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The Week in Chess

  • Russian Team Championship 2016 – Games and Results
    The Russian Team Championship takes place in Sochi 1st to 10th May. Leading players: Kramnik, Karjakin, Svidler, Grischuk, Dominguez, Jakovenko etc. Major League and Women’s section also.
  • Ultimate Blitz Challenge with Garry Kasparov 2016 – Games and Results
    The Ultimate Blitz Challenge took place in St Louis Thursday 28th and Friday 29th April 2016. Garry Kasparov returned to the board to play the top three finishers in the US Championship Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura in an 18 round event with a time control of 5 minutes plus 3 seconds a move delay. Hikaru Nakamura had a strong second day and won the event with 11/18 a point clear of Wesley So on 10 points. Garry Kasparov acquitted himself very well in the strongest event he has played since he retired and finished on 9.5 pts, a plus score. Fabiano Caruana got cut adrift and collapsed to only 5.5pts.
  • Magnus Carlsen wins the Norway Chess tournament – 9
    Magnus Carlsen won the Norway Chess tournament at his fourth attempt. Carlsen defeated Pavel Eljanov in 35 moves. Eljanov set up a Stonewall and got at least an equal position which he probably should have followed up with g5-g4. Instead playing on the Queenside turned the tide in Carlsen’s favour and evetually he broke through and won.

    The remaining games were drawn Topalov-Kramnik (60 moves), Li Chao-Giri (73 moves), Harikrisha-Aronian (39 moves) and Grandelius-Vachier-Lagrave 55 moves.

    Final standings: Carlsen 6pts, Aronian 5.5pts, Vachier-Lagrave, Topalov, Kramnik 5pts, Li Chao, Harikrishna 4.5pts, Giri 4pts, Eljanov 3pts, Grandelius 2.5pts.

  • Aronian beats Carlsen in Norway Round 8 to blow the tournament wide open – 8
    After Magnus Carlsen beat Vladimir Kramnik in round 7 it looked like he would finally win his home tournament at the fourth attempt but instead he suffered a rather bad beating at the hands of Levon Aronian. Carlsen seemed off form throughout the game, first of all not being accurate enough in the opening, then getting into severe trouble with the poor 13…Nd6 (13…f6 had to be tried) and finally blundering his entire position away in a couple of moves. A very poor day at the office for Carlsen. Aronian joins Carlsen in the lead on 5/8.

    Veselin Topalov missed the chance to catch Carlsen after getting a very large advantage out of the opening with the Berlin Defence as black against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave but by move 30 every trace of his advantage had gone and the game finished in a draw in 50 moves.

    Anish Giri has a big plus score against Nils Grandelius but today he overdid his winning attempts and with 22…Bf5 Grandelius would probably have gone on to win, instead Giri found a way to sacrifice for perpetual check.

    Kramnik struck back and beat Pentala Harikrishna from an unusual start 1. Nf3 e6 2. g3 b5 3. e3 but it eventually became a Catalan style position where Kramnik had a nice edge which he converted to a win.

    Li Chao won a marathon game against Pavel Eljanov where he won a very tricky endgame.

    Round 8 Standings: Aronian, Carlsen 5pts, Vachier-Lagrave, Topalov, Kramnik 4.5pts, Li Chao, Harikrishna 4pts, Giri 3.5pts, Eljanov 3pts, Grandelius 2pts.

    Round 9 pairings 29th April 2016 3pm I will be hosting commentary with Alex Yermolinsky on ICC: Grandelius-Vachier-Lagrave, Carlsen-Eljanov, Topalov-Kramnik, Harikrishna-Aronian, Li Chao-Giri.

    If there is a tie for first there will be a blitz match between two players or double round robin with more.

  • Carlsen defeats Kramnik to move a point clear of Norway Chess after 7 rounds – 7
    Magnus Carlsen increased his chances of winning his first Norway Chess title after defeating Vladimir Kramnik Queen’s Gambit variation which has a very solid drawish reputation. Carlsen played a new move 12. Ne2 which he attributed to Jon Ludwig Hammer and Kramnik erred straight away with 14…Na4 and then played the losing move 19…c5 which Carlsen said just didn’t work at all. Carlsen took his time but the position was a comfortable technical win for him.

    Levon Aronian also stayed a point behind Carlsen ahead of their game in Round 8 when he defeated Pavel Eljanov in a strange game where the Uktainian allowed a winning attack in the end after missing a clear opportunity to be better after the mistaken 19.Bg5 Nxe4 was possible. Eventually Aronian broke through with a decisive attack in the run up to first time control.

    Li Chao survived a marathon game against Nils Grandelius after having a miserable, prospectless position from early on but organising the breakthrough was difficult for Grandelius. Pentala Harikrishna was probably much better against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (who thought he was lost at one point but maybe it wasn’t that clear) but the game eventually finished in a draw. Veselin Topalov and Anish Giri played out a tactical draw in the other game of the day.

    Round 7 standings: Carlsen 5pts, Vachier-Lagrave, Aronian, Topalov, Harikrishna 4pts, Kramnik 3.5pts, Giri, Li Chao, Eljanov 3pts, Grandelius 1.5pts

    Round 8 pairings 3pm Thursday 28th April 2016 MVL-Topalov, Giri-Grandelius Eljanov-Li Chao, Aronian-Carlsen, Kramnik-Harikrishna

  • Italian Team Championship 2016 – Games and Results
    The Italian Team Championship takes place in Civitanova Marche 27th April to 1st May 2016. Nakamura, Gelfand, Leko, Bacrot, Swiercz, Lenic, Prohaszka, Socko etc.
  • US Chess Championships 2016 – Games and Results
    The US Chess Championships took place in St Louis 14th-30th April 2016. Players: Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So, Gata Kamsky, Alexander Onischuk, Samuel L Shankland, Ray Robson, Aleksandr Lenderman, Varuzhan Akobian, Jeffery Xiong, Alexander Shabalov and Akshat Chandra play. This is the first championship with their three top 10 players. Fabiano Caruana took clear first by a point from Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura after winning his final round game. Anna Zatonskih and Irina Krush resumed their rivalry in the women’s tournament but it was Nazi Paikidze who won in a dramatic final round where she beat Krush and the leader Tatev Abrahamyan lost.
  • Carlsen retains his half point lead after Norway Chess Round 6 – 6
    Magnus Carlsen retains the lead in the Norway Chess tournament going into the second and final rest day following a draw against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. MVL chose 17.f3 in the Berlin which detailed theory suggests is a draw but requires both sides to remember a lot of concrete theory. Carlsen had more or less equalised when he played the careless 25…Re8?! which he called ”a childish trap” and had to find a sacrifice after 31.Ba5 but 31…Bxg4 led to a drawish position which he held comfortably.

    Anish Giri lost his second game of the event and is clearly not in good shape following the Candidates tournament. Pentala Harikrishna played the French Defence, a rare visitor at this level these days and seemed much more at home in the resulting position, 26.Nd1? was an error after which 26..Qb5! forced a very favourable endgame that Harikrishna converted comfortably.

    Vladimir Kramnik’s Giuoco Piano experiments continued against Levon Aronian but he didn’t get very much to work with and the game finished in a dynamic draw. Li Chao drew a lively Moscow semi-Slav against Veselin Topalov finishing in a draw by repetition.

    Pavel Eljanov beat Nil Grandelius in a g3 Gruenfeld eventually powering through the centre.

    Round 6 standings: Carlsen 4pts, MVL, Topalov, Harikrishna, Kramnik 3.5pts, Aronian, Eljanov 3pts, Li Chao, Giri 2.5pts, Grandelius 1pt

    Rest day Tuesday.

    Round 7 pairings 27th April 2016: Grandelius-Li Chao, Harikrishna-MVL, Carlsen-Kramnik, Aronian-Eljanov, Topalov-Giri.

  • Carlsen still leads after a draw with Giri in Norway Round 5 – 5
    Magnus Carlsen didn’t get any advantage out of the opening against Anish Giri in the fifth round of the Norway Chess tournament. In a quiet Ruy Lopez Carlsen even had to be slightly careful and traded into an endgame starting with 23.a4. Carlsen did get a small chance to cause trouble after the inaccurate 39…Nd7 but failed to find the troubling 40.Nc2, it was far from certain he would have won after that but he would have had the opportunity to press.

    Veselin Topalov moved within half a point of the lead after a fine win against Lar Grandelius. In a Benoni structure black thought he was doing fine until 23.Nh5 after which it became clear that black was severely tied down. 35…c4 was an attempt to create counterplay on the run up to first time control but it accelerated defeat instead.

    Pentala Harikrishna won a sharp struggle against Li Chao to move back to 50%. 17…Kg7 was the start of the wrong plan (17…Kh8) but Harikrishna didn’t make the best of it and 22…g5 would have been balanced but the wrong order of moves meant that 24.f4 carved open black’s king position led to a white win.

    Vladimir Kramnik and Pavel Eljanov was an interesting Giuoco Piano where black’s dynamic defence held the draw. Levon Aronian transposed to an Exchange Slav against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and although he had interesting pressure black was solid enough and held quite comfortable.

    Round 5 standings: Carlsen 3.5pts, Vachier-Lagrave, Topalov, Kramnik 3pts, Giri, Aronian, Harikrishna 2.5pts, Li Chao, Eljanov 2pts, Grandelius 1pt.

    Round 6 pairings: Giri-Harikrishna, Eljanov-Grandelius, Vachier-Lagrave-Carlsen, Li Chao-Topalov, Kramnik-Aronian.

  • Five draws prior to the first rest day in Norway Chess Round 4 – 4
    The fourth round of the Norway Chess tournament saw five draws which left Magnus Carlsen in the lead by half a point.

    Carlsen drew comfortably with black against Li Chao who said afterwards he wasn’t feeling well with a headache and decided to try and trade to a draw with the white pieces which he managed.

    The most interesting game of the day was Nils Grandelius’ draw with white against Pentala Harikrishna in a French Defence. Harikrishna gave up a pawn and it seemed like this gave him the advantage. Later on he allowed Grandelius to give up his queen for Rook, Knight and Pawn after which the game was about equal and the game finished in a draw on move 45.

    Pavel Eljanov played the Queen’s Gambit with 5.Bg5 against Veselin Topalov and they drew a well understood position. Levon Aronian was probably a little better against Anish Giri with black in a Queen’s Gambit with Bf4 but the game was traded carefully down to a draw. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Vladimir Kramnik drew the final game of the day to finish, a complex Ruy Lopez.

    Rest day Saturday.

    Round 4 standings: Carlsen 3pts, Vachier-Lagrave, Kramnik 2.5pts, Li Chao, Topalov, Giri, Aronian 2pts, Eljanov, Harikrishna 1pts, Grandelius 1pts.

    Round 5 Sunday 24th April 2016 3pm:

    Kramnik-Eljanov, Aronian-Vachier-Lagrave, Topalov-Grandelius, Carlsen-Giri, Harikrishna-Li Chao

  • Carlsen takes the lead after beating Grandelius in Norway Chess Round 3 – 3
    Magnus Carlsen was the only winner in the third round of the Norway Chess tournament in Stavanger and leads on 2.5/3. Carlsen defeated Nil Grandelius who decided to play and unusual variation of the Sicilian with 2…Nf6, this was a decision to battle Carlsen over the board and he was steadily outplayed. 7.Qc1 was an excellent long term idea, 14…Bh6? was an error after which Carlsen was winning, the position remained complex but Carlsen remained accurate and in control.

    Anish Giri had lost his previous five games to Vladimir Kramnik but it didn’t seem likely today. After the game Giri showed he was well on top of the theory and Kramnik played 16.Qa5 to get an endgame where Giri wouldn’t know the exact correct move. After this a complicated but level endgame arose where both had to be accurate and a draw was the fair result. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Pavel Eljanov drew an interesting theoretical struggle in the Berlin Defence. Veselin Topalov drew with black against Pentala Harikrishna. Levon Aronian seemed to have good pressure against Li Chao but he couldn’t make anything of the advantage.

    Round 3 standings: Carlsen 2.5pts, Vachier-Lagrave, Kramnik 2pts, Li Chao, Topalov, Giri, Aronian 1.5pts, Eljanov, Harikrishna 1pts, Grandelius 0.5pts.

    Round 4 pairings Friday 22nd April 3pm BST: Eljanov-Topalov, Li Chao-Carlsen, Giri-Aronian, Vachier-Lagrave-Kramnik, Grandelius-Harikrishna.

  • Vachier-Lagrave joins the leaders after defeating Giri in Norway Chess Round 2 – 2
    There was just one decisive game in the second round of the Norway Chess tournament in Stavanger. Anish Giri bravely took on Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the Sicilian Najdorf. Giri didn’t react correctly to the novelty 15…Rg8 and was completely take by surprise by 16…d5 after which he admitted he didn’t resist very well.

    The remaining games were drawn. Magnus Carlsen played solidly against Veselin Topalov and obtained a comfortable draw. Pentala Harikrishna sacrificed a pawn for long term attacking chances against Pavel Eljanov but had to settle for a draw in the end. Li Chao against Vladimir Kramnik was a Vienna Game where white gave up two pawns for the two bishops, later on white won two rooks for his queen, the game finished in perpetual check.

    Levon Aronian admitted his draw against Nils Grandelius was a missed opportunity for a full point. Aronian sacrificed a pawn for dynamic play but talked himself out of 24…Bc2 fearing some nebulous attacking chances for his opponent after 24… Bc2 25. Ra2 Bxb3 26. Rxb3 Nxd4 27. Rh3. 26…g5 was another mistake after which white was better but Grandelius was happy to repeat for a draw.

    Round 2 standings: Vachier-Lagrave, Carlsen, Kramnik 1.5pts, Li Chao, Topalov, Aronian, Giri 1pt, Grandelius, Eljanov, Harikrishna 0.5pts

    Round 3 21st April 3pm BST: Carlsen-Grandelius, Kramnik-Giri, MVL-Eljanov, Aronian-Li Chao, Harikrishna-Topalov.

  • Favourites Carlsen, Kramnik and Giri win in Norway Chess Round 1 – 1
    Magnus Carlsen has started the Norway Chess tournament in fine form after winning the opening blitz tournament and his first round game against Pentala Harikrishna. Carlsen hasn’t won his opening game in a tournament since beating Mamedyarov in the Gashimov Memorial almost exactly two years ago. Today Harikrishna was under pressure early on after the inaccurate 8…0-0 (8…cd and 9…Bb7 was closer to equal) and was quickly forced to part with material. Carlsen turned this into a mating attack.

    Anish Giri ended his 20 game drawing streak with a complicated win in a Giuoco Pianissimo against Pavel Eljanov. Tactics won Giri two pieces for rook and pawn but the technical problems of realising this were cut short when Eljanov dropped more material.

    Vladimir Kramnik joined the growing band of players using the London System in his game against Nils Grandelius. Kramnik traded his bishop and set up a Stonewall pawn structure. None of this was fatal but inaccuracies from Grandelius allowed Kramnik to control the c-file with his rook and create strong pressure but it was only on the run up to the first time control that Grandelius’s position collapsed.

    Levon Aronian and Veselin Topalov played out a sharp draw where black looked to have the better of it. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had some pressure against Li Chao where most of the tactics were behind the scenes. Vachier-Lagrave admitted to completely missing the idea of 24…d4 which liquidated to a draw.

    Round 1 Standings: Carlsen, Kramnik and Giri 1pt, Aronian, Vachier-Lagrave, Topalov and Li Chao 0.5pts, Eljanov, Harikrishna and Grandelius 0pts

    Round 2 Pairings 3pm BST Wed 20th April 2016: Grandelius-Aronian, Li Chao-Kramnik, Giri-Vachier-Lagrave, Topalov-Carlsen, Eljanov-Harikrishna.

  • 4th Norway Chess 2016 – Games and Results
    The Norway Chess tournament takes place 18th to 29th April 2016. Magnus Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik, Anish Giri, Levon Aronian, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Veselin Topalov, Li Chao (who replaces Sergey Karjakin who withdrew after winning the Candidates), Pavel Eljanov, Pentala Harikrishna and Nils Grandelius play. Round 1 19th April.
  • Chinese Championships 2016 – Games and Results
    The Chinese Championships take place in Xinghua Sunday 17th to Thursday 28th Apr 2016. Wei Yi is the top seed in an event that lacks many of China’s top stars.
  • FIDE Candidates 2016 – Games and Results
    The FIDE Candidates tournament took place in Moscow 10th to 30th March 2016. The event was sponsored by the Tashir Group run by Armenian billionaire Samvel Karapetyan who backed the 2014 Petrosian Memorial. Players: Veselin Topalov, Viswanathan Anand, Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, Sergey Karjakin, Peter Svidler, Levon Aronian and Anish Giri play.

    Sergey Karjakin took clear first place after defeating his direct rival Fabiano Caruana in the final round and will play Magnus Carlsen for the world title in November.

  • Sergey Karjakin beats Fabiano Caruana to earn world title shot against Carlsen – 14
    The FIDE Candidates were won by Sergey Karjakin after he defeated Fabiano Caruana in the only decisive game of the final round. Caruana fought hard and his Classical Sicilian produced a sharp position with chances to fight for a win which he needed to quality. Karjakin bravely and correctly sacrificed a pawn for equality and after Caruana tried for a win with 36…Re4 Karjakin had to sacrifice a full rook to avoid being much worse, in fact the sacrifice led to a winning attack, after 39…Qf5! the game was all but over and finished on move 42.

    Karjakin and Carlsen were both born in 1990 and for years it was predicted they would eventually meet in a World Championship match and this has now come to pass. Karjakin was tough during this event saving a number of difficult positions and lost just a single game. Karjakin is certainly equipped to play a World Championship match, The organisers AGON announced the match will be in New York 11th-30th November. I have no reason to doubt this except it lacked details of venue and sponsors but even if it falls through I imagine Russia will be very keen to host such a match.

    Caruana came so close and probably has more reason that most to rue some missed chances, none bigger than not beating Topalov in the first half from a winning position, but also a chance later on against Svidler in round 13. Caruana also looks just about ready for a world championships match and this was a fine debut at this level. Most likely Karjakin’s previous experience in two Candidates events made the difference.

    The remaining games were drawn. Peter Svidler pressed with a small advantage against Viswanathan Anand but had to settle for a draw. Anand put in a good effort to try and get another world championship match, failures of his black opening repertoire were the main reason he came up just short. If this is the end of his world title challenges this was a worthy effort.

    Anish Giri finished the event with a final draw against Topalov, a small opening edge soon evaporated. Giri drew every game but has got some good reviews for the quality of his play. Giri commented on twitter ”Thanks everyone for your incredible support! Missed far too many chances, now time to draw(?!) some conclusions. Congrats to @SergeyKaryakin”

    Topalov admitted afterwards that his time has gone, I’m not sure he was all that committed to playing this event and it showed. He was the only player with a negative score, the majority of the field finishing on 50%. I expect this to be Topalov’s last appearance in the world championship cycle but hope to see him play on in major tournaments for many more years.

    Hikaru Nakamura drew against Levon Aronian to keep both of them on 50%. Nakamura can be reasonably satisfied after a terrible start. Aronian had his chances until a weak patch in the middle of the event, it’s starting to look unlikely the long time world number two will get the world title match that would complete his career.

    At least some of these players will be back in two years time. There’s never been a Candidates tournament that was so closely contested, all but one of the players finished 50% or better. I enjoyed it a lot, somewhat hampered by not being able to use the official site, I would like FIDE, in conjuntion with the players, to look at how ties are resolved at the end of the event.

    Final Standings: 1st Karjakin 8.5pts, 2nd Caruana 7.5pts, 3rd Anand 7.5pts 4th-7th Giri, Svidler, Aronian, Nakamura 8th Topalov 4.5pts

  • Either Karjakin or Caruana will win the FIDE Candidates 2016 – 13
    The 13th round of the FIDE Candidates tournament in Moscow saw another day of high tension and fluctuating fortunes. At the end of the day Sergey Karjakin is the favourite over Fabiano Caruana to win the event and play Magnus Carlsen later in the year. Karjakin has white against Caruana and a slightly more favourable tie-break situation. At one stage it seemed that many more players could have been in contention as both leaders were in trouble before move 40, later Caruana turned his game around and missed a late win against Svidler. There is no guarantee that the final round 14 won’t see similar errors and reversals of fortune.

    Caruana-Svidler saw white get a nice plus out of the opening in a Ruy Lopez. This advantage drifted away to near equality by move 26. By move 34 Svidler was pressing but his 34…Rae8? ran into a tactical refutation leaving Caruana pressing. Svidler transferred into a Rook vs Rook and Bishop endgame which was theoretically drawn but difficult. 102…Ka4? was a losing error. 111.Bf6? (111.Rb2! would have won) returned the favour and the game was drawn.

    Aronian-Karjakin was another marathon. Aronian won a piece for two pawns and this compensation was even reduced to a pawn but Karjakin had a powerful a-pawn which made realising the advantage difficult. Karjakin survived to draw in 101 moves.

    Anand-Giri: Anand was seeking equality from around move 14 as white in a Ruy Lopez. Giri was pressing really hard on the run up to first time control. Giri thought there must be something better than his 32…g2+ but it doesn’t seem to be so and a draw does seem to have been the fair result.

    Topalov-Nakamura. Topalov admitted he couldn’t wait for the tournament to end. Nakamura won the opening debate with a nice 10…d4 novelty in the 5.Bf4 Queen’s Gambit. Topalov had a roughly equal position but made two errors 33.Rg3? (33.Ra1=) and 34.Ra1? which lost out of hand.

    Regulations in the case of a tie:

    a) The results of the games between the players involved in the tie.

    If they are still tied:

    b) The total number of wins in the tournament of every player involved in the tie

    If Karjakin and Caruana tie then Karjakin has more wins (tie-break b, they drew both their games). If Anand catches these two players then Caruana’s plus score vs Anand (tie-break b) will win him the event instead.

    Round 13 Standings: Caruana, Karjakin 7.5pts, Anand 7pts, Giri, Svidler, Aronian, Nakamura 6.5pts, Topalov 4pts.

    Round 14 pairings Monday 28th March 2016 13:00 BST: Svidler-Anand, Giri-Topalov, Nakamura-Aronian, Karjakin-Caruana

  • Anand loses, Caruana draws and Karjakin wins in Candidates Round 12 – 12
    The FIDE Candidates tournament reached the final rest day with no clear favourite to challenge Magnus Carlsen after 12 of the 14 rounds. There were key changes at the top however with Viswanathan Anand and Sergey Karjakin reversing their results from Round 11. Karjakin and Caruana now lead on 7/12 half a point clear of Anand. Karjakin has an advantage in the tie-break if the current standings remain the same but with two gut wrenching rounds to go it’s not a big edge yet. The three players on 6 Anish Giri, Peter Svidler and Levon Aronian are running out of rounds to catch the leaders in spite of being just one win away.

    First to finish was Hikaru Nakamura against Anand. Anand had got back into a share of the lead after a fine win against Karjakin in round 11 but his woes with black continued. Anand has won 4 games with white and lost 3 with black. Today he just didn’t get out of the opening. The 1.c4 e5 English has been a major opening topic in this event. Nakamura produced a sharp position and after 11.b4 a critical position arose, 11…gxh4 is about equal for black, Anand’s plausible 11…Bb6 is pretty much losing. They were both on their own after 13…Nd4 but 14.d3 is excellent, 14…exd3 was better than the game and indeed Nakamura’s intended 15.Nf3 Nc2! would have left the game wide open but 15.Qxd3 is still good for white. After that Nakamura ruthlessly exploited his advantage. Anand will almost certainly need at least 1.5/2 to win the event. Not really a failure of nerves from Anand but just a very difficult opening surprise to deal with.

    The reverse happened to Karjakin, his opponent Veselin Topalov went very wrong in a sharp Sicilian with 17…Rc8 which just loses the exchange for nothing when for instance the sensible 17…Bf6 was about equal. Karjakin was a little unsteady in realising his advantage but brought home the point in 35 moves.

    Joint leader Caruana got little or nothing as white against Aronian and gradually drifted into trouble. He was still probably within the margin of the draw for the rest of the game apart from the computer suggestion of a rook sacrifice 38…Rxd3! which probably nets a pawn but was almost impossible for a human to play.

    Svidler and Giri both desperately needed to win but instead Giri equalised after 16 moves with black. Svidler drifted into trouble and had to enter a rook and pawn endgame a pawn down, he suffered, but held comfortably enough.

    Round 12 Standings: Caruana, Karjakin 7pts, Anand 6.5pts, Giri, Svidler, Aronian 6pts, Nakamura 5.5pts, Topalov 4pts.

    Rest day Saturday 26th March

    Round 13 pairings Sunday 27th March 1pm GMT: Caruana-Svidler, Aronian-Karjakin, Topalov-Nakamura, Anand-Giri.

  • Candidates winner no closer to being decided after nervous play in Round 11 – 11
    The likely winner FIDE Candidates tournament was no clearer after an exciting round 11. There were several games that turned around and it left the standings very different from what they could have been 20 minutes before first time control.

    In the London Candidates of 2013 Magnus Carlsen took the lead with a nice win in Round 10 against Boris Gelfand and seemed to have everything under control. The following four rounds saw his play take a dive and he barely got over the line to win the event. All nerves, this tournament serves up pressure unlike any other on the calendar, and not everyone is ready for it, particularly debutants. I expected the final four rounds to be key in this tournament and the first of those rounds was today.

    Levon Aronian was pressing for a win against Peter Svidler that would have taken him into a share of the lead again. Aronian eventually became a little impatient, 28.Rf3?! was a little bit crude, Svidler equalised and then took over the initiative and won after the errors 38.Qe2? and 44.c4? Probably a bit late for Svidler who got back to 50% with his first win and also probably Aronian is now out of the running, Svidler at least has two games with the white pieces left.

    Anish Giri tortured Hikaru Nakamura for many moves after getting the better of the opening (maybe 13…Be6 was the wrong plan). Giri seemed reluctant to commit himself to a winning attempt before move 40 but when he did with 50.Nxg7 it was a bad miscalculation missing 51…Rg5! and Giri had to settle for his 11th straight draw. No player has ever drawn all their games in a Candidates tournament.

    Fabiano Caruana came under extreme pressure out of the opening by Veselin Topalov. After 17.Qh5 Topalov seemed well on top but Caruana defended well and reached a winning position after 31.Qxg4 taking queens off. Caruana was close to taking the lead alone but was in time trouble. The simple 36…Bxf4 would probably have got Caruana home, then things got slightly out of control and his last three moves 38…Re1?!, 39…g5?! and 40…Rxe5?! blew almost his entire advantage. Caruana offered a draw after 41.Bf6 and it was accepted.

    The most impressive game of the day was Viswanathan Anand’s win against the previously undefeated Sergey Karjakin. A slow maneuvering Ruy Lopez left Anand with a tiny initiative and edge. Karjakin admitted he underestimated the problems but as first time control approached his difficulties mounted and after 39.Rd4 the position was close to winning. Anand won in 62 moves, most likely Karjakin couldn’t even have saved the position after first time control with best play. Anand has seen these tense final round situations many times, perhaps he is the best equipped to deal with it.

    I haven’t seen the player press conferences so no notes today.

    Round 11 Standings: Caruana, Anand 6.5pts, Karjakin 6pts, Giri, Svidler, Aronian 5.5pts, Nakamura 4.5pts, Topalov 4pts

    Candidates Round 12 Fri 25th March: Svidler-Giri, Nakamura-Anand, Karjakin-Topalov, Caruana-Aronian.

Susan Polgar Chess Daily News and Information