Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Candidates Round# 7

The "tradition" of one decisive game per round continued through Round 7. Nakamura beat Topalov in an inconsequential but interesting game since both remain on minus scores.   Karjakin- Aronian was naturally the game that drew most interest. It started strangely with a sort of reversed Kings Indian. But neither player made a mistake, Nor did they take undue risks and it burnt out fast.

Giri and Anand drew comfortably after Giri decided to avoid potential trouble against a novelty. The Dutchman has been  very pragmatic  and it is hard to see him escaping the prison of draws in the five rounds that remain ( this is being written after Rd 9)

Svidler- Caruana was a game that ran true to their personal fortunes in this event. Svidler was brilliantly prepared. He has grabbed an opening edge in most of his games. But he's also been unable to convert the pluses into points. It happened again in this round when Svidler must have been winning or close to it qafter a sharp openiong and a brilliant scrifice. On Caruana's part, he has played enterprisingly and been prepared to take risks with both colours. But it has not translated into great positions, especially with black. Nonetheless, he's scrambled a draw several times when he's been worse and he's not yet lost a game.

 Black's position is built around the B-g7 and its control of the long diagonal. Knock out the bishop and  black is liable to fall apart.
Svidler has just offered an exchange sacrifice - black can play 9.-- f5 10. Nxc5 11. bxc3 Bxc3+ 12. Bd2 Bxa1 13. Qxa1. Black ignores it.  The Bg7 is worth more than a rook.

A few moves later, white offers a piece. This just gains time to eliminate the Bg7 and penetrate with his queen. He played  15.Qc1! fxe4 16.Bxg7 Kxg7 17.Qh6+ Kf6 18.dxe4 Rh8 19.e5+ Kf7 20.Qf4+ Kg7 21.Rxh8 Qxh8 22.0–0–0 Kg8.  The threat of Rd7 is winning and until this point white has played superbly. Indeed, white soon reached an endgame with a pawn ahead and the superior minor piece. After 23.Rd7 Rf8 24.Qg4 Qh6+ 25.f4 Re8 26.Rxb7 Nxe5 27.Qh3 Qxh3 28.Bxh3 Nc4 29.Rxa7 e5.  Sadly for Svidler, he blew this position.

It's hard to imagine that Karjakin was playing for this position with white. Black is better in practice and looks to be on the verge of developing a huge attack. It's hard to see how f2, g3 can be protected.

Once again Karjakin demonstrated sharp defensive skills. The play went 21.Bxf4 Bxf4 22.gxf4 Qxf4 23.Qxc5 and white has protected f2. After the continuation 23.-- Rf5 24.Qe3 Qxh4 25.Qg3 Qh5 26.Qc7 Qf7 27.Qb7 Rd6 28.Qb8+ Qf8 29.Qxf8+ Kxf8 30.Re3 Bc6 31.Rbe1 (1/2-1/2), the draw was easy to understand.

A wasted white for Karjakin perhaps?

The one interesting moment in Giri-Anand was in the following position.

This position is new - black has produced a novelty with Re8. White is still a move away from castling. Can he  play 12. cxd5 to try and maim black's pawn structure? After 12. cd5 ed5 13, Bd3 white has a clear if small edge with solid control of d4, the bishop pair and pressure against the isolated d5.
But 12. cxd5 e5!? could lead to messy complications. There is no mate of course. But white will be on the back-foot and the lead in development could get serious, Black will recover the pawn d5 more or less at will, He may unpin with g5, gr harassing the Kt-f3 etc. Also fairly obviously, Anand had studied the position before the game while Giri had not. Giri decided not to find out how well prepared Anand was. He played 12. Bxf6 Nxf6 13. cxd5 and it rapidly went into drawish territory.

Nakamura - Topalov was slightly lucky for the American. Topalov made a very speculative piece sacrifice but it seems there was enough compensation, at least in practice.  

 Here black has the strong 31. --Qf5! with the violent threat of Rxh4-Rh1+ White is forced to return the piece with 32. Re3 Rhd8 33. Rxf3 Qxc5 and he will struggle to hold on.  Topalov didn't find the Rxh4 idea and white eventually won.

Incidentally, Naka was fined 10 per cent of his prize money (whatever that will eventually be) for missing the press conference after the touched move incident of Round 6. He said that his touch was "halfway" between being an adjustment and an intended move, whatever halfway  might mean in this context!
Naka also claims he was really upset because Aronian made "one or two personal comments" in that brief altercation captured on the video before the arbiter intervened.  Aronian says he doesn't remember what he said in the heat of the moment.(It's unlikely to have been very complimentary whatever it was). The video makes it obvious that the Armenian GM was agitated  when Nakamura said he was just adjusting the piece.

So the first half concluded with Aronian sharing the lead with Karjakin and Anand in third place. . 


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