Friday, March 18, 2016

Candidates Round #5

For the first time in this Candidates, all the games ended in draws. This was also the first time in 30 years that Anand sat down to play as India's #2 at least on the live rating list. He had dropped some rating after the loss to Karjakin while Harikrishna has continued to make steady gains.

Anand's draw against Nakamura pulled him back to #1 on the national list. It was an unambitious game. White had very little and he decided to go for a perpetual with 24. g5. He could have played on very safely with 24. Rc1 instead. That keeps a small edge since white still has the g5 threat and c2 is protected.  Admittedly it's hard to imagine how serious progress can be made.

Giri-Svidler was a hard-fought theoretical duel. Both players play these Fianchetto Grunfeld positions with both colours. I wouldn't pretend to know what exactly was going on but a lot of the action was in the background with both players zipping through the opening at some speed. Anyhow  they played it down to an agreed draw in what seemed like a fairly tense, equal position.

Topalov-Karjakin saw a certain amount of cut-and-thrust.

Topalov produced a novelty with the mysterious 11. Rb1 intending to cripple black's pawn structure with b4-b5 if he's allowed. Karjakin promptly lashed out with 11,-- c5.


Here Karjakin showed his tactical alertness after 15.Rb2?! Bd6! when 16. Nxd5 Bxd5 17. Bxd5 Bxe5 hits Rb2. 

It may be noted that Karjakin has no problems playing with the hanging pawns, just one round after he played against exactly this structure and demolished it in his great win against Anand. That flexibility is one of his great strengths. 

It may also be noted that he played very actively with the hanging pawns, something Anand failed to do. Although the structure remained suspect, black kept pieces on for as long as he could and he kept his pieces active as well until the position burnt out.

The game of the round was Aronian-Caruana. Once again, Fabiano picked an enterprising defence - the Benoni is considered suspect with good reason. White has vastly more space and he can organise a huge attack by pushing pawns. As Aronian said "I want to mate you". 

(The press conference  at is pure gold and the variations that follow are lifted from there)

The crazy idea is 23. f6 Bf8 24. h4!? Nxc4 25. h5 Nxb2 ? 26. Qb3!! Nc4 27. Qh3 and white mates with Ng5 coming up.  Another possibility is 23. f6 Bf8 24. h4!? Nxc4 25. h5 Qxd5 26. hg6 hg6 27. Qb3! Qd7  28. Qg3!! Nxb2 29. Qh2!  Qg4 30. Re3 (Not 29.Qh4 ? Nd3 30. Ng5 Qd4+).  

 Is this sound? Who knows?  You'll have to run your engine for a fairly long time and "assist" it as well to work through the labyrinth. But it's a fine example of Aronian's  creative genius.

Unfortunately for fans, Aronian chickened out, not quite trusting his intuition. In the end, Caruana also allowed the draw by repetition rather than risking being hit by Nf6+. A fascinating game and probably a fair result given that both parties must have had winning chances.


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