Candidates R9 – Carlsen survives, Aronian loses

3/25/2013 – A leader emerges – naturally it's Carlsen. The Norwegian super-star must count how many lives he has remaining, as he certainly used one up today to salvage his game against Kramnik. Aronian fell prey to an emerging Gelfand, which gives Carlsen solo lead. Svidler and Grischuk played a spectacular game, while Ivanchuk ground down Radjabov with technical precision. Full report inside.

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From March 14 to April 1, 2013, FIDE and AGON – the World Chess Federation’s commercial partner – are staging the 2013 Candidates Tournament for the World Chess Championship 2013. It will be the strongest tournament of its kind in history. The venue is The IET, 2 Savoy Place, London. 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. The main sponsor for the Candidates is State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic SOCAR, which has sponsored elite events chess in the past.

Round nine report

By GM Alejandro Ramirez

Round 9 March 25 at 14:00
Vladimir Kramnik
½-½
Magnus Carlsen
Peter Svidler
½-½
Alexander Grischuk
Vassily Ivanchuk
1-0
Teimour Radjabov
Boris Gelfand
1-0
Levon Aronian
Playchess commentary: GM Maurice Ashley

Kramnik-Carlsen ½-½

Carlsen is currently in a quantum state between being the most tenacious defender in the tournament and also the luckiest player I’ve seen. He yet again finds himself in deep trouble as Kramnik employs a home cooked variation of the Catalan that immediately puts him against the ropes. However, Carlsen finds resource after resource, avoids all the traps… manages to punish Kramnik for his one inaccuracy and the game is drawn.

Our guest commentator today is an old buddy, GM Ioan-Cristian Chirila from Romania.

[Event "World Chess London Candidates"] [Site "?"] [Date "2013.03.25"] [Round "9"] [White "Kramnik, Vladimir"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E05"] [WhiteElo "2810"] [BlackElo "2872"] [Annotator "Ioan-Cristian Chirila"] [PlyCount "82"] [EventDate "2013.??.??"] {I have to admit I was eagerly awaiting this encounter. Kramnik had high expectations and a huge moral boost after yesterday's thrashing of Svidler, while Magnus has shown that he is human after all in his last games. I had my money on Kramnik!} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 d5 4. Bg2 Be7 5. Nf3 O-O {Kramnik decides to use the Catalan, White is usually expecting a small but long lasting plus, while Black is confident that he can maintain the balance.} 6. O-O dxc4 7. Ne5 {The main line is} (7. Qc2 a6 8. Qxc4 b5 9. Qc2 Bb7 {with balanced play. Aronian convincingly proved equality against Carlsen in the previous round.}) 7... Nc6 (7... c5 8. dxc5 Bxc5 9. Nc3 $14 {The position favors white, he will regain his pawn and his pieces will have an easier task finding optimum squares. Kramnik is known for his deadly squeez in these type of positions.}) 8. Bxc6 bxc6 9. Nxc6 Qe8 10. Nxe7+ Qxe7 11. Qc2 {Kramnik is extremely well prepared and plays a rare continuation, which I am sure he analyzed deeply at home.The main line was:} (11. Qa4 e5 12. dxe5 Qxe5 13. Qxc4 Be6 $44 {White is a pawn up but he is still struggling to finish his development. Black has enough compensation due to advance in development and the possibility of creating dangerous play on the light squares.}) 11... e5 12. Rd1 Rb8 13. Nc3 h6 14. dxe5 Qxe5 15. Bf4 Qe7 16. Rd4 Be6 17. Rad1 Rb6 18. Qd2 { Kramnik got what he wanted, and at this point I think that he would have converted against any other opponent...but not against Carlsen, arguably the most tenacious defender of all times!} Kh7 19. f3 {This move is double edged, on one hand it restricts blacks pieces and prepares a further pawn expansion by means of e2-e4, on the other hand it weakens the king.} Rfb8 20. Qe3 $6 {an interesting plan would have been} (20. Na4 Rb4 21. Qc2+ Kg8 22. Bc1 Nd7 23. Nc3 $14 {with the idea of playing Kg2 and continuing the pawn expansion in the center. The problem for black is that he lacks an active plan.}) 20... Rxb2 { Computers suggest} (20... Ng8 $5 {but like I said in the introduction, Carlsen is human as well and such moves are just too passive for the world's number one.}) 21. Rxc4 R2b7 {the computer's evaluation suddently jumps after this move, but I am sure Carlsen evaluated his chances better.} (21... R8b7 22. Ra4 R2b6 23. Ra5 {Black has a very passive position and finds it hard to defend against the maneouvre Na4-c5.}) 22. Ra4 Re8 23. Rxa7 Rxa7 24. Qxa7 Qb4 25. Be5 Nd5 26. Nxd5 Bxd5 27. Qxc7 Qc4 {Carlsen's intentions become clear, he wants to enter an endgame with a pawn down, but with high chances of a successful defense due to the opposite color bishops and their drawish tendency.} 28. a3 $6 (28. Kf2 Qxc7 29. Bxc7 Bxa2 30. g4 $14 {Would have been Kramnik's best chance.}) 28... f6 29. Qxc4 Bxc4 30. Bc3 Rxe2 31. Rd4 Bb5 32. Bb4 Re3 33. Kf2 Re2+ 34. Kg1 Re3 35. f4 Re2 36. Rd6 Rc2 37. g4 Bc6 38. Bd2 Bf3 39. h3 Ra2 40. Bb4 Rg2+ 41. Kf1 Rh2 {Kramnik must be quite frustrated after his game. He got a very pleasant position out of the opening and rushed the execution with 20.Qe3?! instead of adopting a more stable plan and letting Carlsen struggle to find any counterplay. Kudos to Carlsen for finding active play and pushing his opponent into a theoretical drawn endgame.} 1/2-1/2

Svidler-Grischuk ½-½

A bizarre Saemisch was the firework-filled attraction of the day. Svidler created a typical Saemisch bind in the center, but Grischuk would have none of it. By move 14 Black had already sacrificed a piece to open up the center and exploit White’s lack of development. Svidler wouldn’t play to Grischuk’s demands, and he himself sacrificed a queen for two pieces – leaving the material balance at a queen for Grischuk and three minor pieces for Svidler. The White player had most of the activity, and definitely he would be the only one to win in case of a decisive result, but Black’s counterplay against the exposed king was sufficient for this wild game to end peacefully.

Ivanchuk-Radjabov 1-0

This sedate game saw White keep a positional pressure for almost the entire game. Even in the double rook endgame, it was always Black that had to defend carefully so that his position would not collapse quickly. A slight slip was all it took for Ivanchuk to decisively penetrate with the rooks and collect the full point.

Gelfand-Aronian 1-0

Gelfand was unable to prove any advantage in Aronian’s favorite handling of the QGD. However, an unexpected blunder by the Armenian allowed Gelfand to pounce on Black’s position and emerge material up. This was all it took for the Israeli to get a decisive advantage, relegating Aronian to second place.

[Event "World Chess London Candidates"] [Site "?"] [Date "2013.03.25"] [Round "9"] [White "Gelfand, Boris"] [Black "Aronian, Levon"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D37"] [WhiteElo "2740"] [BlackElo "2809"] [Annotator "Ioan-Cristian Chirila"] [PlyCount "119"] [EventDate "2013.??.??"] {Another very interesting clash was between former crown contender, Gelfand, and the player who in my oppinion showed the best chess so far in the tournament, Aronian. Gelfand is trying to make a comeback after a shacky start, and beating one of the leaders would definitely make the last rounds more interesting.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bf4 {Another QGD game, I was extremely curious to see what Gelfand has prepared since this is one of black's most solid opening against 1.d4.} (5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4 O-O 7. e3 Ne4 {The Lasker has been experiencing some kind of resurection in last years, but black always seems to be finding equality against white's new attempts.} (7... b6 { is considered to be very solid as well})) 5... O-O 6. e3 Nbd7 {The most solid defense} (6... c5 {was considered the main line but white have found a way to fight for opening advantage after} 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. a3 Nc6 9. Qc2 Qa5 10. Rd1 Be7 11. Be2 {White got a nice advantage in Jakovenko, D- Onischuk, A 1-0 2012}) 7. Be2 (7. c5 {is the main line but I don't think black has any real problems.} ) 7... c6 8. O-O Nh5 9. Be5 f6 10. Bg3 f5 11. Be5 Nhf6 12. h3 Nxe5 13. Nxe5 Nd7 14. f4 Nxe5 15. fxe5 {We reached a balanced position in which both sides have chances. White is trying to create a pawn avalanche on the queen's side, while black will try to activate his white square bishop and maybe open the position on the king's side.} Bg5 16. Qd2 Bd7 17. Rac1 Rc8 18. a3 Kh8 $6 {Too slow} ( 18... dxc4 19. Bxc4 c5 $1 {Black's bishop is revived and soon his bishop pair should be providing him with an advantage}) 19. b4 Be8 20. Bd3 $5 Rc7 (20... c5 21. bxc5 dxc4 22. Bxc4 Rxc5 23. Ne4 Rxc4 24. Rxc4 Bb5 $13) 21. Ne2 {White is redirecting the knight to a more active square} Bh5 22. Nf4 Bxf4 23. exf4 Rd7 24. Qe3 dxc4 25. Bxc4 Rxd4 $6 (25... Re8 26. d5 exd5 27. Bd3 d4 28. Qf2 $13) 26. Bxe6 Bf7 $2 {Levon blunders in an unpleasant position, better was} (26... a6 27. Rc3 Re4 28. Qc5 Qd4+ 29. Rf2 $14 {White keeps the better chances due to his defended passed pawn}) 27. Bxf5 Bc4 28. e6 $1 {I think this is what Aronian missed} Qd6 29. Rfe1 Re8 30. e7 Bf7 31. Rc5 g6 32. Bg4 h5 33. f5 Kg7 34. fxg6 Bxg6 35. Bxh5 Rd3 {Gelfand played extremely precise so far and could have ended the game much faster with} 36. Qe5+ (36. Qg5 Qd4+ 37. Kh1 Qf6 38. Bxg6 Qxg6 39. Qh4 $18) 36... Qxe5 37. Rcxe5 Bxh5 38. Rxh5 Rxa3 {Gelfand has to be very careful, rook endgames have a high drawing tendency and the smallest innacuracy can lead to a draw in no time.} 39. Rf5 Rd3 40. Re4 Rd7 41. Rg4+ Kh6 42. Rf6+ Kh7 43. Rf7+ Kh6 44. Rgg7 Rd1+ 45. Kh2 (45. Kf2 {would have been more precise in order to avoid the exchange of one pair of rooks and bring the king closer to the center.} Rd4 46. Kf3 Rxb4 47. g4 $18) 45... Rf1 46. Rh7+ Kg6 47. Rhg7+ Kh6 48. Rh7+ Kg6 {Repeating the moves in a winning position is a technique very often employed by strong players to show the opponent who "the boss" is.} 49. Rfg7+ Kf6 50. h4 Ke6 51. Rg4 Kf5 52. Kg3 Re1 53. Rf4+ Ke6 54. h5 Rxe7 55. Rxe7+ Kxe7 56. Kh4 {The position is winning, black pawn's can't be pushed, while white will soon promote his pawns and end the game.} b6 57. h6 Rh1+ 58. Kg5 Ke6 59. Kg6 Ke5 60. Rf5+ {Aronian resigned due to the imminent promotion of white's "h" pawn.} 1-0

GM Ioan-Cristian Chirila

Ioan-Cristian Chirila was born on January 6, 1991 in Bucharest. In 2001 he won the title of Junior Champion of Romania for under ten years, and the following year he repeated this achievement in the category of under twelve. In 2006 he won the U16 and in 2009 the U20 championships. He repeatedly represented Romania at the World and European Junior Championships in various age categories, achieving the greatest success in 2007 in Kemer, where he won the title of U16 World Champion.

In 2006 and 2008, the Romanian team participated in the European Junior Championships U18 years, winning two medals for individual performance: gold in 2008, on board one, and silver in 2006, on the second board. In 2009 he won the individual European Championships in Budwie, and earned his GM title. His highest rating (on 1 March 2012) was 2,539.

Current standings

Pictures by Ray Morris-Hill

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Schedule and results

Round 1 March 15 at 14:00
Levon Aronian
½-½
Magnus Carlsen
Boris Gelfand
½-½
Teimour Radjabov
Vassily Ivanchuk
½-½
Alexander Grischuk
Peter Svidler
½-½
Vladimir Kramnik
Playchess commentary: GM Daniel King
Round 2 March 16 at 14:00
Magnus Carlsen
½-½
Vladimir Kramnik
Alexander Grischuk
½-½
Peter Svidler
Teimour Radjabov
1-0
Vassily Ivanchuk
Levon Aronian
1-0
Boris Gelfand
Playchess commentary: GM Chris Ward
Round 3 March 17 at 14:00
Boris Gelfand
0-1
Magnus Carlsen
Vassily Ivanchuk
0-1
Levon Aronian
Peter Svidler
1-0
Teimour Radjabov
Vladimir Kramnik
½-½
Alexander Grischuk
Playchess commentary: GM Yasser Seirawan
Round 4 March 19 at 14:00
Magnus Carlsen
1-0
Alexander Grischuk
Teimour Radjabov
½-½
Vladimir Kramnik
Levon Aronian 
½-½
Peter Svidler
Boris Gelfand
½-½
Vassily Ivanchuk
Playchess commentary: GM Daniel King
Round 5 March 20 at 14:00
Vassily Ivanchuk
½-½
Magnus Carlsen
Peter Svidler
½-½
Boris Gelfand
Vladimir Kramnik
½-½
Levon Aronian
Alexander Grischuk
½-½
Teimour Radjabov
Playchess commentary: GM Yasser Seirawan
Round 6 March 21 at 14:00
Peter Svidler
0-1
Magnus Carlsen
Vladimir Kramnik
½-½
Vassily Ivanchuk
Alexander Grischuk
½-½
Boris Gelfand
Teimour Radjabov
0-1
Levon Aronian
Playchess commentary: GM Chris Ward
Round 7 March 23 at 14:00
Magnus Carlsen
½-½
Teimour Radjabov
Levon Aronian
½-½
Alexander Grischuk
Boris Gelfand
½-½
Vladimir Kramnik
Vassily Ivanchuk
½-½
Peter Svidler
Playchess commentary: GM Alejandro Ramirez
Round 8 March 24 at 14:00
Magnus Carlsen
½-½
Levon Aronian
Teimour Radjabov
0-1
Boris Gelfand
Alexander Grischuk
1-0
Vassily Ivanchuk
Vladimir Kramnik
1-0
Peter Svidler
Playchess commentary: GM Alejandro Ramirez
Round 9 March 25 at 14:00
Vladimir Kramnik
½-½
Magnus Carlsen
Peter Svidler
½-½
Alexander Grischuk
Vassily Ivanchuk
1-0
Teimour Radjabov
Boris Gelfand
1-0
Levon Aronian
Playchess commentary: GM Maurice Ashley
Round 10 March 27 at 14:00
Magnus Carlsen
-
Boris Gelfand
Levon Aronian
-
Vassily Ivanchuk
Teimour Radjabov
-
Peter Svidler
Alexander Grischuk
-
Vladimir Kramnik
Playchess commentary: GM Yasser Seirawan
Round 11 March 28 at 14:00
Alexander Grischuk
-
Magnus Carlsen
Vladimir Kramnik
-
Teimour Radjabov
Peter Svidler
-
Levon Aronian
Vassily Ivanchuk
-
Boris Gelfand
Playchess commentary: GM Chris Ward
Round 12 March 29 at 14:00
Magnus Carlsen
-
Vassily Ivanchuk
Boris Gelfand
-
Peter Svidler
Levon Aronian
-
Vladimir Kramnik
Teimour Radjabov
-
Alexander Grischuk
Playchess commentary: GM Daniel King
Round 13 March 31 at 14:00
Teimour Radjabov
-
Magnus Carlsen
Alexander Grischuk
-
Levon Aronian
Vladimir Kramnik
-
Boris Gelfand
Peter Svidler
-
Vassily Ivanchuk
Playchess commentary: GM Daniel King
Round 14 April 1 at 14:00
Magnus Carlsen
-
Peter Svidler
Vassily Ivanchuk
-
Vladimir Kramnik
Boris Gelfand
-
Alexander Grischuk
Levon Aronian
-
Teimour Radjabov
Playchess commentary: GM Maurice Ashley

The games start at 14:00h = 2 p.m. London time = 15:00h European time, 17:00h Moscow, 8 a.m. New York. You can find your regional starting time here. Note that Britain and Europe switch to Summer time on March 31, so that the last two rounds will start an hour earlier for places that do not swich or have already done so (e.g. USA). The commentary on Playchess begins one hour after the start of the games and is free for premium members.

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