And more too, including the latest video entry with Magnus Carlsen & Espen Agdestein discussing his (Carlsen's) play in the World Rapid Championship. Have a look.
Entries in Levon Aronian (42)
That quote from Levon Aronian about the current world champion sounds more provocative than it really is. It's still surprising, but not an insult in context.
The new portal Chess24 has been putting out some interesting articles lately, of which I will highlight three.
First, there is this article on the lack of bids for the Carlsen-Anand rematch. It does a nice job of listing some of the (mutually compossible) reasons there have yet to be any bids, the just-passed deadline notwithstanding.
The other two articles also touch on the pending rematch, at least in passing. The second article is an interview with Levon Aronian that focuses on his unsuccessful performance in the Candidates' tournament back in March, while the last article gives the lineup for next month's super-tournament in Stavanger, Norway. While the field for Stavanger is impressive indeed, the article is more likely to attract attention for Carlsen's comments about Anand. Quoting from the article:
During the press conference Carlsen commented:
I can’t imagine facing him before the World Championship match. It’s fine with me that his last memories from our games are the ones from Zurich. It could have been a positive experience for him, but it’s more likely that it would have been a negative one.
Asked about Anand’s performance in the Candidates, Carlsen told Dagbladet.no:
To put it arrogantly, he didn’t face me in the Candidates. It’s still Anand who has something to prove.
I don't know if Anand is the kind of guy who collects quotes like this to motivate him, but if he does that last one ought to work wonders. (The statement is true, but that doesn't make it any less abrasive and ungracious.)
The latest Bundesliga season ended last weekend, with Baden-Baden winning for about the 30th time in a row. (Okay, it was only their ninth consecutive title. Other teams had better find rich benefactors if they hope to break this strangehold.) Levon Aronian was the special guest star helping push them over the edge to victory, scoring 2.5/3 over the final weekend to not only help them but himself as well as he aimed to recover from a poor finish at the Candidates.
More about that here, but I'd like to focus on Anatoly Karpov's surprise appearance. He played a couple of games, drawing with the lower-rated Felix Graf before defeating the 2664-rated Maxim Rodshtein in his second game, and with the black pieces. You can replay those games here, and I would especially draw your attention to Graf's unusual drawing combination in the first game. Most sacrifices involve captures - think of bishop sacrifices on h6 and h7, for example - but sometimes a piece is moved to an empty square. It's even rarer to have the first sac accepted only to have a second empty-square sacrifice on the next move, but that's just what Graf did. There are probably other examples of this happening, but I'm unable to recall any offhand. If you can think of some other examples, please share them with us!
The first cycle of the 2014 Candidates' tournament finished with a crazy and chaotic round that saw three decisive games, and it could easily have been four. In the end Viswanathan Anand and Levon Aronian were tied for first at +2*, half a point ahead of Vladimir Kramnik.
Anand has led the entire tournament, by himself for most of it, and he probably would have kept that lead if he had played 20...Rxf2 against Peter Svidler. White's compensation looks pretty slim, so it looks like Anand has sunk into an overly safety-first mentality. If he fails to win the tournament, it will be unforced errors like this that will be to blame. After foregoing this great opportunity, Svidler was able to neutralize his minimal disadvantage and save the game.
Meanwhile, Aronian took the opportunity to catch up to Anand at the halfway point, thanks to his convincing win over Sergei Karjakin, now the tournament tailender. Interestingly, both Aronian and Anand were Black in a 4.d3 Berlin, and in both games Black came out of the opening smelling like a rose. Karjakin played b4 on move 10, and then went for d4 some moves later. As a result, the c4 square was weakened, and Aronian managed to conquer that square and infiltrate the queenside in general. White's position got worse and worse, and a desperate counterattack ultimately led to an ending where Aronian was down the exchange but had too many pawns for White to cope with.
(One nice quote about that game, from chess24's round report. It comes from Rustam Kasimdzhanov, a chess24 contributor, Karjakin's second and a great player in his own right - the winner of the FIDE knockout world championship in 2004. He writes this about Aronian's 47...Qc4, which was the only winning move: "Qc4!! I mean wow!! It's at times like this you recognise the greatest. I'd never pull it off, not after 5 hours of play. It was SUCH a difficult move. It just does not occur, not to mortals.")
Kramnik bounced back from his painful loss against Topalov with a win over Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, but he was very lucky. He was doing well with White after a well-played opening, but not as well as he thought. As a result he overpressed, and was soon forced to head for an ending where he hoped his queenside passers would compensate for Black's extra piece. For a long time Mamedyarov played very well, but at just the moment when he could obtain a straightforwardly winning position he blundered - twice! Worst of all, he did so with loads of time on the clock. He missed a tactic, and while that can happen to anyone he would surely have spotted it if he had spent a bit more time. Instead, he went from winning to equal to dead lost, and the game ended just a few moves later. A real tragedy for Mamedyarov, who had worked his way back from -2 after the first three games and would have finished the first cycle at +1, half a point behind the leaders. Instead, he's now -1 and it's Kramnik who is nipping at the leaders' heels.
Another player who came into the round with an equal score also fell back to -1: Veselin Topalov. His opening preparation against Dmitry Andreikin was very good, but as in the game with Svidler two rounds earlier he fell apart almost immediately after his preparation ended. Topalov was crushed, and I'm guessing that he forgot to make sarcastic comments about his opponent at today's press conference.
There is no break between the two cycles, and round 8 starts tomorrow (or today, if you're across the pond) at the usual time, with the following pairings (player scores are in parentheses):
- Kramnik (4) - Andreikin (3)
- Svidler (3.5) - Karjakin (2.5)
- Topalov (3) - Mamedyarov (3)
- Aronian (4.5) - Anand (4.5)
Aronian - Anand is clearly the game of the day, but it's also an important opportunity for Kramnik, playing the white pieces against one of the relative outsiders. Svidler too needs to regain the winning habit before the leaders break away for good, and White against the tailender is a good place to start.
Meanwhile, here are the round 7 games, with my notes.
* Remember last year: there are no real ties for first. In case of a tie, tournament victory is determined by tiebreaks rather than a playoff. As Anand defeated Aronian in round 1, he would qualify for the match with Magnus Carlsen if they alone finish tied for first and Aronian doesn't beat Anand in the second cycle.
Had Viswanathan Anand defeated Vladimir Kramnik in today's action he would have been at least a pretty decent favorite to win the Candidates' tournament, even at this early stage. That was never in much danger of happening, however. Kramnik had Black, yes, but he was prepared to the gills in a Vienna Variation Queen's Gambit and drew in 30 moves without ever leaving his prep. So Anand remained half a point in front of Kramnik.
Anand could have been caught by Peter Svidler, had he managed to win with Black against Levon Aronian. After some long preparation in a Gruenfeld (nowadays that goes without saying) a position arose where Svidler was up a piece for a pawn, but Aronian had a mighty center and enduring play against Svidler's king. Svidler had the chance to steer the game to an easy draw, but with some justification and ambition he went for more. On this occasion, that hope went unrewarded. Aronian negotiated the complications better than his opponent, and when Black returned the piece the result was a terribly passive ending where Aronian would surely break through sooner or later. He did, and leapfrogged Svidler in the standings. Aronian is tied with Kramnik for second place, and they play in round 5.
Veselin Topalov drew his fourth straight game, this time in an English against Sergey Karjakin. Neither player was ever close to getting an advantage, and the play remained pretty calm throughout.
Finally, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov escaped the cellar by defeating Dmitry Andreikin and putting him there instead. Mamedyarov generally had the better of the play in an offbeat Chebanenko Slav, but only managed to win when Andreikin blundered with the unnatural 37...Kf7.
The games, with my light comments, are here, and here are tomorrow's pairings, with player scores in parentheses:
- Andreikin (1) - Anand (3)
- Karjakin (1.5) - Mamedyarov (1.5)
- Svidler (2) - Topalov (2)
- Kramnik (2.5) - Aronian (2.5)
Magnus Carlsen had a very bad time of things in the (quick) rapid games on Tuesday, and came close to losing his lead at the Zurich Chess Challenge. Close, but not close enough for Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana to catch him. All three players won their first game - Carlsen over Boris Gelfand, Aronian over Viswanathan Anand and Caruana over Hikaru Nakamura - and it looked like the deal was done. Carlsen enjoyed a two point lead over Aronian and a three point lead on Caruana, with just four games to go.
But then it got interesting. Aronian outplayed Carlsen and won handily to close to within a point. Caruana only drew with Gelfand, so he only closed his gap to two and a half points. In round 3 Carlsen drew with Nakamura, and while Aronian remained a point behind after a draw with Gelfand, Caruana got another half a point closer by defeating Anand. (That was three losses in a row for Anand, incidentally.)
Round 4 was the big chance. Caruana outplayed Carlsen, coming to within a single point of the leader. Had Aronian managed to defeat Nakamura, he would have caught Carlsen in first. Nakamura has been a regular "customer" of his for some time now, but not today. Nakamura won a good game, and so Aronian remained a point behind.
Round 5 was a mere formality. Carlsen had White against Anand, and cynically (but understandably) repeated game 8 of their match pretty much move for move. The players conducted the whole game at blitz tempo, called it a draw, and Carlsen clinched. (I enjoyed Nakamura's disdainful expression as he looked up at the electronic display as this was going on.) Caruana and Aronian played a real game, which also ended in a draw, and thus they finished tied for second, a point behind Carlsen. (Caruana took second on tiebreak.) Here are the full final standings:
1. Carlsen 10 (out of 15 - the classical games were scored double)
2. Caruana 9
3. Aronian 9
4. Nakamura 7.5 (he finished the rapid with a very strong 3.5/4)
5. Anand 5
6. Gelfand 4.5
Some traveling and busyness made it hard to keep up this weekend, and this won't be much of a report either - at least not yet. I'll take a page out of other sites' practices and say "more later". What can and should be said now is that despite spoiling the tournament a bit by blundering and losing what had been a better position against the bottom seed Levon Aronian still won this year's main event (generally) in Wijk aan Zee with a very impressive 8-3 score. He had gained more than 20 rating points too - prior to the last round - and looks like he's in very good form heading into March's Candidates' tournament.*
Anish Giri and Sergey Karjakin tied for second a point and a half behind, while third seed Fabiano Caruana could only muster a tie for 4th-6th places. Even more surprising is second seed Hikaru Nakamura's -1 score, not to mention Boris Gelfand's -2.
In the Challengers' group Ivan Saric won with a dominating 10-3 score. Surprisingly and impressively, Jan Timman tied for second with Baadur Jobava with 8.5 points, and had he managed to put Jobava away in the antepenultimate round he would have taken clear second and perhaps threatened for first. Regardless of the counterfactuals, it was an excellent tournament for the 62-year-old Dutch legend.
* Please, no comments listing previous Candidates' events where the top seed had won the last big tournament heading into the Candidates but failed to win it. I'm not claiming that Aronian is somehow guaranteed to win on account of this result, so "correction" is neither needed nor desired.
Update: The games are here, albeit without annotations. I managed to catch a little cold over the weekend, and need to get my rest. Sorry!
The penultimate round of the Sinquefield Cup saw the players leave the round the way they started, relatively speaking, with Magnus Carlsen half a point ahead of Hikaru Nakamura, a point ahead of Levon Aronian, and two and a half points ahead of Gata Kamsky.
Nakamura started the day winless against Carlsen in classical chess, but armed with the white pieces and his trusty sunglasses he hoped to win and thereby leapfrog his way into first place. It was not to be. He played the very safe 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.Re1 line against Carlsen's Berlin, and although the game started to get interesting thanks to Carlsen's later advance of the f-pawn both combatants played excellently and the game finished in a repetition.
With a win against Kamsky Aronian could have caught Nakamura in second, half a point behind Carlsen, and that would have meant that his fate would be in his own hands for tomorrow's last round. (It isn't now, because even if he defeats Carlsen tomorrow Nakamura can win the tournament by defeating Kamsky.) Conditions looked good for that, as Aronian had won nicely yesterday and had the advantage of the white pieces against a desperately out of shape and discouraged opponent. Despite that, he didn't even come close to a victory. Kamsky played the Dutch, following Carlsen's lead in round 2 against Aronian, and although he didn't obtain quite as serious an edge as Carlsen did he still wound up with a good position. He also seemed to have a better feel for the play than Aronian did, but while it was enough to press it wasn't enough for a victory. (Games here, with my comments.)
The games tomorrow start two hours early, at 11 a.m. local time (12 noon ET/6 p.m. CET), as they are alotting time for a playoff in case of a tie for first. It is possible; in fact, there could even be a three-way tie for first (or next-to-last place, if you prefer) if everything works "properly". Here are the pairings:
- Carlsen (3.5) - Aronian (2.5)
- Kamsky (1) - Nakamura (3)