Friday 11 February 2005
While the field for this nine-round Swiss comprised a mere 49 players, it was packed with quality - 15 grandmasters and 12 IMs had turned up to play. The top seed was the Georgian Zurab Azmaiparashvili, a Fide vice-president who, you may recall, was involved in a most unpleasant fracas at the closing ceremony of the Majorca Olympiad, which led to him sustaining quite serious injuries and spending a couple of days in jail.
Happily, Azmai now seems fully recovered, and while he did lose a game to Normunds Miezis (Latvia), his other results were six wins and two draws, which gave him clear first on 7/9, ahead of Zdenko Kozul (Croatia) on 6.5 and five players, including Miezis, on 6.
With a round to go, it was Kozul who led on 6.5/8 ahead of Azmai on 6. But the Georgian turned things round with this fine thematic win.
White has a great deal of latitude in the opening stages of the King's Indian but 8.Be3 is quite unusual - 6.Be2 is the main line and 6.h3 is also quite common. After 6...c6!? 7.h3, they got a line of the 6.h3 variation in which Black is committed to ...c6 and, as a result, Azmai was able to set up the "ideal formation" with Be3 and Nd2, which normally gets disrupted by ...Ng4 before it can be successfully implemented.
The position became critical after 12.f3: if White can consolidate then he will have the advantage, but he is temporarily very loose. 12...Bf6 forced a potential weakness but lost time.
One interesting alternative was 12...fxg4 13.fxg4 Nf6 14.Be2 Nb4!? so that if 15.a3? Nxg4!. If 15.0-0 Qd7! 16.a3 Na6 17.g5 Qh3 should be enough for at least a draw, while if 15.g5 both 15...Ng5 and 15... Nh5 are extremely messy: but 15.Nb3! seems strong.
As played, Azmai got complete control after 15.c5! and powered his way through.
vs Zdenko Kozul
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