Fide Chess Candidates R11: Carlsen Leads, Kramnik Half-Point Behind
In Thursday's 11th round of the FIDE World Chess Candidates' Tournament Vladimir Kramnik moved to second place. Russia's number one beat Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan), while Levon Aronian (Armenia) lost to Peter Svidler (Russia). Drawing his black game with Alexander Grischuk (Russia), Magnus Carlsen (Norway) kept his half point lead in London with three rounds to go. Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukraine) and Boris Gelfand (Israel) played a very quick draw.
Designed by world-renowned Pentagram Design, the playing zone in the IET’s Lecture Theatre has a lower middle area and a higher area at the back. It is there where the arbiters stay and where the players are getting their food and drinks during the game. As became clear at the start of the 11th round, chess players aren’t really used to such a split-level room. Vassily Ivanchuk slipped and almost fell down, hurt is left ankle and had to treat it with some ice. (Now he’s fine.) At the press conference his opponent, Boris Gelfand, said that he too almost fell down in one of the previous rounds, plunged in thought about his position!
The encounter between Ivanchuk and Gelfand was in fact the shortest game of the tournament so far. In a Grünfeld, the two started repeating moves right after the opening, and agreed to a draw at move 17. It was a bit of a theoretical duel, as Ivanchuk repeated his Bf4 system which he adopted against Carlsen in the fifth round, Gelfand deviated on move seven and then the players followed the game Fridman-Kramnik, Dortmund 2012 until move 11. “It’s not easy to play if you don’t know it because it’s a very sharp position and both pawns are hanging. I think Vassily found a good solution to be safe,” said Gelfand. Ivanchuk: “I remember that Fridman played 12.Qb3 but I didn’t analyse it.”
Gelfand showed a few variations on the laptop in the press room, and said about the final position: “White can never be worse here. I think as a player who played Catalan all my career, I like generally White’s possibilities with this bishop on the big diagonal.” Asked about the historical importance of this Candidates’ Tournament, Gelfand said: “Tournaments like these are a milestone. Unfortunately recently I feel that the respect to the players is dropping, maybe because of computers. People think ‘OK, he didn’t see this move, the computer shows 0.65’, and they tend to respect players less. But of course such a tournament is fantastic. It’s wonderful to play here.”
After an original start in another Grünfeld, Alexander Grischuk and tournament leader Magnus Carlsen also agreed to a draw relatively quickly. In this game Grischuk went for the amazing 5.h4!?, a coffeehouse move that was recently put to the test by his ever-creative compatriot Alexander Morozevich. Carlsen’s thoughts at this point: “I just thought that in general 5…c6 shouldn’t lose. I also looked a little bit at some sharper alternatives but I couldn’t remember them so it made no sense for me to do that.”
Indeed Black’s position was OK until he went for the active but dubious 12…e5. Carlsen: “This was completely unnecessary. After 12…a6 or 12…Qe7 Black is absolutely fine.” Then White definitely had something, but Grischuk just couldn't find a way to profit. With only thirteen minutes left on the clock, the Russian started repeating moves. Carlsen didn’t see a reason to continue playing either: “At the end I simply have no way of saving the d-pawn and playing on. If there was I would because in general, in the long run I have more useful moves. But the d-pawn is falling so there’s nothing I can do.”
Vladimir Kramnik beat Teimour Radjabov, who was under pressure right from the start and then fell for a nice trick on move 28. The opening was a rare variation of the Symmetrical English. “It was not really a case of preparation, more a case of memory,” said Kramnik. The Russian was happy about the first phase of the game: “The outcome of the opening was great. One hour on the clock, nice pressure… It couldn’t be better. It’s not much but Black has to play very accurately.” Radjabov: “I forgot the theory somehow. [At move 15] I couldn’t really find out what was the move.”
He hasn’t been too satisfied about his luck thus far in the tournament, but by now Kramnik really seems to have Caissa on his side. At move 28 he set a trap, and Radjabov fell for it. Kramnik: “I saw it, it’s a very nice trap, easy to fall for in time trouble. It was quite a nice combination.” The former World Champion, who spotted his trick as early as move 26, explained his good form as follows: “As I said at the start of the tournament, I just need to keep a good level of play and then the points will come. I will have to do the same for the rest of the tournament: I have to play well and not blunder anything.”
Having a very up and down tournament himself, Peter Svidler played an important role for the tournament standings on Thursday. The grandmaster from St Petersburg won against Levon Aronian, who more or less blew up his position as he missed some crucial tactics – it was quite a similar scenario as his round 9 loss against Gelfand.
“Finally my refutation of the Nimzo, which people have been dodging so far, was revealed!” joked Svidler, who explained the game in length at the press conference. Visibly upset, Aronian remained quiet for most of the time. “After 22.c5 we come to the one big position in the game,” said Svidler. “After I saw 22…g5 I thought this was kind of uncalled for. After this Black’s position just collapses. The game was really decided in this one moment. I can definitely say I was a bit lucky today.”
“I just blundered 23.c6. Otherwise there’s nothing wrong with 22…g5. Like in the game with Gelfand I made a tactical blunder,” explained Aronian, who didn’t want to draw any conclusions yet. Replying to a journalist who wondered whether Carlsen and Kramnik were adopting a better strategy, the Armenian replied: “I think it would be better if I answered this after the end of the tournament. Perhaps we’ll see some strategy winning over another, but I don’t think the tournament has finished already.”
After eleven rounds, with 7.5 points Carlsen is still leading but now it’s Kramnik who is trailing by half a point. Aronian is clear third with 6.5 and Svidler clear fourth with 5.5 points. Grischuk and Gelfand are tied for fifth place with 5, Ivanchuk is 7th with 4 and Radjabov is last with 3.5 points. On Friday, March 29th at 14:00 GMT the twelfth round will be played: Carlsen-Ivanchuk, Gelfand-Svidler, Aronian-Kramnik and Radjabov-Grischuk.