Candidates 2014 – Round 12

Another rather calm round. The only decisive game decided nothing in the upper echelons of the standings.

Anand has returned to his old love 1 e4 on a constant basis, it seems, and Andreikin’s choice to repeat Carlsen’s Caro Kann from the game 2 of the Chennai match didn’t seem very wise. When Anand deviated from that game on move 15 they followed theory for a bit more but it seems that white’s position is easier to play (or perhaps Anand was better prepared). Andreikin got into trouble very quickly and soon was lost. He showed his usual resilience but it was really up to Anand to win it. Surprisingly, he didn’t, as he missed several wins along the way. The last one was after the time control when he took the repetition instead of playing on. People were all going crazy as to why he didn’t go on, but Anand said he was too tired by then and didn’t see a clear win. And it is easy to yell 41 Rc4 (especially when you see it suggested by your engine), but in a situation when tournament victory is so close, when your nearest rivals have already drawn and when you don’t see a clear win, it’s perfectly understandable to take the safe way. Anand doesn’t seem to mind to crawl to the finish line as the other players also seem to be crawling behind him.

What many expected to be the tournament’s decisive game, turned out to be a game of two tired players who would rather go home than play the remaining games. I was somewhat surprised by Kramnik’s choice in the Queen’s Gambit, allowing the Exchange Variation with a knight already on f6, something which on elite level is not considered the most exact. Aronian went along the normal lines and even here Kramnik showed how the position should be treated from black’s perspective. After the “strategically very risky decision ” (Aronian) of 27 e4, it was Kramnik who could have tried to play for a win, but he chose to repeat the moves instead, another confirmation that he’s despondent and disappointed.

Svidler 2.0 ran out of steam. Or you could say Santa Claus is on fire, giving away presents in most generous manner. Today the “good kid” was Topalov, in a way getting back what he gave away in their first game. I was surprised Svidler went for a line in the Sicilian which is considered to be good for white and from then onwards he just “started missing stuff” (Svidler) leading to a “result [which] is perfectly deserved” (Svidler). A very one-sided game, something that is only possible when the players are tired and have lost their ambitions and motivation.

Mamedyarov-Karjakin was a wild Nimzo Indian with 4 f3 and it was black who turned out to be better prepared. It was messy and stressful, especially for Karjakin who had 1 minute for 8 moves and 13 seconds for 6 moves, but still managed to make the time control. He then played on in a drawn double-rook endgame. It’s absurd that Karjakin, with his wimpish strategy, is now considered the biggest threat to Anand, but it has been a rather unusual tournament, at a very slow pace and tension that cracked the pre-tournament favourites. So the people who haven’t forced matters are the ones up in front – Anand and Karjakin (I don’t count Aronian and Mamedyarov as they lose the tie-break to Anand). I sincerely doubt that Karjakin will even try to beat Anand, but we may still be in for some excitement before the end.

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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