Candidates 2014 – Round 5
We had another treat today at the Candidates. The game of the day was Kramnik-Aronian, but what I found most surprising was the only decisive game of the day.
It’s funny how quickly my prediction from yesterday came true when I said that usually a series of draws ends in a loss and that is exactly what happened to Topalov today. He managed to get his preparation in and he got a great position, but all of a sudden he started to play very badly. It has happened way to many times to me too, and I always found it difficult to explain why. Svidler was his usual dramatic self when he proclaimed he was very lucky, but his luck was more than deserved – he played very well! This game puts him firmly among the favourites of the tournament, not only because of the points he has, but more importantly because of the play he’s showing. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence that Topalov lost an endgame, even though a favourable one – he generally prefers positions with queens on board. A disappointing turn of events for Topalov, whose tomorrow’s game is against Kramnik, but maybe this is a reward for Svidler, who showed courage yesterday and is now back on track only half a point behind the leader Anand. There’s another twist of Fate for you!
Anand didn’t have problems in the opening against Andreikin and even outplayed him on the black side in the fashionable 4 d3 line against the Berlin move order. Again his extensive preparation of these lines for the Carlsen match showed in his superior understanding and smooth play. What was perplexing though, as Sutovsky pointed out on Facebook, is why he didn’t continue the game in the final position. Yes, it should be a draw, but why not try to squeeze something out of it? I can also understand Anand, who probably thought more about preserving his energy in a long event, but still you need every chance in this kind of a tournament. Usually when you don’t take a chance like this, it comes back to you when somebody else takes it against you and you’re forced to suffer in an unpleasant position. It is bound to happen to Anand, sooner or later, as he cannot expect to go through the whole event without a difficult position. And then we will see if he still has what it made him one of the toughest defenders in the history of modern chess.
Karjakin continued to make uneventful draws. He tried, unsuccessfully, to emulate Carlsen and get a position with the most minimal of edges, but that seems to work only for Carlsen. As it was, he did get the most minimal of edges against Mamedyarov’s Sicilian (he even played Carlsen’s favourite 3 Bb5+), only to agree to a draw some 10 moves later. I don’t know if the loss to Kramnik in round 2 disturbed something in his psyche, but I suppose both players were happy with the draw today.
Kramnik introduced another one of his new concepts, this time in the Queen’s Indian structures when white plays 4 e3, even though the game started as a Queen’s Gambit. Those structures were considered harmless for black, but Aronian allowed white to play 12 Ne5 (he could have prevented it with 11…Bd6 – in this case check out the game Fressinet-Ivanchuk, from the Paris GP last year – Fressinet is well known to have worked with Kramnik before) and then develop dangerous initiative on the kingside. He was winning at some point, but it was never “elementary” (as Kramnik said in the press conference) and Aronian was resilient as always. Kramnik wasn’t too disappointed after the game as he said that it’s the quality of the game that matters to him most and this game was certainly of a very high quality (from human perspective!) as it can be expected of these two players. Tomorrow’s games could be defining for them: Aronian is white against tail ender Andreikin and will surely try to capitalise on that, while Kramnik has black against his old nemesis Topalov, who will need no further motivation, especially after today’s bad loss. I just wonder whether there will be a handshake…