Saturday, 30 March 2013

Candidates Tournament 2013 London

After some period of inactivity on my blog I decided to write some lines about the most interesting chess event in the first half of 2013, Candidates Tournament in London.
There are two rounds to go and the whole tournament is ful of dramatic twists.
Fisrt of all, I feel that I need to explain one week of inactivity on this blog.
I was on no chess related travel in United Kindom and Ireland, have been visiting Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dublin. In the forthcoming days I will publish some photo galleries from these cities, and I will also publish some photos from my tour on French Riviera.
Soon, I will complete my articles about my games in Elitserien, but that can wait as my next tournament is not so soon.

Back to the candidates.
This is actual table with just two rounds to go.

Kramnik is leading by half a point in front of Carlsen.
Before the tournament I discussed the chances of various players with a few of my chess friends. Many of them gave Carlsen a role of huge favourite, based on the fact that he won some top tournaments (Wijk an Zee, London Chess Classic) and showed fantastic form.
I was not so sure about that, considering Kramnik´s quality in his game in London Chess Classic 2012 to be higher then Carlsen´s (I wrote about this in December).
He simply did not have any worse positions during the whole event.
Later on he decided not to play in Wijk an Zee, in order to prepare better for this tournament, while Carlsen trashed the concurrences there.
The third potential winner of the tournament was Aronian.
While I do not see what is Aronian lacking in order to be on completely equal terms with Kramnik and Carlsen (that is simply beyond the level that I can understand) I can see that in the shorter tournament he can compete with these two.

The tournament is far from over, and Carlsen still can win it, although even if he wins it must be due to sudden increasing of the level of chess he is showing right now, or some black hole in Kramnik´s play.
In the case of Carlsen´s victory, it will still be a reminder (in form of Kramnik´s play) that he does not dominates chess world as one can get impression by reading mostly western chess media.

So what went wrong for Carlsen so far?
Nothing at all!
In the beginning he was chasing Svidler and Aronian, and later on it was the two horse race between Carlsen and Aronian.
The simple fact that there are seven out of eight players from the former Soviet Union, and Carlsen, shows that nothing much changed in a question who dominates chess world.
While in the tournaments such as Wijk an Zee and London Chess Classic 2012, there were some players who are not a part of top chess elite, in Candidates are every player there with a reason.
In London Chess Classic we can see British players, Nakamura and Judith Polgar.
In Wijk an Zee we can see some of Dutch players and some of the players who got a chance to play with an elite, but in Candidates Tournament there were players as Gelfand, Ivanchuk, Radjabov, Svidler currently not at the best possible positions when we look at the table, but the players who are far more complete in their chess education, experience and are much more resilient then the most of the players from the second part of table in London Chess Classic and Wijk an Zee.

The next logical question is why is then Kramnik so successfully against them?

Kramnik has a habit to play against these players already from the 90-ties and he knows them much better then Carlsen did.
Kramnik´s main problem is his age.
He does not have an energy of Carlsen, and in such a long tournament it can be crucial.
During the event, Kramnik played couple of safe and easy draws with black pieces (including more then easy draw against Carlsen), while trying to squeeze something with white pieces.
It was not so successful in the beginning, but again, he got zero worse positions during the whole tournament!
In the second part of the tournament with his accumulated energy he tried to press for more, and after couple of wins he got very near to Aronian and Carlsen.
In the game against these two he could even win and in that case we would have a winner already now.
However, he took deserved lead only after the yesterday´s round.
By a means of quality in a play, his game against Aronian was not a perfect one, but he took a huge risk with a black pieces and at the end he took a present in form of Aronian´s blunder.

I was surprised that Aronian played with a lack of motivation (as one could see clearly in the press conference after the game), as in the case of win he could share a pole position with Carlsen before the last two rounds.

Carlsen played against Ivanchuk, and he shows some clear signs of weakens in his play, which was impossible to notice in usual tournaments, as he has nothing to lose.
Again, as I pointed many times on this blog, the main part of the game was an endgame.

In this position Ivanchuk played:

63...e5 ?

He should play:

64. Rxe6, Rf3+
65. Kc2, Rh3

...and Black is just winning.
Carlsen replied with:

64. h4!

Objectively, this position is a draw!
After couple of moves, they reached the following position:

Carlsen could force a draw with:

71. c6

Although, there are still some tricks.
Instead, he played:

71. Rh6??

He missed:


The king is coming back on the queen side, winning the c-pawn.
After that the position is winning for Ivanchuk.
There were some difficulties, as Short explained in the commentators room from his experience against Kasparov from 1993.
Carlsen referenced to that game in the commentary room, shortly after the game.

Here is the position from that game:

Kasparov G. - Short N.  WC London 1993

Kasparov played the most natural:

45. Ra1??

The right move was:

45. Rd1+, Ke5
46. Rd4

...and simply go with king to help a-pawn.

46. e4

In this position Short had a draw.
He played:


He could have drawn this game with:

47. a5, Rc3+
48. Kg4, Kxe4

...and then go back with rook on a8.
White can cut off Black´s king with Ra5, but Black is just in time to save a draw (although there were two more tricks on a way).

47. Ke3, Kd6
48. Kd4, Kd7
49. Kc4, Kc6
50. Kb4, Re5
51. Rc1+, Kb6
52. Rc4

Short resigned in this position.

For the readers who wants to improve, this position is very interesting to memorise.
The position of White rook, and his pawns are the most unpleasant for the black king.
Black can never attack White´s construction, and White can if he wants go with king to h1 and back, it does not matter!

The main point is that White can move his king in the opposite direction of Black´s king cage!
He will just move his king to help his e-pawn to promote.
If Black has a king on d6 instead, then White would help his a-pawn to promote.

However, in the game Carlsen-Ivanchuk, this above mentioned draw possibility was actual in one moment but Ivanchuk avoided it.
A similar possibility was possible in the game of GM Jacek Gdanski in Swedish Elitserien, but I can not remember the exact position.

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