Sunday, April 03, 2016

Candidates Round #12

Well. it's all over and I'm posting late but the final three rounds of the Candidates had their fair share of excitement.  Round 12 was where the young guns pulled ahead.

Anand played awfully and lost a near miniature to Nakamura. Meanwhile Karjakin beat Topalov and Caruana fought a long battle with Aronian who missed a crazy winning idea. Giri and Svidler played a draw that lasted 85 moves without either player ever looking to have serious winning  chances. 

After Rd 12 it was clear that either Caruana or Karjakin would be favoured to win. Anand still had mathematical chances but the momentum had clearly passed to the two younger men. 

Anand's third loss in the tournament came in contrasting style to his first two losses. However, there were commonalities in that all three losses came with black, against young players, in amorphous English/ Reti systems.

There could be a hole here in terms of either opening preparation, or perhaps, comfort. These positions can sometimes be mind-numbingly quiet and boring. But they can also be blindingly sharp. Maybe Anand doesn't enjoy non-linear manoeuvring in such schizophrenic systems with their high rates of transposition.  

Against Karjakin in Rd 4, he had played an aggressive opening setup and then suddenly gone into passive mode, exchanging pieces when he should have kept the tension. Karjakin played superb technical chess thereafter.

Caruana  plain and simple, out-prepared Anand in Rd 10. The Italian-American found a stunning sacrifice in the late opening/ early middlegame. That left him with the advantage and he pushed Anand over the edge with excellent middle game play.  

Against Nakamura, Anand self-destructed through hyper-aggression. That g5 thrust was over-ambitious. The followups were just egregious errors. It's hard to imagine what Anand could have missed since the tactics just flow naturally against black's position, given the way he played.  

Nakamura is a difficult opponent for Anand due to either some sort of a psychological block, or some stylistic issues, or possibly a mix of both factors. Anand's head-to-head record against Nakamura is really bad and a game like this does seem to indicate psychological problems.

White's taken a deliberately provocative stance by "trapping" his Kt on h4. But he's got the obvious breaks d4, d3, and b4. Black can play steadily with 10..- Bb6 or 10. -- Be6
Instead lback picked 10.-- g5!? and after 11. b4 Bb6?! white is much better. He has better pawn structure with targets along the a1-h8 diagonal. Plus he has better development and a much safer king.  Black could have gone with 11. b4 gxh4! 12. bxc5 dxc5 or 12. Bb2 Nxd5 13. cxd5 Ne5 14. bxc5 Bg4 and this is unclear because black does have attacking chances here.

White's already winning. He has more space and a safe king. He has a lead in development. Sooner, rather than later, he will develop mating threats along  the long black diagonal. In contrast black has no apparent targets.

Nakamura played the strong but obvious 17.e5 hxg3 18.hxg3 Qg5 19.exd6 Rxd6 20.Qb3 h5 21.Rad1 Rh6 22.Rd5 Qe7 23.Qc4 Bg4 24.Qf4 Rg6 25.Re5 Qd6 26.Be4
(1-0). For the second time in this event( the first being versus Karjakin), Anand resigned with equal material on the board. He's losing at least an exchange since 26.-- Re6 27. Bd5 Rxe5 28. Qxf7+ Kh8 29. Be4 or 26.-- f5 27. Bxf5 Bxf5 28. Qxf5 Rf8 29. Qxh5 are both dreadful.

The Karjakin Topalov game turned into a pawn storm on opposing flanks. It was a classic open Sicilian.  Both players must mix attack and defence judiciously.

Black wants to get threats of Nxa3 going, which explains his next move which hits the Nc3. But he forgets  that white can let rip with h6. Black should play 17.-- Bf6! which gives him the option of recapturing on g7 with his Bishop. He can then carry on with 18. h6 hxg6 19. hxg7 Bxg7 and he still has a strong counter-attack  to come with Rc8. etc

The game turned here with 17. --- Rc8? 18.h6! fxg6  Unfortunately for black, 18.--Nxa3 19. gxh7+ Kxh7 20. hxg7+ Kxg7 leads to mate. One line would be 21. Rh7+ Kxh7 22. Qh5+ Kg7 23. Rg1+ etc.  Also 18. -- Bf6 is refuted by 19. hxg7 Bxg7 20. Qh5!

19.Nxe6 Qd7 20.Nxf8 Bxf8 21.hxg7 Bxg7 22.Bd4 a5 23.Bxg7 Qxg7 Karjakin plays exactly as the position requires. White is an exchange up but black has some residual chances of a counter-attack and Karjakin breaks those up convincingly.  

White's next move sets up the threat of Qe6+ and gains time for him to enhance the pressure with Qg5-h6. The very sensible dual-purpose Rh3 protects Nc3 and prepares rook doubling if required.

White won with 24.Qg4! Re8 25.Qg5 Bc6 26.Qh6 Qh8 27.b3 Nxa3 28.Rh3 Bd7 29.Rg3 Qf6 30.Rh1 Re7 31.Qh4 Qg7 32.Nd5 Rf7 33.Qd8+ Qf8 34.Qxa5 Nxc2 35.Qc3! (1-0). The threat of Rxg6+ turns the Kt sac on c2 into a joke.

Just in case, you've forgotten Karjakin had lost a long, difficult endgame to Anand in the previous round, To come out guns blazing regardless, and win a game like this is a sign of the mental strength that makes him such a feared competitor.

The Caruana - Aronian game saw a missed opportunity, which could have been the sacrifice of the tournament, maybe of the entire year, if Aronian had played it.

Both sides have been fooling around for a while in an equal position. White's last move (38. Rb1-a1) is actually a big error.

Black has the  insane 38.-- Rxd3!! 39. cxd3 Qxd3+ and if 40. Kg1 Qc4! and the pawns will roll home while the alternative 40. Ke1 Qxe4+  41. Kf1 Qd3+ 42. Ke1 Qd2+ 43. c2!    loses as does 40. Ke1 Qxe4+  41. Kd1 Qd3+ 42. Kc1 Qd2+ 43. Kb1 Qe1+ 44. Ka2 Qxf2+ 45. Kb1 Qf1+ 46. Ka2 Qxg2+ 47. Kb1 Qe4+ 48. Qc2 Qc4 with 49.-- b3 coming.   

Aronian missed this though he managed to build some pressure. They played out the ending till move 65 without either player making a significant error again.

The Svidler -Giri saw black rapidly achieve a superior position. But it was hard to make progress and Giri never came close to conversion.He did miss several tries that the engines consider superior.


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