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    Entries in Viswanathan Anand (106)

    Thursday
    Feb192015

    Zurich 2015: Nakamura Wins After An Armageddon Win Over Anand

    The Zurich Chess Challenge came to an unusual and controversial conclusion today, and in the end Hikaru Nakamura was the winner in an Armageddon game. We'll get back to this, but first, there was a rapid event.

    Viswanathan Anand entered the rapid round-robin with a one point lead over Nakamura, a two-point lead over Vladimir Kramnik and a massive three point lead over everyone else. Despite this, he was somewhat fortunate to reach an Armageddon match at all. Anand drew the first game against Kramnik and Nakamura beat Fabiano Caruana, cutting the lead to half a point. In round 2 Anand lost to Levon Aronian, but as Nakamura lost to Kramnik Anand kept his half-point lead over Nakamura while Kramnik closed to within a point. In round 3 Anand beat Caruana while Nakamura drew with Sergey Karjakin, so the gap between them went back to a full point. Kramnik stayed within striking range, catching up to Nakamura by defeating Aronian.

    The fourth round was huge for Nakamura. He defeated Anand in their head-to-head game, catching up to him in first place, while Kramnik lost what was at one point a winning position against Karjakin. Nakamura got a second bit of fantastic news after the round: it was suddenly decided that in the event of a first-place tie, the rules that had been agreed upon before the tournament would be thrown out the window. Rather than using Sonneborn-Berger tiebreaks, a tie would be settled by blitz games. As Anand would have won on tiebreaks, this was obviously a boon to Nakamura's chances.

    In the last round Kramnik bounced back with a win over Caruana, and he became the winner of the rapid portion of the tournament. That didn't help him win the overall event, however, as the leaders drew: Anand with Karjakin and Nakamura with Aronian.

    So it was on to blitz for Anand and Nakamura--or was it? Initially the clocks were set for a 4' + 3" blitz game, and Nakamura was sitting at the board waiting for Anand to show - but he didn't. Nakamura was called away from the board, and some time later he came back, as did Anand, with the clocks reset for an Armageddon game. Anand got five minutes, Nakamura four minutes plus draw odds. Anand probably should have told the organizers to take a flying leap, as his great predecessors Bobby Fischer, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik surely would have done. No doubt he would have done it in a very gracious way, but that is what he should have done. If it's necessary to declare a winner I'm all in favor of playoffs as a way of breaking ties, but this was ridiculous. You simply don't change rules - rules that weren't unfair to begin with - right at the very end of a tournament, especially without the players' prior consent.

    Instead, Anand played, and played badly. He chose the same line of the QGD he had used to defeat Magnus Carlsen in game 3 of the last world championship match and to defeat Nakamura in their classical game in the tournament, but the third time wasn't the charm. His plan with 9.g4 was simply bad, and Nakamura was winning while he was still in the opening. Whether his subpar play was due to the poor opening idea or a lack of emotional stability due to the rule change, Anand was mercilessly crushed in 29 moves.

    In conclusion, it was yet another very good event for Nakamura, who has gone from success to success the past several months. It was also a good event for Anand, at least as far as the classical portion is concerned, and a nice way to bounce back from the disaster in Baden-Baden. Kramnik also had a reasonable tournament: an undefeated 50% in the classical portion was par for the course, and a win in the rapid should boost his confidence a bit. For the other three players, it was a tournament to forget.

    Tuesday
    Feb172015

    Zurich 2015, Round 4: Anand Beats Nakamura to Take Over First

    It was a strong game by ex-champion Viswanathan Anand, who leapfrogged former leader (and for now, former 2800 player) Hikaru Nakamura by beating them in their head-to-head game. If I'm not mistaken, this was the first time he had beaten Nakamura (at least in classical chess), and it came at a propitious moment in the tournament. There's still plenty of action left, as tomorrow's game is only the end of the classical portion of the Zurich Chess Challenge and will be followed by a rapid round robin; still, this was a big victory for Anand.

    They briefly followed the line in which Anand beat Magnus Carlsen in game 3 of last year's title match, but Nakamura played 7...Nh5 rather than 7...c6. The move Nakamura chose has been considered very satisfactory for Black, and everything looked fine for him for quite a while. After a while, though, it looked like Nakamura had a bit of a dilemma. If he didn't swap everything off on the queenside he'd remained cramped, but if he did open the board White would have the option of playing on both wings with his extra space.

    These dilemmas persisted throughout the game. For instance, when Black played 22...h5 it weakened the kingside, but if he didn't do it Anand would have achieved further progress by playing h5 himself. Another hard choice came a couple of moves later, after 24.fxe5. If the bishop retreated to d8 it would have kept White's rook off of b6. That's a good thing for Black, and he probably should have done that. If he had, however, then his kingside would be even more barren, and had White built up an attack with Nf4, g4 and so on, and crashed through, then "geniuses" like me might have picked on him for not keeping his bishop on the kingside to protect his king. In this game, though, Anand crashed through on the queenside, and Nakamura's attempt to create counterplay on the kingside came too late to save the day.

    The other two games were drawn. Levon Aronian was better with White against Fabiano Caruana in a Lasker QGD thanks to White's customary space advantage. The question in such cases is usually whether the player can maintain his extra space and then turn it into a different sort of advantage, and in this game the answer was negative: he couldn't. Finally, Vladimir Kramnik couldn't make any headway against Sergey Karjakin in a Reti...or was it an oddball Closed Sicilian? I have almost no idea about how to classify their opening, except to say that it was more of a success for Black than for White.

    The (unannotated) games are here, and these are the pairings for round 5:

    • Caruana (3) - Kramnik (4)
    • Nakamura (5) - Aronian (3)
    • Karjakin (3) - Anand (6)

    Sunday
    Feb152015

    Zurich 2015, Round 2: Anand Beats Aronian With Great Preparation (UPDATED)

    The games between Vladimir Kramnik and Hikaru Nakamura and between Sergey Karjakin and Fabiano Caruana were both drawn, and while each had their moments the big game of round 2 in Zurich was between Viswanathan Anand and Levon Aronian. In their classical matchups Aronian has enjoyed a big plus score, most recently winning just eight days ago in the Grenke Chess Classic, but Anand has won the most important and the most spectacular games. (Important games: Mexico City 2007 and the Candidates' in 2014; spectacular games: Wijk aan Zee 2013 and to a lesser degree today's game.)

    Today's victory was the product of some outstanding opening preparation, almost surely done in the wake of his draw with Magnus Carlsen in game 10 of last year's world championship match. Aronian does play the occasional Gruenfeld, and after this game the amount of time he takes before trying it again is likely to increase. To his credit, Aronian's first five moves or so after the surprise were very good ones; his misfortune is that he needed to find a bunch more to come through safe and sound. Inevitably he erred, and Anand was able to finish things up at the board very quickly.

    That puts Anand into a tie for first with Nakamura with three points each after two rounds (they're using 2-1-0 scoring for the classical games; the subsequent rapid games will be scored in the usual way, with the overall totals tallied to determine a winner); there are three rounds to go. Tomorrow's pairings are as follows:

    • Aronian (1) - Kramnik (2)
    • Caruana (1) - Anand (3)
    • Nakamura (3) - Karjakin (2)

    I've analyzed the games, but the ChessBase online viewer is down (and has been for over a day); I'll post my analysis once it's back up. (UPDATE: It's back up, and the games are here.)

    Also of note: Viktor Korchnoi and Wolfgang Uhlmann played a two-game rapid match. The quality was low for the great players they once were (in Korchnoi's case, this wasn't long ago at all), but pretty high for players who will be 84 and 80, respectively, this March. Both players won with the white pieces; Uhlmann first and Korchnoi second.

    Tuesday
    Feb102015

    Next Up: Zurich

    Despite its brevity, this year's Zurich Chess Challenge will still be a true super-tournament. There are only six players, but the "weakest" of them is rated 2760. Here's the lineup:

    • Fabiano Caruana 2810
    • Hikaru Nakamura 2792
    • Vladimir Kramnik 2783
    • Viswanathan Anand 2782
    • Levon Aronian 2774
    • Sergei Karjakin 2760

    If I understand the tournament website correctly, there will be a blitz tournament on Friday the 13th which will determine the pairings for the classical tournament. That will run from the 14th through the 18th, and then there will be a rapid event on the 19th. As I mentioned in an earlier post, octogenarians Viktor Korchnoi and Wolfgang Uhlmann will play also four rapid games with each other (two each on Sunday and Monday), so this should be a very entertaining event.

    Saturday
    Feb072015

    Grenke Chess Classic, Round 5: Carlsen Catches Naiditsch

    As usual, Magnus Carlsen has bounced back from a loss in style and with a vengeance, and after his second straight win in the Grenke Chess Classic he has caught up to Arkadij Naiditsch. Both players have 3.5 points out of five, and lead their closest pursuer by half a point with two rounds to play.

    Carlsen was playing the tournament tailender and bottom seed, David Baramidze - with the white pieces, to boot, so his win isn't exactly shocking. Still, it was a nice, typical Carlsen win: he chose a variation (within a mainline opening, it's true) that was slightly off the beaten path, offering a position with plenty of play and no easy way for Black to simplify the position. He maneuvered, increased the tension and created imbalances, and in due course Baramdize erred. 28...Re6 wound up a waste of time, and a further error on move 38 took away all hope.

    Naiditsch had White against Fabiano Caruana, and to his credit he did what few super-GMs are willing to do: allow the Marshall Gambit. For once someone seemed better prepared than Caruana in the opening, and although Naiditsch returned the extra pawn his bishop pair looked very strong, and he surely had good winning chances. Caruana defended well, and although he had to suffer for a long time he never broke, and he remains in the hunt for first - especially given his pairing for the next round.

    The day's other winner was Levon Aronian, who improved his lot in life by adding to Viswanathan Anand's recent miseries. Anand had outplayed Aronian on the black side of a Ragozin, and was building a promising kingside attack before playing 23...Nh6? I suspect he missed something like 24.e4 Qxf3 (Anand played 24...Bxc5) 25.Qxg5+ Kh7 26.e5+ Bf5 27.Bxf5+ Nxf5 28.Rc3! Aronian wasn't immediately winning, but Anand didn't adapt well to the sudden change, and he was losing just a few moves later and then resigned somewhat prematurely.

    Finally, Etienne Bacrot was the only player to make a good case for the black pieces in any of the games, and enjoyed a winning advantage against Mickey Adams. Adams defended well, and like Caruana, saved half a point after a lot of suffering.

    The games are here (I've analyzed the two decisive results), and the pairings for the penultimate round are:

    • Anand (1.5) - Baramidze (1)
    • Caruana (3) - Carlsen (3.5)
    • Bacrot (2.5) - Naiditsch (3.5)
    • Aronian (2.5) - Adams (2.5)

    Friday
    Dec262014

    A New Interview with Anand

    I'm not sure where the original interview was, but Jaideep Unudurti, our essential source for all things Viswanathan Anand, has very kindly supplied us with the full text of his interview with the former world champion. This took place shortly after the end of the London Chess Classic, which Anand won on tiebreaks thanks to his last-round with the black pieces against Michael Adams.

    Q: Let’s go back to the dramatic last round. You got into the Berlin versus Adams who’d worked as Carlsen’s second. Were you worried about falling into ‘prep’?

    I assumed if they had found something, Carlsen would have actually used it in the match. So there was some consolation that in fact they didn’t find anything very effective.

    We had also checked it very well and in the end, it comes down to ‘do you trust your own analysis or do you get scared by ghosts?’

    And the other thing I wanted to do was to avoid indecision at the last stage so I took a very quick call to just play this and stuck with it.

     

    Q: Your head-to-head against Adams is in your favour, but he’s beaten you the last two times?

    Yeah exactly, I used to have a very very good score against him. And the last two games I lost was very similar to how he lost to me yesterday. We had a normal game and suddenly it turned around violently. So I was happy to improve that record a little bit. But its not something I thought about a lot. I just wanted to play the game yesterday that was it. I just wanted to end the year on a good note.

     

    Q: You’ve been dropping quite a few crucial last round games in tournaments…

    The pattern is getting alarming.  Having said that there is no point thinking about it. Then you start obsessing. I have lost quite a few last round games in the last two years.

    And infact even the rapid game with Nakamura, I thought was really silly. Because there isn’t much reason to play on so I should have just taken his draw offer. I’m happy this one went differently.

     

    Q: Wasn’t it surprising that 5 of 6 players could win the tournament the last round?

    No it isn’t. That is the thing with this football scoring, in that it very often produces situations like that. My hunch is that people forget after a tournament how many people had chances before the last round or the last two rounds. I think in most tournaments this system has the advantage that you keep half the field or more than half the field in contention. I mean it is almost impossible for half the field not to be in contention. Unless one guy wins four games or something and is beyond reach.

     

    Q: Were you tracking what was happening in Giri-Kramnik and Nakamura?

    I don’t like to sit and depend on other people. So after I finished my game, I just wanted to come back to the hotel. I mean by winning my game I had a satisfactory finish to the year and I was happy with that but by this point I understood that both Giri would draw and Nakamura wouldn’t win. If Kramnik had won he would have gone ahead, and if Nakamura had won he would have gone ahead. All these results could have passed me but by the time I’d finished I knew that the most likely result was that I would win on tie-break.     

     

    Q: After the blitz you had 3 blacks in a 5-round event. What were your expectations?

    Honestly I think in 5 games its better not to look for any patterns. Over longer tournaments at least some trends will become clear but 5 games it hardly matters. It is so short that the main thing is to get on with the job at hand. So I didn’t think about it too much. I was fine with the colours. To be honest I didn’t really mind an extra white or an extra black.  

     

    Q: Nakamura essayed the Evans Gambit; were you taken aback?

    I looked at it quite recently in fact and that was quite useful. Like with many openings, taking a fresh look with a new computer produces completely new results so it was good I’d done that.

     

    Q: Are we going to see a lot more of such approaches, thanks to the Berlin?

    It cuts both ways. There seems to be an increase in the number of Berlin endgames and in the sidelines. I think the Berlin is just becoming more popular (laughs).

     

    Q: Next year for the first time in 8 years you will not be either playing a world championship or preparing for it. What are your thoughts?

    I think the main thing is that your focus can shift to tournaments. It is not like that you can stop working. The point is that instead of thinking of one person you can think of everybody in chess. That obviously means more things to work on; it is a chance to do things very differently and I’m going to try and make use of that.  

     

    Q: What are your plans and goals for 2015?

    I’m going to play in Baden and then in Zurich so that’s as far as my plans have gone now. And then later on I’ll see what else I can play, I mean it depends on the invitations I get.

     

    And goals…?

    Just enjoy chess. It is a great feeling to have good results and play well and leave the tournament with some satisfaction.

     

    Q: Recently we saw top players taking part in the Qatar Open. Would you ever play in an Open tournament?

     Could be very interesting and I heard very good reviews about it. Definitely if something like that comes along, I would take a close look at it.

     

    Sunday
    Dec142014

    London Chess Classic, Round 5: Anand Beats Adams and Wins on Tiebreaks

    The Berlin theme tournament London Chess Classic is over, and Viswanathan Anand was the tiebreak winner over Vladimir Kramnik and Anish Giri thanks to the fact that his one win came with the black pieces, while their single wins each came with the white pieces.

    Anand's single win came in the last round, in a Berlin (what else?) against Michael Adams. Interestingly, Adams would have won the tournament had he won the game, and this even though he'd have an even score (on the traditional system) and would have lost almost half his games. (Seems absurd to me, and it's even more absurd that he would have been the tiebreak winner by virtue of winning more games than his rivals. Isn't it crazy to reward wins not just once but twice?) Adams had the advantage at multiple moments in the game, but in time trouble basically fell apart starting around move 28.

    Had there been a win in either of the other games, other than by Fabiano Caruana, that person would have passed Anand in the scoretable. Hikaru Nakamura tried hard with Black against Caruana in a Berlin (and this after he more than once semi-jokingly accused Vladimir Kramnik of ruining chess with the Berlin!), but was unable to achieve anything and was at times even a little worse. They drew, and so did Giri and Kramnik. Their game was an Open Catalan (an opening that might be even less of a fan favorite than the Berlin), and while Kramnik eventually obtained a nominal edge it was an easy hold for Giri.

    It was a nice tournament for the three winners, and a very good year for all of them too. Anand won three tournaments this year, came in a close second in the world rapid championship, and performed creditably in his title match with Magnus Carlsen. Giri played very well in 2014 and is finishing the year at #7 in the world. Kramnik's year was more up and down, but he finished the year on a high note, gaining more than 20 points in his last few tournaments.

    The final standings: 1-3. Anand, Giri, Kramnik 7; 4. Nakamura 6; Adams, Caruana 4. The last round games are here, with comments on the Adams-Anand game.

    ...

    The Mind Games tournaments are still going on in Beijing, but once they finish in a couple of days I think the Big Guys are done until Wijk aan Zee (with Carlsen, Caruana, Aronian, etc. - including Hou Yifan, who can surpass Judit Polgar's current rating if she gains at least three rating points), which starts January 9 - a good break for player and fan alike.

    Tuesday
    Nov252014

    Kasparov and Hou Yifan on the Carlsen-Anand Match

    Their comments are far blander than Caruana's, but when a world champion speaks it's still generally worth a look.

    Sunday
    Nov232014

    World Championship, Game 11: Carlsen Wins The Game And Retains The Title

    I hope Viswanathan Anand will be able to sleep this next year without having nightmares about his decision to sacrifice the exchange in this game. Anand had a very promising position and a genuine advantage after 23...b5, though he seemed to think it was only about equal. The subsequent exchange sac was an interesting idea in the abstract, but in the position it was simply too slow. Carlsen was better, and further inaccuracies by Anand sped the game along to defeat. After move 32 only reasonable accuracy was needed by Carlsen to prove the value of the material advantage, and Anand resigned shortly after the time control.

    Carlsen thus wins the match by two points, 6.5-4.5, and will retain his title until at least 2016. Anand will again be seeded directly into the next Candidates' tournament, while the identity of the other seven participants is as yet unknown. (Fabiano Caruana is a very likely second name due both to his rating and his current lead in the Grand Prix series, but it's not a guarantee.)

    Congratulations, Magnus Carlsen!

    Match website here; the game, with light comments, is here.

    Friday
    Nov212014

    World Championship, Game 10: Another Draw After Anand Lets The Advantage Slip

    Magnus Carlsen leads the world championship match with Viswanathan Anand 5.5-4.5 with two (scheduled) games remaining, but he's slightly fortunate to have come out of this game with his lead intact, and definitely fortunate that the game has finished already.

    Carlsen repeated the Gruenfeld for the first time since game 1, and this time Anand chose the Russian Variation. Judging solely by the time usage Carlsen was better prepared, but when it came to what happened on the board it was Anand who was either better prepared or simply playing better. Carlsen admitted to having underestimated Anand's 19.Ng5, and after this he started burning time on the clock too.

    The critical moment came on move 24, when Anand played 24.Rd2? This defended the a-pawn, but after 24...Re8 Black's problems were more or less gone. White needed to keep control of the e-file with 24.Rfe1, when he would have strong pressure and good winning chances. After 24.Rd2 White didn't have much, and what (very) little he did have was surrendered with 28.Bxb7, shortly followed by a draw offer.

    Game 11 is on Sunday (tomorrow is a rest day), and if Carlsen wins the match is over. If he doesn't, then game 12 will occur on Tuesday, after another rest day.

    The match site is here, and the game, with my light notes, is here.