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    Entries in Viswanathan Anand (112)

    Thursday
    Jun252015

    Norway Chess 2015, Final Round: Topalov Draws, Wins the Tournament; Hammer Beats Carlsen

    Another exciting super-tournament is now history, and the winner of the Norway Chess tournament of 2015 is the resurgent Veselin Topalov. Coming into the round he only needed a draw with Viswanathan Anand to clinch clear first, and he got it with ease as they played a known variation resulting in a draw by repetition.

    As Anand could have taken (clear) first place with a win, it would be easy to criticize this choice. But this was not a match and he was not in a zero-sum game situation. If he lost - and he had the black pieces - he would slip from at worst a three-way tie for second to potentially fourth place. Moreover, Anand's style and repertoire with black is generally classical and not based on strategically risky lines against 1.d4 like the King's Indian or the Modern Benoni. So while it would have been entertaining for us as spectators to see him go for broke in the last round, it's hard to criticize his decision to bring a successful tournament to a conclusion and to see if anyone would join him in a tie for second, half a point behind the winner.

    Two players had their chances, and one succeeded. If Hikaru Nakamura could defeat Levon Aronian with black, he'd catch Anand; likewise if Anish Giri could upend Fabiano Caruana with the black pieces. Remarkably, both had their chances, but only Nakamura reeled in the full point. Giri drew and finished in clear fourth, a point and a half ahead of Caruana and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. (Vachier-Lagrave drew with Alexander Grischuk.)

    The fifth game featured two players having bad tournaments, but bad in different ways and for different reasons. The player with the white pieces, Jon Ludwig Hammer, was alone in last place coming into the last round with just two points out of eight. This wasn't really a shock, as he was the lowest-rated player by a considerable margin, but as he had squandered many opportunities along the way he still had serious grounds for regret. The other player was the world champion, Magnus Carlsen. His score of 3.5/8 was terrible by his standards, but it seemed that he was playing his way into form after the catastrophe in round 1 and his getting clobbered in rounds 2 and 4. He had won convincingly in rounds 5 and 8, and looked good in round 6 as well even though that game only finished in a draw. With a win over his countryman and regular second, Carlsen could at least end the tournament with an even score and +3 over the last five rounds.

    But Hammer had his own ambitions. Before and during the tournament he offered two statements about what a good tournament would look like. The (probably) more serious statement was that he wanted to score at least three points; more jocularly, he said he'd be willing to lose every game as long as he beat Carlsen. In the end, then, it was a success: he got exactly three points out of nine and beat Carlsen - without having to lose the remaining games. He didn't even come in clear last place, but finished tied for last with Aronian, only half a point behind Carlsen and Grischuk.

    The games, with my notes, are here, and these are the final standings (the player listed first in case of a tie had the better tiebreak score):

    • 1. Topalov 6.5 (of 9)
    • 2-3. Anand, Nakamura 6
    • 4. Giri 5.5
    • 5-6. Caruana, Vachier-Lagrave 4
    • 7-8. Carlsen, Grischuk 3.5
    • 9-10. Aronian, Hammer 3

    Next stop: Dortmund, which starts on Saturday.

    Wednesday
    Jun242015

    Norway Chess, Round 8: Giri Beats Topalov, Setting Up A Last-Round Showdown with Anand for First

    Veselin Topalov had been riding high through the first seven rounds of the Norway Chess tournament, scoring an undefeated 6-1 that was a combination of strong play (against non-Norwegians) and good fortune (against Norwegians). He led by 1.5 points with just two rounds to go, but in round 8 he finally received his comeuppance at the hands of the youngest player in the tournament, Anish Giri. Topalov played an uncharacteristically passive line of the Queen's Indian/Catalan with Black, hoping to draw the resulting technical position. This really isn't Topalov's forte, however, and Giri simply outplayed him, step by step.

    As a result tournament victory is still up for grabs, but Topalov is still in good shape. He is half a point ahead of Viswanathan Anand and a point or more ahead of everyone else, and he has White against Anand in the final round. If he can draw with White (or win), he wins the tournament; if he loses, then Anand wins. Anand obtained this opportunity by beating Jon Ludwig Hammer. Hammer was fine out of the opening and into the early middlegame, but drifted into a bit of pressure and then blundered a pawn on move 27 and some more material a few moves after that.

    Hikaru Nakamura could have been in the running as well, had he managed to convert an extra pawn against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The Frenchman was slippery though, and Nakamura couldn't manage to neutralize his opponent's counterplay and keep his extra pawn at the same time. With the draw Nakamura is a point out of first, tied for third with Giri half a point behind Anand.

    The other games had no implications for first place (surprisingly). Fabiano Caruana slightly outplayed Alexander Grischuk with Black, but it wasn't enough to win the game. Finally, what would normally be one of the absolute highlights of any chess tournament, a battle between Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian, was almost an afterthought with both players near the bottom of the tournament table. Aronian played a terrific opening with Black and was somewhat better, only to go wrong with 21...Qb6. This gave Carlsen a very slight edge, which was neutralized, and then Aronian went awry again with 31...Nd3? and 34...Qxb2? Now he was losing, but when Carlsen with 36.Rc2?? Aronian had the chance to be better with 36...Qb8! Both players missed it, but a kibitzing Anand spotted it right away. (If only he had spotted ...Nxe5 in some game played in 2014....) Instead, Aronian blundered back and resigned on his 40th move, down a rook with no counterplay and the queens coming off.

    The games, with my notes (except to Grischuk-Caruana), are here. These are the last-round pairings:

    • Vachier-Lagrave (3.5) - Grischuk (3)
    • Aronian (3) - Nakamura (5)
    • Hammer (2) - Carlsen (3.5)
    • Topalov (6) - Anand (5.5)
    • Caruana (3.5) - Giri (5)

    Sunday
    Apr262015

    Shamkir, Round 8: Anand Cuts Carlsen's Lead to Half A Point With A Round To Go (Updated with Games)

    Coming into today's round with a one point lead and just two rounds to go, and with the black pieces, Magnus Carlsen's job was a rather Hippocratic one: first, do no harm. He kept things under control against Wesley So and achieved a draw without too much trouble. It was a good result against a player who had until the previous round looked like his main challenger for first place.

    Instead, that honor goes to his two-time world championship match opponent, Viswanathan Anand, who defeated Shakhriyar Mamedyarov on the white side of a Spanish Four Knights. First Anand made progress in the center, and then sacrificed the exchange for a pawn and loads of kingside play. He enjoyed a serious advantage, but didn't manage to make the most of it. Several moves before time trouble Mamedyarov managed to equalize, though proving and maintaining it wasn't going to be easy. Short of time, he bashed out his last two moves, and they were both mistakes. He was losing at this point, but even so his next two moves were also errors, and it was time to resign after White's 43rd move.

    In other games: Vladimir Kramnik finally stopped the bleeding and even managed to win his game, against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and got back to -1 in the tournament. Michael Adams also improved his hitherto unfortunate tournament with a win, in his case over Anish Giri. Finally, Rauf Mamedov continued his very solid tournament with a draw against Fabiano Caruana.

    One round remains; here are the pairings:

    • Mamedyarov (3.5) - Adams (3)
    • Caruana (4.5) - Anand (5.5)
    • Carlsen (6) - Mamedov (3.5)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (3) - So (4.5)
    • Giri (3) - Kramnik (3.5)

    UPDATE: The games, with comments, are here.

     

    Saturday
    Apr252015

    Shamkir, Round 7: Carlsen Leads Anand By A Point With Two Rounds To Go (Updated with Games)

    Magnus Carlsen barely won in Wijk aan Zee and in the Grenke Chess Classic earlier this year, but right now it appears that he has everything under control in Shamkir. After 7 rounds he has an undefeated +4 score, up from yesterday's +3 after a convincing win over the collapsing Vladimir Kramnik. Carlsen's 13.Qc2 was an interesting novelty in a 4.d3 Anti-Berlin, and Kramnik was up to the challenge. He reacted well and saw the right move and the right idea on move 19, but then got attracted to another idea. Unfortunately for him, what he saw rested on several miscalculations, and the result was a much worse, possibly losing position. Carlsen finished him off powerfully, and for possibly the first time in his career (at least in classical chess) Kramnik has lost three games in a row.

    If Wesley So could have defeated Fabiano Caruana he'd have remained just half a point behind and in good shape going into his game with Carlsen today/tomorrow (Saturday). It didn't happen: Caruana continued his newfound resurgence and won his second straight game, and they are now both on +1.

    In clear second now is Viswanathan Anand, whose good win over Michael Adams brought him to +2. Anand is continuing to play well, and can make as good a case as anyone to be the #2 player in the world.

    The other two games were drawn. To no one's surprise, the Azerbaijan Derby between Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Rauf Mamedov was drawn, but despite the game's speed and its concluding in a perpetual check, it was a real game - one Mamedyarov could and probably should have won. Finally, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Anish Giri drew their game as well.

    It's late and I'm having difficulty posting the games, so I'll try to do that in the morning/tomorrow. Meanwhile, here are the pairings for round 8:

    • Adams (2) - Giri (3)
    • Kramnik (2.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (3)
    • So (4) - Carlsen (5.5)
    • Mamedov (3) - Caruana (4)
    • Anand (4.5) - Mamedyarov (3.5)

    UPDATE: The games are here.

     

    Tuesday
    Apr212015

    Shamkir, Round 5: Carlsen, Anand and Mamedyarov Win; Carlsen Leads

    There was plenty of action and blood on the board in round 5 of the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir today. Three of the five games had a winner, and it could have been four. Moreover, all the decisive games involved the leaders, and not always to their advantage.

    In fact, the player who was leading the tournament, Wesley So, received his comeuppance today at the hands of Viswanathan Anand. It was their first game against each other, and Anand made sure to seize the psychological advantage for their future battles. In a 6.d3 Ruy Lopez, So repeated the rare move 9...Nb8 he had used against Fabiano Caruana earlier in the year. There he drew, but Anand was ready with a very nasty attacking idea that became clear when he played 14.f4. Objectively, this doesn't offer White an advantage, but practically it posed Black serious problems. As far as I can tell, Black is okay if he plays 16...Nh6, but So played 16...Bg5, admitting in the press conference that he had missed Anand's 17.h3 in reply. After that, So defended well (ignoring an exchange of minor errors on Black's 21st and White's 22nd moves) and might have been able to hold the position that arose almost by force after White's 29th move.

    Unfortunately for him, he failed to find the key to the position. His 29...d5? 30.h5 d4? was probably intended to create the possibility of a check for his queen on e3, so that if White's queen strayed a little Black could get some counterplay and perhaps a perpetual. Instead, he should have played ...a5, ...c5 and generally ...a4, trying to keep lines closed for both the queen ending and a possible pawn ending as well. Even if that does lose down the road - and I'm not sure it does - it would have been much harder to break Black's position in that case. After So's errors, Anand was able to break open the center almost immediately and win easily.

    That allowed Magnus Carlsen to leapfrog So and take clear first, after his great win over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The players left theory pretty early in a Reti/Polish Defense (1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 b5), and Carlsen did his thing and outplayed his opponent a bit at a time, one stage at a time. The first stage concluded with 22...Qf6?! 23.Bh5, after which White had a clear and enduring advantage, but nothing close to a win. MVL managed to keep the damage from getting worse through the end of the first time control, and it was only a couple of inaccuracies on moves 42 and 43 that allowed Carlsen to obtain a winning advantage. This took some great play by Carlsen, and he was up to the challenge. The final mating net he constructed with 50.Rxh7, 52.h5, 53.Rh7 and finally 54.Bd5 was especially nice, and Vachier-Lagrave resigned rather than see 54...a1Q 55.Rf7+ Kg5 56.Rf5# on the board.

    The third decisive result of the day was Shakhriyar Mamedyarov's win over Vladimir Kramnik, which was apparently his first win (at least in classical chess) over the former champ in his career. Mamedyarov had an enduring initiative in a Semi-Tarrasch, but no advantage for a long time - both players were producing very high-level, error-free chess until move 31. Kramnik needed to play 31...Qxd6 32.Na4 Ra5, when he would maintain equal chances. Instead, 31...axb6 32.Qb3 led to a position where Black could only eliminate White's dangerous d-pawn by entering an ending with a porous kingside with weak pawns on h6 and f6. Later on Kramnik could have put up more resistance, but practically speaking the task was probably almost impossible.

    There was almost a fourth win, as Fabiano Caruana came out of the opening with a huge, probably winning advantage against Anish Giri. This is not last year's Caruana, however, and he let Giri slip. It's likely or at least reasonable to think that he had looked forward to the position that arose after his 29th move, which does indeed look overwhelming. It's hard to believe, but there just isn't anything there for White, and after some exchanges the players split the point.

    The final game was a dull draw between Rauf Mamedov and Michael Adams. Black was able to liquidate the center in a Yates Variation Ruy, and shortly thereafter almost all the pieces were liquidated as well.

    The games, with my notes are here, and with more comments than usual it will hopefully tide you over for tomorrow's rest day. Here are the pairings for round 6, on Thursday:

    • Adams (1.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (2)
    • Giri (2) - Carlsen (4)
    • Kramnik (2.5) - Caruana (2)
    • So (3.5) - Mamedyarov (2.5)
    • Mamedov (2) - Anand (3)

    Sunday
    Mar152015

    Anand on Indian TV: The India Today Conclave

    It's nice to see a strong chess player, in this case Viswanathan Anand, appear before the general public in a way that simplifies some of what being a chess player is about without dumbing it down, and that's what he managed to do on this show:

    If you'd rather save a few minutes and read most or maybe even all of it, here's a pretty full report on Anand's appearance on the Chess24 website.

    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.