So, the regulation matches are now over, and we have three of the original eight matches to be decided in tie-breaks on Sunday. The time limit now changes (from six games at 40:2h, 20:1h and then 15m+30s increments:rest) to 4 games at 25m + 10s, followed if necessary by 2 games at 5m + 10s, and finally the dreaded armageddon game: 6m for White against 5m for Black, but a draw puts Black into the next round.
The three predictions I got right were all big wins for the winners (Leko, Kamsky and Grischuk), but I got Bareev-Polgar and Rublevsky-Ponomariov wrong. Polgar and Ponomariov were both disappointing in Elista. Pono went out with a whimper not a bang. He switched to the Caro-Kann - a strange choice for a must-win situation - and, having got nowhere fast, agreed a draw in only 18 moves. Judit Polgar at least had a crunching win in round five to look back on but it was too little, too late in terms of the match situation. Her attempt to win with Black in the final game had a bit more punch about it but it never looked like the sort of position in which she excels (she is more of a 'thumper' than a 'grinder'). She made Bareev sweat for a while but the initiative gradually ebbed away from Polgar's position. It may be that those of us looking forward to the day when a woman wins the world championship may need to turn our attention to the future when Chinese youngster Hou Yifan starts to climb the chess Olympus.
English sports fans have had to put up with two disappointments in two days. Yesterday someone called Diego (no, not that one - this guy used his head, not his hand) scored an equalizer in time added on to make it England 1, Brazil 1, in the football international at Wembley. Today, much the same happened in the chess: Alexei Shirov won the final regulation game of the match to take his match with Mickey Adams to a tie-break. Unfortunately Adams returned the compliment to Shirov by making a blunder (17...Kf8?) which gave away a pawn. I'm actually quite glad I didn't watch the games in real-time today until after the time control as it would have been too depressing watching the rest of the game. I was otherwise engaged, watching an old movie called Dunkirk on the TV - quite appropriate, really. I've since had another look at the game and I think Adams could have made sturdier resistance towards the end, based on 36...Be8 (but maybe my judgment has been coloured by patriotic fervour as a result of watching the movie). Generally my feeling is that this has been a very evenly contested match and a 3-3 is probably a fair reflection. My prediction was that Adams would win if it went to a tie-breaker. I'll stick with that though the English GM must be the more disappointed of the two now that it has reached this stage, particularly after today's disaster.
An aside: the Adams debacle and the anecdote about me watching an old movie reminds me of the following... after watching one of Mickey's traumatic losses in Tripoli in 2004 (can't remember which one), I remember sitting down to watch the TV in order to take my depressed mind off his world knock-out near-miss. After flicking channels for a minute or two, I settled down to watch an 1980s Miss Marple TV movie (one of the ones with Joan Hickson in the title role). It was Murder at the Vicarage. As I sat idly watching, it dawned on me that one of the actresses looked rather familiar. Radio Times told me it was Tara MacGowran: the same Tara MacGowran who is... Mickey Adams's girlfriend. Not a lot of people seem to know that Tara used to be an actress, and a very good and successful one at that. I don't think Tara played the murderess in the Miss Marple movie, but this was not the only movie she has made with the word 'murder' in the title. Her final screen appearance was in something called The Vanishing Man. If I were Shirov, I would go careful.
Back to the chess: Aronian-Carlsen also reached 3-3 but it was more entertaining. Twice Carlsen has recovered from a one-point deficit with a resounding victory. All four wins in the match were with White, and the writing looked to be on the wall today when Aronian, with the white pieces, was a pawn up and on the attack. However, Carlsen played a bold, active defence and finally baled out with a neat perpetual check. This has been perhaps the most entertaining and enterprising of the eight matches so far. Whoever loses in the tie-breaks will be missed, but will have a fine long-term future ahead of them.
In contrast, Gelfand and Kasimjanov will be back tomorrow to see if they can do something other than draw chess games. To be perfectly fair to them, some of their games have been thoroughly entertaining too, but today's final regulation game was not one of them - 17 moves of theory. End of term report: must try harder.
Tomorrow's draw (first-named has White in game 1):
Aronian vs Carlsen
Kasimjanov vs Gelfand
Shirov vs Adams
Meanwhile, the five victors - Leko, Kamsky, Grischuk, Rublevsky and Bareev - go and do whatever it is that people do in Kalmykia on a Sunday. Answers on a postcard, please...