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    Entries in Zurich 2014 (5)

    Wednesday
    Feb052014

    Carlsen Wins Zurich Chess Challenge; Caruana Second on Tiebreaks Ahead of Aronian

    Magnus Carlsen had a very bad time of things in the (quick) rapid games on Tuesday, and came close to losing his lead at the Zurich Chess Challenge. Close, but not close enough for Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana to catch him. All three players won their first game - Carlsen over Boris Gelfand, Aronian over Viswanathan Anand and Caruana over Hikaru Nakamura - and it looked like the deal was done. Carlsen enjoyed a two point lead over Aronian and a three point lead on Caruana, with just four games to go.

    But then it got interesting. Aronian outplayed Carlsen and won handily to close to within a point. Caruana only drew with Gelfand, so he only closed his gap to two and a half points. In round 3 Carlsen drew with Nakamura, and while Aronian remained a point behind after a draw with Gelfand, Caruana got another half a point closer by defeating Anand. (That was three losses in a row for Anand, incidentally.)

    Round 4 was the big chance. Caruana outplayed Carlsen, coming to within a single point of the leader. Had Aronian managed to defeat Nakamura, he would have caught Carlsen in first. Nakamura has been a regular "customer" of his for some time now, but not today. Nakamura won a good game, and so Aronian remained a point behind.

    Round 5 was a mere formality. Carlsen had White against Anand, and cynically (but understandably) repeated game 8 of their match pretty much move for move. The players conducted the whole game at blitz tempo, called it a draw, and Carlsen clinched. (I enjoyed Nakamura's disdainful expression as he looked up at the electronic display as this was going on.) Caruana and Aronian played a real game, which also ended in a draw, and thus they finished tied for second, a point behind Carlsen. (Caruana took second on tiebreak.) Here are the full final standings:

    1. Carlsen 10 (out of 15 - the classical games were scored double)

    2. Caruana 9

    3. Aronian 9

    4. Nakamura 7.5 (he finished the rapid with a very strong 3.5/4)

    5. Anand 5

    6. Gelfand 4.5

    Tuesday
    Feb042014

    Zurich 2014: Carlsen Leads After The Classical Stage; Rapid Games On Tuesday

    As is fitting for a world champion, Magnus Carlsen has won the classical stage of the 2014 Zurich Chess Classic, finishing with a terrific, undefeated score of 4/5. Or rather, 8/10, as they are using a 2-1-0 scoring system for the classical stage. The tournament is not over, because today (or tomorrow, depending on where you are) there will be a rapid stage too, another round-robin but with colors reversed and a 15' + 10" time control where the games will count in their usual way: 1-.5-0.

    In round 1 Carlsen defeated Boris Gelfand in a very good game, on the white side of a sort of Fianchetto Gruenfeld/Slav hybrid. In round 2 he again had White, but couldn't get anything against Levon Aronian and the game ultimately finished in a draw. The key game came in round 3, against Hikaru Nakamura. Both players were +1 coming into the game, and mentioned in this post Nakamura has recently taken it upon himself the mantle of the chess world's best hope to unseat the new champion. Things started off great for Nakamura, who obtained a clearly winning position and had more than one way to finish the job. Unfortunately, he faltered shortly before the time control, first going from seriously winning to clearly better, to equal and then losing. Carlsen won, and then he won again in round 4 against Fabiano Caruana - without drama. Finally, Carlsen finished with a very easy draw with Black against Viswanathan Anand.

    Levon Aronian also had a good tournament, but he faltered at the finish, in keeping with his unfortunate new "habit". He outplayed Anand in round 1, drew with Carlsen in round 2 (as already mentioned), drew with Gelfand in round 3 and then crushed a probably dispirited Nakamura in round 4. In the last round, however, he lost to Caruana, who in turn wound up in third with a 50% score. Anand and Nakamura both finished at -1, while Gelfand brought up the rear of the train with a -2 score.

    Tomorrow's action begins bright and (painfully) early, at 1 p.m. local time in Zurich, meaning 7 a.m. ET.

    Wednesday
    Jan292014

    Carlsen Wins Zurich Blitz

    What a strange and interesting blitz tournament, especially when viewed through Magnus Carlsen's performance! In round one, he had White against Fabiano Caruana, and he was beaten like a child. (Playing Bill Gates isn't going to help your chess when you're the world champion.) In round 2 he had White against Boris Gelfand, and Gelfand outplayed him too. Carlsen did manage to fight back and save the game by a thread, but it still wasn't an auspicious start. In round 3 Carlsen was completely lost against Levon Aronian out of the opening, and down two minutes on the clock besides, but grimly hung on and managed a draw.

    At this point, he finally got things together, and was helped by playing Viswanathan Anand, who seems unable to play well against the champ. Anand was comprehensively beaten, resigning after just 21 moves with mate coming on the next turn. A win in the final game, against Hikaru Nakamura, finished his comeback, and he tied for first with Levon Aronian at +1, coming first on tiebreaks.

    Behind Carlsen and Aronian, Nakamura, Caruana and Anand finished on 50%, with Nakamura getting the coveted third place and thus an extra White game in the real tournament. Gelfand finished in last with 1.5.

    Here are the pairings for round 1 of the classical tournament, which starts tomorrow (Thursday):

     

    • Carlsen - Gelfand
    • Aronian - Anand
    • Nakamura - Caruana

     

    Wednesday
    Jan292014

    Zurich (Carlsen, Aronian, Nakamura, Caruana, Gelfand, Anand) Starts Today

    The festivities at this super-tournament in Zurich start in about two and a half hours or so. They will be following the recent tradition of starting the event with a blitz tournament to determine pairing numbers; that's what will take place today. The practice is dubious in terms of fairness, I think, as players picking later can choose based on the colors they'll get against the stronger players picking beforehand. It's great for the spectators though, as they get to enjoy the spectacle of seeing the world's greatest players square off in blitz.

    After that comes a round-robin in classical chess, and then the chess triathlon concludes with a rapid round-robin. It should be a fun event!

    Wednesday
    Sep182013

    The Lineup For Zurich 2014

    The 3rd Zurich Chess Challenge is almost half a year away, but as this super-event features Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian, Fabiano Caruana, Viswanathan Anand, Hikaru Nakamura and Boris Gelfand it's one to look forward to. This event will run from January 29 to February 4, and with a most unusual format. It will start with a conventional classical round-robin, but once that's over there will be a second cycle with colors reversed and a rapid time control. The total scores will be a weighted aggregate of the two cycles: the system for the classical games is 2-1-0 while the rapid uses the traditional 1-1/2-0 values.

    This will also be the first tournament for Anand and Carlsen after their title match, and it will be interesting to see if the loser manages to bounce back and get some revenge.