Candidates R01: Anand the first to score

by Sagar Shah
3/11/2016 – Today, the 2016 World Championship Candidates tournament finally took off in the Central Telegraph building in Moscow. And what a fighting round it was! Although there was only one decisive game, all the players tried really hard. Like in 2014, Vishy Anand is the only player to lead the event with 1.0/1 after he beat Veselin Topalov. We have extensive and Elo-boosting analysis of all four games.

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The 2016 FIDE World Chess Candidates Tournament is a 14-round event, which determines the next Challenger to Magnus Carlsen's title, is taking place in Moscow from March 10–30. Eight players, including six of the World’s top-ten rated grandmasters. The time control is 100 minutes for the first 40 moves, 50 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game, plus an additional 30 seconds per move starting from move one. The guaranteed prize fund is US $420,000.

Candidates Round one: Anand the first to score

Full report from Moscow by IM Sagar Shah

Round 1, Friday 11 March 2016
Karjakin Sergey
Svidler Peter
Nakamura Hikaru
Caruana Fabiano
Giri Anish
Aronian Levon
Anand Viswanathan
Topalov Veselin

It is said that good things are never easily achieved – you have to work hard for them. Similarly, for all the people who made their way to the Central Telegraph building on the Tverskaya Street in Moscow, to enjoy the Candidates 2016, had to wait for quite a bit of time outside before they were admitted into the building.

We waited for nearly half an hour to get to the next level

After getting admitted into the building we climbed five flights of stairs to reach a final security check
where everyone was carefully monitored, before they could enter the playing and press area.

Even big names like Andrey Filatov and Zurab Azmaiparashvili had to wait in the queue …

… before they could take their seats for the 2 p.m. press conference along with AGON CEO Ilya Merenzon.

The interest of local and international press and reporters is extremely high

Soon it was nearing three p.m. and the games were about to begin. The people with “Press” cards were allowed inside the tournament hall where the players were going to fight it out. The reporters had exactly ten minutes (five with flash, five without it) to take as many pictures as they wanted.

The official FIDE chess sets were used on all the four boards of the event

The magnitude of an event is often determined by the guests who attend its opening.
In the above picture we have two Presidents. Can you identify them?

Chief Arbiter Wener Stubevoll takes a final look at the arrangements before the first round


Sergey Karjakin vs Peter Svidler 0.5-0.5

The two World Cup 2015 gladiators faced off against each other in the first round of the Candidates. Karjakin’s main weapon as White is, of course, 1.e4, but from time to time he likes to start with 1.Nf3. The players soon reached the main line of the Slav Defence and as Svidler put it in the press conference, “Sergey chose the only line which I hadn’t studied in the morning! But it was important to show that I knew the position and hence made the move 9…Bd7 quickly.” As it turned out Svidler’s modest setup became quite potent when all his pieces started to co-ordinate perfectly. Karjakin had to forget about an opening advantage and instead had to focus on making accurate defensive moves to hold the balance. Being an excellent defender, Sergey did that to perfection. Soon most of the pieces were exchanged and the game petered (no pun intended) out to a draw.

Three friends, Sergey Karjakin, Alexandra Kosteniuk and Peter Svidler,
enjoy a nice session of post mortem after the first round game ended in a draw

[Event "FIDE Candidates 2016"]
[Site "Moscow RUS"]
[Date "2016.03.11"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Karjakin, Sergey"]
[Black "Svidler, Peter"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[WhiteElo "2760"]
[BlackElo "2757"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "60"]
[EventDate "2016.03.10"]

1. Nf3 {Sergey usually begins with 1.e4 but every now and then you see him
opening with his king's knight. So it wasn't such a huge surprise for Svidler.}
d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 c6 {Svidler is known all over the chess world for his
Grunfeld. But there was a brief period betwee 2007 to 2009 where he played the
Slav Defense. In the first round he prefers to stay solid.} 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4
e6 $5 {This is considered a tad passive as Black transposes the game into
Queen Gambit Accepted territory. Especially because the move c5 will come with
a loss of of tempo (c7-c6-c5). But Black would like to say that the way White
has made use of his extra tempo is not particularly the best by playing a2-a4.}
(5... Bf5 {is surely the main line when the theory runs into pages.}) 6. e3 (6.
e4 Bb4 7. e5 Nd5 8. Bd2 b5 9. axb5 Bxc3 10. bxc3 cxb5 11. Ng5 {is the sharp
tactical line which Svidler looked at great depth before the game.}) 6... c5 7.
Bxc4 Nc6 8. O-O cxd4 9. Nxd4 $5 {As Svidler said after the round, " Sergey is
used to doing this everytime against me. I prepare all the lines against him
and he comes up with a move that I haven't looked at in the morning prior to
the game! Although this move might not be as popular as 9.exd4 it is not
without venom. Basically if Black would take on d4 then after exd4 White gets
nice initiative after exd4 threatening the d5 break. On the other hand if you
don't take on d4 then you are able to fully unwind.} Bd7 {Peter made this move
quickly. Even though he hadn't seen this line, he remembered that Bd7 was the
main move. That was where his theoretical knowledge ended, but it was
important for him to bluff to his opponent that he was well prepared. You can
see how off the board psychology plays an important role in the games of these
top players.} (9... Nxd4 10. exd4 {If Black was able to get in Bd7-c6 here he
would be completely fine. But he is a long way off and White has shown that he
is better in this line.} Be7 11. d5 $1 exd5 12. Nxd5 Nxd5 13. Bxd5 O-O 14. Be3
$14 {And this symmetrical structured position is simply torture for Black.
There is simple no easy way to neutralize White's forces.}) 10. Nf3 $5 {
A nice piece of prophylactic thinking. Black wanted to take on d4 and follow
it up with Bc6, so White simply retreated his knight.} a6 {Although this
wastes time it secures an excellent c7 square for the white queen.} 11. e4 Qc7
{Ng4 followed by Ne5 is one of the common ideas in this position, so Karjakin
prevents it with his next move.} 12. h3 Bd6 13. Qe2 O-O 14. Bd3 (14. Bg5 {
is another option for White but after} Ne5 15. Bxf6 gxf6 16. Bb3 Rfd8 {
followed by Rac8, the double pawns on the kingside don't really affect Black
where as the bishop pair might become an extrmely potent force.}) 14... Ne5 15.
Nxe5 Bxe5 16. f4 $1 Bd4+ (16... Bxc3 17. bxc3 Qxc3 {is liked by the engines
but Svidler didn't even consider this move for a second. After} 18. Bb2 $44 {
White has bucket loads of compensation for the pawn in the form of an
extremely strong dark squared bishop.}) 17. Be3 Bxe3+ 18. Qxe3 {This might be
a good positional exercise for everyone who might want to learn about good
bishops and bad bishops and prophylactic thinking. Currently the bishop on d3
is not so great. It is shouting for the e-pawn to move ahead and open up the
b1-h7 diagonal. However, Svidler has nothing of that. He just shuts off
everything with this next fine move.} e5 $1 {Diagram [#]} (18... Bc6 {is not
bad but it is not in the spirit of the position.} 19. e5 Nd5 20. Nxd5 Bxd5 $11
{Black is not worse but White is also doing fine.}) 19. Rac1 (19. fxe5 Qxe5 $15
{The e-pawn is isolated and the bishop is coming next to c6, this is quite a
depressing and one-sided position in Black's favour.}) 19... exf4 20. Qxf4 Qxf4
{Although Black had an option to stay in the middlegame with Qc5+, once
Svidler saw that he could transpose the game into a slightly favourable
endgame he didn't hesitate.} 21. Rxf4 Be6 22. Kf2 {This thematic move which
could have been a text-book example of activating your king in the late
middlegame/ early endgame is double edged. The king can be well placed on e3
or it may become a target for some small tactical tricks.} Rac8 23. Ke3 Nd7 {
Svidler's play is natural and there might not be such a great point in going
into the details of whether Rfd8 was more accurate before Nd7 or Rfe8 before
the knight move. As things stand Black has a slightly better game but Sergey
has things under control.} 24. Rff1 Rfe8 25. Be2 Nb6 (25... Rc6 {Followed by
doubling of the rooks on the c-file, followed by Nc5, looks like an
interesting idea.}) 26. Rcd1 Nc4+ 27. Bxc4 Rxc4 28. Rf2 Kf8 29. Rd4 Rxd4 30.
Kxd4 Rc8 {The position is completely equal after subsequent Nd5 and the
players agreed to a draw. It can be said that the game was a success for
Svidler as with the black pieces he was able to put substantial pressure on
his country mate.} 1/2-1/2

Hikaru Nakamura vs Fabiano Caruana 0.5-0.5

The mouth-watering clash between the two Americans lived up to its expectations

“It is just like any other super tournament, with the addition that there are many photographers and reporters!” That was Hikaru Nakamura’s answer when he was asked whether he felt any nerves about playing his first Candidates. He faced his country mate Fabiano Caruana in the first round and the two provided quite an interesting opening for the fans to view and analyze: the English Opening transposed into a weird Benoni where Caruana’s knight on e7 didn’t look particularly impressive. Hikaru maintained the pressure for quite some time, until he made an inaccuracy and the game ended in a draw in 31 moves.

[Event "FIDE Candidates 2016"] [Site "Moscow RUS"] [Date "2016.03.11"] [Round "1"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [WhiteElo "2790"] [BlackElo "2794"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "61"] [EventDate "2016.03.10"] 1. c4 c5 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. e3 $5 {While Nf3 and Nc3 are the main moves in this position, e3 is not very uncommon. White's idea is simple that he wants to play an immediate d4 or Nge2 followed by d4 and for that he doesn't need to develop his b1 knight.} e6 {Fabiano wants to keep the game in uncharted territory. Nf6 and Nc6 are both more popular.} (4... Nf6 5. d4 (5. Ne2 O-O 6. Nbc3 {might soon lead to a main line in the English.}) 5... cxd4 6. exd4 d5 { looks great for Black.}) 5. d4 cxd4 6. exd4 Ne7 7. d5 $5 exd5 8. cxd5 d6 { Interesting comments were made about this position by Miroshnichenko, Kosteniuk and Gelfand. As Kosteniuk and Miro said, "It's a tradeoff between having more space with the pawn on d5 and the open bishop on g7. What is more important? It is not so easy to decide!" Boris had some other important points to make. "Black would have been completely fine if the black knight would have been on f6 instead of e7. As things stand right now, the f5 square is the best for both the knight and the c8 bishop and that in some ways hinders Black's development."} 9. Nc3 Nd7 10. Nf3 O-O 11. O-O h6 $5 {An intersting move preventing ideas like Bg5 and getting ready to play g6-g5 at an appriopriate moment.} 12. h4 $5 {White nips the g5 idea in the bud. But everything comes at a cost. This move weakens the g4 square and the c8 bishop would like to reach there soon.} Nc5 13. Re1 Bg4 {Now things look quite smooth for Fabi. The knight is coming to f5 and the queen to f6 and the rooks to c8 and e8. Suddenly all the co-ordination issues seem to have been solved, or have they?!} 14. Bf4 Nf5 15. Qd2 Bxf3 (15... Qf6 16. Nh2 {makes the bishop on g4 looks silly and hence taking on f3 was the right choice.}) 16. Bxf3 Qf6 17. Rac1 { This move prepares b4. After the knight on c5 is displaced, the c3 knight jumps to e4. Black might have got his pieces co-ordinated but the bishop pair, combined with the space always give the first player some better chances.} a5 18. Nb5 $1 {Nakamura is never averse when it comes to tactical complications. He sees that exchanging the b2 pawn for the guy on d6 would be a good deal.} Qxb2 19. Qxb2 Bxb2 20. Rc2 Bf6 21. Bxd6 (21. Nxd6 {looks natural but fails to} Nd4 $1 {The knight on b5 keeps this possibility under check.}) 21... Nxd6 22. Nxd6 (22. Rxc5 b6 23. Rc6 Nxb5 24. Rxf6 $14 {might also be a position to explore for White, especially because Black cannot get his blockade on d6.}) 22... b6 23. Rb1 Rab8 24. Nc4 (24. h5 $5 {Throwing in this move at some point would have created an additional tension in the position that would have been to White's advantage. It is a Karpovian move whose benefits are not so apparent in the current position. But later, when the rooks penetrate, the possibility of opening the seventh rank with hxg6 fxg6 might play an important role.}) 24... Na4 25. Bg4 $6 {Black equalises after this inaccurate move.} (25. Ne3 Nc3 26. Rb3 Rfc8 {also looks pretty much fine for Black.}) (25. h5 $5) 25... Rfd8 $1 {Attacking the d5 pawn.} 26. d6 h5 $1 27. Bh3 b5 28. Nxa5 Rxd6 $11 29. Nc6 Rb6 30. Nb4 Nc3 31. Rb3 {Nakamura had really got the pressure going in the position. But he couldn't sustain it. One wrong move and Caruana was right back and made what looked like an effortless draw.} 1/2-1/2

“I knew I was better but during the game it didn’t look as if it was much!” – Hikaru Nakamura

Viswanathan Anand vs Veselin Topalov 1-0

Anand was White. He began with 1.e4, and his opponent replied 1…e5. His was the only decisive game of the round, and the tournament was in Russia. All of these things happened today and also in Candidates 2014! Talk about Déjà vu! Whether Anand will win this year’s Candidates or not is still a question that is a long way off, but he surely he made a good start. Playing the Anti Berlin with 4.d3, Anand improvised on the existing games with a novelty on move 12. Topalov faced hardly any difficulties to equalize. As Anand said in the press conference, “I had to take the bait on b7, otherwise all my pieces would just end up looking silly.” The pawn surely was not for free as Topalov got loads of activity in return. In fact on the 20th move he even had a combination starting with 20…Bxf2+! which would have given the Bulgarian a clear advantage.

Topalov had his eyes wide open before the start of the game, but failed to see the Bxf2 tactic on move 20

Veselin didn’t go for that line and instead chose a variation that turned the evaluation 180 degrees. Anand held the advantage, and although his technique was not the best, he managed to win the game and take home the full point.

Another Candidates victory? Fingers crossed! Anand is the sole leader with 1.0/1 after the first round

A very nice video prepared by AGON on Vishy Anand, which is shown during the commentary breaks

The thing which stood out was Topalov’s great sporting behavior in spite of the loss

[Event "FIDE Candidates 2016"] [Site "Moscow RUS"] [Date "2016.03.11"] [Round "1"] [White "Anand, Viswanathan"] [Black "Topalov, Veselin"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteElo "2762"] [BlackElo "2780"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "97"] [EventDate "2016.03.10"] {In 2014 Candidates, Vishy Anand began with a win over Levon Aronian with 1.e4 in the first round. Two years later and 2500 kilometres apart (Khanty Mansisyk to Moscow), Vishy Anand sees no reason to change his strategy.} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 {Of course the Berlin – the opening that cannot be refuted. What better way to start a tournament!} 4. d3 Bc5 {The interesting part about this position is that Anand has reached it with the white pieces on 24 occasions in the past, with 15 of them continuing with Bxc6. In this game, however, he keeps his options open and goes for 0-0.} 5. O-O d6 6. c3 O-O 7. Nbd2 (7. d4 $6 Bb6 $5 8. Bxc6 bxc6 9. dxe5 Nxe4 $15) 7... Ne7 {Kramnik introduced this plan with Ne7 in his game against Aronian in 2012. The idea is to take the game into a territory where the pawn structures would not be symmetrical.} 8. d4 exd4 9. cxd4 Bb6 {Now we have a position with quite some imbalances. White has a beautiful central pawn duo, but Black has absolutely no problems in finding squares for his pieces. If Vishy can develop his guys on c1 and a1, keeping his centre intact, his position would be much better. But as we will see this is not so easy.} 10. Re1 Bg4 11. h3 Bh5 {All this has been seen many times with Topalov himself having this position against Fabiano Caruana in 2015 with the white pieces. But now Anand makes the first new move of the game - the novelty!} 12. a4 $5 $146 {The idea of this move is simply to gain more space on the queenside with a4-a5. At some point the rook may come into the game via a3.} a6 13. Bf1 Re8 14. a5 Ba7 15. Qb3 Nc6 $1 {As Boris Gelfand rightly pointed out in the commentary room, "Good players are always flexible with their plans." Nc6-e7 wasn't played with the intention to return back to c6, but Topalov sees that the position has changed since his Ne7 move. This is the best and although it may look weird Veselin doesn't hesitate to play it.} (15... Rb8 {is possible but is quite passive. White can continue with } 16. Qc3 $14 {with the idea of b4 and developing the c1 bishop.}) 16. d5 Nd4 17. Nxd4 Bxd4 18. Qxb7 $5 {Good or bad, this pawn had to be taken. Anand had made his previous moves with the intention of taking on b7, so there was no backing out now.} Nd7 $1 {A strong move by the Bulgarian. The knight not only threatens to jump to c5 but also opens the route for the queen to come to f6 or h4. White's pieces are uncoordinated and undeveloped and the queen is looking a bit silly on b7. Anand has to be really careful here.} 19. Nc4 $6 ( 19. Ra3 {was Anand's original intention but he changed his mind at the last moment.} Qh4 {is now met by} 20. Rae3 $1 {An completely appropriate exchange the sacrifice. The bishop on d4 is worth the rook.} Nc5 21. Qxc7 f5 $1 $13 ( 21... Bxe3 22. Rxe3 $14)) 19... Nc5 20. Qc6 {[%csl Rf2,Rg1][%cal Gd4f2,Gd8h4, Gc5e4] [#]A look at the position reveals that Black has clear cut compensation and a player of Topalov's class knows that. However, it is one thing to know that you have compensation and quite another to find a concrete tactical refutation. This was the moment when Black had a chance to take the advantage but Topalov was unable to find it.} Nb3 $2 (20... Bxf2+ $1 {This was the move that would have destroyed Anand's position.} 21. Kxf2 Qh4+ {The rook is hanging so g3 has to be played.} 22. g3 Nxe4+ {Once again the knight has to be taken or else g3 falls.} 23. Rxe4 Qxe4 $17 {And even though White has two pieces for a rook his position is pretty bad as his king is exposed. It's not so easy to come up with a good move for White here. For eg.} 24. Bf4 $2 { fails to} g5 $1 $19) ({Another extremely interesting idea is the following:} 20... f6 {What is the point, you may ask? Well for starters how about meeting the threat of trapping the white queen with Re7 and Be8. Seems very difficult.} 21. Be3 Bxe3 22. Rxe3 Re7 $1 {Be8 is threatened and the queen will perish. The best White can try is} 23. b4 Be8 24. Qxa8 Qxa8 25. bxc5 $44 {Black should be better here, but the position is not so easy to play due to the material imbalance.}) 21. Rb1 Nxc1 $6 {This makes White's task easier.} (21... f5 { creating some play was better.}) 22. Rbxc1 Rb8 23. Qxa6 $16 {White is two pawns up right now. Black may regain one of the pawns but even then he would be in a poor position, mainly because the a5 pawn is super strong.} Qh4 { This looks like the most natural human move to make as it attacks both the f2 and e4 pawns.} (23... f5 $5 {could have been a tricky move to face.} 24. exf5 $6 (24. Ne3 $1 $14) 24... Bxf2+ $1 25. Kxf2 Qh4+ 26. g3 Qd4+ 27. Kg2 Bf7 $3 $40 {Only computers can see moves like these!}) 24. Rc2 Rxe4 25. Ne3 $1 {Experts praised this extremely accurate move by Vishy Anand. The knight saves the kingside and now the c7 pawn is attacked.} (25. Rxe4 Qxe4 {gives some activity to Black.}) 25... Qd8 26. Qc4 Bg6 27. Bd3 $1 {Once again very accurate.} (27. Qxc7 Bxe3 $1 28. fxe3 Ra4 {The rook on c2 is attacked and the pride of White's position - the a5 pawn falls.}) 27... Rf4 28. Bxg6 hxg6 (28... Bxe3 29. Be4 $18 ) 29. g3 $1 (29. Qxc7 $6 Qxc7 30. Rxc7 Rxb2 $132) 29... Re4 30. a6 Qe8 31. Rce2 {This is a human move to make. The computer comes up with a very interesting solution.} (31. Qxc7 $1 Bxe3 32. Rxe3 Rxe3 33. fxe3 Qxe3+ {Many players would see until this move and reject this variation because of counterplay. But the engine suggests} 34. Kh2 $18 {with a completely winning position.}) 31... Bb6 32. Qd3 Ra8 33. Kg2 Qa4 34. b3 Rd4 35. bxa4 $6 (35. Qc2 {was much better as the natural} Qxa6 {loses to the very nice tactical shot} 36. Nf5 $3 gxf5 37. Re8+ Rxe8 38. Rxe8+ Kh7 39. Qxf5+ $18) 35... Rxd3 {White's advantage has been reduced at this point, but still it is much more pleasant to be in Anand's shoes than Topalov's!} 36. Nc4 Rxa6 37. a5 {This is a nice tricky solution that Vishy came up with.} Bd4 (37... Bxa5 $2 38. Ra1 $16) (37... Bc5 {was much better as after} 38. Re8+ Kh7 39. R1e7 {the d5 pawn is hanging. The same was not possible when the bishop was on d4.} Rxd5 40. Rxf7 Rf5 $11) 38. Re8+ Kh7 39. R1e7 Rc3 40. Nd2 $5 {Anand transfers his knight to better squares after Nd2-e4.} (40. Rxc7 $1 $16) 40... Rc2 $6 (40... f5 {prevents Ne4, but the knight can reach g5 via another route.} 41. h4 $1 $14 {[%cal Gd2f3,Gf3g5]}) 41. Ne4 f6 {stops Ng5 but exposes the seventh rank, which Anand takes full advantage of.} 42. h4 $1 {Stopping Black from going g5.} (42. Rf7 g5 {was Black's idea.}) 42... Rxa5 43. Rf7 g5 44. h5 {The mating net cannot be broken.} Rxf2+ 45. Nxf2 Ra2 46. Rff8 Rxf2+ 47. Kh3 g4+ 48. Kxg4 f5+ 49. Rxf5 {With a complete exchange down, there is no way to survive as Black, and hence Topalov resigned.} 1-0

Anish Giri vs Levon Aronian 0.5-0.5

The thing which stood out in this round was surely Anish Giri’s persistence. The Dutch grandmaster is famous for being super solid, sometimes not taking enough risks. But today Anish was not ready to split the point. He fought on and on right until the bitter end. The computer keeps showing 0.00 after a certain point, but that doesn’t make much sense because both the players agreed that White was better and Black’s defensive task was not so easy. The game lasted nearly 65 moves with Aronian taking refuge in a theoretically drawn pawn endgame. It was the last game to finish.

Anish Giri and Levon Aronian entertained the crowd
with some highly instructive post-mortem analysis

[Event "FIDE Candidates 2016"] [Site "Moscow RUS"] [Date "2016.03.11"] [Round "1"] [White "Giri, Anish"] [Black "Aronian, Levon"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D37"] [WhiteElo "2793"] [BlackElo "2786"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "130"] [EventDate "2016.03.10"] {In this game I will avoid commenting too much about the opening as it is all well known and many games have been played in this line. But the middlegame and the late endgame are particularly interesting.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 Nbd7 7. c5 c6 8. h3 b6 9. b4 a5 10. a3 h6 11. Bd3 Ba6 12. O-O Qc8 13. Rb1 axb4 14. axb4 Bxd3 15. Qxd3 Qb7 {This position has been reached, just 15 days ago in the game of Sargissian with the black pieces against Ding Liren. Sargissian is one of Levon's second and we can be sure that he prepared this line with him.} 16. Rfc1 {This same position with a different move order was already played by Aronian against Nakamura from the white side in the Zurich Chess Challenge 2016.} Rfc8 17. Ne1 $146 {Giri's novelty, not an earth shattering one but just improving his f3 knight.} Bd8 18. Qd1 Bc7 19. Nd3 Bxf4 20. exf4 Ne4 21. Ne2 Ra2 22. Rc2 {As Anish mentioned after the game, Black is comfortable here. He should only be careful not to allow b4-b5. Aronian does not prevent it and after that he is under grave pressure.} Rca8 $6 23. f3 Rxc2 24. Qxc2 Nef6 25. b5 $1 Rc8 (25... bxc5 26. dxc5 cxb5 27. Nd4 $36 (27. c6 Qb6+ $11)) 26. Qa4 $1 {An extremely strong move by Anish who threatens to play his queen to a6 here. This idea was missed by Levon. Anish mentions that he found this idea after much deliberation and his thoughts were mainly concerned with breaking on the kingside with f5. But when that didn't work he turned his attention on the other wing and found this idea. } Qc7 (26... bxc5 27. dxc5 cxb5 28. Rxb5 Qc7 29. Nd4 $16) (26... cxb5 27. Qxb5 $16 {It is not at all easy for Black to untangle.}) 27. bxc6 Qxc6 28. Qxc6 Rxc6 {[#] White has a way out.} 29. Rc1 (29. Nb4 Rc7 30. c6 Nb8 31. Nc3 $1 {The absolute star move and hats off to Aronian for having seen this for his opponent. It just shows how good these guys are, always looking out for opponent's threats.} (31. Ra1 Nxc6 32. Rc1 Nxd4 $11) (31. Rc1 Ne8) 31... Nxc6 32. Nb5 Rc8 33. Nd6 Rd8 34. Nxf7 $1 Kxf7 35. Nxc6 $16 {The knight comes to e5. The position might not be 100% lost, but it is really unpleasant to be black here.}) 29... Rc7 (29... Rc8 30. c6 Nb8 31. Nb4 Ne8 32. f5 $1 {Once again Aronian suggested this move. One gets the feeling that the Armenian wanted to get up from the board and switch sides! He was seeing some really excellent winning resources for his opponent.} Nd6 33. fxe6 fxe6 34. Nf4 $16 Kf7 $2 35. c7 $1 Nd7 36. Rc6 $18) 30. Nc3 bxc5 31. dxc5 Ne8 (31... Nxc5 32. Nb5 {Anish thought that he was winning at this point, but the computer shows an excellent defensive resource for Black.} Nfd7 $3 {Even 2800 players can miss such moves!} (32... Nxd3 33. Rxc7 Nxf4 34. Nd6 d4 35. Rc8+ Kh7 36. Nxf7 d3 37. Rh8+ Kg6 38. Ne5+ Kf5 39. Nc4 $18) 33. Nxc7 Nxd3 $11) 32. Nb5 Rc8 33. Kf2 Nc7 34. Nxc7 Rxc7 35. Ke3 {White is better here, but Black can cling on by quickly bringing his king to the center.} Kf8 36. Kd4 (36. f5 $5) 36... Nb8 $1 {A nice move by Levon. Suddenly it is not easy to make progress.} 37. Nb4 Rb7 38. Kc3 Ke7 39. Ra1 Kd7 40. Nd3 f6 {Aronian offered a draw at this point, but Giri saw that he will always have some chances with the f5 break or the kingside pawn storm and hence decided to continue the battle.} 41. Ra8 Kc6 42. h4 Kb5 43. Ra1 Nc6 44. Rb1+ Ka6 45. Re1 Re7 46. Ra1+ Kb7 47. Nb4 g5 $5 {Aronian doesn't like to just sit around. He actively tries to draw the game.} 48. fxg5 fxg5 49. h5 Rf7 ({ A very interesting variation showed by both the players was} 49... Re8 50. Ra6 Nxb4 51. Rb6+ Kc7 52. Kxb4 Rb8 53. Kb5 {Both the players thought this was lost for Black, but as always the computer begs to differ!} Kc8 $1 {A passive, backward retreating and a difficult move for humans to see.} (53... e5 { Aronian and Giri showed this line and this is really nice.} 54. Rxb8 Kxb8 55. Kc6 $1 d4 56. Kd7 $18) 54. Rxb8+ (54. Kc6 $2 Rxb6+ 55. cxb6 d4 $19) 54... Kxb8 55. Kc6 Kc8 $11 {and miraculously Black holds the draw.}) 50. Ra6 (50. Nxc6 Kxc6 51. Ra6+ Kxc5 52. Rxe6 g4 $1 {A key point that had to be seen beforehand.} 53. fxg4 Rf2 $11) 50... Nxb4 51. Rb6+ Kc8 (51... Kc7 $2 {Is losing. The point is that Black doesn't have Rb7 now.} 52. Kxb4 $1 g4 53. fxg4 Rf4+ 54. Kb5 Rxg4 55. Rxe6 Rxg2 56. Re7+ Kd8 57. Rh7 $18 {[%cal Gh7h6,Gc5c6]}) 52. Rxb4 (52. Kxb4 Rb7 $1 {This pawn ending is drawn.} 53. Kb5 Rxb6+ 54. cxb6 d4 55. Kc4 e5 56. g3 Kb7 57. f4 exf4 58. gxf4 gxf4 59. Kxd4 $11) 52... Rf4 $1 {The king and pawn ending is drawn.} 53. Rxf4 gxf4 54. Kd4 Kd7 55. Ke5 Kc6 56. Kxf4 Kxc5 57. g4 Kd6 $1 {Only move to draw.} 58. Ke3 (58. g5 hxg5+ 59. Kxg5 Ke7 $1 (59... d4 $2 60. h6 d3 61. h7 d2 62. h8=Q d1=Q 63. Qd8+ $18) 60. h6 Kf8 61. Kg6 Kg8 $11) 58... e5 $1 59. g5 Ke7 $1 60. g6 Kf6 61. Kd3 e4+ $1 {Aronian knows his endgame fortresses!} 62. fxe4 dxe4+ 63. Kxe4 Kg7 64. Kf5 Kg8 65. Kf6 Kf8 {A superb game with some very nice resources found by both players. An entire chapter on how to keep pressing your opponent and finding small nuances in simplified positions can be written on this very game.} 1/2-1/2

The final move for the final game: Giri concedes the draw at 20:37h Moscow time

Guests on day one

One of the distinguished guests on the first day was Boris Gelfand. He spent a lot of time in the commentary room and when he wasn’t speaking about the games he was busy posing for pictures with his friends and fans! By the way, in case you are interested to increase the level of your chess understanding you must have a look at the video broadcast of round one here and watch Boris’ instructive comments.

Topalov’s manager Silvio Danailov (sitting) has a word with
the Wijk Aan Zee tournament director Jeroen van Den Berg

Local stars Vladimir Potkin (standing), Ian Nepomniachtchi and
Maxim Matlakov enthusiastically followed the games on the big screen

Levon Aronian’s fiancé Arianne Caoili is in Moscow and watched the live games on the first day

On a parting note we would like you to have a look at the walls in the background of this tournament hall. It looks like a dilapidated building, but the organizing committee has turned it around so well for this event. It gives a traditional and historical feel and at the same time everything about the game and organization is modern. A nice blend!

Pictures by Amruta Mokal of ChessBase India, World Chess live broadcast

Pairings and results

Round 1, Friday 11 March 2016
Karjakin Sergey
Svidler Peter
Nakamura Hikaru
Caruana Fabiano
Giri Anish
Aronian Levon
Anand Viswanathan
Topalov Veselin
Round 2, Saturday 12 March 2016
Svidler Peter   Topalov Veselin
Aronian Levon   Anand Viswanathan
Caruana Fabiano   Giri Anish
Karjakin Sergey   Nakamura Hikaru
Round 3, Sunday 13 March 2016
Nakamura Hikaru   Svidler Peter
Giri Anish   Karjakin Sergey
Anand Viswanathan   Caruana Fabiano
Topalov Veselin   Aronian Levon
Rest day, Monday 14 March 2016
Round 4, Tuesday 15 March 2016
Svidler Peter   Aronian Levon
Caruana Fabiano   Topalov Veselin
Karjakin Sergey   Anand Viswanathan
Nakamura Hikaru   Giri Anish
Round 5, Wed. 16 March 2016
Giri Anish   Svidler Peter
Anand Viswanathan   Nakamura Hikaru
Topalov Veselin   Karjakin Sergey
Aronian Levon   Caruana Fabiano
Round 6, Thursday 17 March 2016
Anand Viswanathan   Svidler Peter
Topalov Veselin   Giri Anish
Aronian Levon   Nakamura Hikaru
Caruana Fabiano   Karjakin Sergey
Rest day, Friday 18 March 2016
Round 7, Saturday 19 March 2016
Svidler Peter   Caruana Fabiano
Karjakin Sergey   Aronian Levon
Nakamura Hikaru   Topalov Veselin
Giri Anish   Anand Viswanathan
Round 8, Sunday 20 March 2016
Svidler Peter   Karjakin Sergey
Caruana Fabiano   Nakamura Hikaru
Aronian Levon   Giri Anish
Topalov Veselin   Anand Viswanathan
Round 9, Monday 21 March 2016
Topalov Veselin   Svidler Peter
Anand Viswanathan   Aronian Levon
Giri Anish   Caruana Fabiano
Nakamura Hikaru   Karjakin Sergey
Rest day, Tuesday 22 March 2016
Round 10, Wed. 23 March 2016
Svidler Peter   Nakamura Hikaru
Karjakin Sergey   Giri Anish
Caruana Fabiano   Anand Viswanathan
Aronian Levon   Topalov Veselin
Round 11, Thursday 24 March 2016
Aronian Levon   Svidler Peter
Topalov Veselin   Caruana Fabiano
Anand Viswanathan   Karjakin Sergey
Giri Anish   Nakamura Hikaru
Round 12, Friday 25 March 2016
Svidler Peter   Giri Anish
Nakamura Hikaru   Anand Viswanathan
Karjakin Sergey   Topalov Veselin
Caruana Fabiano   Aronian Levon
Rest day, Saturday 26 March 2016
Round 13, Sunday 27 March 2016
Caruana Fabiano   Svidler Peter
Aronian Levon   Karjakin Sergey
Topalov Veselin   Nakamura Hikaru
Anand Viswanathan   Giri Anish
Round 14, Monday 28 March 2016
Svidler Peter   Anand Viswanathan
Giri Anish   Topalov Veselin
Nakamura Hikaru   Aronian Levon
Karjakin Sergey   Caruana Fabiano


Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. 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 and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


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