 0-0-0 11. Bg3 Qf6!? where Black should be able obtain good counterplay on the kingside.

10... Qxd1 11.Raxd1 Ng6 Now Black will probably prepare long castle and then strike the center with f7-f5. White is enjoying better pawn structure, but Black pieces might soon become more active.

12.Be3 b6 13.f4 Volokitin is rolling his pawn majority to grab some space in the center, but this can also be committing move. The pawns on e4 and f4 are ideally positioned at the moment, but if Caruana manages to provoke further advance, it will allow him to create a stronghold for the piece. For now, he will probably just complete the development and castle.

13... O-O-O 14.a3 A useful prophylactic move that prevents annoying Bb4

14... f6 15.Nd4 Bd6 Wise choice as White now cannot proceed with intended Nf3 (pawn f4 hanging). Caruana wants to continue with Re8, c5 and Bc6, which is a standard procedure for pressing against e4-pawn. ( Alternative was immediate 15... c5 16.Nf3 (16.Nf5 Bxf5 17.Rxd8+ Kxd8 18.exf5 Ne7 and White can't hold on to f5 pawn) 16... Bd6 17.Nd2 Rhe8)

16.g3 Naturally, Volokitin wants to support the f4-pawn, but this weakening now opens new possibilities for Black. Light squares are sensitive and h5-h4 might also come in.

16... h5 17.Nf3 Bh3! Excellent move which immediately acts on the weakened light squares.

18.Rf2 h4 19.Rfd2 Bg4 20.Kf2 hxg3+ 21.hxg3 Rh3 22.Ne2 Re8 23.Neg1 The official website was jammed for a while, and now we got several moves at once. Volokitin is definitely on defensive, trying to put his kingside together. The e4-pawn is probably lost, but White can take on b6. It is safe to say that Black has the advantage.

23... Rh5 24.Bxb6 Rxe4 25.Bd4 c5 26.Bc3 Ne7 A good move which transfers the Knight to better position on f5.

27.Re2 d-file is blocked so there is not much sense in keeping the doubled Rooks there.

27... Rxe2+ 28.Nxe2 Nf5 29.Re1 Volokitin starts with regrouping of pieces. The Rook will move away from the Bg4 diagonal and Ne2 will most likely transfer to c3. White is also down to only 3 minutes for the remaining 11 moves.

29... Rh3 30.Rg1 Kb7 31.Bd2 Kb6 ( Perhaps Black himself should have played 31... c4!?)

32.c4 Now the King's advance has been stopped. Perhaps later this pawn could be attacked by the light-squared Bishop.

32... Kc6 33.Bc3 Nh6 34.Kg2 Rh5 35.Re1 Preventing 35...Be6 which would be met by 36. Ned4!+

35... Kb7 36.Nc1 Bd7 37.Nb3 Right on time and both Be6 and Bc6 have been stopped. Black could have played it better...

37... Ng4 38.Na5+ Kb6 39.Re2 Nh6 40.Re1 g5 Caruana played some tame moves during Volokitin's time trouble and White was allowed to regroup. The position is now roughly equal.

41.fxg5 fxg5 42.Ne5 Probably best, in order to ease the pressure from Bd6 on pawn g3, but 42. b4!? also deserved attention.

42... Bf5 and the draw has been agreed. Fair result as the position is even and it is hard to expect that either player can make a progress. Fabiano Caruana had his chance though, but the advantage slipped from his hands somewhere during the time trouble. Probably one of those King moves is to be blamed. Thank you everyone for following Chessdom live coverage of Corus Chess Tournament! See you again tomorrow at 13:30 CET. 1/2-1/2