Entries in Vladimir Kramnik (71)
No, I'm not talking about (more than) 99.99% of the internet, though I could be. Instead, I'm referring to an interesting phenomenon in chess that has increasingly caught my attention of late: moves that appear to waste a tempo in the opening for what seems at first like absolutely no good reason. Further, in most of the cases, the pattern is similar: a piece moves to a square, then a move or so later proceeds to a square it could have reached on the previous turn. I've cataloged five instances of this for you here; readers are invited to offer examples of their own.
The Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir got off to an exciting start with two victories in five games and two other games that very nearly had a winner. The first decisive game was Wesley So's crushing win over Anish Giri. So quickly dragged Giri out of theory, and as great as he is Giri looked like the proverbial fish out of water. I was reminded of a game I played against Anna Sharevich in 2014, where shortly after the opening ended I managed to do just about everything wrong. There was a famous model game in the opening line we played that I knew very well and had taught various students and shown in videos, and yet I was allowing my opponent to execute practically every idea from that earlier game. Fortunately, my play improved at a certain point and I scraped out a draw, but the first part of the game was almost a horror as I watched myself walk into every kind of trouble. I imagine Giri felt something like that, and in his case he wasn't given a chance to climb off the canvas.
The second won game also featured surprisingly soft defense by the conquered player. Vladimir Kramnik enjoyed some pull with White in a Catalan against Michael Adams, and through move 23 that's all it was. A slip on that move (23...Rab8 instead of 23...Rdb8, allowing 24.Rfd1!) made Kramnik's advantage a serious one, and then further errors on moves 28 and 30 put the game out of reach.
Those games would have been minor stories, however, had Viswanathan Anand managed to convert a winning advantage against Magnus Carlsen. Somewhat shockingly, Carlsen played the Marshall Gambit against Anand, entering the sort of theoretical discussion where Anand typically shines and which Carlsen tends to avoid. Anand played well and had an edge, but the big moment occurred when Carlsen blundered with 19...Qd7? After 20.Nd5! Carlsen was fortunate not to lose on the spot, yet even the resulting pawn-down endgame should have been losing for him in the long run. For a while Anand showed excellent technique, and was well on the way to the win. Unfortunately for him, he missed a possible winner on move 43 and definitely miscalculated on move 47, either missing 49...g5! or 51...Kh7, after which the game finished in a draw.
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov pushed hard against Fabiano Caruana and may have been close to a win. In the end, after 90 long moves, the players called it a day.
Finally, Rauf Mamedov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave also drew, and for the only time in the round no one was close to a win. Mamedov had an edge throughout, and thanks to MVL's good defense that's all he ever got, and the players agreed to a draw right after making the time control on move 40.
The games, with my (light) comments are here; round 2 pairings follow:
- Adams (0) - Caruana (.5)
- Carlsen (.5) - Mamedyarov (.5)
- Vachier-Lagrave (.5) - Anand (.5)
- Giri (0) - Mamedov (.5)
- Kramnik (1) - So (1)
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.
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.
In my dreams, right? Exactly!
Of course, dreams are funny, and the draw wasn't exactly according to Hoyle. I had White and think it was in one of the big Swiss events that take place in Las Vegas every year. The opening may have been an Accelerated Dragon, and at some point in the early middlegame, roughly around move 22 or so, I played the move b3-b4, gaining space in the Maroczy Bind structure and perhaps preparing an eventual c4-c5 pawn break.
Big Vlad was a resourceful player - he wasn't world champion for nothing! - and came up with a move I hadn't foreseen: 22...b4-b3!! I looked up with some sort of amused and confused expression, I think only half aware in my dream that this was simply against the rules, and Kramnik looked up with a laughing smile that sort of recognized that something unusual and funny had just happened...but not something illegal.
I think I played b4 again, and while we drew very quickly I'm not sure that it was by a repetition. There was some other weird going-on first, as one of the players on the board next to us was unhappy with the physical characteristics of his rooks, so he switched his rooks with Kramnik's. At some moment Kramnik offered me a draw, and although I stood better and was considering what had to be the key move, I was doubly distracted. First, by the guy on the neighboring board who was complaining about his rooks, and secondly by the fact that I could now draw with Vladimir Kramnik! Unfortunately, point #2 trumped everything else, and I took the draw.
After the game Kramnik didn't go so far as to say that the critical move won, but seemed to acknowledge or at least assumed as obvious that I had an advantage. He did suggest that I should have been able to work out the details of this critical move, and I pleaded distraction (not mentioning the bigger impetus, of course) as the conversation finished.
What next? Well, if you're Magnus Carlsen or Viswanathan Anand you're not going to excitedly tell all your friends you drew with Vladimir Kramnik, but if you're a bit further down the food chain, like me, it would be awfully hard not to. A couple of local (Las Vegas) friends (one I've known for more than 35 years) were right there when I had finished the quick chat with Kramnik, so I didn't think I'd have to mention anything - they could hardly have missed seeing and hearing everything for themselves. So I eagerly awaited their pats on the back and the rest, but their congratulations weren't forthcoming. Instead, they were discussing the success of some other local player in a lower section. Gee, thanks, guys! Maybe my subconscious was punishing me for wimping out with the draw, or for wanting to brag?
I'm sure you guys have some better chess dream stories than this; if so (as long as they're clean!) write away!
There weren't any decisive games in today's action at the London Chess Classic, but there was some excitement in the games between Hikaru Nakamura and Viswanathan Anand on the one hand, and between Michael Adams and Vladimir Kramnik on the other. (The third game, between Fabiano Caruana and Anish Giri, also had some brief excitement as the players broke new ground in the Berlin endgame, but it fizzled out by move 23 and the remainder was just for the sake of appeasing the organizers.)
Nakamura essayed the Evans Gambit against Anand, and while that may sound exciting to players who haven't looked at many games played with that gambit since Chigorin and Steinitz were duking it out for the world championship, they tend to be pretty dull. (Not always, but usually.) Anand came out of the opening in good shape, but small inaccuracies in the early middlegame gave Nakamura an initiative. Once in a bit of trouble, however, Anand defended like a lion, and he held his own through the complications. Eventually the players repeated, and while the engines on the Chess24 live feed makes it look as if Anand had an advantage he didn't. White remains quite active (look at the board!) and there are a lot of tricks, too. The position is equal even if Black continues, and there are probably many more ways for Black to go wrong than for White in a game between humans.
Finally, there's the Adams-Kramnik game. Like Caruana-Giri it went into the Berlin "endgame", and Kramnik found a significant new idea for Black in the trendy 9.h3 line. He equalized easily and could have forced a draw, but decided to press instead. The idea of running the a-pawn was a good one, but it would have been better without his rook on a3. A very long think on his 34th move led him into all kinds of trouble, and with his 40th move Adams could have put the game away. He saw the move and assessed it correctly, but to his misfortune decided that another move would give him an even better version of the same thing. As he surely realized very quickly, his assessment was completely mistaken, and Kramnik escaped with a draw without any further adventures. Ironically, both players made bad decisions based on overthinking a particular move: long think, wrong think.
Had Adams won, he would have taken over the lead. As things stand, Kramnik and Giri continue to lead with 5 points apiece on the tournament's 3-1-0 scoring system. Adams has 4 points, Anand 3, and Nakamura and Caruana have 2. Tomorrow's round starts two hours earlier, and has these pairings:
- Anand - Giri
- Kramnik - Caruana
- Nakamura - Adams
The games are here, with some annotations to Adams-Kramnik.
The London Chess Classic's main event started yesterday, and now it's almost half over. Still, it's offering good value, and today two of the three games had a winner.
Vladimir Kramnik had a new and tricky idea ready in the Petrosian System against Hikaru Nakamura's King's Indian, and when Nakamura went awry in the complicated middlegame on moves 18 and 19 - and maybe move 17 as well - it was all one-way traffic. Nakamura held out until after the time control (if he had had more time he might have resigned a little earlier), and then called it quits.
After that, Anish Giri finished upending the previous leader, Michael Adams, to join Kramnik in first. Giri came out of the opening with a nice positional edge, but for a long time Adams hung tough and the outcome was uncertain. The uncertainty vanished after the tactical error 38...Ra1, which allowed 39.Ne8+. That wins the g-pawn by force sooner or later, and two extra pawns in that ending was one too many.
The third game was the first to finish. Fabiano Caruana was well prepared in the Queen's Gambit Declined for Viswanathan Anand's 5.Bf4 line, and in particular Caruana's 14...Nd7! was a surprising turn Anand had overlooked. Black will be doing great if he gets in ...e5, so Anand saw nothing better than repeating moves and calling it a day. Not an ideal result for him, certainly, but it left him the rest of the day to celebrate his 45th birthday.
Kramnik and Giri lead with 4 points apiece (remember, it's 3-1-0 scoring), Adams is in third with 3, Anand has 2 and both Nakamura and Caruana have 1. The round 3 pairings are:
- Nakamura - Anand
- Adams - Kramnik
- Caruana - Giri
It has been a long day, so rather than work up my own notes to the main game of the day, I'll turn it over to Chess24's Jan Gustafsson:
The last three rounds of the Qatar Masters Open were exceptionally dramatic, with each leader falling to the next. After six rounds Anish Giri led with a perfect 6/6 a point ahead of Vladimir Kramnik who had won his last four games after drawing his first two. Kramnik played Giri and won in impressive fashion (aside from an immediately forgiven fingerfehler in the opening) to catch him at 6/7. In the penultimate round Kramnik defeated the overperforming Saleh Salem with the black pieces, while Giri lost again, with White, to Yu Yangyi.
In round six Yu could have been out of the first place hunt, as he was a bit worse out of the opening against Alex Lenderman and for quite a while had nothing, but a bit at a time he outplayed the American GM and won that game. After the win against Giri he entered the round half a point behind Kramnik, and here he had a little bit of luck that arose because of Kramnik's prior good luck. When Kramnik played Giri in round 7 he was due for Black, but because Giri was too and his color equalization took priority (due to his higher score at the time) Kramnik got a second straight white for that crucial game. When the last round rolled around Kramnik was due for the white pieces, but so was Yu, and although Kramnik had the higher score entering the round his excess white game earlier flipped it around.
So Yu got the advantage of the first move, and pretty decisively manhandled Kramnik in a 4.d3 Berlin. Kramnik's 13...g6, 15...b5, 19...f5 and especially and finally 20...gxf5 created a large number of potential weaknesses, and the 20-year-old Chinese talent harvested just about all of them. When Kramnik resigned on move 33 he was down four pawns and likely to lose his stranded knight as well. It was an amazingly one-sided victory - I wouldn't be surprised to lose like that to a 2700, but it's remarkable to see it happen to Kramnik.
Meanwhile, Giri bounced back with a wild last-round win over Vladimir Akopian, and he and Kramnik split the 2nd-3rd place money, with Giri officially taking second on tiebreaks. A great result for Yu Yangyi, who also had the best performance rating at the Olympiad and made it to "Millionaire Monday" in Las Vegas as well. The young guys (quite a few of whom are from China) are taking over!
In round 5 of the Qatar Masters Open Anish Giri won very quickly with Black against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, but it looked like he would be held today by Swedish GM Nils Grandelius. Grandelius was very close to making a draw, but Giri kept the game alive for a long time, and his opponent finally fell apart around move 60. With the exception of Mamedyarov, Giri hasn't been playing the same kinds of opponents Fabiano Caruana did when winning seven in a row at the Sinquefield Cup or that Alexander Grischuk did in his six game streak across the Baku Grand Prix and the Tigran Petrosian Memorial, but even so it's very impressive.
His next opponent will be Vladimir Kramnik. Kramnik got off to a poor start, drawing in the first two rounds against considerably lower-rated GMs and just eking out a victory in round 3. Since then, however, he has been pummeling his opponents, and in round 6 he knocked out the talented young grandmaster Sanan Sjugirov in just 25 moves. With four wins in a row he is in clear second, and tomorrow he'll have the white pieces against Giri. That should be very entertaining.
Twelve players are in the next score group, at 4.5 points, and two of them are Americans. Sam Shankland will have Black against Yuriy Kryvoruchko on board three, while Aleksandr Lenderman will have the black pieces on board four against Yu Yangyi. Daniel Naroditsky has 4 points, and will have White against Pavel Eljanov.