Zurich 01: Carlsen, Aronian start strong

by Alejandro Ramirez
1/30/2014 – With impressive victories both Carlsen and Aronian have started showing strength and continuing their recent good form in Zurich 2014. Carlsen played a fantastic game against Gelfand who simply could not keep up with all the problems the Norwegian kept posing him. Aronian on pressured Anand until the Indian cracked and needlessly sacrificed a piece. Two games fully annotated!

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The «Zurich Chess Challenge 2014» will be the first encounter between the newly crowned World Champion, Norway’s Magnus Carlsen, and the former title holder, India’s Viswanathan Anand after their recent match in Chennai. From Wednesday, 29 January to Tuesday, 4 February 2014, they will compete in the 3rd Zurich Chess Challenge along with four other great chess stars: Levon Aronian (Armenia), Hikaru Nakamura (USA), Fabiano Caruana (Italy) and Boris Gelfand (Israel).

Round One

Round 1 – January 30, 15:00h
Carlsen, Magnus 2872
Gelfand, Boris 2777
Aronian, Levon 2812
Anand, Vishy 2773
Nakamura, Hikaru 2789
Caruana, Fabiano 2782

Everything's ready for round one

Carlsen starts strong in his first game as World Champion

Round one started with two important victories by the favorites. Magnus Carlsen played an impressive, accurate and well calculated game against Boris Gelfand:

[Event "Zurich Chess Challenge"] [Site "Zürich"] [Date "2014.01.30"] [Round "1"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Gelfand, Boris"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D78"] [WhiteElo "2878"] [BlackElo "2777"] [Annotator "Chirila Cristian"] [PlyCount "73"] [EventDate "2014.01.30"] [EventCountry "SUI"] [SourceDate "2014.01.04"] {This is the first super tournament with Magnus Carlsen as a World Champion, after promoting chess around the world Magnus comes back to his "office"} 1. c4 g6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. g3 {Magnus' usual approach against the Grunfeld} c6 5. Bg2 d5 6. Qa4 $5 {A very rare move, as usual Carlsen is looking for a playable position which does not involve much theory. The interesting part is that this move scores the best (percentage wise) if looking at the online database.} (6. O-O {is the mainline} O-O 7. cxd5 (7. b3 Ne4 (7... dxc4 $5 {I like this move as it changes the pawn structure and therefore the whole character of the position. The better player will have an easier task finding the right way to deal with this position.} 8. bxc4 c5 9. Bb2 cxd4 10. Nxd4 Qb6 11. Qb3 Na6 $11 {Tkachiev, V- Vachier Lagrave, M 2013 0-1}) 8. Bb2 Bf5 9. e3 Nd7 10. Qe2 a5 $11) 7... cxd5 8. Nc3 Nc6 9. Ne5 e6 10. Nxc6 bxc6 11. Na4 Nd7 12. Bf4 Qa5 {The position is very close to equal, nevertheless white still maintains some pressure}) 6... O-O 7. O-O Nfd7 {It is very impressive how much theory these guys know, even in the sidelines. Gelfand returns the favor and makes the move with the best percentage in the database} 8. Qc2 Nf6 {I don't really like this move as it simply looks like black is giving up a tempo without much complaint} (8... dxc4 9. Qxc4 e5 10. dxe5 Nxe5 11. Nxe5 Bxe5 12. Nd2 Be6 $13 {The position is balanced with both colors holding certain advantages. White will sooner or later try to use his king side pawn majority and create an attack on the black king, while black will try to create counterplay in the center after he finishis his development}) 9. Bf4 Bf5 10. Qb3 Qb6 11. Nbd2 Ne4 12. e3 Qxb3 (12... Nd7 13. cxd5 Qxb3 14. axb3 cxd5 15. Rfc1 $14 {White maintains some pressure due to the control of the open and semi open files.}) 13. axb3 Na6 $6 {This move looks very normal and would probably be just that...only if the opponent wasn't Carlsen.This are the types of chances you dont want to give to the reigning WC, as he will always take them and punish the slightest of inaccuracies} (13... f6 14. cxd5 (14. Rfc1 $2 e5 $1 15. dxe5 fxe5 16. Bg5 Nxg5 17. Nxg5 e4 $17) 14... cxd5 15. Nh4 $1 Nc6 ( 15... Nxd2 $2 16. Nxf5 gxf5 17. Bxd5+ Kh8 18. Rfd1 $18) 16. Nxf5 gxf5 {Black keeps a strong knight in the center, I think that is enough to assure a balanced position. White still has a slight pull but I favor this position instead of what happened in the game}) 14. cxd5 cxd5 15. g4 $1 Bxg4 (15... Nxd2 16. Nxd2 Be6 17. Nb1 Nb4 18. Nc3 a6 19. Bc7 $16) 16. Nxe4 dxe4 17. Nd2 f5 18. f3 e5 $6 (18... exf3 $142 19. Nxf3 Rad8 20. Ne5 (20. Ng5 e5 21. dxe5 Rfe8 22. Bxb7 Nb4 $13) 20... Bxe5 21. Bxe5 Rd7 22. Rfc1 Be2 23. Ra4 $14 {White is better due to the bishop pair}) 19. dxe5 exf3 20. Nxf3 Rae8 21. Ra5 (21. Ng5 h6 (21... Nb4 22. Ra4 $16) 22. Bd5+ Kh8 23. Ne6 Rf7 24. Nxg7 Rxg7 25. Bxh6 $16) 21... Nb4 22. Nd4 b6 23. Rxa7 Bxe5 24. Bh6 Rf6 25. h3 Bh5 (25... Bxd4 26. exd4 Be2 27. Rc1 g5 28. Rg7+ Kh8 29. Re7 Rg8 30. Bxg5 Rxg5 31. Rxe2 $14) 26. Nc2 $1 {Impressive accurate play from the World Champion} g5 (26... Nxc2 27. Bd5+ Rfe6 28. Rc1 Bf3 29. Bxe6+ Rxe6 30. Rxc2 $18) 27. Bxg5 Rg6 28. Rxf5 h6 29. Bxh6 Rxh6 (29... Bf3 $5 {maybe would have been a better practical chance} 30. Rg5 Rxg5 31. Bxg5 Bxg2 32. Nxb4 Bxh3 33. Nd5 Be6 34. Ne7+ Kf7 35. Nc6+ Kg6 36. Nxe5+ Kxg5 $16 {White still has some difficulties converting the material advantage}) 30. Nxb4 $18 Bxb2 31. Nd5 Kh8 32. Rb7 Bd1 33. b4 Rg8 34. Ne7 Rd8 35. Be4 Bf6 36. Rxb6 Kg7 37. Rf2 {Carlsen converts with ease, no surprise here. Strong and precise start for the World Champ!} 1-0

Gelfand certainly did not play a bad game, but Carlsen's accuracy was out of this world

Aronian was not one to be left behind. Despite the fact that his technique was not as clean cut as usual, he still managed to pull himself together and convert his extra piece against Vishy Anand

Anand despaired under pressure and Aronian mopped up sufficiently well

[Event "Zurich Chess Challenge"] [Site "Zürich"] [Date "2014.01.30"] [Round "1"] [White "Aronian, Levon"] [Black "Anand, Viswanathan"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A13"] [WhiteElo "2812"] [BlackElo "2773"] [Annotator "Chirila Cristian, Ramirez Alvarez"] [PlyCount "145"] [EventDate "2014.01.30"] [EventCountry "SUI"] [SourceDate "2014.01.04"] {Judging after the results in Tata Steel, there is a constant race between the #1 and #2 in the world, with Aronian trying to close the rating gap with Carlsen. Aronian always brings interesting ideas to the table, let's see what he prepared for this tournament!} 1. c4 {Both Carlsen and Aronian chose to start with 1.c4, similar tournament strategy for the top seeds?} e6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 Nf6 4. Nf3 dxc4 5. Qa4+ Nbd7 6. Qxc4 a6 (6... c5 7. O-O $2 b6 8. d4 Bb7 9. Rd1 Rc8 10. Nc3 $14) 7. Qb3 Rb8 8. O-O $2 b5 9. a4 Bb7 10. axb5 axb5 11. d3 Be7 $146 {The position is balanced with a small plus for white, I am sure Aronian was pleased with the outcome of the opening, avoiding any deep preparation from the former World Champion was his main goal} (11... Bd6 12. Be3 c5 13. Nc3 O-O 14. Nd2 $13 {Bu,X-Ivanchuk,V 2011 1/2 was the only other game played in this position}) 12. Bf4 Nd5 13. Bd2 O-O 14. Rc1 c5 15. Ba5 Qe8 (15... Qc8 16. Nbd2 N5f6 17. Qd1 Ra8 18. b4 $14) 16. Nbd2 N5f6 17. Rab1 Bd5 18. Qd1 Ra8 19. b4 Ra6 (19... Qb8 20. e4 Bb7 21. Nb3 c4 22. Nbd4 cxd3 23. Bc7 $14 {was an interesting way the game could have proceded, white still holds the upperhand}) 20. e4 Bc6 21. Nb3 {I like white's position a lot, he plays with no risk while black has a difficult time maintaing the balance.} cxb4 (21... Qa8 22. bxc5 Rxa5 23. Nxa5 Qxa5 24. Nd4 Ne5 25. Nxc6 Nxc6 26. d4 $16 {was considered by the players in the press conference.}) 22. Qd2 Bxe4 {desperation! the pressure was too much and Anand decides to look for counterplay at any cost, a good practical decision in my opinion} 23. dxe4 Nxe4 24. Qc2 Nc3 25. Ra1 Nf6 26. Ne5 Nfd5 27. Nd3 Rc6 {"Sadly this was the only move, as the tactics worked horribly for me" - Anand} 28. Bxd5 exd5 29. Re1 (29. Bxb4 $5 Bxb4 30. Nxb4 (30. Nd4 $1 {was the exact way of winning the game.} Rc4 31. Nxb4 $18) 30... Ne2+ 31. Qxe2 Qxe2 32. Nxc6 $16) 29... Rc4 30. f3 Qd7 31. Qf2 Bd6 32. Bb6 Qf5 33. Qe3 h5 (33... Qg6 34. Kg2 Na4 35. Bd4 Rc2+ 36. Nf2 Rfc8 $44 {Black's pieces are very active, this line is much better than what Anand played in the game}) 34. Bd4 Rc7 35. Ra7 Rxa7 36. Bxa7 Ra8 37. Bc5 d4 (37... Bxc5 38. Nbxc5 d4 39. Qxd4 Qxf3 40. Qe3 Qxe3+ 41. Rxe3 Ra1+ 42. Re1 Rxe1+ 43. Nxe1 Nd5 44. Ned3 f5 { with great chances for equality}) 38. Nxd4 Bxc5 39. Nxf5 Bxe3+ 40. Nxe3 b3 { Black is down a piece but his chances are certainly not gone. White only has pawns on the kingside and Black's pawn on b3 has to be dealt with.} 41. Nd1 Rc8 42. Nxc3 {very committing, but not exact.} (42. Kf2 Nd5 43. Re2 Rc2 (43... g6 44. Rb2 Rc2+ 45. Rxc2 bxc2 46. Ne3 $18) 44. Rxc2 bxc2 45. Ne3 $18) 42... Rxc3 43. Rd1 {White is threatening to simply bring his king slowly into e2 via f1. Black makes haste to get rid of his pawn to eliminate f3.} b2 44. Nxb2 Rxf3 45. Rd8+ Kh7 46. Rd5 {Aronian now plays a very instructive endgame. The point of dismantling Black's defense is that any rook exchange will be easily winning for the White side.} Rb3 47. Nd3 g6 48. Rd7 Kg7 49. Kf2 Ra3 50. Ke3 {White will threaten both the f7 pawn and the b5 pawn, and Black cannot hold on to both of them. Therefore he give sup the b-pawn to try to make a fortress as any hopes of counterplay will be squashed easily.} Ra2 51. h4 Kf6 52. Rb7 Ra5 53. Nc5 Ra3+ 54. Kf4 Ra1 55. Ne4+ Kg7 56. Nd6 Rf1+ 57. Ke3 Kf8 58. Rxb5 {First step accomplished: with the b-pawn eliminated White tries to pressure f7, in hopes of forcing a rook trade.} Ke7 59. Ne4 Re1+ 60. Kf4 Kf8 61. Rb8+ Kg7 62. Rb7 Rf1+ 63. Ke3 Kf8 64. Nd6 Rf6 65. Rb8+ Ke7 66. Ne4 Rf1 67. Ke2 Rf5 68. Rc8 Re5 69. Kf3 Rf5+ 70. Kg2 $1 {Very clever. The point here is that Black's rook will be forced to stay in the f-file where it can be exchanged.} Re5 71. Ng5 Re2+ 72. Kh3 $1 Rf2 (72... f6 {might prolong resistance, but surely moving this pawn will cause Black's position to collapse sooner or later.}) 73. Rc4 { Anand resigned because there is no way to prevent Rf4, trading the rooks and achieving a completely won endgame.} 1-0

Nakamura played until the last moment but he could not break down Caruana's endgame defenses

The last duel of the game was also very interesting. Fabiano Caruana showed a superior opening knowledge in a topical variation of the Grunfeld and obtained a superior position. However from then on he started getting outplayed until Nakamura obtained an endgame where his knight provided a pleasant advantage over Caruana's bishop. The Italian lost a pawn but obtained some counterplay that allowed him to hold on to dear life, and he ended with a draw. Nakamura mentioned that he felt he was close to winning in the press conference, but he could not see how to make progress. Indeed Leko in the analysis room with the assistance of Pelletier and the engines also could not see how to win.

IM Werner Hug, GM Yanick Pelletier and GM Peter Leko in the commentary room

Replay round one games

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Cristian Chirila - Guest Commentator

Former World u-16 Champion and currently a grandmaster finishing his studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, Cristian is an ambitious chess player. Find out more about Cristian, including his chess lesson services, biography and games here.

Maria Emelianova - Photographer

Maria Emelianova is 26 years old, born in Ekaterinburg, Russia, Women FIDE Master, with a 2113 Elo rating. After finishing school Maria moved to Moscow to study at the university, so chess was forgotten for some time. She worked for about a year with Alexander Roshal in the chess magazine "64". Her carrier as a chess photographer started at the Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk. "It was just a hobby, but somehow became an interesting job," says Maria, who works with a Canon 1DX. "Now I am finishing my studies at two universities in Moscow, and am looking forward to a future in the big world of chess."

Schedule and Pairings

The event is a six player round robin, with a rate of play of 40 moves in 120 minutes, then 20 moves in 60 minutes and the rest of game in 15 minutes, with an increment of 30 seconds per move starting after move 61. Special rule: in case of a draw before move 40, an additional rapid game will be played (which does not count for the overall result).

Wed. January 29: 19:00  Opening Ceremony & Blitz
Thu. January 30: 15:00  Round 1
Fri. January 31: 15:00  Round 2
Sat. February 01: 15:00  Round 3
Sun. February 02: 15:00  Round 4
Mon. February 03: 15:00  Round 5
Tue. February 04: 13:00  Rapid Tournament 19:00  Closing Ceremony
  • The blitz will be used to determine the colors
  • The classical time control gives two points to wins, one for draws and none for losses
  • The rapid time control gives one point to wins, half to draws and none for losses

The winner will be the one who scores the most points between the classical tournament and the rapid.

Schedule of Commentary

Date   English German
30.01.2014 Round 1 Daniel King Klaus Bischoff
31.01.2014 Round 2 Daniel King Oliver Reeh
01.02.2014 Round 3 Alejandro Ramirez Klaus Bischoff
02.02.2014 Round 4 Daniel King Klaus Bischoff
03.02.2014 Round 5 Alejandro Ramirez Klaus Bischoff

Schedule and results

Round 1 – January 30, 15:00h
Carlsen, Magnus 2872
Gelfand, Boris 2777
Aronian, Levon 2812
Anand, Vishy 2773
Nakamura, Hikaru 2789
Caruana, Fabiano 2782
Round 2 – January 31, 15:00h
Carlsen, Magnus 2872
Aronian, Levon 2812
Gelfand, Boris 2777
Caruana, Fabiano 2782
Anand, Vishy 2773
Nakamura, Hikaru 2789
Round 3 – February 01, 15:00h
Caruana, Fabiano 2782   Anand, Vishy 2773
Aronian, Levon 2812   Gelfand, Boris 2777
Nakamura, Hikaru 2789   Carlsen, Magnus 2872
Round 4 – February 02, 15:00h
Gelfand, Boris 2777   Anand, Vishy 2773
Carlsen, Magnus 2872   Caruana, Fabiano 2782
Nakamura, Hikaru 2789   Aronian, Levon 2812
Round 5 – February 03, 15:00h
Carlsen, Magnus 2872   Anand, Vishy 2773
Caruana, Fabiano 2782   Aronian, Levon 2812
Nakamura, Hikaru 2789   Gelfand, Boris 2777

Rapid Schedule

Round 1
Gelfand, Boris 2777   Carlsen, Magnus 2872
Anand, Vishy 2773   Aronian, Levon 2812
Caruana, Fabiano 2782   Nakamura, Hikaru 2789
Round 2
Aronian, Levon 2812   Carlsen, Magnus 2872
Caruana, Fabiano 2782   Gelfand, Boris 2777
Nakamura, Hikaru 2789   Anand, Vishy 2773
Round 3
Anand, Vishy 2773   Caruana, Fabiano 2782
Gelfand, Boris 2777   Aronian, Levon 2812
Carlsen, Magnus 2872   Nakamura, Hikaru 2789
Round 4
Anand, Vishy 2773   Gelfand, Boris 2777
Caruana, Fabiano 2782   Carlsen, Magnus 2872
Aronian, Levon 2812   Nakamura, Hikaru 2789
Round 5
Anand, Vishy 2773   Carlsen, Magnus 2872
Aronian, Levon 2812   Caruana, Fabiano 2782
Gelfand, Boris 2777   Nakamura, Hikaru 2789


The games will be broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 12 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Topics Zurich 2014

Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez has been playing tournament chess since 1998. His accomplishments include qualifying for the 2004 and 2013 World Cups as well as playing for Costa Rica in the 2002, 2004 and 2008 Olympiads. He currently has a rating of 2583 and is author of a number of popular and critically acclaimed ChessBase-DVDs.
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