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    « Candidates Update: Anand, Karjakin Lead After 9 Rounds; Five Rounds Remain | Main | Book Notice: Sergey Kasparov's *The Exchange Sacrifice: A Practical Guide* »
    Friday
    Mar182016

    Candidates Update: Karjakin and Aronian Lead with +2, Anand at +1 After 6 Rounds

    After three more rounds of the Candidates - six overall, out of 14 - the players get another rest day, and it was well-earned. In round 4 there was only one decisive game, but it was a big one with one leader - Sergey Karjakin - beating another - Viswanathan Anand. That gave Karjakin sole ownership of first place, which he maintained after four draws in round 5.

    In round 6 things livened up. First, Anand pole-axed Peter Svidler, winning with a nice sacrificial attacking game that constituted a serious improvement over a 2004 game between Alexei Shirov and Alexander Onischuk. Svidler's 18...Nb3 was a good move when Onischuk played it, but the seemingly slight difference between the two games made all the difference in the world, and Anand crushed him in good style.

    That brought Anand within half a point of the lead by round's end, and Karjakin was fortunate to remain in first (shared first by round's end) as he was in some serious trouble against Fabiano Caruana. Fortunately for Karjakin his opponent preferred 30.g5 to 30.Bf3, after which he saved the game with a couple of spectacular moves.

    The third game to finish was a draw between Veselin Topalov and Anish Giri. Giri came close to a win, outplaying his opponent step by step, but Topalov made a last desperate stand and held the game a pawn down.

    The fourth and final game was an oddity. Levon Aronian was pushing with White throughout against Hikaru Nakamura, but the rook endgame that arose after White's 52nd move should have been drawn. Nakamura promptly made a serious error, which Aronian in turn failed to take advantage of. Another 22 moves go by with Aronian still pressing and Nakamura still probably drawing. Unfortunately for Nakamura, he hastily grabbed his king with the obvious intention of moving it, only to realize that it was a huge error. At that moment he tried to turn it into a "j'adoube", which is pretty amazing. Of course Aronian would have none of that, and the arbiter came quickly to help resolve the situation. Nakamura gave up the claim, moved the king, and soon had to resign the game. Here's the video of the critical moments (HT to Ross Hytnen):

    The games of the last three rounds are here, and I've analyzed three of the four games from round 6, either in whole or in part. Here are the pairings for round 7, on Saturday:

     

    • Svidler (2.5) - Caruana (3)
    • Karjakin (4) - Aronian (4)
    • Nakamura (2) - Topalov (2)
    • Giri (3) - Anand (3.5)

     

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    Reader Comments (10)

    Terrible loss for Nakamura. It was funny - Aronian tried to argue that it was a winning endgame anyway, but I listened to his presser, and I looked at it with an engine, and I think he was thinking of some other, similar, endgame. (not that I'm in any way some sort of rook endgame expert) Should most likely have been a draw. Probably an awful lapse in concentration by Naka. Really too bad.

    [DM: Most - maybe everyone, possibly including Aronian - think that Aronian was kidding, or at worst speaking in the passion of battle. That ending is a nearly trivial draw.]

    March 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMikeO

    I'll probably look a fool but I've a hunch that Giri will win today to get himself in contention. I think Vishy is a little more fragile than usual cf ...Ba6 against Karjakin

    March 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

    I want to mention that while the commentators thought the position where Nakamura touched the king was a draw - it is in fact not the case. Levon claimed he was shown the endgame by a friend of his at some point and delayed playing h5 while trying to remember the technique. He showed the idea in the press conference.

    The key to winning is to play f5.

    1. You play h5 first to lock the pawns and prevent blacks king from coming forward.
    2. You play R to the 8th and when able to the D - file. Now we can build a horizontal bridge.
    3. Build the bridge! The king will march to g4, f3, e3.
    4. Now you'll be able to cover the king with the rook and play f5. From here it would look mostly like the end of the game.

    So for example ...

    64. h5 Rb5 65. Rc8 Ra5 66. Rd8 Ra4 67. Kg4 Rb4 68. kf3 Rc3 69. Ke4 Rb1 70. Rd7

    And here I think Levon played something odd like Rd7 instead of f5. I think the idea is that if Rd1+ white can manuever into e7 or d8 eventually to hide from the checks.

    70 ... Rb4+ 71. Re4 and f5 is imminent.

    [DM: I don't really follow this. For one thing, Nakamura's blunder came on move 74. If we're going back to move 64, then 65.Rc8 is check. Anyway, no master-level+ player I've seen or talked to, including GMs (and computers, for that matter), takes Aronian's claim as remotely true. Maybe he was confusing this ending with some similar ending he studied once upon a time, or was speaking from competitive hyper-optimism. But it just isn't true; the ending is a fairly simple draw.]

    March 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRoss Hytnen

    Oops, I'd like to amend my last post regarding d7. As is the style of an amateur, the moment I post an idea, the actual idea becomes obvious ... you have to pin the pawn in the following variation. (Obviously the white king is not going to d8 or e7 like I originally thought. I just went crazy temporarily).

    70. ... Re1+ 71. Kf3 Rf1+ 72. Ke3 73. Re1+ Kf2 and There is no way to stop f5 and after 71. Kf3 if white had played Rd4 instead of Rd7 to pre-emptively build the "horizontal bridge" then f6 is possible and white the R on e1, you can not play e6 anymore. Kf8 is the only waiting move left and that would just fall to Kf2.

    March 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRoss Hytnen

    Final append.

    Playing with this for a while, despite the Alexandra and Levon dismissing the position after f5 as trivially easy, I don't find it that easy at all. it seems touchy - slight mistakes are instant draws. I don't know - I guess at a caliber higher than me they've studied this enough to walk it home without much though.

    March 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRoss Hytnen

    Surely Nakamura tried to cheat - he's lucky not to get thrown out I would have thought at this level.

    March 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMarc

    I picked Nakamura to win this. I thought he had matured enough to play his best chess. Unfortunately it looks like he is not handling the stress very well at all. Like Aronian and Karjakin he must feel he is getting near the end of his prime years.

    [DM: Karjakin just turned 26, and certainly is not getting past his prime years.]

    It was typical for new champions to be in their late 20's or early 30's, now early to mid 20's seems to be the trend since Karpov.

    [DM: I respectfully submit that you're confusing (at least) two things: when a player enters his prime years, and the age at which world champions win the title. Karpov, Kasparov, Kramnik, and Carlsen were all quite young when they won the title, but that doesn't mean that they peaked then, let alone began to decline. Karpov and Kasparov both got much stronger after winning the title, and it's still too early to see if Carlsen has peaked. As for Kramnik, he has had some fluctuations, but don't forget that he lost several years of his prime to a serious problem with arthritis, and he also squandered a year or two on that stupid computer match that kept getting delayed.

    As for the current crop, I don't believe that either Karjakin or Nakamura is hearing the clock tick yet. Aronian might hear the ticking, but midnight is probably a ways off for him as well. Look at Kramnik, Gelfand, Ivanchuk, and especially Anand!]

    Thus this candidates maybe his best shot at the title. Yes older players have gotten a shot at the title but they rarely win unless the champion is older or they had played for or held the title at an earlier age.
    Conversely both Karjakin and Aronian are making the most of their opportunity. Either would be a great challenger for Carlsen. Caruana and Giri still have time to develop the skill of how to win games in a Candidate's Tournament.

    March 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLarry L.

    Sagar Sha on Chessbase gives the following variation as equal instead of Nakamura 74. ...Kf8??
    74 ... Ra4 75.e6 Ra5+ 76.Ke4 Ra4+ 77.Ke3 Kf6!=
    But I don't see how White is not winning after 78.e7. while Fritz prefers exf7.

    [DM: They're both dead draws. After 78.e7 Ra8 is fine, intending 79...Re8. You probably missed that 80.Rd8 is no big deal on account of 80...Ra3+ followed by the king's taking on e7. As for 78.exf7, Black is fine after 78...Kg7. White can't make progress without his king, and his king isn't going anywhere if he doesn't pull his rook back, surrendering the f7 pawn. And once that's gone the draw is evident - it would be a draw in that case even without Black's h6 pawn. (Not that Black would give it up, of course.)]

    March 20, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPolo

    Giri is the new Leko.

    [DM: A bit unfair to both, but yes, in this event he has shown an amazing ability to turn both lost and won positions into draws. A strange sort of alchemy.]

    March 20, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCoolblunt

    I was shocked to see Nakamura try that; thankfully, he has the sense to abide by the rules. I give him the benefit of the doubt that he panicked in the heat of battle & is embarrassed by his action.

    It's good to see that the arbiter was present to resolve the dispute! It's hard not to sympathize with Aronian's body language.

    March 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel D

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