Good day everyone and welcome to the Chessdom live coverage of the Essent Crown Group. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov took the advantage of white pieces in first two rounds and is leading with the maximum score. Ruslan Ponomariov is just half point behind. If we are to predict the opening, I'd guess Pirc or Sicilian defence. My name is Goran Urosevic and I will be your commentator today. Enjoy!
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 Pono figured that 1.e4 is best choice, but the last move might be a bit of surprise. Mamedyarov is choosing delayed Stenitz variation, something that he didn't play before. It might be his secret weapon prepared for Essent and Tal Memorial, just like he used Breyer Ruy Lopez last year and with great success.
5.O-O Bd7 6.c3 Most popular continuation, employed by Kasparov and Anand among others. ( Karpov and Leko liked 6.d4) ( while Ivanchuk, Smirin and Psakhis used 6.c4)
6... g6 7.d4 Bg7 8.Re1 Other possibilities were 8.Bg5, 8.dxe5 or 8.Be3
8... b5 I stand corrected, Mamedyarov already played this line and used rare 8...b5 against Ivanchuk at Corus 2006 and Alexeev at Aeroflot 2006. Most played was 8. ..Nge7
9.Bb3 Ivanchuk moved Bishop to c2.
9... Nf6 10.Be3 This was seen only in one game so far, played back in 1990. Alexeev used 10.Bg5 against Mamedyarov.
10... O-O (10... Nxe4 would be too dangerous 11.dxe5 dxe5 12.Qd5! (12.Bxf7+ Kxf7 13.Qd5+ also possible) 12... Nd6 13.Bg5 Qc8 14.Nxe5 Nxe5 15.Rxe5+ with crushing attack)
11.dxe5 Nxe5 12.Nxe5 dxe5 13.Bc5 Re8 14.Nd2 Be6 Mamedyarov wants to neutralise influence of Bb3 and pressure on f7. At the same time, he's preparing to fight for the open d-file.
15.Bxe6 (15.a4 Bxb3 16.Nxb3 Qxd1 17.Raxd1 bxa4 18.Na5 Red8 and Black is slightly better )
15... Rxe6 16.Nb3 (16.a4 Bh6! equal chances, quiet position)
16... Qxd1 17.Raxd1 a5 It is import ant not to allow White's Na5 in some lines. Black is also threatening to kick the Nb3 off his good position after next a4.
18.f3 Good move in the sense that it is supporting e4 pawn and releasing Re1 to fight for the d-file domination.
18... a4 Almost a must, otherwise White would have played Bf2 with next Nc5.
19.Nc1 Bf8! Important exchange for Mamedyarov. He wants to clean d6 square and access it with the Rook, speeding up the doubling over d-file.
20.Be3 Rd6 21.Kf2 Nd7! No need to hurry after d-file, Ra8 might do important role in case of some a3 push by Black. Mamedyarov also has option of playing f5.
22.Ke2 f6 23.Rxd6 Bxd6 24.Nd3 Kf7 25.Rc1 c5 Ponomariov was preparing c4 and Mamedyarov wants to keep the flank closed. Perhaps better was to transfer the Knight to eye on d4, 25...Nf8 26. c4 bxc4 27. Rxc4 Ne6
26.c4 b4 27.g4 Ke6 28.Rd1 Rh8 29.h3 Position is equal after 29...h5 30. g5 f5
29... h5 30.b3 hxg4 31.hxg4 Ra8 Black directs his attention to the open a-file. One of White's pieces will be tied for b3, but the game is still equal.
32.Nb2 axb3 33.axb3 Ra3 34.Rd3 Ra2 35.Rd2 It's hard to expect that Mamedyarov can break through by using his Rook only. At the same time, Bishop and Knight are not very helpful.
35... Ra3 36.Rd3 Ra2 37.Rd2 and the draw was agreed after moves repetition. Well played by both of them. Ponomariov was probably surprised with the delayed Stenitz variation and didn't take too much risk running after refutation. Mamedyarov handled defensive tasks pretty well, perhaps this is a sign of improvement in his opening preparation. Thank you everyone for following live commentary, don't forget that Wednesday is rest day for the Crown Group, see you again on Thursday. 1/2-1/2