Second Loss For Topalov, Aronian Joins Leaders At Candidates' Tournament

Second Loss For Topalov, Aronian Joins Leaders At Candidates' Tournament

| 54 | Chess Event Coverage

Losing his second game in three rounds, Veselin Topalov helped Levon Aronian to catch Viswanathan Anand and Sergey Karjakin in the lead. Monday is a rest day at the Candidates' Tournament

Beforehand, more or less anyone could win the Candidates' Tournament but today it looks like we are down to seven potential winners. It might be somewhat early to say so, but Veselin Topalov does seem to lack the form to emerge victoriously at the end of this month. He missed several tactics and was just outplayed with the white pieces today.

With Topalov smiling while showing his opening blunder, the Bulgarian GM's state of mind is food for psychologists. Either he doesn't care, or he pretends he doesn't?

Or perhaps he is simply not too comfortable being in Russia. Ever since Toiletgate, the scandal during his 2006 world championship match with Vladimir Kramnik, the relation between the Danailov/Topalov camp and the Russian chess scene has been tense. For the Candidates', Topalov didn't attend the opening ceremony (“personal matters, nothing special,” Danailov told and he also skipped a photo shoot on Saturday for GQ Russia, attended by the other seven players.

Topalov and Aronian before the game | Photo Vladimir Barsky.

Back to the game, where Levon Aronian surprised his opponent with the sideline 7...d6. Perhaps in an attempt to avoid further prep, the Bulgarian GM avoided the main move 8.0-0 and took on b4 instead. However, Aronian was perfectly ready for that as well and by move 11 he was quite comfortable.

White's pawn sacrifice wasn't too bad but with 17.Rd1? Topalov just missed a tactic, and from that point it was a one-way affair. Sure, both players agreed that Black's play could be improved (“I wasn't too happy with my play” — Aronian) but he always seemed in control anyway.

Annotation by IM Danny Rensch


The Topalov-Aronian press conference courtesy of WorldChess.

In yet another round with just one decisive result the game between Hikaru Nakamura and Peter Svidler was the longest battle. Drawing this one was crucial for the American after his blunder the other day, and doing so by defending a pawn-down ending will boost his confidence.

In fact it was Nakamura who arrived at the playing hall first, as if he was telling himself to start focusing as early as possible. (Vishy Anand arrived last and in fact shortly after the TV clock had counted down to 0.00, but the arbiter did not put the zero-tolerane rule into effect.)

In a tabiya of the Queen's Gambit Declined, a position with an isolated queen's pawn, Svidler played the opening in remarkable fashion: he gave up one of his bishops, allowed that queen's pawn to run all the way to d7 and told the white queen “welcome to h7.” It was all part of an impressive amount of preparation, as he revealed at the press conference.

Svidler revealed some deep prep after the game.

The St Petersburg grandmaster had carefully checked everything and felt Black was holding after both 26.Bc2 and 26.Be2, but when 26.Qh7 was played he couldn't remember exactly why that move wasn't among the top two in his notes.  

Check out IM Danny Rensch's full review of all the Round 3 Games:

In his annotations Maxime Vachier-Lagrave doesn't like this move either; he sees it as the source of White's troubles. Svidler played it clever: he returned the pawn temporarily, knowing that he would win another one later.

What resulted was a 4 vs 3 endgame with a rook and a knight for both, but there Nakamura defended quite well. There were definitely chances to lose this game, but he didn't.

The Nakamura-Svidler press conference courtesy of WorldChess.

The draw between Anish Giri and Sergey Karjakin was a rather spectacular affair, but the fire extinguished as quickly as it appeared.

This time behind the black pieces, Karjakin was again involved in a Queen's Indian Defense. After a bunch of normal moves the Moscuvite suddenly came up with the remarkable ...h5 and ...Ng4, a plan which our commentator IM Danny Rensch claims to be all preparation!

Did Karjakin prepare that deeply today? | Photo courtesy of World Chess.

Giri's play surely wasn't Karjakin's main line, but Black did seem to get enough compensation for the sacrificed pawn. And then it was Giri's turn to call the attention with a knight sacrifice on g6, and then another one on c5, followed by a perpetual check. A neat way to draw a game, in the eyes of the fans, but will the Dutchman think the same?

Annotation by IM Danny Rensch

Analyzing a third Anti-Berlin was, understandably, a bit too much for MVL but Vishy Anand vs Fabiano Caruana was interesting nonetheless. Not knowing the exactly theory in the opening, Caruana gave the impression that his 12...c5 was already found at the board.

The first move was made by the Russian U9 Champion today. | Photo courtesy of World Chess.

For most of the game Black was playing with a backward d-pawn, but all of Caruana's pieces were beautifully centralized and so it was difficult for Anand to increase the advantage. Still, Danny Rensch migth have found a way for White to play on, right at the end.

The Anand-Caruana press conference courtesy of WorldChess.

2016 FIDE Candidates' | Round 3 Standings

# Name Fed Rtg Perf Pts
1 Karjakin,Sergey RUS 2760 2900 2.0/3
2 Aronian,Levon ARM 2786 2898 2.0/3
3 Anand,Viswanathan IND 2762 2907 2.0/3
4 Giri,Anish NED 2793 2780 1.5/3
5 Caruana,Fabiano USA 2794 2782 1.5/3
6 Svidler,Peter RUS 2757 2776 1.5/3
7 Nakamura,Hikaru USA 2790 2650 1.0/3
8 Topalov,Veselin BUL 2780 2489 0.5/3

The round 3 recap by WorldChess

Pairings round 4 (Tuesday): Svidler-Aronian, Caruana-Topalov, Karjakin-Anand, and Nakamura-Giri.

From an organizational point of view the tournament is far from perfect. has already dealt extensively with the move protection story, which certainly didn't give Agon very good exposure. The issues with the official website were discussed as well, and as you might remember the organizers claimed a denial of service (DoS) attack during the first round. They provided the following diagram to support this claim.

However, several kibitzers (e.g. on the English Chess Forum) expressed their doubts, mentioning that the spikes do not correspond with the moment(s) the organizers tweeted about the attack. One former chess journalist (now mostly busy as Garry Kasparov's aide-de-camp) was highly critical.

Someone else reacted to the difficulties with the relay of games in the first round and created the following (rather brilliant) image based on the official tournament logo. Probably even Agon's CEO Ilya Merenzon could laugh about this one.

But also at the venue in Moscow things don't go too smoothly. For instance, in the playing hall there is only space for a few dozen spectators and tickets can only be bought online, not at the venue. As a result, each day a number of chess fans try to get into the building, but can't.

Besides, grandmasters don't get the usual treatment. On Sunday the young rising star Vladimir Fedoseev could only enter when a fellow grandmaster noticed him and helped him through security.

Probably most of the problems will be solved in the coming days. Agon is definitely aware of the criticism and tries to improve, as the following tweet suggest.

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.

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