26 March 2016

It’s All About Vishy And None But Vishy…

Round eleven of the candidates tournament in the review of Vladimir Barsky.

For starters, let's begin our story with a small walking tour. After all, the Candidates Tournament is held at the heart of Moscow, with so many interesting and beautiful places around just a stone's throw away from the tournament venue.

The Central Telegraph Building

In fact, the Central Telegraph building is an architectural monument in itself. The building was constructed in 1925-1927 in the unique style of Stalin's constructivism (in scientific terms the style is termed differently  - as a transitional from rationalist modern to constructivism); the authorship of the project belonged to I. Rerberg, while the overall management of works was realized by the engineer S. Ginsburg. The total floor space is 40 thousand square meters. The advent of Internet faded the glory of Telegraph, and nowadays the majority of the building spaces are rented out: the building accommodates a number of cafes, a pub, a drugstore and numerous business offices. The telegraph’s highlight is a giant screen overlooking the Tverskaya. Initially, the organizers promised to use the screen to broadcast all games in a live mode, but something went wrong and, in the final run, it has been displaying the advertisement saying "the principal chess battle of this spring", which also makes a good contribution for promotion of our sport.

The entrance to the tournament venue is from the Gazetny alleyway; some time ago the alleyway used to accommodate a printing house of the Moscow University, in which the newspaper "Moscow News" was published. Should you cross the Gazetny, go past the church and proceed a little deeper into the yards, you arrive at the House of Composers. This institution occupies part of a residential apartment building, where Dmitry Shostakovich, Arno Babajanyan, Eduard Kolmanovsky and other composers, famous and great, used to reside.

One of Moscow’s small squares

A monument to Aram Khachaturian is nearby in the small square, while a little further yet is a monument to Mstislav Rostropovich. By the way, we are now at the Bruce alleyway, named in the XVIII century after the manor house’s owner - an associate of Peter I, Field Marshal General and scientist J. Bruce. Here is the famous House of Artists of the Bolshoi Theater, dotted with plaques all over the place. This house, in particular, was lived in by the celebrated opera singer Antonina Nezhdanova, and during the last century the Bruce alleyway was called the Nezhdanova Street for the duration of about 30 years.

Returning back to the Telegraph and going past the Yermolova Theater and past two luxury hotels, "The Ritz-Carlton" and "The National", we are heading towards the starting point of the Tverskaya Street. The Manege Square has a digital clock already installed on it counting down time till the kick-off of the 2018 football World Cup in Moscow. To the left is the “Four Seasons” hotel (prior to reconstruction it used to be the "Moscow" hotel), in which the participants of the Candidates Tournament are currently staying. At the crossroads of the Tverskaya and the Okhotny there stands the State Duma, where your correspondent dropped in during the day of round 11 because taking place at its premises was a chess match between the representatives of State Duma and the "Ostankino". In round one Alexander Zhukov, being in a position up a piece, blundered a mate in two moves to Elmira Mirzoeva. Alexander Dmitrievich, while having not yet released the rook which allowed the fatal check along the ultimate rank, broke into laughter and, throwing up his hands, congratulated his opponent on the victory. Having said that, I would very much like to see Hikaru our Nakamura going about a similar situation...

Alexander Zhukov is congratulating Elmira Mirzoeva on her victory

Once having remembered the American grandmaster, let’s make him a starting point of our review of round 11 games. Hikaru played with the black pieces against the "king of draws" Anish Giri. Objectively speaking, that day the Dutch grandmaster was so close to victory as never before. According to Anish’s own assessment, he was fighting very well, although miscalculating a few times and overlooking some simple tactics. "Something has gone wrong with me from the very beginning," stated Giri. Given below is one of the examples of above said:

Giri – Nakamura

“I spent a lot of time studying 21.Qb3, but then suddenly noticed that after 21…Qb6 I would simply drop a piece” (A. Giri). 

The following blunder proved to be a mutual one. White has just swung his rook to с1, threatening to carry out the b4-b5 advance. 

The Dutch grandmaster planned to meet 25…Nd6 with 26.b5 anyway, but then discovered that Black still goes for 26…Nc4 (better still to make this move following the preliminary trades on b5 – Vladimir Barsky), and if 27.Nxc4, then 27…cxb5! 

Curiously enough, during the press conference Giri set up the position after 27.Nxc4 on the board and cast an interrogative glance at Nakamura - well, what’s your move in this position? Hikaru hesitated for a moment, and then admitted that he did not see the 27 ... cxb5! resource over the board.
In the game Black sidestepped the queen from being lined up against the white rook – 25…Qd8, and after 26.b5 axb5 axb5 27.cxb5 Qxb5 White’s advantage became substantial. 

Nevertheless, Anish was still doomed to miscalculate that day. 

Although the unsophisticated 50.Re5 would have given White a decisive advantage, the Dutch grandmaster, believing the position to be won for him in a forced nature, sacrificed his knight  – 50.Nxg7. His calculation was based on the line 50...Rf4 51.Qe5 Qxg7 52.Rg3 Rg4 53.e7! Re8 54.Qe6+, etc. Nakamura, however, defended himself by committing his rook to the square which was en prise: 50...Qxg7 51.Rg3 Rg5!, upon which it turned out that White was to remain down a piece. White was on the lucky side because a draw was still within reach – after 52.Rxg5 hxg5 53.Qxd5 the opponents signed a peaceful agreement in view of 53…Ne7 54.Qxb5 gxh4 55.Qh5 Qf6 56.Re4!?

As the finish is nearing the end, the fatigue accumulates and the tension increases – blunders, therefore, increase in numbers and come to the forefront. The encounter Topalov - Caruana saw the Bulgarian grandmaster choosing a sharp line of the English Opening, in which White surrenders an exchange in lieu of keeping the enemy’s king in the center. Later on, however, during the press conference, Topalov admitted his having miscalculated in one principled lengthy line related to yet another sacrifice, this time being that of his queen. On closer examination Veselin found a previously undetected defensive resource and was forced to turn down into an alternate emergency route. Caruana gradually untangled himself, rescuing his captive rook from h8. At some moment it looked as if White’s game started rolling downhill, whereas Caruana, gaining "+3", was to become a sole leader. But at this moment American got nervous, hurried to force the natural flow of events and allowed White to his forces has conveniently regrouped.

Topalov – Caruana

Bringing the king up into the center via 38...Kf8 would be a logical idea in this position in order to first pass the time control and the get down to calmly contemplating a further plan of consolidation. According to Caruana’s reasoning, however, yanking out the opponent’s central pawn was a higher priority task.

38…Re1?! 39.Rc2!

White threatens to sacrifice an exchange on с5 to give momentum to his b5 pawn to enable it rushing forwards towards the queening square.

39…g5 40.Bxg5 Rxe5 41.Bf6

The time control is over. Caruana plunged into deep thinking and, having played 41…Rd5, offered a draw, which Topalov accepted. 

White’s counterplay is not to be underestimated as his bishops are by no means inferior to Black’s rooks. White may immediately start with throwing in a sacrifice of the second exchange – 42.Rxc5!? Rxc5 43.Bd8, placing his stakes on a group of his passed pawns. An alternative option looks rather attractive as well: 42.Be4!? Rdh5 43.b4 Bf8 44.a4 (also interesting is 44.Bd3!? Rd5 45.Bc4 Rf5 46.Bd4) 44...Bxb4 45.Rc8+ Bf8 46.Be7 – and White has two bishops versus a Black’s rook and a bunch of pawns. There is hardly any spectator to refuse from enjoying the continuation of such an exciting show, but the grandmasters would not risk venturing into it.

Aronian was very creative in his attack against the Svidler’s king. As Peter admitted later to the journalists, (without going into many details, of course), he missed something in his home preparation and was hit by a powerful attack. In the course of the press conference the commentator Ian Nepomniachtchi pointed out a beautiful continuation for White, which was underestimated by both opponents.

Aronian – Svidler

There is a possibility that after 24.Nh6+! Kg7 25.h4! the white knight might not return back home, but should he sacrifice himself on f7 at the opportune moment, Black’s position would collapse. Attacking and capturing the knight it is out of the question: 25…Rh8? 26.Bxe7 Qxe7 27.Nf5+, forking a king and a queen, while both pawns defending the f5-square turned out to be pinned! 25...Qc7 would answered by 26.Re3, bringing the issue of the f7-blow to the top of the agenda.

In the game Levon rerouted his knight to the center of the board: 24.Bxe7 Qxe7 25.Ne5 Kh7 26.Qc2 Rg8 27.Rg5 Kh8 28.Rf3 Nxe5! 29.Rxe5 Qd6 30.Qd2 Kg7 31.Rg3 Rh8 – and the worst is already behind for Black. In the follow-up game the Armenian grandmaster, not desiring to put up with a draw, went too far and missed a quick counterattack. The heavy pieces of Svidler penetrated the White’s camp and forced the opponent into surrendering. 

As for Viswanathan Anand, the most experienced of all other participants, he is seen as if riding a "roller coaster." If in round 10 he toppled like a felled tree, losing to Caruana in a somewhat meekly fashion, in round 11 he soared up again. In the game against Sergey Karjakin he had only a slight advantage out of the opening. It seemed as if the Russian grandmaster, known for his tenacity in defense, should hold balance in the opposite colored bishops ending without any problems. However, Anand would literally bite into every square of the board, creating more and more problems for his opponent. For a certain period of time Karjakin managed to sidestep the pitfalls, but the stress, which we have much talked about lately, has taken its toll after all. Black allowed a kingside squeeze, remaining down a pawn and with all his pieces close to being stalemated. This time’s heroic resistance would not rescue Sergey - Vishy ended up taking revenge for the defeat in the first half of the tournament, thus propelling himself to the top of the tournament standings once again.

Anand – Karjakin


Underlining the main drawback of Black’s position – his bad bishop that is forced to live a vagabond life. 

27…Bh7 28.b4 Bg8 29.b5 Rc8 30.Rd7 Rce8 31.b6! a6 32.Rc7

The first significant achievement is that the white rook managed to entrench herself on the penultimate rank. 

32…Kf8 33.c4 Be6 34.Rxe4 Kf7 35.f4 Rxc7 36.bxc7 


The express analysis recognized this move as a decisive blunder, while the counter-stab 36…f5! was a savior. However, even after this precise move Black would be in need to follow it up with yet a few other precise ones. 


This is the point: White is in no hurry to win back the pawn, but goes on squeezing the poor black bishop even more. 

37…Bd7 38.h4 g6 39.Rd4 Rxc7 40.hxg5 fxg5 41.Bxg5 Be8

Black is in no time to regain the pawn as 41...gxf5? 42.Bf4 would drop a bishop.


Black’s position is overwhelming, and Anand gradually went on to bring his advantage home. 

42…Kf8 43.Bf4 Rh7 44.Kg2 Bd7 45.Bg5 Be6 46.Rd8+ Kf7 47.Rb8 Bxc4 48.Rxb7+ Kg8 49.Rb8+ Kf7 50.Kg3 Ke6 51.Re8+ Kf7 52.Rc8 Bd5 53.Kf4 Ke6 54.Re8+ Kd7 55.Ra8 Ke6 56.Re8+ Kd7 57.Re3 a5 58.Kg3 Rf7 59.Kf4 Rh7 60.Re1 Kc8 61.Kg3 Rf7 62.Re8+ Kd7 63.Ra8 Kc7 64.Kf4 Rd7 65.Bh4 Kb7 66.Re8 Bf7 67.Re4 Bd5 68.Re3 Bf7 69.Kg5 Ka6 70.Re7 Black resigns. 

With yet three rounds to go before the finish the intrigue is in its utmost vigor. There are two main favorites - Fabiano Caruana and Vishy Anand, coupled with a "shadow" one in the person of Sergey Karjakin (we remind you, just in case, that the last round is out there with the Karjakin – Caruana game in store for us!). The list of players’ results shows very little spacing in between them, the leaders featuring only "plus two" at the moment, so that even those with 50-percent achievements should not be written off just yet, them being Levon Aronian, Peter Svidler and Anish Giri. Any win of any participant in the days to come is able to completely redraw the tournament table. We are undoubtedly in for one of the most interesting showdowns ever!