World Rapid down to final four
Garry Kasparov isn't here to defend his FIDE rapid world champion's title,
but this must be considered one of the all-time great rapid chess events. The
title isn't exactly a historic one, Kasparov's in 2001 was the first. Still,
it's an official FIDE title and the traditional rapid tournament of Cap D'Agde
is a logical host. This year's winner will be one of these four semifinalists:
Kramnik, Anand, Grischuk, and Svidler.
site – Further
coverage in French – Online
game replay and PGN
Cap D'Agde Prelim Group A
Two eight-player round robins qualified four players each for the knock-out
stage of mini-matches. Kramnik cruised through Group A with his trademark brand
of steamroller chess. He sees everything, defends everything, and cleans up
full points at will. He continued to look unstoppable in the first KO round
when he took Polgar apart to raise his career score against her in decisive
games to a ridiculous 22 wins vs 0 losses.
Ponomariov again showed his tenacity and coolness under pressure by beating
Gelfand in a 70-move marathon to move on. That dropped Gelfand into a playoff
with Topalov to go to the KO phase, a two-game match won by the Bulgarian.
The battle to be the French number one has heated up as Bacrot has started
to live up to his "youngest ever GM" title of half a decade ago and
is just a few points behind Joel Lautier. Bacrot was the surprise of the first
half, qualifying undefeated with wins over Adams and Bareev.
Cap D'Agde Prelim Group B
Svidler continues his devastating play and was the only player in either group
to reach five points, although he wasn't the only player with three wins. Polgar
and Leko both hit that mark, but Leko balanced out with three losses while Polgar
made it through despite a late loss to Leko. As we see below, Anand needed a
last-second (literally) win over Karpov with black to make it out of the first
Grischuk continues to impress. The youngest member of the top 10 didn't lose
a game in the preliminaries and disposed of Bacrot in the quarter-finals in
a blitz tiebreaker. Svidler took out Topalov in the quarters to join Kramnik
and Anand in the final four.
missed a mating finish after outplaying Ponomariov in their first quarter-final
game and the Ukrainian escaped with his usual staunch defense.
Even that couldn't save Pono in the second game, when Anand won with black
despite (because of?!) having the "X-Wing" pawn-bishop structure we
see in the diagram. (As bizarre as that looks we did find one other game
with an identical structure.)
The semi-finals on Wednesday will see Kramnik-Grischuk and Anand-Svidler.
Is the super-heavyweight Kramnik-Anand final inevitable or will the display
of Russian power continue? We'll be back when it's over with photos and analysis
of the KO stage.
finds a nice finish here against Adams in the prelims. He gives up his
curiously placed knight for a winning pair of passed pawns. A mere rook
is no match for them.
45.Qe5+! Qxe5 46.fxe5 Rgxe8 47.Rxe8+ Rxe8 48.d7. 1-0
played creatively against Topalov in a Najdorf, pushing the pawns in front
of his king without much preparation.
21.g4 (diagram) is worth a look because Topalov
could snap up the g-pawn with 21...Nxg4 when the knight is immune (22.Qxg4
Rg6 wins the queen for rook and knight). It's unlikely that Kramnik was
planning to give up his queen, so perhaps he just wanted the open g-file
after 22.Kh1. If 22...Nxe3 the white knight can take up a typically dominating
position on d5 after 23.Nxe3.
Topalov declined but the g-pawn push was effective anyway,
especially after the h-pawn joined it on the front line. 21...Qb7 22.Ng3
Rc8 23.h4 g6 24.g5 Ne8 25.h5.
local hero Bacrot was the surprise of the preliminary round. He qualified
for the knock-out ahead of big names like Adams and Bareev.
With the black bishop on c4 it was going to take awhile
before White could do anything with his extra pawn. Bareev picked the
wrong direction with 55...Bf1 (diagram) and Bacrot capitalized
with 56.c6! Kd6 57.Bxd5 1-0
is one of the few top players who regularly allows the Marshall Gambit.
(Polgar is another.) There are a lot of draws with the occasional White
win, but few players enjoy giving up the initiative as early as move eight.
Anand made the most of the chance and reached this position
with his pieces swarming around the white king. Leko can play to f2 or
h1. Stepping up into a pin doesn't look very pretty, but 37.Kh1?
was the loser. Anand finished prettily with 37...Ng3+! 38.hxg3 Qh3+
39.Kg1 Qxg3+ 40.Kh1 Rh4+ 41.Nxh4 Qxe3. White has no chance to set
up a defense with his king so open and Leko resigned a few moves later.
the next round Vishy was on the wrong end of another theoretical conversation.
He and Polgar continued their debate in the Najdorf line they dueled in
during their rapid match in Mainz earlier this year.
Polgar left her pawns alone this time, preferring to
rapidly play her bishop out to b7 and put a rook on c8. This paid off
almost immediately when Anand played his rook to d2 to protect the c2
But the rook found itself under attack after Polgar found
21...Bxa2+! This would win the exchange after 22.Kxa2 b3 23.cxb3
Qa5+ 24.Kb1 Qxd2. So Anand bailed out but was down two pawns with little
hope after 22.Kc1 Bb3 23.Kd1 (Bd3) 23...Bxc2+.
had a dismal time of things and finished in last place for the second
consecutive event. (Essent) The 12th world champion was the only player
not to win a single game.
Here Svidler, who continued his fantastic run of form,
sprang a nasty with 23.f5! Karpov had nothing better than to take
the knight and lose the trapped queen after 23...dxe3 24.Bf1 Bxf5 25.Bxh3
Anand squeaked into the KO section by bamboozling
his old rival Karpov in the final round. It took 98 moves to do it, the
longest game of the event so far. It looked like Karpov had a chance at
his first win in the endgame, but it quickly became clear that Anand's
passed pawns gave him the better chances.
Karpov (white) has to be precise to hold the draw. He played 58.Rb1??
and ended up in a lost queen vs rook and pawn endgame after 58...c6!,
gaining time to advance the king and promote a pawn. 59.Ke6 Kb5 60.Kd6
Kb4 61.Kxc6 a3 and a pawn queens.
Karpov could have held the draw by following the oldest
maxim of rook and pawn endgames: put your rook BEHIND the pawns, not in
front. 58.Rf8!= Kb5 (58...Kb7 59.Rf2) 59.Ra8 saves a critical tempo and
The game still had some interest as neither player found
the computer-best moves in the queen vs rook + pawn endgame. This isn't
easy with plenty of time on the clock and with only increment seconds
perfection was not in the house.
On move 64 the magic endgame tablebases announced mate
in 30 for Anand. But 30 moves later they said mate in 31! Anand edged
closer to winning the pawn and testing his knowledge of queen vs rook,
but Karpov's 98th move allowed the Indian to force an immediate win and
join the qualifiers.