MTel R1: Anand beats Bacrot

5/12/2006 – Vishy Anand has won his first game, from the black side of a Queens Indian Petrosian. The other two games, Peter Svidler vs Veselin Topalov and Ruslan Ponomariov against Gata Kamsky, were drawn. Now with pictures and full annotations by GM Mihail Marin!

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Round one report

The tournament had a promissing start, with three fighting games, although only one of them was decided. Anand’s hyper-modern play eventually prevailed against Bacrot’s classical strategy, in a game where several moments remain open for further analysis. Ponomariov could not convert his minimal but stable advantage against Kamsky’s stubborn defence. Topalov’s original handling of the Sicilian put Svidler in an unpleasant position, but further simplifications resulted into a peacefull end.

Round 1: Thursday, May 11, 2006

Peter Svidler 
½-½
 Veselin Topalov
Ruslan Ponomariov 
½-½
 Gata Kamsky
Etienne Bacrot 
0-1
 Vishy Anand

All games so far in PGN


The following games, annotated by GM Mihail Marin, can be replayed on a special JavaScript board, in a new window. Note that you can scroll the notation (without scrolling the board) and click on it to replay the game.

Bacrot,E (2708) - Anand,V (2803) [E12]
Mtel Masters Sofia BUL (1), 11.05.2006 [Mihail Marin]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.Nc3 Bb7 5.Bg5

For decades, White's previous move has been usually played with the idea of continuing with 5.a3 . The development of the bishop to g5 has been a more common reaction against 4...Bb4, but the past year has featured a surprising boom of the variation played in this game. 2006 seems to be a continuation of this new trend. In fact, we shouldn't really wonder about that. Unlike the Nimzo Indian, where White has tried numerous systems of development, the QI has basically developed along two main variations: the fianchetto (Rubinstein) system and the a3 (Petrosian) system. True, in his golden years, Tony Miles was remarkably successful with the relatively rare 4.Bf4, but, curiously, he did not find too many followers. Quite naturally, people seem to become bored about such a restricted area of investigation (just two main variations in a whole opening), which looks like a reasonable explanation of the rise in popularity of 5.Bg5.

5...h6 6.Bh4 Be7 The most solid continuation. As we shall see, both opponents had some experience with this line, although it consisted only of rapid and blitz games. The more ambitious 6...g5 7.Bg3 Nh5 8.e3 Nxg3 9.hxg3 Bg7 is not without strategical risk: Black seriously weakens the king side light squares. While the weakness of the h5-square is obvious, the status of the f5-square recquires some explanation. For the moment, this square is safely defended by the e6-pawn, but given the fact that one of White's main strategic ideas consists of closing the diagonal for the b7-bishop by means of d4-d5, the eventual exchange e6xd5, making f5 an excellent outpost for the white minor pieces, cannot be discarded. Here is a game where this nuance was of decisive importance: 10.Qc2 (This is probably better than 10.Bd3 when after 10...Nc6 White already has problems finding a good square for the queen, in view of the possible knight jump to b4. 11.a3?! is definitely too slow. After 11...g4! 12.Ng1 f5 13.Nge2 h5 I managed to solve the problem of the h5- and f5-squared in a very convenient way in the game Ravi-Marin, Calcutta 1997. The game continued 14.Nf4 h4 15.Qa4 h3


Analysis diagram

when Black's chain of pawns from d7 to h3 certainly looks impressive. In fact, I do not remember having obtained a similar structure in any other game.) 10...Nc6 11.0-0-0 Qe7 (Even though this could have meant a slight delay in development, the same plan based on 11...g4!? would have deserved consideration.) 12.g4! Now, Black has to look forcounterplay on other areas of the board. 12...Nb4 (Unfortunately, the thematical pawn break 12...h5?! 13.Rxh5 Rxh5 14.gxh5 g4 fails to 15.Qh7! when Black cannot obtain the desired consolidation of the king side.; In case of 12...0-0-0 White can already prevent this tactical operation by means of 13.Rh5 when the rook is not easy to expell from h5.) 13.Qd2 c5 14.d5! exd5 Here it is! In order to avoid being left with a passive bishop on b7, Black has to weaken the f5-square in chronical way. 15.a3 dxc4!? With the g-pawn just one step back, this piece sacrifice would have ensured Black excellent play, but the way it is the situation remains double-edged. 16.axb4 cxb4 17.Nb5 d5 18.Nbd4 and the knight soon landed on f5, putting considerable pressure on Black's position and restricting his attacking possibilities in the game Ponomariov-Kramnik, Sofia 2005 which was eventually won by White.


Analysis diagram

I suspect that this game was one of the main reasons for 5.Bg5 becoming popular.

7.e3. White also adopts a harmonious system of development. Previously, Bacrot had been successful with 7.Qc2 , which prepares the occupation of the centre by means of e4. The game continued 7...d6 (This neutral move is an indirect, rather subtle, way to question the viability of the early development of the queen to c2. The most natural way of starting the counterattack against White's centre is 7...c5 ; while 7...d5 could eventually transpose to a sharp variation of the Tartakover system of the Queen's Gambit Declined.) 8.e4 Nbd7 9.Be2 c5 Now that the d4-square has been weakened, the attack against the white centre practically forces White embark in the following complications. 10.d5 Otherwise, Black would simply capture on d4 obtaining a comfortable version of the Hedgehog, not only because of White's loss of tempo (e3-e4) but also because of the slightly misplaced h4-bishop. 10...exd5 11.exd5 Nxd5 12.Nxd5 Bxh4 13.Nxh4 Qxh4 14.Nc7+ Ke7 15.Nxa8 Bxg2 16.Rg1 Bxa8 17.Rxg7 Ne5 with a complicated position, where Black's stability on dark squares offers him reasonable compensation for the exhchange, Bacrot-Ivanchuk, FIDE GP Dubai 2002. White eventually won after an interesting fight. 7...Ne4. From the point of view of the general rules of development, this knight jump might seem illogical in a moment when many of Black's pieces are still on their initial squares. However, in the absence of direct contact between the chains of pawns reduces to a certain extent the significance of development in the classical meaning of this notion. Besides, if Black intends to display his forces along the first three ranks, any simplifications are most welcome. The alternatives consist of attacking the enemy centre with either ...c5 or ...d5, eventually after castling. 8.Nxe4 The exchange on e7 with 8.Bxe7 would solve Black's problems of development after 8...Qxe7 9.Rc1 d6 followed by Nd7, as in the game Mamedyarov-Anand, Reykjavik, blitz 2006. 8...Bxe4 9.Bg3!? Now, Black needs some extra-time to complete his development. The other side of the coin consists of the fact that White's dark-squared bishop can easily become his most passive piece, if the thematic break c4-c5 will not be possible to carry out at the right moment. 9...d6 This is a very rare move, which can eventually transpose to the more common 9...0-0 . However, we shall soon see that Anand had no intentions of castling short. 10.Bd3

10...Bb7!? Black preserves his active bishop from exchange at the cost of losing one more tempo. Previously, 10...Bxd3 11.Qxd3 Nd7 had been played. The only game where this position was seen continued with 12.d5?! (By prematurely defining the central structure, White allows his opponent obtain adequate counterplay. The more retratined 12.0-0 should be preferred when 12...0-0 would transpose to a game played with the 9...0-0 move order: 13.e4 Bf6 14.e5 Be7 15.Rad1 Qc8 16.d5 with active play for White, although Black managed to survive in Gelfand-Leko, Monte Carlo 2005.) 12...e5! Black does not fear placing another pawn on a dark square. In fact, the white bishop is more passive thatn his black colleague. 13.e4 0-0 14.h4 (restricting the black bishop but weakening the king side light squares. In case of 14.Nd2 Bg5 eventually followed by ...Bxd2 and ...f5 Black would have easy play.) 14...Qc8 15.Nd2 Nc5 16.Qc2 Qg4 17.b4 Nd7 18.Nf1 f5 with sufficient counterplay, Azmaiparashvili-Rozentalis, Ermioni Argolidas 2005] 11.0-0 Nd7 12.e4 Bf6!? [This is the first new move of the game. Just two days earlier, 12...0-0 had been played, with the continuation 13.Qe2 Bf6 14.Rad1 e5 15.d5 a5 16.b3 Re8 17.a3 Nf8 when White's active possibilities were restricted by the bad placement of the g3-bishop, Carlsen-Sasikiran, Sarajevo 2006. By refraining from castling, Anand intends to take advantage of this detail by more direct means.] 13.Rc1 [The plan of preparing the pawn break c5 will prove too slow. Black seems to be able to hold his own in case of the more resolute 13.e5!? for instance 13...dxe5 14.dxe5 Bxf3 15.Qxf3 Nxe5 16.Bxe5 Bxe5 17.Rfe1 Bd4! (It is imperative to maintain the d-file defended. In case of 17...Bxb2?! 18.Rxe6+! fxe6 19.Bg6+ Ke7 20.Qf7+ Kd6 21.Rd1+ White would recuperate the sacrificed material maintaining a strong attack.) 18.Be4 (The only way to take advantage of the slight lead in development) 18...0-0! (Black has no time to remove the rook from the attacked square with 18...Rb8?! because of 19.Bc6+ Ke7 20.Rad1 with deadly pins along the central files or 19...Kf8 20.Rxe6) 19.Bxa8 Qxa8 and the strong centralised bishop keeps Black out of the danger of losing.; However, the simple developing move 13.Qe2 , connecting rooks and making the threat e5 more realistic deserves serious attention, for instance 13...g5? (In fact, Black should probably refrain from this plan and play 13...0-0 which would transpose to the game from Sarajevo.) 14.e5! (As always, an attack on the wing is best answered by a counter-blow in the centre.) 14...Bxf3 15.gxf3 with strong initiative in the centre. 13...g5!?

Suddenly, White's minor pieces from the king side start feeling insecure. To a certain extent, the position starts becoming similar to that from the memorable 6th game of the final match of the World Championship between Anand and Karpov, back in 1998. Instead of questioning White's domination in the centre, Black starts a very concrete plan on a restricted wing area. Although Anand managed to win the game with White, thus equalising the score, he might have understood the objective merits of Black's approach. 14.Bb1 The bishop is passively placed here and it could become vulnerable in case of mass simplifications. It is hard to tell whether White's play was marked by indecision or he simply relied on the fact that his considerable advantage of space in the centre would offer him sufficient chances to beat off Black's original play. He could have chosen between the pawn sacrifice 14.c5!? ; and 14.e5 which would have been probably answered by 14...g4 with unclear consequences. In case of the opening of the position, White's advance in development could become a telling factor. 14...h5 15.h3 Rg8 16.b4

The continuation of the same policy. White ignores the immediate threats and builds up an impressive queen side position. This was the last moment to switch to the alternate approach by opening the position in the centre somehow, in accordance with the principle that in case of attacks on opposite wings, the speed of action is of vital importance. 16...g4 17.hxg4 hxg4 18.Nh2 Bh4!

Not only questionning White's stability on the king side, but also preparing the development of the queen on an active square. 19.Bf4! A rather subtle antidote to Black's simple attacking action. By avoiding the contact of the bishops and depriving the enemy queen of the important g5-square, White leaves his opponent with problems defending the courageous g-pawn and completing the development at the same time. In case of 19.Nxg4 Bxg3 20.fxg3 Qg5 White would have problems defending his king side.; Consolidating the g3-square with 19.Rc3 would solve only part of the problem because after 19...Qg5 followed by long castle and the doubling (or trippling) of major pieces along the h-file the white king would be in serious danger.

19...Bg5 By pursuing the enemy bishop, Black aims to get some stability on dark squares and, possibly more important than that, prevent the capture on g4 with the knight. Black's development was not sufficient to play the generally desirable 19...g3 because of 20.fxg3 Bxg3 21.Bxg3 (21.Qh5!?) 21...Rxg3 22.Qh5 Qe7 23.Ng4 with strong pressure against the f7-pawn and the brutal threat of driving the rook on the passive a3-square with Kh2.; Black had a reasonable alternative in 19...Qf6 when after 20.g3 Bg5 21.Nxg4 Qg7 22.Bxg5 Qxg5 23.f3 0-0-0 the vulnerable position of the enemy king would have probably offered Black adequate compensation. 20.Qxg4 Qf6 21.Be3! Another fine bishop retreat, maintaining the tension and thus leaving Black with the same problems of completing his development. In case of 21.Bxg5? Rxg5 followed by long castle and Rh8 Black's attack would have been too strong. 21...Bxe3 [This release of the tension is an interesting, but probably not entirely adequate attempt to change the course of the game. Once again, normal play would have offered Black compensation for the pawn, for instance 21...0-0-0 22.f4 Bh4 and White faces problems defending his numerous weaknesses, such as the g4- and g3-squares and the e4-pawn, not to speak about his king.] 22.Qxg8+ Ke7 23.Qxa8! More ambitious than 23.fxe3 Rxg8 24.Rxf6 Nxf6 25.d5 c6!? when Black's more flexible structure would entitle him to hope for equality in spite of the missing pawn. 23...Bxa8 24.fxe3 Qg6

White has two rooks and a pawn for a queen, which means a considerable material advantage. However, his pieces are not too well coordinated, which invites him to prudence in the next phase of the game. 25.Rf4?! A hardly noticeable inaccuracy, marking the turning point in the game. Obviously, White has to defend his e4-pawn somehow, but the rook is unstable on f4. After the safer 25.d5 White would have retained a solid position, with possibilities of coordinating his pieces. 25...e5! 26.Rf5 Qh6! After these strong moves, White has problems keeping his position together. The queen is a very dangerous fighting unit when facing a disorganized army. 27.Re1 Relatively best. 27.Ng4 would have lost the important d4-pawn after 27...Qg7 28.Nf2 exd4 , leaving Black with an excellent outpost for his knight on e5. 27...exd4 28.exd4 Qd2 White's queen side pawns were not given the chance to really start an attack in this game. On the contrary, they will fall one after another victims of the greedy black queen. 29.Nf3 Qxb4 30.Rc1 Bb7 31.Rb5 Qa3 32.Re1 Qc3 33.Rb3 Qxc4

White has lost two pawns and his coordination has not become much better. His positionmight be still holdable, but Black's play is much easier in any case. 34.Bd3 Qa4 35.Rc3 c5 Eliminating one more element of the enemy centre and making the e5-square available to the knight. 36.Bc4 Qb4 37.Rcc1 cxd4 38.Nxd4 Ne5 39.Nf5+ Kd7 40.Bd5 Bxd5 41.exd5 Qf4 42.Rf1

42...Nf3+!? By simplifying the position even more Black not only ensures himself the win of another pawn, but also removes from the position the possibility of unexpected tactical complications. 43.gxf3 Qxf5 44.f4 Or 44.Rcd1 Qc2 winning either the a2- or the d5-pawn. 44...Qxd5 45.f5 Qd2 46.f6

White puts all his hopes in this far advanced pawn. However, the f7-pawn will be impossible to capture with a rook because the exposed position of the king will always offer Black the possibility of a double attack. 46...b5 47.Rce1 Kc6 48.Ra1 Qd4+ 49.Kg2 Qb2+ 50.Kg3 b4 51.Kg4 Attacking the f7-pawn with the king is also quite utopic. 51...d5 52.Kg5 Qg2+ 53.Kh4 Kd6 54.Kh5 a5 White has no defence against the systematic advance of the black pawns. 0-1. [Click to replay]



Former FIDE world champion Ruslan Ponomariov (Ukraine)

Ponomariov,R (2738) - Kamsky,G (2671) [C88]
Mtel Masters Sofia BUL (1), 11.05.2006 [Mihail Marin]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0–0 8.h3 Bb7 9.d3 d6 10.a3 Qd7 11.Nc3 Nd8 12.d4 exd4 13.Nxd4 Re8 14.Nf5 Ne6 15.Qf3 Bf8 16.Be3 c5 17.Nd5 Bxd5 18.Bxd5 Nxd5 19.exd5 Nc7 20.Bd2 Rxe1+ 21.Rxe1 Re8 22.Rxe8 Nxe8 23.b3 g6 24.Nh6+ Bxh6 25.Bxh6

In spite of the relatively advanced stage of the game, this position is not new: it had been seen less than two weeks earlier in the game Ivanchuk-Grischuk, Sochi 2006. 25...f6 The aforementioned game continued with 25...Qe7 featuring a similar scenario: Black managed to hold a slightly inferior position. Apparently, Kamsky was not aware of this detail, given the fact that he had consumed considerable amount of time until this moment, which left him in slight time trouble. 26.c4 Kf7 27.Qd3 Ke7 28.g4 Kd8 29.Kg2 Kc8 30.Bd2 Nc7 31.Bc3 Qf7 32.Qf3 Ne8 33.Qe4 Nc7 34.Kg3 Kd7 35.Ba5 Qe8 36.Kf3 Qxe4+ 37.Kxe4 bxc4 38.bxc4 Ne8 39.Bd2 Ke7 40.Kd3 Kd7 41.Kc3 Kc7 42.Kb3 Kb6 43.Bh6 Kb7 44.h4 f5 45.gxf5 gxf5 46.Bg5 Kc8 47.h5 Kd7 48.Kc3 h6 49.Bxh6 Nf6 50.Kb3 Nxh5 51.Ka4 Nf6 52.Bf4 Ng4 53.Bg3 f4 54.Bxf4 Nxf2 55.Bg3 Ne4 56.Bf4 Kc7 57.Kb3 Kd7 58.Kc2 Nf2 59.Kd2 Ne4+ 60.Kd3 Nf2+ 61.Ke2 Ne4 62.Kd3 Nf2+ 63.Ke2 Ne4 64.Kd3 ½–½. [Click to replay]


US grandmaster on comeback course: Gata Kamsky


Svidler,P (2743) - Topalov,V (2804) [B80]
Mtel Masters Sofia BUL (1), 11.05.2006 [Mihail Marin]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e6 7.f3 b5 8.Qd2 b4

Topalov remains faithfull to his pet variation. 9.Nce2 e5 It might seem that compared to a genuine Najdorf, where ...e5 is played in one move, Black loses a tempo. However, the situation is less simple than that: the d5-square is weakened only after the c3-knight has been driven away. 10.Nb3 Nc6 11.Ng3 Being a former 1.d4-player, Kramnik preferred last year against the same Topalov 11.c4 , in order to increase his influence in the centre. However, this was a double edged decision, leaving Black with the possibility of organizing a blockade on c5 (Kramnik-Topalov, Sofia 2005). 11...Be6 12.0–0–0 Qc7 13.f4 h5!

Apparently, Topalov likes to advance this marginal pawns in the Sicilian. Against Leko, in Morelia, he did it at an early stage in order to prevent the customary g4, while against Nisipeanu, with the occasion of their recent match held in Bucharest, he pursued the same aim as in the present game: to question the stability of the g3-knight. True, in that game the other White knight had landed on this unfavourable square. 14.h4 a5 15.f5 Bd7 16.Kb1 Rb8 17.Be2 Na7 This knight had jumped on this square for the sake of rapid development, but after the definition of the contours of the position it was no longer well placed here. 18.Bxa7 Qxa7 19.Qd3 Bb5 20.Qf3 Bc6 21.Nd2 Qc5 22.Nb3 Qb6 23.Nd2 Be7 24.Nc4 Qc5 25.Ne3 a4 26.Bc4 Finally, White has managed to take the d5-square under observation, but in the meanwhile Black has made obvious queen side progress. 26...Bd8 27.b3 Bb6 28.Rd3 axb3 29.cxb3 Ra8 30.Rc1 Qa5 31.Rc2 Ke7 32.Nd5+ Bxd5 33.Bxd5 Rac8 34.Rxc8 Rxc8 35.Bc4 Rh8 36.Rd2 Qc5

In spite of the presence of opposite-coloured bishops, Black's position remains preferable because of his more flexible pawn structure and the safer position of the king. Svidler will manage to approach the safety zone by means of successive exchanges. 37.Qd1 Ba7 38.Rc2 Qe3 39.Bd3 Bc5 40.Qf3 Rd8 41.Be2 Qf4 42.Nxh5 Qxh4 43.Nxf6 gxf6 44.g3 Qg5 45.Qg4 Rh8 46.Qxg5 fxg5 47.Bg4 Kf6 48.Rc1 Rh2 49.Rc2 Rh6 50.Rc1 Bf2 51.Rd1 Kg7 52.Rd3 Bd4 53.Kc2 Kf6 54.Rd2 Rh1 55.Rd1 Rh8 56.Kd3 Rc8 57.Ke2 Rc3 58.Rd3 Rc5 59.Bf3 Ke7 60.Rd2 Rc3 61.Rd3 Rc8 62.Rd2 Rh8 63.Kf1 Rc8 64.Ke2 Rg8 65.Kf1 Rh8 66.Rc2 Bc5 67.Kg2 Kf6 68.Be2 Rh7 69.Rc1 Rh8 70.Rc2 Rh7 71.Rc1 Rh8 ½–½. [Click to replay]

Mihail Marin, 41, Romanian Grandmaster, three times national champion (1988, 1994, 1999), nine times member of the Olympic team, participant in two Interzonals (Szirak 1987 and Manila 1990). In 2005 Marin was the second of Judit Polgar at the FIDE world championship in San Luis. Highest rating: 2604. Author of the ChessBase opening CDs English 1.c4 e5 and The Catalan Opening and the books: Secrets of Chess Defence, Secrets of Attacking Chess and Learn from the Legends. Graduate from the Polytechnic Institute Bucharest (Specialty Electrotechnic) in 1989.

If you have enjoyed the commentary provided by GM Mihail Marin you should try the following training CDs by the same author. They are amongst the best in our ChessBase Shop. Get them now:


Picture gallery


The President of the Republic of Bulgaria Georgi Parvanov (speaking), officially
opening the M-Tel Masters 2006.


Photographers doing their thing at the Oscar ceremony


Josef Vinatzer, CEO of Mobiltel (right) presents Veselin Topalov the tournament logo


Editor of the chess Magazine "64", Alexander Roshal, who is also
the initiator of the Chess Oscar, praises Veselin Topalov for winning it


Chess Oscar for Topalov: the FIDE World Champion Veselin Topalov receives
the trophy at the official opening ceremony of the tournament.


Ruslan Ponomariov at the drawing of colours


Start of round one. World-famous Brazilian writer Paolo Coelho made the first move of the M-Tel Masters 2006. It was 1.e2-e4, played by Peter Svidler plays with the white pieces against Veselin Topalov.

Schedule and results

Round 1: Thursday, May 11, 2006

Peter Svidler 
½-½
 Veselin Topalov
Ruslan Ponomariov 
½-½
 Gata Kamsky
Etienne Bacrot 
0-1
 Vishy Anand

Round 2: Friday, May 12, 2006

Veselin Topalov 
 
 Vishy Anand
Gata Kamsky 
   Etienne Bacrot
Peter Svidler 
   Ruslan Ponomariov
GamesReport

Round 3: Saturday, May 13, 2006

Ruslan Ponomariov 
 
 Veselin Topalov
Etienne Bacrot 
   Peter Svidler
Vishy Anand 
   Gata Kamsky
GamesReport

Round 4: Sunday, May 14, 2006

Veselin Topalov 
 
 Gata Kamsky
Peter Svidler 
   Vishy Anand
Ruslan Ponomariov 
   Etienne Bacrot
GamesReport

Round 5: Monday, May 15, 2006

Etienne Bacrot 
 
 Veselin Topalov
Vishy Anand  
   Ruslan Ponomariov
Gata Kamsky 
   Peter Svidler
GamesReport

Round 6: Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Veselin Topalov 
 
 Peter Svidler
Gata Kamsky  
   Ruslan Ponomariov
Vishy Anand 
   Etienne Bacrot
GamesReport

Round 7: Thursday, May 18, 2006

Vishy Anand 
 
 Veselin Topalov
Etienne Bacrot 
   Gata Kamsky
Ruslan Ponomariov 
   Peter Svidler
GamesReport

Round 8: Friday, May 19, 2006

Veselin Topalov 
 
 Ruslan Ponomariov
Peter Svidler 
   Etienne Bacrot
Gata Kamsky 
   Vishy Anand
GamesReport

Round 9: Saturday, May 20, 2006

Gata Kamsky 
 
 Veselin Topalov
Vishy Anand 
   Peter Svidler
Etienne Bacrot 
   Ruslan Ponomariov
GamesReport

Round 10: Sunday, May 21, 2006

Veselin Topalov 
 
 Etienne Bacrot
Ruslan Ponomariov 
   Vishy Anand
Peter Svidler 
   Gata Kamsky
GamesReport


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