Wednesday, 27 March 2013

2013 Candidates, Round 10

And then there were three. It's now pretty obvious that only Carlsen, Aronian and Kramnik have any tangible interest in what happens in the remaining rounds of this amazing Candidates' Tournament. The major blood-letting in round ten - another tremendous round of chess, producing three decisive results out of four - was partly the product of this decreasing motivation on the part of the five also-rans and partly down to sheer tiredness.

It may well be that the winner turns out to be the player who is most physically fit. With only one game left between the leading triumvirate - Aronian has white against Kramnik in round 12 - the winner is likely to be the player who can best exploit the waning motivation of the bottom five. Maybe not an ideal scenario from the purist's point of view (certainly if the result is decided by a tie-split) but we could be in for a fantastic sporting spectacle.


Lumping Boris Gelfand in with the so-called 'also-rans' is perhaps a tad unfair. He is starting to look rather tired, but he is still trying his utmost and gave a pretty good account of himself against Carlsen. It may be because of Gelfand's fighting chess that, for the first time, Carlsen was moved to make a couple of comments about the games of his rivals at the end, since Gelfand played way better than Grischuk or Ivanchuk (against Kramnik and Aronian respectively).

This was Carlsen at his best. A playable position from the opening, followed by slowly escalating pressure until his opponent cracked. The measurement of the quality of this game was the fact that it was hard to figure out where Gelfand went wrong. He was asked this at the press conference and wasn't sure himself.

Magnus Carlsen and Boris Gelfand seem a bit camera shy today...

... maybe because there is a huge scrum of paparazzi today
The arbiter starts the clock.

Boris Gelfand rubs his eyes but what is Magnus looking at on the big screen? ... (see the next photo)


As I mentioned above, Carlsen made an unusual, and quite outspoken, comment on the games of his rivals. “I’m happy to still be leading so I think I’ll just try do more of the same. I wasn't thrilled that the other two guys won their game but there’s nothing you can do about that. And… I wasn't sure that the Budapest Gambit was what I wanted to see but I think I can only change what I do myself! I just try to play and that’s what I’ll do for the rest of the tournament.”

In a roundabout way, I suppose he was saying that he had to work for his win, whereas his rivals were just lucky. I think this is as close as the calm and level-headed Carlsen may ever get to full-blown Fischeresque paranoia, so not much for the inevitable conspiracy theorists to get excited about. But I guess he was miffed that Aronian and Kramnik gained their points the (relatively) easy way, thanks to some crass play from their opponents, whereas he had to fight tooth and nail for his victory.


Ivanchuk's choice of the Budapest Gambit sent shock waves through the chess world. It's regarded as a Cinderella opening which really doesn't belong amongst the Catalans and the Slavs. A bit like wearing a loud yellow shirt for a formal public appearance... oh... sorry, Levon... completely tactless of me. Actually, that's rather a nice yellow shirt. Looks good on you...

... maybe Levon Aronian's shirt? ...
At least Levon didn't wear a tracksuit top under his suit. Vassily did. I can forgive the Budapest Gambit but a Real Madrid tracksuit top. Horrible.

... or Vassily Ivanchuk's fashion faux pas? (Suit over Real Madrid trackie top - what was he thinking?)...

No, everybody is probably looking at Ivanchuk's choice of the Budapest Gambit - very unusual at this level

A win for Aronian, and certainly an interesting game, but yet again sadly ruined by Ivanchuk's ridiculous clock handling. At the press conference, Ivanchuk was obsessing with various possible moves he could have played around 29 and I confess this made me really quite angry. But, coward that I am, I bottled out of asking the obvious question, which would have been "even if you had played 12 of the most wonderful moves in chess history, wouldn't you simply have lost on time anyway?". His aberrant clock handling was the elephant in the room and nobody dared to broach the subject. What is the Ukrainian for "pull yourself together, man!"?

I was wondering... when Botvinnik had a problem with people blowing cigarette smoke in his face, he is alleged to have held a match with Ragozin in which his opponent was required to subject him to trial by tobacco that so Botvinnik could get used to it. Maybe Chucky should have held a pre-Candidates training match in which he hired someone to stand behind him with a megaphone and every couple of minutes, when Chucky had been thinking too long, shout "make a move NOW!" through it.

You may feel I'm being a bit cruel - several of the other players look completely zonked at the moment, and there isn't much in it for anyone other than than the three 2800+ guys - but I still feel it is rather unprofessional for Ivanchuk to carry on like this. It could well decide the outcome of the tournament.

Aronian played sensibly and practically. His 27 Bf5 was exactly what the doctor ordered, with Chucky only having about 20 seconds for 12 moves. But, with a time handicap of that magnitude, I guess players well below 2800 could have done just as well.


Teimour Radjabov ready for action against Peter Svidler
Could that pawn be going to d6 for a change? No, it went to d5 as usual.

An easily forgettable game, which was over well within two hours. Peter Svidler stayed faithful to his old faithful Grünfeld Defence, while Teimour Radjabov, with 0/2 from his last two whites, wasn't unhappy with a draw. It could have kicked off had Peter decided to make it interesting but he didn't have an edge so saw no reason to. The press conference was a bit more entertaining than the game, with the two trying to 'out-self-deprecate' each other. I have given a flavour of this in the notes.


Russians Grischuk and Kramnik get to work on a Ruy Lopez

Vlad plays the Berlin - in the city where it helped him become world champion
Vlad beats another Russian to get back into contention but, unfortunately for him, he has now run out of Russians to beat. Of course, the Berlin Defence has been a valuable weapon for him over the years, especially in London in 2000, but he told us this was the first time he had used it to win (rather than draw) a classical game.

Vlad was the first to admit that he should never have won. Grischuk made a schoolboy error, swapping off a pair of minor pieces to go into a king and pawn endgame. Kramnik himself was highly critical, saying that in Grischuk's place he wouldn't even have calculated it, let alone make the exchange, it was so dangerous (I wish I had counted how many times Kramnik used the word 'dangerous' during the press conference, but it was a lot). I totally agree with Kramnik: I was personally astonished at Grischuk, for the same reason. Usually these guys amaze me with what they see and what they are able to do with a chess position, but sometimes the opposite is true - how on earth could Grischuk make such a committal move under time pressure, especially when it seems he had seen most of what turned out to be a much better variation? Makes no sense.

No doubt online conspiracy theorists will be calling this a Russian fix, but we can discount that possibility. It was a full-blooded, honest game ended by an honest mistake (albeit a huge one). It was actually a good result from the sporting point of view (so that we still have three, and not two, players interested in the outcome of the tournament). All I have to say is that maybe Grischuk should desist from the cocaine, girls and cards he indulges on the rest days (any Grischuk lawyers reading this - I'm kidding. but your man did say that is how he spent his last rest day).

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