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    Entries in Vladimir Kramnik (58)

    Wednesday
    Aug062014

    Tromso Olympics, Round 5: A Big Tie For First Entering the First Rest Day

    All three teams entering round 5 with a 4-0 score drew their matches, and a bunch of others caught them at the top. Right now seven teams have 4.5/5 (or rather, 9/10, since the official scoring uses 2-1-0 rather than 1-.5-0); in tiebreak order they are Azerbaijan, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Bulgaria, Cuba, Uzbekistan and Georgia. No less than 17 other teams are right behind them at 4/5 (or 8/10), including main contenders Russia, France, China and Armenia, but also surprises like Indonesia, Norway's B team, and Iran! Norway's A team has 7/10, along with the USA, Greece, Italy (Caruana et al), Israel (Gelfand et al), Ukraine (Ivanchuk et al) and many more. Not much stratification has occurred yet.

    In the women's event China, Hungary and Russia remain perfect; the Netherlands, Poland and Serbia all have 9/10, and then there are 12 more teams at 8, including the USA and Greece. Bravo Hellas!

    As the top teams are already facing off there were some real highlights on the day, most notably one-on-one battles between Levon Aronian and Magnus Carlsen and between Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov. In the first game Aronian was up a pawn for most of the game, but never with any serious winning chances. Still, it was probably nice to press, and in the end his team won - the most important thing.

    As for the hatefest between Kramnik and Topalov, Kramnik played what Garry Kasparov labeled a "great game", and he (Kramnik) certainly enjoyed discussing the game afterwards (with a bit of occasional gleeful malice) with the commentators. His pleasure was in good part spoiled however by the Russian team's failure to win the match. The culprit was Sergey Karjakin's blunders against Valentin Iotov. The most obvious one was his failure to recapture on d5 with the bishop on move 27. He apparently thought he could build up more and then take, but the problem with taking later was that Black would win by sacrificing the exchange on d5 and playing ...f4, when the threat of ...Qh2# would win the game. That wasn't a worry on move 27: 27.Bxd5 Rxd5 28.cxd5 Qf4 and now White returns the exchange with 29.Rxe5, and he'll have no problems. Karjakin may be even more upset when he learns that he could have won the game practically in the opening with 14.Qa3! The knight on e4 can't be taken because of 15.Qe7#, 14...Bxg5 is met by 15.Nd6+ Kd8 16.Nxf7+, and meanwhile the threat of 15.Bxf4 followed by 16.Nd6+ forces Black to cough up a pawn without a shred of compensation (in fact, White will have the better position to go along with the extra pawn).

    Another high-profile blunder cost another of the pre-tournament favorites a crucial point in the standings. The Ukraine-Uzbekistan match was headed for a draw, but an out-of-form Vassily Ivanchuk blundered in time trouble and lost to Rustam Kasimdzhanov from what Kasparov had considered a "dead drawn" position. Errare humanum est!

    As usual, I refer you to this page for more information, but as a little added bonus, here's the Kramnik-Topalov game, with my summary of Kramnik's comments and analysis.

    Monday
    Jun092014

    Norway Chess, Round 6: Four Draws and a Kramnik Loss

    To Veselin Topalov, naturally. No matter what Vladimir Kramnik says in this interview pretending that he isn't affected by Topalov over the board, his fairly poor results against him since their world championship match tell a different story. Kramnik used to own him, but now, no matter how bad Topalov's form is in any given event, he is even looking like a favorite against him.

    With the loss, the Norway Chess tournament now has three co-leaders: Kramnik, Magnus Carlsen (who drew a Berlin ending with Black against Sergey Karjakin), and Fabiano Caruana (who drew with Black against Simen Agdestein). Their draws were "clean" - no one had a serious advantage at any point, and the same goes for the other two draws. Levon Aronian had White against Anish Giri, but ultimately had the (not-too-difficult) task of forcing a draw while a pawn down. Finally, Alexander Grischuk and Peter Svidler drew quickly.

    The games are here (without notes), and tomorrow's round 7 pairings follow:

    • Svidler (2.5) - Agdestein (3)
    • Carlsen (3.5) - Grischuk (3)
    • Giri (3) - Karjakin (3)
    • Kramnik (3.5) - Aronian (2.5)
    • Caruana (3.5) - Topalov (2.5)

    Sunday
    Jun082014

    Norway Chess, Round 5: Kramnik Beats Caruana, Leads; Carlsen Beats Aronian

    There were two heavyweight battles today at the Norway Chess tournament, one between Magnus Carlsen (world champion and world #1) and Levon Aronian (world #2), the other between the Fabiano Caruana (the tournament leader and world #3) and Vladimir Kramnik (ex-world champion, [now] #4 in the world and in second in the tournament). Both games were long, both games were tough, and both games had a winner.

    Taking them in reverse order, Caruana entered the round in first and in excellent shape, having already played Carlsen and with (alleged) tournament rabbit Simen Agdestein next on the schedule. All he needed was to survive Kramnik with the black pieces, and his chances of overall victory would be excellent. Not a trivial task, especially with Black, but Caruana coped with the pressure of the moment and his opponent's moves for a long time. It was only at move 50 that he cracked, and with a very simple error: 50...Ke8?? Instead 50...Kf8 or 50...Kg8 would draw easily, almost trivially. The point is that 51.Kf6 would be adequately met by 51...Rb6+, and White is going nowhere. As White has few (no?) other real ideas, it's just a draw. The problem with 50...Ke8 was that after 51.Kf6 Rb6+ White had 52.Kg7, but even here Black can put up plenty of resistance with 52...Rb3. Instead Caruana resigned, and Kramnik supplanted him in first place.

    As for the Carlsen-Aronian game, it was more heartbreaking in one way, less in another. Aronian didn't lose the game with a one-move error, but unlike Caruana who was always fighting for a draw, Aronian had a winning or nearly winning position before the time control. Playing 32...h5, as suggested by the engines and by Aronian himself immediately after the game would have kept White bottled up and in desperate trouble. Instead, Aronian made a series of mistakes up to the end of the time control, and after his 40th move he was probably lost. There were some later moments when he was briefly back in the game, but Carlsen's technique eventually told. With the win Carlsen moved into a tie with Caruana for second, half a point behind Kramnik.

    There was a third winner on the day, Anish Giri, and his win was also a piece of good luck. Veselin Topalov was always fine against him with Black in a Rauzer Sicilian, and after 29 moves the position was equal. Then Giri played 30.f5??, and was lost after 30...Re5. Fortunately for the youngster, Topalov met 31.Re1 not with 31...d5, winning material, but 31...Kh8?? not only surrendered the advantage; it gave Giri a winning position. With the win Giri got back to 50%.

    Also extremely lucky today: Alexander Grischuk. ATR* Simen Agdestein was winning with Black in the same line of the Classical French he essayed against Sergey Karjakin in round 3. Agdestein varied first, but still had a little trouble early on. Agdestein handled the complicated position better than his opponent, and Grischuk didn't have enough compensation for his two pawn deficit. Agdestein's biggest chance was a tactical one: 39...Rxg2+! would have won on the spot, leaving Grischuk only the choice between two different hopelessly lost endings three pawns in arrears. Agdestein missed it, and let Grischuk slip out of trouble with a draw. Agdestein has five draws in five games, and on paper is doing great. His result so far is surely exceeding everyone's pre-tournament expectations except maybe his own. But he has let several opportunities slip, and at some point that may discourage him.

    Finally, Peter Svidler had an advantage against Karjakin for a while, but didn't manage to keep it. It looks like the key moment was on move 23, when 23.Nh4 (rather than 23.h3) looks rather unpleasant, threatening both Nf5 and to take on c6. Black could play 23...Ne7, but after 24.Bxa8 Rxa8 25.Rxb5 it looks like White has an extra pawn for nothing. Ultimately, the game was drawn.

    The games, with my notes, are here; tomorrow's round 6 pairings follow:

    • Aronian (2) - Giri (2.5)
    • Karjakin (2.5) - Carlsen (3)
    • Grischuk (2.5) - Svidler (2)
    • Topalov (1.5) - Kramnik (3.5) (Uh oh...)
    • Agdestein (2.5) - Caruana (3)

    * ATR = Alleged Tournament Rabbit

    Friday
    Jun062014

    Norway Chess, Round 3: Grischuk & Kramnik Win, But Caruana Continues To Lead

    Round 3 of the Norway Chess tournament was eventful, with a lot of movement and excitement at the top. Fabiano Caruana entered and left the round in clear first and with a half point lead, but it could easily have been different - both ways. Early on Magnus Carlsen obtained a serious edge, and later on Caruana had excellent winning chances before the world champion scraped out a draw.

    Levon Aronian entered the round in clear second, but blundered in the opening and was lost after just 14 moves. Understandably he continued through to the end of the first time control before giving up, though Alexander Grischuk never gave him a chance to get back into the game. Grischuk now has 2/3, good enough for a tie for second and a career high (live) rating of 2797. Caruana and Grischuk might end this tournament the 7th and 8th players in chess history to obtain official ratings of 2800 or better; right now Caruana is at 2801.7.

    Also winning in round 3 and tied for second is Vladimir Kramnik, who defeated Anish Giri with the black pieces. Interestingly, both Kramnik and Nigel Short (in commentary) felt that Kramnik was dominating all the way, with the only real question being whether he could break through or not. The engine completely disagrees and isn't much impressed by either Kramnik's or Giri's play. Fortunately for humankind, the engine isn't in the tournament, and Kramnik's pressure - whether real or only felt - eventually proved too much for the young Dutch player.

    Simen Agdestein could have joined the tie for second with a win over Sergey Karjakin, and he played fantastically well through the first time control to put himself on the verge of success. Unfortunately, errors on move 48 and especially 55 allowed Karjakin to survive - barely.

    Finally, Peter Svidler and Veselin Topalov rounded out the action with a game that was interesting in its own right, but of less dramatic significance than the other four games. Svidler was able to make some progress in the middlegame; enough to force Topalov to sac a pawn but not quite enough to reach a winning endgame.

    The games, with my comments, are here.

    Friday is a rest day, and on Saturday the round four pairings are as follows:

    • Caruana (2.5) - Giri (1)
    • Aronian (1.5) - Svidler (1)
    • Agdestein (1.5) - Kramnik (2)
    • Karjakin (1) - Grischuk (2)
    • Topalov (1) - Carlsen (1.5)

    Friday
    May092014

    A New Kramnik Interview

    There's a quasi-transcript here, but there are some worthwhile comments in the video itself that weren't included in the transcription. As for the interview itself, there are capable of being interpreted in a sour grapes way by his detractors, and I was occasionally reminded the infamous "a painter paints" interview - though only in style and not in substance.

    Wednesday
    Apr162014

    Russian Team Championship Wrapup, With Grischuk and Svidler Interviews

    So far, chess24 is putting out some nice material, including this concluding report, complete with annotated games and interviews. A tease: Grischuk explains his infamous comment about Kramnik's "bad preparation".

    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
    Mar222014

    Carlsen on Kramnik, Revisited

    I posted about this article yesterday, noting that Google Translate didn't do a fantastic job with the text. There's a much clearer translation of some of the harsher comments over on Susan Polgar's site (HT: Nosh Minwalla), for those who want to see what Vladimir Kramnik will be posting on his bulletin board for motivation next time they play.

    Friday
    Mar212014

    Candidates 2014, Round 7: Anand and Aronian Lead At The Halfway Point After A Crazy Round

    The first cycle of the 2014 Candidates' tournament finished with a crazy and chaotic round that saw three decisive games, and it could easily have been four. In the end Viswanathan Anand and Levon Aronian were tied for first at +2*, half a point ahead of Vladimir Kramnik.

    Anand has led the entire tournament, by himself for most of it, and he probably would have kept that lead if he had played 20...Rxf2 against Peter Svidler. White's compensation looks pretty slim, so it looks like Anand has sunk into an overly safety-first mentality. If he fails to win the tournament, it will be unforced errors like this that will be to blame. After foregoing this great opportunity, Svidler was able to neutralize his minimal disadvantage and save the game.

    Meanwhile, Aronian took the opportunity to catch up to Anand at the halfway point, thanks to his convincing win over Sergei Karjakin, now the tournament tailender. Interestingly, both Aronian and Anand were Black in a 4.d3 Berlin, and in both games Black came out of the opening smelling like a rose. Karjakin played b4 on move 10, and then went for d4 some moves later. As a result, the c4 square was weakened, and Aronian managed to conquer that square and infiltrate the queenside in general. White's position got worse and worse, and a desperate counterattack ultimately led to an ending where Aronian was down the exchange but had too many pawns for White to cope with.

    (One nice quote about that game, from chess24's round report. It comes from Rustam Kasimdzhanov, a chess24 contributor, Karjakin's second and a great player in his own right - the winner of the FIDE knockout world championship in 2004. He writes this about Aronian's 47...Qc4, which was the only winning move: "Qc4!! I mean wow!! It's at times like this you recognise the greatest. I'd never pull it off, not after 5 hours of play. It was SUCH a difficult move. It just does not occur, not to mortals.")

    Kramnik bounced back from his painful loss against Topalov with a win over Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, but he was very lucky. He was doing well with White after a well-played opening, but not as well as he thought. As a result he overpressed, and was soon forced to head for an ending where he hoped his queenside passers would compensate for Black's extra piece. For a long time Mamedyarov played very well, but at just the moment when he could obtain a straightforwardly winning position he blundered - twice! Worst of all, he did so with loads of time on the clock. He missed a tactic, and while that can happen to anyone he would surely have spotted it if he had spent a bit more time. Instead, he went from winning to equal to dead lost, and the game ended just a few moves later. A real tragedy for Mamedyarov, who had worked his way back from -2 after the first three games and would have finished the first cycle at +1, half a point behind the leaders. Instead, he's now -1 and it's Kramnik who is nipping at the leaders' heels.

    Another player who came into the round with an equal score also fell back to -1: Veselin Topalov. His opening preparation against Dmitry Andreikin was very good, but as in the game with Svidler two rounds earlier he fell apart almost immediately after his preparation ended. Topalov was crushed, and I'm guessing that he forgot to make sarcastic comments about his opponent at today's press conference.

    There is no break between the two cycles, and round 8 starts tomorrow (or today, if you're across the pond) at the usual time, with the following pairings (player scores are in parentheses):

     

    • Kramnik (4) - Andreikin (3)
    • Svidler (3.5) - Karjakin (2.5)
    • Topalov (3) - Mamedyarov (3)
    • Aronian (4.5) - Anand (4.5)

     

    Aronian - Anand is clearly the game of the day, but it's also an important opportunity for Kramnik, playing the white pieces against one of the relative outsiders. Svidler too needs to regain the winning habit before the leaders break away for good, and White against the tailender is a good place to start.

    Meanwhile, here are the round 7 games, with my notes.

    * Remember last year: there are no real ties for first. In case of a tie, tournament victory is determined by tiebreaks rather than a playoff. As Anand defeated Aronian in round 1, he would qualify for the match with Magnus Carlsen if they alone finish tied for first and Aronian doesn't beat Anand in the second cycle.

    Friday
    Mar212014

    Carlsen On Kramnik

    That there are quite a few digs by the world champion at Vladimir Kramnik's expense is pretty obvious, even with the shaky Google translation. (Norwegian readers are welcome to offer better translations!) This should sweeten the pot in case they end up playing in November.

    (HT: Ross Hytnen)