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Candidates – Alexander Grischuk (2764 – World #10)

3/8/2013 – In exactly a week from today the two "-chuks" will meet over the chessboard: Alexander Grischuk will have black against Vassily Ivanchuk at the Candidates Tournament for the 2013 World Championship. To prepare us for this eight-player double round robin Michael von Keitz is providing portraits of each of the Candidates – with descriptions and full statistics.
 

Alexander Grischuk (2764 – World #10)

A stalwart of the storied stable of Russian chess elite, Alexander Grischuk has enjoyed both individual and team success, while also throwing his hat into the world of professional poker. A seemingly infrequent visitor to traditional super-tournaments in recent years, he nevertheless has the title of 2009 Linares Champion to his credit, in addition to netting the Russian Championship title that same year. His involvement with the Russian national team over the years has also, unsurprisingly, secured him some accolades, including individual board medals and team golds at both the World Team Championship and the Olympiad. Where he has really distinguished himself, however, is in blitz play, in which his skills are that of legend. In fact, to date, he is the only two-time World Blitz Champion (2006 and 2012).

Grischuk made the first blaring announcement of his presence to the world at the 2000 FIDE Knockout World Championship, where his superior ability at faster time controls served him well in tiebreak matches, allowing him to book his ticket to the semi-finals. At that point, Shirov rebuffed his attempts to go further in the tournament, but enough had been done for a star to have been born. A similar showing at the 2005 World Cup, however, proved an even more fortuitous career happening, as it saw him qualify to the Candidates Matches from whence he earned his spot at the 2007 World Championship event.

In a tough field, Alexander finished alone in last place at that all-important time in chess history, but his ambitions had far from dried up. This passion was duly rewarded in 2011, when, upon the withdrawal of Carlsen, Grischuk was offered and accepted a spot in yet another Candidates tournament. Again aided by his blitz skills and a match-play format, he managed to knock off top seeds Aronian (#3) and Kramnik (#2) in quick succession, eventually falling prey to Gelfand in the 6-game final.

Suffice it to say that this is not the Russian’s first rodeo and his results have only improved with time as he has learned to optimize his chances by adapting to conditions. An anticipated plethora of draws may prove his undoing, but he is, beyond doubt, eminently qualified to be competing here.

Allow us now to investigate his checkered past with the candidates of this field.


Grischuk's opponents at the Candidates

Boris Gelfand (2740 – World #18)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (b)
29
2001 Biel D34 Queen's Gambit Declined
2 Draw (w)
25
2001 Biel C42 Petrov Defense
3 Draw (w)
28
2002 Corus C42 Petrov Defense
4 Loss (b)
45
2004 Russian Team Ch D34 Queen's Gambit Declined
5 Draw (b)
22
2004 European Club Cup D19 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav, Dutch
6 Draw (b)
17
2005 Russian Team Ch E12 Queen's Indian
7 Loss (b)
37
2005 FIDE World Cup E15 Queen's Indian
8 Win (w)
62
2005 FIDE World Cup E12 Queen's Indian
9 Loss (w)
65
2006 Russian Club Cup C42 Petrov Defense
10 Draw (w)
26
2006 Tal Memorial C42 Petrov Defense
11 Draw (b)
23
2007 FIDE World Ch E15 Queen's Indian
12 Win (w)
61
2007 FIDE World Ch E21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
13 Draw (w)
46
2008 Sochi Grand Prix E04 Catalan, Open, 5.Nf3
14 Draw (b)
38
2009 Russian Team Ch E97 King's Indian
15 Win (w)
50
2009 Nalchik Grand Prix D58 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tartakower
16 Draw (b)
30
2010 World Team Ch E10 Queen's Pawn Game
17 Win (w)
35
2010 Linares E55 Nimzo-Indian, Gligoric/Bronstein
18 Draw (b)
60
2010 Linares A29 English, Four Knights
19 Loss (w)
32
2010 Russian Team Ch D43 Queen's Gambit Declined
20 Draw (b)
41
2010 Tal Memorial D02 Queen's Pawn Game
21 Draw (w)
49
2011 Candidates D37 Queen's Gambit Declined
22 Draw (b)
58
2011 Candidates A37 English, Symmetrical
23 Draw (w)
14
2011 Candidates D37 Queen's Gambit Declined
24 Draw (b)
18
2011 Candidates A37 English, Symmetrical
25 Draw (w)
39
2011 Candidates D37 Queen's Gambit Declined
26 Loss (b)
35
2011 Candidates D76 Neo-Grunfeld
27 Win (w)
30
2012 London Grand Prix B25 Sicilian, Closed

Overall: 5 Wins, 17 Draws, 5 Losses
White: 5 Wins, 7 Draws, 2 Losses
Black: 0 Wins, 10 Draws, 3 Losses

Gelfand has played Grischuk plenty of times, sporting a number of well-contested bouts. His victory over Alexander at the 2011 Candidates has to be the most important game between these two to date, although Grischuk’s win against the Israeli in the 2007 World Championship cannot pass unmentioned. With the 5-5 split, one can almost smell the blood from their upcoming encounters, even at this relatively early juncture. Grischuk has had plenty to smile about when holding the white pieces against Boris and will try to continue the tradition here. The English is coming, as, too, may the Queen’s Gambit Declined.


Peter Svidler (2747 – World #14)

# Result Moves Year Event Opening
1 Loss (b)
33
2001 Biel C78 Ruy Lopez
2 Draw (w)
44
2001 Biel B90 Sicilian, Najdorf
3 Loss (b)
31
2001 European Club Cup C92 Ruy Lopez, Closed
4 Draw (w)
11
2003 Russian Ch B54 Sicilian
5 Draw (b)
22
2004 Russian Ch B31 Sicilian, Rossolimo
6 Loss (b)
57
2005 Corus B31 Sicilian, Rossolimo
7 Draw (b)
18
2005 Poikovsky Karpov B92 Sicilian, Najdorf, Opocensky
8 Draw (w)
30
2005 Russian Team Ch E73 King’s Indian
9 Win (b)
38
2006 Tal Memorial B90 Sicilian, Najdorf
10 Draw (w)
41
2007 FIDE World Ch D43 Queen’s Gambit Declined
11 Loss (b)
42
2007 FIDE World Ch B90 Sicilian, Najdorf
12 Draw (w)
39
2007 Russian Superfinal A15 English
13 Draw (b)
37
2008 Baku Grand Prix C72 Ruy Lopez, Modern Steinitz
14 Draw (w)
24
2008 Sochi Grand Prix B96 Sicilian, Najdorf
15 Loss (w)
53
2009 Russian Team Ch A15 English
16 Draw (b)
21
2009 Nalchik Grand Prix C18 French, Winawer
17 Draw (b)
30
2009 Russian Superfinal C89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
18 Draw (b)
28
2010 Russian Superfinal B46 Sicilian, Taimanov Variation
19 Draw (w)
41
2011 Russian Superfinal D16 Queen’s Gambit Declined
20 Loss (w)
30
2011 World Cup B43 Sicilian, Kan, 5.Nc3
21 Draw (b)
16
2011 World Cup B90 Sicilian, Najdorf
22 Draw (w)
29
2011 World Cup C64 Ruy Lopez, Classical
23 Draw (b)
38
2011 World Cup B51 Sicilian, Canal-Sokolsky
24 Loss (w)
50
2012 Russian Superfinal C84 Ruy Lopez, Closed

Overall: 1 Win, 16 Draws, 7 Losses
White: 0 Wins, 8 Draws, 3 Losses
Black: 1 Win, 8 Draws, 4 Losses

Although Svidler and Grischuk may be friends away from the board, when these two meet, Alexander has consistently played the role of martyr on it. The white pieces have been no comfort to him and it will certainly take a shake-up on his part to hope for more than draws. As stated previously, the Sicilian Najdorf seems like a strong possibility, with these players having tested it at both the 2007 FIDE World Championship and the 2011 World Cup, while 1.d4 will be favoured by Grischuk as white.


Vassily Ivanchuk (2757 – World #13)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (b)
18
2003 Wijk aan Zee E15 Queen's Indian
2 Draw (b)
24
2003 European Club Cup C82 Ruy Lopez, Open
3 Draw (b)
40
2006 Russian Club Cup C88 Ruy Lopez
4 Draw (b)
20
2006 Aerosvit C88 Ruy Lopez
5 Draw (w)
25
2008 Sochi Grand Prix E21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
6 Draw (b)
65
2009 Linares E20 Nimzo-Indian
7 Draw (w)
41
2009 Linares C42 Petrov Defense
8 Draw (b)
17
2009 Russian Team Ch D16 Queen's Gambit Declined
9 Loss (b)
37
2009 Nalchik Grand Prix E97 King's Indian
10 Loss (b)
37
2010 Russian Team Ch B97 Sicilian, Najdorf
11 Draw (w)
22
2011 FIDE World Cup C10 French
12 Draw (b)
43
2011 FIDE World Cup D39 Queen's Gambit Declined
13 Draw (b)
26
2012 London Grand Prix D86 Grunfeld, Exchange

Overall: 0 Wins, 11 Draws, 2 Losses
White: 0 Wins, 3 Draws, 0 Losses
Black: 0 Wins, 8 Draws, 2 Losses

The "-chuks" have a baker’s dozen of classical games between them, where Grischuk has been saddled with far too many blacks so far. To some extent, Ivanchuk has capitalized, holding two wins and no losses, but, nonetheless, expect Grischuk to lay siege to the Ukrainian’s ramparts. We may not yet have seen the last Ruy Lopez between these two, although Ivanchuk’s recent use of the French against Alexander at the 2011 World Cup opens other interesting possibilities.


Teimour Radjabov (2793 – World #4)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Win (w)
99
2003 Wijk aan Zee C02 French, Advance
2 Draw (w)
11
2006 Russian Club Cup B30 Sicilian
3 Draw (w)
66
2007 Biel E73 King's Indian
4 Draw (w)
32
2008 Baku Grand Prix A15 English
5 Draw (b)
38
2008 Sochi Grand Prix B96 Sicilian, Najdorf
6 Draw (w)
97
2008 Elista Grand Prix E97 King's Indian
7 Win (b)
41
2009 Linares E17 Queen's Indian
8 Draw (w)
44
2009 Linares E97 King's Indian
9 Draw (w)
41
2012 Tal Memorial B30 Sicilian

Overall: 2 Wins, 7 Draws, 0 Losses
White: 1 Win, 6 Draws, 0 Losses
Black: 1 Win, 1 Draw, 0 Losses

There is a veritable drought when it comes to the question of Grischuk-Radjabov rumbles. The Russian has taken the driver’s seat, however, and may have more bruises to inflict in London. 99 and 97 move games demonstrate these two have no lack of gumption, so we may see a blowout or two before the final note has been sung. Where Grischuk is concerned, a Najdorf is always possible, while the “kid” may try the KID.


Vladimir Kramnik (2810 – World #2)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (b)
20
2003 Wijk aan Zee B23 Sicilian, Closed
2 Draw (b)
67
2005 Corus B09 Pirc, Austrian Attack
3 Draw (b)
58
2007 FIDE World Ch E05 Catalan, Open, Classical line
4 Draw (w)
13
2007 FIDE World Ch C43 Petrov, Modern Attack
5 Draw (b)
39
2010 Tal Memorial D37 Queen's Gambit Declined
6 Draw (w)
34
2011 Wijk aan Zee A09 Reti Opening
7 Draw (w)
16
2011 Candidates D37 Queen's Gambit Declined
8 Draw (b)
56
2011 Candidates A04 Reti Opening
9 Draw (w)
25
2011 Candidates C42 Petrov Defense
10 Draw (b)
44
2011 Candidates A04 Reti Opening
11 Draw (w)
21
2011 Russian Superfinal D39 Queen's Gambit Declined
12 Loss (b)
29
2012 Tal Memorial E97 King's Indian

Overall: 0 Wins, 11 Draws, 1 Loss
White: 0 Wins, 5 Draws, 0 Losses
Black: 0 Wins, 6 Draws, 1 Loss

Yet another shock – Kramnik and Grischuk have played no more than a dozen games at standard time controls between themselves. Kramnik has the sole win, which came in their most recent encounter at the 2012 Tal Memorial. One should heavily favour Kramnik building off that momentum leading into this event, despite frequent draws between the two at world championship cycle tournaments in the past. The Petrov may, once again, enter into the equation, while Kramnik will set out to avoid Sicilian lines.


Levon Aronian (2809 – World #3)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (b)
69
1997 Kasparov Cup C47 Four Knights
2 Loss (b)
31
2005 French Team Ch C77 Ruy Lopez
3 Draw (b)
16
2006 Tal Memorial E17 Queen's Indian
4 Draw (w)
31
2007 FIDE World Ch C88 Ruy Lopez
5 Loss (b)
42
2007 FIDE World Ch D30 Queen's Gambit Declined
6 Loss (b)
42
2008 Sochi Grand Prix D47 Queen's Gambit Declined
7 Win (w)
59
2009 Linares D44 Queen's Gambit Declined
8 Draw (b)
41
2009 Linares E92 King's Indian
9 Draw (b)
35
2009 Nalchik Grand Prix A30 English, Symmetrical
10 Win (w)
52
2009 Bilbao D44 Queen's Gambit Declined
11 Loss (b)
42
2009 Bilbao D11 Queen's Gambit Declined
12 Loss (w)
29
2009 European Club Cup D44 Queen's Gambit Declined
13 Draw (w)
23
2010 World Team Ch A09 Reti Opening
14 Draw (b)
26
2010 Linares E25 Nimzo-Indian, Samisch
15 Draw (w)
101
2010 Linares D39 Queen's Gambit Declined
16 Draw (b)
28
2010 Tal Memorial D38 Queen's Gambit Declined
17 Loss (w)
49
2011 Wijk aan Zee C85 Ruy Lopez, Exchange
18 Draw (b)
70
2011 Candidates D86 Grunfeld, Exchange
19 Draw (w)
22
2011 Candidates D37 Queen's Gambit Declined
20 Draw (b)
59
2011 Candidates D97 Grunfeld, Russian
21 Draw (w)
17
2011 Candidates D31 Queen's Gambit Declined
22 Draw (b)
28
2012 Tal Memorial E15 Queen's Indian

Overall: 2 Wins, 14 Draws, 6 Losses
White: 2 Wins, 5 Draws, 2 Losses
Black: 0 Wins, 9 Draws, 4 Losses

Aronian is aggressive by nature (don’t let his easygoing demeanour fool you), which has yielded him plenty of positive outcomes against Grischuk. That said, the two most recent decisions between these guys belong to the Russian. Sparks will fly and don’t be caught unawares if the results prove similar to those of the 2007 World Championship. Undoubtedly, they both have deep-seated desires to face Anand later this year, but, 2011 notwithstanding, Aronian must be considered to be holding all the trumps. The openings selected could very well be a re-examination of the 2011 Candidates event.


Magnus Carlsen (2872 – World #1)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (w)
17
2006 Tal Memorial D38 Queen's Gambit Declined
2 Draw (w)
55
2007 Biel E10 Queen's Pawn Game
3 Draw (w)
39
2008 Baku Grand Prix D17 Queen's Gambit Declined
4 Draw (w)
34
2009 Linares B33 Sicilian
5 Loss (b)
37
2009 Linares B85 Sicilian, Scheveningen
6 Draw (w)
19
2011 Wijk aan Zee D07 Queen's Gambit Declined
7 Draw (b)
40
2012 Tal Memorial C78 Ruy Lopez

Overall: 0 Wins, 6 Draws, 1 Loss
White: 0 Wins, 5 Draws, 0 Losses
Black: 0 Wins, 1 Draws, 1 Loss

Grischuk has proven far too willing to draw early as white against players of Carlsen’s caliber. This policy will not help him win this event. In the few games he and Carlsen have played, Carlsen has already established a lifetime edge and this very well may widen. A victory on the Black side of the French at the World Blitz Championship inspires some confidence that Alexander can get the job done, but his play will need to be particularly inspired. Perhaps he will try this opening again in London, but count on 1.d4 as white.


Overall Stats Against Field

 
Wins
Draws
Losses
Draw %
Overall
10
82
22
71.93%
White
8
39
7
72.22%
Black
2
43
15
71.67%

Repertoire white

Line
score
Perf.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6
78%
2828
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6
70%
2734
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6
67%
2737
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5
71%
2727
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3
65%
2812
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6
65%
2786

Grischuk is no pushover, as his stats as white demonstrate. Try the Sicilian against him and he will happily navigate through the complications. Count on some of the players in London being mindful of this and turning to the French.

Repertoire black

Line
score
Perf.
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6
53%
2699
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6
57%
2782
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3
43%
2676
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4
57%
2768
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6
56%
2644
1.Nf3
40%
2635
1.c4
35%
2576

Grischuk has dreadfully poor results against the English, while he loves to play the mainline Sicilian. He will have to face his demons here, whether directly, or through transposition from 1.Nf3 lines.


The Candidates Tournament in London

The London Candidates 2013 will be the strongest tournament of its kind in history. The Prize Fund to be shared by the players totals €510,000. The winner of the Candidates will become the Challenger to Viswanathan Anand who has reigned as World Champion since 2007. Schedule:

Thursday, 14 March Opening/Players meeting
Friday, 15 March Round 1
Saturday, 16 March Round 2
Sunday, 17 March Round 3
Monday, 18 March Rest day
Tuesday, 19 March Round 4
Wednesday, 20 March     Round 5
Thursday, 21 March Round 6
Friday, 22 March Rest day
Saturday, 23 March Round 7
Sunday, 24 March Round 8
Monday, 25 March Round 9
Tuesday, 26 March Rest day
Wednesday, 27 March Round 10
Thursday, 28 March Round 11
Friday, 29 March Round 12
Saturday, 30 March Rest day
Sunday, 31 March Round 13
Monday, 1 April Round 14
Tuesday, 2 April Tiebreaks/Closing ceremony

Players

Seed 
Rank 
 Name
Country
Rating
B-Year
1
1
 Carlsen, Magnus
NOR
 2872
 1990
2
2
 Kramnik, Vladimir
RUS
 2810
 1975
3
3
 Aronian, Levon
ARM
 2809
 1982
4
4
 Radjabov, Teimour
AZE
 2793
 1987
5
10
 Grischuk, Alexander
RUS
 2764
 1983
6
13
 Ivanchuk, Vassily
UKR
 2757
 1969
7
14
 Svidler, Peter
RUS
 2747
 1976
8
18
 Gelfand, Boris
ISR
 2740
 1968

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