As a result Kramnik is now within one point of the two leaders and, with the white pieces against Carlsen in round nine, has at least some chances of levelling for the lead by the end of tomorrow. Kramnik can threaten them if he can improve his win percentage from its current rate of one win in eight games. Hmm... I still don't think my round seven prediction was too rash...
Scores after round eight: 1-2 Aronian, Carlsen 5½/8, 3 Kramnik 4½, 4 Grischuk 4, 5-6 Gelfand, Svidler 3½, 7 Radjabov 3, 8 Ivanchuk 2½.
CARLSEN - ARONIAN
The much-heralded big clash between the leaders was a damp squib. Perhaps not surprisingly, as a decisive result would have been a disaster for the loser, but it is a pity that they opted for an overly familiar super-GM opening, the Catalan, which almost amounts to a draw offer from the opening. It reached move 41 but the press room were shaking their collective heads and writing it off as a draw well before that.
|Another angle of the Carlsen-Aronian clash, showing Levon's rather elegant left-handed style of moving the pieces.|
RADJABOV - GELFAND
It was a chastened Teimour Radjabov who entered the press conference after a white-pieces defeat against Boris Gelfand but he took his punishment like a man and didn't make excuses. Boris Gelfand was very pleased with what he described as his second opening preparation success of the tournament (the first was against Grischuk), starting with his innovation 13...e5 which imprisoned the g2 bishop and set up a position where he could torture White on the queenside. Boris felt way more comfortable having achieved his opening objective and played quicker and more confidently than in other rounds. The juxtaposition of the weak e4 and c3 pawns made life very difficult for Teimour and he succumbed without really knowing where he had come unstuck. A dispiriting experience for him but a heartening one for the former world championship challenger.
|Teimour Radjabov and Boris Gelfand usually have matching drink flasks but today Teimour fools Boris by not bringing his with him. A theoretical novelty?|
KRAMNIK - SVIDLER
The pundits have been saying for days that Kramnik urgently needed to win a game and he finally did, in the first game of the second cycle. His victim was fellow countryman Peter Svidler who, after an above-par start to the tournament, has gone into something of a decline. Peter seemed very upbeat before play started and even engaged me in some small talk (about the cricket test match between England and New Zealand) in the centre of the playing hall a minute or so before play was due to begin. He is one of the few top players I've witnessed who likes to relax with a quick chat in the moments leading up to the start of play, most preferring to focus on the job in hand and 'get into the zone'. (Incidentally, I fear that Peter will be more upset than after his game when he sees what a mess England is making of this cricket match this evening.)
|Robert Fontaine: "How do you think the big game will go?" Peter Svidler: "I'm expecting Arsenal to beat Reading... oh, you mean, Magnus and Levon? Sorry..."|
|Kramnik: "Thank heavens, I've brought my lucky pen. For a terrible moment I thought I had forgotten it..."|
|Kramnik and Svidler get down to business.|
GRISCHUK - IVANCHUK
Another time trouble catastrophe for Ivanchuk: in fact, all three of his defeats in this tournament have ended with the arbiter stepping in to indicate a time loss. With four seconds left for four moves he accidentally knocked over a pawn in playing 37...axb4 and he paused to set the man up properly before playing his move, but thereby left himself too short of time for his remaining moves. Gentlemanly behaviour, certainly, but his clock-handling is becoming an embarrassment.
However, fair play to Grischuk who played well enough to win for the first time in London. At the press conference (which he attended without his opponent), it gave him the opportunity to air his now familiar self-deprecating humour: "Very few people know but the last time I won a game in a [classical] world championship [qualifier] was about six years or 25 games ago...".
Grischuk attended the press conference alone to share some of usual deadpan humour. It was more than usually appropriate as, to be honest, it wasn't a great game. Grischuk was probably winning by the end as Ivanchuk's time pressure caused him to ruin his game a few moves before the time control. A few minutes later Ivanchuk attended a very brief press conference (perhaps bowing to a contractual obligation to do so?) but he had little to tell us. Both players showed signs of being tired, which they must surely be after eight rounds of unrelenting chess.
|Just to make it interesting, Chucky's decided to play blindfold this afternoon against Grischuk.|