In the previous post I linked to a short interview of Viswanathan Anand focusing on his performance in last month's world rapid & blitz championships, and in that article he singled out several games of special importance. Those games, with my brief notes (including his win over Magnus Carlsen), can be replayed here.
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Once again "our" man on the scene Jaideep Unudurti has scored an interview with ex-world champion and current world championship contender Viswanathan Anand. It's a short piece and there's no "red meat" about the coming title tilt with Magnus Carlsen, but there are some interesting comments about the recently completed World Rapid & Blitz Championships, especially the rapid portion of the event.
It's worth a look, and I hope to present the games Anand referred to in a subsequent post.
So we have something new for the world championship match this coming November between titleholder Magnus Carlsen and challenger (and former champ) Viswanathan Anand. The match won't be in Norway or India, or FIDE favorites Elista or Khanty-Mansyisk. Instead, they'll face off in Sochi, Russia, which may not be entirely controversy free either. It had to be somewhere though, and without alternative sponsors it's probably good to get this taken care of as soon as possible.
According to the FIDE website (HT: Chess Today) the deadline for bids on the world championship rematch between Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand has come and gone, with nary a sponsor to pick up the tab. Not Norway, not India; no one. The FIDE page basically says "stay tuned", which might mean that come November the journalists will pack their bags for Elista or Khanty-Mansyisk.
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)
"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.
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!
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
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!
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)