Friday, March 18, 2016

Candidates Round #6

The lack of decisions in Round 5 were compensated for by two decisions in Round 6. So the average of a 25 per cent decision rate is being maintained. 
In terms of quality, this was also the best round we've seen, so far.
The standings altered as follows:
Anand's cracker of a win against Svidler pulled him back to a plus score and third place.
Aronian's win against Nakamura was much more fortuitous. It'll be remembered for Nakamura's touch-move. Nonetheless, it was a fascinating game and it pushes the Armenian GM up the ladder, to share the lead with Karjakin. 
Karjakin defended superbly to hold a (probably) lost position after Caruana got in a big punch. Topalov -Giri was a long battle of attrition and another excellent  game.

Going into the second rest day, the tournament looks wide-open. Topalov and Nakamura trail in joint last at -2 with 8 games to play. The  joint leaders, Aronian and Karjakin, are on +2. The maths suggests that anybody could win, given this narrow spread. The decision ratio has been such that, that the winner is likely to score around +3 or maybe, +4, assuming there's no big streak in the second half.

In terms of form, Karjakin is obviously playing  well. Aronian is playing well and he's  been the recipient of some luck. Topalov and Nakamura made horrendous blunders. But then, being lucky is actually a facet of Aronian's complex style. Aronian is a really good swindler because he generates pressure even from inferior positions. Topalov blundered because he over-reacted to a novelty. Nakamura touched the wrong piece while conducting a long, exhausting defence.

Anand's form seems to be hit-and-miss. If he gets "his" type of position, or finagles some edge in the opening, he will do well. If he doesn't, things could go very wrong. On the basis of round 4 ( the loss to Karjakin) and round 5 (draw with Naka), Anand is not in particularly good form or very interested in a high placement, which comes to much the same thing. On the basis of the wins in Round 1 and Round 6, he is nevertheless capable of taking a sledgehammer to the opponent if he does get interested. To be noted, Anand plays four blacks in the second set, which could be a dampener for him.

Caruana must be deeply disappointed with his even score. He's played decent chess and he's played every game to win. He could have been +3 if he had put away Topalov, Aronian and Karjakin. But he's not quite managed it. Giri on the other hand,  has played in his usual style. He's smooth, well-prepared and  he waits for errors.  In this event, that's never going to be enough because only first place counts.

Svidler has lost control just once - in this round. In objective terms, he's probably been as well-prepared as anybody. Topalov has been in poor form. But the unpredictable and uncompromising nature of Topalov's play makes it hard to guess where his results will go. He has also started deliberately chancing his arm with some very strange play.

Nakamura has obviously not managed to control his nerves. He doesn't seem to really believe his own statement categorising this as just another very strong tournament. Aronian-Nakamura was completely surreal because of the incident and its aftermath. There's history to this as well. 
This position was reached. White has grafted to a pawn up rook endgame which is drawn with careful defence. Apparently Aronian thought it was winning and he asserted this in the presser.

 Though Black is materially down, White can't win with a pair of rooks on the board even if he goes two pawns up with an extra f-pawn and h-pawn versus no black pawns. That is a notoriously drawn endgame.
Black's king has one major task - it has to prevent a white king entry. This means maintaining control of f6  Black can defend by 74-- Ra6 or 74. Ra4 or 74. Re2.  One key defensive line is 74.--Ra4 75. e6 Ra5+ 76. Ke4 Ra4+ 77. Kf3 Kf6! when either 78. Rxf7+ Kxe6 or 78. exf7 Kg7 are drawn.  
Nakamura did not just "touch" his king here. The video footage is absolutely clear that the king was deliberately picked up.
Then he paused and said, "J'Adoube" (I adjust). That unsporting gesture will haunt him. That phrase is used when one wishes to adjust a piece before touching it. 

Very clearly Nakamura intended to play Kf8, and realised it loses at the last moment. As the video shows, Aronian threw up his hands in protest and after prompting by the arbiter, Naka played 74.-- Kf8? and duly lost

75.Kf6 Ra6+ 76.Rd6 Ra8 77.h5 Kg8 78.f5 Rb8 79.Rd7 Rb6+ 80.Ke7 Rb5 81.Rd8+ Kh7 82.Kf6 Rb6+ 83.Rd6 Rb7 [Nakamura made this move and then resigned] 1–0. The American GM left the hall immediately and didn't attend the press conference.  That is a breach of contract (as in tennis, chess tournaments nowadays demand that both players come to the conference).  

There is a history to this incident as mentioned earlier and it explains the lack of sympathy from the commentators. On Sept 19, 2015, GM Yan Nepomniachtchi lost an Armageddon tiebreak to Nakamura in the third round of the World Cup at Baku. it was a helluva game and you might want to watch it at

Nakamura clearly contravened the rules in Baku and got away with it. He castled using both hands. In blitz play, castling must be done one-handed, touching king first and then rook, and finally, shutting the clock with the same hand. The seconds saved can count. Nepomniachtchi was too flustered to appeal at that instant and his post-game appeal was rejected.

Nepomniachtchi  (a Moscow resident who was present at the hall) tweeted: "Oh wait, #MoscowCandidates! Now they finally managed to teach @GMHikaru the touch-move rule! Such a drama".  

This absurdity overshadowed Anand's brutal and very well-calculated demolition of Svidler.

White has already taken one key decision by playing 16. axb5 and opening the a-file.
Here he goes into high gear with 18.Rxe4! (Anand called this "a very natural move" - he has realised a) that the rook lift carries deadly threats which he carried out.
Also b) the Bishop is a killer after 18. --
Bxe4 19.Bxe4 Ra7 20.Bxh7+ Kxh7 21.Ng5+ - the Greek Gift sacrifice is among the oldest attacking ideas around. An exchange up/ down is irrelevant.  The engines say 18.--g6 might hold even now.
The game continued
18...Nb3 19.Rxa8 Bxa8 - the farsighted opening of the a-file ensures the hanging Ra1 can be exchanged with tempo. From here on, white played  "only moves" to force victory.
20.Ng5! Nxc1 (20.- g6 21. Bxb3 Bxe4 22. Nxe4) 21. Qh5 h6?!. The engines give up here with 21. -- Qxg5 22.Qxg5 Bxe4 23.Qxc1! Bxc2 24.Qxc2,. White will win more slowly. 
22.Qxf7+ Kh8 23.Rg4! Qa5!? A counter-threat of mate

24. h4! - Again the only winning move. This defends against 24.-- Qe1+ 25. Kh2 Ne2 with 26. Nh3. White may actually lose if he plays something else.

Caruana - Karjakin saw black accepting hanging pawns again as he did in his previous game (Topalov -Karjakin  Rd 5). This time, Caruana found a poisonous shot with b4.

Here black sacrificed his queen over the board with 18.-- Bxb4!? 19.Nc6 Bxc3 20.Nxd8 Bxe2 21.Qb3 Bxa1 22.Rxa1 Raxd8 23.Rxa7 Nc4 White's better but black is quite solid and his pieces are active as well. it's hard to progress with all pawns on one side.

It seems white has made some progress by smashing the pawn structure. But black found 28.--  d4! 29.Qxc4 d3 30.g5 d2 31.gxf6+ Kh8 32.Bf3 Be4!! Black must see this when he plays d4. The alternative 32. -- d1=Q? 33. Bxd1 Rxd1+ 34. Kh2 is winning for white. In brief, threats of mate by Qf4-h6 coupled to pushes like h5/f5 do the job. But
now black threatens to win by 33.Qxf7? d1Q+ 34.Bxd1 Rxd1+ 35.Kh2 Rg8! because he has Rh1#

Play concluded with Caruana bailing out by 33.Kh2 Bd5! 34.Qg4 Rg8 35.Bd1 Rxg4 36.hxg4 h6 (1/2-1/2). Phew! White is lucky that can hold this.

Topalov - Giri started dramatically with 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. h4!? sometimes called the "Bum's Rush Attack" in coffeehouse circles. The Bulgarian has obviously decided to try and enjoy himself since he's played strange novelties several times.

It's a moot point whether Topalov did actually enjoy the subsequent play. Giri reacted sensibly (as he usually does) with a Benko Gambit 3.- c5 4. d5 b5!? (Giri calls it the Volga Gambit betraying his Russian ancestry),  The Dutchman (who has a Nepali father and Russian mother) then took over the initiative. He made Topalov suffer for 68 moves but he couldn't break through, even though he was a pawn up.


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