Classical: The Bayonet Attack
The first test of Radjabov's King's Indian in Wijk aan Zee came in the very first round. This position occurred in an earlier game of the same players in WCC Khanty Mansyisk 2005, which White won convincingly after Radjabov played 14...fxe4. In my comments to that game I predicted that Black is going to improve on his play at this moment and I was right.
This time, in Van Wely-Radjabov, Wijk aan Zee (1) 2007, he came up with a much better idea, 14...Nh5!. Only a few more moves later White went wrong with 17.g4, which allowed Black to take the initiative and bring the game to its logical conclusion.
Two days later we saw Shirov's attempt to improve upon Van Wely's 17.g4 in the diagram position below:
Shirov came prepared with his improvement, 17.Kg2, though this would also have been analysed by Radjabov, since this is the favoured line of Fritz. Soon Black won the e6-pawn, though White seemed to have compensation with his bishop pair. However, Black suddenly started a clever attack on the kingside, which Shirov completely ignored, to his cost. I believe the mistake came on the 29th move, as with 29. Rg1! instead of 29.Rc6? he seems to be able to stop Black's attack and may even start thinking of attacking on the other side of the board. The last word in this line is yet to be said, see Shirov,A-Radjabov, Wijk aan Zee (3) 2007.
The Gligoric System
Our hero's next test in the Classical King's Indian came in the 11th round, in the game Kramnik,V-Radjabov, Wijk aan Zee (11) 2007.
In the well-known diagram position Kramnik played the interesting and strong novelty 14.Bd3, instead of 14.Nde4, which was tested by Aronian against none other than Radjabov in Linares 2006. Teymour found a good plan and soon Kramnik felt in danger and so decided to simplify the position but got a slightly worse position. Fortunately for him Radjabov decided not to take chances and offered a draw. Probably 18. Qa4 is the only way to try improving Kramnik's play in this game.
Already in the next round Motylev decided to check Black's preparation in another line of the Gligoric system.
Here he played 11.dxe5 instead of Kramnik's 11.d5 and on the 14th move he showed his improvement on Wells, P - Kritz, L, MTO Biel 2004 (see the PGN Archive), which featured 14.h3 with 15.Qa5 to follow. Instead Alexander played 14.Qa5 immediately and it seemed that he would set Black some problems. However, once again Radjabov showed his great understanding of typical King's Indian positions and slowly outplayed his opponent. Even in the analysis it's difficult to see where White can set Black serious problems, and the ball remains on White's side, see Motylev, A - Radjabov, T, Wijk aan Zee (12) 2007.
Now we'll go back in time, to the 1st ACP Rapid Cup, played at the beginning of January 2007. Before facing Motylev's 12.Qd5+ in Wijk aan Zee he had to deal with 12.c5 in the game Ivanchuk, V - Radjabov, T. Radjabov immediately played the novelty 12...Nc6 instead of 12...Be6 (which occurred in the game Nickoloff,-Huzman,A - see the PGN Archive again). By move 15 Black had equalized the position but after Ivanchuk's inaccuracy on the next move (16.Qb5?!) he missed a chance to take the initiative with 16...a6. Then he committed a number of inaccuracies and despite his resourceful defense had to resign the game in a deep endgame facing Ivanchuk's brilliant technique. This game remains his only defeat in the King's Indian this year and despite the loss Black doesn't seem to experience any problems in this line.
The Orthodox System
One day before this last game, against Ivanchuk, Radjabov had to himself face his favourite King's Indian with the white pieces in Radjabov, T - Morozevich, A, 1st ACP Rapid Cup 2007. Moro chose a side line and we soon reach the diagram position:
Black has just played 8...Qe8?! which White answered with the most principled 9.e5 and obtained a clear positional advantage. Despite an inaccuracy on the 14th move, (with 14.Bd3?!) Radjabov remained in full control and was leading the game to a well deserved win without taking any chances, when he played 34.Rf4?, the only serious mistake in the game. Being in mutual time trouble both players missed the brilliant counterblow 34...Rd8! 35.Qc7 f5!!, which would force White to agree a draw by repetition. The situation in the mini-match influenced the remaining part of the game, as eventually a draw was agreed in a winning position for White. Morozevich's 8...Qe8?! is hardly likely to find followers.
Let's return to Wijk aan Zee, and the game Navara, D - Radjabov, T, Wijk aan Zee (5) 2007. After the two unsuccessful attempts to check Radjabov's preparation in the main lines of the King's Indian, above, Navara decided to play a quiet and relatively rare setup - the Smyslov Variation.
Radjabov shows that he has paid some attention to this line, too, and in the diagram position he played 6...b5, a very sharp continuation in the style of the Benko Gambit. However, just afterwards his 8th move seems to be an inaccuracy, which Navara proved with the strong idea 11.g3 and soon obtained an extra pawn without compensation. Had he later played 21.a4! instead of 21.e4 Radjabov's statistics in the King's Indian would surely have been worse. Fortunately for Radjabov White lost the thread and so he took the initiative and won the game without major problems. This is probably the only game in which Radjabov experienced difficulties in the opening, but probably 8...Qa5+ instead of 8...a6 is the critical move in the position.
We will now go back in time again, to Bareev,E-Radjabov, 1st ACP Rapid Cup 2007.
This is not the first time in this update that we see White's bishop on g5 and Black starting to play in the style of the Benko gambit. Black has just prepared ...b5 with 7...a6 and instead of reacting with 8.a4 Bareev played 8.Qd2?!. Although this move has been played many times, I believe it is inaccurate as it allows Black a good version of the Benko Gambit. On the 10th move Black played a strong novelty, 10...Nbd7 delaying ...Bxa6, which virtually refutes 8.Qd2. The next diagram position arose after White's 12.0-0?! (probably White should have tried 12.Rd1):
With 12...Nxe4! Black took the initiative and only the peaceful mood of Radjabov on that day allowed Bareev to save half a point.
Radjabov's play in Wijk aan Zee proved that the King's Indian is alive and well, since even the very best players in the world could not set Black serious problems. Let's wait for Linares, which is going to start very soon, as Radjabov is going to play there (or maybe not -Ed) and so we'll no doubt see another set of exciting games in this complicated opening.
Enjoy the issue and see you in March.