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    Entries in Candidates 2013 (20)

    Monday
    Apr012013

    Candidates Tournament, Final Round: Carlsen & Kramnik Both Lose; Carlsen Qualifies

    It was a final round suitable for April Fool's Day. Magnus Carlsen and Vladimir Kramnik entered the final round tied for first, but with Carlsen having "tie odds". If they finished the day on the same score, Carlsen would be declared the tournament winner and qualify for a title match with Viswanathan Anand (at this point scheduled to take place this November). With Carlsen having White against Peter Svidler, it was incumbent on Kramnik to take some risks with Black to try to defeat Vassily Ivanchuk.

    Of course, not all risks are created equal. Both the casino and the sucker who walks in with a system for picking "lucky numbers" are gambling, it's true. It would not violate any physical or mathematical laws if Mr. Lucky Numbers won every single game he played and eventually won the property; the odds against it, however, are so far beyond those used even for astronomical values that we can discount the possibility for all practical purposes. In reality, while Mr. LN could win some money with a little luck and the self-discipline to leave forever in that happy eventuality, the casino will always win in the long run. They are gambling on a hand-by-hand basis, but in the long run there's no gamble at all - they are essentially guaranteed to take the sucker's money.

    Why the digression? Well, in addition to wishing to offer the foregoing PSA, I thought it would be an entertaining way of expressing my feelings when I Kramnik uncorked 1...d6 in response to Chuky's 1.e4. Kramnik has been trying this on occasion the past few years, in blitz games, in desperate must-win situations and occasionally against comparatively weak players in classical games, but without much success. To my mind, the Pirc fits with neither his style nor his general repertoire over the past 20 years, and its employment struck me as a desperate and negatively foreboding sign.

    Sure enough, he came out of the opening in poor shape, while Carlsen, on the white side of a Ruy, didn't have a whole lot but didn't have anything to worry about, either. But then things started getting squirrely on both boards. Ivanchuk allowed Kramnik to coordinate somewhat, and then sacrificed a pawn, and then as a result Carlsen shifted from safe to risky mode against Svidler. He (Carlsen) criticized his decision to play Ng4 without first swapping on e5; had he made the preliminary exchange he felt that it would be a position he couldn't (normally) lose. Without the trade, however, the position turned extremely complicated, and Svidler did a better job of navigating those complications. By the end of the first time control - which Carlsen made with just three seconds to spare - Svidler's position was winning.

    So three cheers for Kramnik and his "miraculous" comeback? Not so fast. Perhaps getting a little optimistic about the favorable trend in his game, and a little nervous about what was going on in Carlsen's battle, he decided not to be satisfied with keeping his finally decent position, but somehow got confused and mixed bad activity (the pawn sac with ...h4 in particular) and passive play on the queenside. The result? Once they too made the time control, he (Kramnik) was just as lost as Carlsen.

    Both Svidler and Ivanchuk finished their mighty opponents off, leaving Carlsen victorious on tiebreaks, based on his having won more games than Kramnik. Svidler, and Levon Aronian too, thanks to a nice finish against Teimour Radjabov, finished just half a point behind the "winners", and may join in Kramnik in thoughts of what might have been, had a break here or there gone otherwise. Further off the pace, Boris Gelfand and Alexander Grischuk drew their game, and finished tied for fifth and sixth.

    Final Standings:

    1. Carlsen 8.5
    2. Kramnik 8.5
    3-4. Svidler, Aronian 8 (I believe Svidler took third on tiebreaks, for whatever that's worth)
    5-6. Grischuk, Gelfand 6.5
    7. Ivanchuk 6
    8. Radjabov 4

    Sunday
    Mar312013

    Candidates Tournament, Round 13: Carlsen Wins, Catches Kramnik And Has Tiebreak Odds For The Last Round

    My physical condition is roughly the same (maybe a bit better in certain respects, but maybe worse in another), so I'm afraid I'm going to offer an even more cursory report than I did for the last round. So let's get on with it while I can.

    Vladimir Kramnik entered the round half a point ahead of Magnus Carlsen, and scheduled for White while Carlsen was due Black (not against each other). Nevertheless, I felt that today's pairings presented a better opportunity for Carlsen, and that's just how things turned out. Kramnik pressed hard against his long-time friend (or at least very friendly colleague) Boris Gelfand and seemed close to a win at times, but Gelfand's resourceful counterattacking defense with his rooks enabled him to save the game. (For theory-watchers, Kramnik's 5.e3 was a fascinating new move (at least new to this level), and Gelfand was very complimentary about the idea and in his respect for Kramnik's ability to find new opening concepts. Gelfand offered a remark to the effect that in recent years, Kramnik may have come up with more new ideas than the rest of us combined.

    I'm sure the compliment was appreciated, but the bottom line is that Kramnik didn't get what he needed today, and now his fate is out of his hands. Carlsen had virtually nothing against Teimour Radjabov for a long time, but (especially) given Radjabov's last-place status and his self-admitted lack of confidence, Carlsen was entirely justified in playing on and hoping something would turn up. As it so often happens with Carlsen's opponents, something did, and after 89 moves and almost seven hours of play, Carlsen had pulled off the win.

    This leaves Carlsen and Kramnik tied for first, but due to the unfortunate decision to use tiebreaks rather than a playoff, and the further (to my mind unfortunate) fact that the tiebreak that will settle things in this case is "most wins" (why not "fewest losses?" But let me emphasize that I think both are lousy - use a playoff!), it means that if Carlsen defeats Peter Svidler tomorrow (Carlsen will have the white pieces), he wins the event no matter what Kramnik does. Kramnik will have Black against Vassily Ivanchuk, which makes for a pretty random situation. Ivanchuk has had a lot of disasters in this tournament, many of them self-inflicted, but he has also won his last two games with White - including round 12 against Carlsen.

    For completeness' sake: Svidler defeated Ivanchuk in good style, while Alexander Grischuk and Levon Aronian drew, resulting in the latter's mathematical elimination from the race for first.

    Standings After Round 13:

    • 1-2. Carlsen, Kramnik 8.5
    • 3-4. Aronian, Svidler 7
    • 5-6. Grischuk, Gelfand 6
    • 7. Ivanchuk 5
    • 8. Radjabov 4

    Last Round Pairings:

    • Carlsen - Svidler
    • Ivanchuk - Kramnik
    • Gelfand - Grischuk
    • Aronian - Radjabov

    Tournament website here.

    Friday
    Mar292013

    Candidates' Tournament, Round 12: Kramnik Beats Aronian, Ivanchuk Beats Carlsen; Kramnik Leads!

    What a round! Magnus Carlsen had been in first place at the Candidates', either shared or alone, from round 4, and he entered today's round with a half point lead over Vladimir Kramnik and a full point ahead of Levon Aronian. With White against the erratic, self-destructive Vassily Ivanchuk he seemed well situated to increase his lead, especially with Kramnik having the black pieces against Aronian.

    Instead, another "miracle" happened - or two. Kramnik came up with a fascinating plan with 10...f5 in a typical IQP position, and it looked good enough to equalize. Practically, it was even better. Aronian's best choice at a certain moment early on was to force a draw by repetition (starting with 15.Bxb5 f4, as I recall), but in his tournament situation that would have been hard to do. So he played on and was worse, but soon the board exploded with tactics. Kramnik made an error that could have allowed Aronian to escape with a draw, but missed it. Instead of finding that move - 21.Ne5 - Aronian played 21.e4?, and Kramnik was very ready for that one. A very nice tactical sequence left Kramnik with a probably winning technical endgame...but again Kramnik slipped. Aronian had several ways to draw the resulting piece-down ending (all based on the wrong-colored bishop + rook pawn combination), but when he played 50.g6?? his last chance was gone. It's hard to know what was going on in Aronian's mind, but it looks as if he was trying to win. It's tough to balance fighting spirit and self-preservation, and in this case Aronian chose wrongly - especially as it was clear by this point that Carlsen would have to struggle to draw.

    Turning to that game, Carlsen played the opening poorly with White and was slightly worse. After Ivanchuk's odd 18...a5, however, Carlsen equalized, but then by the end of the first time control Chuky, with Black, was again somewhat better. Still, it wasn't clear for a long time what the result should be, and not only due to the ever-present concern that Ivanchuk would do something completely insane. This time around, he didn't, and when Carlsen failed to maintain his usual insanely high level of technical prowess the Ukranian great managed to convert his material advantage. Overall, Ivanchuk played very well, while Carlsen immediately labeled his play "absolutely disgraceful."

    Thanks to that loss, and Kramnik's remarkable run in the second cycle (4.5/5; three in a row) it is now Kramnik who leads by half a point, with Carlsen in second and Aronian a point and a half behind with two rounds to go. Tomorrow is the rest day, and then they finish up on Easter Sunday and Monday. Before giving the full standings and pairings for the last two rounds, a quick note about the other two games, games which could in fact prove very important.

    Boris Gelfand and Peter Svidler drew a game without fireworks, but that looked like a model squeeze by Gelfand before the inaccurate 32.Qa7. According to Svidler, 32.Qb3, maintaining the squeeze, would have kept an enduring advantage based on the bishop pair and the possibility of b4-b5. Teimour Radjabov-Alexander Grischuk was also drawn, and as in the Gelfand-Svidler game White may have missed an opportunity for more. Nothing much happened until 40...h5, but that was a serious error allowing White to target Black's f-pawn after 41.h4. Maybe 43.Rxf5+ would have given Radjabov better winning chances than 43.Bxf5; as it was, Grischuk had to wriggle before reaching the theoretically drawn ending with a rook against a rook and f- and h-pawns.

    Why were these games important? The answer is that the tournament regulations have a very unfortunate provision for settling a first-place tie: tiebreaks! This is the second-most important event in the chess calendar, behind only the world championship itself, and the geniuses at FIDE are going to allow the challenger's identity to be decided by which player won more games, or how the tailender does in the last round against the next-to-last placed finisher. This is just insane, especially as plenty of far less prestigious events run playoffs in case of a tie.

    About the games: I managed to goof my back up (for the second straight year; let's hope this doesn't become a tradition!), so for now I can't sit long enough to work up an in-depth analysis of the games. If things improve I may try to make up for it tomorrow, during the rest day; otherwise, my apologies.

    Standings After Round 12:

    1. Kramnik 8
    2. Carlsen 7.5
    3. Aronian 6.5
    4. Svidler 6
    5-6. Grischuk, Gelfand 5.5
    7. Ivanchuk 5
    8. Radjabov 4

    Round 13 Pairings (Sunday):

    • Radjabov - Carlsen (Clearly a big opportunity for Carlsen to bounce right back.)
    • Grischuk - Aronian (Will Aronian burn his bridges trying to stay alive, or just play "correct" chess?)
    • Kramnik - Gelfand (Gelfand has traditionally matched up well with Kramnik, and rarely loses games to him at a classical time control.)
    • Svidler - Ivanchuk

    Round 14 Pairings (Monday):

    • Carlsen - Svidler
    • Ivanchuk - Kramnik (Will Ivanchuk rise to the occasion again, or (indirectly) harm Carlsen a second time?)
    • Gelfand - Grischuk
    • Aronian - Radjabov
    Thursday
    Mar282013

    Candidates Tournament, Round 11: Kramnik Wins, Aronian Loses, Carlsen Continues to Lead

    Magnus Carlsen is still in front in the Candidates' tournament, but with three rounds to go a resurgent Vladimir Kramnik is hot on his heels. Carlsen got an easy draw with Black against Alexander Grischuk (not that it was necessarily his aim before the game), and then waited to see if Levon Aronian would catch him or if Kramnik would draw nearer.

    In the case of Aronian, he self-destructed in a slightly worse position with the wild 22...g5 and the follow-up error 23...b5. The idea behind 22...g5 was interesting but way too optimistic. Peter Svidler was able to capitalize pretty easily, and as a result Aronian's chances for first took a big hit. For Vladimir Kramnik, however, the round was a boon to his prospects. He defeated the crumbling Teimour Radjabov, getting Radjabov to fall into a nasty trap in the latter's time pressure. Kramnik has scored 3.5/4 in the second cycle, and the difference is in part a more pragmatic approach. In the first cycle he played completely "correctly" but failed to maximize his chances; this time around he's being a bit more tricky, and the points are dropping in his lap. Now Kramnik is just half a point behind Carlsen, and his game with Aronian tomorrow will be of huge importance.

    The other game was a lame 17-move draw by repetition between Vassily Ivanchuk and Boris Gelfand. Lame, but understandable: for Ivanchuk, who had White, the tournament has been a disaster, so getting it over with makes sense. Gelfand is out of the running for first, so a quick draw with Black makes sense for him too. (Things could have been very different for Gelfand, though. He was outplayed by Carlsen yesterday, but before that he had won his last two games and had winning positions in the two games before that!)

    The games, with my comments, are here. And now for the standings and pairings:

    1. Carlsen 7.5
    2. Kramnik 7
    3. Aronian 6.5
    4. Svidler 5.5
    5-6. Gelfand, Grischuk 5
    7. Ivanchuk 4
    8. Radjabov 3.5

    Round 12 Pairings:

    • Carlsen - Ivanchuk (clearly a big opportunity for Carlsen; better still, he gets Radjabov next round)
    • Gelfand - Svidler
    • Aronian - Kramnik (whichever player finishes the round without at least 7.5 points can kiss his chances goodbye)
    • Radjabov - Grischuk
    Wednesday
    Mar272013

    Candidates Tournament, Round 10: Carlsen Remains In Clear First After All Leaders Win

    It's often Magnus Carlsen who turns up the "lucky" winner, but today he has grounds for annoyance if anyone does. He won a nice game with White in a Rossolimo Sicilian against Boris Gelfand. Maybe not a perfect game, but one that was clear and convincing. That assured him of remaining in clear first with four rounds remaining at the Candidates' tournament in London, but the margin is small.

    Levon Aronian is just half a point back, thanks to another patented time trouble-induced suicide by Vassily Ivanchuk. Ivanchuk played the Budapest Defense and achieved a good game, but he played so slowly that he managed to lose on time making his 30th move. By then the position had been ruined, but while he had played too riskily given his time situation he was still objectively equal after Aronian's 28th move.

    Vladimir Kramnik was also the recipient of a time trouble-induced gift. Alexander Grischuk went into the Berlin ending, and without being well-prepared. Kramnik enjoyed the very, very slightly better chances, but the game was headed for a draw when Kramnik played 27...Bf5. Objectively this is a terrible move, as it turned a slightly better position into one that would require almost a "miracle" (Kramnik's favorite word when his opponents save difficult positions against him) for him to hold - but only if Grischuk made the right decision on move 30. Grischuk was fully aware of the correct option, but happily for Kramnik thought that the move played, 30.Bxd4(??), was the simplest way to hold the draw. Unfortunately for him, it lost in elementary fashion (at least it's elementary when one has a little more time than Grischuk did to calculate things). The right move was 30.Ke3, after which Black must play very accurately not to lose! (In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if my analysis is flawed and Kramnik is losing that ending.)

    Kramnik was rolling the dice, and given the tournament situation it was the right thing to do. His chances aren't very good a point behind with four rounds to play, but to catch up from a point and a half back would require a...miracle.

    The fourth game was a bit embarrassing but understandable, a 21-move draw (by repetition, to avoid the tournament's 30-move rule) between Teimour Radjabov and Peter Svidler. Radjabov certainly could have played on, but in clear last place coming into the round he's clearly interested in putting this tournament behind him without suffering any further damage.

    The games, with my notes, can be replayed here (and as ChessBase has deigned to fix their server you can finally see my analysis of the round 9 games as well).

    Standings After Round 10:

    1. Carlsen 7
    2. Aronian 6.5
    3. Kramnik 6
    4-6. Gelfand, Grischuk, Svidler 4.5
    7-8. Radjabov, Ivanchuk 3.5

    Round 11 Pairings:

     

    • Grischuk - Carlsen
    • Kramnik - Radjabov
    • Svidler - Aronian
    • Ivanchuk - Gelfand

     

    Tuesday
    Mar262013

    Candidates Tournament, Round 9: Gelfand Beats Aronian, While Carlsen Holds Off Kramnik And Leads

    With five rounds to go, Magnus Carlsen finished today's round of the Candidates with a double dose of good news. First, though under serious pressure from Vladimir Kramnik, he managed to survive a pawn down to keep a full point lead over the ex-champion. Second, Levon Aronian, with whom he (Carlsen) was tied coming into the round, lost to Boris Gelfand. That leaves Carlsen in clear first with three white games left and no more games against his main rivals. Good news for him, and bad news for Aronian and Kramnik.

    In the other games, Vassily Ivanchuk played more quickly against Teimour Radjabov, and was rewarded with his first win of the tournament. Finally, the game between Peter Svidler and Alexander Grischuk was a spectacular draw that was far more interesting (if less competitively significant) than the Kramnik-Carlsen and Gelfand-Aronian battles. You can check it out, with my notes, here.

    Standings After Round 9:

    1. Carlsen 6
    2. Aronian 5.5
    3. Kramnik 5
    4-5. Gelfand, Grischuk 4.5
    6. Svidler 4
    7. Ivanchuk 3.5
    8. Radjabov 3

    Round 10 Pairings (Wednesday; Tuesday is a rest day):

     

    • Carlsen - Gelfand (Gelfand is 2-0 this cycle; but 3-0?)
    • Aronian - Ivanchuk (Also interesting, now that Ivanchuk seems to have realized that practicality has its place.)
    • Radjabov - Svidler
    • Grischuk - Kramnik (Kramnik is rapidly running out of opportunities, and may have to take some risks with the black pieces.)

     

    Sunday
    Mar242013

    Candidates Tournament, Round 8: Kramnik, Grischuk and Gelfand Win

    The second cycle of the Candidates' tournament got underway, and with a bang. This round reprised the pairings from round 1 (with colors reversed), and with very different results. In round 1 all the games were drawn, but this time only the battle between the leaders, Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian, finished peacefully. Carlsen generally tries to create open-ended play out of the opening, but for once he failed in that respect. Aronian was able to kill the play on the black side of an Open Catalan, and so they remain tied for first.

    Their lead shrunk to a full point in the wake of Vladimir Kramnik's win over Peter Svidler. They have had many battles in the Exchange Gruenfeld over the years, with Kramnik winning a pretty fair percentage with the white pieces. White's most obvious advantage in the Exchange Variation is his mass of central pawns, and in this game Kramnik was able to use it to squeeze Svidler into submission.

    Alexander Grischuk defeated Vassily Ivanchuk in a rather sad game. Ivanchuk was doing fine over the board up until the very end, but once again got into desperate - and needless - time trouble and flagged. This was Grischuk's first win in the event, and it brought him back to 50%.

    Boris Gelfand also won his first game of the event, making it back to a -1 score. He thoroughly and speedily outplayed Teimour Rajdabov with the black pieces, finishing in crushing style.

    The games can be replayed here, with my comments.

    Standings After Round 8 (of 14):

    1-2. Carlsen, Aronian 5.5
    3. Kramnik 4.5
    4. Grischuk 4
    5-6. Svidler, Gelfand 3.5
    7. Radjabov 3
    8. Ivanchuk 2.5

    Round 9 Pairings:

    • Kramnik - Carlsen
    • Svidler - Grischuk
    • Ivanchuk - Radjabov
    • Gelfand - Aronian

    Sunday
    Mar242013

    Candidates Tournament, Round 7: Carlsen, Aronian Lead at the Halfway Point (Updated!)

    I was away all day on a coaching trip, but IM and computer scientist Ken Regan very graciously agreed to fill in for me today. His comments on the round - especially on the game between Magnus Carlsen and Teimour Radjabov follow, and then below that I'll add a few comments tidying everything up. I hope everyone enjoys his commentary and his further remarks to Carlsen-Radjabov in the replayable games section, linked to below. Ken has been a real boon to both this blog and its blogger alike, and it's a privilege to have him help out. Thanks, Ken!

    The scoreboard says four draws, so Levon Aronian and Magnus Carlsen maintain their 1.5-point lead on the rest of the field.  Of course the concept of "joint leader" in this event is ultimately hollow, for only one can emerge as the challenger for the world title held by Viswanathan Anand.

    What the scoreboard doesn't say is that Aronian could have had the lead, even a full-point lead, all to himself at this halfway point. Aronian verged on domination before Alexander Grischuk simplified enough to reach a draw, while the favorite Carlsen clipped several gates on his way to a nervous draw with White against Teimour Radjabov.  At which gates could he have been taken for a tumble? That's the main question to engage us with our own chess boards---and computers and/or minds, pick'em---after the play is over.

    While thinking of themes for this guest post even before the clocks started, I mused on the idea that in every window when you are following the action on ICC or Playchess or Chessdom or other sites, at least four separate games are going on.  They are:

    1. the game being played by the human White, 2. the game being played by the human Black, 3. the game being played by the computer in the analysis window, and 4. the game being played by you while viewing.

    There also may be the game as seen by a live commentator.  I was following on Chessdom, where Canadian IM Aman Hambleton supplied comments on Carlsen-Radjabov in excellent prose that explained strategy and variations at perfect picth for the audience.  I myself had time only to throw in one comment in the separate chat window, before leaving to attend an early afternoon concert.  But this is enough to illustrate the differences among all four different games.

    In all four games, Carlsen played the early Rossolimo Sicilian trade 1.e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 e6 4. Bxc6 used by Anand in last year's match against Boris Gelfand, whose complexity gives much latitude for outplaying the opponent in a fashion Carlsen has trademarked. Radjabov allowed 7. e5 and 8. exd6 splitting Black's pawns, but seems to have done his homework, as he mobilized his center and pointed his pieces Kingside in a forthright manner.  Then came a phase that struck me in "my" game as nervous: 12..Be6, 13...Qe7 (awkwardly defending c5 under fire from the Rook on e1), 14...Rad8, 15...Bc8 (going back), 16...f4 (again forced to defend c5 and weakening), and 17...Kh8.  I thought Carlsen was all set up to win his game, but Radjabov's shuffle made it possible for his game to begin with 18...Bg4!

    Carlsen admitted in the press conference that he underestimated the frank strategy 19...Bxf3! 20. Qxf3 Nh4 21. Qe4 f3 22. g3 Ng2!, partly under the hallucination that 23. Rd1 Qe6 24. Kh1 Qh3 25. Rg1 threatened 26. Rxg2 protected by the Queen on e4.  This makes me wonder what game he was playing---but I myself have "seen" brilliant combos ending with Ng6+ intending to meet ...Kg8 by Bh7+.  The Houdini analysis window was less nervous---it was showing evaluations consistently near 0 (even game) right up until suddenly agreeging with Hambleton and liking Black after 21...f3 was played. Meanwhile, however, I was fixated on the problem of Black's blocked and lifeless Bishop on d6, even making a crack comment that it was just a big pawn.

    How does all this come together for the game?  After Carlsen's decision to jettison the Exchange and bring the other Knight back for defense with 23.Nc3, Radjabov concentrated on a strategy to further the Kingside pressure and open up that side with 23...Qe6(?!) 24.Re3 Nxe3 25.fxe3 f2+(?).  He was quite set in the conference that he needed to do this to avoid a blockade with Nd1-f2 and felt he should win---underestimating Carlsen's later retreat 29.Qh1! which kept everything covered.  But I (and Houdini) think the best chance was missed at move 23: 23...Nxe1 24.Qxe1 Bc7! to follow with 25...Ba5 and trade the awful Bishop off!  Then I think White will just be flattened by the pressure and pawn on f3.

    Neither player noted this, and the only place I've found it mentioned so far is in comments at http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1713445&kpage=20, player DcGentle.  After 29.Qh1 I think White is holding pretty comfortably, but perhaps others will find tries for Black.

    [UPDATE: Ken has added remarks on the other games as well, and the replayable games now include comments to all four games.]

    Levon Aronian's game was another case of differing perceptions.  I thought Black was positionally awful around Move 19, but Black does have a Kingside activity plan, and Aronian as White felt obliged to blow the center open first with a pawn sac.  I don't think it gave chances as strong as some other annotators seem to believe, however.  Gelfand's game with Kramnik featured a double mistake at Move 18-19, and I haven't yet looked for the explanation in what resumed being a fairly chanceless draw.  Ivanchuk-Svidler may be important for Scotch Opening theory but stayed dynamically balanced.

    Back to DM. Here are the standings after round 7 - the end of the first of two cycles:

    1-2. Carlsen, Aronian 5
    3-4. Kramnik, Svidler 3.5
    5-6. Grischuk, Radjabov 3
    7-8. Ivanchuk, Gelfand 2.5

    Next up, the round 8 pairings:

     

    • Carlsen - Aronian (the battle of the leaders)
    • Radjabov - Gelfand
    • Grischuk - Ivanchuk
    • Kramnik - Svidler

     

    Finally, the tournament website is here, while the games can be replayed here - now with notes to all four games.

    Friday
    Mar222013

    Candidates Tournament, Round 6: Carlsen, Aronian Win and Extend Their Lead

    Going into the second rest day of the 2013 Candidates' tournament in London, the tournament is quickly becoming a tournament of haves and have-nots. Near the end of the first half, there are two "haves": Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian, both of whom sport impressive +3 scores (4.5-1.5). Aside from them, no one else even has a plus score. Eight rounds remain, so the tournament is not over by any means, but the clock is certainly ticking on the rest of the field.

    Both of the leaders won today. Carlsen outplayed Peter Svidler in impressive fashion on the black side of a Ruy Lopez. As is sometimes the case in his games, he didn't seem to do anything amazing, but the result was the speedy demise of a great player and Ruy specialist who had seemed in good form in the preceding rounds. Such is chess in the Carlsen era. Meanwhile, Aronian overcame Teimour Radjabov, also winning with the black pieces. This game was roughly balanced for a long time, and although it was Aronian who did most of the pushing Radjabov was almost never in any serious trouble in the game. Exhaustion may have played a role in the end, when in a very tenable position Radjabov committed an outright blunder and resigned almost immediately afterwards.

    Vladimir Kramnik has been playing good and interesting chess, and has been close to a win in several games. Today he went into sacrifice mode against Vassily Ivanchuk, first giving up a pawn, then an exchange, and then a piece for a pawn - the latter two sacrifices for the sake of a kingside attack. Ivanchuk burned lots of time, but defended perfectly, and after 27 moves Kramnik was faced with a fascinating decision. He could take a perpetual check (or something close enough to it), or try to play on. Ivanchuk had just over a minute left at that point to make 13 moves; the problem for Kramnik is that declining the perpetual wouldn't result in a murky position but a lost one. He looked for a long time to find some way to keep the game going without excessive risk, but he couldn't and took the right decision, painful though it clearly was to him. Six games, six draws for Kramnik.

    Alexander Grischuk blundered a pawn in the early middlegame against Boris Gelfand, but although the latter had an advantage he objectively should have won with, he made a few errors - some even after the time control - and Grischuk escaped with a draw. The players are fighting hard, but some early signs of tiredness are seeping in. Hopefully the rest day is just what they need.

    The games, with my notes, are here. Meanwhile, here are the standings in Noah's Ark after six rounds:

    1-2. Carlsen, Aronian 4.5
    3-4. Kramnik, Svidler 3
    5-6. Grischuk, Radjabov 2.5
    7-8. Ivanchuk, Gelfand 2

    Finally, here are the round 7 pairings, for this Saturday:

    • Carlsen - Radjabov
    • Aronian - Grischuk
    • Gelfand - Kramnik
    • Ivanchuk - Svidler

    Thursday
    Mar212013

    Candidates Tournament, Round 5: Four Draws and Many Missed Opportunities

    Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian continue to lead the Candidates' tournament after five rounds, but they could have found themselves in a four- or even five-way tie for first, or even in a three- (of four-) way tie for second half a point behind Peter Svidler.

    Carlsen chose a dubious move in the Gruenfeld and quickly got into trouble against Vassily Ivanchuk. Twice, in fact, but both times his choice of active defense enabled him to avoid falling into disastrous danger. Ivanchuk was better almost from A to Z, but maybe never quite enough to say that he should have won.

    The same cannot be said of Vladimir Kramnik, who missed an outright winner on move 24 and had Aronian on the ropes in the endgame as well. This was a huge opportunity for Kramnik, and against one of his main rivals. So far he has not made the most of his opportunities in the tournament, and it's starting to get a little late for him to make a push.

    Svidler, on the other hand, could have joined the leaders with a win (or even leapfrogged them had they lost), and he had victory in his hands. Boris Gelfand badly botched the opening, and Svidler had an overwhelming position: a great center, beautiful bishops, and a ready-made attack against Gelfand's king. Somehow he let all of it slip, and near the end he was even in some danger of losing. (23.e6? was a particularly damaging move.) Some (very) resourceful defense and a missed opportunity by Gelfand finally let him escape with a draw.

    Finally, Teimour Radjabov, like Kramnik, could have caught the leaders with a win, had both of them lost, and towards the end of his game with Alexander Grischuk he started to get some (slight) chances. Most of the way though, he was in some trouble; lost, in Grischuk's mind.

    The games, with my notes, can be replayed here.

    Standings:

    1-2. Carlsen, Aronian 3.5
    3. Svidler 3
    4-5. Kramnik, Radjabov 2.5
    6. Grischuk 2
    7-8. Gelfand, Ivanchuk 1.5

    Round 6 Pairings:

    • Svidler - Carlsen
    • Kramnik - Ivanchuk
    • Grischuk - Gelfand
    • Radjabov - Aronian