Fans of Magnus Carlsen might take Alexander Morozevich's claim that players like Vassily Ivanchuk and Ian Nepomniachtchi are more talented than he (Carlsen) is, but they shouldn't. Many factors go into being the best, and even if Morozevich's assessment of Carlsen's talent is correct, that's only one part of the story, and "Moro" has plenty of other things to say in praise of the World Champion. (And it isn't as if he's saying that Carlsen is very talented!)
Entries in Alexander Morozevich (8)
Mark Twain famously wrote, "the rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated", and Viswanathan Anand could say the same. Given up for dead - again - in the wake of his poor performance in Gibraltar a week or two ago, he has shown - again - that he remains a top player, and must be considered a legitimate contender to win the Candidates' tournament in March.
Anand won both games today, crushing Levon Aronian with White in the opener and defeating Anish Giri with Black in round 2. All the other games in both rounds were drawn except for the round two matchup between Alexei Shirov and Hikaru Nakamura. Shirov's attempt to create his trademark "fire on board" backfired (pun intended); in particular, his exchange sac on move 36 was a lemon or involved a serious miscalculation (possibly in serious time trouble). Both 36.a5 and 36.Rh1 - two moves which avoid going a pawn down - sufficed to maintain equality. I'll draw your attention to one other game from round 2: Vladimir Kramnik's wild battle with Levon Aronian. Kramnik played the dynamic, sacrificial chess characteristic of his play the past several years, and while it wasn't good enough for a win the game was highly entertaining.
There was an "undercard" of sorts: a two-game match between Boris Gelfand and Alexander Morozevich. Gelfand drew the first game with Black and won the second with White. Afterwards he played a second exhibition, this time a single game with chess sponsor (and very strong amateur) Oleg Skvortsov. Gelfand had White and Skvortsov was busted early, but the latter managed to make a very exciting game of it. The game had a nice touch near the end, when Gelfand played 42.Bc1! It wasn't the only winning move in the position, but it was certainly the prettiest.
All the games are here, and I've annotated Anand-Aronian from round 1.
The main event in Zurich starts today, Saturday, but before that the organizers had the players compete in a blitz tournament. This was entertaining for the spectators (both those on scene, including Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi[!], and the rest of us watching on the internet), of course, and it had the additional purpose of determining the pairings. Placement determined one's pairing number, and so the top three players will all have an extra game with the white pieces in the main event.
Hikaru Nakamura won his first three games in this six-player round-robin before Alexei Shirov (barely) pulled out a draw in round 4 and Viswanathan Anand beat him in the final round. Those three finished with plus scores, and thus get the extra white game in the rapid round robin to follow. Nakamura (obviously) finished with 3.5/5, while both Anand and Shirov wound up with 3 (Anand took second on tiebreak). Vladimir Kramnik was next with 2.5, Levon Aronian scored only two points (but defeated Anand in their game), while Anish Giri brought up the rear with a winless 1/5.
Because it's a rapid event (G/40' + 10"/move), there will be two games per day. (At least for the first two days; on day 3 there will be a rapid game followed by another blitz round-robin. Strange, but entertaining.) Here are the pairings for rounds 1 and 2; round 1 starts at 3 p.m. local time in Zurich (= 9 a.m. ET).
- Shirov - Kramnik
- Nakamura - Giri
- Anand - Aronian
- Kramnik - Aronian
- Giri - Anand
- Shirov - Nakamura
There's an added bonus: Boris Gelfand and Alexander Morozevich will concurrently play a two-game match with the same time control.
Hopefully the quality of the games will be high; whether it is or not, however, they're sure to be entertaining.
Alexander Morozevich has been out of the picture for a while, but with his impressive win in the just-completed Karpov Poikovsky tournament he may yet return to play with the big boys. Morozevich drew a sharp King's Indian in the last round against Pavel Eljanov while co-leader Dmitry Jakovenko lost against Ian Nepomniachtchi's King's Indian Attack. (Was "Nepo" inspired by Gata Kamsky's success with that opening against Alex Lenderman? Possibly, but the young Russian chose the now-standard plan of preventing ...a3 by playing a3 himself, an idea first developed or at least generally credited to Bobby Fischer.) Morozevich finished with a 2821 TPR, good for a 12 point rating gain that moves him up eight spots on the (live) rating list. He'll probably need at least another 20 points or so to get back to the absolute elite events, and I hope he will; his blend of sharp chess and unusual openings makes him stand out from most of the rest of the super-GM crowd.
Other scores, behind Morozevich's 6/9 and Jakovenko's 5.5: Alexei Shirov and Etienne Bacrot finished with 5 points apiece, Nepomniachtchi, Alexander Motylev, Ivan Saric and Viktor Bologan all finished on 50%. The minus score was thus absorbed by just two players: Eljanov, who finished at -2 with 3.5 points, and Emil Sutovsky, who finished at -5.
Given the 1 vs. 128, 2 vs. 127...64 vs. 65 pairings formula FIDE uses for the World Cup, significant upsets are relatively unlikely. In fact, only one of the 38 players rated over 2700 lost, and that was 16th seed Alexander Morozevich, who lost with Black to 2524-rated Canadian GM Bator Sambuev. Morozevich was in good shape in a complicated position, but a serious error late in the game turned the tables.
A bit below the 2700 mark there were some notable upsets though. Judit Polgar (2696) lost to Isan Reynaldo Ortiz Suarez, Vladimir Akopian (2691) lost to Ngoc Truong Son Nguyen, and Andrei Volokitin (2688) lost to a player with only two names - Ray Robson of the U.S.A.
Transitioning to the other American results, Nakamura won pretty easily against his opponent, rated more than 300 points below him, but two boards down Gata Kamsky only managed a draw (albeit with Black) against Lou Yiping. Alexander Onischuk defeated Eduardo Iturrizaga, and in a semi-upset Alejandro Ramirez drew with the 2700+ rated Evgeny Tomashevsky, though with White.
That was the good news for the U.S.; now for the bad news. The four other Americans all lost to 2700+ rated opposition: Larry Christiansen, Gregory Kaidanov, Alexander Shabalov and Conrad Holt lost to Laurent Fressinet, Alexander Areshchenko, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Nikita Vitiugov, respectively.
With 64 games to choose from there were plenty deserving careful attention, but the interests of brevity I'll note just three, which you can replay here. Two have been mentioned already: Morozevich's upset loss and Robson's impressive win, in which he built on good preparation with a very nice combination. The third game I'll note is the young Russian star Daniil Dubov's win over Sergey Fedorchuk, which ended with a spectacular mating combination.
Just a reminder: day 2 continues the first round, as the players switch colors and do it all over again. All players who are ahead after day 2 get the next day off; those who are tied play rapid (and if necessary, blitz) tiebreaks to decide who advances to the next round. Full results here, or more conveniently, here.
The biggest story in today's action at Biel was a story of inaction. Alexander Morozevich, who started with two losses, withdrew pleading illness. (The nature of that illness hasn't been publicly specified; we wish him the best.) He didn't play in round 3, but his third round game will be made up on Sunday (the scheduled rest day) by his substitute, Viktor Bologan, who will play in Thursday's round 4 game with Hikaru Nakamura. Unfortunately for Bologan, he will inherit Morozevich's losses. Sometimes the substitute gets to start from scratch, but already three days behind it's a bit late for that.
Only two games were played today (Wednesday), but they were exciting, full of adventure and both finished with a decisive result. It was especially entertaining to see Nakamura dare the Polugaevsky Variation of the Najdorf against Wang Hao. The variation has been at death's door for a good 50 years, but intrepid souls (including of course the late, great Lev Polugaevsky himself) are always finding new resources to keep the ball rolling.
On move 17 Wang Hao tried a near-novelty, 17.Nfg5, which had been played only once by a 2000-level player in a loss to a GM. This probably wasn't any home prep - who expects the Polugaevsky Variation anymore? - and after 17...h6 he played a new move, 18.Qh3. In the earlier game White played 18.Nxe6?, a sac that left him down a piece for nothing. Another sac was playable though: 18.Nxf7, which seems to lead to a perpetual: 18...Kxf7 19.Ng5+ hxg5 20.fxg7+ Kxg7 21.Qxg5+ Kh7 22.Bd3+ Rxd3 23.Qh5+ Kg7 (23...Kg8? 24.Rxf8+ gives White a big advantage) 24.Qg5+ Kh7 etc. (In fact, Nxf7 was a decent option on moves 19, 20 and 22 as well.)
Wang Hao's move wasn't bad, but he didn't play with the kind of energy one needs against the Polugaevsky. The position remained very complicated, but Nakamura was making real progress and stood objectively better, though in a position where the cost of an inaccuracy would be much greater for him than for White. Sure enough, Nakamura made a serious slip with 26...Nd6. It's a natural move, centralizing a piece, moving it closer to his king and trying to trade off an attacker. Unfortunately for him, there was a tactical problem: 27.Rxd5! Before 26...Nd6 it would have been possible to respond with ...Rxd5; here, 27...Qxd5 was forced, and after 28.Bxe6! fxe6 29.f7+ all kinds of nasty tactics faced Black.
Both players were in real time trouble now, and after 29...Kd8?! (29...Ke7 was better, when White is better but maybe not yet winning after 30.Qxh6! Rdd8 31.f8Q+ Rdxf8 32.Qg7+) 30.Nxe6+ White was winning. A key point was that if Black later played 33...Qxd6, then 34.Rxd8+ Rxd8 35.Nxd8+ Kxd8 36.Qd3 produces a won king and pawn ending for White. So Nakamura tried 33...Kb8, but when the time scramble ended after move 40 White was two pawns up in a queen and rook ending. Wang Hao played too passively though, and Black still had some chances to resist with 46...Kb7. Instead, Nakamura erred one last time with 46...Qg3?, allowing White to transpose play into a trivially won rook ending with 47.Qh2, forcing immediate resignation.
In an interview after his win in round 2, Etienne Bacrot said of his round 1 defeat to Wang Hao on the black side of a Bayonet King's Indian that he had forgotten his prep. Today he had the chance to remember his preparation, as Anish Giri also played the Bayonet against him. It was Giri who deviated first, however, going for 12.f3 rather than 12.Bf3. This is in fact the main move, with nearly 500 games in ChessBase's online database, including van Wely-Bacrot from this year's French Team Championship.
They followed that game and quite a few others for a while. On move 19, some early games (e.g. Pachman-Taimanov, from the 1967(!) Capablanca Memorial) went towards an immediate perpetual with 19.Nxa8 Qxg3+ 20.Kh1 Qh3+ etc. 19.Rf2, as played by Giri here and van Wely many times, is the winning try. Here Black has two tries: 19...Nxe4, when White may have an edge after 20.fxe4 Rxf2 21.Kxf2 Rf8+ 22.Ke3 Qxg3+ 23.Kd2 Rf2 24.Ne8 (van Wely has gone 1-1 here: a win over Radjabov in 2008 and a loss to Stellwagen in 2009). "Mr." Houdini thinks it's 0.00 equal, but as I'm sure that neither van Wely nor Giri would allow a forced draw there are doubtlessly some mysteries to be explored. (Maybe there's something instead of 24.Ne8, or perhaps there's some new life to be found with 20.Rh2 - a move van Wely used - and lost with - to Jean Marc Degraeve back in 2000.)
Anyway, the other theoretical move, chosen by Bacrot both here and against van Wely earlier in the year, is 19...Rac8. That game was followed through move 25, when instead of van Wely's 25.c6 Giri chose 25.Be3. It looks like a good novelty. 25...Qxf5 was the right reply, but after 26.Rf1 it seems Black should play 26...Kh8, when White is only a very little better after 27.Bd3 e4! 28.fxe4 Qh3 29.Rg3 Qh4 30.Qf4 Qxf4 31.Bxf4 Rxc5. Bacrot's 26...Bf8 wasn't as good. Now 27.Bd3 e4 28.fxe4 cost White the exchange, but it was in fact a winning "sacrifice". White's bishops and central passers absolutely dominated, and the rest of the game was a piece of cake for the tournament's youngest player and (for now) sole leader.
The standings are slightly confused at the moment, but look like this (based on 3-1-0 scoring):
1. Giri 7 (3 games)
2. Wang Hao 6 (3)
3. Carlsen 4 (2)
4. Bacrot 3 (3)
5. Nakamura 2 (3)
6. Morozevich/Bologan 0 (2)
Round 4 Pairings:
- Bologan - Nakamura
- Giri - Wang Hao
- Bacrot - Carlsen
Round 8 was an oddity in the Reggio Emilia super-tournament. It's not that there were three decisive games; that seems almost par for the course, as rounds four through six were also drawless. Rather, the oddity came from the games, from two in particular.
The most important game of the round was Nakamura-Morozevich. With a win, Nakamura could have just about put the tournament on ice, and a draw would have been pretty good as well. Instead he played the opening so poorly that after 15 moves he was down two pawns with no compensation to speak of, and Morozevich won with ease. Nakamura still leads Morozevich, but it's only by a point (on 3-1-0 scoring, which means that a Morozevich win would enable him to leapfrog past Nakamura if the latter only manages a draw).
Ivanchuk continued to plummet as if an anvil had been tied around his chest. Perhaps hoping for a boring position and an easy draw, Ivanchuk played the London System against Caruana - but it didn't work. By around move 20, Ivanchuk was in trouble and by move 26 he was lost. The weirdest part came on moves 30 and 31 Ivanchuk gave up first his queen and then a rook in an absolutely absurd (and obviously intentional) way. Perhaps it was a way of expressing his distaste with himself; whatever the case, he has collapsed terribly - this was his fourth consecutive loss.
Finally, Giri has really caught fire the past several rounds, going 3.5/4 after a poor start. Today he beat Vitiugov in nice style, sacrificing the exchange and a pawn for attacking chances, and they paid off. Vitiugov was able to return the material and eventually a pawn more to reach an endgame, but Giri's technique was good and he won.
With two rounds to go, the standings look like this:
1. Nakamura 15
2. Morozevich 14
3. Giri 12
4. Caruana 11
5. Ivanchuk 8
6. Vitiugov 5
The games, with my comments, are here.
Today two of the three games in the 2011/12 edition of Reggio Emilia were drawn, but mighty Alexander Morozevich struck again - and again, with the black pieces, defeating Anish Giri with a brutal attack in the center. He now leads with a 2-0 score - or rather, 6-0, as they seem to be using the 3-1-0 scoring system borrowed from soccer.
Hikaru Nakamura drew Fabiano Caruana; they have 4 points (1.5/2) and 1 point (.5/2), respectively. Vassily Ivanchuk's game with Nikita Vitiugov was also drawn, leaving Ivanchuk with two points thanks to his two draws and Vitiugov, like Caruana and Giri, with a single point based on their one draw.
Today's games, including my notes to Giri-Morozevich (and a bad pun), can be replayed here.