Not a big surprise here, though if Loek van Wely had won in the last round they would have needed a playoff. He couldn't pull it off, so Anish Giri won the Dutch Championship for the fourth time, with a score of 5.5/7. He added a couple of points to his Elo and remains #6 in the world, still a bit below the 2800 barrier (which he has already crossed).
Entries in Anish Giri (22)
Veselin Topalov had been riding high through the first seven rounds of the Norway Chess tournament, scoring an undefeated 6-1 that was a combination of strong play (against non-Norwegians) and good fortune (against Norwegians). He led by 1.5 points with just two rounds to go, but in round 8 he finally received his comeuppance at the hands of the youngest player in the tournament, Anish Giri. Topalov played an uncharacteristically passive line of the Queen's Indian/Catalan with Black, hoping to draw the resulting technical position. This really isn't Topalov's forte, however, and Giri simply outplayed him, step by step.
As a result tournament victory is still up for grabs, but Topalov is still in good shape. He is half a point ahead of Viswanathan Anand and a point or more ahead of everyone else, and he has White against Anand in the final round. If he can draw with White (or win), he wins the tournament; if he loses, then Anand wins. Anand obtained this opportunity by beating Jon Ludwig Hammer. Hammer was fine out of the opening and into the early middlegame, but drifted into a bit of pressure and then blundered a pawn on move 27 and some more material a few moves after that.
Hikaru Nakamura could have been in the running as well, had he managed to convert an extra pawn against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The Frenchman was slippery though, and Nakamura couldn't manage to neutralize his opponent's counterplay and keep his extra pawn at the same time. With the draw Nakamura is a point out of first, tied for third with Giri half a point behind Anand.
The other games had no implications for first place (surprisingly). Fabiano Caruana slightly outplayed Alexander Grischuk with Black, but it wasn't enough to win the game. Finally, what would normally be one of the absolute highlights of any chess tournament, a battle between Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian, was almost an afterthought with both players near the bottom of the tournament table. Aronian played a terrific opening with Black and was somewhat better, only to go wrong with 21...Qb6. This gave Carlsen a very slight edge, which was neutralized, and then Aronian went awry again with 31...Nd3? and 34...Qxb2? Now he was losing, but when Carlsen with 36.Rc2?? Aronian had the chance to be better with 36...Qb8! Both players missed it, but a kibitzing Anand spotted it right away. (If only he had spotted ...Nxe5 in some game played in 2014....) Instead, Aronian blundered back and resigned on his 40th move, down a rook with no counterplay and the queens coming off.
The games, with my notes (except to Grischuk-Caruana), are here. These are the last-round pairings:
- Vachier-Lagrave (3.5) - Grischuk (3)
- Aronian (3) - Nakamura (5)
- Hammer (2) - Carlsen (3.5)
- Topalov (6) - Anand (5.5)
- Caruana (3.5) - Giri (5)
Round 1 of the third Grand Prix event of the current cycle, held in Tbilisi, Georgia, kicked off today with a bang. Four of the six games were decisive, the two exceptions being Berlins with 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.Re1. We'll say nothing more about them in this post!
We begin with a noteworthy achievement: Anish Giri won with Black against Peter Svidler, and in the process became the 9th player in chess history with a FIDE rating over 2800. (It's not official yet, but will at least be immortalized on the Live List even if he doesn't manage to sustain it.) Amazingly, the 20-year-old Giri is just half a point behind Fabiano Caruana and the third spot on the list.
The number two spot is held by Alexander Grischuk, who has increased the distance between him and Caruana by defeating Rustam Kasimdzhanov on the black side of a Noteboom Variation. This is not entirely to the credit of that interesting opening line, however. Kasimdzhanov enjoyed a clear advantage as late as move 29, but it was a complicated enough position that a couple of natural moves took him to equal and then lost within a space of three moves. When Kasimdzhanov resigned just a few further moves later, after 35 moves, he was already getting mated in three.
Another win by Black, also in a late turnaround, was achieved by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. MVL stood better for much of the game in a 6.Be3 Ng4 Najdorf, but in what was probably mutual time trouble his mistakes were more frequent and more harmful than Mamedyarov's. Vachier-Lagrave made the time control and his 41st move, but then resigned.
Finally, the white pieces managed to deliver in one game. Baadur Jobava played one of his oddball openings with Black against Evgeny Tomashevsky, and while he was slightly worse out of the opening he found the brilliant 15...Nxe5!!, which seems to equalize with perfect play. Unfortunately, he hadn't worked out all the details, and 17...Bxd4? resulted in a long forcing line where White was up a piece for two pawns. Whether White was winning at that point isn't clear, but Tomashevsky made steady progress and was winning by the end, even if might have been helpful to many of the fans to see how White could win against continued resistance.
It wasn't quite the London Candidates in 2013, but the last round of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee had more drama than one might have expected. Entering the round Magnus Carlsen led Anish Giri by half a point, with three other players - Wesley So, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Ding Liren - another half a point behind. There was the potential for a five-way tie for first, but that couldn't happen, could it? It almost did.
One of the first games to finish was Radoslaw Wojtaszek vs. Giri, and there was never any question of Giri's winning that battle. Wojtaszek had a slight edge against Giri's Gruenfeld, and if anything he could have made his opponent sweat more than he did.
In the meantime, his three pursuers all won their games and caught up with him. Wesley So demolished Loek van Wely, but it seems to me that was more van Wely's doing than So's. The latter's plan from moves 16 to 18 surrendered his trumps while practically begging So to go on the attack. So did, and it was very effective.
Vachier-Lagrave had a bigger fish to fry, the (now barely) world's #2 player Fabiano Caruana. MVL played a Najdorf and found a nice pawn sac against the 6.h3 e5 7.Nde2 system, and it worked like a charm. A couple of years ago Caruana lost something like five games in a row to the Najdorf, and it would seem from this game that he hasn't quite gotten it figured out just yet.
The third member of the triumvirate, Ding Liren, also won, also with Black against the previous (pre-Caruana) world's #2 player, Levon Aronian. Aronian used the trendy Makagonov against the King's Indian, but this time the Makagonov had gone off the rails. White was losing before move 20, and while Aronian played it out for a long time he never came close to saving it.
So that left only the world champion. With a draw (or of course, a win) against Ivan Saric he would win the tournament, and with the white pieces against a rival rated 200 points below him how hard could this be? As it turned out, surprisingly hard. Saric was comfortably better well into the game and had some advantage even past move 30, but figuring out to make a serious dent in Carlsen's defense proved too difficult. Eventually Carlsen reached safety and briefly had an advantage of his own. Both players were a little inaccurate near the end of the time control, and a couple of moves later the draw was obvious. It was an excellent tournament for Carlsen: he won, he gained rating points, and had a six-game winning streak that included victories over Caruana and Aronian. But with four players just half a point behind - and three of the four younger than him (MVL is a month older) - there's reason to hope that there will be a fight for the #1 spot in the world in the not-too-distant future.
In the other games, Hou Yifan and Vasil Ivanchuk drew uneventfully, while the game that I thought would be an uneventful draw turned out to be anything but. Baadur Jobava outfought and finally defeated Teimour Radjabov on the white side of a King's Indian that turned into a sort of Benko Gambit. Early on Radjabov stood better and may have been winning at one moment, but once Black allowed White's a-pawn to start moving it was Jobava who enjoyed the better chances. I'm impressed that Jobava had the gumption to fight his way to victory - not many players would have a lot of heart after losing nine games out of 12.
The games, with my comments, are here, and these are the final standings:
- 1. Carlsen 9 (out of 13)
- 2-5. Vachier-Lagrave, Giri, So, Ding Liren 8.5
- 6. Ivanchuk 7.5
- 7. Caruana 7
- 8. Radjabov 6
- 9-10. Wojtaszek, Aronian 5.5
- 11. Hou Yifan 5
- 12. Saric 4.5
- 13. van Wely 4
- 14. Jobava 3
In the Challengers' group Wei Yi entered the last round a point ahead of David Navara, but with the black pieces against fellow GM Salem Saleh, who was riding a three-game winning streak, he was by no means assured of tournament victory. Indeed, Navara won quickly against David Klein, while Saleh had an edge against the tournament leader. Like Carlsen against Saric, Wei Yi defended well and didn't allow things to get out of control, and eventually he managed to hold a draw and claim clear first. That means he will be invited to the top group next year, and given his current rate of improvement who knows how strong he'll be by then!
By defeating Anne Haast Sam Shankland took clear third in the tournament with 9/13, a point behind Navara and a point and a half behind Wei Yi. For Carlsen, nine points was enough to win the top section; here, incredibly, it made Shankland almost an afterthought, despite his outstanding performance. Robin van Kampen defeated Valentina Gunina to take fourth with 8.5, Sam Sevian beat Jan Timman (who again played some bizarre chess) to tie with Saleh for fifth-sixth with 7.5, and the day's other winner was Erwin l'Ami (against Ari Dale).
Wijk aan Zee 2015, Round 12 Recap: Giri Defeats So in a Marathon Game, Trails Carlsen by Half a Point
Wesley So's very long undefeated streak came to an end, and it took Anish Giri 111 moves and almost seven hours to do it. It was a brutal game that saw So have to fight for his life practically out of the opening. On move 21 Giri went a pawn up, but Black put up a lot of resistance, to offer a massive understatement, and managed to reach a queen ending. At several points So achieved a tablebase draw, but as humans aren't equipped with tablebases that didn't prove enough to save the game. The level of play and fight from both players was extremely impressive, but in the end it's joy for one and misery for the other. With the win Giri has leapfrogged So into clear second place, half a point behind Magnus Carlsen.
As for Carlsen, his game was finished much sooner. Ding Liren had White and pushed him around for a bit, but he missed an opportunity and Carlsen escaped without too much damage.
That left Ding tied for third with So, a point behind Carlsen and half a point behind Giri, and equal with a very lucky Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Despite having the white pieces, MVL was quickly outplayed by Levon Aronian in a Catalan. At a certain point Aronian had a choice between two promising-looking continuations. Both seemed to win, but only one did, and needless to say Aronian chose the wrong one. It was a good trap by Vachier-Lagrave, but Aronian had loads of time to double-check his analysis; sadly for him, his mistaken decision took only 27 seconds.
If either Vasil Ivanchuk and Fabiano Caruana won against each other it would have been a four-way tie for third, but they drew a nice game after a tactical flurry fizzled out.
There were two other draws, both with less significance for the leaderboard. Teimour Radjabov had a nice pull against Hou Yifan on the white side of a Catalan, but with patient defense she managed to untangle her queenside and equalize the game. Loek van Wely and Baadur Jobava was the dud of the round, but it was entirely forgiveable, as both players have had a lousy tournament and were happy to get one game closer to its conclusion.
There was one other win in addition to Giri-So, and it was also a marathon in its own right. Ivan Saric and Radoslaw Wojtaszek reeled off 27 moves of Najdorf theory before any of the other players even managed to take off their jackets, but despite this they still wound up playing 71 moves and taking around six hours to finish. Wojtaszek had plenty of chances to draw, but Saric's persistence paid off and Capablanca's "rule" that queen and knight usually make a more effective duo than queen and bishop was confirmed once again.
The tournament site is here, the games (with plenty of notes and more theory than even the typical Najdorf fan can stand) are here, and the final round pairings ensue. (Note: the games start 90 minutes early tomorrow.)
- So (7.5) - van Wely (4)
- Wojtaszek (5) - Giri (8)
- Carlsen (8.5) - Saric (4)
- Aronian (5.5) - Ding Liren (7.5)
- Caruana (7) - Vachier-Lagrave (7.5)
- Hou Yifan (4.5) - Ivanchuk (7)
- Jobava (2) - Radjabov (6)
Some comments. First, expect Carlsen to put in a little extra oomph trying to beat Saric. Doing so ensures that no one catches him, plus it will give him revenge - he lost to him in the Tromso Olympiad last year. I expect to see Giri go for it, but without going too crazy, especially if he sees Carlsen come out of the gate with a great position. I hope to see So bounce back after such a huge disappointment; if he wants to compete for the world championship he's going to need to be resilient and not just a strong player when everything is going his way. The other games involving 7 and 7.5 pointers should be interesting, but Jobava-Radjabov is 99% likely to be drawn.
A note or two on ratings: Giri's win took him to 2797.2, good for fifth on the live list, and if he wins tomorrow he'll join that small, very elite group of players to have broken the 2800 barrier. On the women's side, Hou Yifan started slowly, but if she somehow manages to beat Ivanchuk tomorrow, she will pass Judit Polgar to take #1 on the women's list, the first time someone other than Polgar has headed the list in more than 20 years.
Now for a quick recap of the Challengers' group. Wei Yi won again, crushing Anne Haast in spectacular fashion. That brings him to 10/12 and to a 2696.4 rating - remember, he's only 15 years old! As David Navara only managed to draw with White against the 14-year-old American GM Sam Sevian, Wei Yi leads by a point going into the last round, and thus needs only a draw against Salem Saleh to guarantee himself tournament victory and an invitation to next year's A-group.
The other young American grandmaster Sam S - Sam Shankland - won against Erwin l'Ami, and he's in clear third with 8 points. Other winners: Robin van Kampen over Vladimir Potkin, the aforementioned Salem Saleh vs. Bart Michiels, and in the ongoing tragicomedy of the Challengers' group Jan Timman lost again. He was winning as early as move 21, and while he squandered most of his advantage in time pressure he was still better or maybe even winning after both players had made their 40th moves. So what did he do? He resigned. It wasn't even after a long think - I don't think he even spent five minutes on the decision. The way his last two games ended is really mind-boggling.
The London Chess Classic's main event started yesterday, and now it's almost half over. Still, it's offering good value, and today two of the three games had a winner.
Vladimir Kramnik had a new and tricky idea ready in the Petrosian System against Hikaru Nakamura's King's Indian, and when Nakamura went awry in the complicated middlegame on moves 18 and 19 - and maybe move 17 as well - it was all one-way traffic. Nakamura held out until after the time control (if he had had more time he might have resigned a little earlier), and then called it quits.
After that, Anish Giri finished upending the previous leader, Michael Adams, to join Kramnik in first. Giri came out of the opening with a nice positional edge, but for a long time Adams hung tough and the outcome was uncertain. The uncertainty vanished after the tactical error 38...Ra1, which allowed 39.Ne8+. That wins the g-pawn by force sooner or later, and two extra pawns in that ending was one too many.
The third game was the first to finish. Fabiano Caruana was well prepared in the Queen's Gambit Declined for Viswanathan Anand's 5.Bf4 line, and in particular Caruana's 14...Nd7! was a surprising turn Anand had overlooked. Black will be doing great if he gets in ...e5, so Anand saw nothing better than repeating moves and calling it a day. Not an ideal result for him, certainly, but it left him the rest of the day to celebrate his 45th birthday.
Kramnik and Giri lead with 4 points apiece (remember, it's 3-1-0 scoring), Adams is in third with 3, Anand has 2 and both Nakamura and Caruana have 1. The round 3 pairings are:
- Nakamura - Anand
- Adams - Kramnik
- Caruana - Giri
It has been a long day, so rather than work up my own notes to the main game of the day, I'll turn it over to Chess24's Jan Gustafsson:
The last three rounds of the Qatar Masters Open were exceptionally dramatic, with each leader falling to the next. After six rounds Anish Giri led with a perfect 6/6 a point ahead of Vladimir Kramnik who had won his last four games after drawing his first two. Kramnik played Giri and won in impressive fashion (aside from an immediately forgiven fingerfehler in the opening) to catch him at 6/7. In the penultimate round Kramnik defeated the overperforming Saleh Salem with the black pieces, while Giri lost again, with White, to Yu Yangyi.
In round six Yu could have been out of the first place hunt, as he was a bit worse out of the opening against Alex Lenderman and for quite a while had nothing, but a bit at a time he outplayed the American GM and won that game. After the win against Giri he entered the round half a point behind Kramnik, and here he had a little bit of luck that arose because of Kramnik's prior good luck. When Kramnik played Giri in round 7 he was due for Black, but because Giri was too and his color equalization took priority (due to his higher score at the time) Kramnik got a second straight white for that crucial game. When the last round rolled around Kramnik was due for the white pieces, but so was Yu, and although Kramnik had the higher score entering the round his excess white game earlier flipped it around.
So Yu got the advantage of the first move, and pretty decisively manhandled Kramnik in a 4.d3 Berlin. Kramnik's 13...g6, 15...b5, 19...f5 and especially and finally 20...gxf5 created a large number of potential weaknesses, and the 20-year-old Chinese talent harvested just about all of them. When Kramnik resigned on move 33 he was down four pawns and likely to lose his stranded knight as well. It was an amazingly one-sided victory - I wouldn't be surprised to lose like that to a 2700, but it's remarkable to see it happen to Kramnik.
Meanwhile, Giri bounced back with a wild last-round win over Vladimir Akopian, and he and Kramnik split the 2nd-3rd place money, with Giri officially taking second on tiebreaks. A great result for Yu Yangyi, who also had the best performance rating at the Olympiad and made it to "Millionaire Monday" in Las Vegas as well. The young guys (quite a few of whom are from China) are taking over!
In round 5 of the Qatar Masters Open Anish Giri won very quickly with Black against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, but it looked like he would be held today by Swedish GM Nils Grandelius. Grandelius was very close to making a draw, but Giri kept the game alive for a long time, and his opponent finally fell apart around move 60. With the exception of Mamedyarov, Giri hasn't been playing the same kinds of opponents Fabiano Caruana did when winning seven in a row at the Sinquefield Cup or that Alexander Grischuk did in his six game streak across the Baku Grand Prix and the Tigran Petrosian Memorial, but even so it's very impressive.
His next opponent will be Vladimir Kramnik. Kramnik got off to a poor start, drawing in the first two rounds against considerably lower-rated GMs and just eking out a victory in round 3. Since then, however, he has been pummeling his opponents, and in round 6 he knocked out the talented young grandmaster Sanan Sjugirov in just 25 moves. With four wins in a row he is in clear second, and tomorrow he'll have the white pieces against Giri. That should be very entertaining.
Twelve players are in the next score group, at 4.5 points, and two of them are Americans. Sam Shankland will have Black against Yuriy Kryvoruchko on board three, while Aleksandr Lenderman will have the black pieces on board four against Yu Yangyi. Daniel Naroditsky has 4 points, and will have White against Pavel Eljanov.
So far it's a fine performance by the young Dutchman and top seed Anish Giri, who is the solo leader of the Qatar Masters Open with 4/4. Thus far he hasn't been tested, and today he crushed his opponent, Mikhailo Oleksienko, in just 18 moves on the white side of a Caro-Kann - and he was probably winning after Black's 10th move. (In case you're wondering, Oleksienko is a GM with a 2620 rating; this isn't some sort of master vs. amateur rout at the local club!) Ouch.
Five players are just half a point behind - Evgeny Tomashevsky, Nils Grandelius, Yuriy Kryvoruchko, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and Pavel Eljanov - and then there are a ton of players with 3/4, including Vladimir Kramnik. Kramnik started with two draws and a very shaky win in round 3, but in round 4 he finally looked more like himself and is getting back into the hunt. The top American player so far, Sam Shankland, also has 3 points, and several Americans have 2.5 points including Daniel Naroditsky, Alex Lenderman and Irina Krush. (Krush had an especially impressive victory in round 3 over Sergey Fedorchuk, and with the black pieces at that.) Another notable 2.5 pointer is Bela Khotenashvili. She defeated Baadur Jobava in round 1, and today in round 4 she defeated another super-strong GM, Gabriel Sargissian.
It's a very strong tournament, and as you can see from the foregoing even top GMs aren't getting much "respect" from their opponents. Especially notable among the super-GM victims are Arkadij Naiditsch, whose 2719 rating still left him with an 0-2 start, and after a win in round 3 he lost to an IM in round 4 to fall to 1-3. Even worse: Viktor Bologan started 0-3 and only managed his first draw of the event today, against an FM. (Worse yet: while some might conceivably have a tough time in Qatar because they're unused to the climate, I believe Bologan has spent a lot of time working as a trainer there over the years. He's just having a very bad tournament.)
Five rounds remain.
It was a good week for the higher-rated youngsters against their "seasoned" opponents, as both Anish Giri and Baadur Jobava won their matches with undefeated +3 scores. When we left off after round 4, Giri was up two and Jobava up one, so it's clear that the last rounds didn't go well for the veterans.
Both matches were decided in round five. For Shirov, it was decided in a surprisingly negative way: with White he went down a well-known theoretical path to a perpetual check - he just gave up! This uncharacteristic move on his part sealed match victory for Giri, who did not return the favor in round 6. But we'll get back to that later. Timman-Jobava was much more exciting, with Timman offering a rook and then a knight in pursuit of an attack. It was creative; unfortunately, his best opportunities had come earlier in the game, and by this point Jobava had the advantage. He defended well enough and eventually converted his extra exchange.
In the final round, the youngsters won twice. Giri and Shirov engaged in a heavyweight theoretical battle in the Sveshnikov Sicilian. My surmise is that Giri had everything prepared until around move 30, by which point Shirov was simply lost. (That's not as implausible as you might think, considering that Shirov's novelty only came at move 25 in a very well-traveled line, and as that novelty was the computer's top choice there's little reason to think Giri hadn't examined it beforehand.) The youngster simply prepared better, and nowadays that can be enough. As for Timman, his 17...d5 was a dubious decision, inviting a strong exchange sacrifice. After that Timman could hope for no more than a draw if he could successfully grovel, and that was not to be.