10 April 2016

And Then There Were Two

Dramas of the penultimate and ultimate rounds of the candidates tournament in the review of Dmitry Kryakvin.

The level of competition is huge. However, I am becoming more and more convinced that Karjakin will be the winner. He stands out for his excellent athletic features, superb tenacity in defense, great preparation and mental toughness.

World Champion Magnus Carlsen, several days before the candidates tournament kickoff

A few days have passed since Sergey Karjakin’s grand victory - the emotions have settled down somewhat and each of the concerned experts, fans and officials was able to say what he/she intended to share with the rest of the world. Those who believed in the victory of Sergey have had plenty of time to celebrate, whereas those who wished the same to the brave Don Fabio have managed to slightly heal their wounds. While it’s high time that we summed up the chess results, the fact is that the gap separating the spectacular final battle in the Rauzer Sicilian and awarding of the Russian hero from the moment when the Norwegian Emperor descends from his throne to fight the best of the best will fly very fast. This autumn we are in for a new clash between the two "Ka-s", which is very symbolic indeed. Is it about the start of a series of super games that the black and white world is going to witness after all?

Garry Kasparov is known to have embarked upon his preparations for the match against Anatoly Karpov next day after defeating Vassily Smyslov in the final match of the Candidates Tournament. The same is true about Garry’s preparations for the rematch against his principal opponent Anatoly Karpov after having defeated the latter in their second match. In this regard the BMW Company, giving the new runner-up access to the new model of the sports car even if for a month’s period only, has put Sergey up against a difficult dilemma whether to start preparing or enjoy riding. However, taking into account what Karjakin had to go through in Moscow there is little doubt that unwinding is an absolute must for him!

Francois-Andre Danican Philidor’s Manuscripts

It goes without saying that the headquarters of the principal victory competitors - Karjakin and Caruana - have long since anticipated the decisive battle to be the one that was to take place between them in the ultimate round. Despite that, however, a crucial factor would be which trump cards the counterparts had up their sleeves when the need to reveal them would arise. Round thirteen provided Fabio with a chance to arrive at a pool position: Sergey, playing with the Black pieces, needed to fend off Levon Aronian, who, other than longing to make a comeback to the positive score level, has in general given a lot of hard time to the native of Simferopol throughout the latter’s chess career, while Caruana was commanding the white troops in a large-scale Ruy Lopez battle against Peter Svidler.

Caruana – Svidler
Round 13 


Even though Peter Veniaminovich’s opening results have not been up to scratch, he has succeeded in confusing his opponent so that the diagram position provided him with a choice between several options leading to promising positions. One of them, for example, is 34...Rf8!?, when 35.dxe5 would fail to 35…Nxe5 36.Nxe5 Rxe5! 37.Bxf4 Rxe4 38.Rxd5 Rxe1+ 39.Kh2 Rxf4, while 35.Re2 Rf7 36.dxe5 Nxe5 37.Nxe5 Rxe5 would be no better than the previous line. 

34...Rc8!? would also be a decent option (White’s idea of taking on f4 fails likewise) 35.Bc1 exd4 36.cxd4 Rce8 37.Nc3 Rxe1+ 38.Nxe1 Qf7. 34...g5!? would be another great move since after 35.dxe5 Nxe5 36.Nxe5 Rxe5 37.Bxf4 Rxe4 38.Rxd5 Rxe1+ 39.Kh2 Nxf4 40.Qxc4 Kh8 the edge would be also with Black. 

The long and the short of it is that any reasonable move, save for the one made in the game, would have left the Russian with the edge equal to one pawn, so that any discussions as to Caruana’s luckiness or unluckiness in this game are very controversial in the least.

35.dxe5 Nxe5 36.Nxe5 Rxe5 37.Bxf4! Qb5 

How do you like that! 37...Rxe4 would run into 38.Qxe8+! Rxe8 39.Rxe8+ Kf7 40.Rxd5 and Black could as well resign now – therefore, rather than fighting for a victory Svidler had to switch to struggling for a draw instead. Fortunately enough for the Russian, the move made by him loses nothing major down the road.

38.Qxb5 Rxb5 39.Bd6! 

This is a good practical solution; even though 39.Bc7 Kh8 40.Re3 is no worse than that, a small trap is set along the way, whereas the white bishop will be ideally placed on b4. 


The king should be tucked away into the corner because 39...Rxa5 fails to 40.g4!

40.g4 Nf6 41.Nxf6 Rxe1+ 42.Rxe1 Bxf6 43.Re8+ Kg7 44.Bb4 

The time control is over, but other than that things are far from being rosy for Black, despite equality and relatively insignificant amount of material remaining on the board. The "bad" white bishop defends his faithful infantry, whereas his counterpart cannot render likewise help to the unfortunate a6- and c4- pawns, thus making the loss of one of them inevitable.


It is the а6-pawn that Black should keep alive by all means - 44...Rg5 45.Re6; meanwhile Peter Svidler was also unwilling to bail out of the rook ending with two versus one pawns arising after: 44...Rd5 45.Ra8 Rd3 46.Ra7+ Kg8 47.Rxa6 Bxc3 48.Bxc3 Rxc3 49.Rxg6+ Kh7 50.Rc6 Ra3. The Russian’s reluctance can be easily identified with: why demonstrate all those "Vaisser stances" if you can still attempt exchanging everything in a more promising fashion?

45.Rc8 Re6 46.Rc7+ Kg8 47.Rxc4 

The pawn has been eliminated, but how to go about further improvements? Creating a potential remote passed pawn is a well-known basic defensive resource of a weaker side.

47...h5 48.Kg2 Kf7 49.Rc5!? 

49.Rc7+ Ke8 50.gxh5 gxh5 51.f4 h4 52.Kf3 Kd8 53.Rh7 Rc6 54.Ke4 Rc7! 55.Rxc7 Kxc7 56.Kf3 Kd7 leads only to a draw, whereas 49.gxh5 gxh5 50.f4 Kg6 or 49.Kf3 h4 makes no sense, therefore Caruana makes up his mind to give a shot at his last remaining opportunity. At least he succeeds in dealing with the remote passed pawn problem while leaving as many pieces on the board as possible. 

49...hxg4 50.Rc7+ Ke8 51.Rc4 Kd7 52.Rxg4 Be5 53.c4 Bc7 54.Kf3 Rf6+ 55.Ke3 Re6+ 56.Kd3 Rf6 57.Ke3 Re6+ 58.Kd3 Rf6 59.Rg5 


During the press conference Svidler was very upset about not having opted for the position arising after 59...Rf3+! 60.Ke2 Rf4 61.Rxg6 Rxc4 62.Be1 Rc6, in which making a draw was not a problem at all. Although the current setup might produce an impression of being equally drawish, an unexpected tactical nuance turns up in the position. 

60.Rxg6 Rf3+ 61.Kc2 Rf5 62.Rxa6 Kc8 63.Kd3 


Despite both opponents being aware of the line 63...Kb7! 64.Rh6 Bxa5 65.Ke4 Rg5 66.Kf4!, it escaped them that preserving the hanging rook was not a must – following 66…Bxb4! 67.Rh7+ Kb6 68.Kxg5 Kc5 69.Rc7+ (or 69.Rh4 Bc3 70.Kf5 Bd4) 69...Kd4 70.Kf5 Bc5 the last of White’s pawns was doomed. Having missed on that nice trick Black needed to display self-possession and precise play in the rook versus rook and bishop ending. 

64.c5 Kb7 65.Rg6 Bxa5 66.Bxa5 Rxc5 67.Bb4 Rc6 68.Bd6 Kc8 69.Kd4 Rb6 70.Kd5 Rb7 71.Rg8+ 

The stalemate idea 71.Kc6 Rc7+! would be a typical method of defending such positions. On the other hand Svidler, being unable to harness the Cochran's technique because of the passive position of his pieces, is forced to resort to the adjacent-but-one square stance along the penultimate file, which only on the surface looks rather scary, but which is very effective nonetheless. I remember Alexander Grischuk commenting on his 2007 Superfinal victory over Andrey Rychagov and concluding that trying to hold along in the penultimate rank/file is safer than doing so along the third one. This is so because careless actions might land one’s pieces displaced from the third rank/file straight into the home rank (or rook file), while the same is unlikely to happen when doing likewise along the penultimate rank (or knight file).

In the course of the following 30 moves Peter Veniaminovich was instructively demonstrating the harmlessness of his position, but when the coveted "50-move" mark started looming large on the horizon, there happened of the most dramatic events of the Candidates Tournament.


72.Bc5 Kc7 73.Rg6 Kd7 74.Rh6 Kc7 75.Rc6+ Kd7 76.Bb6 Ke8 77.Bd4 Kd7 78.Rd6+ Kc8 79.Ke6 Kc7 80.Ra6 Rb5 81.Ra1 Kc6 82.Rc1+ Kb7 83.Kd6 Ka6 84.Rc6+ Ka5 85.Bc5 Rb7 86.Kd5 Kb5 87.Bd6 Ka4 88.Ra6+ Kb5 89.Ra1 Kb6 90.Rc1 Kb5 91.Rc6 Ka4 92.Bc5 Kb5 93.Rd6 Ka4 
Suddenly, instead of 93...Rb8 94.Rd7 Ka4 95.Kc4 Rb4+ the Russian alters the type of defensive stance, which has more than once resulted in irreparable consequences especially when playing on increment time. The legacy of the classical players prescribes us to never abandon the chosen defensive stance until as long as possible.

94.Kc6 Rb8 95.Rd3 Rc8+ 96.Kd5 Rd8+ 97.Bd6 Rc8 98.Ra3+ Kb5 99.Rb3+ Ka4 100.Rb4+ Ka5 101.Bc5 Rh8 102.Rb7 Ka4? 

For all that, 102...Ka6 103.Rb2 Rd8+ 104.Kc4 Rc8 or 102...Rh2 103.Kc6 Ka4 104.Rb4+ Ka5 105.Rc4 Ra2 106.Rg4 Rc2 would suffice for a draw. Frankly speaking, I was very anxious about Peter Veniaminovich while watching the game online because not long before the start of the Moscow event I had looked through the video of the Carlsen - Svidler blitz game in which the native of St. Petersburg went down in the "rook and bishop versus rook" ending. Partly fatigue and partly self-assuredness, caused by move 116 being within grasp already, landed the Russian chess player directly into a lost position, the analysis of which was finalized as far back as the XVIII century by the wonderful French player Francois-Andre Danican Philidor.

103.Kc4! Rh4+ 104.Bd4 Rh5 

Even though the opponent’s rook is kept busy having to pin the white bishop against his own king, no direct attempts to work around it manage to pan out. A series of cunny moves, designed to ambush the black rook, should be kept in mind, as a result of which the black beast is subdued and the mating net around the dark monarch is woven. Thus, 105.Rb2! Rh3

Even less effort-consuming for White would be 105...Ka3 106.Re2! Rh4 107.Re6 Ka2 108.Re1, therefore Black is bound to deploy his rook along the third rank where her position is less advantageous.

106.Bf2! Rf3 107.Bc5 Rf4+ 108.Bd4 Rf3 109.Rb4+! – the first crucial check

109...Ka3 (109...Ka5 110.Rb7 results in an immediate disaster) 110.Rb6 Ka2 111.Rb2+! - the second crucial check. 

111...Ka3 112.Re2 Ka4 113.Be3!, and now the poor position of the black rook backfires at him: 113...Ka3 114.Bc5+ Ka4 115.Ra2+ Ra3 116.Rxa3# Black would have been mated exactly on move 50, one move short of being entitled to summon the referee to fix a draw. 

Was Caruana able to find and produce these moves over the board in such a stressful situation? It seems highly unlikely. I remember the 2010 Higher Russian League in Irkutsk, when Arthur Gabrielian, being down to his last minutes, also committed a blunder against Denis Yevseev. The St. Petersburg grandmaster is not only a superb coach but is also a great endgame expert. I believe that the winning method was explained by Denis Sergeyevich in the course of his classroom lessons on more than one occasion, so that he confidently went on to execute his moves over the board. However, he would lose half a tempo here and there along the road and one move prior to losing the rook or getting mated Arthur summoned the referee and pointed out to the fact of having complied with the 50-move rule.

Nevertheless, quite surprising is that Fabio would not only fail to win the game within the established number of moves, but missed the win altogether despite the fact that the list of Caruana’s coaches that he used to work with is amazing: Sher, Zlotnik, Chernin, Razuvaev, Dvoretsky (there is little doubt about Mark Izrailevich having tested the young player for knowledge of endgames during their training sessions), as well as Chuchelov... Honestly speaking, it's a bit illogical when the gifted chess player who fails to implement the Philidor technique at least partially qualifies into the match against Carlsen.

105.Bf2? Rg5 106.Rh7? 

The winning position, which would no longer be won within the required number of moves, was to be returned to via 106.Bd4.

106...Rg4+ 107.Bd4 Rg5 108.Rh8 Rb5 109.Ra8+ Ra5 110.Rb8 Rh5 111.Bf6 Ka5 112.Bc3+ Ka6 113.Bd4 Rh6 114.Be3 Re6 115.Rb3 Rc6+ 116.Kd5 Draw! 

It should be noted, however, that Svidler displayed superb chess in Moscow and once again proved his being no inferior to those guys from the top ten despite the existing gap in rating points.

The Urgant Blow

Aronian – Karjakin
Round 13 

The board features an ordinary "English" situation - a typical modern hedgehog with the colors reversed. Much depends on whether Black manages to retain his central outposts in the immediate future. From this point of view Sergey’s next move is not the best one.


The straightforward 22...Nd4! 23.Nxb3 (23.Re1 Bd5) 23...Nxb3 24.Rc4 followed by 24…c6 or 24...Nd5 would have been stronger. Even though Karjakin’s decision to reroute the bishop an active position is rather aggressive in nature, it turns out that White’s army is better coordinated for the forthcoming complex type of game. 


The d4-square has been taken under control and, according to Levon, he was very optimistic about his future prospects.


Maxime Vachier-Lagrave noted, and quite reasonably so, that the bishop’s travel route should have been modified via 23...Bd5!? to allow him the direct view of the f3-square, weakened by the e2-e3 advance.

24.Ne4 Nd5 25.Be1 Nxa3?! 

25...c6 would run into a powerful sacrifice of the exchange: 26.Rxb5!! cxb5 27.Nd6!? Ne7 (or 27...Nc7 28.Bb4) 28.Qb4 Nc6 (28...Bxd3 29.Rd1) 29.Qxb5, giving White sizeable initiative while the black rooks are a pain to have to look at. 

Taking on а3 is based on the following Black’s idea 26.Qa2 Nb5 27.Rxb5 Qxb5 28.Qxd5 Qb2!, but the whole plan is delivered a nasty tactical blow. 


What a bad luck! Now losing is 26...Qxc6 27.Qa1! or 26...Nxb1 27.cxd7 Na3 28.Ra1, therefore the queen needs to retreat. 

26...Qe7! 27.Qa2 bxc6 28.Rxc6 Bf7 

It looks as though Black is golden, as could be seen from the lines 29.Ng5 fxg5 30.Rxb8+ Rxb8 31.Bxd5 Be8 as well as 29.Nd6 cxd6 30.Rxb8+ Rxb8 31.Bxd5 Qb7! Despite these nice-looking continuations White comes up with a powerful refutation, which was found by Aronian in his advanced calculations. 


A brilliant quiet move! Levon was at his best during this part of the game and Black is experiencing problems coming up with any decent response. Such lines as 29...f5 30.Ng5! Qxg5 31.Bxd5; 29...Nc3 30.Qxa3 Rxb2 31.Qxb2 Nxe4 32.Bxe4 Qxc5 33.Bxa8; 29...Rxb2 30.Qxb2 or 29...Nb5 30.Rbxb5 Rxb5 31.Rxb5 would cast even the most seasoned of defenders into the state of utter despair. The Vachier-Lagrave line 29...Rb3 30.Rxb3 axb3 31.Qxb3 c6 32.Ra5 Rxa5 33.Bxa5 Nb5 34.Qc2 would have still ended in a hard to defend position, but Karjakin had something totally different in mind! 


Just as in the round one game against Caruana, Karjakin abruptly changes the nature of the fight at the critical moment, preferring to defend in a position with non-standard material ratio. According to the analysis, there was a moment when Levon could have possibly punished his counterpart for such an offbeat approach, but how difficult and narrow the path to success indeed was!

Later during the program "The Evening Urgant" Karjakin jokingly compared the TV host to a knight for the ingenious and unexpected questions posed by him. Accordingly, taking on e3 proved a true "Urgant blow" for the Armenian grandmaster!


The alternative capture 30.Rxb8+ Rxb8 31.Qxa3 is not at all clear – 31…Nc2! (31...Nxg2? 32.Kxg2) 32.Qc1! Nd4! 

32...Nxe1 33.Rxc7! Qf8 (33...Qd8 34.Rxf7) 34.Qxe1 a3 35.Qa1 a2 36.Nc3 is not acceptable for Black.

33.Rxc7 Qd8 34.Kf1 Bb3, and despite White’s material superiority the position remains unclear. 

Aronian sidetracks the game into an ending. 

30...Rxb2 31.Qxb2 Nxg2 32.Kxg2 a3 33.Qb7 Qd8 34.Qxc7 Qxc7! 

The opponent’s rook should not be allowed diving past and into your back ranks because following 34...a2 35.Qxd8+ Rxd8 36.Ra5 Rxd3 37.Ra8+ Bg8 38.Nc3 Rd8 39.Ra5 h6 40.Nxa2 White features excellent chances of converting his extra piece superiority. 

35.Rxc7 Bd5 36.Rc5! 

This is an important detail, because 36.Kh3 a2 37.Bc3 a1Q 38.Bxa1 Rxa1 39.Rc8+ Bg8 only leads to a draw. 

36...a2 37.Bc3 Bg8 

The powerful black passed pawn is a significant nuisance in the way of the first player. Well, how about White pooling all his resources together to entrench and uproot it? It’s obviously easier said than done.

38.Ba1 Rb8 


This is yet another instance of paying tribute to the approaching time control! Following the incredibly technical 39.Rc1! Rb1 40.Rf1! Be6 (40...Rb3 41.Nc3!) 41.Nd2 Rb8 42.Kf3! Kg8 43.Ke3 Kf7 44.Rc1 White would have retained his chance for success by subduing the black saboteur. Although it looks only natural to place your rook from behind the passed pawn, the d3-pawn goes down as a result of that.

39...Rb1 40.Bc3 Rd1 41.Kf3 

41.Nd2 Rc1 42.Ne4 Rd1 makes no difference. 


Now the struggle unrolls on a single flank only, where Black has an extra pawn with the thorn-in-the-flesh pawn on a2 still alive. I want to add that one of Mark Dvoretsky’s books contains several lectures by the coach Alexey Kosikov in which the author provides several exemplary games when the weaker side managed to hold similar opposite-colored bishop endings together with only a limited number of pawns on the board. This body of examples has now been enriched with the game of Levon, who failed to achieve anything in a likewise fashion.

42.Ke2 Rd8 43.f4 

This is the only idea available to White as he cannot dispense with creating some kind of weakness in his opponent’s camp. However, the downside of it is that the number of pawns decreases again.

43...Bc4+ 44.Kf2 exf4 45.gxf4 Kg8 46.Nd2 Bf7 47.Ke3 h5 48.f5 Rc8 49.Ne4 Bd5 


Without the knight on the board, arising after 50.Bd4 Bxe4 51.Kxe4 Rc2, Black’s setup is impregnable, therefore the “White Urgant” should be kept on the board. 

50...Rd8 51.Nd2 Bf7 52.Ra5 Rc8 53.Ne4 Bd5 54.Nc5 Re8+ 55.Kd3 Rd8 56.Bd4 Re8 57.Kd2 Ra8! 58.Rxa8+ Bxa8 

The trade of rooks has relieved Black of his worries about the g7-square and, speaking honestly, White’s only hope can be pinned to some kind of a zugzwang, which Karjakin goes on to do away with by producing the required defensive moves.


The king’s march towards the a2-pawn leads to the loss of the f5-infantryman: 59.Kc2 Bg2 60.Kb2 Bh3 61.Kxa2 Bxf5. 

59...Kh7 60.Kf4 

The zugzwang ideas fail to work out for White. As was pointed out by my colleagues from the Chesspro website, 60.h4 Bd5 61.Ne4 Bc4 62.Ng3 Bf7 63.Kd2 Kg8 64.Kc1 Kh7 65.Kb2 Kg8 66.Ne2 Bd5! would not have changed the status quo. 

60...Kh6 61.Ne6 Kh7 62.Nf8+ Kg8 63.Ng6 Kf7 64.Ke3 Bc6 65.Bb2 Bd7 66.Ke4 Bc6+ 67.Kd4 Bd7 68.Nh4 Ba4 69.Ng2 

There was yet another attempt for White to give a try to - 69.Kc3 Bc6 70.Kb3 Bd5+ 71.Ka3 Bc4 72.Nf3 g5=. 

69...Bc2 70.Ne3 Bb1 There are no feasible ways of achieving any progress for White in this position. Having made another 30 random moves in anticipation of possible errors, Levon decided to shake hands with his opponent. 

What a colossal defender Sergey Karjakin is! He could publish the book "The Art of Defense or my best 60 games that I managed to salvage." The amount of teaching material available for this task by now is simply incredible!

The heroic saves by the Russians landed Karjakin in a fairly comfortable situation as a draw in the decisive game suited him perfectly well, provided that Svidler would not lose his game to Anand either. Here Fortune favored Sergey yet another time. Vishy had gone through a tough fight with Anish Giri, who stripped him of his theoretical chances to win the tournament and led to the idea that the ultimate round was a excellent opportunity for him to calmly seal the third place.

Anish’s record, Veselin’s anguish 

Anand – Giri
Round 13 


This move, objectively speaking, is not the strongest one, while 24...Qc5 25.Bd3 Rxe1+ 26.Rxe1 would have guaranteed a trouble-free draw. I award this move an exclamation mark for Anish’s bravery while trying to back out of the “Great Draw Master” label from sticking to him.  

25.Kxf2 Qb6+ 26.Kf1 

White cannot use his knight as a shield because of 26.Nd4? Rxd4. 

26...Nh5 27.g4! 

This effective pawn advance liberates the g2-square for the king and continues severe struggle for the victory. Anand is also thirsty for fight and declines 27.Nd4 Ng3+ 28.Kg1 Rxd4 29.Rxd4 Qxd4+ 30.cxd4 Rxc2, which would have ended up in a complex bur equal endgame: 31.Bxa6 (or 31.Bd3!? Rc8 32.Re7) 31...g5 32.Bxb7 Rxb2 33.Bd5. 


The knight check 27...Ng3+?! 28.Kg2 would be just an air concussion. 


White needs to fend off the opponent’s pieces, and the most effective way to do so was suggested by the ChessPro commentator: 28.Rd4!? Rce8! (losing is 28...Rxd4? 29.Nxd4 Qxd4 30.Bxh5) 29.a5! Qc6 (29...Qc5? 30.Qxe4) 30.Rxe4 Rxe4 31.Qd2 Nf4 32.Bd1 Rxe1+ 33.Qxe1 Qd7 34.Qd2 Qxh3+ 35.Kg1 Ne6 36.Bb3 – while Black has a lot of pawns as a means of compensation, it is still White who is preparing to launch an attack!

28...Rxe1+ 29.Rxe1 Nf4! 

29...g6 would have allowed White to restrict the knight by 30.Re4!, but Giri is just in time to send his knight forward because losing is 30.Bxh7+? Kh8 as the threat of g7-g6 to trap the bishop is in the air. 

30.Nd4 g6 31.Be4?! 

Vishy decided to set a trap for his opponent, but was an inch away from stepping into it himself. The Indian grandmaster had a number of solid continuations to choose from: 31.Qd2 Nxd3 32.Qxd3 Qxb2 33.Qxg3 h5 (33...Rxc3 34.Re8+) 34.Qf3 or 31.Re3 Qf6 32.Rf3 Qh4 33.Qd2 Qxh3+ 34.Kg1 Nxd3 35.Rxd3 Re8 36.Nf3. In either case White would have retained his extra piece while Black would have kept his compensation for it. Although the compensation would not have been quite sufficient, the position would have remained double-edged anyway. 

31...Qf6! 32.Bf3 

It goes without saying that White’s play was not intended for the sake of simply ending in a draw after 32.Kg1 Nxh3+ 33.Kg2 Nf4+. 


This is sad news already. It is clear that this move came as a complete surprise for Anand who had precisely calculated the consequences of 32...Qxd4 33.Re8+ Kg7 34.Rxc8 Qe3 35.Bg2 Nd3 36.Re8! Qxe8 37.Qxd3. Moreover, Anish could have opted for this move based on simple elimination of other opportunities, especially since the poor 32...Rc5? leads to White’s victory after 33.Qe4! g2+ 34.Kg1 Nxh3+ 35.Kxg2 Nf4+ 36.Kf1. 

While there is no convenient square for the white king to sidestep into, the black queen is going to enjoy a juicy taste of the d4-knight this time around. 

33.Bxg2 Nd3+ 34.Nf3 Nxe1 35.Kxe1 b5?! 

It is still Anand who stands to gain from an exchange of pawns because of the equal amount of material on the board – a rook and a pawn versus two minor pieces. The tension in the position could be maintained via 35...Re8+ 36.Kf2 Qf4!, which would have been less favourable for White. 

36.axb5 axb5 37.Qe4 Rb8 38.Qd4 Qe6+ 39.Kf2 Qb3 40.Ne5!? 

This is an ambitious approach! The former World Champion gets his pieces together to strike at the enemy’s king regardless of the pawn losses associated with it, whereas both 40.Qd2! b4 41.Nd4 Qc4 (41...Qa2 42.cxb4) 42.Bf3 or 40.Qb4 Qc2+ 41.Kg3 would have warranted him a relatively tranquil existence. 

40...Qxb2+ 41.Kg1 Rc8! 

It is essential that Black does not blunder 41...b4 42.Nxf7! 


This is a sort of semi-bluff that panned out well for Anand, but which could have otherwise ended up sending him in search of a study-like draw had Black managed to strike back with a precise refutation. Calmer was 42.Nc6!? Qc1+ 43.Kh2 Qe1 44.c4 with rough equality as the c6-knight would be doing a perfect job of cementing White’s position. 

42...Qa2! 43.c4 Qa7+ 44.Kh2 bxc4 45.Bd5 

This is a critical moment! How is Black supposed to go about defending his f7-square? The seemingly simple solution 45...Kg7 allows a study-like 46.Nxf7 Qa2+ 47.Bg2 Rf8 48.Qe5+! Kxf7 49.Kg3!, when the threat of 50.Bd5+! warrants White at least a draw. 

However, a lot stronger is 45...Rc5!, upon which White needs to put forth all his energies to come up with: 46.Qd4. 

46.Bxf7+? Kg7 47.Bxc4 Qc7 is dropping a piece.

46...Rc7! 47.Qxa7 Rxa7 48.Bxc4 Kg7 49.Nxf7! Rxf7 

Black manages to catch neither of the minor pieces: 49...Rc7 50.Nd6 Rc6 51.Ne8+ Kf8 52.Bb5 Rc5 53.Ba4 Ke7 54.Kg2, which is amazing even by itself. Now, the game transposes into the famous pawn endgame in which it is very critical for White to choose the right squares for his king in order not to lose the opposition.

50.Bxf7 Kxf7 51.Kg3 Kf6 52.Kg4! 

In the case of 52.Kf4? g5+ 53.Kg4 Kg6 54.Kf3 Kf5 55.Kg3 h6 56.Kf3 h5 57.Ke3 Ke5 58.Kf3 Kd4 the black king outflanks his counterpart and makes it to the h3-pawn.

52...h6 53.Kf4 g5+ 54.Kg4 Kg6 55.Kf3 Kf5 56.Kg3 h5 (56...Ke4 57.Kg4) 57.Kf3, and this is a draw. 

Anish’s reply put his opponent up against no problems to take care of, whereas the positional edge was on the verge of changing hands yet another time. 

45…Rf8?! 46.Qf6! Qa2+ 47.Kg3 Qa7 

Yet another careless check 47...Qa3+? 48.Kh4! could lead to the threat of the king’s mating march starting to loom large on the horizon, much along the lines of the memorable classic game Short - Timman.


Vishy could have attempted to catch fish in troubled waters yet, but it would still have ended in equality: 48.Kf3 Qa3+ 49.Ke4!? Qa7 50.Bxc4 Qa4 51.Kf4 Qb4! 52.Kg4 h5+ 53.Kg3. Therefore, the wise player decided to put an end to the cycle which has been lasting for him ever since 2007.

48...Qa2+ 49.Kf3 Qa3+ 50.Kg4 Qa7 51.Kf3 Qa3+ 52.Kg4 Draw. 

If Vishy and Anish performed inventively, the poor Veselin Topalov faced series 13 of the horror movie called "I'm taking a walk with Silvio along my beloved Moscow." Although Topalov had long since bowed to the reality and was simply aiming at sealing a draw with Nakamura right out of the opening, coming unscathed out of the battle was still something that the Bulgarian failed to achieve on yet another occasion.

Topalov – Nakamura
Round 13

The black rooks have infiltrated the penultimate rank, and only an unexpected rook counter-attack 33.Ra1! Rd8 could have still saved the day for White. 

33...Nxe5 34.Ra8+ Kf7 35.Rc7+ Nd7 36.Raa7 Ke7 37.Bc6 Kd6 38.Rxd7+ Kxc6 39.Rac7+ leads to the perpetual check, whereas 33...Re2? simply fails to a direct armor-piercing projectile strike 34.Ra8+ Kf7 35.Rf3+ Ke7 36.Ra7+ Ke8 37.Bg6+, mating. 

34.Ra6 Rxb4 35.Rxe6 Kf7 36.Ra6 Nxe5 37.Re3, and the activity of White’s pieces allows him to sail into the drawish harbor. 

33.Rg3?! Re2! 

Bearing in mind an old adage about rook endings not lending themselves to winning, Hikaru is not in a hurry to force the flow of events: 33...Nxe5 34.Bh7+ Kxh7 35.Rxe5 Rxb4 36.Rxe6. 


The move that was well-timed a move ago becomes ill-timed now. It was worth exchanging the rooks: 34.Rxe2 Rxe2 35.Bc6 

Not so clear would be 35.Bg6 Rxe5 (35...Nxe5 36.Be8) 36.Rf3 Re2 37.Rd3 Kf8 38.Rf3+ Ke7 39.Rf7+ Kd6 40.Rxg7 Rb2 with an exciting pawn race to follow. 

35...Rxe5 36.Rc3 Nb6 

In the case of 36...Nd6 37.Rd3 Nf5 38.g4 Ne7 39.Bd7 Black is tied to defending his extra pawn. 

In this position 37.Ra3 would be an attractive move to play (why give Black any additional chances after 37.Rc5?! Rxc5 38.bxc5 Na4 39.Bxb5 Nxc5) 37...Nd5 38.Bxb5 Nxb4 39.Ra8+ and with the rooks still on the board it would be an easy draw.  

34...Nxe5 35.Ra8+ 

Now 35.Bg6 would be late in view of 35…Nxg6 36.Rxg6 Kh7 37.Rg4 h5 38.Rg3 g6 39.Ra7+ Kh6. In this position, however, Topalov completely lost the thread of the game and sent his pieces out on missions that resulted in their getting bogged down deep in the opponent’s camp. 

35...Kf7 36.Bh7 g5 37.Bg8+ Kf6 38.Rf8+ Kg7 39.Re8 Ng6


The е6-pawn is poisoned - 40.Rxe6 Nf4 41.Rxe2 Nxe2+, while capturing with the bishop also drops a piece. 

40...Nf4 and White resigned in view of 41.Bd7 Rxe8 42.Bxe8 Ne2+

And Then There Were Two

So, taking into account the not too combat-spirited Anand (Svidler also handled the opening in a deliberately solid fashion), everything was at stake in the struggle of the two protagonists who were sitting face to face that day. Very soon we the scene was abandoned by all supporting characters, whose games ended in draws - even Topalov did not experience any problems against Giri, who was heading towards his record high. The armies of fans froze in anticipation of the heroes from Russia and the United States to finish their massacre - probably there has happened no similar encounter in chess since the times of the failed match Fischer - Karpov that would be associated with such intercontinental geopolitical subtext behind it.

Karjakin – Caruana
Round 14 


In a situation where White was most likely happy with a draw, Sergey refuses from such "reversed color openings" as 1.Nf3, 2.e3 or 3.g3. It is hard to say whether Karjakin would go into any of the Ruy Lopez formations that make regular part of his counterpart’s repertoire. Caruana had all reasons to suspect his opponent being prepared meet him with the fireproof Four Knights opening, forced lines of the Scorch Game, or maybe even, capturing with the bishop on c6 in the workers'-peasants' manner so as to play the positions resembling the exchange variation of the Ruy Lopez. Therefore, 1...e5 did not happen in the game.

1...c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 

What a surprise! It should be noted, however, that the Rauzer did happen in Fabio’s career, even though a long time ago. The historical parallels are disappointing for Black - Vladimir Kramnik was seen harnessing this line in a must-win situation in Bonn 2008 against Anand, but quickly ended in a difficult position and offered a draw.

Objectively speaking, the Rauzer variation is a very dangerous scheme for black if White knows what he is doing. I tell you this as a Rauzer devotee with a 10-year experience. This is the reason the elite chess does not favor this line, although the database contains a variety of old and modern games of great players, including no less a person than Garry Kasparov himself. It is very likely that following the next strongest move made by Karjakin White has an OBJECTIVELY WINNING POSITION. Nevertheless, committing all computer lines to memory defies a human being and, should White display even the slightest of inaccuracies, Black is capable of snapping back at his opponent. However, those who used to regularly employ this line on the black side would sooner or later run into insurmountable problems in the main branch variations. This is true even if it comes to such inventive and bright young classical Rauzer players as Daniil Dubov. Only staying in business are the totally "crazy" Chinese players, but they do not care for the above-mentioned because they are totally immune to it.

6.Bg5 e6 7.Qd2 a6 8.0–0–0 Bd7 9.f4 h6 

The standard line 9...b5 10.Bxf6 gxf6 11.Kb1 Qb6 12.Nxc6 Bxc6 13.f5 ends up in a formation that has been handed down to us by the great Botvinnik back from the depths of the previous century. The direct participant of the all-or-nothing action Caruana admitted having studied the games of Li Chao.


White has an alternative 10.Bxf6 Qxf6 11.Nf3 Qd8 with a sharp play to follow - although the bishop is no longer on the board, White has gained a couple of tempi to develop his offensive. I would like to add that in the pre-computer era Kasparov, playing the black pieces, defeated Olafsson. I mean the pre-computer era for the Iceland player, however.


There are no longer any mysteries in the line 10...Nxe4?! 11.Qe1 Nf6 12.Nf5, and bad is 12…Qc7? in view of 13.Bxf6 gxf6 14.Nd5.

11.Bxf6 gxf6 

Black can no longer  recapture with the queen - 11...Qxf6? 12.e5 dxe5 13.Ndxb5! 


The conflict of the position is about whose trumps prevail at the end of the day: is it Black to open the game for his bishops first or is it White to get to the e6-square ahead of Black?

12…Qb6 13.fxe6 

The standard type of play for such positions would be 13.Nxc6 Bxc6 14.Kb1 b4 15.Ne2 e5 16.Ng3 h5 17.h4, based on the understanding that if Black denies access to the d5-square White will go for the h5-pawn instead. There come to memory dozens of wipeouts that Black suffered at the hands of such renowned Sicilian attacking players as Farrukh Amonatov and Alexander Lastin. However, the Caruana’s headquarters has meticulous understanding of the effect that the incredible stress and fatigue environment will have on Sergey in terms of predisposing him towards systematic maneuvering rather than towards immediate headlong plunging into massive complications. 

13...fxe6 14.Nxc6 Qxc6 

14...Bxc6 could be answered with a good-looking 15.Ne2 Bxe4 16.Nf4 - the other day I witnessed an impeccable performance by grandmaster Alexei Bezgodov as White in a similar position that happened in the ultimate round of the UFO championship.

15.Bd3 h5 16.Kb1 b4 17.Ne2 

Sergey’s plan can be labeled anything but inconsistent as he gradually keeps redeploying his pieces to clamp down on the e6-pawn.



I believe that the above-mentioned Farrukh, for one, would not hesitate long before lashing out with 18.e5! fxe5 (18...Qxe5 19.Rhe1 Bh6 20.Qxb4 Ke7 21.Nd4 looks dubious for Black) 19.Qg5 Be7 20.Qg7 Rf8 21.Rhf1 Rxf1 22.Rxf1 Bc6 23.Rf7 d5 24.Bg6 Kd7 25.Qxe5, which would be yet another instance of winning a model game, no matter the fact that it might be no other than Caruana sitting in front of him. 

I would like to remind once again: when playing the Rauzer variation Black should be aware of his position being objectively a hard one to handle. However, the psychological factors do no play into the hands of the Russian.

18...Bh6 19.Qe1 a5! 

This is a great move! It should be added that 19...Ke7 20.Qg3 Rag8 (20...h4 21.Qxh4 Bg5 22.Qg3 e5 23.Nf4 exf4) 21.Qf3 Rf8 22.Bxa6 would not the way to go about winning the game and the tournament. In accordance with the precepts left us by the Patriarch (one should refer to his famous game with Averbakh) Fabio offers White to help himself to the f6-pawn - 20.Rxf6?! Bg7 21.Rf3 Qe5 22.c3 a4.


Not especially effective-looking is 20.Nf4 Bxf4 21.Rxf4 Qe5, therefore Karjakin takes a courageous decision to weaken the squares around his king, but demonstrating once again his determination to bring all his forces into the center to crush through the e6-square.


Black handles the position in a subtle way! The rook swings into action to deprive White of his dynamic opportunities. Premature is 20...a4?! 21.Bc4! axb3 22.Bxb3, and Black is in for big troubles.

21.g3 Ke7 22.Bc4 Be3!

This is another superb display by Black aimed at restricting the white knight. The line 23.Nf4!? Bd4 24.Qd2 Bc3 looks dangerous from the human point of view as the dark-square complex is weakened, although at this particular moment White would have at his disposal an unpleasant rejoinder 25.Qd3! Qe5 26.Qe3 Rg4 (26...Ba1 does not work out for Black because of 27.Nd3) 27.Qb6, but is there anyone capable of finding out similar shots in his advanced calculations?

23.Rf3 Rg4 

Splendid performance by the American allowed Black not only consolidating his position but also getting ideas about striking up some active play of his own. Sergey could now win a pawn via 24.Nf4 Bd4 25.Qe2 a4 26.Nxh5 – and again the edge would be with White, but the Russian grandmaster preferred to put Black up against a dilemma of either giving up a pawn or parting ways with his bishop pair.

24.Qf1 Rf8 25.Nf4 Bxf4! 

Caruana managed to correctly evaluate the subtle peculiarities of the position arising after 25...Bd4 26.Qe2 a4 27.Rfd3 Be5 28.Nxh5 – that he would not succeed in doubling up his pieces along the big diagonal on the one hand while being already down material on the other hand. 


As the consequences of 26.gxf4 Rfg8 27.e5 d5 28.exf6+ Kf8 (28...Kxf6? 29.f5!) 29.Qd3 Rg1 are absolutely vague, White does not hesitate to sweep aside any unclear stuff. However, the positive sides of Black's position have advanced to the forefront so that Black has arrived at the point of formulating a clear-cut plan of laying siege against the e4-pawn - later Sergey frankly admitted having been outplayed by his opponent.


This impulsive decision only weakens the b4-pawn and was justly criticized by the online commentators Sergey Shipov and Ilya Smirin.

Correct was 26...Bc6, followed by redeployment of the rook to e5 and slow unhurried type of game while never neglecting the safety of own king...


Karjakin is a true Sherlock Holmes when it comes to detecting the turning points of tournament games. Even though it might look risky, the Russian acts without any prejudices - the white king will be shielded by Black’s own pawn while there is no mistaking the obvious pros of this solution, which boils down to a single phrase – time management!

27...Bxa4 28.Qd3 

The aftermath of the black bishop having temporarily abandoned his central post could have been capitalized upon by the incredible 28.e5 dxe5 29.Rxg4 hxg4 30.Qd3 Qc7 (30...f5 31.Qd2) 31.Qh7+ Rf7 32.Qg8 Bxc2+ 33.Kxc2 Qxc4+ 34 .Kb1 Qc7 35.Qxg4. It is only the computer that has no doubts as to White being in good shape here. Sergey also attempted to figure out the consequences of the pawn break, but again arrived at the conclusion of its controversial nature. This time his reasoning proved a lot more accurate, however.


Black is playing with fire! Had Caruana been aware in advance about the course of the subsequent game, he would have preferred 28...Rg5. However, the American had probably once and for all settled in the belief that Karjakin, craving for a draw, would never stop making only extremely delicate moves.

Meanwhile, White should be in a hurry. His only plus is a better position of his king, therefore he urgently needs to deliver a blow against the citadel of the enemy’s monarch so as not to suffer from his own pawn weaknesses for the nearest 50 moves.

29.Bb3 Rg5 


Another interesting way of adding more fuel into the flames would be: 30.h4 Re5 (30...Rg4 31.e5 Qxe5 32.Qc4) 31.g4, but when each of the white pieces occupied its intended position Sergey confidently placed his pawn en prise of four possible captures.


Other captures are not so good: 30...Qxe5 31.Rxb4 or 30...dxe5 31.Rc4. 


Although Stockfish insists on 31.Qh7+ Rf7 32.Qg8 d5 33.Qb8, it is not at all clear how Sergey’s bombardment of his opponent’s weaknesses is any worse than that.

31...Rd5 32.Qe2!? 

It goes without saying that the previous play has been initiated other than just for the sake of the miserable 32.Qxd5 Qxd5 33.Rxd5 Bxd5 34.Rxb4 followed by struggling for a draw in the endgame.

32...Qb6 33.Rh4 

White has trained his guns against almost each of Black’s weak points: b4, d6, e6, h5!


The American is dancing on a volcano! Ian Nepomniachtchi’s advice appeals to me more than anything else: 33...Rxd1+ 34.Qxd1 Qe3 (34...Rh8 35.Qd2 ) 35.Rxb4 Be4 – although White has regained his missing pawn, Black’s pieces have advanced to the active locations. Fabiano was burning his thinking time extensively and was already on the threshold of time trouble as opposed to Karjakin, who was making his moves in a very quick and confident manner.

34.Qd3 Bg2! 

Played with a subtle idea of committing himself to d6-d5 only upon having sent the bishop ahead. White would have been completely happy with 34...d5 35.Qd2 Qc5 36.Rxb4. 

35.Rd4 d5 36.Qd2 

The b4-pawn is en prise, but in the case of 36...Be4 37.Rxb4 Qc7 or 36...Bf3 37.Rxb4 Qc7 the end of time control promised the spectators an exciting type of struggle with any outcome still possible. However, being down on thinking time the main prestart favorite of the candidates' race somehow convinced himself that his opponent simply blundered something in his calculations...



"Puck, puck!" – the Internet was chanting unanimously, and Sergey delivered a hard shot into the nearest corner. By the way, if the readers had an opportunity to acquaint themselves with the latest games played between Caruana and Carlsen, they could notice that the Norwegian was able to widen the score margin over his once would-be awkward opponents owing to the standard pattern of Fabiano missing some veiled tactical shot while being low on time towards the end of time control.

The rook sacrifice rips open the black king’s shelter as if it were a mere tin can. It is followed by a swift punishment, during which the Russian is adamant.

37…exd5 38.Qxd5 Qc7 

38...Rd4 39.Qxd4 Qxd4 40.Rxd4 lands Black in a lost endgame, while 38...f5 39.Qd7+ Kf6 40.Rd6+ forces an immediate resignation. 


Despite 39.Qxh5 Re6 40.Bxe6 Kxe6 41.Qe2+ Kf7 42.Qxg2 being a strong continuation either, Sergey summoned his inner reserves and forced himself to come up with the best possible move. There is no mistake about this game having gone down into history already and that within the nearest century its finale is doomed to be populating more than one chess book. 


There is no saving this position for Black - 39...Qc6 40.Qh7+ Ke8 41.Qxh5+ Ke7 42.Bd5. 

40.Bxf7 Qe5 41.Rd7+ Kf8 42.Rd8+ 

What a spectacular finale! Black resigned in view of the inevitable mate resulting after 42.Rd8+ Kxf7 43.Qh7+ Ke6 44.Qd7#.

This is a brilliant game and this is a deserved winner! Just as was predicted by the wise Carlsen, Sergey demonstrated extraordinary tenacity, excellent combative features and fantastic stability. Let us wish that prior to the start of World Championship match our grandmaster succeeded in completing the great job that would allow him stepping up to the next level and knocking down such a chess titan as the Norwegian World Champion.

Drinking champagne would be too early yet, as it seems to me. The tactical shots of the d5 type will never be blundered by Magnus, whereas the fight in New York will be rather challenging for the runner-up, which only keeps us looking forward to it with ever more zest! Good luck to you, Sergey!