Zurich 2016 day two: Kramnik inches closer

by Alejandro Ramirez
2/14/2016 – After three draws in round three the changes in the scoreboard happened all in round four. Two games were decisive: Aronian was able to vanquish Shirov from the black side of a Berlin, while Kramnik defeated Giri. Anand still leads with 3.0/4, but Nakamura and Kramnik are only half-a-point behind. Tomorrow, the final round will decide the tournament

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5th Zurich Chess Challenge 2016

Photos by Frederic Friedel for ChessBase

From 12 to 15 February 2016 the world chess elite will arrive again in Zurich for the fifth edition of the Zurich Chess Challenge at the Hotel Savoy Baur en Ville.

The oldest chess club in the world and its honorable member Oleg Skvortsov have suggested a most important innovation for the future of new classical chess: a new time control of 40 minutes per game with additional 10 seconds for each move.

Round Three

All three games in round three finished in draws, but they took very different paths to get there.

An excited audience waiting for the show

The first game to finish was Aronian's battle against Giri. It was a relatively quiet game in which White almost always had a slight pull, but not enough to pose real problems. Giri was able to equalize the endgame and force a draw.

Former World Champion Anatoly Karpov doing commentary

For the second time in this tournament Nakamura found himself in a lost position with the white pieces, but found a way to save it:

[Event "5th Zurich CC 2016"] [Site "Zurich SUI"] [Date "2016.02.14"] [Round "3"] [White "Nakamura, Hi"] [Black "Kramnik, V."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C65"] [WhiteElo "2787"] [BlackElo "2801"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "143"] [EventDate "2016.02.12"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. Bxc6 dxc6 6. Nbd2 Be6 7. O-O Nd7 8. Nb3 Bb6 9. Ng5 Bxb3 10. axb3 f6 11. Nf3 Nc5 12. Nd2 O-O 13. Nc4 Ne6 14. Kh1 Qd7 15. Qg4 Rad8 16. Be3 Bd4 17. Bxd4 Nxd4 18. Qxd7 Rxd7 19. Rxa7 Nxc2 20. Rxb7 Rxd3 21. h4 Nd4 22. b4 Ne6 23. Rc1 Ra8 24. b5 cxb5 25. Rxb5 Rad8 26. f3 h5 27. Kh2 Nf4 28. Rc5 R8d7 {The position is about level. Black's pieces do seem more active and White's knight has to guard the d2 square as Rd2 seems pretty fatal.} 29. Na3 $2 {What did I just say?} Rd2 30. R1c2 Nxg2 31. Rxc7 Ne3+ 32. Rxd2 Rxd2+ 33. Kh3 Rf2 34. Kg3 Rxb2 {Black's up a pawn and White's position is in ruins. The rest should be easy... or one would think} 35. Rc1 f5 $2 (35... Rg2+ 36. Kh3 Ra2 37. Nc4 Ng2 {is disastrous for White.}) 36. Nc4 f4+ 37. Kh3 Rf2 38. Nxe5 Nf1 {Kramnik might have looked this far and considered his position winning, but unfortunately for him White still has resources.} 39. Rxf1 Rxf1 40. Kg2 Ra1 41. Ng6 {Lo and behold: this endgame is actually a draw. Black has no way of making progress.} Ra2+ 42. Kg1 Ra1+ 43. Kg2 Ra2+ 44. Kg1 Kf7 45. Nxf4 g6 46. Ng2 Kf6 47. Kh2 Ke5 48. Kg3 Ra1 49. Nf4 Kd4 50. Kg2 Ra2+ 51. Kg3 Ra1 52. Kg2 Ra8 53. Kf2 Ra6 54. Ne2+ Ke5 55. Kg3 Rf6 56. Kf2 Rf8 57. Kg3 Rf7 58. Kf2 Ra7 59. Kg3 Ra8 60. Nf4 Rg8 61. Ne2 g5 62. hxg5 Rxg5+ 63. Kh4 Rg2 64. Ng3 Rh2+ 65. Kg5 h4 66. f4+ Ke6 67. Nf5 h3 68. Kg4 Rh1 69. Ng3 Rh2 70. e5 Rf2 71. Ne4 Rg2+ 72. Kxh3 1/2-1/2

A big miss by Big Vlad.

Anand was probably the lucky one in his game against Shirov. After a very interesting struggle in the Spanish the Latvian reached a winning endgame but was unable to finish off the Tiger of Madras.

Shirov was very close to a win.

[Event "5th Zurich CC 2016"] [Site "Zurich SUI"] [Date "2016.02.14"] [Round "3"] [White "Anand, V."] [Black "Shirov, A."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C77"] [WhiteElo "2784"] [BlackElo "2684"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "103"] [EventDate "2016.02.12"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. d3 d6 6. c3 g6 7. O-O Bg7 8. Nbd2 O-O 9. Re1 Nh5 10. Nf1 f5 11. Ng3 fxe4 12. Bb3+ Kh8 13. Ng5 $5 {going for complications!} (13. Nxe4 {was perfectly possible}) 13... Nf4 {there wasn't much of a choice} 14. Nf7+ Rxf7 15. Bxf7 Qf8 16. Bb3 exd3 {White is up the exchange for now, but Black has two pawns (though d3 looks kind of weak) and some activity. It's hard to say who I would rather be, even with the help of computers.} 17. Bc4 d5 18. Bxd3 e4 (18... Be6 {keeps more compensation}) 19. Bf1 (19. Bc2 Be6 20. Nxe4 $1 {is a strong tactical point the players might have missed}) 19... g5 20. c4 dxc4 21. Nxe4 Ne5 22. Bxf4 gxf4 23. Ng5 (23. f3 $5) 23... Bf5 24. Qd5 c6 25. Qa5 {Somehow I don't believe much in this queen maneuver all the way to a5.} b5 26. Rad1 Qe7 27. Ne4 Rg8 {Black's pieces are swarmin the kingside and Anand needs to find a way to defend quickly.} 28. Nd6 $6 {This loses an exchange} Bc2 29. Qd2 (29. Rd2 Nf3+ 30. gxf3 Bd4+ 31. Kh1 Qxe1 {collects the house}) 29... Bxd1 30. Qxd1 Rf8 31. Ne4 f3 32. g3 Rd8 33. Qc1 Nd3 $6 {a bit rushed, Black could have kept the pawn and the pressure with other moves, such as Qe6.} 34. Bxd3 cxd3 35. Qxc6 Bxb2 36. Kf1 Qd7 37. Qxd7 Rxd7 38. Rd1 {Black is winning here, but it requires some technique} Rd5 (38... b4 $1 39. Ng5 (39. Nc5 Rd5 40. Nxd3 Bc3 {is a permanent tpin as if White plays} 41. Nb2 Ra5 {is decisive.}) 39... a5 40. Nxf3 a4 41. Nd2 Rc7 {(other moves work too) and Black should be winning. The threat is b3 and a3.}) 39. Nd2 b4 40. Nxf3 Bc3 41. Ne1 d2 42. Nf3 Ra5 43. Nxd2 Rxa2 44. Ne4 {Unforunately for Shirov this approach was too slow. White has sufficient counterplay here.} a5 45. Nxc3 bxc3 46. Rc1 Ra3 47. Ke2 a4 48. Rc2 Rb3 49. Kd3 a3 50. Kc4 a2 51. Rxa2 Rb2 52. Ra8+ 1/2-1/2

Round Four

Two games were decided, one ended in a draw. Anand, rather intrepidly, tried playing the Grunfeld from the White side, but down a tempo, against Nakamura. Usually these positions require precision from Black as the extra tempo tends to be quite significant in this sharp opening. Anand knew exactly what he was doing and even managed to get an extra pawn, but in the resulting opposite-colored bishop endgame this pawn did not mean anything.

Nakamura wondering why he can't get anything with the White pieces

Shirov lost again with the white pieces:

Aronian is back to 50%.

[Event "5th Zurich CC 2016"] [Site "Zurich SUI"] [Date "2016.02.14"] [Round "4"] [White "Shirov, A."] [Black "Aronian, L."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C67"] [WhiteElo "2684"] [BlackElo "2792"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "76"] [EventDate "2016.02.12"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. Nc3 Be7 10. h3 Nh4 11. Rd1+ Ke8 12. Nd4 Ng6 13. f4 h5 14. Ne4 h4 15. Be3 a6 16. c4 Rh5 17. Rd3 f6 18. exf6 gxf6 19. Rf1 Bd7 20. f5 Ne5 21. Rc3 Kf7 22. Bf4 Rd8 {Not your usual Berlin, but you see all the typical things: White has more pawns on the kingside, Black has the pair of bishops. This particular version looks pretty bad for White: his pawn on f5 is weak, h4 controls the remaining kingside and it's hard to even make a move.} 23. Bxe5 fxe5 24. Nf3 Bxf5 25. Nxh4 (25. Nxe5+ Ke6 {leaves both of White's knights hanging}) 25... Bxh4 26. g4 Ke7 27. gxf5 Rd4 28. Nc5 Rd2 {White's second rank is too weak now} 29. Kh1 (29. Rd3 Rg5+ 30. Kh1 Rgg2 $17) 29... Rxb2 30. Rd3 Bf6 31. Ne4 Rh4 {White has nothing to show for his material deficit and more pawns are about to fall on the queenside.} 32. Re3 Rxa2 33. Rb1 b6 34. Rbe1 Rc2 35. c5 b5 36. Ra3 Rf4 37. Rxa6 Bh4 38. f6+ Kf7 {The rook on e1 is overloaded defending the mate on f1 and the knight on e4. Game over.} 0-1

Kramnik put a lot of pressure on Giri and the Dutch player finally cracked:

Kramnik let Nakamura go, but he wasn't so merciful with Giri

[Event "5th Zurich CC 2016"] [Site "Zurich SUI"] [Date "2016.02.14"] [Round "4"] [White "Kramnik, V."] [Black "Giri, A."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A07"] [WhiteElo "2801"] [BlackElo "2798"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "91"] [EventDate "2016.02.12"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. d4 c6 5. O-O Nf6 6. b3 O-O 7. Bb2 Bf5 8. c4 a5 9. Nc3 Ne4 10. cxd5 Nxc3 11. Bxc3 cxd5 12. Ne5 Nc6 13. Qd2 a4 14. Nxc6 bxc6 15. b4 Bc8 16. e4 Ba6 17. Rfe1 dxe4 18. Bxe4 Bb5 19. Rac1 e6 20. a3 Qd6 21. Bb2 Rfd8 22. Red1 Rac8 23. Rc5 Qb8 24. Rdc1 Qb7 25. Qg5 h6 26. Qf4 Qd7 27. Bf3 { White's a bit better. Black is somewhat passive and it's hard to make moves, but on the other hand Giri's position is super-solid.} g5 $6 {After this, Giri's position is no longer super-solid.} 28. Qe3 Rc7 29. Qc3 (29. h4 gxh4 30. Qf4 $1 {Was already dangerous as the pawn cannot be taken} hxg3 31. Rxb5 $18) 29... Rdc8 30. Be4 Qd6 31. Bb1 Kf8 32. Qc2 Ke7 (32... Bxd4 {had to be tried, but it does look suicidal:} 33. Rd1 e5 34. Rxe5 {and I have a hard time believing that the computer move c5!?!? actually holds.}) 33. Re1 Kf8 34. d5 $1 {A nice breakthrough. Black's position completely collapses now} e5 (34... cxd5 35. Bxg7+ Kxg7 36. Qh7+ Kf8 37. Rxb5 $18) 35. Rc1 Bf6 36. Qf5 Bg7 37. dxc6 Bxc6 38. Qc2 Qe6 39. Qf5 Qd6 40. Ba2 $6 (40. Qd3 $1 {claims a piece, for example} Ke7 41. Qc3 {and Bf5} Qe6 42. b5) 40... Be8 41. Qxc8 Rxc8 42. Rxc8 Qd2 $2 {Losing on the spot} (42... e4 $5) 43. R1c7 Qxb2 44. Rxf7+ Kg8 45. Rxe8+ Kh7 46. Bd5 1-0

Things aren't clicking yet for the Dutch player,
his results in the blitz and the rapid have been bad.

Anand: still in the lead

Anand keeps his lead, but Kramnik and Nakamura both trail him by half a point (that is by one point because in Zurich rapid games count 2-1-0).

Rapid Standings

Note: Rapid results count for double (two for a win, one for a draw, none for a loss).

Opening Blitz Standings

Note: Opening Blitz standings only count towards determining who has more whites than blacks

Replay Today's Rapid Games


Friday February 12 6 p.m. Opening Ceremony, concert, Blitz
Saturday February 13 3 pm first round, 6 pm second round
Sunday February 14 3 pm third round, 6 pm. fourth round
Monday February 15 3 pm. fifth round, 6 pm. blitz, closing

Round 1 - Sat, February 13th, 3:00 pm

White   Black
Alexei Shirov 1-1 Vladimir Kramnik
Hikaru Nakamura 1-1 Anish Giri
Viswanathan Anand 2-0 Levon Aronian

Round 2 - Sat, February 13th, 6:00 pm

White   Black
Vladimir Kramnik 1-1 Levon Aronian
Anish Giri 0-2 Viswanathan Anand
Alexei Shirov 0-2 Hikaru Nakamura

Round 3 - Sun, February 14th, 3:00 pm

White   Black
Hikaru Nakamura 1-1 Vladimir Kramnik
Viswanathan Anand 1-1 Alexei Shirov
Levon Aronian 1-1 Anish Giri

Round 4 - Sun, February 14th, 6:00 pm

White   Black
Vladimir Kramnik 2-0 Anish Giri
Alexei Shirov 0-2 Levon Aronian
Hikaru Nakamura 1-1 Viswanathan Anand

Round 5 - Mon, February 15th, 3:00 pm

White   Black
Viswanathan Anand - Vladimir Kramnik
Levon Aronian - Hikaru Nakamura
Anish Giri - Alexei Shirov


The games are being 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 13 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

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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