If you followed the World Cup before the Svidler v. Karjakin final earlier this week, then one name you’ve definitely seen in the media is Pavel Eljanov. Besides winning his first 6 classical games, he managed to eliminate Alexander Grischuk, Dmitry Jakovenko, and Hikaru Nakamura before losing in the semifinal to Sergey Karjakin.
I first started studying Eljanov’s games after I watched his draw against Richard Rapport in the 48th Biel International earlier this year. In that game, Eljanov showed how to contain the Dutch Stonewall and gain a significant advantage with moves like 10. Rad1 and 18. Bd6, showing that is possible to control the center against Black’s fortress (to see that game, click here).
Though a relative unknown when compared to the likes of Fabiano Caruana, Magnus Carlsen, and Anish Giri, Eljanov’s ability to gain space and contain his opponent’s is a major staple of his play, and definitely one of the reasons I find him very entertaining to watch. While some players find this style of play boring, the strongest players find Eljanov’s solidarity challenging to play against – even Hikaru Nakamura.
I watched most of Eljanov’s games live, but the most inspiring performance by far was his second game against Alexander Grischuk in the third round. After narrowly escaping with a win with Black, Eljanov only had to hold a draw with the White pieces to continue to the next round. Grischuk, one of the world’s most elite players (10th heading into the World Cup), didn’t stand a chance.
A great win by Eljanov, as he progressed to the next round to take on Dmitry Jakovenko. Even though Grischuk was playing for the win, the Ukrainian made the game look easy, with almost an effortless point. If you enjoyed how Eljanov played this game, I highly encourage you to check out his other games here.
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