Candidates 2014: Spotlight on round two

by Sagar Shah
3/15/2014 – The Candidates tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk seems to be charged with drama (just 50% draws so far). We have been providing full reports and GM analysis on the evening of the game. We would also like to add some didactic comments by chess trainers and writers, whose views are often helpful for chess fans who are still struggling to understand basic concepts.
The FIDE Candidates Tournament is taking place in Khanty-Mansiysk (Russia). The first round will start on Thursday, March 13 at 3 p.m. local time, the final round is on Sunday, March 30, 2014. The event is a double round robin (14 rounds). The time control is 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, 60 minutes for the next 20 and 15 minutes for the rest of the game plus an additional 30 seconds per move starting from move 61.

The tournament will determine the challenger who will face the reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen in a title match later this year. The prize fund is 600,000 Euros (= US $832,000), the first place 135,000 and last (8th) place 25,000 Euros.

A picturesque position, and stumbling upon a discovery

By Govindaseshan Srikanth

Three decisive games and the fourth one a clear stream which flowed peacefully, marked day two of the Candidates tournament. The three decisive games offered us three distinct flavours:

  • Mamedyarov blundered badly and early.
  • Andreikin succumbed, unable to cope up with his multiple pawn weakness and the ravaging white knight.
  • Kramnik played a beauty, overpowering Karjakin with some incisive and innovative thinking, in clearly the best game of the tournament so far!

For starters I am picking Svidler-Andreikin after Black's 16th move:

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.03.14"] [Round "?"] [White "Svidler, Peter"] [Black "Andeikin, Dmitry"] [Result "1-0"] [Annotator "Srikanth,G"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2r2rk1/5ppp/p1npbn2/1p1Np1q1/1PP1P3/3Q4/P1N1BPPP/2RR2K1 w - - 0 17"] [PlyCount "29"] {Black's last move 16...b5?! is surely not the right one to neutralise White's initiative. The move only managed to create serious structural weakness for himself and provided easy targets for already optimally placed White's pieces. The Pelican knight on d5 is a pricking thorn in Black's position which may have induced him to play b5. The other white knight on c2 is defending two important squares d4 and b4 (along with the pawn), and is in all readiness to gallop with ravaging consequences! The rooks are on the best files and the bishop is exerting pressure on Black's weakened queenside pawns. With this background, Svidler happily played;} 17. Qg3 Qxg3 18. Nxf6+ {An important intermezzo!} gxf6 19. hxg3 bxc4 20. f4 $1 {Obviously! The intention is to push the pawn to f5 and then gobble the weak pawns one by one!} f5 21. exf5 Bxf5 22. Ne3 $1 {[%csl Ge3] [%cal Re3d5,Re3f5] The exclamation mark is not for the move as such, but for how the moves reveal themselves to a chess player who plays optimally to his true potential, meeting the demands of the position, without trying to do various things. This knight's defence duty is now over and the time has come to enter the main stream duty - attack! The best squares offer themselves to this knight as a red carpet is unfurled to a monarch when he marches! When this knight reaches its final destination, in few moves from now, the outcome is sealed.} Bd3 {There are other suggestions here and the chief amongst them is 22...Be4 which leads at best to a position where black would be saddled with weak light squared pawns to defend against the active white pieces. It is like performing an operation after which the patient would survive or buy some more time only to struggle further and perish ultimately, enduring more pain in the process!} ({There are other suggestions here and the chief amongst them is} 22... Be4 {which leads at best to a position where Black would be saddled with weak light squared pawns to defend against the active white pieces. It is like performing an operation after which the patient would survive or buy some more time only to struggle further and perish ultimately, enduring more pain in the process!}) 23. Bxd3 cxd3 { Even while advancing after relinquishing the role of defending the b4-pawn, this knight still defends it indirectly as its capture by Black's knight would cost him the rook on c8. Hence Andreikin tried a desperate surge of central pawns.} 24. Nf5 $1 e4 25. Nxd6 e3 26. Nxc8 d2 27. Rxc6 e2 28. Rcc1 $3 {The double exclamation is for the picturesque nature of the position! How often can you see two connected pawns reaching the seventh rank and two opponent rooks on the grab! Such occasions offer immense happiness to a chess lover!} exd1=Q+ 29. Rxd1 Rxc8 30. Rxd2 Rc3 31. Rd5 $1 {Elegant way to finish a fine game! Andreikin Resigned!} (31. Rd5 {The grab of the g3 pawn by the black rook } Rxg3 {would lead to a lost king and pawn ending after} ({The attempt to grab the a2 pawn with} 31... Ra3 {would meet a similar fate or lose the lone pawn on a6 after} 32. Ra5 {This familiar theme of lateral movement of rook is a significant motif, one which we saw in the game played by Anand against Aronian in the previous round!}) 32. Rg5+) 1-0

Now for the game of the day: Kramnik-Karjakin. We start after Black's eighth move. In that position Kramnik conceived the new move 9.a3!? My database records 92 games with White choosing to play 9.exf6!? What would Kramnik have seen which eluded many great players in those 92 games? This is where the invisible thread that links the human minds reveals its diversity and distinct ability to keep popping up new ideas which keep shifting its realms higher and higher. It is not about ingenuity of a particular move: others too would have considered this move during the past decade; and it is also not about the correctness of a particular move or decision. I am intrigued by the ability of someone to overcome his indecision, or the collective indecision, and above all, how a new concept dawns in someone's mind at the appropriate time - and the science behind this! We shall try to find some clues to this as we progress in this game.

[Event "Candidates 2014"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.03.02"] [Round "?"] [White "Kramnik, Vladimir"] [Black "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D20"] [Annotator "Srikanth,G"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r1bqkb1r/ppp1p1pp/1n6/4Pp2/1n1PB3/4B3/PP3PPP/RN1QK1NR w KQkq f6 0 9"] [PlyCount "61"] 9. a3 $5 ({My database records 92 games with White choosing to play} 9. exf6) 9... fxe4 10. axb4 e6 11. Nc3 Bxb4 12. Qh5+ $1 {The aim of this move is to create dark square weakness on the king side, after black plays 12...g6. This with the presence of dark squared bishop for White and the possibility of expansion of White's h-pawn, Kramnik removed the option of Black castling on the kingside. This forces Black to castle on the queenside, and here the open rook file which was created by the new move 9.a3! comes in handy!} g6 13. Qg4 {[%csl Ge3,Rf6,Rg7,Rh6][%cal Ya1a7] From here the queen keeps her pressure on the targets e4 and e6 and is at the right square to transfer her to the queenside, when the situation warrants, via e2 square!} Bxc3+ 14. bxc3 Qd5 15. Ne2 {This knight also finds some tailor-made squares befitting its stature than his sedate counterpart, who despite freedom is condemned to perform a certain role. This is another factor which may have gone towards "finding" 9. a3! Ok, is then 9.a3! a denouement to this line? The answer is certainly NO! Chess is still youthful and virgin despite the passage of a century and half! It is not about finding something new which has all roads leading to a concrete result. Chess is too vast and immense to such mythical propositions. At best a player stumbles upon a certain "discovery" which may be because of the increasing familiarity and therefore a better comprehension of the intricacies a position is inherently abound with. It is just like the process of refinement where any crude substance generates refined products at various stages on account of the refining techniques.} Bd7 16. O-O Qc4 {This move is shrouded with ambiguity and if somewhere a counter has to emerge for 9.a3, it may well be here in this move, if not early. The knight after all is pushed to the natural square it wishes to go and the pawn on c3 is taboo.} 17. Ng3 Bc6 18. Ra5 $3 {When all the available options of optimising one's position is done, a great player looks for betterment of already better placed pieces! This move prevents blacks push a5 which may have been a possible way of countering White's initiative. The square c5 is a lovely one for rook, especially when the enemy queen is on an undesirable stroll into his area and fast losing safe abode!} O-O-O 19. Rc5 Qb3 20. c4 {This move is made possible by 18.Ra5!! Now black is denied of the vital d5 square and the pawn on e6 comes under attack.} Kb8 21. Qxe6 Rde8 22. Qh3 {[%csl Gh3] Rarely you see a queen occupying this square and still looking menacing!} Nxc4 23. Rxc6 {Time for some concrete action. Now you see the value of 22.Qh3: the e3 square is indirectly defended!} bxc6 24. Nxe4 Nb6 25. Nc5 Qd5 26. Rc1 Ka8 27. Na6 Kb7 28. Nb4 Qf7 29. Qg4 {The queen is getting ready for final action!} Nd5 30. Nxc6 Re6 31. Na5+ Ka8 32. Qe4 Rb6 33. g4 $1 {Securing the f5 square and rattling the opponent, who is in time pressure - inviting the "obvious" reply from him in search of a last straw before drowning! Also, this move eliminates backrank mates!} h5 34. Rc5 Rd8 35. Nc6 Rxc6 36. Rxc6 hxg4 37. Rf6 Qh7 38. Bg5 {With the active entry of this bishop after a prolonged stay defending the d4 pawn, Black's resistance ends!} Qg8 39. Rxg6 1-0

Govindaseshan Srikanth is a native of Chennai, a contemporary of Vishy Anand during their teens and early 20s at the Tal Chess Club at the Soviet Cultural Centre. "Sri", as he is known to his friends, is one more addition to the ever expanding number of Indian contributors, as he aims to take up chess writing as a serious activity in future!

Understanding chess, Anand's way!

By Sagar Shah

[Event "FIDE Candidates 2014"] [Site "Khanty-Mansiysk RUS"] [Date "2014.03.14"] [Round "2.2"] [White "Topalov, Veselin"] [Black "Anand, Viswanathan"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A11"] [WhiteElo "2785"] [BlackElo "2770"] [Annotator "Shah,Sagar"] [PlyCount "108"] [EventDate "2014.03.13"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. c4 c6 3. e3 Nf6 4. Nc3 Nbd7 5. Qc2 e5 6. cxd5 Nxd5 7. d4 Bd6 8. dxe5 Nxe5 9. Nxe5 Bxe5 10. Qe4 Qe7 11. Nxd5 cxd5 12. Bb5+ Kf8 13. Qxd5 g6 { [%csl Rb2,Rb5,Rc1,Rd5][%cal Gc8e6,Ge6f5,Ge5b2,Gh8d8,Gf8g7,Ga8c8] [#]Anand plays an ultra calm move. What is Vishy Anand doing, you may ask. First of all he has given up the right to castling. Secondly he is a pawn down and by the looks of it he is also behind in development! Topalov can also 0-0 on the next move. So don't you think Anand is in a really bad position? Let's see what are Black's trumps. His king safety issue will be solved with ...Kg7. His rook will come to the d-file and the c8 bishop has a natural developing square of f5 or e6. The other rook comes to c8. At the same time what is the Bb5 actually doing and the pressure on b2 prevents Bc1 from moving. This diagram perfectly illustrates that appearances can be deceptive. Black is way ahead in development because his pieces have good squares to go to and are attacking important points in the opponents position. That's what you call GMs understanding and a very high level opening preparation!} 14. Bd2 Kg7 15. Qxe5+ Qxe5 16. Bc3 Qxc3+ 17. bxc3 Be6 18. Ke2 Rac8 19. Rhc1 Rc5 20. a4 Rhc8 21. Ra3 a6 22. Bd3 b5 23. axb5 axb5 24. Rb1 Rxc3 25. Rxc3 Rxc3 26. Rxb5 Bc4 27. Bxc4 Rxc4 28. Kf3 {[#]Of course many moves would draw here, but there is one move which is absolutely the best and I am sure that Anand made it without thinking. } h5 $1 {I can see many of you saying that this move is obvious. But this is just the top layer of the pot. There are so many structures in which a top player like Anand knows by heart what is to be done. Its like second nature to him to make certain moves in certain positions. He just doesn't have to think.} ({I am sure that some of us would be confused whether to play} 28... Rc2 {in this position. The point is that White will reply with the strong move} 29. g4 $1 {when it becomes very difficult for Black to exchange pawns without weakening them. The move g2-g4, as Daniel King puts it, is a cramping move. It just cramps all three of blacks pawns. And h5 precisely stops that strong move. Now if White has to make progress he will have to prepare g4 and that will result in more pawns getting exchanged and Black will be closer to a draw!}) 29. h3 Rc2 30. Rb1 Kf6 31. Re1 g5 32. Ra1 Kg6 33. Ra6+ f6 34. Ra4 h4 35. g3 hxg3 36. Kxg3 Rb2 37. e4 Rb1 38. f3 Rg1+ 39. Kf2 Rh1 40. Kg2 Rb1 41. Ra6 Kf7 42. Ra5 Kg6 43. Ra6 Kf7 44. Ra2 Ke6 45. Kg3 Rg1+ 46. Rg2 {Of course many of you already know that 3 vs 2 pawns on the same side in a rook endgame is an easy draw. So why to calculate the pawn endgame? This is a valid approach, but I think it is a lazy one. My point is that while the rooks are there on the board there are some chances for White to trick his opponent, even though they are minimal. However, once you enter the pawn endgame, if it's a draw White cannot do anything. Anand's approach of taking the rook on g2 and going into the pawn endgame is theoretically the most optimum approach. I mean just imagine Topalovs thought process. While he still had the rook he would be thinking: I will somehow try to create a passed pawn here or do something else. But the moment rooks were exchanged he would lose interest in the game and say: Drat, it's just a draw! For that you must not be lazy – be brave, as Anand was in this game. Lets look at how this position is a draw.} Rxg2+ 47. Kxg2 Ke5 48. Kf2 (48. Kg3 f5 $1 {Now e4 cannot be defended and hence f5 has to be taken:} 49. exf5 Kxf5) 48... Kf4 (48... f5 $4 {would be a horrible move, as White gets a passed pawn:} 49. Ke3 $18) 49. Kg2 Ke5 50. Kg3 f5 $1 51. exf5 Kxf5 52. h4 {Topalov concedes the draw, but he could not do anything anyway} (52. Kg2 Ke5 53. Kf2 (53. Kg3 Kf5) 53... Kf4 54. Kg2 Ke5 {When the white king comes to f2 the black king will go to f4. When the white king is on g2 and e2 the black king will go to e5 and to g3. This is known as "corresponding squares". Anand had understood all of it ()before going into this position.}) 52... gxh4+ 53. Kxh4 Kf4 54. Kh3 Kxf3 {Thus even though the game was a dull draw, I think Anand played extremely well and is in top form for the tournament! The understanding of compensation, typical pawn structures and ideas and precise calculation were on show today!} 1/2-1/2


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 12 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Sagar Shah is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant and would like to become the first CA+GM of India. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder of the ChessBase India website.
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