Corus Round 6: White is Okay

1/17/2004 – Chessplayers often explain the advantage of the first move by comparing it to having the serve in tennis. Today the aces were serving aces and all four wins came with the white pieces. All four were also scored by the leaders: Adams, Kramnik, Anand, and Topalov moved to +2. Report with photos and analysis here.

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Corus Wijk aan Zee 2004 – Round 6

66th Wijk aan Zee Tournament – Jan. 10-25
Category 19 (avg. Elo 2702)

Round 6 (Saturday, January 17, 2004)
Adams, Michael
1-0
Bareev, Evgeny
Kramnik, Vladimir
1-0
Zhang Zhong
Anand, Viswanathan
1-0
Shirov, Alexei
Timman, Jan
½-½
Svidler, Peter
Topalov, Veselin
1-0
Bologan, Viktor
Sokolov, Ivan
½-½
Van Wely, Loek
Leko, Peter
½-½
Akopian, Vladimir


The Open, then the C, B, and A groups all in the same hall.

In classical chess, as opposed to rapid and blitz, having the white pieces gives you much better chances of winning a game than having black. The stronger the players, the bigger the relative advantage of having the first move. The other number that rises with Elo is the percentage of draws, unfortunately. Among the 2600 crowd white wins run almost two to one over black, but draws hit 65% in 2003 at the top level.

Basically all these number reflect what we already know. Winning a chess game requires a mistake and the top players don't make many mistakes. Another consideration is that since drawing with black is considered a minor victory you regularly see draws when black is slightly better and would likely play on in the same position with white.

After adding four more in round six, wins by white are over four to one over black in Wijk aan Zee's A group, although draws are still at the usual 65%. The white factor may work out in Kramnik's favor down the home stretch. The pairings give him the first move against rivals Anand, Topalov, and Leko. Anand has black against his co-leaders (and already had black against Leko and Svidler, ouch!).


Bareev and Adams preparing for a short day at work. 1-0 in 25.

Going into the round the leaders knew they had to push hard with the first move, especially since they all outrated their opponents. It made for a day of thrilling, hard-fought games. Adams was the first to hit the media room with a full point in his hand. Bareev blundered a pawn to a fairly simple fork and resigned in disgust on move 25. Topolov out-dueled Bologan in a sharp game to keep pace.

Longer grinds were required for Kramnik and Anand to beat Zhang and Shirov, respectively. Kramnik's inexorable win has the look of a work of art. He will simply not be denied. Anand and Shirov swapped and swapped until they both got what they wanted. Shirov had a theoretically drawn endgame and Anand had excellent winning chances. As so often happens, practical chances beat theory hands down.


The Maestro: Anand limbers up before beating Shirov.

Leko was the only "white leader" who couldn't keep the pace. He was held to a tough draw by Akopian. The audience was denied good chance for a second celebration day when Timman agreed to a draw against Svidler in an endgame that was very close to winning for the Dutchman. Timman had lost his previous two whites so maybe he figured this was good enough. Call it karma for Svidler, who resigned in a drawn position against Kramnik in round four. In yet another wild game the rivalry match-up between Sokolov and van Wely ended in a draw after both sides missed wins.


A battle of heavyweights. Timman could have pressed for a win over Svidler.

The field is starting to stretch and none of the leaders meet tomorrow either. But they all have black, so anything can happen. Will the underdogs charge the net against the big dogs or be content with serve-and-volley draws?

Adams-Bareev after 24...gxf6

Let's start with an easy one. Bareev recaptured with the wrong piece on move 23 and now he finds out why. It shouldn't take you long to find 25.Rxe6! and Bareev resigned on the spot instead of playing a lost endgame.

25.Rxe6 Kg7 (25...fxe6 26.Bxe6+ Kf8 27.Bxc8) 26.Re7
 

Sokolov-van Wely after 32...Bxb1

Your eyes do not deceive you, Black is up a rook for two pawns. Yes, those pawns are dangerous passers, and it seems that both players were too distracted by them to notice that Black's king is a far bigger issue. The game ended in an exciting draw on move 46 after 33.d6 Qf8. White's pawns and threats on the dark squares created a dynamic equilibrium.

Sokolov could have won immediately in the diagram by preempting Black's defense of g7 with 33.Bh6! Black has no way to cover both e5 and f6 that doesn't lose major material.

33...Qb8+ 34.d6 Rxf2 35.Qe5 f6 36.Qe7 and there is no perpetual even if Black gives up his rook.
 

Anand-Shirov after 40.a4

I was delighted when this theoretical endgame came up and I'm sure the ChessBase boys will be too. (Shirov might be less delighted.) I got to make use of one of the new ChessBase toys. Black went in for a drawn ending, but having to find the right move on the last move of the time control was too much for even an endgame wizard like Shirov.

Those of us who have the spiffy new ChessBase Endgame Turbo DVDs could play the cruel game of seeing if the super-GMs could find the computer-perfect moves.

Shirov slipped from the narrow path here when the gigantic six-man tablebases in Endgame Turbo say that Black has six moves to draw. Shirov's 40...Rb4 was not one of them. (Rook to g5, g7, or g8 or king to e7, f7, or g5 if you're interested. Keeping the white king trapped on the h-file is the common denominator.) Of course finding one drawing move doesn't mean you'll find the next 20 or 30.

After that Anand was relentless. He didn't play perfectly but he never let the win slip away. A pity Shirov had to make such a critical decision on move 40. Still, these endgames are terribly hard to defend under the best circumstances.

How important are tablebases to the endgame play of chess engines? Using Fritz 8 on my laptop – which unlike my desktop doesn't have the space for a few dozen gigabytes of tablebases unless I delete all my Caetano Veloso Vorbis files and run DOS 1.2 – it evaluates the drawing moves and most of the losing moves with the same +2.44 score. That's with most of the five-man tablebases but not the critical six-man R+2 pawns vs R database that weighs in at 4.35 GB. I guess I could always run it off the DVD directly...

Running these games through Deep Fritz 8 had an amusing side-effect in this game. Usually this is a handy and quick way to check all the games for blunders, but when Fritz is thinking about tablebase mates a blunder takes on a whole new meaning. It went about suggesting 30-move line improvements on just about every move of this endgame! (White could mate two moves faster this way, Black could hold out four moves longer this way...) I deleted most of these notes before uploading the games to the round six replay/download page so it wouldn't take an hour to load if you're on a dial-up connection.

Mig Greengard

Standings after round six

All the games in PGN (no notes) GM group AGM group BGM group C

Schedule – (Rest days 12, 16, 21)
Round 1 (Saturday, January 11, 2004)
Topalov, Veselin
½-½
Adams, Michael
Sokolov, Ivan
½-½
Timman, Jan
Leko, Peter
½-½
Anand, Viswanathan
Akopian, Vladimir
1-0
Kramnik, Vladimir
Van Wely, Loek
½-½
Bareev, Evgeny
Bologan, Viktor
½-½
Zhang Zhong
Svidler, Peter
½-½
Shirov, Alexei
Round 2 (Sunday, January 11, 2004)
Adams, Michael
½-½
Shirov, Alexei
Zhang Zhong
½-½
Svidler, Peter
Bareev, Evgeny
½-½
Bologan, Viktor
Kramnik, Vladimir
1-0
Van Wely, Loek
Anand, Viswanathan
1-0
Akopian, Vladimir
Timman, Jan
0-1
Leko, Peter
Topalov, Veselin
½-½
Sokolov, Ivan
Round 3 (Tuesday, January 13, 2004)
Sokolov, Ivan
½-½
Adams, Michael
Leko, Peter
½-½
Topalov, Veselin
Akopian, Vladimir
½-½
Timman, Jan
Van Wely, Loek
½-½
Anand, Viswanathan
Bologan, Viktor
½-½
Kramnik, Vladimir
Svidler, Peter
1-0
Bareev, Evgeny
Shirov, Alexei
½-½
Zhang Zhong
Round 4 (Wednesday, January 14, 2004)
Adams, Michael
1-0
Zhang Zhong
Bareev, Evgeny
1-0
Shirov, Alexei
Kramnik, Vladimir
1-0
Svidler, Peter
Anand, Viswanathan
½-½
Bologan, Viktor
Timman, Jan
0-1
Van Wely, Loek
Topalov, Veselin
1-0
Akopian, Vladimir
Sokolov, Ivan
½-½
Leko, Peter
Round 5 (Thursday, January 15, 2004)
Leko, Peter
½-½
Adams, Michael
Akopian, Vladimir
1-0
Sokolov, Ivan
Van Wely, Loek
½-½
Topalov, Veselin
Bologan, Viktor
0-1
Timman, Jan
Svidler, Peter
½-½
Anand, Viswanathan
Shirov, Alexei
½-½
Kramnik, Vladimir
Zhang Zhong
½-½
Bareev, Evgeny
Round 6 (Saturday, January 17, 2004)
Adams, Michael
1-0
Bareev, Evgeny
Kramnik, Vladimir
1-0
Zhang Zhong
Anand, Viswanathan
1-0
Shirov, Alexei
Timman, Jan
½-½
Svidler, Peter
Topalov, Veselin
1-0
Bologan, Viktor
Sokolov, Ivan
½-½
Van Wely, Loek
Leko, Peter
½-½
Akopian, Vladimir
Games – Report
Round 7 (Sunday, January 18, 2004)
Akopian, Vladimir
  Adams, Michael
Van Wely, Loek
  Leko, Peter
Bologan, Viktor
  Sokolov, Ivan
Svidler, Peter
  Topalov, Veselin
Shirov, Alexei
  Timman, Jan
Zhang Zhong
  Anand, Viswanathan
Bareev, Evgeny
  Kramnik, Vladimir
Games – Report
Round 8 (Monday, January 19, 2004)
Adams, Michael
  Kramnik, Vladimir
Anand, Viswanathan
  Bareev, Evgeny
Timman, Jan
  Zhang Zhong
Topalov, Veselin
  Shirov, Alexei
Sokolov, Ivan
  Svidler, Peter
Leko, Peter
  Bologan, Viktor
Akopian, Vladimir
  Van Wely, Loek
Games – Report
Round 9 (Tuesday, January 20, 2004)
Van Wely, Loek
  Adams, Michael
Bologan, Viktor
  Akopian, Vladimir
Svidler, Peter
  Leko, Peter
Shirov, Alexei
  Sokolov, Ivan
Zhang Zhong
  Topalov, Veselin
Bareev, Evgeny
  Timman, Jan
Kramnik, Vladimir
  Anand, Viswanathan
Games – Report
Round 10 (Thursday, January 22, 2004)
Adams, Michael
  Anand, Viswanathan
Timman, Jan
  Kramnik, Vladimir
Topalov, Veselin
  Bareev, Evgeny
Sokolov, Ivan
  Zhang Zhong
Leko, Peter
  Shirov, Alexei
Akopian, Vladimir
  Svidler, Peter
Van Wely, Loek
  Bologan, Viktor
Games – Report
Round 11 (Friday, January 23, 2004)
Bologan, Viktor
  Adams, Michael
Svidler, Peter
  Van Wely, Loek
Shirov, Alexei
  Akopian, Vladimir
Zhang Zhong
  Leko, Peter
Bareev, Evgeny
  Sokolov, Ivan
Kramnik, Vladimir
  Topalov, Veselin
Anand, Viswanathan
  Timman, Jan
Games – Report
Round 12 (Saturday, January 24, 2004)
Adams, Michael
  Timman, Jan
Topalov, Veselin
  Anand, Viswanathan
Sokolov, Ivan
  Kramnik, Vladimir
Leko, Peter
  Bareev, Evgeny
Akopian, Vladimir
  Zhang Zhong
Van Wely, Loek
  Shirov, Alexei
Bologan, Viktor
  Svidler, Peter
Games – Report
Round 13 (Sunday, January 25, 2004)
Svidler, Peter
  Adams, Michael
Shirov, Alexei
  Bologan, Viktor
Zhang Zhong
  Van Wely, Loek
Bareev, Evgeny
  Akopian, Vladimir
Kramnik, Vladimir
  Leko, Peter
Anand, Viswanathan
  Sokolov, Ivan
Timman, Jan
  Topalov, Veselin
Games – Report
 

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