Not much time to write tonight, but wow, what a round in Linares. Three interesting fights of the highest quality, all finishing drawn. Gashimov and Grischuk replayed their spectacular game from the World Team Championship just a few weeks ago in Turkey. Grischuk won that early candidate for game of the year by running his king all the way across the board to b2. Here he varied first with 15..0-0 and yet it was Gashimov who seemed to have the better prep. His 18.Rf1 put Grischuk in the tank for a long time. He eventually went with 18..g4, with 18..Nxe4 the main interesting alternative. LarryC ran through dozen of fascinating lines all the way through the endgame that eventually finished drawn.
Topalov was on the ropes in his old favorite, the Benoni, against Aronian. Topalov always finds a way to create counterplay and here he went to the necessary extremes with ..g5! and ..f6 to open up lines for his pieces. The saving drawing tactic at the end is fantastic, with 38..Nd6! and then the a-pawn winning back the piece to reach a theoretically drawn rook and bishop endgame down two pawns! Wow. Instead of trying to blast Topalov's interesting arrangement of ..Re7, ..Be8 apart, Aronian played it in Karpovian style with queenside maneuvering and slow progress. Topalov played a nice Nimzovichian pawn sac with 22..b5, after which all the white firepower is directed against his own pawn on b5. Topalov was probably planning 26..Nb3 and Larry thought maybe he'd missed 27.Rc6, which would have given White a very strong position. It's hard to say if Aronian missed a win somewhere with his pawn pair (33.e6!?) , but it was a hard-earned draw for Topalov, no doubt.
Gelfand put the squeeze on Vallejo and looked set to get back to an even score with the white pieces. The Spaniard's queen went walkabout to h4 and was in danger of getting trapped in all sorts of ways. His king was also in trouble and during the game we thought we might have found a forced win for White with 17.Bxd7+ Kxd7 18.Rd1! and the rook is coming to d4 to discover a shot on the black queen. Tricky stuff, and giving up your bishop for a pinned knight isn't the most human of moves. Vallejo was using a lot of time and erred again with 19..f6, after which he had only bad choices. With his time also getting short, he went for a pragmatic queen sacrifice. It paid off when Gelfand overreached, putting his king into traffic on c7. The more practical 33.Qe3, staying centralized and out of danger, would have been hard to meet. White simply goes after the b-pawn and tries to consolidate. Larry sacrificed a dozen pieces trying to find a mating attack for Black in some lines but it was never there. Gelfand ended up with two pieces for a rook and some small chances and both players looked accurate to the end of the draw. Another great fight.
I'll put up more game notes tomorrow or Wednesday when I have some more time. I have a lot of really cool stuff from Larry to sort out. I'm back on Chess.FM with Jon Speelman Tuesday for round 4: Gelfand-Topalov, Gashimov-Aronian, Grischuk-Vallejo.