Candidates – Teimour Radjabov (2793 – World #4)

3/11/2013 – This Friday the erstwhile child prodigy from Baku will face former World Championship candidate Boris Gelfand in the first round of the Candidates Tournament for the 2013 World Championship. What are his chances? "We all have our favourite marks – Radjabov’s is Gelfand," writes Michael von Keitz in his  latest Candidate portrait.

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Teimour Radjabov (2793 – World #4)

Nigel Short may have described Radjabov best, when passing comment on the “battle of Baku,” where a 15-year-old Radjabov handed Kasparov an infamous defeat at the 2003 edition of Linares: "Radjabov plays very imaginatively […] he just won't give up, he is extremely tenacious and will always find a way to muddy the waters to throw you off track. He is very good at finding disconcerting moves." Despite (or, perhaps, due to) the surrounding controversy after the game was awarded a beauty prize, this is the single accomplishment for which Radjabov has been best remembered.

Early signs of his prowess included his victory at the 1999 European Under-18 Championship when still only a tween, coupled with his status as the youngest Top-100 player in history at the age of 14. This, of course, ignores the fact that, similarly to Carlsen, Radjabov was also once the second-youngest grandmaster ever.

With all of the forgoing in mind, it comes as no surprise that he quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with by securing bronze at the 2004 FIDE Knockout World Championship, while still well within the limits of his junior eligibility. Unfortunately, however, he never reached his full potential and has since fallen off Carlsen’s astronomical pace. That said, he has been an ever-present danger in a number of high-profile events over the years, as he is, after all, still #4 in the world rankings.

One must also consider that his presence at the last Candidates tournament was by virtue of qualifying through his runner-up status in the 2008-10 FIDE Grand Prix cycle, as opposed to being granted by way of an exemption. In the first round, he worked doggedly in his attempts to dispatch of Kramnik in the tiebreak matches, but, after a controversial clock malfunction stymied him, he was ultimately eliminated. The organizer’s decision to bring him back this year was, therefore, a purely natural choice.

Now, allow us to see how he has fared against the current field in games of the past.


Grischuk's opponents at the Candidates

Boris Gelfand (2740 – World #18)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (w)
26
2001 European Team Ch E54 Nimzo-Indian, Gligoric System
2 Win (b)
37
2003 Enghien-les-bains B31 Sicilian, Rossolimo Variation
3 Draw (b)
34
2003 European Team Ch E92 King's Indian
4 Draw (w)
12
2004 Calvia Olympiad E12 Queen's Indian
5 Loss (w)
31
2005 European Team Ch B96 Sicilian, Najdorf
6 Draw (w)
25
2005 Spanish Team Ch B96 Sicilian, Najdorf
7 Draw (b)
20
2006 Russian Club Cup E92 King's Indian
8 Draw (b)
32
2006 Turin Olympiad E92 King's Indian
9 Draw (w)
18
2007 Russian Team Ch E17 Queen's Indian
10 Win (b)
37
2008 Corus E94 King's Indian, Orthodox
11 Win (b)
49
2008 Sochi Grand Prix E97 King's Indian
12 Draw (w)
32
2009 Bazna C42 Petrov Defense
13 Draw (b)
37
2009 Bazna E97 King's Indian
14 Draw (b)
40
2010 Astrakhan Grand Prix E92 King's Indian
15 Win (w)
38
2010 Bazna C42 Petrov Defense
16 Win (b)
30
2010 Bazna E94 King's Indian, Orthodox
17 Draw (b)
30
2012 Wijk aan Zee E92 King's Indian

Overall: 5 Wins, 11 Draws, 1 Loss
White: 1 Win, 5 Draws, 1 Loss
Black: 4 Wins, 6 Draws, 0 Losses

We all have our favourite marks and, in this case, Radjabov’s is Gelfand. With back-to-back victories against the Israeli in the 2010 edition of Bazna, Radjabov has both recent success to draw strength from, as well as a comfortable lead in their lifetime series. The Azerbaijani will definitely be seeking blood against this opponent. With the KID and Petrov as firmly established battlegrounds, one or both openings will make a return appearance.


Peter Svidler (2747 – World #14)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (w)
33
2003 St. Petersburg vs. NAO A15 English
2 Draw (w)
38
2003 European Team Ch D86 Grunfeld, Exchange
3 Draw (w)
47
2005 European Team Ch B41 Sicilian, Kan
4 Draw (b)
42
2006 Linares-Morelia B30 Sicilian
5 Win (w)
41
2006 Linares-Morelia D16 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
6 Draw (w)
26
2006 European Club Cup B46 Sicilian, Taimanov Variation
7 Draw (w)
19
2007 Corus B41 Sicilian, Kan
8 Draw (w)
13
2008 Russian Team Ch D10 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
9 Draw (b)
41
2008 Baku Grand Prix C63 Ruy Lopez, Schliemann Defense
10 Loss (b)
41
2008 Sochi Grand Prix B76 Sicilian, Dragon, Yugoslav Attack
11 Draw (w)
21
2009 European Team Ch D97 Grunfeld, Russian
12 Draw (b)
25
2010 Astrakhan Grand Prix A15 English
13 Draw (b)
40
2010 European Club Cup A15 English
14 Win (b)
53
2011 European Team Ch D31 Queen's Gambit Declined
15 Draw (b)
29
2012 European Club Cup A49 King's Indian

Overall: 2 Wins, 12 Draws, 1 Loss
White: 1 Win, 7 Draws, 0 Losses
Black: 1 Win, 5 Draws, 1 Loss

Radjabov has enjoyed consistently solid results against Svidler. Despite a loss in 2008, he has avenged it as of the 2011 European Team Championship and seems destined to snatch a few more victories from the Russian. The Queen’s Gambit may seem a likely choice, but Radjabov could also have been doing some home-cooking in the Yugoslav.


Vassily Ivanchuk (2757 – World #13)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (b)
16
2001 European Team Ch C11 French
2 Draw (w)
22
2003 Wijk aan Zee D15 Queen's Gambit Declined
3 Loss (b)
32
2004 Calvia Chess Olympiad B32 Sicilian
4 Draw (b)
23
2005 European Team Ch E92 King's Indian
5 Draw (w)
23
2006 Linares-Morelia D84 Grunfeld, Gambit Accepted
6 Win (b)
44
2006 Linares-Morelia E92 King's Indian
7 Draw (w)
20
2006 Russian Club Cup E11 Bogo-Indian Defense
8 Draw (w)
45
2006 Turin Olympiad B99 Sicilian, Najdorf
9 Draw (b)
23
2007 Russian Team Ch E92 King's Indian
10 Win (b)
50
2007 European Club Cup A26 English
11 Draw (w)
28
2008 Wijk aan Zee B18 Caro-Kann, Classical
12 Draw (w)
38
2008 Linares-Morelia B46 Sicilian, Taimanov
13 Draw (b)
58
2008 Linares-Morelia B33 Sicilian
14 Loss (w)
48
2008 M-Tel Masters E15 Queen's Indian
15 Draw (b)
41
2008 M-Tel Masters B33 Sicilian
16 Draw (b)
37
2008 Sochi Grand Prix E61 King's Indian
17 Draw (w)
35
2008 Bilbao D20 Queen's Gambit Accepted
18 Loss (b)
49
2008 Bilbao B45 Sicilian, Taimanov
19 Win (b)
41
2009 Wijk aan Zee E97 King's Indian
20 Draw (w)
42
2009 Linares-Morelia E94 King's Indian, Orthodox
21 Draw (b)
30
2009 Linares-Morelia C63 Ruy Lopez, Schliemann
22 Draw (b)
37
2009 Bazna B45 Sicilian, Taimanov
23 Draw (w)
28
2009 Bazna B94 Sicilian, Najdorf
24 Draw (b)
58
2010 Astrakhan Grand Prix A16 English
25 Loss (b)
35
2011 Bazna E73 King's Indian
26 Draw (w)
45
2011 Bazna D41 Queen's Gambit Declined
27 Draw (w)
43
2011 World Team Ch A07 King's Indian Attack
28 Loss (b)
41
2011 FIDE World Cup B31 Sicilian, Rossolimo Variation
29 Win (w)
28
2011 FIDE World Cup A37 English, Symmetrical
30 Draw (w)
20
2012 Wijk aan Zee A57 Benko Gambit
31 Draw (w)
31
2012 Istanbul Olympiad A15 English
32 Draw (w)
65
2012 European Club Cup B00 Uncommon King's Pawn Opening

Overall: 4 Wins, 23 Draws, 5 Losses
White: 1 Win, 14 Draws, 1 Loss
Black: 3 Wins, 9 Draws, 4 Losses

Radjabov has been granted plenty of opportunities to tussle with Ivanchuk and both players have put in creditable performances, including a handful of victories to each. One cannot soon forget that they split their match at the 2011 FIDE World Cup by clocking out with back-to-back decisive games, only adding to the drama they are wont to produce, and, thereby, taking them to a nail-biting tiebreak. Radjabov is unlikely to try the Sicilian against the Ukrainian at this event, but anticipate an interesting choice.


Alexander Grischuk (2764 – World #10)

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

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

Grischuk has rarely had the pleasure of contesting matters with Radjabov, but, when granted, the result has been a number of highly interesting games. Unfortunately, Teimour has never managed victory against the Russian, so their games in London will be entertaining, as the stronger player seeks to finally assert his dominance. A KID seems likely, but anything is possible.


Vladimir Kramnik (2810 – World #2)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (w)
19
2003 Wijk aan Zee E15 Queen's Indian
2 Loss (b)
36
2003 Linares C11 French
3 Draw (w)
48
2003 Linares E12 Queen's Indian
4 Loss (b)
31
2003 Dortmund B33 Sicilian
5 Draw (w)
23
2003 Dortmund D38 Queen's Gambit Declined
6 Draw (w)
23
2004 Linares C42 Petrov Defense
7 Draw (b)
35
2004 Linares C53 Giuoco Piano
8 Draw (b)
28
2007 Corus E92 King's Indian
9 Draw (b)
79
2008 Corus E97 King's Indian
10 Draw (w)
25
2011 Candidates D56 Queen's Gambit Declined
11 Draw (b)
61
2011 Candidates E06 Catalan, Closed, 5.Nf3
12 Draw (w)
33
2011 Candidates D56 Queen's Gambit Declined
13 Draw (b)
28
2011 Candidates D37 Queen's Gambit Declined
14 Draw (w)
25
2012 Tal Memorial C65 Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense
15 Draw (w)
37
2012 Istanbul Olympiad A15 English

Overall: 0 Wins, 13 Draws, 2 Losses
White: 0 Wins, 8 Draws, 0 Losses
Black: 0 Wins, 5 Draws, 2 Losses

Through no fault of their own, Kramnik-Radjabov pairings have served as yet another rare bird. Similar to Grischuk, Kramnik has been tough on Teimour and, as a slightly stronger player who is both on a roll (see 2012 London Classic) and in possession of clutch world championship experience, it seems fair to favour the world’s #2 in head-to-head competition between these two candidates. Drawing from their experience in the 2011 Candidates tournament, they may once again revisit the Queen’s Gambit.


Levon Aronian (2809 – World #3)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (b)
46
2004 European Ch D11 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
2 Loss (b)
79
2006 Linares-Morelia E92 King's Indian
3 Draw (w)
29
2006 Linares-Morelia D38 Queen's Gambit Declined
4 Draw (w)
16
2006 Russian Club Cup C69 Ruy Lopez, Exchange, Gligoric
5 Loss (w)
65
2007 Corus D38 Queen's Gambit Declined
6 Loss (b)
48
2008 Corus E61 King's Indian
7 Draw (b)
24
2008 Linares-Morelia E61 King's Indian
8 Draw (w)
31
2008 Linares-Morelia D44 Queen's Gambit Declined
9 Draw (w)
56
2008 M-Tel Masters D44 Queen's Gambit Declined
10 Win (b)
44
2008 M-Tel Masters E97 King's Indian
11 Draw (w)
26
2008 Sochi Grand Prix C45 Scotch Game
12 Draw (w)
34
2008 Bilbao C45 Scotch Game
13 Win (b)
49
2008 Bilbao A15 English
14 Draw (w)
59
2008 Dresden Olympiad C53 Giuoco Piano
15 Draw (w)
15
2009 Corus C45 Scotch Game
16 Draw (b)
42
2009 Linares E61 King's Indian
17 Win (w)
56
2009 Linares A07 King's Indian Attack
18 Draw (w)
19
2009 European Team Ch C48 Four Knights
19 Draw (b)
26
2011 European Team Ch D37 Queen's Gambit Declined
20 Draw (b)
33
2011 World Team Ch D37 Queen's Gambit Declined
21 Draw (b)
12
2012 Wijk aan Zee A15 English
22 Draw (w)
45
2012 Tal Memorial A07 King's Indian Attack

Overall: 3 Wins, 16 Draws, 3 Losses
White: 1 Win, 10 Draws, 1 Loss
Black: 2 Wins, 6 Draws, 2 Losses

If ever there were two players you would like to see meet in this event, Aronian and Radjabov are as good a choice as any. They have a lifetime split of three wins and three losses each, sit one directly in front of the other in the world rankings and both can be counted on to fight. Aronian had all the luck in the early going, but Radjabov has since turned on the jets to take all three of their most recent decisive encounters. They have employed plenty of opening systems against one another, but the Queen’s Gambit is a mainstay.


Magnus Carlsen (2872 – World #1)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (b)
33
2006 Turin Olympiad B30 Sicilian
2 Draw (w)
68
2006 Biel A58 Benko Gambit
3 Draw (b)
30
2006 Biel E97 King's Indian
4 Draw (b)
21
2007 Corus B32 Sicilian
5 Loss (b)
28
2007 Biel B09 Pirc, Austrian Attack
6 Draw (b)
65
2008 Corus A48 King's Indian
7 Win (w)
43
2008 Linares-Morelia C65 Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense
8 Draw (b)
69
2008 Linares-Morelia C63 Ruy Lopez, Schliemann Defense
9 Loss (w)
40
2008 Baku Grand Prix B77 Sicilian, Dragon, Yugoslav Attack
10 Loss (b)
37
2008 Bilbao B78 Sicilian, Dragon, Yugoslav Attack
11 Draw (w)
53
2008 Bilbao B12 Caro-Kann Defense
12 Draw (w)
31
2008 European Club Cup C67 Ruy Lopez
13 Draw (b)
60
2009 Corus B40 Sicilian
14 Draw (w)
34
2009 Linares C53 Giuoco Piano
15 Draw (b)
53
2009 Linares B30 Sicilian
16 Loss (b)
25
2009 Pearl Spring B30 Sicilian
17 Draw (w)
34
2009 Pearl Spring D86 Grunfeld, Exchange
18 Draw (w)
74
2010 Bazna B25 Sicilian, Closed
19 Loss (b)
64
2010 Bazna B30 Sicilian
20 Draw (b)
37
2011 Bazna D37 Queen's Gambit Declined
21 Draw (w)
29
2011 Bazna D37 Queen's Gambit Declined
22 Draw (w)
44
2012 Wijk aan Zee A07 King's Indian Attack
23 Loss (w)
59
2012 Tal Memorial C45 Scotch Game

Overall: 1 Win, 16 Draws, 6 Losses
White: 1 Win, 8 Draws, 2 Losses
Black: 0 Wins, 8 Draws, 4 Losses

Radjabov was a victim of history, as his accomplishments in youth were quickly overshadowed by the rise of Carlsen, who is only a few years his junior. Worse still, the young Norwegian has thrashed the Azerbaijani repeatedly with little reciprocation up to this point. With plenty of bruising losses when facing Magnus in Sicilian lines, this is yet another opponent Radjabov may try the French against. After a failed experiment with the Scotch, he may also turn to the English as white.


Overall Stats Against Field

 
Wins
Draws
Losses
Draw %
Overall
15
98
20
73.68%
White
5
53
6
82.81%
Black
10
45
14
65.22%

Repertoire white

Line
score
Perf.
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3    
56%
2738
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6
50%
2659
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3
61%
2724
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6
61%
2751
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6
60%
2776
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3
66%
2759
1.Nf3 Nf6
72%
2731

Historically, the Symmetrical Variation of the Zukertort has treated Radjabov well, which he may use as a transpositional tool in this event. The Anti-Nimzo, on the other hand, is not his favourite pick.

Repertoire black

Line
score
Perf.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6
52%
2722
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5
43%
2679
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6
43%
2495
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6
44%
2663
1.Nf3
49%
2648

Radjabov has had relatively poor performances as black over the years, but the Sicilian is a favourite pet of his. Expect one or more of these candidates to get burned by him in the Yugoslav.


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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