Chess Classic: 'That’s life: if you play badly you get punished'

8/2/2009 – These words come from the eleven-time Chess Classic winner Vishy Anand, who failed to qualify this time for the final on Sunday. Anand had a good position in his must-win game against Ian Nepomniachtchi – Q+2P vs Q – but only managed a draw. Levon Aronian, on the other hand, beat Naiditsch to secure his place one round before the end. Aronian plays Nepomniachtchi in the final.

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Chess Classic Mainz 2009

The 2009 Chess Classic is taking 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.

Anand fails to qualify after dramatic second day

By Johannes Fischer

Will World Champion Vishy Anand strike back? Will he be able to qualify for the final? On the first day of the GrenkeLeasing Rapid World Championship Anand, eleven times winner of the Chess Classic Mainz, had only scored one point from three games and was trailing 1.5 points behind Aronian and Nepomniachtchi. However, everybody knew that an Anand in good shape can work miracles on the chess board.


Anand vs Aronian on day two, with organiser Hans-Walter Schmitt looking on

But the first game of day two seemed to indicate that Anand had not yet overcome his bad form. Playing with black against Aronian Anand opted for the Grünfeld and got an almost equal position after the opening. This, however, developed into an endgame in which Aronian had a passed b-pawn and every right to play for a win. It took Anand a fine defensive effort to draw.


Ian Nepomniachtchi vs Arkadij Naiditsch in game one on day two

Meanwhile, Arkadi Naiditsch took his revenge for yesterday’s first-round loss by beating Nepomniachtchi. In a Sicilian Najdorf Naiditsch sacrificed a pawn to gain the initiative and this strategy paid off when the young Russian crumbled under the pressure:

Naiditsch - Nepomniachtchi
Grenkeleasing Rapid World Championship Chess Classic Mainz 2009 (4.2)
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.Be2 0-0 9.0-0 Be6 10.Qd2 Nbd7 11.a4 Rc8 12.a5 Qc7 13.Rfd1 Rfd8 14.Qe1 Qc6 15.Bf3 Nf8 16.Rac1 Ng6 17.Bg5 h6 18.Bxf6 Bxf6 19.g3 Ne7 20.h4 b5 21.Nd5 Bxd5 22.exd5 Qd7 23.Qe2 Qc7 24.Bg4 Rb8 25.Nd2 Qxa5 26.Ne4 Kf8 27.Qf3 Ng8 28.Bh5 Ke7 29.c4 bxc4 30.Rxc4

Black “defended” with 30...Rbc8 31.Rxc8 Rxc8 but after 32.Bxf7 he found himself in a lost position. Yet, similar to the day before, Naiditsch made life difficult for himself and later lost the better part of his advantage. Fortunately, his position was good enough to still win the game. 32...Qd8 33.Be6 Rc7 34.g4 Qe8 35.Bxg8 Qxg8 36.g5 hxg5 37.hxg5 Rc4 38.gxf6+ gxf6+ 39.Kf1 Qg6 40.Ng3 Rf4 41.Qb3 Qg4 42.Rc1 Kf7 43.Rc7+ Kg6 44.Ne2 Rb4 45.Qd3+ e4 46.Qg3 Qxg3 47.Nxg3 f5 48.Rc6 f4 49.Rxd6+ Kg5 50.Nxe4+ Rxe4 51.Rxa6 Rb4 52.d6 Kg4 53.d7 Rd4 54.Ra7 f3 55.Ke1 Kf5 56.b4 Ke4 57.b5 Kd3 58.b6 Rd6 59.b7 Kc2 60.Ra2+ 1-0.

But Naiditsch’s technical weaknesses proved fatal against Levon Aronian. With the white pieces Naiditsch obtained a very good position after the opening, which together with the fact that he had much more time on the clock gave him every chance of winning. And when he cashed in on c7 things again seemed a matter of technique.

Naiditsch - Aronian
Grenkeleasing Rapid World Championship Chess Classic Mainz 2009 (5.1)
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nge7 4.0-0 g6 5.c3 a6 6.Bxc6 Nxc6 7.d4 d6 8.d5 Ne7 9.c4 Bg7 10.Nc3 0-0 11.Ne1 b5 12.cxb5 axb5 13.Nd3 Bd7 14.Nb4 h6 15.Qd3 f5 16.f3 f4 17.Bd2 Qe8 18.Rfc1 g5 19.Nd1 Rc8 20.Nf2 h5 21.h3 Ng6 22.Na6 Qd8 23.Rc3 Bf6 24.Rac1 g4 25.Nxc7

But now Aronian demonstrated why he is considered to be one of the most stubborn, creative and inventive players. With little time on the clock he made life increasingly difficult for Naiditsch, who was suddenly faced with a number of unexpected difficulties. 25...Bh4 26.hxg4 Bxf2+ 27.Kxf2 Qh4+ 28.Ke2 Qh2 29.gxh5 b4

Trying to find a way to bypass all tactical traps and to win safely cost Naiditsch most of his time. This in turn later made him overlook a decisive knight fork. 30.Rc4 Nh4 31.Rf1 Bh3 32.Rf2 Bxg2 33.Kd1 Qh1+ 34.Kc2 Bxf3 35.Kb3 Qd1+ 36.Qc2 Qxc2+ 37.Kxc2 Bxe4+ 38.Kb3 Bd3 39.Rc1 Nf5 40.Kxb4 Nd4 41.b3 Ne2 42.Rc6 Nd4 43.Rc3 Rb8+ 44.Ka3 Rfc8 45.Kb2 Bf5 46.Bxf4 exf4 47.Rc4 Nc2 48.Rfxf4 Ne3

Here Naiditsch played 49.Rc3 and resigned immediately after 49...Nd1+ 0-1. This win secured Aronian a spot in the final – no matter how he would play against Nepomniachtchi in the final round.


The great chess conductor Levon Aronian orchestrating an important win to enter the final

The other fifth round game between Nepomniachtchi and Anand was less tactical but no less dramatic. On the black side of a Caro-Kann Anand carefully converted an equal position into a slightly better one. This slight advantage led to a better ending, which in turn led to a queen endgame, in which Anand was two pawns up.

Nepomniachtchi - Anand
Grenkeleasing Rapid World Championship Chess Classic Mainz 2009 (5.2)
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Nf3 Be6 7.Bg5 Ne4 8.cxd5 Bxd5 9.Be3 g6 10.Nxd5 Qxd5 11.Qa4 Bg7 12.Bc4 Qd6 13.0-0 0-0 14.Rfd1 Qb4 15.Qc2 Nd6 16.Bd3 Rac8 17.Qe2 e6 18.a3 Qb3 19.Bb1 Rfd8 20.Ba2 Qb5 21.Rd3 Nf5 22.Qd2 Na5 23.Rc3 Nc4 24.Bxc4 Rxc4 25.Rac1 Rxc3 26.Qxc3 h6 27.h3 a6 28.Qc7 Rd7 29.Qc8+ Kh7 30.Rc7 Rxc7 31.Qxc7 Qxb2 32.Qxf7 Nxe3 33.fxe3 Qxa3 34.Qxe6 a5 35.d5 a4 36.d6 Qd3 37.d7 a3 38.Nd4 Bxd4 39.exd4 Qxd4+ 40.Kh1 a2 41.Qxa2 Qxd7 42.Qb2 b5 43.Qb4 h5 44.h4 Kg7 45.Kh2 Qc7+ 46.g3 Qe5 47.Qb3 Qe2+ 48.Kh3 Qc4 49.Qb2+ Kh7 50.Qf6 Qc8+ 51.Kh2 Qb7 52.g4 hxg4 53.h5 Qc7+ 54.Kg2 gxh5 55.Qf5+ Kg8 56.Qg5+ Qg7 57.Qxb5

However, his king could find no place to rest. A win would have given Anand three points and every chance to qualify for the final and the World Champion indeed tried hard. But White relentlessly pursued Black’s king all over the board and after 50 moves in which no pawn advanced and no piece was captured, a draw was agreed: Qf7 58.Qg5+ Kh7 59.Qe3 Qf6 60.Qe4+ Kg7 61.Qd5 Kh6 62.Qd2+ Kg6 63.Qd3+ Kg7 64.Qd5 Qf7 65.Qe5+ Kg8 66.Qg5+ Kh7 67.Qe3 Qd5+ 68.Kg3 Kg6 69.Qe8+ Qf7 70.Qe4+ Qf5 71.Qe8+ Kg7 72.Qe7+ Kh6 73.Qe3+ Qg5 74.Qe6+ Qg6 75.Qe3+ Kg7 76.Qe5+ Kh7 77.Qe7+ Qg7 78.Qe4+ Kh6 79.Qe6+ Qg6 80.Qe3+ Kg7 81.Qe7+ Qf7 82.Qe5+ Qf6 83.Qe4 Kf7 84.Kg2 Qb2+ 85.Kg3 Qa3+ 86.Kg2 Qc5 87.Qh7+ Ke6 88.Qg6+ Kd7 89.Qf7+ Kc6 90.Qe6+ Kb7 91.Qb3+ Kc7 92.Qf7+ Kb6 93.Qb3+ Ka5 94.Qa2+ Kb6 95.Qb3+ Qb5 96.Qe3+ Kb7 97.Qe7+ Ka8 98.Qa3+ Kb8 99.Qf8+ Ka7 100.Qa3+ Kb6 101.Qe3+ Qc5 102.Qb3+ Kc7 103.Qf7+ Kd8 104.Qg8+ Kd7 105.Qf7+ Kc6 106.Qe6+ ½-½.

Now, ironically, before the sixth and final round, Anand could only hope that Aronian would help him to qualify for the final by beating Nepomniachtchi. While a lot of people expected Aronian to agree to a quick draw to avoid playing Anand in the final, the Armenian showed true sportsmanship by playing a real game against Nepomniachtchi. However, after committing an error in the opening he was unable to put any pressure on his opponent and finally had to agree to a draw, which secured Nepomniachtchi a place in the final.


Nepomniachtchi vs Aronian in the final game of the qualifier


Last hope for Anand – in vain. The eleven-times winner of the Chess Classic failed to qualify

While constantly having an eye on Nepomniachtchi’s game, Anand tried his best to win against Naiditsch – but he also failed to get any tangible advantage. And shortly after Aronian and Nepomniachtchi drew their game Anand and Naiditsch also drew.


Pensive in the press conference: Levon Aronian


Surprise qualifier Ian Nepomniachtchi

Eleven times in all Anand won in Mainz, now he failed to qualify for the final. An era came to an end – which might have been the reason for the gloomy atmosphere during the press conference after the games. Here Anand proved to be a fair sportsman and congratulated his opponents: “I think the two people who deserved to qualify, qualified. That’s life: if you play badly you get punished.”


Anand: "That’s life: if you play badly you get punished"


Arkadij Naiditsch, who recently won the Villarrobledo Rapid

Still, with all the pressure lifted of him, he may come back to form when playing against Naiditsch for third place tomorrow. And hopefully he will be back in Mainz next year and the years to come to play many more wonderful games – and possibly to reclaim his title.

Photos by Carsten Straub and Frederic Friedel

Final standing in the qualification rounds:


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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