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Round 4: Magnus Carlsen catches Levon Aronian in first place at FIDE Candidates

IMG 2366In Tuesday’s fourth round of the FIDE World Chess Candidates’ Tournament in London Magnus Carlsen of Norway caught Levon Aronian of Armenia in first place. Carlsen beat Alexander Grischuk of Russia in a Ruy Lopez Berlin, while Aronian was held to a draw by Peter Svidler of Russia in a Queen’s Gambit Accepted. The two oldest participants, Boris Gelfand of Israel and Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine, drew a very interesting game that started with the rare Chigorin Defence. Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan and Vladimir Kramnik of Russia drew a Nimzo-Indian that was always more or less balanced. 


After enjoying their first rest day, on Tuesday the eight top grandmasters returned to the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) at Savoy Place for the fourth round of the FIDE World Chess Candidates’ Tournament. It was also the first day that, in the commentary room, host IM Lawrence Trent was joined by former World Championship contender GM Nigel Short. Throughout the tournament, online spectators can follow the games while watching and listening to live commentary simultaneously. In the playing hall, the audience enjoys a similar experience thanks to Samsung tablets which are waiting for them on their seats at arrival.

The first game to finish was a relatively short draw: tournament leader Levon Aronian split the point with Peter Svidler after 31 moves. In this game, Svidler showed once again that he has come to London very well prepared. The grandmaster from St. Petersburg successfully employed a rare line of the Queen's Gambit Accepted in which Black actually hangs on to his c-pawn with an early ...a6 and ...b5.

“During the game I was trying to remember what my intention was, but I failed," said Aronian. According to Svidler, his opponent didn't play the most dangerous plan: "This is actually not such a straightforward line but with some precision Black tends to equalise if White goes for the pawn grab. I suppose the critical lines are somewhere where White ignores the pawn for a while."

Svidler's 10...Rb8 instead of 10...Ra7 is a new idea (played only once before) that involves a long-term pawn sacrifice. It worked well, and Svidler equalised quite comfortably. "It's nice to have half a rest today. Somewhat nicer for me than it is for Levon I'm sure but for me it's fairly nice," said Svidler.

A bit more than 3.5 hours into the round, Magnus Carlsen won his second game of the tournament to catch Aronian in first place. In the popular Berlin variation of the Ruy Lopez, his opponent Alexander Grischuk started spending a lot of time early on. An important moment was 17…f5, a move disliked by Carlsen. “I missed a lot of things with this move. I completely overestimated my position. I still think Black is fine but [during the game] I thought Black was better,” said Grischuk. One of Black's problems was his bad bishop on f8 – the reason why his position looked better than it was.

To make matters worse, Grischuk’s disadvantage on the clock started to grow. After making his 21st move, Grischuk had only 4 minutes and 24 seconds left on the clock for his next 19 moves. It was just impossible to reach the time control without making mistakes, and Carlsen profited from these mistakes by not paying attention to his opponent’s time trouble too much. As he said after the game, he was “just trying to play well”. And he was never really worried: “Obviously there are threats but I felt that I always had enough resources to parry them. You can never be absolutely sure but I thought that I had enough play on the queenside to counter whatever threats he could muster.”

Only two players are older than forty in this tournament: Boris Gelfand and Vassily Ivanchuk. Both 44, these chess legends must have played over a hundred games against each other. Gelfand referred to this when he expressed the following nice words about his opponent: “Each game is very interesting and always a big lesson for me. Probably it’s one of the reasons for our chess longevity: when you play such a great player so many times, it gives you so much experience and knowledge – it helps a lot!”

As so often, Ivanchuk played a rare opening set-up. With Black he went for the Chigorin Defence (1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6) and it took Gelfand a few minutes to decide on which line to play. In a position that looked a bit better for White, on move 22 a very nice piece sacrifice was found (and played instantly!) by Ivanchuk. After some wild complications White ended up with an extra bishop on h2 that was completely out of play, and there Black could force a perpetual check.

The last game to finish, between Teimour Radjabov and Vladimir Kramnik, was a Nimzo-Indian game that always looked fairly equal. “I think I got a very nice position out of the opening and it’s also very easy to play. I had this very simple plan of trying to attack these hanging pawns but of course White is also very solid. It might be equal and maybe it’s a matter of style, but I would take Black in this position, it’s easier to play somehow,” said Kramnik. The Russian was happy with his manoeuvres, and thought he was pressing. “But Teimour seemed to defend very well.”

Radjabov agreed that he got “nothing out of the opening". “I probably mixed up some things in the opening, how I got this position without the two bishops. It’s kind of a dream position for Black.” But the Azerbaijani managed to avoid serious mistakes, and so Black’s advantage was never more than symbolical.

After four rounds Aronian and Carlsen are tied for first place with 3 points while Svidler is the only player with 2.5. Kramnik and Radjabov are on 50% with 2 points, Grischuk has 1.5 points and Gelfand and Ivanchuk are still in last place, with 1 point. Wednesday, March 20th at 14:00 GMT the fourth round will be played: Ivanchuk-Carlsen, Svidler-Gelfand, Kramnik-Aronian and Grischuk-Radjabov.

Report by Peter Doggers
Photos by Anastasiya Karlovich

© World Chess Federation 2013    |