Shabalov and Ehlvest Lead Foxwoods
By Elizabeth Vicary and Jennifer Shahade   
April 8, 2007
Jaan Ehlvest and Alexander Shabalov are leading the Foxwoods Open after seven rounds. Photo E.Vicary

With two rounds ago, friends GM Jaan Ehlvest and Alexander Shabalov are leading the Foxwoods Open (April 4-8) with 6/7. Shabalov beat Hikaru Nakamura and Zviad Izoria on his way to 6/7. Last night, Alex drew against Gata Kamsky on board one. In Round 7, Jaan defeated Alexander Stripunsky in a sacrificial Najdorf to catch up to his friend.

Round 7 games

After 20....Nxb2!, 21.Kxb2 loses to Ba3+! 22.Kxa3 Qc3+ 23.Nb3 b4+ 24.Ka4 Qc6+ 25. Ka5 Qb5# or 21.Kb1 Qc3. Alex's 21.Nxe6 was necessary to allow his queen access to d4, because now Ba3+ Kb1 Qc3 Qd4. Unfortunately for Stripunsky, his king's protection is busted even after this resource and Jaan won easily.

Shabalov reveals his tricky technique to get Gata to play the opening he desired:

It's not the final draw that's the story, it's the prelude to it. What I really didn't want was to play a Ruy Lopez against him, some other day maybe, but not today, not against a positional player of his level. So I played 1. e4 and offered a draw. He replied "I've taken too many draws this tournament," which didn't surprise me. But then what's he going to do? He can't really play 1....e5 now, so he has to play 1....c5, which is all I wanted all along.

After the game, both Alex and Gata thought that 20...Qd7 might be an improvement over 20...Qc8. Fritz confirmed that Qc8 was the better move because Qg3 threatening Qh4 can be met by Ne5, when it is crucial that the Queen on c8 is attacking the c4 bishop. On move 21, Alex thought that 21....Ne5, which Fritz prefers over the game text 21...d5 was impossible because of 22.Rxh7 Kxh7 23.Rh3 Kg6 24.Bxe5 fxe5 25.Qg3 Kf6 26.Qh4, but after g5!, Black defends!

In the final position, Alex thought he was a bit better after the variation Rg3 Ne5 Nxd4 Qxb2. He took a draw because he was low on time and felt that he had already lost control of the queenside.

Foxwoods continues to feature exciting upsets. In round 6, Jesse Kraai crunched Hikaru Nakamura in a beautiful positional game, while Todd Andrews defeated Dmitry Gurevich. There will be more on those games in our final Foxwoods report.