Chess Classic: Bad start for the World Champion

8/1/2009 – The first day of the Rapid Chess World Championship in Mainz brought a nasty shock for the eleven-fold Chess Classic winner Vishy Anand, who lost his first two games, both with white, to Levon Aronian and newcomer Ian Nepomniachtchi. Anand retained chances to enter the final on Sunday by beating Arkadij Naiditsch in the third game. Aronian and Nepomniachtchi lead with 2.5/3. Illustrated report.

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Chess Classic Mainz 2009

The 2009 Chess Classic will take place from July 27 to August 2 in the Rheingoldhalle of the Congress Centre, Hilton Hotel in Mainz, Germany. The event includes tournaments and Opens in traditional and Random Chess, with stars like the current World Champion Vishy Anand, Levon Aronian of Armenia, strong Russian junior GM Ian Nepomniachtchi and top German GM Arkadij Naiditsch. Schedule below.

GRENKELEASING Rapid World Championship:
Bad Start for the World Champion

By Johannes Fischer

Probably World Champion Vishy Anand has never had a worse start at the Chess Classic. On the first day of the GRENKELEASING Rapid World Championship he lost his first two games and now has to worry about qualifying for the final.

The first game already indicated that Anand was not in top shape. Playing with White against Aronian he used an unusual amount of time in the opening – which, however, seemed to be well invested: Anand managed to secure himself the bishop pair but, as he later explained in the press conference “things were a bit complicated. Therefore I was ready to draw but did not want to sit too passively. But with little time on the clock I went astray.” Which gave Aronian, who the day before had suffered a bitter defeat against Hikaru Nakamura in the final of the Chess960 Rapid World Championship, an important point and a confidence-booster.


Anand struggling for the first time in human memory in the 2009 Mainz Rapid

Indeed, in chess there is hardly anything as motivating as winning a worse game. Ian Nepomniachtchi definitely knows how this feels. In his first-round game against Arkadi Naiditsch he was on the brink of defeat, but Naiditsch found no way to push him over the edge, which allowed Nepomniachtchi to neutralize the enemy threats slowly to achieve a better endgame, which he finally won.


The audience display in Mainz: Fritz and Rybka engines

These interfaces were developed by Chess Classic media partner ChessBase. They provide immediate evaluations of the games. On the right of the above picture you can see how the Nepomniachtchi-Naiditsch games switched from virually winning for Black to winning for White.


Vasik Rajlich and Hikaru Nakamura follow the games and discuss the computer evaluations

In the second round the young Russian had to face Anand with black and again fortune was on his side. Nepomniachtchi opted for the sharp Poisoned Pawn variation of the Najdorf Sicilian and as Anand later admitted in the press conference, "I did not quite know what I was playing and could not clearly remember what to do in this line.“ This blackout of the World Champion gave Nepomniachtchi a better endgame and a second point. With 0 from 2, Anand, however, could not have had a worse start.

That Arkadi Naiditsch did not fare any better was no real consolation. After his unfortunate loss in the first round the German number one lacked the energy to offer significant resistance against a revitalized Aronian. Immediately after the opening Naiditsch went astray and had to give a pawn to prevent worse – but his game was still practically lost.
Demoralized, he did not do much better against Anand in the third round. With white he chose a harmless line against the Caro-Kann and again he lost a pawn right after the opening. And even though Anand, as he remarked at the press conference with a grim sense of humor "almost managed to spoil even this game to a draw”, Black’s extra pawn permitted a certain degree of inaccuracy. Anand scored his first win – which he bitterly needed to keep up his hopes to qualify for the final.


Levon Aronian vs Ian Nepomniachtchi in round three

Meanwhile, Nepomniachtchi and Aronian proceeded carefully in their third round game. The Russian in particular did not take any risks. As White he played rather cautiously and it took a pawn sacrifice by Aronian to provide some excitement. However, as the balance was never seriously disturbed the game soon ended in a draw.


Levon Aronian leading (with Nepomniachtchi) with 2.5/3 points

Halfway through the tournament Aronian and Nepomniachtchi are 1.5 points ahead of Anand. But despite this bad start one should not write the World Champion off. In the past he again and again proved how good he can cope with critical situations. And after all, Nakamura showed how to do it: after losing the first two games in the Chess960 World Championship he won seven games in a row. Saturday, 18:30, Anand has the chance to catch up. Live transmission on the website and on Playchess. Don’t miss it.

Results after day one


Guests in the Gourmet Club can dine and watch the games, with GM commentary


Levon Aronian, who has excellent chances to be in final


Ian Nepomniachtchi in the press conference

Pictures by Frederic Friedel


Video reports by Vijay Kumar for Europe Echecs


Schedule of remaining events

GRENKELEASING Rapid World Championship – July 31 to August 2nd, 2009

Rapid Chess, 20min/game + 5s/move. Course of events: Fri, 31 July: first rounds 1, 2 and 3; Sat, 1 Aug.: second rounds 4, 5 and 6, possible tiebreak; Sun, 2 Aug: four-game matches, big and small final, possible tiebreak, award ceremony. Start time of rounds: 18:30h, 19:30h, 20:30h, final additionally: 21:30h. Participants:

Player Nation Title
Rating
WRnk
Viswanathan Anand India  GM
2783
2
Levon Aronian Armenia  GM
2754
6
Arkadij Naiditsch Germany  GM
2710
26
Ian Nepomniachtchi Russia  GM
2628
113

Full details

16th ORDIX Open – August 1-2, 2009

Eleven rounds Rapid Chess Open, 20min/game + 5s/move. Registration until Sat 1 Aug, 11:30h. Sat 1 August: rounds 1-5; Sun 2 August: rounds 6-11. Start of rounds: Sat 12:00h, Sun 10:00h. Award ceremony Sun 17:30h. Details.


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