Catalan Opening is very popular and we are witnesses of many new ideas in this opening. In this game Sasikirian went for modern line 9.Nc3!. He prepared novelty 20.Qh5!? which is only alternative to previous games in this line. Despite fact he was faced with novelty Alekseev reacted very good. White had strong e-pawn as compensation for excahge and both players were optimistic in game. Finally Alekseev played few unprecise moves and he lost game but conclusion is that white's novelty is interesting but not crushing. Black is able to hold his position and whole line remains OK for black.
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 Nc6 6.Qa4 Bb4+ 7.Bd2 Nd5 8.Bxb4 Ndxb4 9.Nc3! Modern line which became popular after Aronian-Adams, Wijk aan Zee 2009 where white won convincingly. ( Main line is 9.O-O Rb8 10.Na3 and here on German Individual Championship black went for 10... a6 where theory says that white is better in endgame which comes after forced (10... O-O is main line and for the followers of this line I suggest to check game Anand-Kramnik, Bilbao 2010) 11.Ne5 O-O 12.Nxc6 Nxc6 13.Qxc4 Qxd4 14.Bxc6 Qxc4 15.Nxc4 bxc6 White has a slight advantage /= Here white played 16.Rfd1 perventing idea with Rd8 and Kf8. Black continued with typical defensive moves: (16.Rac1 Rd8 17.Rfd1 Bd7 18.f4 Be8 19.Rxd8 Rxd8 20.Kf2 Kf8 21.Ke3 Rd5 22.Ne5 g5 23.Nxc6 gxf4+ 24.gxf4 Bxc6 25.Rxc6 Ra5 26.a3 Rb5 27.b4 a5 equal chances, quiet position Wang Yue-Ghaem Maghami, Asia (tch) 2008) (16.Rfc1!? is move where white has best results , and here deserves attention same plan as in the game Wang Yue-Ghaem Maghami: 16... Rd8!? ( Black was worse after 16... Rb5 17.b3 Rc5 18.Nb2 Rxc1+ 19.Rxc1 Bd7 20.Nc4 Rd8 21.Kf1 Be8 22.Ke1 Kf8 23.Na5 Rd6 24.b4 Rd5 25.h4 h6 26.Rc3 g5 27.hxg5 hxg5 28.a3 Bd7 29.Nxc6 Ke8 30.f3 Rb5 31.Nd4 Rd5 32.Nb3 Kd8 33.Nc5 White has a slight advantage Kir.Georgiev-Mih.Stojanovic, Niksic (rapid) 2.1 2008) (16... f6 17.b3 Rb5 18.Rc2 e5 19.Ne3 Bd7 20.Rd1 Rf7 21.Rc4 Rb6 22.f3 White has a slight advantage Be6 23.Ra4 Re7?! 24.Rd8+ Kf7 25.Ra8 Rd7 26.R8xa6 Rd2 27.Kf2 White has a moderate advantage 1-0 Lastin-Olafsson, Moscow 2004) 17.b3 /\ Na5 17... Rb5! This stops Na5 or Ne5. 18.Nb2 (18.e4 Kf8 19.Rd1 Rxd1+ 20.Rxd1 Ke7 21.f4 f6 equal chances, quiet position and black should not be worse.) 18... Rbd5 Simplest. Black is activating rooks on d-line. White can try (18... Bd7 19.Nd3 Kf8 20.Nc5 Bc8 21.Rc4 Ke7 22.Rac1 f6 23.f3 e5 24.Kf2 White has a slight advantage /= this should be also close to equal but now white can play against black rook on b5 so this position gives him some chances to play on win.) 19.Nd3 (19.Rxc6 Rd2 20.Rxc7 Rxb2 21.Rac1 Rxa2 22.Rxc8 Rf8 equal chances, quiet position with drawish endgame.) 19... Bb7 20.Rc4 Kf8 21.Rac1 Ke7 22.Kg2 , but after 22... Rd4 equal chances, quiet position position is equal.) (16.b3 Rd8 17.Rfd1 Bd7 18.Rac1 Be8! Typical plan. Blacks king goes to e7 and he will protect weak pawns on kingside. 19.f3 Kf8 20.Kf2 Ke7 21.Ke1 Rb5 22.Rxd8 Kxd8 23.h4 Ke7 24.Rc3 f6 25.Nd2 h6 26.Ne4 Bd7 27.Nc5 Bc8 equal chances, quiet position and white cannot improve his position. Kir.Georgiev-Mih. Stojanovic, Niksic (rapid) 2.3 2008) 16... Rb5 17.b3 Re8 18.Rac1 Kf8 19.Nb2 Bb7 20.e4 Ke7 21.Na4 e5 and he equalised very soon. 22.f3 f6 23.Kf2 Rd8 24.Rxd8 Kxd8 25.Nc5 Bc8 26.a4 Rb4 27.Rd1+ Ke7 28.Ke3 a5 equal chances, quiet position Buhmann-Khenkin, Germany (ch) 2011) ( In past years there was teoretical discussion in forced line 9.a3 b5 10.Qxb5 Nc2+ 11.Kd2 Bd7 12.Kxc2 Nxd4+ 13.Nxd4 Bxb5 14.Nxb5 Rb8 unclear position Theory proved that black has good position and white players started to search for new possibilities to get initiative.)
9... Bd7 Best option for black. ( In mentioned game Aronian-Adams, Wijk aan Zee 2009 black played dubious: 9... a6?! and after 10.Ne5 O-O ( On 10... Bd7 white can play 11.Nxd7 b5 (11... Qxd7 12.a3 Nd5 13.Qxc4 White has a slight advantage) 12.Qd1 Qxd7 13.d5! O-O-O (13... exd5? 14.a3 d4 15.axb4 dxc3 16.Qxd7+ Kxd7 17.O-O-O+ White has a decisive advantage) (13... Ne7 14.dxe6 Qxd1+ 15.Rxd1 Rb8 16.exf7+ Kxf7 17.f4 White has a slight advantage) 14.a4! White has the attack with strong attack.) 11.Nxc6 Nxc6 12.Bxc6 bxc6 13.Qxc4 Rb8 14.b3 Qd6 15.Ne4 Qb4+ 16.Qxb4 Rxb4 17.O-O-O! e5 18.Rd2 a5 19.Rhd1 White has a slight advantage White had pleasant edge.) (9... O-O?! 10.O-O Rb8 11.a3 Nd5 12.Qxc4 Nce7 13.Rac1 White has a moderate advantage Inarkiev-Nakhapetiane, Russia (tch) 2011)
10.O-O a5 Black believes to his analysis. Alekseev had already played this move with black and he did not have problems to equalize. ( Other option is 10... a6?! , but after strong # 11.Ne5! b5 12.Qa3 Rb8 (12... O-O 13.Nxc6 Nxc6 14.Qc5 Qe8 15.a4 White has a moderate advantage) 13.Nxc6 Nxc6 14.d5! white is better. Theory proves it (all games which I will mention were played in 2011!): 14... b4 (14... Ne5 15.Qc5 f6 16.Rad1 Qe7 17.Qxc7 Kf7 18.Ne4 White has a moderate advantage Wen Yang-Pham Chuong, Vietnam 2011) 15.Qxa6 Rb6 (15... bxc3 16.dxe6 O-O 17.exd7 cxb2 18.Bxc6 bxa1=Q 19.Rxa1 Qf6 20.Rc1 Qe6 21.Rc2 Rfd8 22.Qxc4 White has a moderate advantage Sebenik-Kelecevic, Lienz (op) 2011) 16.Qxc4 Ne5 17.Qe4 Qf6 (17... bxc3 18.Qxe5 cxb2 19.Rab1 f6 20.Qc3 Qb8 21.Rfd1 exd5 22.Bxd5 Bf5 23.Qe3+ Kf8 24.Qc5+ Rd6 25.e4 1-0 Naumann-Singer, Bad Wiessee (op) 2011) 18.dxe6 fxe6 19.Qa8+ Qd8 20.Qxd8+ Kxd8 21.Ne4 Bb5 22.Rfd1+ Ke7 23.Rac1 Rc8 24.Kf1 White has a moderate advantage with clear advantage. Jumabayev-Ulko, Moscow (op) 2011)
11.Qd1 O-O 12.e3 Going into critical line. ( Another idea was 12.Nd2!? which was played by Leko. White wants to take on c4, so black has to play next move: 12... Nxd4 13.Bxb7 Rb8 14.Bg2 and maybe here Alekseev wanted to improve position by playing 14... Qe7!? ( In the game black played 14... Bc8 15.Nxc4 c5 16.e3 Ba6 17.b3 Nf5 18.Qe2 Qc7 19.Rfd1 Rfd8 20.Rxd8+ Rxd8 21.Rd1 Rxd1+ 22.Qxd1 Bxc4 23.bxc4 Qd6 24.Qa4 White has a slight advantage and white was better. Leko-Grischuk, Khanty Mansiysk (ol) 2010) 15.Nxc4 Qc5 16.b3 (16.Nxa5 Nbc2 17.Nb7 Qb6 18.Rb1 Bc6 (18... Bc8 19.Na4 Qb5 20.Nbc5 Nxe2+ 21.Kh1 White has the initiative) 19.Bxc6 Qxc6 20.Na5 Qa6 21.Nb3 Rfd8 22.Nxd4 Nxd4 White has sufficient compensation for material deficit with compensation for pawn.) 16... Bc6 17.Bxc6 Ndxc6 White has moderate counterplay and black has active pieces as compensation for worse structure.)
12... a4 Nice move. Now black celaring a5 square for his knight and he can defend c4 pawn.
13.Qe2 Na5 14.Ne5 Nd5 This was improvement by GM Landa in 2010. After that game this move was played in two more games: Khairullin-Alekseev, Russia 2010 Aronian-Kramnik, Shanghai 2010. In both games black had good position so Alekseev had no reason to go away this line. Next few moves are forced: ( In game Dziuba-Landa, Aeroflot Open 2009 black tried 14... Qe8 . Now white should play 15.a3 Nd3 (15... Nd5 16.Nxd5 exd5 17.Bxd5 is just better for white.) 16.Nxc4 Nxc4 17.Qxd3 Nd6 18.Rac1 White has a slight advantage with better position.)
15.Nxd5 exd5 16.Bxd5 Bh3 17.Qf3 Bxf1 18.Bxf7+ Kh8 19.Rxf1 Nc6 and here white played interesting novelty: #
20.Qh5!? White's idea is simple. He wants to make very strong passed pawn which will be help for white. There is idea, when white pawn apears to e5, to push e6. After that white's bishop on f7 will paralise black defence. Black has to play: ( Until now it was played 20.Nxc6 bxc6 21.Qh5 Rb8 22.Bxc4 Rxb2 23.Bd3 but after 23... g6 24.Bxg6 Qe7 White has moderate counterplay black was able to hold in games which I already mention before.)
20... Nxe5 21.dxe5 White has the initiative This is position white aimed for. I am sure that Sasikirian analysed this position very long and that he was very satisfied to have it in the game.
21... Ra5! Best defence. Black has to stop e6. ( On 21... Qe7 white is clinching his bishop with 22.e6 White has the initiative and he has strong initiative. For example: 22... a3 23.bxa3 c3 (23... Rxa3? 24.Rc1 Rxa2 25.Rxc4 White has a moderate advantage and white rook is going in attack. Main threat is Qc5 and it is very hard to prevent it.) 24.Qb5! Nice move with threat to change queen with Qb4. (24.Qh4 Qxh4 25.gxh4 c6 26.Rc1 g6 27.Rxc3 Kg7 28.Rb3 b5 29.h5 Kf6 30.hxg6 hxg6 unclear position) (24.Rc1 Qxa3 25.Rc2 Qb4! White has moderate counterplay) 24... Qxa3 (24... b6 25.Qb4!) 25.Qxb7 Qxa2 26.Qe4 Rab8! This is last moment to activate rook with black. (26... Qa3 27.Rb1 White has a moderate advantage and white will slowly improve his position while black cannot play Rb8 or Rd8.) 27.Kg2 White has a moderate advantage and white can improve his position by h4-h5 and securing king on h3 square while black stays passive. (27.Rc1 Rb2 (27... Qa3 28.Rc2 White has a moderate advantage) 28.Qf5 Qa3 29.Qd3 Qa2 30.e7 Qxf7 31.exf8=Q+ Qxf8 32.f3! Rb3 33.f4 Qd6 34.Qxd6 cxd6 35.Kf2 Kg8 White has moderate counterplay probably leads to drawish endgame.)) ( If black tries to get counterplay with c-pawn after 21... a3 22.bxa3 c3 , white reacts with ( On 22... Rxa3 there is strong 23.e6! Rxa2 (23... Qf6 24.Qc5 Rfa8 25.Qxc4 White has a moderate advantage with advantage for white.) (23... b6 24.Bg6 h6 25.Bb1 Qf6 (25... Qg5 26.Qxg5 hxg5 27.Bg6! and e-pawn gives advantage to white.) 26.Qg6 Qxg6 27.Bxg6 Raa8 28.Rd1 White has a moderate advantage and white will have pawn up in rook endgame.) 24.Qf3! Now white threats to take on b7 and to play Rd1. It looks that black has huge problems, for example: 24... c3 (24... b6? 25.Rd1) 25.Qxb7 Qe7 26.Qc6 Rc2 27.Qc4 /\ Qd3 and Qh4 27... Qf6 28.Qh4 Rxf7 29.exf7 Qxf7 30.Qd8+ Qg8 31.Qxc7 White has a moderate advantage and white is on top.) 23.Bg6! (23.Rd1?? c2!) (23.e6 Qe7) 23... h6 24.Rd1 (24.h4? Qd2!) 24... Qe7 ( After 24... Qg5 25.Qxg5 hxg5 26.e6 Rf6 27.Bf7 g6 28.Rc1 Kg7 29.Rxc3 White has a moderate advantage white has material and positional advantage.) 25.Bc2 Ra6 26.a4! White has a slight advantage /+/- and white stoped blacks counterplay on queenside. Material is equal so conclusion is that white stays better.)
22.Rd1 Qe7 23.Bg6 h6 24.f4 Position is very interesting and unclear. White has initiative, but after last move also some squares around white king became weak.
24... Rb5 Black is also ambitious. ( Black could forced draw with 24... a3!? 25.Bc2 (25.bxa3? Qxa3 Black has a slight advantage) 25... Rd8! White can try with (25... Qe8 26.Qxe8 Rxe8 27.b3! cxb3 28.Bxb3 White has the initiative and this endgame is worse for black: 28... Raa8 29.Rd7 c5 30.Bf7 Rec8 31.e6 White has a moderate advantage) (25... Qe6 26.b3 cxb3 27.Bxb3 Qc6 28.Qg4 Rc5 29.e6 Rc1 30.Kf2 Rxd1 31.Qxd1 Re8 32.Qd3 White has sufficient compensation for material deficit +/=) 26.b3 (26.Rxd8+ Qxd8 27.Qf5 Qg8! leads to draw after 28.b3 cxb3 29.Bxb3 Qxb3 30.axb3 a2 31.Qf8+ equal chances, quiet position and white does not have anything better than perpetual check.) 26... cxb3 27.Rxd8+ Qxd8 28.Bxb3 Rc5 29.Qf7 Rc3 30.f5 Rxb3! Simplest solution. 31.Qxb3 Qd2 equal chances, quiet position and white cannot avoid perpetual check.)
25.Bc2 Rb6! Preventing Qg6. ( White pawns are more dangerous after 25... Rxb2 26.Qg6 Rxc2 27.Qxc2 b5! (27... Qc5 28.Qc3 b5 29.a3 Qc6 30.Kf2 Qe4 31.h4 White has a slight advantage) 28.Rd5 Qb4 (28... c6 29.Rd6 White has a slight advantage) 29.Kf2 White has a slight advantage and white king comes in centre. Black pawns will be stoped very soon and after that white will create plan for advance of his central pawns. I dont know is white able to convert this advantage but it is very unpleasant to play this position with black.) ( On 25... Qe6? white is using his passed pawn with 26.Qg6! Qxg6 (26... Qg8 27.e6 Rb6 28.f5! White has a decisive advantage) 27.Bxg6 Rb6 28.f5 White has a decisive advantage and there is no defence from e6-e7.)
26.Qf3 Rd8 ( Black avoids 26... Rxb2 27.Qe4 Rxc2 28.Qxc2 White has a slight advantage which would lead to same position as after 25...Rxb2.)
27.Rxd8+ Qxd8 28.Qe4 unclear position # Game went into very interesting position. Black has exchange up, but his king is bad and connected with strong e-pawn, white has enough compensation.
28... g6 29.e6 Qe7 30.f5 gxf5 31.Qd4+ Kg8 32.Bxf5 White has sufficient compensation for material deficit Rd6 ( Trying to make passed pawn with 32... a3 33.bxa3 Rc6 would not be so good. White can react with 34.Qg4+ Kf8 35.Qg6 Rd6 36.Qxh6+ Kg8 37.Kg2! and white king goes in attack. 37... c3 38.h4 Qg7 39.Qf4 White has the initiative and black cannot promote his c-pawn, so whole idea lost on sense.)
33.Qxc4 Kf8 ( Again black could make draw with 33... Rd1+ 34.Kg2 Rd2+ and after 35.Kh3 computer gives very nice forced line: 35... Rxb2 36.Qg4+ Qg5 37.Bh7+!? Kg7 (37... Kxh7 38.Qxg5 hxg5 39.e7 White has a decisive advantage) 38.Qd4+ Qf6 39.Qd7+ Kf8 (39... Kh8?? 40.Bd3 White has a decisive advantage) 40.Qc8+ Ke7 (40... Kg7?? 41.Qg8#) 41.Qxc7+ Kf8 42.Qd6+ Kg7 43.Bd3 Rf2! equal chances, quiet position and white cannot improve his position.)
34.Bg4 Qg7!? ( Black could try 34... h5 35.Qf4+ Kg8 36.Be2 (36.Bxh5 Qxe6 White has moderate counterplay) 36... Kg7! and there is no better move for white than 37.Qe5+ Qf6 38.Qxh5 Rxe6 39.Qg4+ Kh6 40.Qh5+ equal chances, quiet position with perpetual check.)
35.Kg2!? ( On 35.Qxa4 black has to find 35... Qe5! and again game would be finished by draw after 36.Qa8+ Kg7 37.Qe8 Qxe3+ 38.Kg2 Rd2+ 39.Kh3 Qf2 40.Qe7+ Kg6 41.Qe8+ equal chances, quiet position)
35... Qf6 ( It was possible to take pawn 35... Qxb2+ 36.Kh3 Qf6 and after 37.Qxc7 Qf1+ 38.Kh4 Qf6+ 39.Kh3 Qf1+ equal chances, quiet position it is again draw.)
36.Qc2? Mistake which could change course of game. (36.Qc5 was leading to aproximatelly equal game.)
36... Rd5? Black also missed idea with h5 and his next two moves were on very low level. ( It was right time for 36... h5! and black has to choose will he give up e6 pawn or tried to survive after 37.Bf5 Rc6 38.Qd3 Qxb2+ 39.Kh3 Qf6 Black has a slight advantage)
37.e4 Rb5? Misplacing rook on b5 black gave white chance to play on win. ( Correct was 37... Rd8! 38.Qc5+ Kg8 unclear position and black should be able to defend position.)
38.b3 White has a slight advantage c6 39.Bf5 a3? This is just bad. Pawn on a3 will be weakness and soon black will lose it. ( Much better was 39... axb3 40.axb3 h5 but because of bad position of his rook black would be faced with tough defence. Now white can play 41.h4 White has a slight advantage with fixing black pawn on h5 and preparing invade with queen. ( Possible is 41.Kh3 h4 42.g4 Qd4 43.g5! White has the initiative))
40.Kh3! White has a moderate advantage white king is safe, while black pieces doesn't have coordination. Probably black could defend better this position but this is irelevant due to all mistakes which he had done in last few moves.
40... Qe7 41.Qc3 Kg8 42.Qd3 Rc5 43.Qd7! Kf8 44.Qd2 Kg7?! (44... Qg5 45.Qd6+ Qe7 46.Qd4 Kg8 47.Qb4! White has a moderate advantage and white is still trying to win a-pawn.)
45.Qb4 Kf8 46.Qxa3 Black lost pawn on a3 and white should be winning due to his positional and material advantage. Game continued:
46... Rc2 47.b4 Qd8 48.Qf3 Ke7 49.e5! White has a decisive advantage Rb2 50.Qc3 Qd2 51.Qc5+ Kd8 52.e7+ and black resigned before mate. (52.e7+ Ke8 53.Bg6+ Kd7 54.e8=Q+ Kc7 55.Qa5+ b6 56.Qa7#) 1-0