Today, Gashimov picked a point off the leader in a “Vugar display of power” to share first with him at 4.5/7. This morning in my office, I was following the match move by move and upon first seeing 1…g6 I momentarily hoped Gashimov would try the wild and adventurous “North Sea Variation.” Ok, so it’s a straightforward Robatsch, but it still turned out to be an interesting and complex game. After Gashimov was able to pick off white’s far advanced a-pawn, his outside pawn majority proved to give him enough pull to arrive at a winning ending. The move 29…Qf6 forced the queen exchange, and then the resulting ending was clearly better for black because (1) his outside majority was menacing while white’s kingside majority was still sitting at home, (2) black’s bishop was a fantastic piece while white’s knight was miserably placed, and (3) black’s king was already active at the start of the ending, while white’s was still sitting at home in the corner, crowded in by his misplaced knight and lazy pawns. White’s 10.a4 is likely a perfectly find move. It obviously aimed at fighting for space on the queenside and denying black a massive pawn front. However, in light of how the game turned out, i have to wonder if 15. a5 isn’t too ambitious. Perhaps Qd3 would have been a more natural move in the position, after wish chances should be equal according to my engine.
Short and Navara also picked up wins today. Below, find the Vallejo-Pons – Gashimov game.