Candidates Matches 2007: Leko – Gurevich, Leko through via semi-endgame manoevring

This match was played between May 27 and June 3, alongside seven other first round Candidates Matches in Elista, Russia.

Peter Leko takes on the oldest participant in the Candidates, 49 year-old Mikhail Gurevich. Leko was expected to win this match comfortably, and the match was over in 4 games.

A typical Leko manoeuvring performance clinches a win in game 2. Game 3 is an excellent display of building an advantage, where Leko takes a semi-endgame and squeezes Black into a zugzwang.

Another manoeuvring game, in game 4, sees Gurevich’s plans thwarted and Leko turning the game around to win a pawn, winning the game and seeing him safely through to the second round of Candidates matches.

Leko – Gurevich, Game 1

Out of a fairly standard Rubinstein French, Leko has a small advantage owing to better piece activity. Leko expands on the queenside and prevents Gurevich from castling his king. Gurevich tries to gain some play by advancing down the h-file to free his kingside rook.

Gurevich offers enough pressure to neutralise the threats of Leko’s queenside majority, and the game drifts into a balanced position. A draw agreed moves later.

Gurevich – Leko, Game 2

In a topical line of the Classical Nimzo-Indian, Gurevich makes a bold decision to castle queenside. Leko doesn’t take immediate action and is content to build his position. Leko’s position is solid, he neatly prevents White’s threatened kingside action by exerting pressure on the f3-pawn which any pawn attack would rely.

Leko starts to get his queenside pawn majority rolling at Gurevich decides to move his king away to free up the back rank. By delaying his kingside ambitions Gurevich cedes the initiative to Leko. Gurevich attempts to drum up some counterplay down the e-file, but Leko has a better prospects because of the queenside majority, and the doubled rooks down the c-file. As the breakthrough occurs, Leko is left with a passed c-pawn, and Gurevich’s pieces are in a disarray – his king blocking his two rooks. In a difficult position Gurevich errs, and loses the exchange in his attempt to get rid of the imposing c-pawn. Leko decimates the White position with his rook and bishop coordination and notches up his first win.

Leko – Gurevich, Game 3

Leko opts for the Classical French heading into an off-beat sideline by exchanging off the dark-squared bishops which lets Gurevich install a knight on e4. Gurevich plays a little quietly, gets the queens and a pair of knights off the board, and cedes the initiative to Leko who opens up operations on the queenside by prising open the a-file. Gurevich is a little hasty to clarify things on the queenside and Leko emerges with an advantage, in space, a better placed king, more active pieces, and the trump-card of an outside passed pawn. Leko ties up Gurevich’s pieces on the queenside, ties down the kingside pawns and creates a threat of a sacrificial breakthrough to tie down the Black king. Black is paralysed. When Leko threatens to install a knight on f6 demolishing Black’s position, Gurevich resigns.

Gurevich – Leko, Game 4

Gurevich repeats the Classical Nimzo-Indian of game 2, but doesn’t repeat his risky queenside castling. Leko wastes no time in prising open the centre while Gurevich’s king remains uncastled. The position is balanced. Gurevich has the opportunity to take a slight advantage, but his queenside expansion is cleverly dealt with by Leko locking Gurevich’s queenside pawns on the same coloured squares as his bishop. Gurevich quickly runs into trouble and loses his e4-pawn. Facing a minor piece ending a pawn down with a bad bishop, Gurevich throws in the towel.

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