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    Entries in Viswanathan Anand (73)

    Monday
    Apr142014

    Kramnik Interview

    Here you will find a bit about the 2014 Candidates, a look towards the 2016 Candidates (assuming Vladimir Kramnik gets there!), and (from Anand's side of things) an optimistic and intriguing look towards the Carlsen rematch later this year.

    (HT: Brian Karen)

    Saturday
    Apr122014

    Anand On The Candidates

    "Our" India correspondent, Jaideep Unudurti, has interviewed ex-champ and newly minted challenger Viswanathan Anand yet again - and has kindly informed us of it as well. In it Anand discusses the high and low points of the recent Candidates' tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk, exulting in his wins and expressing his dismay about the missed wins against Dmitry Andreikin in round 12 and the tension of the battle with Sergey Karjakin in round 13.

    A place where I might tentatively disagree with Anand is with his self-assessment regarding his pragmatism. He noted that Magnus Carlsen referred to him as "pragmatic", but Anand states that his only decision of that kind came at the end of the last Andreikin game, when he went for a repetition instead of a complicated but winning variation. But I would add to this his avoiding 20...Rxf2 against Peter Svidler in round 7. There are some complications, but they are well within Anand's capacity to navigate. If Anand's orientation was a bit less on the safe and pragmatic side I suspect he would have pushed himself to work through the lines to the end; I've seen him calculate far more complex lines when the situation dictated it.

    But enough conjecture: have a look at the interview, and let's wait to see if Anand plays increasingly bold and confident chess as the year goes on.

    Wednesday
    Apr022014

    Anand on Indian TV

    His confidence is back, or so the ex-world champion and new challenger Viswanathan Anand says in this interview. Confidence by itself won't be enough to unseat Magnus Carlsen, but without it I don't think he'd have a chance. So it, together with his newly regained good form and his always excellent preparation, ought to give him better chances this November than he had going into the match last year. We'll see!

    Sunday
    Mar302014

    Candidates 2014, Round 14 (The Finale): Anand Still The Winner; Karjakin Second

    The most important business of the 2014 Candidates' tournament was settled yesterday when Viswanathan Anand clinched first and a world championship rematch with Magnus Carlsen, but cash and honor remained at stake for the other seven players. In the end, only one game was decisive, and it saw Sergey Karjakin grind out the full point against Levon Aronian to take clear second and a sizable payday of 88 thousand euros.

    Anand had White against Peter Svidler, and kept the game under control, drawing in 34 moves without a scintilla of risk. Anand thus finished the tournament with an undefeated +3 score, while Svidler remained on -1.

    Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Vladimir Kramnik also drew their game quickly. Perhaps Mamedyarov came into the game with some ambitions, but Kramnik equalized effectively and expeditiously, and the game ended on move 30 rather than move 20 only because the rules required it. They both finished on 50%.

    Veselin Topalov enjoyed a nominal edge against Dmitry Andreikin, winning a pawn on move 30. Given the damage to his kingside structure, however, Andreikin was still basically fine. Topalov continued through move 69, and then gave in to the inevitable. He thus finished in clear last place, while Andreikin remained at 50%.

    That just left the Aronian-Karjakin battle. The two players' fortunes had gone in opposite directions since their previous meeting in round 7. Then, after winning their head-to-head game, Aronian was +2 and tied for first, while Karjakin was -2 and alone in last place. By the time of today's game, they were both at 50%, and if anything Karjakin could have had an even bigger score. Their game was a see-saw battle early on, but from around move 32 it was clearly Karjakin who would do the pressing. Aronian held tight for a very long time, but finally cracked with 72.Kg2(?). After 72...Qb2 White had nothing better than 73.Rh1, sacrificing a piece, but there wasn't enough compensation and Karjakin reeled in the point after 94 moves. It's a pity for Karjakin that he got started so late in the tournament, but clear second and a fantastic +3 in the second cycle should give him plenty of encouragement for the next time around.

    Final Standings (given in tiebreak order)

    • 1. Anand 8.5
    • 2. Karjakin 7.5
    • 3. Kramnik 7
    • 4. Mamedyarov 7
    • 5. Andreikin 7
    • 6. Aronian 6.5
    • 7. Svidler 6.5
    • 8. Topalov 6

     

    Saturday
    Mar292014

    Candidates 2014, Round 13: Anand Wins The Tournament

    Sergey Karjakin made Viswanathan Anand work very hard for the draw, but the former champion rose to the occasion, split the point and thereby won the tournament. One important moment came on move 48, when Karjakin played g4; this was in his opinion his only real mistake in the game. He thought he was winning the pawn ending that would arise after 53.Nxg5 Rxd2+ 54.Kxd2 Kxg5 55.Ke3 - e.g. 55...h3 56.Kf2 Kh4 57.Kg1 Kg5 58.Kh1 Kh4 59.Kh2 with a winning zugzwang - but then realized that both 55...Kf6 and 55...Kh6 draw. If White plays 56.f4 (against either move) then 56...h3 is fine.

    Realizing that the pawn ending wasn't a win, Karjakin played 53.Kd3 and tried to find other plans, but nothing came close. The 50-move rule was coming in sight near the end and Anand could surely have held in that way without any trouble, but to his credit he was both alert and appropriately greedy when he played 88...h3+! Three moves later it was Karjakin who would have something to worry about, but when he offered the draw it was too much for Anand to turn down. (Magnus Carlsen surely would have played on, but Vishy's fans will have to be satisfied with 88...h3+ and tournament victory.)

    The other games were eventful in their own way as well. The stealthy Dmitry Andreikin put an end to Levon Aronian's ambitions in this cycle, beating him on the white side of a Trompowsky. Andreikin's concept with 14.Qxe5+, entailing the sacrifices that followed on moves 16, 19 and 20, was remarkable. Soon Aronian was lost, and while there may have been some inaccuracies here and there White's win was logical and well-deserved.

    Both Aronian and Andreikin have reached 50%, coming from opposite directions, while Karjakin stayed there. And they're not alone: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov remained on 50%, holding a slightly inferior position against Peter Svidler (a 6.Be3 Ng4 Najdorf), and Vladimir Kramnik returned there after winning the grudge rematch against Veselin Topalov. That game was extremely complicated and (not surprisingly) rather mistake-filled. The last pair of errors came in tandem on move 50. Kramnik had several ways to win, including 50.Ne4+ (50...Bxe4 51.Rd8+ Ke7 52.Rxd2 Bc2 and now one way is 53.Kf2 b2 [53...Kf7 54.Rd7+ Kg6 55.Rd6+ Kh7 56.Rb6+-] 54.h7 and White wins whether the pawns are promoted or exchanged), but instead uncorked 50.N7f5+(??). Topalov thought for a while and played 50...Bxf5(??); instead 50...Kc7! 51.h7 b2 52.Rc8+ Kxc8 53.h8Q+ Kb7 and it's simply a draw; White cannot prevent Black from safely promoting without surrendering his own queen.

    The difference with Topalov's version can be seen in the final position. After Black moves the king somewhere, White plays 56.Ne3. The knight covers d1 and the queen covers b1, something that was impossible when Black's bishop was alive and kicking on d3.

    The tournament could just as well end here, but unlike matches play will continue even after a winner has been decided. So here are the pairings for the last round, to be played tomorrow (player scores in parentheses): 

    • Aronian (6.5) - Karjakin (6.5)
    • Anand (8) - Svidler (6)
    • Mamedyarov (6.5) - Kramnik (6.5)
    • Topalov (5.5) - Andreikin (6.5)

    I have a feeling that everyone except Topalov will be amenable to a quick draw, but we'll see. Speaking of Topalov, it would be bizarre if he overpressed and lost, as that would leave Andreikin of all people in clear second (assuming the other games are drawn). It could happen!

    Meanwhile, congratulations to Anand, whose stable chess in the tournament was clearly better than everyone else's. A couple of interesting tidbits: first, Anand has done at least one thing he's going to need when facing Carlsen the grinder, and that's get in better shape. Anand has lost a good deal of weight lately, and he acknowledged in the press conference today that he was at least in part inspired by Svidler's example last year. Second, it was a nice surprise to hear (again at today's presser) that when he was unsure about playing in this tournament it was Kramnik whose strong encouragement when most of the way towards getting him to participate. In fact it was a feel-good story all the way around: it was at last year's London tournament that it happened. Kramnik had eliminated Anand, but was then eliminated in the next round by Hikaru Nakamura in a "ridiculous" ending (Anand's word). So even though Kramnik had eliminated him, he felt bad for Kramnik and wanted to encourage him, so he invited him for dinner the next day. As it turned out, it was Kramnik who encouraged him - and now it's time for a world championship rematch.

    Does Anand have a shot this time around? I wouldn't rule it out if he's physically and psychologically prepared!

    Thursday
    Mar272014

    Candidates 2014, Round 12: Anand Draws Closer

    There are two rounds to go in the Candidates' tournament, and while Viswanathan Anand hasn't won it yet it's pretty close. None of his closest rivals won today, so he continues to lead Levon Aronian by a point (with a better tiebreak, so Aronian needs to outscore Anand by a point and a half) and both Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Sergey Karjakin by a point and a half. Karjakin still has to play Anand, and if he wins he'll have the better tiebreak in case he can make up that extra half a point.

    Tomorrow is a rest day, and we'll see what Saturday's pairings look like below. Now for a brief recap of today's round. There was one and only one decisive game, and it saw Veselin Topalov play a very good game against Peter Svidler, defeating him on the white side of a Taimanov Sicilian. Unfortunately for Topalov, all that did was bring him up from sole last place into a four way tie for that dubious distinction at -1.

    The two other players (besides Svidler) who came into the round on 50% left it that way, though they went at each other hammer and tongs. Mamedyarov played very aggressively against Karjakin, sacrificing several pawns for a kingside attack. Karjakin took them, but also took an awful lot of time, and by the time he survived the harrowing time pressure his reduced material edge wasn't enough to win.

    Levon Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik faced off in an Orthodox Queen's Gambit Declined where nothing much seemed to happen - at least not until Aronian's risky (and dubious) 27.e4. Kramnik went for a repetition, but had he spotted 28... (or 30...) Nb5! 31.exd5 Na5! there might have been a four-way tie on 50%.

    Finally, Anand had White against Dmitry Andreikin, and was winning in excellent style. He had some clearer wins, but even in the final position (or actually just before it) he was winning with 41.Rc4! It was a crazy position and it's near the end of a long tournament though, so his decision to bail out with a draw is hard to criticize, as he's still almost impossible to catch.

    That said, a potentially huge test faces him on Saturday - probably the last chance for the field to make a race of it.

    • Andreikin - Aronian (an absolute must win for Aronian)
    • Karjakin - Anand (likewise for Karjakin; if Anand draws the tournament is in principle over)
    • Svidler - Mamedyarov
    • Kramnik - Topalov (the hate match, part two)
    Sunday
    Mar232014

    Candidates 2014, Round 9: Anand Wins; Aronian, Kramnik Lose

    It's too soon to say that the Candidates' tournament is finished and Viswanathan Anand is the winner, but round 9 was a huge step in that direction. Anand defeated Veselin Topalov, outplaying him on the white side of a Najdorf Sicilian. Meanwhile, Levon Aronian was outplayed by the resilient Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (if only he had finished off Vladimir Kramnik he'd be right there in the hunt!) while Kramnik blundered against Sergey Karjakin on move 7(!!) and lost as well. (The game between Dmitry Andreikin and Peter Svidler was a short draw.)

    So what this means is that with five rounds to go Anand leads Aronian by a point and Kramnik by a point and a half. But that's not quite right, at least with respect to Aronian. He has a point more than his rival, but in fact his lead is greater than a point and less than a point and a half. Because Anand won their head-to-head matchup, he wins the tournament if they finish with the same score and have more points than everyone else. Thus (ignoring the rest of the field for the moment) Aronian must outscore Anand by a point and a half over the last five rounds to win. Not impossible, but a difficult task - especially with Anand having three white games in the remaining five.

    I'm sorry to report that due to other responsibilities I won't have time to analyze any games until next weekend, but you can at least replay today's games here. Tomorrow is a rest day, and here are the pairings for round 10, on Tuesday (as usual, player scores are in parentheses):

    • Karjakin (4.5) - Andreikin (4)
    • Kramnik (4.5) - Svidler (4)
    • Aronian (5) - Topalov (3.5)
    • Anand (6) - Mamedyarov (4.5)

    Saturday
    Mar152014

    Candidates 2014, Round 3: Anand Regains Clear First

    Is he back? Viswanathan Anand has 2.5 out of 3 in the Candidates' tournament, good enough to lead the pack going into the first rest day. His opponent, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, lost pretty badly yesterday (blundering his queen practically in the opening) and didn't look like himself today either. Mamedyarov had White, but didn't manage to gain any advantage or even come close in a 4.Qc2 Slav. The players followed a 2012 game between Ivanchuk and Vallejo through 14.e4, when instead of Vallejo's 14...Qe7 Anand played a new move, 14...e5. (Interestingly for you computer fans, Komodo TCEC doesn't put 14...e5 in its top five [not that it hates the move], but Houdini 4 recommends it immediately. The third member of the current triumvirate, Stockfish DD 64, also settles on 14...e5 as its top choice after a bit of waffling around.)

    After 15.Be3 exd4 16.Bxd4 Black played Kh8, allowing ...f6 and ...Bf7 in some circumstances. White chose the prophylactic 17.e5 against this - 17...f6 can be met by 18.e6 - but this was a mistake. After the preliminary 17...Re8, forcing 18.f4, 18...f6 was now a very effective move. White cannot push through this time, as 19.e6? Nb6 wins the pawn. (White can flail with 20.Bxb6 Qxb6+ 21.Kh1, but 21...Qe3 will win the pawn, at least if White doesn't want to lose the exchange instead.) White was forced to swap on f6, and Black enjoyed a nice advantage.

    Anand's 21st move may not have been the best move (the computer prefers 21...c5!), but it was tricky. White's best move, 22.Qd3, looks less natural than 22.Re3, and Mamedyarov chose the latter. Black quickly whipped up a dangerous attack, and the game was soon over. 26.Rf1 was another mistake in a bad position (my guess is that White missed the nice shot 27...c5, or at least hoped Anand would miss it), and Mamedyarov resigned after making the move 31.Kh1 before Anand chose either 31...Nf2+ or 31...Ne3.

    Peter Svidler and Vladimir Kramnik entered the round tied for first, and so if either beat the other in their head-to-head game they would have kept pace with Anand. Svidler built up an advantage and had the initiative throughout, but he failed to strike a winning blow. After the time control on move 40 Kramnik defended perfectly, capped off by the fantastic 45...f5! 46.gxf5 Rf6! A narrow escape for Kramnik, and a game that overall shows both players to be in excellent form.

    Veselin Topalov and Levon Aronian also played an exciting game that finished in a draw. As in round 1, Aronian threatened the Marshall Gambit, but instead of repeating Anand's 8.h3 Topalov chose the classical Anti-Marshall with 8.a4. Topalov probably never had an advantage, but he certainly posed some serious problems with his kingside buildup and the complications unleashed with 23.Bd6. From there on, with the possible exception of 28.Qxh7 (28.Qxa5 was a playable alternative), both sides seem to have played all the best moves through the perpetual check on move 35. Both Topalov and Aronian are on 50%, but they seem to be playing well too and are still very much in contention.

    The last two players, by contrast, already look like outsiders. Dmitry Andreikin and Sergey Karjakin started and finished the day on -1 after a short, correct and not especially interesting draw in a 4.d3 Berlin.

    Round 4 will take place on Monday, with the following pairings (player scores are given in parentheses): 

    • Mameydarov (.5) - Andreikin (1)
    • Karjakin (1) - Topalov (1.5)
    • Aronian (1.5) - Svidler (2)
    • Anand (2.5) - Kramnik (2)

     UPDATE: Games here, with the brief comments given above.

    Thursday
    Mar132014

    Candidates 2014, Round 1: Anand Beats Aronian, Other Games Drawn

    It's only one round into the 2014 Candidates, but maybe the recently deposed world champion is back! Viswanathan Anand smoothly dispatched top seed and frequent bete noire Levon Aronian on the white side of an Anti-Marshall, bringing hope to his fans and fear to Aronian's. It was Aronian who produced the first new move in a position both players had tested before (though not against each other), but Anand seemed better prepared or at least more skilled in handling the resulting position. After 19.Ne5! White achieved an extremely pleasant ending with two great bishops against a mediocre bishop and knight, and Anand didn't have too much trouble winning the game. It's too early to draw any sweeping conclusions, but given that Anand is one of those players who is much stronger when confident the rest of the field may have something to worry about.

    The other three games were drawn, and in two of the games Black had no trouble at all in the opening. Dmitry Andreikin may not have taken Vladimir Kramnik out of preparation in the entire game, and while the same can't be said for the Shakhriyar Mamedyarov - Veselin Topalov clash Black was at least equal for a long time. Maybe Mamedyarov managed to achieve a small plus around move 27, but a tactical flurry soon resulted in a draw. In the third game Sergey Karjakin did achieve an opening plus against Peter Svidler in a Taimanov Sicilian, but his inaccurate 22.Ng3?! allowed Svidler to more or less force an immediate draw with 22...Bc4.

    UPDATE: Games here, with my comments.

    Here are the pairings for round 2: 

    • Kramnik - Karjakin
    • Svidler - Andreikin
    • Topalov - Anand
    • Aronian - Mamedyarov
    Wednesday
    Feb262014

    A Strange Queen vs. Rook and Pawn Ending

    Played by the newest member of the ex-world champions' club, here. What especially struck me were the fascinating stalemate motifs, which I had never come across in contexts where the weaker side had a pawn.

    HT: Jaideep Unudurti