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.
Entries in Viswanathan Anand (140)
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)
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)
Viswanathan Anand won the Champions Showdown, and won in impressive fashion. He was tied for first after the classical portion, won the Rapid portion outright, and finished just half a point behind Hikaru Nakamura in the blitz. He won overall with 15/24, and only lost one game the entire event, to Nakamura in their final blitz game, in 139 moves, on time in a drawn position. He even left quite a few points on the table, and in slightly better form might have won in a rout.
Hikaru Nakamura had a good event overall too, finishing a point back with 14 points. He finished half a point behind Anand in the classical, a point behind him in the rapid, and won the blitz to come in a very clear second place, three points ahead of Fabiano Caruana and six ahead of Veselin Topalov.
The double round robin portion of the Champions Showdown concluded in St. Louis on Saturday, and the stage finished with Viswanathan Anand and Veselin Topalov tied for first. Anand led after day two and drew both games today. Against Topalov in round 5 (the first game of the day) Anand had a chance to press late in the game, but for the most part his games were balanced and the draws were justified. That left him at +1, and the question was whether he would be caught - or passed - by Topalov or Hikaru Nakamura.
In round 5, Nakamura defeated Fabiano Caruana, and thereby joined Anand at +1. Nakamura's novelty was met by a logical plan, the only problem was that Caruana was a tempo shy of successfully implementing it. 18.Qb3 was a good move, winning a pawn, and Nakamura confidently converted his advantage.
With a draw against Topalov in round 6 he'd tie Anand for first in the stage, and a win would put him in clear first. Instead, Topalov won a very good game, thereby concluding the classical portion tied for first.
Sunday they play rapid chess; meanwhile, the games are here, with my notes.
Veselin Topalov led after day 1 of the Champion's Showdown, while Hikaru Nakamura was the moral victor of the first day after saving a difficult position in one game and a(n almost) dead lost one in the second. The played in round 3, and Nakamura got a free point when Topalov either forgot theory in a well-known position or had an inspiration that was really a hallucination. Whatever the explanation, the game was over in just 14 moves.
That let Nakamura leapfrog Topalov into first, and if Viswanathan Anand had beaten Fabiano Caruana they would have shared the lead after first classical round robin. Anand played very well the first part of the game and achieved a winning advantage, but his hasty 30.f5 followed by another inaccuracy a couple of moves later let the American escape.
In round 4 Nakamura started with a good position for a change, against Anand, and this time it was his opponent who made the comeback in the second half. Anand got his first win, Nakamura his first loss, and now Anand was the leader. Had Topalov won his game against Caruana they would have been tied for first, but although Topalov had a winning advantage at more than one point Caruana escaped with a draw.
The classical portion of the event ends tomorrow. The current standings are: Anand 2.5, Nakamura & Topalov 2, Caruana 1.5.
It's Veselin Topalov vs. Fabiano Caruana and Viswanathan Anand vs. Hikaru Nakamura, starting now in St. Louis. As mentioned a few days ago, this is a three-part tournament: two classical round robins, followed by a double round robin in rapid, concluding in a quadruple round robin in blitz.
Official site here.
There is that little match in New York coming up, it's true, but in St. Louis there will be a very strong and entertaining event overlapping for part of the world championship match. The 2016 Champions Showdown in St. Louis runs from November 10-14, a three-stage tournament featuring Fabiano Caruana, Viswanathan Anand, Hikaru Nakamura, and Veselin Topalov. The first three days are for a classical round robin, day four will feature a double round robin with a rapid time control, and the last day will be a quadruple round robin in blitz.
It'll be a great few weeks for chess fans - especially in the United States. (Apologies to European readers and others who will stay awake to crazy hours of the morning following all the action.)
Anish Giri entered the round in first with 3.5 points, half a point ahead of Ian Nepomniachtchi. They played in round 5, with Giri getting the white pieces. Nepomniachtchi sacrificed a pawn early on for activity, and while Giri managed to keep the pawn and neutralize his opponent's counterplay, the cost of doing so was a drawn rook ending. At least it was drawn with correct play, and "Nepo" achieved that standard.
In fact all but one of the day's games were drawn. Levon Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik had a somewhat similar game, except that Kramnik had to suffer more before reaching the rook ending and required a higher degree of accuracy to hold it. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had White against Peter Svidler, but was a bit worse in the early middlegame. By reaching an opposite-colored bishop ending, he was able to avoid any serious trouble - though he too had to save the game a pawn in arrears. Finally, Li Chao and Evgeny Tomashevsky drew as well, and without either player suffering a material deficit.
The one winner was Viswanathan Anand, who bounced back from yesterday's loss to Kramnik to beat poor Boris Gelfand, who has lost four games in a row. Opposite-colored bishop endings are more drawish than most other endings, but that's primarily when there are only the bishops. In this game both players had both rooks as well, and Anand showed that the ending wasn't drawish at all. To avoid the sure loss that would result from passive defense Gelfand came up with the dynamic double pawn sac 33...Rd8 followed by 36...e3, but Anand's counter-sac with 37.Bxe3 resulted in a prospectless ending for Gelfand. Anand had a rook and four pawns (three connected queenside passers, plus an f-pawn) against Gelfand's rook and bishop. With best play, maybe Gelfand could have held it (emphasis on "maybe"), but with his king cut off on the kingside his chances of saving the game were slim indeed. If there was a way to do it, he didn't find it, and Anand won comfortably.
Here are the pairings for round 6 on Sunday (Monday is the next rest day):
- Kramnik (2.5) - Gelfand (.5)
- Tomashevsky (1.5) - Anand (3)
- Svidler (2) - Li Chao (3)
- Nepomniachtchi (3.5) - Mamedyarov (2.5)
- Aronian (2.5) - Giri (4)
There's now a three-way tie for first after two rounds of the Tal Memorial. Three games were drawn - two post-haste (Svidler-Nepomniachtchi and Tomashevsky-Aronian) while the third (Kramnik-Li Chao) always seemed headed for the draw that was eventually achieved.
The other two games were impressive achievements by the victors. Anish Giri defeated Boris Gelfand with the black pieces in good style. Giri's active play in the center involved a pawn sac, and it would seem that he did a better job of evaluating the sharp position that resulted than did his opponent. 28...g5 was a nice move, and Giri finished the game with an impressive attack, helped along by Gelfand's plausible error on move 34 in time trouble.
Viswanathan Anand also won with an impressive attack, but in an endgame. Mamedyarov went for an interesting piece sac in a Closed Ruy, and while his compensation may have been enough it required accurate play to remain that way. His decision to trade queens on move 29 surprised Anand, and the computer doesn't like it either: Black's compensation rested as much on his attacking chances as on the pawns he had for the piece, and once the queens came off it was White who took over the initiative. The final sequence, beginning with, say, 47.Rb6, was very nice. Mamedyarov wasn't too far away from escaping with a draw, but some clever tactics combining various possible knight forks with threats against Black's king secured the win for the former world champion.
Here are the pairings for round 3, with player scores in parentheses:
- Nepomniachtchi (1.5) - Kramnik (1)
- Aronian (1) - Svidler (1)
- Giri (1.5) - Tomashevsky (.5)
- Mamedyarov (.5) - Gelfand (.5)
- Li Chao (1) - Anand (1.5)