The game was a French Advance, and the Russian grandmaster played concrete moves from the start. “If I do nothing Black will develop very naturally so I went 11.Bg5 and 12.Be3 asking questions with every move.” Then, on move 15, Svidler went for pawn sacrifice. It was “one of those moments” where he thought: “If I don’t play this I will kind of regret it forever.” After 23.Re1 he was “very happy for a while” until he realized that Black has 23…Nd6 there. Svidler then showed an amazingly complicated computer line which his seconds told him about after the game. “Good luck finding that. There’s absolutely no one who can find that out at the board!”
Ivanchuk didn’t spot it, again spent too much time and after White’s 37th move his flag fell. “I saw White’s ideas but I didn’t know what to do. From the opening my position wasn’t very comfortable,” the Ukrainian said. At the press conference GM Danny King asked him the question that needed to be asked: how can you explain to yourself the masterpieces you played against Radjabov and Carlsen, and at the same time losing on time in five games? Ivanchuk: “Everything has happened. I don’t like to focus too much on my lost games. I’d like to forget them as quickly as possible and soon start a new tournament.” On his game against Kramnik tomorrow, he said: “For me it’s not important, it’s just a normal game.”
Alexander Grischuk and Levon Aronian drew a Slav/Catalan in 38 moves. “I think I got a comfortable advantage out of the opening. Black has of course decent chances to equalize but he has to play very accurately because White has a positional advantage in the centre,” said Grischuk, who thought that Aronian’s 12…a5 was “very ambitious”. White got a nice endgame advantage with the bishop pair and more active rooks, but somehow Grischuk misplayed it. “White has to be precise and it will be long suffering for Black,” he said. A tactical phase followed and Aronian could save the half point. At the press conference Grischuk said that he did play for a win: “Of course I lost a big part of my motivation but it’s not every day that I can play against such a brilliant player like Levon!”
Moving on to the two key games of the round, Vladimir Kramnik and Boris Gelfand were the first to finish. This encounter started as a Fianchetto Grünfeld and the former World Champion came up with a new idea as early as move five – something that’s very rare in chess. “It’s amazing how many ideas he’s introducing, maybe more than all of us together!” said Gelfand. “At least I got a game, I got a game,” said Kramnik, who needed to keep all options open: going for a solid draw or playing for a win, depending on the developments in Radjabov-Carlsen.
After move 17 White seemed to have nice pressure and with giving up his dark-squared bishop Black appeared to be walking a tightrope. Kramnik: “One little mistake and everything starts to collapse!” About the position after 21.Qd3 he said: “Black cannot even create a threat. I think I’m clearly better, strangely enough.” The critical moment of this game was perhaps at move 30 where with little time on the clock Kramnik might have missed a stronger continuation. But, throughout the game Gelfand defended fantastically, and the Israeli fully deserved the half point he got.
About his game in the last round, against the unpredictable Ivanchuk, Kramnik said: “It doesn't matter with whom you play. The last game is the last game. I played many decisive games already, it doesn’t matter. I’m not nervous, I’m OK.”
For Magnus Carlsen the big question was how he would cope with what was his first loss since September last year. According to commentator IM Lawrence Trent the Norwegian’s strategy was basically “not to go crazy”. Against Teimour Radjabov, Carlsen played a rare line of the Nimzo-Indian in which he had to give up the bishop pair at an early stage. With simple developing moves Radjabov got a slight edge, but the Azerbaijani missed a tactic and Carlsen grabbed the initiative.
Avoiding further mistakes, Radjabov managed to reach an ending that was only slightly worse for him, and which should have led to a draw. However, as he has down so often lately, Carlsen just kept on trying and trying and eventually, after 89 moves, he managed to “squeeze water from a stone”, as one chess fan put it, and win the ending. Knowing that he was leading the tournament again, Carlsen entered the press room relieved and excited, doing a joyous and explosive high-five with his manager Espen Agdestein.
At the start of the press conference Radjabov put a smile on everyone’s face, including Carlsen’s: “I prefer to lose today than all my previous games because at least there is an intrigue in the tournament and it might be one historical loss for me!” Carlsen: “It was tough. I was really upset after the last game, I couldn’t sleep and I was not feeling so great today. I think I got a pleasant position at some point but then I couldn’t make any of it and then we got this endgame which is basically equal but I felt because of the tournament situation I have to try and take whatever little chance I might have. (…) Probably it was a draw right till the end, I don't know, I couldn’t calculate. But I managed to keep the game going and he made enough mistakes so that I could win. I’m back in the running and after my last game that’s all I can ask for!”
After thirteen rounds Carlsen is tied for first place with Kramnik. Both have 8.5 points, but the Norwegian has a higher number of wins. This means that Kramnik needs to outperform Carlsen in the last round to win the tournament. Aronian and Svidler are shared third with 7 points, Grischuk and Gelfand shared fifth with 6 points, Ivanchuk is seventh with 5 points and Radjabov is in last place with 4 points. The 14th round and final round will be played on Monday, April 1st at 14:00 BST with the games Carlsen-Svidler, Ivanchuk-Kramnik, Gelfand-Grischuk and Aronian-Radjabov.Report by Peter Doggers