Tossing tempi to the wind!

Sergey Karjakin
Double Fianchetto [A30] with IM John Bartholomew

Sergey Karjakin has proven to be a real connoisseur of the Double Fianchetto, and his inventive novelty in Jakovenko-Karjakin is a testament to his level of understanding and preparation in this line.

The novelty in question occurred after 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 b6 3.g3 c5 4.Bg2 Bb7 5.0-0 g6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.d4 cxd4 8.Qxd4 d6 9.Rd1 Nbd7 10.Be3 Rc8 11.Rac1 a6 12.b3 0-0 13.Qh4 Rc7 14.g4:

Position after 14 g4

Here the theoretical endorsement belongs to 14...h6 (see the archives for Bu - Shchekachev). Karjakin instead played the outwardly ridiculous 14...Rc8!?, tossing two tempi to the wind!

The most human explanation of 14...Rc8!? I can muster is as follows: in exchange for 'losing' two tempi Black has encouraged White to further loosen his position (g3-g4), thereby cutting White's own queen off from the queenside. The counterthrust ...b6-b5! now gains in strength (possibly in conjunction with a discovered attack on c3 by ...Nf6-xg4). The rook facilitates this plan in slyly returning to c8, making way for counterplay with ...Qd8-a5.

This is more or less how the game proceeded: 15.Bh3 (White has several options here that deserve attention) 15...b5! 16.cxb5 Qa5! 17.Bd2 Bxf3! 18.exf3 axb5 19.g5 b4!

Position after 19...b4

and Black expertly navigated the complications to reach an opposite-color bishop middlegame in which he outplayed his strong opponent.

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