Both Vladimir Kramnik and Boris Gelfand remain near the top of the heap of world chess, despite their both being north of 40 years of age, but the interviews compiled here they take opposing sides when it comes to the role of age in the ongoing Candidates' tournament. Which player took which side? I'll let you guess before looking it up, although since one of the two often refers to himself as a "pensioner" you can probably figure it out in advance. As for which of the two is correct, we'll have to wait and see.
Entries in Boris Gelfand (52)
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.
In this week's column I look at a pawn structure that "hit the big time" thanks to the great Akiba Rubinstein, and trace a little of its evolution to the present day.
24 of the 64 first-round matches in the 2015 Chess World Cup went to tiebreaks on Sunday, including some of the biggest names in chess. Alexander Grischuk, Dmitry Jakovenko and Boris Gelfand were among them, and all three had all they could bargain for and then some, even though none of them were facing grandmaster opposition. Both Grischuk and Jakovenko failed to win in the 25' + 10" games and 10' + 10" games, but both finally prevailed in the 5' + 3" blitz, winning both games. As for poor Gelfand, he was bounced in the first round of tiebreaks, losing badly with White in the second 25-minute game. His opponent, an almost-19-year-old Chilean IM named Cristobal Henriquez Villagra, won confidently. Will he build on this result, or was it a one-off result? We'll see; his next opponent is another very experienced grandmaster, Julio Granda Zuniga of Peru.
Another upset, but to my mind a minor one, saw another 2700-GM go down when Shanglei Lu defeated Alexander Moiseenko. Lu is a rising player and a great rapid and blitz player, so that's not so surprising. Lu's reward is to face his countryman Wang Hao in the next round. One other 2700 - and a former FIDE world champion through the knockout system - was bounced: Rustam Kasimdzhanov, to Canadian GM Anton Kovalyov in the final 5' + 3" game. All their previous games were drawn, but Kasimdzhanov almost lost the first blitz battle in a way that reminded me of one of my all-time luckiest wins.
Kasimdzhanov had the better position in a bishop ending, but lacked any clear winning plan. Kovalyov's bishop was completely paralyzed, but despite that he had what appeared to be (and probably was) simply a fortress. Kasimdzhanov made a bunch of meaningless moves to gain a little thinking time via the increments, but at a certain point got lost in thought and only just recovered, making a move with one second left on the clock. Something similar happened to me some years ago (which I mentioned on my blog at the time). I was defending the ending rook vs. queen (just those pieces and the kings; no pawns) against a good opponent (2140-something) who started the ending with only seven seconds on his clock, but with five-second time delay before each move. (A practice in the U.S. that isn't followed anywhere else, as far as I know, but I'm entirely open to correction on this matter.) Early in the ending my opponent spent five of his "real" seconds on a move, and then on the 25th move of the ending "accidentally" started thinking and lost on time. They say that human beings are not very good at multitasking, and occurrences like these seem to confirm this.
In fact, I had an experience like this on Kasimdzhanov's side as well - I've written about this one, too. In a game back in 1999, I believe, I was somewhere between much better and winning, but wasn't sure how to convert it into a full point. I had several minutes to make my final move of the time control, and fluctuated between several ideas, all the while aware of the clock as the minutes counted down. Then, at some point, I got sucked into the position and was fully concentrated, and when I made my move I did so calmly, as if it was just any normal situation in the game. When I did so, I looked at the clock, and noticed with horror (and perhaps relief, but only after I got over the shock) that I had done so with one second left on my clock. Thankfully, that's the only time that has happened to me in all the years I've been playing tournament chess.
Back to the World Cup! Women's #1 Hou Yifan won her match on tiebreaks against Rafael Leitao, thereby exceeding women's world champion Mariya Muzychuk's performance in the event. Amongst U.S. players, one won and one lost. Sam Sevian lost both 25-minute games to Teimour Radjabov, so he's out, while Alexander Onischuk went 1.5-.5 against Andrei Volokitin in the game/25 round to advance. Finally, one match made it all the way to the Armageddon game, and that was Gabriel Sargissian vs. Mateusz Bartel. Sargissian drew the Armageddon game with Black, and so he advanced.
Monday sees the start of round 2, and here are some of the notable pairings:
- Veselin Topalov - Sergei Zhigalko
- Wang Hao - Lu Shangeli (all-Chinese battle)
- Teimour Radjabov - Ilia Smirin
- Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu - Peter Svidler (both this match and the previous one pit current 2700s against former 2700s)
- Wesley So - Csaba Balogh
- Peter Leko - Wen Yang (a solid 2700 vs. one of the possibly seriously underrated Chinese players)
- Fabiano Caruana - Rauf Mamedov
- Anton Kovalyov - Sandro Mareco (a battle between two upset victors)
- Shakhriyar Mamedyarov - Hou Yifan (a huge test for the women's #1)
- S. P. Sethuraman - Pentala Harikrishna (an all-Indian battle)
- Sergei Karjakin - Alexander Onischuk
- Alexander Grischuk - Vladmir Fedoseev (an all-Russian battle)
- Sam Shankland - Hikaru Nakamura (an all-U.S. battle)
Boris Gelfand and Ding Liren are playing a 4-game match in Wenzhou, China. Game one finished in a draw earlier today; Gelfand had the white pieces in a Bayonet KID and seemed to have some initiative early on. Some minor slips let Black escape and even enjoy the better half of an ending with rooks and opposite-colored bishops. Ding really pushed Gelfand hard and came closer to winning than I thought he would in such an ending. After a long defense Gelfand finally saved the draw. Game 2 is tomorrow.
Incidentally, I didn't find the Chinese website above particularly easy to navigate, even after using Google's translator, so you might just make your life easier (unless you read Chinese, of course!) and go here or here.
I already devoured the book on the Forward Chess app; the hardcover version ships on Wednesday. It's great, buy it, and rejoice that this is the first volume of at least three books Boris Gelfand will write in whatever series this is supposed to be for Quality Chess.
There's an English translation of a TV interview with Boris Gelfand, and as the interview is substantive I recommend it as worth your time. Better still, the documentary film "The 61st Album" is available on that page, which looks at Gelfand's development as a player from his younger years, in part through the eyes of his doting father, and covers his very near miss in the world championship match with Viswanathan Anand in 2012 and its immediate aftermath. The film won an award, and rightly so. I very heartily recommend it, though I should point out that a couple of utterly unnecessary girlie pics make it potentially unsuitable for younger kids. (Better: just find that spot and skip over it.) That's a pity, as the movie could otherwise be watched by anyone of any age, and it is the kind of movie that could make for a great parent-child bonding experience. Anyway, that's obviously your decision to make, parents, but with that one minor caveat I recommend the film to chess player and non-chess player alike.
HT: David McCarthy
Until their simultaneous failure last round, either Fabiano Caruana or Boris Gelfand - or both - led the Baku Grand Prix, and I think that with the exception of round 3, no one else shared that lead with them. Coming into round 10 there was a six-way tie for first, and with Caruana in particular having lost two of his last three games it looked as if they had been swallowed up by the field.
Not so! Caruana and Gelfand both won in round 10, and while there were two other decisive results all of the players who entered the round tied with them finished it trailing them once more. Leinier Dominguez had White against Caruana, but played unsuccessfully in the English and soon found himself suffering in a position where Black dominated the dark squares while White suffered with a bad light-squared bishop. White was worse, but wasn't losing until he swapped rooks on move 26. He clearly wanted to open lines on the queenside for counterplay, but the end result was a vulnerable king. Caruana took speedy advantage, ensuring himself of at least a share of the lead while leaving Dominguez in the cellar.
Gelfand took on one of the co-leaders, Teimour Radjabov, and won very smoothly - too smoothly, perhaps. Radjabov eschewed his old favorite King's Indian and went into an Open Catalan, which is a Gelfand specialty. They followed a Kramnik-Radjabov game from their 2011 Candidates match, and although Radjabov produced the novelty on move 14 Gelfand was quickly better. Radjabov was clearly worse by move 19, and a further error on move 24 resulted in a 28 move win by the 2012 "vice-champion".
Sergey Karjakin and Peter Svidler entered the round tied for first, and both may have had their moments of optimism. For Karjakin, he was on the white side of a Ruy line that had scored 8.5/9; for Svidler - who of course improved on the earlier games - he obtained a dangerous kingside attack with the help of a piece sacrifice. Luckily for Karjakin, Svidler either missed something or underestimated his chances, and took a perpetual in a clearly better position.
Hikaru Nakamura was another leader who could only draw, not managing much on the white side of an Exchange Slav.
Evgeny Tomashevsky remained within half a point of the lead, making it a four-way tie behind Caruana and Gelfand, by defeating Dmitry Andreikin. The game was decided in what I assume was mutual time pressure, wherein Andreikin made more, and more severe, errors than his opponent. By the time they made the time control Tomashevsky was up three pawns for nothing, so Andreikin gave up on his 41st turn.
Finally, the game between Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Alexander Grischuk was won by the latter when the former FIDE champ underestimated Black's kingside play.
- Mamedyarov (4.5) - Kasimdzhanov (4.5)
- Radjabov (5) - Nakamura (5.5)
- Svidler (5.5) - Gelfand (6)
- Andreikin (4) - Karjakin (5.5)
- Caruana (6) - Tomashevsky (5.5)
- Grischuk (5) - Dominguez (3)