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    Entries in Grenke Chess Classic 2013 (8)

    Sunday
    Feb172013

    Grenke, Aeroflot and the Petrovs Memorial: Anand, Karjakin and Wojtaszek Win

    All three events came down to the wire and could easily have finished with different winners.

    The first event to finish today was the Vladimirs Petrovs Memorial in Jurmala, Latvia. Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Vladimir Malakhov tied for first at 10.5/14, with Wojtaszek winning on tiebreaks, but Vassily Ivanchuk could have been the sole winner. He tied with Chanda Sandipan for 3rd-4th, half a point behind, but he was winning against Chandipan in the last round and miscalculated the attack. It wasn't even difficult, really, but in a quick game, especially at the end of a long tournament, anything can happen.

    Here he correctly pseudo-sacrificed the rook with 31.Rxg6+ (31...hxg6?? 32.Qxg6+ Kf8 33.Qg7#), and after 31...Kf7 the simplest win was 32.Rf6+ Ke7 33.Qg7+ Kd8 34.Rd6+, game over. Instead he played 32.Qc7+??, perhaps hallucinating that after 32...Kxg6 33.Qg7+ Kf5 34.Qf6+ that Black would have to walk into 34...Ke4(??) 35.Qf3#. After 34...Kg4 there's neither mate nor even a perpetual, and White resigned several moves later.

    The second event to finish was Aeroflot. Alexander Grischuk beat Gata Kamsky 1.5-.5 in one semi-final, while Sergey Karjakin had to work very hard to defeat Ian Nepomniachtchi 2-1 in the other. Karjakin was under pressure in every game, but held draws in the regular games and pulled out the Armageddon game thanks to his doing a better job of maintaining his focus. Nepomniachtchi was pressing, but then was clearly taken aback by Karjakin's 34...Ne5! Black should have been much better, but Karjakin allowed White to regain both his position and his bearings, but then "Nepo" got stunned a second time, by 46...g5. By now he was getting rattled, and both players were getting short of time, so perhaps his third loose moment, 52.f7??, was less surprising. Karjakin picked up the pawn with 52...Qf4+, and this time White wouldn't get a reprieve.

    Karjakin was similarly scrappy in the final. In game one he got nothing with White against Grischuk, and had to prove the draw. (It wasn't too tough, but still, he was the one needing to do it.) In game 2 Grischuk had serious winning chances and - unusually for Grischuk - an advantage on the clock. Karjakin escaped again. Finally, in the Armageddon game it was Karjakin who was pushing with White, and after 28...Kh8? 29.Qd3 he was seriously better. Karjakin maintained his advantage on the clock, which combined with a meaningful extra pawn to give him a decisive plus. Nevertheless, it all came down to a time scramble, when Karjakin, trying to run Grischuk out of time while avoiding a perpetual, blundered into a lost position. (It was lost before 54.Qe4+.) Fortunately, and appropriately, given the course of the game and the clock, Grischuk did run out of time, and Karjakin and his two extra seconds won the event. (You can watch the live coverage of today's action here; the final game starts at 10:51:00.)

    Finally, the Grenke Chess Classic. Fabiano Caruana had led throughout, but a surprise loss in round 9 combined with Viswanathan Anand's win had them tied coming into the final round. Had they finished tied, there would have been a playoff, but alas, it was not to be.

    The shortest game (but not the first to finish, as Mark Crowther noted by email) was Michael Adams - Georg Meier, a draw that saw both players finish the tournament on 50%, and cleared the way for the first-place battle. With White, Arkadij Naiditsch played 3.Bb5+ against Anand's Sicilian and followed the old Kasparov-Rest of the World game from the late 1990s. There Kasparov (and most of his followers) played 14.Nb6+, but Naiditsch tried 14.Nc3 instead. After Anand's 16...Nd5! Black's position was very safe. Anand outplayed Naiditsch to reach a better rook ending - indeed, despite his self-critical remarks after the game it seems he played perfect or at least error-free chess through the key moment at move 33.

    Here, unaccountably, Naiditsch played 33.Ke1?, which at best is a waste of a tempo. 33.Ke2 might have drawn, but with an extra tempo for his rook to get back into the action, Anand reached a position that was clearly winning after 38...h2.

    White's problem is that he'll eventually lose the a-pawn, and then eventually lose the f-pawn, and after that the elementary tactic ...Ra1 Rxh2 Ra2+ will finish the job.

    So Anand won, and to force a playoff Caruana would have to defeat Daniel Fridman. Fridman's choice of the ultra-solid Exchange Variation against the Slav made that seem highly unlikely, but that changed when he blundered a pawn on move 36. Fridman defended resourcefully - 54.f5+ was especially nice - but like the Grim Reaper Caruana made progress. After Fridman's 65.Kd3-e2, the last critical position of the tournament was reached:

    Caruana has not one but two winning moves here: 65...f4 and 65...g2 (66.Kf2 f4). Unfortunately, he chose door #3 by playing 65...Ke4??, and after 66.d5! it was revealed that he chose the door without a prize. Fridman held the draw, and Anand won his first classical tournament since something like 2008!

    Final Standings:

    1. Anand 6.5/10
    2. Caruana 6
    3-4. Adams, Meier 5
    5. Naiditsch 4
    6. Fridman 3.5

    Sunday
    Feb172013

    Grenke, Aeroflot and Jurmala: Excitement Entering the Final Day

    All three of the strong and interesting events listed above finish today (still tomorrow, for a few of you), and it should be a great day for chess fans everywhere.

    1. The remaining rounds of the Grenke Chess Classic threatened to become a coronation for Fabiano Caruana after his fortunate victory over Arkadij Naiditsch in the antepenultimate round, but round 9 put a stop to that. Caruana had been almost Carlsenesque in his ability to gain extra half and even full points from his games, but today his run came to an end. Despite having the white pieces, it was Michael Adams who seemed more comfortable in the Closed Catalan they played, and after 31.f4? Adams started to take over. By the end of the first time control Adams had a nice space advantage, a better structure and a superior minor piece, and he quickly parlayed it into a crushing attack.

    That, combined with Viswanathan Anand's smooth win over Daniel Fridman, led to a two-way tie for first going into the last round. As with most of Anand's victories of late, he was given a big headstart by his opening preparation; in this case culminating in the tactical trick 22.Bg4! Black's position was at least difficult for a human being to play on spec, and Fridman didn't come close to putting up a defense.

    The third game saw Georg Meier continue his ascendancy while the star of the tournament, Arkadij "Mr. Volatility" Naiditsch, took another step back. When Meier wins, it's generally with technical play, and in contrast with practically all his other games in this event (whether successful or not) Naiditsch went out with a whimper, not a bang.

    The final round pairings (with player scores in parentheses) are:

    • Fridman (3) - Caruana (5.5)
    • Adams (4.5) - Meier (4.5)
    • Naiditsch (4) - Anand (5.5)

    2. Aeroflot: Saturday's action reduced the field of finalists from 16 to four. In the round of 16, here's what happened:

    Karjakin defeated Frolyanov 1.5-.5, on the strength of a nice finishing attack in the second game.

    Grischuk blanked Shimanov 2-0.

    Kamsky beat Sjugirov 1.5-.5.

    Svidler also won 1.5-.5 over Mamedov. He won a nice ending in their first game, but was fortunate to get away with a blunder in that game - 41.Bf5?? could have been punished by 41...Rxf5+! - and a little fortunate in the second game as well, as Mamedov didn't make the most of his chances there either.

    Nepomniachtchi beat Karpov 2-0. Karpov had chances to draw the first and was better for a while in the second, but youth won out.

    Eljanov beat Korobov 2-1 - he dominated the regular games but allowed his opponent to escape both times with draws, but went on to win the Armageddon game anyway.

    Mamedyarov beat Le Quang Liem 1.5-.5, thanks to a crushing attack in their second game.

    Wang Hao beat Andreikin 1.5-.5, winning the second game in 90 moves, a real sitzfleisch special.

    In the quarter-finals, the matches went like this:

    Karjakin beat Wang Hao 1.5-.5, winning game two with Black. White sacrificed a pawn in the Scotch, but his compensation eventually dried up and Black used the pawn to win the endgame.

    Kamsky beat Eljanov, like Karjakin by winning game 2 with Black thanks to an extra pawn (then two). Unlike the Wang Hao-Karjakin game, however, Eljanov didn't sac the pawn; he blundered it.

    Grischuk won against Mamedyarov by a similar 1.5-.5 score, also winning with Black - in game 1. Grischuk could have easily made it 2-0, but rather than playing something like 42.Rg1, with a simple win, he liquidated to an utterly unloseable ending with 42.Rxd6.

    The Nepomniachtchi - Svidler match went to the sudden death game before Nepomniachtchi won the match 2-1. The first game seesawed before Svidler blundered a roughly even position with 41...Qd3?? The second game was even for a long time as well, but Svidler won not on a blunder but by outplaying his opponent in the endgame. Finally, Svidler was better for much of the Armageddon game, and although Nepomniachtchi (with White) had obtained an edge after 36.Qd7, it was only an edge until the unfortunate 36...Ra8?? The game score ends at that point, so I assume Svidler resigned without waiting for 37.Qc6, winning on the spot. Black's rook can't leave the back rank (37...Ra5 38.Rd8+ Bf8 39.Bd6 is killing), while the alternative 37...Rf8 leaves White the exchange and a pawn ahead for absolutely nothing.

    I'm not sure about the semifinal pairings, but assuming the foregoing represents bracket order they are Karjakin - Nepomniachtchi and Kamsky-Grischuk. It should be fun in any case.

    3. The Vladimirs Petrovs Memorial in Jurmala is 11 rounds in (of 14), and Sergei Zhigalko, Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Vassily Ivanchuk share the lead with 8.5 points apiece; Vladimir Malakhov, Alexandr Fier, Jaan Ehlvest, Chanda Sandipan and Grigoriy Oparin are half a point behind.

    Friday
    Feb152013

    Grenke, Aeroflot and Jurmala: The Events Multiply (Updated)

    1. To no one's surprise, round 8 of the Grenke Chess Classic followed the usual script: one decisive game, and it belonged to Arkadij Naiditsch. Again he played brilliantly...but unfortunately, only up to a point. He was winning against Fabiano Caruana, but the latter somehow slipped out and went on to win the game. One critical moment came on move 28, when Naiditsch played 28.Nxf6????? (his punctuation!); instead, the very obvious 28.c3 (my instant thought playing over the game later at bullet speed) would have maintained a winning advantage. Naiditsch of course saw it as well and intended to play it, but somehow managed to talk himself out of it. A pity.

    In the other games, Viswanathan Anand was starting to make headway against Georg Meier, but the latter managed to get serious counterplay with his h-pawn; enough so that it was finally Anand who had to save the game. Finally, Daniel Fridman stopped his slide with a draw against Michael Adams.

    Round 9 pairings, with player scores in parentheses:

    • Anand (4.5) - Fridman (3)
    • Meier (3.5) - Naiditsch (4)
    • Caruana (5.5) - Adams (3.5)

    2. Next, Aeroflot. The 32 qualifiers from the Open were pared down to eight, and they will join the eight invitees. (Seven were listed in my earlier post on the tournament; the eighth is Anatoly Karpov.) The eight surviving qualifiers are Gata Kamsky, Anton Korobov, Le Quang Liem, Pavel Eljanov, Rauf Mamedov, Sanan Sjugirov, Dmitry Frolyanov and Aleksandr Shimanov.

    UPDATE: Here are the pairings for the round of 16 (HT: Chess Today):

     

    • Frolyanov - Karjakin
    • Grischuk - Shimanov
    • Sjugirov - Kamsky
    • Svidler - Mamedov
    • Karpov - Nepomniachtchi
    • Korobov - Eljanov
    • Le Quang Liem - Mamedyarov
    • Andreikin - Wang Hao

     

    3. Finally, there is another quick rapid event (redundant, but because the traditional rapid time control was 25 minutes per game [generally with a 10 second increment] and this event has a 15' + 6" control, the odd adjective seems to fit) in Jurmala, Latvia, memorializing Vladimir Petrov. (Or rather, Vladimirs Petrovs. Petrovs was a talented master killed by the Soviet regime for criticizing the effect of their annexation on living conditions in his native Latvia.)

    About the event: it's a 14-round Swiss that started Friday and will continue through the weekend. After the first day's four rounds, there are two players with perfect scores: Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Vassily Ivanchuk; Sergei Zhigalko, Kamil Dragun and Boris Grachev are half a point behind. 21 players have 3 points, including Latvians Alexei Shirov, Arturs Neiksans, Arturs Bernotas, Evgeny Sveshnikov, Lauris Laimins, Normunds Miezis, Egons Lavendelis and Georgijs Makovskis.

    Thursday
    Feb142013

    Grenke Chess Classic, Round 7: Two Draws (Of Course) and a Meier Win

    Georg Meier leapfrogged his way out of the cellar thanks to a characteristic endgame win, slowly grinding down Daniel Fridman in a Catalan. Fabiano Caruana continues to lead the Grenke Chess Classic, but although he made Viswanathan Anand suffer in a 6.Be3 e5 7.Nf3 Najdorf, Caruana (with the white pieces) was unable to completely replicate Judit Polgar's famous positional crush over Anand from the 1998 Wijk aan Zee tournament.* Michael Adams had what seemed to be a serious advantage in the opening against Arkadij Naiditsch, but the latter not only wriggled out but even got to press a little in the endgame. It wasn't enough though, and with a little accuracy Adams held without too much trouble.

    Round 8 Pairings (with player scores in parentheses):

    • Fridman (2.5) - Adams (3)
    • Naiditsch (4) - Caruana (4.5)
    • Anand (4) - Meier (3)

    Thursday
    Feb142013

    Grenke Chess Classic, Rounds 4-6: Naiditsch Wins, Loses, and Wins - Brilliantly

    After six rounds of the GRENKE Chess Classic in Baden-Baden, some interesting patterns have emerged. In all six rounds, one game has been decisive and two games have been drawn. The other two patterns are closely related to this. Five of the six decisive games have been Arkadij Naiditsch's, the only exception coming in round 1 when Fabiano Caruana defeated Georg Meier. That round was also the only exception to Naiditsch's run of decisive games.

    In round 4, Naiditsch beat Meier in a short, sharp, and error-prone game. Naiditsch was always the only one who was or could be better, but he gave Meier several opportunities to save himself. In round five, Naiditsch lost to Viswanathan Anand, who won in very good style on the white side of a 4.d3 (Anti-) Berlin. Finally, round 6 saw Naiditsch win an absolutely spectacular attacking game against Daniel Fridman, in a game bound to make the rounds of chess publications both electronic and print over the next few days and weeks. (You can read full round reports, and read and download the games with the player's comments, on the TWIC site. Here's round 4, round 5 and round 6. I'd offer my own, but at the moment ChessBase's web publishing isn't working for me!)

    Here are the round 7 pairings, with the players' scores in parentheses:

    • Meier (2) - Fridman (2.5)
    • Caruana (4) - Anand (3.5)
    • Adams (2.5) - Naiditsch (3.5)

    Saturday
    Feb092013

    Grenke Chess Classic, Round 3: Caruana Wins Again, Leads by a Full Point

    Round 3 of the GRENKE Chess Classic continued the pattern from the first two rounds: two draws and a single win. The games Viswanathan Anand vs. Georg Meier and Michael Adams vs. Daniel Fridman both finished in relatively uneventful draws, but the battle between pre-round co-leaders Fabiano Caruana and Arkadij Naiditsch was a very complicated, see-saw affair. When Caruana chose 11.Kb1 rather than 11.a4 Black obtained an advantage (or so the players thought). Black's bishop pair and the coffin pawn on a3 forced White to be careful, but somewhere between moves 17 and 20 Naiditsch did something wrong and White obtained the advantage with 21.Bc4 Kh8 22.Rxd4. Anand had just finished discussing his game and offered a few thoughts about this one around this point, and he felt that White had a pretty big advantage.

    Engines agree that White is better, but not by much, and when Caruana failed to play very precisely Naiditsch gained the upper hand. After Caruana's 22.Qe3? Black may have been winning with 22...Qxg3 23.Rxe2 Qg6+ 24.Bd3 Qh5, but the position is still complicated. The whole thing is complicated! Naiditsch chose 22...Qg2? instead, but after 23.Nd4! White was better (though not decisively).

    The players were also in serious time trouble, avoiding flagging only by virtue of the 30-second increments. As a result, the game degenerated into a battle of tactical instincts. Naiditsch had the right idea with 36...g5, aiming to bring the long-suffering bishop on h6 back into the game. The right idea, but the wrong execution. 36...g6 would have maintained roughly equal chances, but 36...g5?(?) 37.fxg5 Bf8 38.Nf4! was a crusher; in fact, it brought about Black's immediate resignation.

    After 3 rounds, Caruana has 2.5 points, already good for a point lead over his closest pursuers. There are three of them: Anand, Naiditsch and Fridman; Adams and Meier bring up the rear with a point apiece. The round 4 pairings: Fridman-Anand, Naiditsch-Meier and Adams-Caruana.

    Saturday
    Feb092013

    Grenke Chess Classic, Early Round Recap

    After two rounds of the GRENKE Chess Classic (round 3 is underway as I write this), there are two leaders based on the tournament's two decisive games.

    In round 1, Fabiano Caruana won a fine attacking game against Georg Meier. As usual, Caruana's prep was very deep, and by the time it finished aorund move 19 Meier had an extra pawn but a shaky king. He probably should have squirreled his king off to b8 as quickly as possible, but he either missed his chance or thought the king could survive on d8. Whatever the story, the battle was as good as over once Caruana played 26.Nxd4. With the d-file open for business, Black's king had no hope, and White won pretty easily after that.

    In the other round 1 games, Michael Adams had some pressure against the world champion, Viswanathan Anand, but couldn't convert it into anything tangible. In the game between Arkadij Naiditsch and Daniel Fridman (a battle of Germans both born, ironically, in Riga, Latvia) Black (Fridman) equalized easily against the 10.h3 line of the Scotch Four Knights.

    In round 2, however, Naiditsch was more successful, winning a very long, very hard-fought game against Adams on the white side of a Nimzo-Indian. White obtained an opening advantage, and after the oversight 26...Rxe4, missing the nice shot 27.Rxd5!, Black was at death's door. But somehow Naiditsch couldn't find a forced win anywhere, and Adams resiliently hung in there and kept on hanging in there, always worse but apparently never quite lost. It seems that finally changed with his desperate exchange sac on move 56. It bought Adams' king some safety for a time, and if his queenside pawns were a bit further advanced it might have been sufficient. In the game, it was too slow, and after tying Black down to the e-pawn Naiditsch broke open the kingside with 73.h4 and 75.h5, and that finally did the trick.

    In the other games, Caruana improved on some earlier Black tries to achieve a comfortable draw with Anand in a Zaitsev Ruy, while Fridman-Meier started off interesting but quickly fizzled out to another draw.

    Round 3 is underway, and the positions in the games Meier-Anand, Adams-Fridman and Caruana-Naiditsch are approximately equal as of moves 26, 24 and 19, respectively.

    Finally, let me mention that the tournament website is worth your while, with live commentary in both German and English and post-game interviews with the players.

    Wednesday
    Feb062013

    Grenke Chess Classic Begins Today/Tomorrow (Thursday)

    It used to be a much larger chess festival, but even so it's nice that the GRENKE sponsors and organizers have put together a strong tournament that partially fills in the gap left by the apparently dearly departed Linares super-tournament. This one is a six player double-round robin in Baden-Baden, Germany starring three players from the world elite and three very strong German GMs (one of whom, Naiditsch, is an on-again, off-again member of the first group as well). Here are the pairings for round 1:

    • Arkadij Naiditsch (2716) - Daniel Fridman (2667)
    • Michael Adams (2725) - Viswanathan Anand (2780)
    • Fabiano Caruana (2757) - Georg Meier (2640)

    Except for the last round, play begins each day at 3 p.m. local time = 2 p.m. GMT/9 a.m. ET.