Archives for January 2015
I am not sure Carlsen was with a clear mind what he wanted of today’s game against Saric. He started off with a certain dose of caution, but then became aggressive, only to end up worse. His usual resilience kept him out of danger and assured the draw that was enough to win the tournament.
This was because Giri already drew with Wojtaszek before Carlsen’s game was over. Giri tried the Grunfeld against the Pole, but Wojtaszek was Anand’s second in Sochi and we know that Carlsen played the Grunfeld in Sochi, so he was prepared very well. Giri managed to improve upon Petrosian-Botvinnik, game 15 of their match in 1963, but was never in danger of winning. In any case, shared 2nd is a great result for the new Max Euwe (read below for more on this).
Hou Yifan and Ivanchuk played a normal Giuoco Piano that ended in a draw. Worth noting is Ivanchuk’s move in the following position:
Jobava and Radjabov played a KID that soon got into Benko Gambit territory. It was balanced throughout but in the endgame white suddenly got winning chances. What he did with them you can see here:
|50 Nb2?!? Bb2 which should have been a draw. Why not 50 Nd2?|
This peculiar new habit of giving away pieces cost Jobava quite some points in Wijk (just remember the game against Hou Yifan two days ago when he left the bishop en prise to a double-check). But luck finally decided to award the fearless Jobava – very soon Radjabov blundered and allowed Jobava to end the tournament with a win.
Aronian had a horrible end to a horrible tournament. With white in a KID against Ding Liren he was practically lost by move 17. But this meant a great result for the Chinese, shared second is no small feat!
So destroyed van Wely in a Benoni, as if pissed off after yesterday’s loss. The shared second is a fantastic result for So, establishing himself firmly as the number 1 American player (sorry, Nakamura) and a Top 10 player. It’s curious why van Wely committed a cardinal sin in the Benoni by relinquishing control over e5:
|16…Ndf6? 17 Nd3 and after the imminent e5 black was busted|
The topsy-turvy tournament Caruana had ended with a knock. He lost with white to Vachier in a 6 h3 Najdorf where black executed the typical …d5 pawn break, sacrificing a pawn for black-square blockade.
An excellent result for Vachier, shared second in Wijk is surely his greatest achievent so far.
The final standings show a change of guard in the world of chess. Leading the field we have the World Champion and after him we have a cohort of young and ambitious players, all belonging to the Carlsen generation – Giri, So, Ding Liren and Vachier. These will definitely try to challenge Carlsen’s supremacy, although I don’t see any of them developing such a domination over the competition like Carlsen. Of these four Giri and So look more promising to me, So as an American and younger than Carlsen, and Giri (also younger than Carlsen) as the next Euwe.
Euwe became a World Champion because he was the right man at the right time from a right country. As the country’s only serious hope he got the whole support and managed to play the match with Alekhine in a period when the latter was feeling over-confident and negligent of his physical shape. Giri already has the support of the country, an awful lot has already been invested in him and this will continue. But in order to repeat Euwe’s feat he will first have to qualify and then win the Candidates. Only then he will have to beat Carlsen, who although at times shows signs of over-confidence, does not seem very negligent of his physical shape, quite the contrary. (Another example of over-confidence and bad physical shape was the return match Tal-Botvinnik). But of these two factors, the over-confidence bug is the more dangerous one. This is the only chink in Carlsen’s armour at the moment.
Ivanchuk had a good result, he quickly switched to making draws after his inexplicable loss to So. His best times are in the past, but he can still play well and a good sign for him that he only had one bad moment in a long tournament like this one.
What to say about Aronian? His decline after last year’s Candidates reached the lowest point. Minus 2 in his favourite tournament which he won 4 times is definitely a moment where good thinking is required (which I’m sure he’s doing for quite some time now). These mediocre results brought him down to number 9 in the world and already he’s not considered a favourite in the upcoming World Championship cycle. I think this is his big chance, without the burden of being the favourite he can return to his trademark style and finally score big when it matters.
The similar problem of raised expectations is taking its toll on Caruana. After his 7/7 every result of his is measured against it and that only adds to the already existing pressure. His last round loss spoiled his tournament, otherwise it would have been acceptable. I said that he’s consistent, but he will definitely have to forget about the 7/7 and go back to playing his excellent chess.
The World Champion again showed why he’s number one without a shadow of a doubt. What I find most impressive is that he manages to win all these games and tournaments without being at his best. He had bad games, he was outplayed at times, he blundered and yet he won rather convincingly. This shows the potential of the current World Champion, he can still improve and avoid these setbacks, imagine where that would take him. Unless, of course, he gets overwhelmed by the over-confidence bug and decides he can do whatever he pleases on the chessboard, in which case he will have the fate of Alekhine against Euwe and no amount of body-building will save him.
Elite chess continues very soon in February in Baden-Baden (Carlsen, Caruana, Anand, Aronian, Adams, Bacrot, Naiditsch, Baramidze) and Zurich (Kramnik, Anand, Nakamura, Karjakin, Aronian and Caruana). Stay tuned!
I expected an uneventful draw as a result of a good opening preparation by So, but it turned out to be a one-sided game. In spite of the 111 moves played it was one-way traffic all the time. The reason? So didn’t make it out of the opening. Which I find surprising, as he’s already established himself as one of the best-prepared players in the elite, hence my expectations yesterday. Of course, all credit to Giri, who managed to find a grey area in So’s repertoire.
This win moved Giri above So in sole second, leaving him with theoretical chances to win the tournament. It’s curious that this loss is So’s first since April!
The other decisive game of the day was Saric-Wojtaszek, when they both confused the move-orders. Saric went along the game Caruana-Gelfand, considered good for black (instead of some better alternatives) and then Wojtaszek most probably forgot how Gelfand played and made a bad move. Then Saric didn’t take advantage of it and they transposed back to normal theory.
The other games were drawn. A few words about them as it’s time for bed.
Carlsen had some problems drawing with Ding Liren, but eventually managed. It’s surprising that he couldn’t draw easily in the QGD, bearing in mind that he prepared it for Anand.
Radjabov couldn’t do anything against Hou Yifan in the Catalan. Too sterile play by Radjabov with white, it happens to him occassionally.
Vachier and Aronian played an interesting game when the Frenchman went berserk and sacrificed his queenside for attack. It sufficed for a draw.
Ivanchuk and Caruana played a tame Grunfeld line that became alive only to peter out to a draw.
And finally Jobava played a dull game and drew without problems against van Wely.
Tomorrow’s last round sees Carlsen play Saric and Wojtaszek play Giri. I’d still say Carlsen wins his game and the tournament.
So beat Saric in a strange game that shows the dangers of (too much) computer preparation. They played a really long computer variation and on move 20 Saric played a move not tested by the computers. He was immediately worse and 2 moves later he blundered a piece. This is also part of modern chess.
This win moves So to sole second, within striking range of the leader. Two more rounds, can he stage a sensation? Personally, I don’t think so, as he plays Giri with black tomorrow, and we know what that means (in case you don’t read until the end of this report).
Carlsen couldn’t beat the Frenchman with too many names (I only use his first surname, Vachier). In a Grunfeld Carlsen went for the main line with 7 Nf3 c5 8 Rb1 by a completely different move-order – 7 Be3 c5 8 Rc1. It seemed that he confused the Frenchman and he was a pawn up in the endgame. Surprisingly he didn’t make the most of it and black saved the draw. Carlsen will most probably win the tournament anyway, as he gets to play the groggy Saric in the last round, and he will certainly be out for a revenge for that loss at the Olympiad.
I probably wrote too many times in these Wijk reports “Jobava lost again” so I’d like to avoid writing it again. This time I’ll say that Hou Yifan beat Jobava and I’ll show how:
|39…Kg8?? 40 Qe6+, picking up the Bd6 (39…Kf8 was OK for black)|
In the Dutch duel, Giri beat van Wely. A curious decision by van Wely to play the Pirc in this tournament. He has always been a Sicilian player and now that Kasparov is long gone it seems that he has nobody to fear there. He did lose to Ivanchuk in round 3, but that was really a bad prep on his part, something that is rare to see by van Wely, and he came close to beating the complexly-named Frenchman in round 5. Giri followed the game Karjakin-Wang Hao and black introduced a new move 10…Ng4, the second choice of the engine. It is becoming increasingly popular to play the second (or third) choice of the engines, since everybody’s analysing the first. Another quirk of modern computer preparation. But you cannot bamboozle Giri with such primitive tricks! He was prepared like a mongoose at a cobra convention and he obtained an edge, which he went on to win in a long game.
Aronian and Ivanchuk usually play decisive games, but not this time. Aronian was pressing the whole game, but Ivanchuk saved the draw. It’s likely that Aronian will finish the tournament on a minus score, something that I cannot recall ever happening to him.
Ding Liren is the new young Radjabov. He plays only the KID against 1 d4 (the wiser Radjabov of today included other openings in his repertoire, like the QGD). Today he was under pressure against Wojtaszek, but kept on finding those annoying chances the KID offers to its faithful followers. When white should have held the perpetual, he seemed indecisive, as he could play without risk, but then he blundered in the endgame.
Caruana and Radjabov played the Romanishin line in the Nimzo that was made popular after Kasparov’s impressive wins in his matches with Karpov. Theory advanced considerably since those times and nowadays it’s considered that black has more than one way to be fine. Radjabov chose a rare sideline and obtained slightly worse endgame which he was able to hold. Again I have to express my amazement at Radjabov’s transformation (or, reprogramming, as Botvinnik would have put it) from a dynamic player to a player ready to sit patiently and defend slightly worse endgames.
Looking at the standings, tomorrow’s big game should be Giri-So, but I predict an easy draw. It even rhymes!
Ivanchuk played a theoretical draw in the Ragozin against Carlsen. Nothing much to be added here, giving both players extra rest before the rest day.
The game between Ding Liren and So was another theoretical draw. This one in the QGD, in a line that was introduced by Botvinnik in his game against Spassky in Leiden 1970. As Botvinnik writes, he discovered the move 8 h4 while sitting in the hotel foyer in Menorca in 1967 while outside a hurricane was raging. Botvinnik thought that taking on h4 was bad for black, but he (un)fortunately didn’t have access to Stockfish, Houdini or Komodo. Funnily enough, Ding and So followed an old game by Geller (from 1982), but thanks to the 3 amigos above So successfully improved on Geller’s play.
Vachier and Wojtaszek, another two players who know their theory played an English Opening and instead of following Aronian on move 11 (who played 11…e4 and 11…Nd7, but lost both times), black followed So, who played 11…h6. Wesley So is very fast becoming the person to follow. Obviously the Frenchman improved on move 13, but after black’s 13…Kd8 he didn’t have much. He sacrificed a pawn to open up the position with 14 d6, but black defended accurately. After many moves considered best by the comp and played by both sides, the game ended in a draw on move 32.
Saric and Giri played an exciting Taimanov Sicilian following Radjabov-Giri from round 6, which ended in a spectacular perpetual, until Giri deviated with 14…Rc8. Strangely enough, they played computer moves until move 23! This was the first moment Giri thought in this game, for some 12 minutes. That’s what I call deep and high-quality preparation – to analyse deeply and precisely in a completely unknown territory! From then on Saric’s play deteriorated significantly (it’s quite typical, when you play your prep you play at a 3100 level, when you start to play on your own, your level drops several hundred points) and Giri won rather easily.
Radjabov and Aronian played a theoretical draw in the Marshall Attack. I remember Aronian saying once that if he wanted to play for a draw he played the Marshall, while if he wanted to play for a win, he played the Berlin.
Jobava lost to Caruana. How many players are out there who would think of 7 g3 in this position?
Jobava’s ugly-looking setup didn’t quite manage to impress Caruana who went on to outplay him in classical style. But ugly-looking doesn’t necessarily mean bad, no matter what Hollywood tells us. Jobava fought and even though he was losing he managed to confuse Caruana. And just when he managed to escape with a draw, disaster struck:
Van Wely beat Hou Yifan by playing 1 e4, a move he normally never plays. The game was very interesting – they followed the recent game Naiditsch-Sutovsky until move 16, when instead of the best move (according to comps) and the one chosen by Naiditsch, van Wely played 16 c5. This was cunning: first, Hou never expected 1 e4 and this line; second, Hou played 3…g6 and 4…bc6 in December and won, so van Wely could prepare with a degree of certainty that Hou would repeat the line; third, she must have had some vague recollection of the Naiditsch-Sutovsky game and used it to navigate the complications; fourth, playing by analogy can be very dangerous in tactical positions. And that is what happened, Hou copied Sutovsky’s recipe, but it didn’t work due to tactical reasons. A very good psychological preparation by van Wely!
Tomorrow’s a rest day and then the final 3 rounds will be played. Who will finish second?
Today’s game against Radjabov followed along the second game of the match with Anand in Sochi (with a slight difference in the move-order) and it was Radjabov who deviated first. Like in the game with Anand, white didn’t have much from the opening, just a playable position. But perhaps that can be considered an advantage for Carlsen, as that’s what he strives for?! The game looks like smooth sailing for white, but even though this is deceptive, it still is an aesthetic pleasure to play through.
Giri beat Ding Liren in the Petrosian Variation in the KID. A very rare guest at top level until Kramnik resurrected it a month ago when he beat Nakamura with it in London. I have the impression Giri is a very good copycat, he plays everything Kramnik plays. But this time Giri went for the main line with 9 Bh4 (Kramnik went 9 Be3) and it seems to have caught black unprepared. After the unexpected and dubious exchange of the black-squared bishop for the knight on d2 black was much worse and even though it took a while (he could and should have won much faster) Giri won convincingly.
Wojtaszek and Ivanchuk played an odd Bogo-Indian with an uncharacteristic pawn structure. First they started repeating, then Ivanchuk declined the threefold repetition, then he ended up worse, offered a draw and Wojtaszek accepted. Tournament play has its own reasons for each player.
The duel of the theoreticians So and Vachier was fought in their favourite opening – the Grunfeld. They followed the game Aronian-Grischuk, first game of their Candidates match in Kazan 2011, until move 24 when Vachier deviated with 24…Rac8, a move suggested by Caruana in the comments to the Grischuk game. The position was already equal by then, black having full compensation for the pawn, besides, you don’t expect people like Vachier to go that deep without having it analysed until a draw. But then So made an uncharacteristic mistake and suddenly black had great chances.
I was surprised Caruana couldn’t beat Hou Yifan. He got a small, but stable advantage out of the Najdorf with 6 h3 and the fact that he managed to play it out to a worse position speaks volumes of his bad form. Before the time control things got out of hand and first black and then white had winning possibilities. All were missed and the game ended in perpetual check.
Aronian won his first game in the tournament against the Santa Claus of the tournament, the entertaining Jobava. Jobava is true to his style and playing philosophy, but perhaps sometimes shame should kick in? He’s a much better player than the score he has shows, being stubborn when things don’t go your way is just a recipe for a worse disaster.
Saric and van Wely played the longest game of the round. Another strange game by the players who showed very unusual bad play. First, Saric – how can such a strong player get from this position:
|White should be technically winning here|
to this position:
|A dead draw|
and then to this one:
|Completely lost for white|
It’s a mistery. But then it was van Wely’s turn to perform a miracle. In the above position, instead of 90…Kh3 with the idea of Rg2, g4-g3 etc. he went 90…Rg3?? and after 91 Ke4 the position was a dead draw again. Which is how the game ended.
The main question for tomorrow’s round is whether Ivanchuk will stop Carlsen’s streak? He is white, after all, but then again he lost without a fight with white against So…?!