Anand Beats Aronian in First Round Candidates’ Tournament

Anand Beats Aronian in First Round Candidates’ Tournament

| 65 | Chess Event Coverage

Former World Champion Viswanathan Anand went off to a good start at the Candidates’ Tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk. At 44 the oldest player in the field, he defeated top seed Levon Aronian in the first round from a Ruy Lopez, trapping his opponent's knight. The other three games ended in draws.

All photos courtesy of the official website

The 2014 FIDE Candidates’ Tournament was officially opened on Wednesday at the concert and theater hall “Ugra-Classic”. In his opening speech, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov called Khanty-Mansiysk the “mecca of chess”, referring to the many top events that have been organized before in the Siberian city 1900 km north east of Moscow. 

A scene from the opening ceremony

Earlier, at a press conference, Mr Ilyumzhinov didn't stay all too objective when he remarked:

“Let's pray for the chess crown to return to Russia.”

The tournament - one of the most important of the year, as it will provide the challenger for Magnus Carlsen in a world title match in November - took off on Thursday at 15:00 local time. Khanty-Mansiysk is five hours ahead of Central Europe (and GMT+6) so for European chess fans the games can be watched in the morning, while the USA wakes up to see the results. (You can find the live games here.)

The first round started with a quick draw between Dmitry Andreikin and Vladimir Kramnik, the two finalists of the 2013 World Cup. The game immediately made clear that we're dealing with eight players who have spent the last couple of months locked in a room with human and silicon assistants, perfectionizing their repertoires. It was a highly theoretical line in the Nimzo-Indian which both players had analyzed until the ending.

“I was expecting almost anything against 1.d4,” said Andreikin, who is the youngest player in the field - one month younger than Sergey Karjakin. He deviated from a game Mamedyarov-Kramnik on move 21 and traded queens, but after Black's accurate 24...Rd8 it was almost equal.

At the press conference Kramnik revealed that, to prepare for the event, he had spent some time in Ukraine - a delicate location taking into account the recent turmoil in the country. “We stayed at the house of my second Zahar Efimenko in Zakarpattia. My mother is Ukrainian and my brother was born there, so it wasn't that exotic.”

The press conference with Andreikin and Kramnik, hosted by Nastja Karlovich and Anna Burtasova

In the other three games the tension among the players could clearly be seen, which prompted Anish Giri to tweet:

It was probably this tension which made Sergey Karjakin and Peter Svidler go for a move repetition in what was still quite a lively position. At the press conference Svidler apologized for it, adding “it's not easy to play [such a sharp middlegame] after not having touched the pieces for four months”. 

The full pairings for the tournament were published more than a month in advance, and so there was plenty of time to prepare for this first round. But sometimes even that is not enough. Svidler said: “This 8.f4 was very likely to happen and of course it was the one thing I forgot to repeat this morning.”

For Karjakin, who revealed that he is working with one of Anand's former seconds, GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov, it was similar: “It was very likely Peter would play like this, but after 9...Ng4 I didn't remember what to play.”

During the press conference of Karjakin and Svidler, the game between Shakhariyar Mamedyarov and Veselin Topalov also finished in a draw. Despite the symmetrical pawn structure, the ending was quite interesting. With a king that couldn't castle, Black's plan of ...Ne4 and ...f5 (making ...Kf7 possible) made sense but after the game Topalov seemed to prefer putting the knight on a4 instead.

The Bulgarian, who won a similarly strong tournament, the FIDE World Championship, in 2005, started a tactical sequence on move 19 but almost lost control of the game. He had missed an important detail, and a few moves later White was doing very well - in fact Mamedyarov felt he was winning. But then Topalov “woke up” and started calculating better, defending the position by tactical means.

Mamedyarov and Topalov discussing some lines

It was not all draws. Vishy Anand and Levon Aronian, the only two players who had been active until February, faced each other and it was the Indian who won the game. He managed to get a plus in an Anti-Marshall when his opponent underestimated the plan of d3-d4 and Nf3-e5. After 23.c4 Anand got the feeling that he didn't just have a slight advantage, but a clear advantage. Aronian got in serious time trouble (he had about a minute for his last four moves) and had his knight trapped.

“I think I was trying to take it too simple. I underestimated that White has this strong idea with Ne5 after which I think I didn't quite recover,” said Aronian. “For some reason I was considering some tricky things instead of calculating anything serious.”

The win must be at least somewhat comforting for Anand, who lost his world title in November and couldn't show great results in subsequent tournaments. At the same time he is warned: despite his win, he needs to play even more accurately because his 38th move was in fact not good - “careless”, as he said himself.

Anand grabs an early lead in Khanty-Mansiysk

World #5 Fabiano Caruana tweeted after the round:

FIDE Candidates’ 2014 | Pairings & Results

Round 1 13.03.14 15:00 MSK   Round 8 22.03.14 15:00 MSK
Andreikin ½-½ Kramnik   Kramnik - Andreikin
Karjakin ½-½ Svidler   Svidler - Karjakin
Mamedyarov ½-½ Topalov   Topalov - Mamedyarov
Anand 1-0 Aronian   Aronian - Anand
Round 2 14.03.14 15:00 MSK   Round 9 23.03.14 15:00 MSK
Kramnik - Karjakin   Karjakin - Kramnik
Svidler - Andreikin   Andreikin - Svidler
Topalov - Anand   Anand - Topalov
Aronian - Mamedyarov   Mamedyarov - Aronian
Round 3 15.03.14 15:00 MSK   Round 10 25.03.14 15:00 MSK
Andreikin - Karjakin   Karjakin - Andreikin
Svidler - Kramnik   Kramnik - Svidler
Topalov - Aronian   Aronian - Topalov
Mamedyarov - Anand   Anand - Mamedyarov
Round 4 17.03.14 15:00 MSK   Round 11 26.03.14 15:00 MSK
Mamedyarov - Andreikin   Andreikin - Mamedyarov
Karjakin - Topalov   Topalov - Karjakin
Aronian - Svidler   Svidler - Aronian
Anand - Kramnik   Kramnik - Anand
Round 5 18.03.14 15:00 MSK   Round 12 27.03.14 15:00 MSK
Andreikin - Anand   Anand - Andreikin
Karjakin - Mamedyarov   Mamedyarov - Karjakin
Svidler - Topalov   Topalov - Svidler
Kramnik - Aronian   Aronian - Kramnik
Round 6 19.03.14 15:00 MSK   Round 13 29.03.14 15:00 MSK
Aronian - Andreikin   Andreikin - Aronian
Anand - Karjakin   Karjakin - Anand
Mamedyarov - Svidler   Svidler - Mamedyarov
Topalov - Kramnik   Kramnik - Topalov
Round 7 21.03.14 15:00 MSK   Round 14 30.03.14 15:00 MSK
Karjakin - Aronian   Aronian - Karjakin
Svidler - Anand   Anand - Svidler
Kramnik - Mamedyarov   Mamedyarov - Kramnik
Andreikin - Topalov   Topalov - Andreikin

The 2014 FIDE Candidates’ Tournament is an 8-player double round robin with 4 rest days. The dates are March 13th-31st, 2014. Each day the rounds start at 15:00 local time which is 10:00 CET, 04:00 EST and 01:00 PST. The winner will have the right to challenge World Champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway in a world title match which is scheduled to take place in November 2014.

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