Tournoi des Candidats 2014
Candidats Ronde 12 : Anand misses his chance
Only 3 rounds to go until the end of the tournament! After two not so exciting rounds (round 11 was actually the only one where all 4 games ended in a draw), the chess fans had high expectations for today’s round. And they were not disappointed by the show offered by the players before what is going to be the last rest day.
Before the round, the Tiger of Madras was in the sole lead, a full point ahead of Levon Aronian.
Let’s start with the game of the latter, who was facing Vladimir Kramnik with the white pieces. Aronian has been alternating between 1.d4 and 1.c4 in this tournament and he went for the queen’s pawn today. And faced with Kramnik’s favorite move order, 1..Nf6 and 2…e6, Aronian accepted to enter the Nimzo-Indian debate with 3.Nc3. Then the first surprise of the game happened as Kramnik, who is not really playing for much in the tournament anymore, decided to enter a Queen’s Gambit. Slightly surprised, Levon exchanged on d5 before going for the rare 8.h3?!, after which Kramnik innovated with Ch5, exchanging the dark squared bishops.
Afterwards both players castled queenside and Aronian tried to create weaknesses by playing h4-h5. Kramnik decided to sacrifice his h7 pawn and Aronian didn’t react in the best way as he just lost his h5 pawn back and was left without any advantage. While the game could just have drifted towards a quick draw if both players just waited, Aronian, who is still theoretically in the race for the tournament victory, risked playing 27.e4?!, which weakened his d4 pawn and gave Black an advantage.
Kramnik reacted with 27…b6 28.Na4 and missed the strong 28…Nb5!, which would have kept the advantage by pressuring White’s new weakness. This is why the players decided to repeat the position with Ba6-Nc5/Bc8-Na4 at this moment. This is clearly not a good result for the Armenian player, who leaves Anand with his 1-point lead and favorable tiebreak with only 2 rounds to go.
The other important game of the day was of course Anand-Andreikin, who, although he is by far the lowest rated player, has a respectable result in the tournament.
The former World Champion came back to his old love and opted for 1.e4 (as in almost all his White games in this tournament). Andreikin also remained true to his strategy of surprising his opponents and went for one of the Indian’s specialties, the Caro Kann. After the old main line with 3.Nc3 appeared on the board (3.e5 has been more popular on the highest level lately), Andreikin clearly showed what his preparation was by following the 2nd game of the Anand-Carlsen march and option for 7…e6. Anand was the first one who deviate from this game by going for 15.Qf3!?.
While Andreikin sent his a-pawn down the a-file to weaken White’s king, Anand regrouped his pieces with 17.Kb1 18.Bc1 and 19.Rhe1. At first sight the computer liked Black’s position, but he quickly realized that after 21…c5 22.d5! White actually had the better perspectives.
Vishy Anand then played brilliantly in the middle game and he even had the choice of playing against the black king or try and make use of the d7 pawn. But Anand chose the dubious 37.Qf3 (37.Bd2 was winning more easily, with 38.Be1 in case of Rd6) and had to work very hard to find a convincing advantage.
He repeated the position once to reach move 40 and after about 15 minutes (when he went to see what the position between Mamedyarov and Karjakin was like and evaluated it as equal) he chose to take the draw in a position he knew was favorable. This practical choice can be explained by the fact that he didn’t want to take any risks by playing 41.Rd2 (which would have left him a piece up but facing an attack) or 41.Rc4!! (which would have led to a fantastic position with a pawn for the exchange, but a completely winning position.
This very professional, but still somewhat deceiving choice doesn’t spoil Anand’s good situation in this tournament, since he is still what can almost be called 1,5 point ahead of the field with only 2 rounds to go.
Talking about professionalism, Mamedyarov clearly lacked some of that today. He was facing Sergey Karjakin in this game between players on 50%.
If there was anything predictable about today’s round, it was probably the scenario of this game as it was very typical for the attitude of both players during the tournament. As usual Mamedyarov went for 1.d4 and a 4.f3 Nimzo arose, just as in the Mamedyarov-Aronian game from round 9. Karjakin opted for the 5...c5 line and both players followed a Ding-Bacrot game from the last Biel tournament until Karjakin innovated with the logical 13…Nc7.
As so often in this line, White’s centre very quickly finds itself under quite some pressure. True to his style, Mamedyarov sacrificed a pawn for the initiative, before sacrificing another one in order to weaken his opponent’s king. Karjakin soon found himself in terrible time trouble, with only 53 seconds left on the clock after only 30 moves and what is more, in a very complicated position (let’s just remind everyone there is no increment in this tournament).
This is when Mamedyarov, who still had more than 6 minutes on his clock, to find back to his gambling style and quickly went for 31.Rfxd5?, while Bxf6 would probably have led to a position Karjakin wouldn’t have been able to hold in time trouble. This was a very bad practical decision (motivated by the fact that Shak simply couldn’t find a defense for black) as after this move Karjakin easily found defensive moves (the very strong 33…Kh8! for example) and reached move 40 with an endgame where he was a pawn up. Unfortunately for him it was not enough to win though and the draw was agreed on move 60.
So let’s come to the game of the day, the win of Topalov over Svidler. Topalov, who wasn’t had a great tournament, was facing a player who had alternated very good and somewhat disappointing games.
As quite often, Topalov, who likes to take risks, went for 1.e4. As in every other of his games in this tournament Svidler went for the Taimanov variation in the Sicilian and the Bulgarian was the first one to deviate from the Karjakin-Svidler game from the same tournament by opting for 7.Be2 before taking on c6.
Svidler took back with the d-pawn and Topalov decided to force things by provoking the e5 push. With his c4 knight and pawn structure, this position will not have quite familiar to him as it strongly resembles his game against Aronian from round 3.
White’s position quickly became easier to play as he had big pressure on the white squares. After some inaccuracies Black’s position simply collapsed and Svidler resigned on move 35 as he was helpless against the passed a4 pawn and the bishop pair.
In the tournament standings, this means that Anand is now as close as ever to a rematch against Carlsen. The only ones who can still really catch him are Aronian (who will have to score 1,5 points more than him though) and Karjakin, who still has to face both of them, but seeing how solid he has been throughout the tournament it looks very unlikely that he will score two wins in those games.
Tomorrow is the last rest day of the tournament and round 13 will be played on Saturday the 29th!
To see the game Anand-Andreikin commentated by Chess Anyone's team : click here.