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    Entries in Viswanathan Anand (147)

    Friday
    Aug112017

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 9: Vachier-Lagrave Defeats Nepomniachtchi and Wins the Tournament Outright

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had the best chances of anyone coming into the round to emerge as the sole tournament winner, and he came through with a smooth positional win over Ian Nepomniachtchi. It was a little cheeky of Nepo to play the Najdorf against the world's top specialist in that variation, and it was interesting to see MVL avoid the most theoretical lines in reply. Vachier-Lagrave went for one of the stock positional plans, aiming to swap all the minor pieces except for a white knight (to plant on d5) and a black bishop (destined to suffer either from restriction or irrelevance on the dark squares). Having achieved the plan, he had little trouble converting his advantage, and by the time Nepomniachtchi resigned only Levon Aronian could catch him.

    And that was only in theory. Aronian played very sharply with Black against Magnus Carlsen, but Carlsen defended well while accumulating positional advantages elsewhere. By the time MVL won, Aronian was struggling for a draw, but couldn't achieve it. That left Magnus Carlsen half a point behind Vachier-Lagrave, and with mixed feelings at the end of the tournament. Overall he played well and finished strongly, but he could very easily have finished the clear winner with a +5 score, had he not blundered away a winning position against Vachier-Lagrave in round 4 on his way to a loss, and had he converted a winning rook ending against Hikaru Nakamura in round 6.

    Carlsen shared second place with Viswanathan Anand. The good news for Anand was that his opponent was Wesley So (this wouldn't normally be good news, but So had a very bad tournament by his standards), but the bad news is that he was playing Black. The game was a fairly short draw, and if anything So could have pushed a little harder than he did. Overall, though, it was a fine tournament for the former world champion.

    Sergey Karjakin could have joined the tie for second with a win over Nakamura, but with Black that wasn't going to be easy. The game was pretty balanced throughout, with Nakamura enjoying the initiative until almost all the pieces were hoovered off the board.

    Finally, Peter Svidler's quest to win a game finally bore fruit. After losing in round 1 and drawing his next seven games, Svidler reached 50% with a win over Fabiano Caruana.

    Final Standings:

    1. Vachier-Lagrave 6 (of 9)
    2-3. Carlsen, Anand 5.5
    4-5. Aronian, Karjakin 5
    6. Svidler 4.5
    7. Caruana 4
    8. Nakamura 3.5
    9-10. So, Nepomniachtchi 3

    Thursday
    Aug102017

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 7: Three Lead With Two Rounds to Go

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrange had enjoyed the solo lead for a while, but now he's part of a three-way tie for first going into the penultimate round. He did his best to maintain the lead, employing some very deep preparation against Sergey Karjakin on the white side of the Berlin ending. After his 26th move, he had used just over a minute on his clock, while Karjakin had burned much more time - and would continue to do so. The bishop vs. knight ending that had arisen was very complicated, and it gave Karjakin yet another chance to justify the "Minister of Defense" sobriquet others have bestowed upon him. He used almost all his time in the first time control, while MVL had loads of time left - and it paid off. With essentially perfect defense he avoided a number of pitfalls, and held the draw.

    This gave three people the chance to catch Vachier-Lagrave in first: Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand, and Levon Aronian. Carlsen managed to achieve the very slightly happier side of a draw against Peter Svidler, and won the moral victory of doing so with Black (in a Scotch), but the bottom line is that he remains half a point behind the leader.

    Or rather, leaders, as both Anand and Aronian won. Anand had a small edge against Ian Nepomniachtchi in a double rook ending, and it unexpectedly turned into a winning advantage when Black played 31...b4. Black had no real threats against White's king, while his kingside counterplay was too slow for White's queenside pawn majority. Anand's accurate 40th move eliminated Black's last hope for play, and accordingly Nepo resigned.

    Aronian also won, and with Black, against Hikaru Nakamura. Nakamura played the English, and the players entered a line from the 1987 Kasparov-Karpov match in Seville. Nakamura's 15.Ne4 varied from some earlier games (none by Karpov or Kasparov) in which 16.Bb2 was played; most recently in Svidler-Karjakin from the Candidates tournament in 2016. Nakamura's move looks good, but Aronian handled the resulting position better and obtained an edge. Many moves and some White inaccuracies and errors lately, Aronian won a bishop vs. knight ending with an extra pawn.

    Finally, Wesley So drew a short game with Fabiano Caruana; not the result he hoped for, but he did stop the bleeding after a couple of losses.

    Here are the round 8 pairings:

    • Anand (4.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (4.5)
    • Aronian (4.5) - Svidler (3)
    • Nepomniachtchi (2.5) - Carlsen (4)
    • Caruana (3.5) - Nakamura (2.5)
    • Karjakin (3.5) - So (2.5)

    Monday
    Aug072017

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 5: Carlsen, Anand Win to Come Within Half a Point of Vachier-Lagrave

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is taking his lead into the rest day on Monday, with the last two world champions hot on his heels. Vachier-Lagrave did his best to extend his lead with the white pieces against Levon Aronian, but Aronian defended extremely well. After a long tactical sequence MVL found himself in an ending with a bishop and knight for a rook and a pawn. In the middlegame that material (im)balance generally favors the minor pieces, but in the ending it's generally more equal, as the relatively empty board gives the rook maximum scope for activity. So the game finished in a draw, leaving MVL with 3.5 points out of 5.

    Magnus Carlsen bounced back after yesterday's loss to Vachier-Lagrave by defeating Wesley So, something that has become a good habit for the world champion this year and a very bad one for the American champ. Things looked good for So out of the opening - a Scotch - but the exchanging sequence starting with 19.Bf4 proved mistaken. It was better to protect the pawn with 19.b3, maintaining for the moment the tension in the center. Once the series of exchanges came to an end, Black's position was more active than White's. White's a-pawn soon dropped, and after a couple more moves White had lost a second pawn as well, without obtaining serious compensation in return.

    The game of the day, however, was unquestionably Viswanathan Anand's spectacular win over Fabiano Caruana. Caruana was doing well out of the opening, but things started going south after Anand's 19.f4. Black's best was 19...Bd5, aiming to meet 20.e4 with 20...Bc4, with unpleasant pressure against White's center. Instead, he played 19...Bg4, aiming for complications his position couldn't justify. After 22...Rxe2 Black is winning if White doesn't have anything special, but he did: 23.f7+ Kf8 24.Bxg7+! Kxg7 25.Qc3+ and now Caruana's 25...Re5(?) was met the attractive and crushing 26.Qd4!, more or less winning on the spot after 26...Qg5 27.Rc5! Instead, 25...Qe5 would have been more resilient, but after 26.Rxe2! Qxc3 27.Re8 White should win, e.g. 27...Qd4+ 28.Rf2 Qxb4 29.f8Q+ Qxf8 30.Rfxf8 Rxd3 31.Rg8+ Kf7 32.Ref8+ Ke7 33.Ra8 the ending is a win. Great chess by the former champ, and he's back in the hunt.

    Sergey Karjakin's game with Ian Nepomniachtchi finished peacefully, but was noteworthy for two reasons. The primary reason was Karjakin's intriguing two-step with his bishop. First 5.Bd3 in the Austrian Attack against the Pirc, a line that has been known for many decades (though generally with 5.Nf3 first and 6.Bd3 next), but then after 5...0-0 6.Nf3 Nc6 he played the incredible 7.Be2!? Karjakin claimed in the post-game interview that he had forgotten some of the analysis, so we'll have to see if this was a one-off joke or if this will prove an important new wrinkle. The second noteworthy aspect was that Nepo nearly won with Black. Had he done so, he would have made it back to 50% - an excellent score in light of his 0-2 start.

    Finally, the game between Hikaru Nakamura and Peter Svidler finished in a draw. It had been heading there, but a Svidler error gave Nakamura some serious chances to at least push for a win. He tried, but Svidler defended well and saved the game.

    As already noted, Monday is a rest day. Here's what the round 6 pairings look like for Tuesday's action:

    • Caruana (2.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (3.5)
    • Carlsen (3) - Nakamura (2)
    • Karjakin (2.5) - Anand (3)
    • Aronian (2.5) - So (2)
    • Nepomniachtchi (2) - Svidler (2)

    Monday
    Jul102017

    Leon 2017, Day 3: So Defeats Anand in Blitz Tiebreaks to Win the Tournament

    Viswanathan Anand has won Leon nine times, but while he showed glimpses of his strengths - his preparation was especially good in some games, and he demonstrated his skills as a slippery defender by saving two lost positions in the final match - in other respects his play wasn't so good. Wesley So's play wasn't perfect either, but he seemed more consistent and was a deserved winner.

    The final between So and Anand followed the format of the semi-finals, a best-of-four rapid match (20' + 10"/move), followed if need be by a pair of blitz games and, if still tied, by an Armageddon game.

    So had White in the first rapid game, a 4.d3 Berlin. Anand came out of the opening fine, and then So had a slight edge, and then Anand was better before the game finished in a draw in an equal position. It was a good start for Anand.

    Game two was a very different story. So probably surprised Anand with 7...Kf8 in a 7.Qg4 Winawer. He came out of the opening in good shape, and while he was briefly in trouble between 26...Rf8? and 28.Qf3?, most of the time things were in his favor. So was winning for around 25 moves, but Anand defended stubbornly, and So couldn't quite put him away. Another draw.

    Game three was a lot like game one: So slightly outplayed Anand after the opening to get an edge, and was then outplayed by Anand who took over the advantage, and then the draw was agreed in an equal position.

    Game four was rather crazy. So played a very bad opening, and by move 18 or so he was nearly lost. Anand's attack would play itself, as the cliche goes, once he got in g2-g4. So rose to the occasion, finding a neat tactical trick that Anand missed until it was too late. That allowed him to equalize, and then he outplayed Anand to achieve a winning endgame. But once again Anand defended well enough to make the win difficult - at least in a rapid game - and once again the game was drawn. On to the blitz.

    In the first blitz game, Anand appeared to forget his prep. It seems as if he wanted to copy what he had done against Anish Giri in a rapid game a week ago, but messed up his move order and reached the same position a tempo down. While So missed a surprising tactical opportunity to take immediate advantage of Anand's error, his retained a pleasant advantage that quickly became decisive. Anand never got into the game, and resigned after just 23 moves.

    In the second blitz game, Anand again achieved an advantage with White against the Petroff. So seemed at sea in game four, and nothing about the opening of this game suggested he was better prepared this time. He offered a dubious pawn sac that offered little if any compensation, but was bailed out when Anand blundered it away with 16.Rab1. White did get a very small chance several moves later, but after that there were no more opportunities. So defended very well, achieved the draw, and won the title.

    Games here, some with my notes.

    Saturday
    Jul082017

    Leon 2017, Day 2: Anand Scrapes Past Santos in the Second Semi-Final

    It wasn't smooth or easy, but Viswanathan Anand overcame Jaime Santos in a blitz tiebreak to win their semi-final match in Leon, thereby qualifying for tomorrow's final against Wesley So. Game 1 finished in a draw, and then Santos won his first white game to take the lead. Anand struck back in game 3, achieving a persistent edge that turned decisive when Santos played 32...Nd6? rather than 32...Rxd4. Still, while the latter move is better, Black still would have had a very difficult defensive task after 33.Be5 Qxf3 34.gxf3 Nd2! (the justification for 32...Rxd4) 35.Bxd4 Nxf3+ 36.Kg2 Nxd4 37.Nb6.

    In game 4 Santos achieved an advantage, but couldn't find a way to exploit it, so then it was on to a blitz tiebreaker: two five minute games (plus increment, I'm guessing) followed if necessary by an Armageddon game. In the first tiebreak game Anand won a pawn with White, but a draw was still the likeliest result until Santos played 43...Kd7, blundering a further pawn or two. In the second tiebreak game Santos got nothing out of the opening, and trying to make something happen he blundered the house and lost again.

    Thus both favorites showed their strength and experience to reach the final after falling behind in their matches, and we'll see what happens tomorrow. So has been far more successful over the past year, but it would be crazy to underestimate a player like Anand.

    Thursday
    Jul062017

    Leon Tournament Starts Tomorrow

    The opening ceremony and drawing of lots took place today at the 30th Leon Chess Tournament, but the action starts tomorrow (Friday). It's a four player knockout event, with semi-final matches on Friday and Saturday followed by the final on Sunday. The matches are best-of-four contests with a 20' + 10" time control, and the first match sees Wesley So take on Jan-Krzysztof Duda while Saturday's semi pits defending champion Viswanathan Anand against relatively young Spanish IM (but rated in the mid-2500s) Jaime Santos. The action all three days starts at 4:30 p.m. local time (= 2:30 p.m. GMT = 10:30 a.m. ET).

    Wednesday
    Jun142017

    Norway Chess, Rounds 6 & 7: Aronian Surging Forward With a Bang, Carlsen Going Out With a Whimper

    Round 6 (on Monday) and round 7 (on Wednesday) were both exciting and eventful, and after a slow start the Norway Chess tournament has become very lively. There were two wins in round 6 and three in round 7, and it's nice to see that the decisive games have all been well-played by the winners.

    Hikaru Nakamura had been leading after round 5, but he was caught in round 6 by Levon Aronian, who promptly went by him with a second straight win in round 7. In round 6 Aronian beat Vladimir Kramnik pretty badly on the white side of a Semi-Tarrasch when the latter underestimated the danger to his queen on g4. That was a clean victory, slightly contrasted with his win over Sergey Karjakin in the next round. Aronian was never in danger, but his play was rather speculative. Karjakin got caught up in the speculative atmosphere, which proved unfortunate. In particular, 28.Rg6 only managed to get the rook in trouble, and in the lead up to the time control things went from bad to worse, and Aronian dispatched him most efficiently.

    Things are going even more poorly for Magnus Carlsen, who is tied for last place with 2.5 points out of 7. He lost in round 7 to Kramnik, who bounced back nicely from his loss to Aronian with a surprisingly easy win against the world champion. This put Kramnik back into second place on the rating list, and what's incredible is that he's only 6.4 points out of first. Carlsen has been #1 in the world on every list since July 2011 (and on most of the lists going back to January 2010), but he's just one more loss and one more Kramnik (or Wesley So, or maybe even Aronian win) from falling to #2. Back to the Kramnik-Carlsen game: Kramnik played sharply, but Carlsen was fine until his 25th move. After 25...Bxf2+ he would have been fine with correct play; after 25...Qxf2+, however, and his further error on move 27, he was simply lost, and Kramnik was up to the challenge.

    Kramnik is tied for third place with Anish Giri, with four points, half a point behind Nakamura and a full point behind Aronian. Giri played the Accelerated Dragon/Dragon hybrid against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in round 7, and while MVL is one of the best calculators in the world and a player who loves sharp, imbalanced positions this just wasn't his day. He neither took proper care of his king nor got his own attack off the ground fast enough, and lost a short, one-sided game.

    The last decisive game of rounds 6 and 7 came from round 6. Viswanathan Anand (the last person not named "Magnus Carlsen" to be classical world champion or rated #1 in the world [in classical chess]) repeated the same anti-English line he lost with against Giri in round 4, but this time he was fully successful with it against Fabiano Caruana. Caruana's queenside play got nowhere, while Anand successfully broke through on the kingside on the way to a queenside mating attack.

    The decisive games mentioned above can be replayed here, with my comments. Here's what's coming up in round 8:

     

    • Nakamura (4.5) - So (3.5)
    • Carlsen (2.5) - Karjakin (3)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (2.5) - Kramnik (4)
    • Aronian (5) - Anand (3)
    • Giri (4) - Caruana (3)

     

     

     

    Friday
    Apr142017

    This Week's World Chess Column: An Instant Classic

    As mentioned in the previous post, there was yet another event before the main event and the blitz tournament in Zurich, and that's the exhibition game between tournament sponsor Oleg Skvortsov and Viswanathan Anand. Skvortsov is a pretty strong player in his own right, as an amateur, and he pushed Anand to do something special. You can read all about it here, in this week's column.

    Saturday
    Dec172016

    2016 London Chess Classic: The Leaders Draw; So Clinches Overall Grand Chess Tour Victory

    For Hikaru Nakamura to overtake Wesley So in the overall Grand Chess Tour standings, a lot of things would have had to go right for him in today's round and in the final round tomorrow, but having drawn his game with Levon Aronian and with So having held against Fabiano Caruana, that ship has sailed. So has won the overall tour and the accompanying $100,000 bonus. By drawing with Caruana, who was and still is the only player within half a point of him, he is in a great position to win the London Chess Classic as well.

    So and Aronian had the black pieces, and both were very well-prepared in the openings, equalizing fully and drawing easily. Two other games were drawn, but with more drama.

    Vladimir Kramnik gave 1.e4 another punt, something he's been doing a fair amount lately, and Anish Giri played the Najdorf. The last two rounds saw Black get blown away in the Delayed Poisoned Pawn variation, but Kramnik played 6.g3 and went for a purely positional approach. Giri did his best to spice the game up, even giving up a piece for a few pawns. The game finished peacefully, but not from a want of effort or because the game lacked interest.

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave continued his streak of unsuccessful openings, this time against Michael Adams. Adams equalized with Black pretty easily in a 4.d3 Berlin, and event obtained the advantage. To hold, MVL wisely gave up a pawn to reach a rook and four pawns vs. rook and three pawns ending, with all the pawns on the same side.

    Finally, Veselin Topalov managed yet another loss; his present score is one out of eight. (Granted, that's still one point more than almost everyone reading this would score, but for Topalov it's a disaster - he has lost almost 27 rating points and has fallen out of the top 18 in the world for the first time in more than two decades.) Today's suffering came at the hands of his conquerer in their 2010 World Championship match, Viswanathan Anand. Anand was ready with a great new idea in a major line of the 5.Bf4 Queen's Gambit Declined: 12...b5! Soon White was in serious trouble, but as has happened more than once in the tournament, Anand let his advantage slip away. Fortunately for him, but not for his snakebitten opponent, White's position remained precarious, and Topalov made further errors and lost. (The games are here, unannotated except for Topalov-Anand. That game has enough analysis to make up for the other four, and then some.)

    Here are the last round pairings:

    • Aronian (4) - Topalov (1)
    • Anand (4.5) - Kramnik (4.5)
    • Giri (4) - Caruana (5)
    • So (5.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (3.5)
    • Adams (3.5) - Nakamura (4.5)

    Saturday
    Dec102016

    2016 London Chess Classic: Three More Wins, and So Leads and Surpasses 2800

    It was another exciting round, with three decisive games and not a single 1.e4 e5 snorefest.

    The game of the round was a thriller between Veselin Topalov and Fabiano Caruana, an Advance French that went back and forth a few times before Caruana turned the tables one last time with the brilliant 36...Re8. It has been rumored that if he - Caruana - manages a +4 score in the tournament that he will overtake Magnus Carlsen for the #1 spot on the rating list. That seems wrong, but he would at least get very close to him on the list. Right now he is within 14 points, the nearest anyone has been to Carlsen in a very long time.

    Another bit of big news on the rating list is that Wesley So has become the 12th player in history to achieve a FIDE rating of 2800, though for now it's only on the live list, where he is 2803.2. He defeated Mickey Adams to notch his second win of the tournament, and as a result he's in clear first. For Adams, it was his second straight defeat, and like yesterday he blundered at the end of the time control; a bit less egregiously in today's game, but not by much.

    The third winner was Viswanathan Anand, who was unafraid of Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and his Najdorf. With some nice preparation Anand came out of the opening with a serious advantage, and while he may not have prosecuted this advantage in the best possible way MVL's position was always difficult, and a blunder on move 29 sealed his fate.

    Anish Giri and Hikaru Nakamura played past the first time control, but it never looked too frightening for Black and a draw was always the likeliest result. Vladimir Kramnik and Levon Aronian also drew, but theirs was a wild affair before it settled down to a drawn ending.

    The games are here, and tomorrow's pairings look like this:

    • Aronian (1.5) - So (2)
    • Adams (0) - Giri (1)
    • Nakamura (.5) - Anand (1.5)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (.5) - Topalov (0)
    • Caruana (1.5) - Kramnik (1.5)