Candidates 2014 – Round 6

An incredible round today. Two decisive games and if yesterday there was nobody on 50%, now 50% of the players are on 50%.

The game of the day was of course Topalov-Kramnik. I have an impression that Kramnik has problems playing Topalov because of the open animosity the latter (and his manager) show toward him (although he denied this in his separate press conference). The game reminded me very much of their last encounter in Wijk aan Zee in 2008 where Topalov implemented Cheparinov’s aggressive and risky sacrificial idea of 12 Nf7 in the Anti-Moscow gambit, winning a good game. The position was objectively good for black, but Kramnik didn’t manage to cope with the problems and lost. Today Topalov didn’t sacrifice anything, but again he implemented a rare idea and again Kramnik didn’t manage to get a grip on the position (he said he missed something in his preparation of this side line). When asked to make a prediction for the tournament Grischuk noted that Kramnik is pretty weak with the black pieces, of course that was tongue-in-cheek, but today we saw what he meant – a deeply analysed side line that poses practical problems is Kramnik’s Achilles’ heel in the opening, especially with black and Topalov took advantage of it. And yet it was surprising to see Kramnik go down so easily, practically without a fight (the same happened in Wijk in 2008). In his press conference Kramnik said that he didn’t really have a chance in this game, as Topalov played the best moves all the time and he didn’t feel he played badly, so he had nothing to reproach himself about. But I think it seems that it all added up – yesterday’s missed chance, the animosity that prevents him from fully concentrating, the practical problems in the position, set out very early on in the game (8 Be5). Topalov clearly enjoyed the moment of his triumph, not-so-subtly rubbing it in in the press conference when he said that 8 Be5 was dubious (insinuating that he beat Kramnik with a dubious idea) and saying that the position was “probably too deep for him (Kramnik).” A perfect comeback for Topalov after yesterday’s confusion and a serious setback for Kramnik who is now back to 50% and a full point behind the leader Anand.

Mamedyarov is another player who came to 50%, bringing his opponent Svidler along. Svidler said that he planned to play the Dutch in this tournament and he decided to do that today. He got a great position after the opening as the game quickly started on an independent path (10 Ba3 was a new move). In Svidler’s own words, the game was decided when he went “braindead” at move 22 and lost the game in 3 moves: first missing 22…Qd7 which would have given him a better game, then blundering 23…Qc8?, when both 23…Qd7 or 23…c6 would have been satisfactory, and then the inexplicable 24…h6?? (which he said he wanted to “unsee”), when the position is difficult, but still he could have put up a stiffer resistance with 24…Ra2. It’s difficult to explain what happened to Svidler, but he seems to be the main man of action in this tournament, taking and giving points practically all by himself.

Anand decided to enter the Berlin endgame against Karjakin for the first time since the game 4 of the match with Carlsen. He tried to improve on the rapid game Karjakin-Grischuk, but Karjakin was careful and never in any real danger. Karjakin continues to do the same, to make dull draws, while Anand seems happy to sit on his lead and preserve his energy. He more or less explained it when he said that you have to wait for your chances and then take them. So far he’s taken his chances and now he’s waiting for new ones.

Aronian played a line which I was one of the first players to play, only with black. I won a nice game against Pantsulaia at the European Team Championship in Crete in 2007 in this sacrificial line in the Reti and I analysed the line both in my preparation for the game and afterwards. My conclusions were that the line was satisfactory for black. It leads, however, to an unconventional position (at the press conference he said he was analysing this a year ago with Arshak Petrosian) where black needs to solve some problems (he said he kept losing to Petrosian in the analysis, but I doubt it). With good preparation that is not so difficult, something I demonstrated against Pantsulaia, but I don’t think Andreikin expected it so it was tricky for him. He did obtain a good position, but the character of the position seems to have been more to the liking of Aronian – it’s easier to play white and there are always some tricks as black’s position is somewhat loose. After the complications (when he could have won in more than one way) he emerged a clear pawn up, but then I was very surprised he exchanged the Fischer Bishop for the Knight and went for a Rook endgame (he said he was frustrated by that point). Admittedly, by then he had allowed the black Rook to an active position behind the pawn and it looked difficult to make progress, but still we know what they say about Rook endgames! As it happened, Andreikin defended well and fully deserved the half point. A disappointment for Aronian, undoubtedly, who was winning in the middlegame (and most probably in the endgame too, for example he could have taken on e4 with the Bishop, something Aronian confirmed in the press conference, and put the Rook on a7, eyeing f7 and then pushed the a-pawn), but this is his first missed chance in the tournament, while he did have some close shaves (against Kramnik and Topalov). He’s still in second place, so nothing is lost for him, while this difficult draw should be motivating for Andreikin who is still in last place.

Tomorrow’s a rest day and the timing is always right for a rest day in a tough tournament like this one.

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