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    « Grischuk Wins World Mind Games Rapid & Blitz; Gunina & Hou Yifan Split the Women's Titles | Main | London Chess Classic, Round 4: Nakamura Beats Adams; Kramnik & Giri Still Lead »
    Sunday
    Dec142014

    London Chess Classic, Round 5: Anand Beats Adams and Wins on Tiebreaks

    The Berlin theme tournament London Chess Classic is over, and Viswanathan Anand was the tiebreak winner over Vladimir Kramnik and Anish Giri thanks to the fact that his one win came with the black pieces, while their single wins each came with the white pieces.

    Anand's single win came in the last round, in a Berlin (what else?) against Michael Adams. Interestingly, Adams would have won the tournament had he won the game, and this even though he'd have an even score (on the traditional system) and would have lost almost half his games. (Seems absurd to me, and it's even more absurd that he would have been the tiebreak winner by virtue of winning more games than his rivals. Isn't it crazy to reward wins not just once but twice?) Adams had the advantage at multiple moments in the game, but in time trouble basically fell apart starting around move 28.

    Had there been a win in either of the other games, other than by Fabiano Caruana, that person would have passed Anand in the scoretable. Hikaru Nakamura tried hard with Black against Caruana in a Berlin (and this after he more than once semi-jokingly accused Vladimir Kramnik of ruining chess with the Berlin!), but was unable to achieve anything and was at times even a little worse. They drew, and so did Giri and Kramnik. Their game was an Open Catalan (an opening that might be even less of a fan favorite than the Berlin), and while Kramnik eventually obtained a nominal edge it was an easy hold for Giri.

    It was a nice tournament for the three winners, and a very good year for all of them too. Anand won three tournaments this year, came in a close second in the world rapid championship, and performed creditably in his title match with Magnus Carlsen. Giri played very well in 2014 and is finishing the year at #7 in the world. Kramnik's year was more up and down, but he finished the year on a high note, gaining more than 20 points in his last few tournaments.

    The final standings: 1-3. Anand, Giri, Kramnik 7; 4. Nakamura 6; Adams, Caruana 4. The last round games are here, with comments on the Adams-Anand game.

    ...

    The Mind Games tournaments are still going on in Beijing, but once they finish in a couple of days I think the Big Guys are done until Wijk aan Zee (with Carlsen, Caruana, Aronian, etc. - including Hou Yifan, who can surpass Judit Polgar's current rating if she gains at least three rating points), which starts January 9 - a good break for player and fan alike.

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    Reader Comments (8)

    The Berlin Wall could now have a name change - after all, it also had been re-popularized during a WCh match in London back in 2000. But the London system already exists ... .

    The organizers could consider not inviting Berlin players next year - which would disqualify all participants of this year (Adams and Caruana played it at other occasions) as well as Carlsen and make room for players outside of the top10. Just kidding ... as a matter of fact, it might be hard to find enough 2700+ players that don't play the Berlin - arguably easier to find six players that never go for 1.e4 with white.

    December 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    I totally agree on the tiebreaker. On a half-serious note: It might just not be good to finish on top in the blitz tournament. Less chances to play with black ;-)

    December 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterReyk

    It's a shame there is so much animosity towards the Berlin.

    [DM: None here.]

    It's a three result opening -- the only Black victory at London; extremely complex both strategically and tactically; an opening in which top humans regularly find "computer' moves"; and one in which an elite GM is quite likely to crush a "mere" 2600. From the spectator's point of view, it does have the downside of a relatively fixed pawn structure, and it often takes a very long time before it becomes obvious to an amateur that one side has a significant advantage or that the position is critical. But complaining about all this is a bit like complaining about the absence of hot sauce in a French restaurant. What seems really important for spectators is (i) making an effort to analyze the position, and especially (ii) expert commentary. I thought the commentators in London did a great job at explaining the strategic and tactical complexity. I was certainly left with the impression that at more or less any point in the Berlin games, if I had to make two consecutive moves with either color I would almost certainly turn a balanced position into a loss.

    December 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDavid McCarthy

    Dennis, I assume you don't want a board like discussion between users in the comments section as this can easily get out of hand. But as the Berlin has a prominent place in your post too and not only in Thomas' comment: I'm not sure how serious the criticism on the Berlin itself is or whether it's more about seeing so many Berlins and not enough variety. But I really would like to differentiate. There are some dull lines with 5.Re1, but in general I consider this highly imbalanced structure to be really interesting. Caruana's novelty against Adams in Dortmund or the 11th game of the World Championship with the b5 break: fascinating stuff for me. Kramnik - who might be considered biased - said something along these lines at the press conference in London too.

    [DM: I have no problem with the Berlin, and for a while it was part of my repertoire. Pointing out that it is getting played with exceptional frequency doesn't cast any aspersions on it. That said, I really would like to see some other 1.e4 openings as well. But that's top level chess: beat the horse until it's dead, then beat it some more, then beat the dead horse parts until all that's left are little scraps getting blown around by the wind. Next step: find a new horse.]

    Maybe it would be better from a "marketing point of view" to consequently say it's a queenless middlegame rather than an endgame?! I mean in general. You simply called it "Berlin".

    December 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterReyk

    I'm sceptical about rewarding wins to draws even once. More wins means also more losses.

    [DM: I'm not a fan of it either, and we had lots of discussions about that point in the early days of the London Chess Classic. Fortunately, the specter of the draw death people feared a few years ago has gone away, so no other major tournaments have felt compelled to follow the 3-1-0 example.]

    "Player X won the tournament by tie-break because he lost more games than others with same number of points." This sounds a bit absurd, but it's just the same as more wins.

    OK, I know one purpose of this tie-break is to reduce the number of draws and make it more interesting to spectators. Not sure how well it works, though.

    December 15, 2014 | Unregistered Commentertikru

    “a very good year for all [three winners]” – Kramnik finished the year on a positive note, but overall I don’t think it was a good one at all by *his* standards. His performance in the Candidates, which I suppose was the most important event for him, was rather disappointing; he didn’t manage to actually win any tournament (unless you ignore tiebreaks and count London), including yet another failure to win the Olympiad on the team level; and his Elo ranking took a hit – he’s no longer no. 2-3 on the rating list as he used to be for quite a while, which means he’s not going to qualify to the next Candidates by rating and therefore his participation there is in serious doubt (unless he manages to qualify via the World Cup [again] or somehow get the wild card invitation).

    [DM: I did offer some qualifications when it came to Kramnik, but probably should have reworded the paragraph instead. Still, it wasn't a disastrous year for him. He's not #2 or 3 at the moment, but that's only in part due to his struggles. Caruana, Grischuk and Giri shot up, and both Topalov and Anand experienced a resurgence of their ratings.]

    December 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEyal

    I am certainly not a Berlin hater - my comment was meant to be ironic. As I wrote elsewhere already, my impression is that amateurs don't like the Berlin because they don't understand it - I am an amateur who doesn't understand the Berlin but accepts that top GMs do. Journalists and commentators (up to GM level like Nigel Short) either don't understand it either, or write/say what the audience supposedly wants to read/hear, and it remains a matter of taste. Short literally said "I don't play the Berlin, I play chess for fun" - but others can consider the Berlin fun!? @Reyk: Yes, Kramnik may be biased (also Aronian who has a similar opinion on the Berlin) - but are those who don't play this opening and talk badly about it unbiased??

    As to football scoring, it's also applied in Bilbao. Dennis particularly criticized "double football scoring" where most wins is a tie-creater turning into a tiebreaker, and +2=1-2 beats +1=4. I fully agree with him.

    December 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    The introduction of the three point per win rule in the German soccer league did not lead to more attacking play, or more goals. But at he end of the season, there are certainly less irrelevant pairings, because a win, or a small series of wins, can change the table rank dramatically. This might also apply to chess tournaments. So in my opinion it is worth giving this mode a try in some tournaments.

    December 17, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterralph

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