Shocking 9th Round Candidates’: Anand Wins, Aronian & Kramnik Go Down
Sunday was a pretty good day for Vishy Anand. In a shocking 9th round of the 2014 FIDE Candidates’ Tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk, the ex-World Champion defeated Veselin Topalov, while his closest rivals Levon Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik both lost, to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Sergey Karjakin respectively. With five rounds to go, Anand effectively has a 1.5 point lead over Aronian because he will win a possible tiebreak on mutual result.
Photos © Vadim Lavrenko & Anastasiya Karlovich courtesy of the official website
Last year's Candidates’ Tournament was definitely one to remember, and especially the last couple of rounds. This year the tournament is no less exciting, while the players (well, except for one!) seem to be losing their nerves even earlier. Teimour Radjabov, who participated last year, summarized it as follows:
@rajachess) March 23, 2014
It all started quietly, with a draw between two Russian participants who are not playing a major role at this point. From a 6.h3 Najdorf, Dmitry Andreikin and Peter Svidler quickly reached an equal ending and when the last rooks were traded, and the necessary thirty moves were played, they called it a day.
But so much was happening on the other three boards, it was just crazy! The first sensation was Vladimir Kramnik getting into serious trouble against Sergey Karjakin. OK, it can happen, but right from the opening? Which was... a London System??
By then Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Levon Aronian were involved in a terribly sharp 4.f3 Nimzo-Indian, while Vishy Anand and Veselin Topalov were also playing 6.h3 Najdorf, where White had a slight edge.
Mamedyarov-Aronian was the first to finish, and it was the top seed in this tournament who went down. He knew more about the opening than his opponent, but as we've seen in this tournament, this does not guarantee success.
Mamedyarov found the important maneuver Ra1-b1-b4, and then Aronian missed the critical move 16...c5! which is probably good for Black. An excellent positional exchange sac followed, and with three pawns plus an increasingly dangerous attack, Mamedyarov was well on top. The players didn't mention from which position Black was losing, but it's clear that it was very difficult after 28.d5.
A big blow for Aronian, who said: “I was blundering things the whole game. These positions are generally my style but today I think I underestimated the complexity of the position.”
Mamedyarov played a really good game. He said: “I had nothing to lose. I just play chess. I played risky but it's good chess. I don't know if it's right or not, but this is how I play.”
Anand took full advantage with another clean win, against Topalov. In a reasonably normal Sicilian, the Bulgarian's 13...f5 wasn't good. According to Anand, it didn't work in this type of position because White's pawn block f4-g5-h4 was restricting the e7 bishop too much.
It was also the type of position where, as an exception, Black winning the e3 bishop for a knight didn't bring him much. And then Topalov somehow missed 18.Nxe4, when White ended up with a “dream French position” (Anand).
After 45.b4 Vishy's position looks completely winning, but also mess-up-able. Assuming he wins, the lead's not unassailable. #Candidates2014— Jonathan Rowson ( @Jonathan_Rowson) March 23, 2014
It seems that Anand missed a quicker win (30.Qa7!) but after Topalov's inaccurate 31st move he could reach a technically winning ending by pushing both his h- and a- pawn to the fifth rank.
By then Kramnik was still fighting for his life, but after the opening disaster he never really got back into the game, despite getting a temporary bind on the light squares. Karjakin reached a double rook ending with two extra pawns, which needed some precise move to win, but he managed.
“It wasn't really a game,” said Kramnik, referring to his blunder on move seven (which turned out to be a novelty).
It's fun that after Kramnik's statement that 3.Qb3 yesterday was complete trash he quickly collapsed today in similar harmless line.— Pavel Eljanov ( @Eljanov) March 23, 2014
And so Kramnik is 1.5 points behind Anand, but he will face the Indian with the white pieces on Wednesday in round 11, so anything is possible. About the tournament situation Kramnik said: “So far Vishy is playing by far better than the others and that is why is leading. It's that simple. And also he is not blundering.”
“It was a good day, certainly. I think it's nice I get a rest day tomorrow and I'm looking forward to that,” said Anand. Two of his compatriots are already looking forward to Anand-Carlsen, Part 2:
Fine victory by Anand against Topalov! 1 point lead with 5 rounds to go. Anand vs Carlsen coming soon ;) #Candidates2014— Harikrishna ( @HariChess) March 23, 2014
@iam_abhijeet) March 23, 2014
It seems like we're dealing with an Anand who is playing close to his level of Mexico 2007 and Bonn 2008. Strong chess, no big mistakes. He hasn't been in a single really bad position so far. It's been a long time since he's played at this level for nine games in a row. The big question is: can he keep it up for five more rounds?
@ChessClassic) March 23, 2014
FIDE Candidates’ 2014 | Pairings & Results
|Round 1||13.03.14||15:00 MSK||Round 8||22.03.14||15:00 MSK|
|Round 2||14.03.14||15:00 MSK||Round 9||23.03.14||15:00 MSK|
|Round 3||15.03.14||15:00 MSK||Round 10||25.03.14||15:00 MSK|
|Round 4||17.03.14||15:00 MSK||Round 11||26.03.14||15:00 MSK|
|Round 5||18.03.14||15:00 MSK||Round 12||27.03.14||15:00 MSK|
|Round 6||19.03.14||15:00 MSK||Round 13||29.03.14||15:00 MSK|
|Round 7||21.03.14||15:00 MSK||Round 14||30.03.14||15:00 MSK|
FIDE Candidates’ 2014 | Round 9 Standings
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.