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Four draws in round 7 - Aronian & Carlsen maintain 1.5 point lead
IMG 2932In what was the shortest round of the FIDE World Chess Candidates’ Tournament so far, Levon Aronian of Armenia and Magnus Carlsen of Norway maintained their 1.5 point lead over Russians Vladimir Kramnik and Peter Svidler. Against Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan, Carlsen needed to sacrifice an exchange to wear off dangerous threats against his king, which proved to be sufficient. Aronian got a small positional advantage against Alexander Grischuk of Russia, who saved himself by going for active defence. For a moment Kramnik was in big trouble, but he escaped with a draw when his opponent Boris Gelfand of Israel refrained from playing actively on move 19. Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine and Peter Svidler of Russia played the shortest draw of the round in a Scotch game that quickly turned into an endgame.

In the seventh round of the FIDE World Chess Candidates’ Tournament all games were finished in less than four hours. It’s hard to believe, though, that the participants were trying to be ready in time for the Chess Boxing event which is taking place at London’s Scala Club on Saturday night. Especially Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian have something better to do, on the night before they will play each other for the second time.

Less than three hours into the round, Vassily Ivanchuk and Peter Svidler were in the middle of an interesting ending when they suddenly agreed to a draw. “I didn’t expect the Scotch, and he probably didn’t expect long castles,” is how Svidler explained the time spent by both players in what was a theoretical opening variation. “It was a new position to me. I was trying to understand what was going on, and trying not to blunder something,” said Ivanchuk.

The players quickly reached an ending where White had a rook, bishop and knight with five pawns against two rooks and seven pawns for Black. Because neither player could really play for a win, the move repetition was a logical finish. Not satisfied with his play in the previous two rounds, Svidler said: “I don’t particularly mind equalizing and making a draw against a very strong player.”

Against Boris Gelfand, Vladimir Kramnik played the same Nimzo-Indian line as in his round 4 game against Teimour Radjabov. The Russian deviated himself, and improved upon a game that his opponent played last year in his World Championship match against Viswanathan Anand. Kramnik’s preparation worked well, but then he played a “terribly risky move”, namely 19…Ne8. "The tournament situation asks you to play for a win in every game," said Kramnik.

However, if Gelfand had played one of his knights to g5  there, he would have gotten a very promising position. When host Anastasiya Karlovich mentioned one of the tactical ideas the computer engines found, Kramnik was slightly shocked: "Hmmm... so I missed something." And when former top grandmaster Evgeny Bareev mentioned the other Ng5 move to Kramnik, the former World Champion was even more surprised: “I thought I saw something. It's really strange, I don't know what I was missing. Some kind of blackout." It seems that a bit of luck was finally on Kramnik’s side, but he’ll need more in the second half of the tournament if he wants to fight for first place.

Also in the game between Teimour Radjabov and Magnus Carlsen an opening came on the board that was played several times in last year’s World Championship match: a Rossolimo Sicilian. Black got the bishop pair, but White had the better pawn structure. At some point Radjabov managed to get the initiative on the kingside. About that phase, Carlsen said: “Here I was thinking that there’s no special danger since I can sacrifice an exchange when the knight gets to g2, so that was my main blackout.”

As it turned out, Black’s advantage was quite serious, if he hadn’t immediately pushed his pawn to f2. Radjabov: “I was afraid you would put a knight on f2. I thought that f3-f2+ was winning somehow. I thought that the pieces are coming, e4 is coming, Qf6-a1. And then Ke2, Qh3, Qh1 and suddenly I didn’t find anything. I was sure I have to sacrifice this f-pawn somehow. I was also sure that the computer shows that I don’t have to sacrifice!” As it went, White got excellent positional compensation and Black couldn’t make progress.

The other leader, Levon Aronian, was pressing for most of the time against Alexander Grischuk but the Armenian had to settle for a draw as well. The game was a Queen’s Indian. “Levon played a very solid line with White, just very solid. I tried to make things unclear but Levon found a very strong plan with b4 and c5 and after that I had to defend. I think Levon played very well, I think pretty much perfectly until a certain moment.”

“I didn’t have much of an idea, I just tried to play solidly,” said Aronian, who managed to sharpen the game with his 15th move. He sacrificed a pawn and got more than enough compensation, but probably with this 30th move he lost his advantage. “I was getting too comfortable,” said Aronian. Grischuk defended actively and could reach a drawn endgame.

Looking forward to the second half of the tournament, and his game against co-leader Aronian on Sunday in particular, Carlsen said: “I think it’s going to be a big game tomorrow. If either one of us wins that one obviously that person is going to be the huge favourite. As we have witnessed today, anything can happen. I’ll just try to look forward to tomorrow and for the tournament… I’m sure everyone will be in a fighting mood – I hope so anyway!”

Aronian: “I think that the first half was pretty good. Certainly I think there’s always room for improvement. That’s what I’m going to try to do in the second half. When you’re playing in a tournament of such calibre everybody is trying to show their best so in a way it’s inspiring. Personally I really enjoy this tournament so far!”

After seven rounds, half way the tournament, Carlsen and Aronian have 5 points, still a point and a half more than Svidler and Kramnik, who are on 3.5. Grischuk and Radjabov have 3 points and Ivanchuk and Gelfand 2.5. Sunday, March 24th at 14:00 GMT the eighth round will be played: Carlsen-Aronian, Radjabov-Gelfand, Grischuk-Ivanchuk and Kramnik-Svidler.

Report by Peter Doggers
Pictures by Anastasiya Karlovich
© World Chess Federation 2013    |