Entries in Viswanathan Anand (130)
Many of us are watching the Olympics, and this year's Chess Olympiad starts September 1. But did you know that chess was once in the "real" Olympics? Read more about it here.
The 29th City of Leon Master Chess tournament was a small event - a four-player knockout event in rapid chess - but with Viswanathan Anand and Wei Yi in the field it merits a mention.
In the first best-of-four semi-final Anand seemed well on the way to an easy win over the lower-rated David Anton Guijarro, achieving a clean draw with Black in game 1 and winning a nice (though not perfect) win with White in game 2. Things were going well for Anand in game 3 as well, up until he played 27...Ne4. The move wasn't that bad, but it started him on the path to trouble. The e-pawn was slightly weak, and soon his pieces lost coordination as they worked to achieve compensation for the (soon lost) e-pawn, and then further errors followed. The former world champion bounced back well, though, and as in game 2 he dominated the game, even if his technique wasn't always perfect.
In the second semi, Wei Yi was a significant favorite against Jaime Santo Latasa, and like Anand managed to win with a 2.5-1.5 score. Games 1 and 3 saw Santos play a secondary main line with White against the Karpov Variation of the Nimzo-Indian. In game 1 Wei Yi misplayed it slightly and was worse for a while before outplaying his opponent and coming close to a win. In game 3 Wei Yi got the theory right and it was a wasted white game for the underdog. With White in game 2, Wei Yi obtained an advantage and won, while in the final game he was happy to repeat moves in a position where he could have played for more if he needed to.
Anand won the final by winning game 1 with White and drawing the rest. His win came on the white side of a slow Giuoco, outplaying his opponent almost from start to finish. There was a serious slip on move 32, when Anand should have played 32.e5, with a decisive advantage. Instead, he played 32.Ra8? Qxa8 33.Qxd6 Qxa2 34.Nxe4?!, when his advantage was almost completely gone. Fortunately for him, Wei Yi erred several moves later with 37...Qg5; instead 37...Qf2 or 37...Qb2 would have maintained equal chances.
In game 2 Anand was fine until he wasted a couple of tempi with 21...Be7-f6 followed by the opposite move on the next turn. Had Wei Yi played 23.b4 he'd have been clearly better. After 23.Rc2?! a5! Anand's position was okay, and after a few more anxious moments he managed to hold.
Anand looked shaky in round 3 as well. This time his opponent was better prepared in another Giuoco, and he pressed almost from start to finish. Again though, Wei Yi missed some opportunities, and the ex-champ escaped with a draw.
The shakiness was not present in round 4. Anand was never in trouble, and this time it was Wei Yi who had to work for the draw, despite having the white pieces.
Hopefully this was a good warm-up for Anand, who will play in Belgium next week against all the players from the Paris Rapid & Blitz except for Laurent Fressinet.
A real report will have to wait, but some scattershot comments are in order at the moment.
1. The fallout from the Aronian - Nakamura touch-move game has been significant, with both players coming in for criticism. The source in Nakamura's case is obvious: for the rules violation. (He has had another problem that indirectly resulted from the first. Understandably upset about the game, he avoided the post-game press conference, and as a result will be docked 10% of his prize fund. Ouch.) As for Aronian, he has received a couple of criticisms. The first was from Nakamura, who said in an interview that Aronian had "made it personal" (or words to that effect) in the immediate aftermath of the situation. I have no idea what was said, but perhaps some lip reader can suss out the details from the video. The second criticism concerned Aronian's claim in the post-game press conference that he was winning. Emil Sutovsky (on Facebook) was particularly exercised about this, and while I think he's right on the substance - Aronian wasn't winning or even close to winning; if anything, it's a near-elementary draw - his reaction was severely overblown.
2. Anyone in the mood for Anand-Carlsen III? There were five matches between Karpov and Kasparov, back in the day, and all five had a great deal of excitement. (There were also three Botvinnik-Smyslov World Championship matches and - sort of - three World Championship matches between Karpov and Korchnoi.) Granted, the first A-C match was terrible, and the second one was better but still disappointing. But maybe the third time is the charm? If nothing else, it will mean that Anand will have automatic qualification to at least one more Candidates cycle, and I'm sure all his rivals are excited about that. Frankly, whatever one's feelings about Anand and seeing him play in his 25th consecutive world championship match (just kidding, it will "only" be his sixth if he makes it back), it's still an incredible accomplishment.
3. Will Giri (or Svidler) win a game in this event? They have had some enormous advantages, but somehow, something keeps happening to thwart them before the finish line.
After three more rounds of the Candidates - six overall, out of 14 - the players get another rest day, and it was well-earned. In round 4 there was only one decisive game, but it was a big one with one leader - Sergey Karjakin - beating another - Viswanathan Anand. That gave Karjakin sole ownership of first place, which he maintained after four draws in round 5.
In round 6 things livened up. First, Anand pole-axed Peter Svidler, winning with a nice sacrificial attacking game that constituted a serious improvement over a 2004 game between Alexei Shirov and Alexander Onischuk. Svidler's 18...Nb3 was a good move when Onischuk played it, but the seemingly slight difference between the two games made all the difference in the world, and Anand crushed him in good style.
That brought Anand within half a point of the lead by round's end, and Karjakin was fortunate to remain in first (shared first by round's end) as he was in some serious trouble against Fabiano Caruana. Fortunately for Karjakin his opponent preferred 30.g5 to 30.Bf3, after which he saved the game with a couple of spectacular moves.
The third game to finish was a draw between Veselin Topalov and Anish Giri. Giri came close to a win, outplaying his opponent step by step, but Topalov made a last desperate stand and held the game a pawn down.
The fourth and final game was an oddity. Levon Aronian was pushing with White throughout against Hikaru Nakamura, but the rook endgame that arose after White's 52nd move should have been drawn. Nakamura promptly made a serious error, which Aronian in turn failed to take advantage of. Another 22 moves go by with Aronian still pressing and Nakamura still probably drawing. Unfortunately for Nakamura, he hastily grabbed his king with the obvious intention of moving it, only to realize that it was a huge error. At that moment he tried to turn it into a "j'adoube", which is pretty amazing. Of course Aronian would have none of that, and the arbiter came quickly to help resolve the situation. Nakamura gave up the claim, moved the king, and soon had to resign the game. Here's the video of the critical moments (HT to Ross Hytnen):
The games of the last three rounds are here, and I've analyzed three of the four games from round 6, either in whole or in part. Here are the pairings for round 7, on Saturday:
- Svidler (2.5) - Caruana (3)
- Karjakin (4) - Aronian (4)
- Nakamura (2) - Topalov (2)
- Giri (3) - Anand (3.5)
Busy days here and a late night, so for now we'll limit the post to results and pairings. Once again counted out by many, Viswanathan Anand once again rose to the challenge. He defeated Veselin Topalov with the white pieces in a 4.d3 Berlin, not because of any opening advantage - he had none, and was even worse for a few brief moments in the early middlegame - but because he navigated the complications better than his opponent. Topalov's 21st move was inaccurate, and several inaccuracies later he was lost. In time trouble Topalov got a new lease on life, but unfortunately for him the time control came one move too late. Both players erred on move 40, and had Topalov played 40...f5 he probably would have saved the game. Instead, he made back to back errors - significant ones - and after that he was completely lost. There was no chance to save it, and Anand wrapped up the point on move 49.
The other three games were drawn, with the games between the countrymen raising the specter of Curacao 1962 - though wrongly, I think. There Tigran Petrosian, Paul Keres, and Efim Geller agreed to draw all their games with each other to save energy over the course of the long tournament, and while they were also the favorites in any case it seemed to pay off. This event isn't as long as that one, and I doubt that the players were disposed to making such a deal in any case. It's true that the battles between Americans Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana on the one hand and between Russians Sergey Karjakin and Peter Svidler lasted all of 31 and 30 moves, respectively. However, in both cases one of the players had a relatively substantial advantage (Nakamura with White, Svidler with Black), so the brevity of the game should not be taken as a sign of bloodlessness.
Finally, Anish Giri pushed Levon Aronian for 65 moves and enjoyed an advantage off and on throughout the game, but it wasn't enough to win.
On then to round 2, with the following pairings:
- Svidler - Topalov
- Aronian - Anand
- Caruana - Giri
- Karjakin - Nakamura
It was an exciting three-man race in Zurich, with Hikaru Nakamura, Viswanathan Anand, and Vladimir Kramnik all finishing the tournament undefeated. The first five rounds were "rapid-classical": 40' + 10", and the games counted double: two points for a win, one for a draw, and the usual zero for a loss. This was followed by a blitz round-robin with traditional scoring. Anand started 2-0, but drew his last three rapid games and was caught in round five by Nakamura. Their +2 scores gave them 7/10, good for a one-point lead over Kramnik, who only won one game.
In the blitz, both Anand and Kramnik went +2 in the first four rounds, while Nakamura only went +1. Going into the last round, therefore, Anand led Nakamura by half a point and Kramnik by a full point, and with Kramnik getting White against Anand in the last round a three-way tie for first was a possibility, provided that Kramnik won and Nakamura drew with Levon Aronian. It didn't happen. Kramnik had White, but Anand was better prepared and equalized with ease, while Aronian was unable to hold a difficult double rook ending against Nakamura.
So just like last year, Anand and Nakamura finished tied for first. Last year, the tournament was supposed to end at that point, and had it done so they would have been co-champions or Anand would have won on tiebreak. Instead, Anand was cajoled into an Armageddon playoff with Nakamura, which he lost, and Nakamura took the title. This time it was Nakamura who wound up with the better tiebreakers, and while there were some rumors about another last-minute playoff getting set up, Anand was apparently not interested and settled for silver.
They both finished with 10.5/15, a point ahead of Kramnik. After that there was a yawning abyss of a gap, with Anish Giri and Aronian finishing with 5.5 points apiece and Alexei Shirov coming in last with just 3.5.
The games (unannotated, alas) are here.
What's next in super-GM land? The pickings are pretty slim for the next month: there are some leagues and the Aeroflot Open at the start of March, but the next really big tournament is the biggest of them all: the Candidates' tournament starting March 10. Four of the players from Zurich (Nakamura, Anand, Giri and Aronian) will be participating there, but it would be a mistake to draw any serious conclusions based on this event, with the possible exception of Anand's performance. To my mind, this shows that Gibraltar was a one-off, and he will be psychologically ready next month.
Mark Twain famously wrote, "the rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated", and Viswanathan Anand could say the same. Given up for dead - again - in the wake of his poor performance in Gibraltar a week or two ago, he has shown - again - that he remains a top player, and must be considered a legitimate contender to win the Candidates' tournament in March.
Anand won both games today, crushing Levon Aronian with White in the opener and defeating Anish Giri with Black in round 2. All the other games in both rounds were drawn except for the round two matchup between Alexei Shirov and Hikaru Nakamura. Shirov's attempt to create his trademark "fire on board" backfired (pun intended); in particular, his exchange sac on move 36 was a lemon or involved a serious miscalculation (possibly in serious time trouble). Both 36.a5 and 36.Rh1 - two moves which avoid going a pawn down - sufficed to maintain equality. I'll draw your attention to one other game from round 2: Vladimir Kramnik's wild battle with Levon Aronian. Kramnik played the dynamic, sacrificial chess characteristic of his play the past several years, and while it wasn't good enough for a win the game was highly entertaining.
There was an "undercard" of sorts: a two-game match between Boris Gelfand and Alexander Morozevich. Gelfand drew the first game with Black and won the second with White. Afterwards he played a second exhibition, this time a single game with chess sponsor (and very strong amateur) Oleg Skvortsov. Gelfand had White and Skvortsov was busted early, but the latter managed to make a very exciting game of it. The game had a nice touch near the end, when Gelfand played 42.Bc1! It wasn't the only winning move in the position, but it was certainly the prettiest.
All the games are here, and I've annotated Anand-Aronian from round 1.
The main event in Zurich starts today, Saturday, but before that the organizers had the players compete in a blitz tournament. This was entertaining for the spectators (both those on scene, including Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi[!], and the rest of us watching on the internet), of course, and it had the additional purpose of determining the pairings. Placement determined one's pairing number, and so the top three players will all have an extra game with the white pieces in the main event.
Hikaru Nakamura won his first three games in this six-player round-robin before Alexei Shirov (barely) pulled out a draw in round 4 and Viswanathan Anand beat him in the final round. Those three finished with plus scores, and thus get the extra white game in the rapid round robin to follow. Nakamura (obviously) finished with 3.5/5, while both Anand and Shirov wound up with 3 (Anand took second on tiebreak). Vladimir Kramnik was next with 2.5, Levon Aronian scored only two points (but defeated Anand in their game), while Anish Giri brought up the rear with a winless 1/5.
Because it's a rapid event (G/40' + 10"/move), there will be two games per day. (At least for the first two days; on day 3 there will be a rapid game followed by another blitz round-robin. Strange, but entertaining.) Here are the pairings for rounds 1 and 2; round 1 starts at 3 p.m. local time in Zurich (= 9 a.m. ET).
- Shirov - Kramnik
- Nakamura - Giri
- Anand - Aronian
- Kramnik - Aronian
- Giri - Anand
- Shirov - Nakamura
There's an added bonus: Boris Gelfand and Alexander Morozevich will concurrently play a two-game match with the same time control.
Hopefully the quality of the games will be high; whether it is or not, however, they're sure to be entertaining.
I don't see a way to embed any of the videos here, so I'll send you straight to the source instead. I've only watched Viswanathan Anand's "master class" so far, and liked seeing him discuss his amazing game with Evgeny Bareev from Wijk aan Zee in 2004. There's a spectacular variation that could have arisen had Bareev played 27...Qf4, and I was rather pleased with myself to have worked it out with a computer shortly after the game was played. When I learned a few hours later that Anand had seen the variation (or at least most of it) over the board, well, that was jaw-dropping. If you don't already know about this game and the variation in question, do check out that video.