Candidates matches start with four draws

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Candidates matches start with four drawsAll games in the FIDE Candidates matches, which started today in Kazan, Russia, ended in draws. Levon Aronian seemed to be close to a victory but his opponent Alexander Grischuk managed to reach a drawn pawn ending. In Radjabov-Kramnik, Mamedyarov-Gelfand and Kamsky-Topalov the point was split earlier. Full report.

General info

The Candidates matches take place May 3-27 in Kazan, Tatarstan, Russia. Levon Aronian (Armenia), Boris Gelfand (Israel), Alexander Grischuk (Russia), Gata Kamsky (USA), Vladimir Kramnik (Russia), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan), Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan) and Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) play a knockout with matches of four games in both the quarter and semi finals, and six games in the final. The winner qualifies for a World Title match against Vishy Anand next year. More info here.

Day 1

May 3rd was the day of arrival for the players in Kazan, and May 4th the day of the official opening. Before the opening ceremony there was first a different ceremony held in the city center of Kazan. FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov announced that a chess school would be built in the Tatar capital, and at the construction site a special foundation stone was placed with a silver mug, with the logo of the matches engraved in it, was buried with cement inside the stone, before it was placed.


During the opening ceremony (many photos here!), on Wednesday night, a big number of other very strong grandmasters could be spotted - it became clear immediately who were the seconds working with the big guns:
  • Mamedyarov: Elizbar Ubilava, Rauf Mamedov
  • Gelfand: Alexander Huzman and Maxim Rodshtein
  • Kamsky: Emil Sutovsky and Andrei Volokitin
  • Grischuk: Alexander Riazantsev and Denis Khismatullin
  • Kramnik: Sergey Karjakin and Zahar Efimenko
  • Topalov: Ivan Cheparinov and Erwin l'Ami
  • Aronian: Gabriel Sargissian and Sergei Movsesian
Teimour Radjabov is the only player who didn't bring a second to Kazan - he brought his father Boris. At the press conference after the first game, Radjabov said that in these short matches, he didn't see the point. "In longer matches it's probably a good idea to have someone in the hotel room looking at openings, but here other factors are more important."

Right from the moment when FIDE confirmed the pairings, the players had been focused on only one thing: these Candidates matches. However you look at it, one cannot deny that this is the most important chess event of 2011. And even without the participation of Magnus Carlsen (which is still a big disappointment for all chess fans) the tournament is a very exciting one.

After the first move was executed on every board by Mintimer Shaimiev, the first President of Tatarstan, with FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov standing next to him, the games finally began. Already after a few minutes, everyone was talking about the game Kamsky-Topalov, as the American had brought a stunning novelty. After the Sicilian Najdorf had appeared on the board, Topalov answered Kamsky's 6.a4 with 6...Nc6 and then the surprising 7.a5!? was played.


Veselin Topalov, thinking after Kamsky's stunning7.a5!?...

Topalov decided to decline the pawn sacrifice and after an interesting fight, which included a typical Topalovian exchange sacrifice, the game ended in a draw.


...and Kamsky anxiously awaiting his opponent's response

By that time Radjabov and Kramnik had already split the moment - right after the opening, a a QGD Lasker Defence, it became clear White had nothing.

The start of the game Radjabov-Kramnik

The start of the game Radjabov-Kramnik with chief arbiter Igantius Leong (Singapore), Mintimer Shaimiev (first President of Tatarstan), Kirsan Ilyumzhinov (FIDE President) and Ilya Levitov (Russian Chess Federation)

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov surprised by playing 1.e4, which wasn't answered by Boris Gelfand's typical Petroff. No, to the relief of many fans, the Israeli returned to his former main weapon: the Sicilian Najdorf. In the positional 6.Be3 e5 7.Nf3 line, White managed to keep an edge. Mamedyarov reached an ending with an extra pawn, but allowed his opponent to get counter play and then it was equal.


Shakhriyar Mamedyarov: a nice advantage with 1.e4...


Boris Gelfand: a draw thanks to good defence

The longest and most dramatic game in this first round was Aronian-Grischuk. In a complicated Grünfeld ending, the Russian missed a few chances to equalize completely, and then had to defend a position a pawn down. And then, right when Aronian could cash the full point, after many hours of play, the Armenian played a number of inaccurate moves that allowed Grischuk to escape into a drawn pawn ending. The crucial moments can be found in the game viewer below.


Levon Aronian missed a good chance on the first day

We compliment the Russian Chess Federation again for their superb video coverage of this event - they're using the same system as during the Tal Memorial. There's audio (unfortunately only in Russian) with Mark Gluhovsky as host and GM Sergei Rublevsky as expert commentator, and different cameras provide streaming footage of high quality from the playing hall and including the press conferences. Everything can be played back afterwards, or during the rounds. The first round can be found here and today's round will be here.

Another place we warmly recommend visiting during the Candidates matches is Chess in Translation, where our co-editor Colin McGourty is traditionally LIVE translating Sergey Shipov's top notch analysis from Russian into English. Yesterday Shipov picked the game Aronian-Grischuk - find it here (later today it will be moved here).

Games round 1.1

Game viewer by ChessTempo

Images FIDE | Russian Chess Federation


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