Anand Protects Lead in Zurich, Kramnik Joins Nakamura in Second

Anand Protects Lead in Zurich, Kramnik Joins Nakamura in Second

| 21 | Chess Event Coverage

With an up-and-down afternoon effort but a more convincing game in the evening, GM Viswanathan Anand's two draws on the second day of the Zurich Chess Challenge were enough to hold off his five challengers.

Now only one day of competitive chess remains before Anand can go into March's Candidates' Tournament with momentum.

His seesaw game today against GM Alexei Shirov was followed by a game where he enjoyed a slight edge against second-place GM Hikaru Nakamura. Both ended in draws in this rare format, where the world's top players play two games per day at a time control of 40+10.

Was today a carnival-like atmosphere? Only on the walk to the event:

Carneval Zurich saw large bands in sartorial silliness playing everywhere on the rainy streets of the city.

Overall, Anand enjoyed much less heartburn today than his closest rival. If Nakamura's round four versus Anand was a close shave, then his earlier effort today nearly cut him to the bone. Instead, a nifty salvo with limited material allowed him to escape against GM Vladimir Kramnik, who won in the evening to draw even with Nakamura for second.

Although the Nakamura-Anand round four game mattered slightly more for the standings, let's start with Nakamura-Kramnik in round three since that game created the most intricate discussion among the elite. Discussion of the ending lasted far longer than the game itself, and involved many more than just the two combatants. 

First Nakamura and Kramnik discussed the finish at the board in a typical post-mortem. Both players quickly came to the conclusion that 35...f5 was too hasty, and without it White's defensive task would be exceedingly difficult.

"Somehow I wanted to win it by force," Kramnik said to his opponent, regretting that he didn't slowly improve his position.

Nakamura exited, and then tournament sponsor Oleg Skvortsov stepped up to the board (the game was the last to finish so the room got quite chatty). He was quickly joined by GM Anatoly Karpov, making it two world champions hovering and analyzing. Kramnik did most of the pointing and explaining, with Karpov occasionally interjecting.

The anatomy of a post-mortem. First, the players offer their ideas...

Then a famous chess journalist gets involved (GM Genna Sosonko)...

Then the tournament organizer (Oleg Skvortsov) and a world champion (GM Anatoly Karpov) step in. Not pictured: all the other discussions in the commentary room!

Outside the tournament hall, GMs Ljubomir Ljubojevic and Judit Polgar engaged in their own lively dialogue. There were many moments to debate — the 72 moves comprised the longest game of the tournament thus far.

Oleg Skvortsov's wife Natalia Shevando even wants to analyze with Vladimir Kramnik's daughter! (Actually can't confirm what was on the screen.)

"Nakamura was genius by playing 35. Rc1," Polgar said.

Now retired, Polgar said she could empathize with Kramnik's plight. She hasn't played competitive chess in 18 months, but the frustration of not being able to win such a promising position still resonated with her.

"Rc1 was basically killing, emotionally," she said. "[Kramnik] was annoyed I think."

Analysis by GM Dejan Bojkov:

Games via TWIC.

Bojkov's intensive analysis breaks down how Kramnik could have won the full point more easily, but in case you're wondering about GM Anish Giri's chat with GM Ian Rogers (yes, even more grandmasters discussing the game!), they focused on the final winning attempt 44...Ra7 45. Nxf4 Rf7 46. Nxh5 g6 47. Ng3 Rxf3. You'd think with such limited forces a definitive conclusion could be ascertained, but they ended the discussion only "mostly" convinced that Black's king could penetrate!

Karpov wasn't done — he was so inspired by round three that he commentated on the entirety of round four for Russian-speaking listeners.

Nearly as intriguing was the first place/last place game Anand-Shirov, but this board wasn't analogous since both players had borderline winning advantages at different points. The tournament leader won the exchange, after which the Latvian spoiled his compensation with a series of inaccuracies.

White's queen then went on a walkabout, allowing Shirov to seal her off and organize his remaining forces. Anand decided to give the exchange back, after which Black couldn't get the win no matter how many pawns he threw down the board. Shirov's advantage dissipated further until the game ended drawn, which was enough for Anand to protect his half-point margin over Nakamura.

The final game of the afternoon round was Levon Aronian-Anish Giri, which petered out into the third draw of the day. Aronian had a slight edge, but with the presence of opposite-colored bishops, he had to always avoid the trade of rooks: for example, 31. Kxd5 Rd8+ is the drawing "trick."

Giri reviewed his game quickly on this reporter's computer and concluded that he was always within the drawing margin. He told that once his bishop landed on e3 his king could help in the defense. He knew then that the draw was assured.

In the evening most eyes were on Nakamura-Anand, and not just because it was #2 versus #1 in the standings. The crowd wanted to see if the American could continue his Svengali-like mastery of the former world champion. Just as chess ratings fail to account for the Nakamura-Carlsen lifetime record, the Nakamura-Anand lifetime tally is nearly as one-sided.

Consider: In classical chess Nakamura is +6-1=10 lifetime against Anand. But since this is a rapid game with Nakamura as White, also consider that Nakamura is +8=5-0 across all disciplines when he has the first move. That's right: He has more wins than draws, including winning three times as White in 2015 (London, St. Louis, and Zurich rapid).

Today those stats could have been tossed out the window. Though Nakamura was not in the same kind of trouble as in round three, Anand enjoyed the better end of this half-point.

It's too early for Nakamura to be anguished, although there was a little of that later in the game.

Notes are based on the player's discussions:

The other two games weren't for the top of the standings, but did produce the only two wins of the day.

Kramnik caught Nakamura for second place with one of the most convincing wins of the event. GM Genna Sosonko remarked on air that Giri "played like a child." Maybe the two Dutchmen are close enough where that won't seem insulting!

Childhood is supposed to be fun, but Black could only sit back joylessly and watch White's power tools at work.

GM Anish Giri's "Keep Calm" shirt made him perhaps too gentle, even sedate, versus Kramnik. White got to slowly build up at will.

Analysis by GM Dejan Bojkov:

Aronian crawled out of the three-way tie for last with a win over Shirov, who likely didn't see that 24...Bxf5 was scary but advantageous for Black.

GM Levon Aronian's blitz skills mean he's still well within striking distance of first, although his poses don't show it.

Aronian wasn't confused in round four — he played confident and direct chess to get back into the fold. (Photo: David Llada for the Zurich Chess Challenge,)

GM Alexei Shirov will need to go on a run on Monday to get a top placement.

It's worth adding a few side notes on this new time control: Black has a plus score and the Berlin still can't be cracked. Also, Nakamura's win in the opening blitz didn't amount to anything. His "reward" was three Whites but he has been various degrees of worse in all three of his turns with the first move; his lone win came as Black, and he gets Black tomorrow in the final rapid round.

Remember that the tournament concludes tomorrow with round five of the rapid at 3:00 p.m. local time, followed by a closing blitz tournament at 6:00 p.m. The blitz counts for half of the rapid, and players will invert colors against respective opponents from the rapid.

Finally, we close with one correction. Despite the official web site listing the opening violin concert played with a Stradivarius, Skvortsov said it was actually a Guarneri, of which there are only about 140 remaining. Niccolo Paganini made the instrument famous, and one of the songs performed Friday was composed by Paganini in an homage to this history. Skvortsov estimated the value of the violin to be $8 million (the most expensive violin ever sold for twice that much and was also a Guarneri).

2016 Zurich Chess Challenge Main Event  | Results After Round Four

Round 1 13 February 15:00 CET Round 2 13 February 18:00 CET
Shirov 1/2-1/2 Kramnik Kramnik 1/2-1/2 Aronian
Nakamura 1/2-1/2 Giri Giri 0-1 Anand
Anand 1-0 Aronian Shirov 0-1 Nakamura
Round 3 14 February 15:00 CET Round 4 14 February 18:00 CET
Nakamura 1/2-1/2 Kramnik Kramnik 1-0 Giri
Anand 1/2-1/2 Shirov Shirov 0-1 Aronian
Aronian 1/2-1/2 Giri Nakamura 1/2-1/2 Anand
Round 5 15 February 13:00 CET
Anand - Kramnik
Aronian - Nakamura
Giri - Shirov

2016 Zurich Chess Challenge Main Event | Standings After Round Four

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts SB
1 Anand, Viswanathan 2784 2956 phpfCo1l0.png 1 2 1 2 6.0
2 Nakamura, Hikaru 2787 2867 1 phpfCo1l0.png 1 2 1 5.0 8.5
3 Kramnik, Vladimir 2801 2865 1 phpfCo1l0.png 1 1 2 5.0 7.5
4 Aronian,Levon 2792 2767 0 1 phpfCo1l0.png 2 1 4.0
5 Shirov, Alexei 2684 2591 1 0 1 0 phpfCo1l0.png 2.0 5.5
6 Giri, Anish 2798 2592 0 1 0 1 phpfCo1l0.png 2.0 4.5

You can follow tomorrow's rapid and blitz live at the official tournament page.


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