Aronian was in irresistible form in Wijk aan Zee. Let’s examine his 6th win, with which he secured his tournament victory with a round to go…
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 Earlier in this tournament he successfully employed the Berlin (3…Nf6), but this time he goes for his other pet line, the Marschall gambit.
4.Ba4Nf65.O-OBe76.d3 We can already consider that this as the new main line to 6.Re1. Dominguez scored a nice win over Caruana several rounds ago.
9.a3 This is the latest fashion. After Black has protected his e5 pawn, he was threatening to grab the strong b3 bishop with Na5, therefore White frees the a2 square. 9.a4 is the alternative for White.
9…Na5 [The mentioned Caruana game continued with
9…Be6 Dominguez prepared the interesting novelty of
10.Be3!? and he managed to get an edge later on 10…Qd7 11.Nd5 Bd8 12.Bg5 Bxd5 13.exd5 Nd4 14.Nxd4 exd4 15.a4 Qf5 16.Bd2 Rb8 17.axb5 axb5 18.h3 h5 19.Ra7 h4 (19…Nxd5? drops a piece after 20.g4! hxg4 21.hxg4 Qe5 22.f4! Qe6 23.Re1h) 20.Qf3 Qxf3 21.gxf3 The endgame was slightly better for White due to the weaknesses of the d4, c7 and b5 pawns.]
10.Ba2 Be6 11.Bg5 Dominguez improves his own game against Karjakin, which he just lost a few weeks ago in rapid chess. Black plays the Na5 move in order to control the center with c5, therefore the novelty is very logical, White fights for the d5 square. [11.Bxe6 11…fxe6 It is always hard to know whether the doubled pawns will become weak in the future or if Black’s strengthened center will start to work effectively.
12.b4 Nc6 13.Bd2 d5! 14.Re1 Qd6 15.h3 Nd7 16.Ne2 a5 17.Rb1axb418.axb4Rfb819.Ng3d4! Karjakin nicely overtook the initiative and won the game later on. The b4 pawn became a real target. 20.c3 dxc3 21.Bxc3 Ra4 22.Qb3 Kh8 23.Red1 White succeeded in saving his pawns, but Black obtained an excellent pawn structure after 23…Nd4! 24.Nxd4 exd4 25.Bd2 c5=+ Creating a strong passed b-pawn.]
11…c5 12.b4 This is the novelty. In combination with the next move it looks like a really decent one! [12.Bxf6 12…Bxf6 13.Nd5 g6 14.c3 happened in the previous games, which also looks playable.] 12…Nc6
13.Nd5! A concrete move, which seems to be tactically justified in all the lines.
13…Bxd5 Usually giving up the bishop like this is considered to be an achievement for White, but as we will see, one inaccuracy might change the entire evaluation. [13…Nxd5 leads to a clearly worse position after 14.exd5 Bxg5 15.dxe6 fxe6 16.Bxe6+ Kh8 17.Bd5 In case of opposite colored bishops, the principle says that the side who’s bishop is more active is better. In this position the white bishop is clearly better. 17…Rc8 18.bxc5 dxc5 19.Bxc6 (19.Be4!+= might be even stronger in order not to change the positional advangtage into material one. White continues with c3, Re1 and Ra2-e2 is necessary, winning the e5 pawn in better circumstances.) 19…Rxc6 20.Nxe5+=]
14.exd5 Nd4 15.bxc5! Forcing Black to give up his d4 knight, otherwise the e5 pawn falls. White also opens the position for his two bishops.
15…Nxf3+ 16.Qxf3 dxc5 We have reached the critical position, when Dominguez plays the most natural move, which gives away his advantage. According to Aronian it even passes the initiative to Black.
17.Rfe1? White activates his rook with tempo, but the position required more concrete measures. [Aronian considered 17.a4 to be the critical move, which disturbs Black’s plan with Nd7. Although bxa4 and b4 both destroy the healthy pawn structure, they don’t really come into consideration… 17…Qd6 seems like the best, but then Black cannot get his nice piece arrangement, like it happened in the game. (17…Nd7? does not work here because after 18.Bxe7 Qxe7 19.axb5 axb5 20.d6! the a8 rook is facing problems due to the Bxf7 discovered check idea.) 18.Bb3; The machine suggests the extremely deep idea of 17.Rae1! seems like the strongest move and the point is that after 17…Nd7 18.Bxe7 Qxe7
19.d6! the blocked a2 bishop suddenly becomes a really strong piece. 19…Qxd6 20.Bxf7+! Kh8 21.Qd5! White leaves the pin and obtains a clear advantage. We will soon realize the difference to the game…]
17…Nd7! 18.Bd2 Keeping the pair of bishops is a good idea, but White has problems with the one on a2, which can hardly be activated due to his own d5 pawn. [In comparison to 17.Rae1,in the same line with 18.Bxe718…Qxe7 the a2 bishop becomes really poor if Black plays Qd6. 19.d6 does not work because of 19…Qxd620. Bxf7+Kh821. Qd5Qf6!e andt he f2 n falls! This is the reason why White needs to go to e1 with the a-rook.]
18…Bd6! Black creates a strong blockade and is ready to launch a dangerous attack with f5! Suddenly it is not easy to suggest a good plan for White, which is why Aronian considered Black’s position more comfortable after 17.Rfe1 Nd7 and suggested instead 17. a4! Great understanding!
19.a4 White tries to open the queenside to get his bad bishop into the game.
19…f5 20.Bb3?! The most natural move is a mistake again. White would like to create tension on the queenside between the rooks and also wants to activate the bishop with axb5 cxb5 and c4! Finally the bishop could join to the game through a4! However the position was more concrete again… [20.Qh3 was more circumspect to anticipate Black’s plan.]
20…e4! A breakthrough which suggested itself a lot. Black opens the bishop’s diagonal and frees the e5 square for the knight.
21.dxe4 [21.Qh3 was still stronger, although Black is more than fine here as well.]
21…c4! The whole idea to improve the light squared bishop has collapsed.
22.Ba2 Qh4! 23.e5! A clever simplification, which leaves White in an only slightly worse position. [23.g3 directly would have run into 23…Ne5! with real problems for White.; 23.h3 was losing after 23…fxe4 24.Rxe4 Rxf3 25.Rxh4
Ra3!i White cannot deal with the pin!]
23…Bxe5 24.g3 Qg4! Another very deep move by Aronian! Two moves later it all becomes clear.
25.Qxg4 fxg4 26.c3 White wanted to take the d4 square under control and also to have a chance to bring back the a2 bishop through b1. [26.Rab1 was also bad in view of 26…Bd4
27.Be3 Bxe3 28.Rxe3 Rf6e blocking the d-pawn and the a2 bishop is stuck.]
26…Bf6!! And now the idea behind Qg4 becomes clear. Black has created a hole on f3 for his knight! White has no good way to deal with it. Dominguez tries to control it with an e4 bishop, but it creates new problems…
27.Bb1 b4! White is not attacking the c4 pawn anymore, which is why Black uses the pin on the f6-a1 diagonal to create a b3 passed pawn.
28.Re3 Rad8 Black prepares to win the d5 pawn with Nb6 and also protects his knight against Bf5.
29.Bf5 h5 30.Rd1 White has left the pin and threatens to playcxb4,therefore it is time to create the powerful protected passed pawn.
30…b3! 31.Bc1 Aronian eliminates the blockader of the b3 pawn.
31…Bg5! 32.Be6+ Kh8 33.Re2 Bxc1 34.Rxc1 Black has reached a winning endgame. His pawns are just very strong and the knight also dominates the bishop. It looks nice on e6, but it actually doesn’t do anything. The rest is only the easy technical part of the game.
34…Nc5 35.a5 Rfe8 36.Kf1 g6! Trapping the bishop. Black simply wants to bring his king to f6. White cannot create any counterplay as the b3 pawn restricts his abilities.
37.Rce1 Kg7 38.d6 A desperate attempt to complicate the matters, but it does not help.
38…Rxe6 39.Rxe6 Nxe6 40.Rxe6
40…Rd7! b2 immediately would have been met by Re7-b7.
Now Black simply wants to play Kf7 or just push b2… The game is over.
41.Re8 Rxd6 42.Ke2 [There was no time for 42.Rc8 42…b2 43.Rb8 Rd1+i]
42…Rd3 With this victory, Aronian has beat his personal best and improved his live rating to 2834! 0-1