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    Entries in Dortmund 2012 (11)

    Sunday
    Jul222012

    Dortmund 2012: Caruana, Karjakin Tie For First

    And so another edition of Dortmund comes to a close, and for a change Vladimir Kramnik was not the winner. (He came close and had his chances, but for now he's "stuck" at 10 wins there.) Officially, the title goes to Fabiano Caruana for having more wins than Sergey Karjakin (I'm not sure why that should be a tiebreaker - it's far from obvious that it's intrinsically better to have a win and a loss than a pair of draws - but no one asked me!), but the two both won their last-round games and finished with identical 6-3 scores.

    Caruana's game was in fact the first to finish. Against Mateusz Bartel he chose his favorite, the Gruenfeld, and Bartel replied with the Rb1/Be2 line, but with 11.Qd2 rather than the more enterprising (but deeply worked-out) 11.Bd2. Teimour Radjabov had played 11.Qd2 against Caruana at the Tal Memorial earlier this year and obtained an overwhelming advantage, so Bartel must have been hoping for a little of that action himself. Obviously Caruana had prepared, however, and varied with 12...e6 from his earlier 12...Rd8.

    On move 15, 15.Bb4 is both more popular and more successful in the database than Bartel's 15.Rc7 (played after nine minutes), but there haven't been any high-level tests of either move. (I note that Houdini 2 prefers 15.Bb4 as well, but prefers the untested 15.Rfe1 as its #1 choice.) The engine isn't enamored by Bartel's 16th move either; essentially, the bottom line in this variation is that White's pieces look like they're swarming all over Black's position, but Black always has sufficient resources - not to mention an extra pawn and targets on d4 and a2.

    White's 18th move was inaccurate as well, according to the oracle; it prefers 18.Be7 Re8 19.Bb5 Nc6 20.Bxc6 Bxc6 21.Nxf7 Rec8 22.Rxc8+ Rxc8 23.Nd6 Rc7 24.Rc1 Rxe7 25.Rxc6, "thinking" that after 25...Bxd4 Black's extra pawn will be difficult-to-impossible to exploit. Bartel's 18.Bb5 (still in the databases) cost him 12 minutes, but he was still following a couple of old (1996 and 2000) correspondence games. Only after Bartel's 23rd move did they reach new ground, and by then Bartel was clearly worse, and his new move was a disimprovement. Black was winning, and with perfect play Caruana finished him off after just 27 moves.

    That guaranteed that Kramnik could not join in a tie for first, but he still finished on a high note, crushing Georg Meier with a mating attack. (Very sportingly, Meier allowed Kramnik to deliver the mate - not everyone would do that, especially when his king is sitting on d5!) An English turned into a Semi-Tarrasch where White had the isolated d-pawn; a structure which saw Kramnik win a string of beautiful games (including two over Anand) around the turn of the century. Meier played an unusual move, 11...Nde7, and Kramnik invited him to go pawn-grabbing.

    Maybe Meier should have played the circumspect 16...Qe7, because 16...e5(?) gives the knight access to d5, opens the Bc4's diagonal and doesn't even inconvenience the Bc7 because of f4. Maybe 20...Qg5 would have minimized the damage, and on move 23 Meier had to give up the exchange. 23...Re8 is simply a blunder, but one that will live on for a few generations of tactics anthologies. Kramnik played the remaining 10 moves with the accuracy of a computer, and delivered the aforementioned mate.

    Now let's turn to the event's co-winner, Sergey Karjakin. Jan Gustafsson played the Caro-Kann against him, which is a double surprise: "Gusti" is renowned as a 1...e5 specialist, while Karjakin has a tremendous track record of bludgeoning the Caro-Kann with the Advance Variation. As it turns out, both players abstained from e5, as Karjakin chose the Classical lines with 3.Nc3. The players were in well-worn territory for a long time, though 17.Be3 isn't as usual as 17.Ne5.

    Gustafsson's 18...Nf6 was a new move and a tacit draw offer, but obviously with first place on the line, the white pieces and a big rating edge that wasn't going to happen. After 19.Ne5, it looks like Karjakin was gifted with a better version of the 17.Ne5 line, as the bishop is more usefully tucked away on c1 - on d2 it blocks the d-pawn's defense by the rook. After 17.Ne5 Qe4 White doesn't play 18.Qf1, as Black can safely take on d4. Here, 20.Qf1 was perfectly sensible, and White gained a useful tempo a little later with 21.f3.

    Gustafsson's 21...Qh7 was another questionable decision. It's a nice diagonal and the queen helps secure the kingside - maybe - but White enjoyed a significant edge occupying the abandoned center. The final consequential error was 26...f5. Black desperately wanted some activity for his pieces, but White's pieces were better prepared for an open position. A catastrophe quickly ensued on g7, and Black did not make it to the time control.

    Ruslan Ponomariov seemed a likely candidate to join the tie for first, with White against Daniel Fridman, but it was not to be. They were in new territory in a Tartakower QGD as early as move 13, as they reached a normal position but where White had gotten in e3 for free. (Fridman apparently thought this was a neutral change or maybe slightly detrimental to White's prospects.) The play sharpened when Black played 18...dxc4, creating serious pawn majorities for both sides. 18...bxc4 was safe and easy, but Fridman showed some ambition at this point. 19...b4 was another sharp decision, enabling White to eliminate Black's majority at the cost of an exchange - but when one side gets two pawns for the exchange can we really speak of the "cost"?

    The question was whether White could succeed in advancing his central majority. Ponomariov managed to push a pawn to d7, but at the cost of his a-pawn, and with Fridman's a-pawn on the loose he wisely decided to force Fridman to force a perpetual. (The "alternative" was 29.Qc6, but only the most naive computer user could consider this a real winning try. Black makes what are generally obvious moves and it's still dead even: 29...a3 30.Qc5 Qd2 31.Qxa3 Qd1+ 32.Kg2 Qd5+ 33.f3 Rb8 [of course not 33...Qxb5?? 34.Qxf8+ with an extra queen now, after 34...Kh7 35.d8Q, or inevitably, in the winning pawn ending after 34...Qe8 35.Qxe8+ and so on] 34.Qa6 Rd8 35.Qc8 Qa2+ etc.)

    Finally, two of pre-round co-leaders faced off in the battle between Arkadij Naiditsch and Peter Leko. As if to make up for Karjakin-Gustafsson, they played an Advance Caro-Kann; amusingly, Naiditsch's 8.Na3 was preferred by Leko himself last year against Roiz, as opposed to 8.dxc5 as chosen by Karjakin against Grischuk and Carlsen (also last year). Leko deviated from Roiz's play with 11...d3, and Naiditsch's 12.b4 was a new move. White wound up with an extra pawn, but his unwieldy mass on the queenside and the ...a5 break kept the chances balanced.

    The assessment remained equal throughout, but not for want of trying or a lack of imbalances in the position. In the end, Naiditsch had decimated Black's queenside, but Black's counterplay led to a fairly simple but spectacular perpetual check combination that saw Leko sac a bishop, then the exchange and then a rook. (One might joke that Leko's drawing mojo is so powerful he can draw even when he's two rooks down!)

    So that brings this edition of the Dortmund super-tournament to a close, one of the hardest-fought I can recall. Here are the final standings:

    1-2. Caruana, Karjakin 6 (of 9)
    3-6. Ponomariov, Naiditsch, Leko, Kramnik 5.5
    7. Meier 4
    8. Fridman 3.5
    9. Bartel 2
    10. Gustafsson 1.5

    Saturday
    Jul212012

    Dortmund 2012, Round 8: A Five-Way Tie For First With One Round To Go

    Sadly, a 10-way tie for first won't be possible at the 2012 edition of Dortmund, but a 6-way tie is a theoretical possibility!

    Recapping today's action, let's start with the draws. Daniel Fridman played a fun gambit line of the Catalan against Arkadij Naiditsch. After 10 moves he had sacrificed three pawns, then "lent" a knight and gave away a further exchange to boot. It was a known position, but it's still startling to see White down a rook, knight and pawn after 15 moves, and only able to immediately recapture a bishop. However, the players were just following a game Miroshnichenko (2684) - Kasimdzhanov (2699) from the Turkish Team Championship in 2010, and the first new move was 18.Qb6. Inevitably the position clarified with White finishing up a pawn down for good compensation, and Naiditsch found a nice solution on move 24, sacrificing the exchange for a pawn. That broke White's control of the position and led to an easily drawn ending, putting Naiditsch at 5/8.

    Also at five points is Sergey Karjakin, who drew in a Slow Slav against Georg Meier. Most of the board was locked up by pawn chains, but with a bit more space Meier tried to engineer a breakthrough. First he tried the kingside, and that led to the exchange of all the heavy pieces; then he switched to the queenside, but without success.

    Now for the wins. The speediest win came when Peter Leko defeated Mateusz Bartel with White in a "Poisoned Pawn" Winawer. (I have no idea why it's called that, except that people lazily refer to any capture of a knight's pawn by the queen in the opening as a "poisoned pawn". No matter that White's queen is soon on d3 and completely safe, or that it grabs a second pawn as well. Apparently the g-pawn is "poisoned" but the h-pawn isn't.) Bartel's decision to go into this line was interesting, as he generally meets 3.Nc3 in the French with 3...Nf6, and on the four occasions in the database when he was faced with the position after 3...Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 he had opted for 7...Kf8. Perhaps he was influenced by Leko's round 4 game with Caruana, which was also a Winawer. Leko-Bartel continued 7...Ne7 8.Qxg7 Rg8 9.Qxh7 cxd4 10.Ne2 dxc3 11.f4 Nbc6 and now rather than 12.Qd3, as he played against Caruana (and has been played more than 1100 times in the database), he played the very rare 12.h4 instead.

    Caruana had met Leko's 12.Qd3 with the enterprising 12...d4, and it's not clear to me that Black can't play 12...d4 against 12.h4 as well. Bartel chose the more conventional 12...Bd7, and after 13.h5 0-0-0 14.Qd3 Leko had reached a known but comparatively minor variation normally achieved via 12.Qd3. Even more minor, in the big database scheme of things, was Leko's 17.Be3. The engine thinks the simplest way to deal with the bishop is to swap it off, but perhaps Bartel was concerned that the h-pawn might survive after 17...Nxe3 18.Qxe3 Rg7 19.Qd3, but 19...Ne7 followed by ...Ng6 or ...Nf5 (as the position warrants) rounds up the pawn and leaves Black in good shape.

    Instead, Bartel played 19...d4, committing himself to the likely loss of material but hoping to blow open the center against White's king. This didn't quite work out, and after 26.Bc5 material was equal but White's bishops and Black's weak f-pawns gave Leko a very, very pleasant ending. Five moves later White was a pawn up and winning, and just two moves after that Bartel's king was in a mating net, and he was forced to resign.

    So Leko was able to parlay his good fortune against Vladimir Kramnik yesterday (and the accompanying psychological boost) into a win today, and he joined the tie for first at five points.

    As for Kramnik...his momentum continued in the opposite direction. He faced Fabiano Caruana today, and their game was a Berlin "Declined" (i.e. 4.d3 vs. the Berlin), and Kramnik repeated the rare 7...Ne7 he had employed earlier this year against Levon Aronian in their match. Aronian met this with 8.h3; Caruana chose the more obvious 8.d4, and after 8...exd4 9.cxd4 Bb6 played a new move, 10.b3. (Admittedly, there weren't many predecessors to build on, and none of them were within 400 points of him.)

    Kramnik's position seemed alright, but the game started turning in Caruana's favor after Black's 18th move. White's idea was to play 19.b5 and follow with Ng5, so some sort of prophylaxis was called for - either 18...a6 or 18...h6, for example. Not doing so gave White an edge, and when he failed to play 24...Qxd7 that edge grew bigger. It's a little surprising that the right move was to draw the passed pawn even further up the board, but the issue is that Black had better control over d8 as a blockading square than he did over e7.

    Soon Kramnik was completely tied up, and 35.Rxe4! marked the beginning of the end. (It might have been close to the middle or even the end of the end had he continued with 36.Re1, too.) The real end came on move 38. Kramnik had to play 38...Kg6 or 38...Kh6 and been willing to bid adieu to the a-pawn for nothing (if Caruana wanted to take it by trading on c5 first). If White played 39.Rxa7, then 39...Nxe6 would keep Black in the game. Unfortunately for Kramnik, he played the immediate 38...Nxe6, but now White didn't take on a7; instead, he played 39.Bd3+, and Kramnik was completely lost. 39...g6 allows mate in one (40.Rh8#), but his 39...Kh6 left his king in something close to a mating net anyway. Kramnik was forced to surrender the exchange a few moves later, and the rest was easy technique for Caruana (send him back!), who won and joined the big tie for first with five points. (Kramnik stayed at four and a half, finally falling out of at least shared first for the first time since round 2.)

    Finally, Ruslan Ponomariov ground out a win with Black against poor Jan Gustafsson. A 6.Qc2 Anti-Meran reached a bishop vs. knight ending after just 29 moves. Normally one would prefer the bishop, but as White had a dark-squared bishop and his center pawns were on e3 and d4, the only one who could win the ending was Black. By move 41 Black's king had broken through on the kingside, and the plan from here was very simple: attack the e3 pawn with the king on f2 or f3 and play ...Nf1+, driving White's king away from the pawn. There were two complications. First, Ponomariov had to do a delicate dance with the knight to get it out of its box on the queenside; second, he had to cope with the possibility of White's king abandoning the e-pawn to raid Black's queenside pawns. I don't know if it was a win from the very beginning, but I'm positive that by 53...Nc8 at the latest, Black is winning by force. Ponomariov has - you guessed it! - five points.

    Standings After Round 8:

    1-5. Ponomariov, Karjakin, Caruana, Leko, Naiditsch 5
    6. Kramnik 4.5
    7. Meier 4
    8. Fridman 3
    9. Bartel 2
    10. Gustafsson 1.5

    Last Round Pairings:

    Karjakin - Gustafsson
    Kramnik - Meier
    Bartel - Caruana
    Naiditsch - Leko
    Ponomariov - Fridman

    It's not looking good for a six-way tie, as I'd expect Karjakin and Ponomariov to have especially good winning chances, and Caruana has reasonable hopes for a win as well. Naiditsch-Leko smells drawish, while Kramnik will have a tough time beating the unbearably solid Meier (and will have to hope all the other games finish in draws).

    Friday
    Jul202012

    Dortmund 2012, Round 7: Five Draws, Kramnik Misses A (Many) Big Chance(s)

    The relative standings in Dortmund remain unchanged with two rounds to go, with three players leading and three more half a point behind. All of the games had content, and the shortest was the 41-move draw between Sergey Karjakin and Fabiano Caruana. But at least at first glance (without an engine), all but the marathon between Vladimir Kramnik and Peter Leko were "clean"; that is, no one missed a win - a draw was the appropriate result in those four games.

    Not so for Kramnik-Leko. Kramnik had an advantage right from the jump, and Leko had to suffer for about eight hours before ekeing out half a point. During this time Kramnik would alternate between good technical play, managing to improve his position and create new problems for Leko; and a shocking number of tactical flubs, when he would fail to capitalize on his hard-earned winning chances.

    Lots of spectators and online commentators expressed shock and horror at Kramnik's failure, but in fact this is nothing new for him, as Kramnik himself admitted:

    V.K.: [...] But overallpositional play is my strong pointas are playable endgames.

    V.T.: [Vladislav Tkachiev, the interviewer] I had the impression that you’ve deteriorated a little in that regard in recent years. I can recall a few won positions that you couldn’t…

    V.K.: No, I’ve always played won endgames poorly and couldn’t even tell you why myself. Perhaps I relax too soon. It’s when the evaluation isn’t yet clear, += or =+, that I play well and turn those endings into won ones, which I then sometimes make a mess of, just as I did in my younger years.

    I can think of five other failures right off the top of my head, and I'm sure a tiny bit of research would quick reveal more. There's Kramnik-Gelfand, Novgorod 1996; Kramnik-Topalov, Las Palmas 1996; games 4 and 6 against Kasparov in their 2000 match and finally against Carlsen in London 2010. I can also think of some endgames where he was winning and won, but only after an exchange of presents.

    On the other hand, big kudos to Leko for hanging in there. These top guys are unbelievably difficult to defeat!

    Standings After Round 7:

    1-3. Karjakin, Naiditsch, Kramnik 4.5
    4-6. Ponomariov, Leko, Caruana 4
    7. Meier 3.5
    8. Fridman 2.5
    9. Bartel 2
    10. Gustafsson 1.5

    Round 8 Pairings:

    Gustafsson - Ponomariov
    Fridman - Naiditsch
    Leko - Bartel
    Caruana - Kramnik
    Meier - Karjakin

    Thursday
    Jul192012

    Dortmund 2012, Round 6: Karjakin, Naiditsch and Kramnik Lead

    There were three leaders coming into round 6 of Dortmund, with three players half a point back, and the same is true on the back side of the round as well. The identities of the occupants of those slots has changed slightly, however, as Ruslan Ponomariov was upset by tournament tailender Mateusz Bartel (and with White!) while Arkadij Naiditsch won quickly with Black against Jan Gustafsson.

    On paper, Ponomariov looked to have great chances to become the sole leader, but his active play wound up leaving him with lots of weak pawns, which disappeared one after another. In the end that last cramping pawn on f6 would fall, or he would have to acquiesce in an exchange of rooks; either way, his position would be beyond hope, so he resigned.

    Gustafsson's position against Naiditsch wasn't fantastic, but it wasn't lost either until he missed the surprising 25...Be2. It's not the sort of move one normally has to worry about, so it can be easily missed. Unfortunately for Gustafsson, he was completely lost after it, and therefore resigned.

    Sergey Karjakin remained in the (shared) lead, but he had to find his way through a minefield laid for him by Peter Leko. Leko found a remarkable piece sacrifice in the Catalan that he analyzed with characteristic depth, and Karjakin had to sweat his way through the complications to hold the draw. The game only went 33 moves, but it was clearly the game of the day and worth your time to replay.

    Vladimir Kramnik pulled another surprise opening out of his bag - the Gruenfeld - against Daniel Fridman. (It seems that when he plays "mere" 2600s he trots out fianchetto openings with Black: the Pirc a couple of years ago, and now the King's Indian and Gruenfeld!) Fridman came under some real pressure, but managed to liquidate into a drawn minor piece ending.

    Finally, Fabiano Caruana had some chances against Georg Meier, and had he won he would have joined the tie for first. Missing his chance (29.Bxe6+!), that game too eventually finished in a draw.

    Standings After Round 6:

    1-3. Karjakin, Naiditsch, Kramnik 4
    4-6. Ponomariov, Leko, Caruana 3.5
    7. Meier 3
    8. Fridman 2
    9. Bartel 1.5
    10. Gustafsson 1

    Round 7 Pairings:

    Meier - Gustafsson
    Naiditsch - Ponomariov
    Bartel - Fridman
    Kramnik - Leko
    Karjakin - Caruana

    Tuesday
    Jul172012

    Dortmund 2012, Round 5: Three Wins, Three Lead, Three Half a Point Behind

    The race for first in the 2012 edition of Dortmund wasn't a blowout in any case, but now it's extremely tight. Co-leaders Vladimir Kramnik and Ruslan Ponomariov drew (Kramnik failed to obtain anything serious on the white side of a QGA), and they were caught by Sergey Karjakin, who won a nice positional squeeze against Daniel Fridman on the white side of a "Poisoned Pawn" Caro-Kann.

    To call that win a "squeeze" is perhaps an injustice to the marathon battle between Mateusz Bartel and Arkadij Naiditsch, however. The game was sharp early on, with three exchange sacrifices between the two players. By move 31 things had cooled down, and all that remained were a rook, bishop and five pawns for Naiditsch against Bartel's bishops and five pawns. There may have been a relatively easy win for Black shortly before move 50, but if it was there he missed it. By move 54 both sides were down to two pawns (plus the same pieces), and from there the grind began. At move 70 the last "free" pawn move was made, and then Black tried and tried and tried to come up with a winning plan. With a lot of effort, he succeeded, and after 107...Kd5 White was in some trouble. Black threatened 108...Bb6+, when 109.Kd3 would interfere with the bishop on f1, so that 109...Ra2 would win the a-pawn and the game as 110.Bb5 would be impossible. On the other hand, 109.Kf3 Ra2 110.Bb5 would save the pawn but lose the dark-squared bishop to 110...Ra3. Bartel chose 108.Bd2, but that had a problem of its own: 108...g4. The threat is not just to take the h-pawn, but to win the bishop on d2 with ...Bg5+. That pretty much won on the spot; White kicked on for two more moves - 109.h4 Bb6+ 110.Kd3 g3 - and then gave up.

    Georg Meier and Peter Leko drew a short but (briefly) interesting Open Catalan with 7.Ne5 Nc6. Black sacs a pawn for some play, and in this game the situation resolved in a repetition.

    Finally, Fabiano Caruana defeated Jan Gustafsson in a d3 Ruy, going all-in on a kingside attack that paid off. It's not a happy tournament for Gustafsson (or Bartel).

    The standings heading into the rest day thus look like this:

    1-3. Ponomariov, Karjakin, Kramnik 3.5 (out of 5)
    4-6. Naiditsch, Leko, Caruana 3
    7. Meier 2.5
    8. Fridman 1.5
    9. Gustafsson 1
    10. Bartel .5

    Round 6 Pairings (on Thursday):

    Gustafsson - Naiditsch
    Ponomariov - Bartel
    Fridman - Kramnik
    Leko - Karjakin
    Caruana - Meier

    Monday
    Jul162012

    Dortmund 2012, Round 4: Five Draws

    Today's fourth round at Dortmund wasn't as interesting as its predecessors, but although all five games were drawn there were some interesting moments. The game of the day, by a large margin, was the wild Winawer between Peter Leko and Fabiano Caruana. Leko was doing a beautiful job of negotiating the complications, but missed his chance on move 31: 31.Ba6+ Kd8 32.Qf1 would have won on the spot. Black cannot avoid a trade of queens, after which the loose status of his remaining pieces will cost him the game. His best try is 32...Qxf1 33.Bxf1 Rxh2, but after 34.Rxf3 Bxf3 35.Kxf3 Rxc2 36.f5 Black's rook will be no match for White's bishops. After 31.Rg1, most of Leko's advantage had dissipated, and by the time control the position was completely drawn.

    In the leaders' games, Vladimir Kramnik's plan of pushing the h-pawn gave him good counterplay in a sharp Petroff, and his game with Arkadij Naiditsch soon ended in a perpetual. Ruslan Ponomariov was unable to seize the sole lead, though he did manage to press Sergey Karjakin in a Berlin with 5.Re1. The line has an insipid reputation, but Ponomariov showed that White can obtain a little something with it. Karjakin defended very patiently, though, and held the draw.

    The other two games were less interesting. Jan Gustafsson-Mateusz Bartel followed one of the Gelfand-Anand games for a while, and as in the earlier game Black held the balance without much trouble. Daniel Fridman-Georg Meier was likewise a quick exchange-fest that was drawn without either player experiencing much trouble.

    Standings After Round 5:

    1-2. Ponomariov, Kramnik 3
    3-4. Leko, Karjakin 2.5
    5-7. Naiditsch, Caruana, Meier 2
    8. Fridman 1.5
    9. Gustafsson 1
    10. Bartel .5

    Round 6 Pairings:

    Caruana - Gustafsson
    Meier - Leko
    Karjakin - Fridman
    Kramnik - Ponomariov (battle of the leaders)
    Bartel - Naiditsch

    Sunday
    Jul152012

    Dortmund 2012, Round 3: Kramnik, Ponomariov Lead

    The rounds are getting ever-bloodier at Dortmund, as round 3 saw four decisive games out of five. Even the one and only draw, between Sergey Karjakin and Arkadij Naiditisch, went 59 moves before Karjakin admitted that Naiditsch's Berlin "Wall" could not be breached.

    Meanwhile, "Mr. Dortmund", Vladimir Kramik, continued on his merrily successful way, defeating Mateusz Bartel in a nice technical game. Bartel seemed to surprise Kramnik with the 5...d5 gambit line against the English, but after some thought Kramnik reacted well and obtained a slight edge. (Maybe 8...c6 is worth considering?) Kramnik made slow progress, won a pawn, and by cleverly returning the extra pawn to "re-win" it under more favorable circumstances the advantage became decisive. In the final position White is winning everywhere, including the cute line 50...h4 51.g4+! Kxf4 52.Rf1#.

    Kramnik isn't in clear first though, as Ruslan Ponomariov kept pace by defeating Georg Meier with Black. Meier may have had a slightly more pleasant game in a slow Slav, thanks to the bishop pair, but once they were eliminated with 22...Nxd2 Ponomariov had equalized. (Maybe 22.Bb4 kept an edge.) From here Ponomariov's play was easier, and the natural mini-plan of 31.Kg2 followed by 32.Rh1 only served to expose White's king a little. By the time Black played 36...f5, it was all one-way traffic: nothing short of a blunder would save White from Ponomariov's kingside attack. He didn't play it perfectly, but White's position was practically hopeless and Black won. In the final position, White's best try was 53.Kf2, after which the fastest mate is 53...Be3+ 54.Ke1 Bd2+ 55.Kf2 Qh2+ 56.Kf1 (56.Kf3 Re3+ 57.Kg4 Qg3#) 56...Rf8+ and it's mate after the spite interpositions.

    In the other games, Fabiano Caruana grounds down Daniel Fridman's Caro-Kann to win in an ending, while Peter Leko won a model Ruy against Jan Gustafsson, practically stalemating his opponent's pieces throughout. Leko gives up a lot of (easy) draws, but when he wins his games are often exemplary - instant study material!

    Standings After Round 3:

    1-2. Ponomariov, Kramnik 2.5
    3-4. Leko, Karjakin 2
    5-7. Naiditsch, Caruana, Meier 1.5
    8. Fridman 1
    9. Gustafsson .5
    10. Bartel 0

    Round 4 Pairings:

    Gustafsson - Bartel
    Naiditsch - Kramnik
    Ponomariov - Karjakin
    Fridman - Meier
    Leko - Caruana

    Saturday
    Jul142012

    Dortmund 2012, Round 2: Four Lead

    Round 1 of the Dortmund Sparkassen may have been dull, but today's round was a lot of fun, with both fire and blood on board. When it was over, four players shared the lead: Vladimir Kramnik, Sergey Karjakin, Ruslan Ponomariov and round 1 winner Georg Meier.

    The first game to finish was a beautiful massacre by Vladimir Kramnik, essaying the King's Indian(!!) against Jan Gustafsson. It was one elegant tactic after another, and after only 27 moves Gustafsson threw in the towel.

    The next game to finish was a sort of "appendix" to round 1, a short, dull draw in an Open Catalan between Daniel Fridman and Peter Leko.

    Sergey Karjakin, my pick to be "vice champion" to Kramnik, won with Black against Mateusz Bartel in a Petrosian Queen's Indian. White achieved a powerful-looking passed pawn on d6, but after the overoptimistic 18.Qxc4(?; 18.0-0 would have been safer and sufficient for equality) Karjakin's pieces worked around it on their way to White's king. Karjakin played very well (though not perfectly: the power shot 28...Rf5! was one of several possible improvements) and poor Bartel never managed to get his king to safety or his rook from h1 into the game, and was routed.

    Ponomariov's game with Fabiano Caruana wound up with the "right" winner, but the "wrong" way. Ponomariov enjoyed a slight advantage for a long time with White in a Moscow Sicilian, but by this point his advantage had disappeared:

    It's White (Ponomariov) to move; what should he do? He found a very nice tactical blow, but had Caruana reacted appropriately the position would have remained equal. Unfortunately, Caruana had only around one minute (plus the 30-second increments) to make his next ten moves after seeing 31.Qxc4!? on the board, and that wasn't enough time to find the right move - especially if he was surprised by this shot and needed to regain his psychological bearings. (My analysis of this portion of the game, along with Kramnik-Gustafsson, can be found here.)

    Finally, Arkadij Naiditisch and Georg Meier drew their game after a long fight. A Hedgehog with a fianchettoed king's bishop turned sharp when White (Naiditsch) sacrificed his knight on d5. Eventually Meier returned the piece to break the pressure, and even had a slight but unconvertable edge in a rook ending.

    After two rounds, Meier, Kramnik, Karjakin and Ponomariov share first with 1.5 points apiece. Leko, Naiditsch and Fridman have 1; Gustafsson and Caruana have half a point and Bartel has the same total we do.

    Round 3 Pairings:

    Leko - Gustafsson
    Caruana - Fridman
    Meier - Ponomariov
    Karjakin - Naiditisch
    Kramnik - Bartel

    Friday
    Jul132012

    Dortmund, Round 1: Meier Leads

    Round 1 of Dortmund got off to a (yaaaaaaaaaaaaawn) rousing start with four draws (three of them pretty stable from start to finish) and a surprisingly simple-looking technical win by Georg Meier on the white side of a Catalan against Mateusz Bartel. Meier opined that Bartel's 16...a6 was a serious error, and 17...h6 eliminated what remaining chances Black had to hold.

    The marquee matchup between Sergey Karjakin and Vladimir Kramnik saw Karjakin push a little on the white side of a Mieses Scotch, but Kramnik was able to solve the problem of developing his kingside and the game soon reached a drawn ending.

    Daniel Fridman vs. Jan Gustafsson also saw White enjoy a little pull, and of a more enduring form that Karjakin's edge. Nevertheless, Gustafsson managed to achieve a fortress of sorts, and after tacking around a while Fridman gave in to the inevitable and called it a day.

    Peter Leko and Ruslan Ponomariov had the sleepiest draw of the bunch. Leko aimed to get a nibble in a 7.dxc5 Classical QGA, but Ponomariov never had even the least trouble. If there were any tiny problems for either player, they were Leko's, but he coped with ease and like the K-K game, they called it a day in a rook ending.

    Fabiano Caruana had a much more up and down draw in his game against Arkadij Naiditsch. Like Karjakin, he punted a Scotch, but Naiditsch chose the 4...Bc5 line instead. First Caruana was better, then Naiditsch (according to Mark Crowther, 30.Rf3? was a mistake, and then on moves 36 and 38 Black could have won with ...Re1+), and finally it all ended peacefully when only the two kings remained after 60 moves.

    Thus Meier is in first, Bartel is in last, and everyone else is tied for second. The round 2 pairings look like this:

    • Gustafsson - Kramnik
    • Bartel - Karjakin
    • Naiditsch - Meier
    • Ponomariov - Caruana
    • Fridman - Leko

    Friday
    Jul132012

    Dortmund, Starting Now!

    One of the annual super-tournaments, the favorite one of 10-time winner Vladimir Kramnik, is the Dortmund Sparkassen. This event just got underway, with the following first round pairings:

     

    • Sergey Karjakin (2779) - Vladimir Kramnik (2799)
    • Fabiano Caruana (2775) - Arkadij Naiditsch (2700)
    • Peter Leko (2730) - Ruslan Ponomariov (2726)
    • Georg Meier (2644) - Mateusz Bartel (2674)
    • Daniel Fridman (2655) - Jan Gustafsson (2629)

     

    The games will be available on all the usual haunts, and the live transmission is here.

    Predictions (for tournament victory)? I'll give a half prediction and say that if you pretend Karjakin-Kramnik is an Armageddon game, you'll have your answer (i.e. if Karjakin wins the game, he'll win the tournament; otherwise, Kramnik will).