Thursday, 21 March 2013

2013 Candidates, Round 5

I'll try to round up the entire round's play in just the one post this time. Round five started with the scores at Aronian, Carlsen 3/4, Svidler 2½, Kramnik, Radjabov 2, Grischuk 1½, Gelfand, Ivanchuk 1. At the end of the round it was simply a matter of adding half a point to each players' scores. But not dull by any means; in fact, one of the best rounds we've seen so far.

Peter Svidler nearly landed a big punch


Peter Svidler, for once obliged to play against his favourite Grünfeld, got things off to a rousing start. His seventh move, f2-f4, nearly caused commentator Malcolm Pein to spill his coffee (or so he told us in a tweet). “It looks incredibly ugly and that was one of the main reasons for playing it because I thought Boris might decide he had to play for an advantage,” said Svidler. It was the start of a bold, 'route one' plan to launch an attack on the kingside. But it had the desired effect on Boris Gelfand as his initial reaction, to develop his bishop to g4, was wrong (as he admitted himself later), and only encouraged a whole phalanx of Svidler pawns to bear down on his king. Social media were soon abuzz with pundits writing off the Israeli super-GM's chances but he managed to right his ship while the Russian's attack became becalmed.


Ivanchuk nearly beat Carlsen

The clash between joint back-marker Ivanchuk and joint leader Carlsen also featured a Grünfeld. Carlsen described it very well himself: "I tried to be creative in the opening. He responded well and I was worse, so I decided to sacrifice a pawn in order to get into an endgame which I thought I could hold". Then, short of time, Ivanchuk offered Carlsen a draw but perhaps surprisingly in view of his shaky position Carlsen rejected it, probably hoping to exploit Ivanchuk's time pressure. Carlsen later criticised his own decision, describing it as "unprofessional". Of course he was right to be self-critical and recognise that he had allowed his self-confidence to spill over into overconfidence but at least it gave the audience a chance to see if he could defend bad endings as well as he converts good ones. The answer was in the affirmative and enhances his growing image as one of the greatest endgame players of all time. This was his first bad position of the tournament and he responded well. Well done also to Vassily Ivanchuk, who played well to secure an edge and was a trifle unlucky that the endgame panned out in favour of the draw.


The meeting between the world numbers two and three was full-blooded and interesting. Aronian admitted his move 13, b7-b5, was "asking too much" - this sounds like a mixture of two more idiomatic English expressions, "asking for it" and "expecting too much". He also neglected the best defensive try at move 20 and Kramnik built a promising kingside attack. On move 24 Kramnik missed a long but decisive line which would almost certainly have clinched the win but he still retained very good winning chances into the game. Aronian's defensive task looked tough enough to make grown men weep but he proved up to the task. Another excellent game showing that gritty defence of a half point is every bit as important to a prospective world champion's chances as the successful prosecution of a winning position.


As above, the Russian playing White was also pressing and close to winning in this, the final game to finish. “I think I got a completely winning position but I should not have let Black sacrifice on c5. I underestimated that," was Grischuk's rueful comment on proceedings.

Official Round 5 Report

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