Aronian Joins Anand in First Place in Fascinating 7th Round Candidates’

Aronian Joins Anand in First Place in Fascinating 7th Round Candidates’

| 59 | Chess Event Coverage

Levon Aronian moved to shared first place in a fascinating seventh round of the 2014 FIDE Candidates’ Tournament on Friday. The Armenian top grandmaster defeated Sergey Karjakin to reach a score of 4.5/7 - the same as Vishy Anand, who drew his black game with Peter Svidler. Against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Vladimir Kramnik was doing well, then got into big trouble and eventually won anyway. At half-time, the Russian GM is only half a point behind the leaders. Dmitry Andreikin played his best game so far and beat Veselin Topalov convincingly.

Photos © Vadim Lavrenko & Anastasiya Karlovich courtesy of the official website

What a round that was! An amazing day in Khanty-Mansiysk saw three decisive results, while it could have been four and one game could have ended very differently. Tournament leader Anand drew his fourth game in a row, but yet again it was quite interesting. Where he had missed his chances before the rest day, Aronian managed to win a good game with Black to join Anand in the lead. Andreikin played a good game and beat Topalov surprisingly easily, while Kramnik won a topsy-turvy game against Mamedyarov. 

Little did he know when, at the start of the round, GM Gawain Jones tweeted:

But the round got going pretty soon, and all four games were fun to watch.

The round started with Andreikin beating Topalov rather quickly and rather convincingly. The young Russian repeated his Nbd2 against the Queen's Gambit Declined which he had also played against Kramnik in Dortmund last year, and Topalov decided to put his bishop on e7 instead of g7. 

On move 10 Topalov could have sacrificed a pawn for decent compensation, but instead he chose something more complicated: allowing a c-pawn to c6 (which he had himself against Kramnik the other day!) but forcing the enemy king to d1. That turned out to be no problem at all for White.

“I thought it was good for me but of course it's not so simple because I underestimated the plan of going with the king slowly to a2. In fact White is solid and it's not so easy to create counterplay,” said Topalov, who basically lost without a fight after that.

Vishy Anand was defending his lead with the black pieces against Svidler, but in no time it looked more like attacking! In a 4.d3 Berlin he got a knight to f4 as early as move 14, and there Svidler thought for 40 minutes.

It started to look quite promising for Black, but Svidler played precisely.

Anand had seen the flashy pawn capture 20...Rxf2, but Houdini's healthy +0.8 evaluation is somewhat misleading because at the board it looks extremely dangerous. The same goes for a line starting with 22...g5. No, Anand took some wise decisions and seemed to get some practical chances anyway when he played a positional queen sacrifice, but even there White was OK.

“Unless I have something immediate, maybe I don't have anything. I was briefly optimistic, but then I couldn't see a plan,” said Anand. “I started out by thinking I'm slightly worse, but then I thought: why?” - Svidler.

Whereas some chess fans don't like to see the word “luck” in reports like this, GM Hein Donner used to say “Chess is and will always be a game of chance.” Well, the first thing Kramnik said at the press conference was that he had been lucky! But if you look at his position around move 27, his win was fully justified.

Mamedyarov, who played the Ragozin Defense, was basically outprepared. His 14...b5 pawn push was instructively refuted by Kramnik, who must have enjoyed the knight maneuver Nd2-b1-c3! blocking the passsed c-pawn and attacking the weak d5 pawn. White was soon strategically winning, but Kramnik “got too relaxed”, in his own words, and then miscalculated 29.e4 which he thought was a “forced win”.

Mamedyarov came back into the game with 31...g5!, when the ending was extremely complicated. More mistakes by Kramnik followed, and after the time control he was simply losing and virtually 1,5 points behind Anand and possibly Aronian.

But Kramnik had Caissa by his side, as Mamedyarov lost his concentration in a position where he thought everything was winning for him. With his opponent's king in a mating net, Mamedyarov spoilt the win with one move, and then threw away a draw the very next.

A very welcome change of events for Kramnik, who is now just half a point behind the leaders halfway through the tournament!

Yes, “leaders” in plural this time, since Aronian managed to catch Anand today. The Armenian won an excellent game as Black against Karjakin. In another 4.d3 Berlin the position was about equal at move 15, but there Karjakin missed an intermediate move and Black got some kind of initiative.

According to Aronian it wasn't that terrible for White if he had played 23.Bf2, but Karjakin continuned to make tiny inaccuracies. Few people would have been able to profit, but the world number two kept on finding the most annoying replies and suddenly White couldn't avoid loss of material. “Somehow the tactics didn't work in my favor,” said Karjakin.

And so the tournament is at half-time, with Anand and Aronian in the lead. Because the Indian won their mutual game, he would have qualified if it was a single round robin. However, already tomorrow, in the first game of the second half, Aronian as White will have a chance to level their score and grab sole lead instead! The other games are Kramnik-Andreikin, Svidler-Karjakin and Topalov-Mamedyarov.

A few prominent tweeters have made their appearance in this report already, but if you're interested in more, don't miss Eric van Reem's Chess in Tweets!

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

FIDE Candidates’ 2014 | Round 7 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts SB
1 Anand,V 2770 2872 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 4.5 15.5
2 Aronian,L 2830 2864 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 1 4.5 14
3 Kramnik,V 2787 2818 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 1 4 13.25
4 Svidler,P 2758 2772 ½ 0 ½ 1 1 0 ½ 3.5 11.5
5 Topalov,V 2785 2718 ½ ½ 1 0 0 ½ ½ 3 11.25
6 Andreikin,D 2709 2729 ½ ½ ½ 0 1 0 ½ 3 10.75
7 Mamedyarov,S 2757 2722 0 0 0 1 ½ 1 ½ 3 9.25
8 Karjakin,S 2766 2669 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 2.5 8.5

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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