Anand Beats Topalov In Candidates' Tournament 1st Round

Anand Beats Topalov In Candidates' Tournament 1st Round

| 93 | Chess Event Coverage

Viswanathan Anand is the early leader of the Candidates' Tournament. The winner of the previous edition started with a win in Moscow: he beat Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria.

Will this be deja vu all over again? Will Vishy Anand qualify for a third world championship match with Magnus Carlsen? The Candidates' Tournament is just one round old, but it's this question that many chess fans will have on their mind right now.

Like two years ago, Anand started his Candidates' with a win. Of course anything can happen, and not just because the tournament will last 13 more rounds. Anand's play wasn't that convincing and it doesn't necessarily predict that the Indian will continue the good form he showed in Zurich last month.

When asked who is the favorite to win in Moscow, special guest in the commentary booth Boris Gelfand couldn't make a choice: “Everyone has excellent chances. To get here is already a very big achievement. All players belong to the top of the top. There is no way to become candidate by accident.”

But Gelfand added “experience is very important,” thereby saying that he doesn't want to rule out the players of his generation. However, despite having played so many important tournaments in their lives, both players (the two 40+ participants in Moscow) made a somewhat nervous impression on the first day. 

Anand and Topalov: somewhat nervous. | Photo Vladimir Barsky.

The two played an Anti-Berlin and it was Anand who brought a novelty on move 12. He soon put pressure on b7 with his queen and, true to his style, Veselin Topalov decided to sacrifice it. “White's opening strategy is a failure if I don't take the pawn,” said Anand.

The Indian was right there, but then erred on move 19. When the word “ridiculous” is heard several times during a press conference it means the players weren't too happy with their play. Anand disliked his 19.Nc4 whereas Topalov criticized 21...Nxc1.

Meanwhile the Bulgarian, who is joined by his old friend Silvio Danailov in Moscow, had missed an interesting opportunity to sacrifice his bishop on f2. He did see it, but overlooked a check in a crucial variation.

Anand won a pawn and his opponent was struggling to find compensation. In time trouble the players then played inaccurately and it was Topalov who made the decisive mistake on move 40, when he got himself into a mating net.

We have top GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave providing analysis of one game each round.

Here's his first: 

The Anand-Topalov press conference courtesy of WorldChess.

The other three games ended in draws, and it was Anish Giri who came closest to a win. In a 5.Bf4 Queen's Gambit Declined, Levon Aronian followed recent theory and got a solid position. Surprisingly, just one inaccurate move was enough to get into trouble.

The Armenian grandmaster, who reached the Candidates' via a wildcard, had underestimated the typical 25.b5! break and he was clearly on the defending side from that point. 

Giri's first move was executed by the President of Armenia (and of the
Armenian Chess Federation), Serzh Sargsyan. | Photo Vladimir Barsky.

Watched by his coach Vladimir Tukmakov and his wife Sopiko Guramishvili, Giri kept the pressure but might have missed a winning chance on move 29. “I didn't evaluate this correctly,” the Dutchman said. “The situation was much to good for me to be focused!”

With the neat 52...Rf4! Aronian liquidated to a pawn ending because he had seen in advance that he would reach a positional draw, or fortress if you will. 

Annotations by IM Danny Rensch

The Giri-Aronian press conference courtesy of WorldChess.

In the other two games players from the same federation faced each other, following the regulations (to prevent any possible suspicion of scenarios like in the 1962 Curacao Candidates', where Bobby Fischer was convinced that the Soviets formed a pact).

Hikaru Nakamura, who is again joined by his second Kris Littlejohn, played the white pieces against Fabiano Caruana and went for 1.c4 c5 2.g3.

“I think I surprised Fabiano,” he said, and noted that he had prepared it quite deeply. “I think 17...a5 is a mistake.”

White was definitely better when he could trade his b-pawn for Black's d-pawn, but then Nakamura missed his chance. Going back to b5 with his knight was the best approach. As it went, Caruana (who has Rustam Kasimdzhanov helping him in Moscow) found a crucial defensive move and quickly equalized.

“I just had the wrong concept in mind thinking I needed to exchange knights and try to win with the d-pawn as opposed to putting the knight on b5,” Nakamura told
“But I played fine overall.”

Annotations by IM Danny Rensch


The Nakamura-Caruana press conference courtesy of WorldChess.

The game between the two Russians was Sergey Karjakin vs Peter Svidler (and not the other way around, as the official site showed for a while). It was a Slav that was about to transpose into a typical Isolated Queen Pawn (IQP) position, when Karjakin suddenly went 9.Nxd4.

“He plays the one line I did not repeat in the morning,” lamented Svidler. “I repeated the whole Slav!”

Karjakin, who works with Vladimir Potkin and Yuri Dokhoian, said that he had played this line as Black but “couldn't remember his notes.” After moving his knight to f3 he “didn't know what was going on” and went for healthy moves.

Thanks to the strong, positional pawn push 18...e5 it was Black who got a slight edge. By defending “tenaciously” (Svidler) Karjakin held the balance.

Annotations by IM Danny Rensch

The Karjakin-Svidler press conference courtesy of WorldChess.

For a while the official site was showing “0-1” as the result of this game, one of many things that went wrong on the first day.

Two hours before the round there was some chaos at the venue when special security ordered everyone to leave. The place was searched with dogs, and when people tried to enter again there was a long queue in which VIPs such as Andrey Filatov got stuck — the President of the Russian Ches Federation almost missed his press conference.

The actual playing area had some small issues as well, the most important being that it's not as soundproof as it should be. As Peter Svidler noted in his press conference, the players could literally hear what people outside the room were saying.

Then there was the issue about the protection of the moves by Agon. A day before the event the terms of the site had been posted, and this document states:

By using this website you expressly agree that the information about chess moves of the fide 2016 candidates tournament games is expensive to gather and time-sensitive and that uncontrolled copying of this information during or shortly after the end of respective chess game may reduce the incentive of the company to organize similar events in the future. You further agree not to publish any information concerning the chess moves of the candidates tournament 2016 chess games during such games and within two hours after their end.

As a result, chess fans didn't even know what they were allowed to tweet during the round.

The biggest problem however was the tournament website, which was seriously struggling. The first 20 minutes of the round it was down (the dreaded “502, Bad Gateway”), the rest of the day rather slow and once again it was down for a while after about four hours into the round. 

Via its Twitter channel the organizers claimed a denial of service (DoS) attack.

The first round in action. | Photo Vladimir Barsky.

The user experience for following the games was not on the level chess fans are used to these days and especially for an organizer who is trying to force exclusivity that's disappointing. The actual game page lacked the move list (let alone the time spent on the moves), it lacked a proper engine (sometimes the evaluation bar, apparently not patented by Chess24, showed the advantage for the wrong player) and several times during the day the overview page (with all four boards visible) wasn't updating the moves.

The game viewer on overview.

The game viewer on single board view.

Even for the official commentators, GMs Alexandra Kosteniuk and GM Evgeny Miroshnichenko, it was tough to follow the games and therefore not easy to do their job. They were using Chessbase for their analysis but, as it turned out, Chessbase had taken Agon's legal threats seriously and decided to not transmit the games live.

Therefore the commentators had to enter their moves manually, and they were using Chessbomb to get the moves — one of the sites that had decided to ignore the legal threats, together with e.g. ICC, Chess24 and Der Spiegel. (Like Chessbase, did not relay the moves.)

Ilya Merenzon, CEO of Agon, told that he has already sent a cease and desist letter to these sites. The letter mentions that under Russian law “the maximum punishment for Illegal Receipt and Disclosure of Information Classified as a Commercial, Tax or Banking is the imprisonment for ten years” and demands action to be taken “within 3 hours upon receipt of this letter.” At the time of writing, the games are still available on Chessbomb.

Miroshnichenko: “If they are not on Chessbomb tomorrow I don't know where we will find the moves.”

2016 FIDE Candidates' Tournament | Round 1 Standings

# Name Fed Rtg Perf Pts SB
1 Anand,Viswanathan IND 2762 3580 1.0/1
2 Caruana,Fabiano USA 2794 2790 0.5/1 0.25
3 Giri,Anish NED 2793 2786 0.5/1 0.25
4 Nakamura,Hikaru USA 2790 2794 0.5/1 0.25
5 Aronian,Levon ARM 2786 2793 0.5/1 0.25
6 Karjakin,Sergey RUS 2760 2757 0.5/1 0.25
7 Svidler,Peter RUS 2757 2760 0.5/1 0.25
8 Topalov,Veselin BUL 2780 1962 0.0/1

It's not easy, or maybe impossible, to organize such an event and have a flawless first day. The above is partly intended as feedback to Agon, who, in its own way, do seem to have in mind to make the chess world better.

What needs to be said is that it has a great eye for design, and making a chess venue look great is arguably its strongest point. This can also be seen in its first summary video:

IM Daniel Rensch is producing detailed analysis videos after each round, and every video is available in full and for free on YouTube:

Pairings round 2: Aronian-Anand, Caruana-Giri, Karjakin-Nakamura and Svidler-Topalov.

The FIDE Candidates' Tournament runs March 11-29 in the Central Telegraph building in Moscow. The total prize fund is €420,000 with the Tashir Group as the main sponsor. The games start 3 p.m. local time, which is 4 a.m. Pacific, 7 a.m. New York, noon GMT or 1 p.m. CET. The winner earns the right to play Magnus Carlsen in November in New York.

More from PeterDoggers
Gender Bias Research Shows Parents, Mentors Shortchange Girls’ Chess Potential

Gender Bias Research Shows Parents, Mentors Shortchange Girls’ Chess Potential

Nepomniachtchi Repeats Levitov Chess Week Victory

Nepomniachtchi Repeats Levitov Chess Week Victory