Carlsen Close to Winning Zurich Chess Challenge, Caruana Beats Aronian in Final Round

Carlsen Close to Winning Zurich Chess Challenge, Caruana Beats Aronian in Final Round

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Magnus Carlsen won his first tournament as World Champion on Monday. [Update: well, not yet, actually. But as tomorrow's rapid games will only count half as much as the classical games, he is very close.] The Norwegian played a relatively quick draw with Vishy Anand and finished sole first at the Zurich Chess Challenge as Levon Aronian suffered his first defeat at the hands of Fabiano Caruana. Hikaru Nakamura and Boris Gelfand ended their tournament with a draw. Tomorrow a five-round rapid tournament will be played with 15 minutes and 10 seconds increment on the clock.

It can hardly go wrong tomorrow for Carlsen, but strictly speaking he's not there yet. The Norwegian has a two-point lead over Levon Aronian before going into the final day, when five rounds of rapid games will be played. Victories in the classical games counted as 2 points and draws as 1, while tomorrow it's back to normal again with 1 point for a win and half for a draw.

On Monday Carlsen met his opponent from the Chennai World Championship, Vishy Anand. The Indian played the highly topical Berlin Ruy Lopez with 4.d3 and 5.Bxc6, which was seen two times already in this short event. “It's difficult to come up with anything substantial in this opening so you're always playing for very small things,” said Anand.

Although Carlsen had beaten Caruana in this line yesterday, Anand didn't follow that route completely. The move d3-d4 seemed logical, but afterward Anand wasn't happy with it. Black equalized easily beause White lacked the time to get his ideal setup with Nd2 and f4.

When such games happen, sponsor Oleg Skvortsov likes to see the players play a rapid game with colors reversed, like Aronian and Gelfand had done earlier in the tournament. Anand and Carlsen, however, avoided the rapid game by playing out the game very fast until move 40 was reached...

Anand about tomorrow's rapid: “I'm looking forward to playing some good games.”

Not long after, Hikaru Nakamura and Boris Gelfand split the point. The American chose the same opening as Wesley So had done in Wijk aan Zee against the same opponent, and, like in that game, White didn't get much actually. After eighteen moves the players decided that there was no good way to continue the game. “Whoever tries will end up much worse probably,” said Nakamura, who revealed lack of concentration: “Frankly half of this game and also yesterday most of the time I was not thinking about the position on the board, let's leave it at that.”

In a long game Fabiano Caruana managed to beat Levon Aronian from a Marshall Gambit in the Ruy Lopez. During the round, the commentators were wondering when it was the last time Aronian had lost in that opening. Well, according to the database, he had never lost in a classical game! There are only two ‘1-0’s, which were rapid games in 2007. No wonder at the press conference Aronian said: “Now I can relax!”

So how did Caruana do it? Well, in fact it was Aronian himself who was to blame, and he did so by saying: “Very poor defense from my side.” He was referring to the moves 29...Bd8, 39...Ra2 and 40...Ra6, whereas the position after the trade of queens “should be a draw”.


Looking back at the five classical games, Carlsen said: “The third game against Hikaru basically made all the difference. If I had lost the game, which I deserved, then it would have been reasonable; now it's excellent. In such a short tournament it's really going to depend on one or two games and this time I was both fortunate and good.”

Like every day, Carlsen being interviewed by Norway's NRK

Zurich Chess Challenge 2014 | Results & pairings

Round 1 30 January 15:00 CET Round 2 31 January 15:00 CET
Carlsen 1-0 Gelfand Gelfand ½-½ Caruana
Aronian 1-0 Anand Anand 0-1 Nakamura
Nakamura ½-½ Caruana Carlsen ½-½ Aronian
Round 3 1 February 15:00 CET Round 4 2 February 15:00 CET
Aronian ½-½ Gelfand Gelfand 0-1 Anand
Nakamura 0-1 Carlsen Carlsen 1-0 Caruana
Caruana ½-½ Anand Aronian 1-0 Nakamura
Round 5 3 February 13:00 CET
Nakamura ½-½ Gelfand
Caruana 1-0 Aronian
Anand ½-½ Carlsen


Zurich Chess Challenge 2014 | Round 5 Standings

# Name Rtg TPR 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts SB
1 Carlsen,Magnus 2872 3027 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 8.0/5
2 Aronian,Levon 2812 2869 ½ 0 1 1 ½ 6.0/5
3 Caruana,Fabiano 2782 2804 0 1 ½ ½ ½ 5.0/5
4 Anand,Viswanathan 2773 2736 ½ 0 ½ 0 1 4.0/5 4.75
5 Nakamura,Hikaru 2789 2733 0 0 ½ 1 ½ 4.0/5 4.00
6 Gelfand,Boris 2777 2659 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 3.0/5

Photos © Maria Emelianova. The Zurich Chess Challenge consists of five rounds of classical chess, played from Thursday to Monday (30 January to 3 February), followed by a rapid tournament with reversed colors on the last day (4 February). You can follow the live games here on the official website. 

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