A resurgent Vishy Anand has won the 2014 Candidates Tournament with a round to spare. The former World Champion hung on for 90 moves to draw a difficult position against Sergey Karjakin, while Levon Aronian pushed too hard and collapsed against Dmitry Andreikin. Multiple blunders eventually saw Vladimir Kramnik win his grudge game against Veselin Topalov, but that only returned him to the “chasing pack” on 50%, one and a half points behind Anand.
After his near-miss against Andreikin Anand still went into the last round in a dominant position, but not one in which accidents were impossible. As he himself explained after it was over:
Today was funny because for the whole tournament I was watching mainly Aronian because he was the closest, but then a few days ago I realised that both Karjakin and Svidler had the chance to beat me and win on the tiebreak. So even with a one-point lead the last two rounds were going to be very difficult. And that’s more or less what happened today.
Karjakin played a quiet opening but soon got a dream position where, with two minor pieces for a rook, he could press forever. Anand dug in for the long haul, but ultimately – not without some hairy moments – he held firm. Spanish IM David Martinez takes a look at the all-important game (with some tweets giving an idea of what GM observers thought during the action!):
7. cxd5 This, however, is relatively uncommon. Karjakin decides not to go for the typical setup with Bd3 and 0-0 but instead fundamentally alters the position. It seems both players were already out of book after only seven moves.
7... cxd4 is the most concrete option to liquidate the centre as it's dangerous for White to accept the pawn sacrifice. After 8. dxe6 (8. ♘xd4 ♘xd5 ) 8... ♗b4+ 9. ♘bd2 ♗xe6 10. exd4 ♗d5 Black has excellent compensation.
8. dxc5 ♘d7 9. c6⁉ Karjakin is seeking an unbalanced position. This spoils Vishy's structure, but at the same time it hands the initiative to Black, who doesn't need to waste a tempo capturing the pawn.
9... bxc6 10. ♘bd2 a5 A typical advance in order to create counterplay on the queenside, especially when no white knight can come to c3. It's also very common to push an h-pawn like this when you castle kingside and a knight is unable to come to f3 or f6.
11. e4 Karjakin expels the knight from its beautiful post, exploiting the fact that a jump to f4 can simply be met by 12. g3, and the knight would have to drop back to g6 - not exactly an ideal location.
12... a4! 13. ♕xc6 As he'd planned on move 11, Karjakin picks up the pawn and now tries to hold the position. It reminds me of how Aronian used to play against Vishy. After the game Anand admitted he'd barely considered the possibility of Sergey actually taking the bait.
Entering a balanced endgame in which Black will have good activity in exchange for the pawn, but will still have to show some precision in order to totally equalise.
13... ♖a5! was the precise move, based on very concrete calculation. The threat is now Nc5, trapping the queen. 14. ♕c2 ♗b7 15. ♗e2 (15. ♗d3 overprotects e4, but leaves the bishop exposed to 15... ♘c5 ) 15... axb3 16. axb3 ♖xa1+ 17. ♗xa1 ♘xe4! and if 18. ♘xe4 ♗xe4 19. ♕xe4 ♕a5+ captures the bishop on a1. Not exactly an easy line to see!
14. ♕xa4 Sergey played this move reluctantly as he thought it would be an immediate draw. Vishy joked: "We played on for 70 moves, so it wasn't exactly immediate!" Karjakin's original plan was
21. ♖c4 This was Carlsen's suggestion, swapping off a pair of rooks to reduce the pressure. 21... ♖fa8 (21... ♖xc4 allows Black to regain the pawn immediately, but after 22. ♘xc4 ♘xe4 23. a4 the a-pawn will be hard to stop. Or to quote Carlsen: "Once the a-pawn gets going Vishy isn't going to have a lot of fun".) 22. ♖xa4 ♖xa4 Black will continue with g5-g4 to put even more pressure on the white centre - the position is equal.
White isn't going to be able to advance his extra pawn, so the following transformation of the position is more or less forced.
22. ♖ac1 ♖xa2 23. ♖xc5 ♗xc5 24. ♗xc5 ♖c8 25. ♗a3 ♖xc1 26. ♗xc1 ♘c5 This ending should be objectively equal, but it's White who can try to win it. In order to ensure the draw Vishy has to keep his pieces as active as possible and prevent Karjakin from creating weaknesses.
30. h3 ♔f7 31. ♘c3 ♖c2 32. ♘e2 ♖a2 33. h4 g6 34. g3 ♔e6 35. f3 ♔f7 36. ♘c3 ♖c2 37. ♘e2 ♖a2 38. ♘b1! Karjakin uses trademark Russian technique to slowly improve his position while neutralising the pressure of the powerful black rook.
41. ♘d5 ♘a5 42. ♘b6 ♖b1 43. ♗c3 ♖xb6 44. ♗xa5 In a fight between a rook and two minor pieces, whether in the middlegame or the endgame, the general rule is that exchanges always favour the side with the rook, because the fewer pieces there are the fewer possibilities there are for coordinating the pieces in an attack.
46. hxg5⁈ This is based on an error of calculation. As we'll see, Karjakin lets Anand create a passed pawn, which ensures the draw.
46. ♔d2 , not yet taking any decisive action, would have been much more annoying for Black. The white plan would be to play Nc1-d3 followed by f4. Vishy would still have to work hard to draw.
48. g4 Karjakin said in the press conference that he thought this move was winning - and for a moment Vishy believed him! "He played this move so confidently I realised he'd calculated everything and I was lost". Instead it only leads to a drawn pawn ending.
53. ♘xg5 is only a draw, as after 53... ♖xd2+ 54. ♔xd2 ♔xg5 White has no way of forcing the position. Vishy only has to be careful to respond to Rh3 with Rg5, while otherwise he can wait as the white king has to keep an eye on Black's passed pawn.
53... ♖b2 54. ♔e3 ♖b3+ 55. ♔e2 ♖b2 Karjakin's obligation was to keep playing and playing the position in the hope that he could somehow trick Vishy. You're not under the same obligation, dear reader, so I sincerely appreciate that you've come this far and won't mind if you congratulate Vishy and skip the remaining moves. To sum up - Karjakin doesn't manage to achieve anything except nearly getting a lost position!
According to data available to me 100% of the spectators who followed the last 20 moves on the live broadcast were asking themselves: "when will it end?"
1/2 - 1/2
Magnus Carlsen joined the commentary on the Candidates
website for an hour during play, and gave his verdict on Anand’s tournament:
I think he's played very well. He hasn't made many mistakes. He's been rock solid in the openings and played consistently. Obviously he got kind of a dream start against Aronian. He's been doing quite well against most of these players [Emil Sutovsky makes the same point here] and there was one really troublesome opponent for him… and he beat him in the first round. It doesn't get much better than that!
Carlsen felt it was a return to Anand’s chess of 2007 and 2008, when he last played a tournament to become World Champion and was dominant in the Linares-Morelia events. Anand himself was a little surprised by his resurgence, answering a question on whether he was playing better than he had for the last four years:
I try not to think too much about the last four years! I was very happy and very pleasantly surprised with how I played and my results – it went ridiculously well.
As often seems to be the case in sports the eventual winner was the last player to confirm his participation. Anand admitted he’d had doubts (he regretted revealing them publicly as journalists kept asking him about it) as he didn’t just want to go through the motions. He revealed another former World Champion, Vladimir Kramnik, had played a big part in encouraging him to return to fight for the title, after the events which led Hikaru Nakamura to tweet:
In London Kramnik had one of the most ridiculous games of all time against Nakamura and I called him up and asked him to go to dinner. I was supposed to cheer him up, but in the end he cheered me up! It wasn’t the only reason I played in the Candidates, but it was one of them.
Perhaps Anand’s best response was saved for last:
Journalist: Are you tired of playing World Championship matches?
The success of one chess24 author, Viswanathan Anand (check out his video series on his games, or encourage your chess beginner friends or relatives to try this free course), means we can more easily accept the relative failure of another chess24 star, Peter Svidler. No-one could accuse the 7-time Russian Champion of not going all-out to win, as his 7 decisive games in Khanty-Mansiysk show, but 3 wins and 4 losses in 12 rounds wasn’t exactly what he was shooting for!
In Round 13 he met the player closest to him in terms of decisive results – Azerbaijan’s Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (3 wins, 3 losses). So we could expect a spectacular game? Alas, after both players claimed to have forgotten their opening analysis we ended up with a rook ending that was marginally better for Svidler, but posed no real problems to hold (remember you can replay this game and all the others here).
Levon Aronian went into this game knowing that if the stars aligned in his favour (i.e. Karjakin beat Anand) he’d still go into the final round with a chance to delight millions of Armenians by qualifying for a World Championship match. In the opposite corner, however, was Dmitry Andreikin – perhaps the coolest character in Khanty-Mansisyk. With no expectations and no visible sign of nerves he was simply able to play chess, and for good measure he surprised his opponent on move 2 with the Trompowsky. Magnus Carlsen summed up Aronian’s play:
There are many ways of equalising against the Trompowsky, but this isn’t one of them…
The pressure eventually got to Aronian when he pushed too hard in a drawish position, but that didn’t happen without the help of a moment of genius from his opponent. Andreikin had already beaten Topalov in this tournament after coolly walking his king out of the danger zone to achieve a winning position. With the surprising 20.Kb2! he offered an exchange sacrifice and managed to completely bamboozle his illustrious opponent:
Aronian should have accepted the sacrifice when the game
would most likely be drawn, but after 20…Bxa4?! 21.Rd5 Ke7? 22.Ka3! Andreikin
had a won position. The process of converting the advantage wasn’t smooth, to
put it mildly, but Aronian was never in danger of scoring the win he so
These old stagers had nothing left to play for in terms of the tournament, but fortunately for chess fans their bitter rivalry – and Topalov’s crushing win in the first half of the event – ensured there would be no thoughts of a quick draw today. Danailov said in a recent interview with a Bulgarian newspaper that the players not shaking hands would be for life, although he obviously thought their rivalry did the game no harm!
Another simmering rivalry is between Kramnik and World
Champion Magnus Carlsen. In his guest appearance on today’s commentary Carlsen
again returned to Kramnik’s tongue-in-cheek
comments about people not blundering against him the way they do against
Maybe he doesn't make enough of an effort to find ideas even in very simplified positions. If you don't make that effort then people are not going to crack under the pressure to make mistakes.
He also gave Kramnik a rather back-handed compliment:
I've been reading up on Kramnik's “My Life and Games”. I have to say I'm impressed. He's still a great player, but the player he was when he was young was really, really impressive.
Today against Topalov Kramnik gave flashes of that brilliance, but exhaustion was very much the theme of his post-game press conference. Kramnik got in some strong preparation in the early stages, but things soon began to spiral out of control. IM David Martinez looks at the crucial moments of a spectacular fight:
17. ♕b3⁈ A sign that Kramnik's not at his best in this tournament.
17. ♕d2 , with the idea of recycling this bishop to f3, seems better.
17... b6⁈ And Topalov isn't either! Black could have hit back immediately with
17... b5! which both players had obviously looked at but discarded due to 18. ♕a3 , but after 18... ♕d8! 19. ♗xb5 (19. ♗d1 ♘c6! and it's White who suffers due to the pressure on d4) 19... axb5 20. ♕xa8 ♖a6 21. ♕b7 ♖b6 the white queen can't escape the repetition, as 22. ♕a7 is unplayable due to 22... ♗xe5 23. dxe5 ♘c6 24. ♕a3 b4 , winning the knight.
24... ♕g7 25. ♖f1 f6 In several games in this tournament Kramnik has used strategically exquisite play to force his opponents to defend ugly positions, but again and again he's failed to finish them off. The same thing happens here, but despite appearances it wasn't easy!
26. fxg5! was Kramnik's original intention, but he couldn't quite see a way to finish the game off. 26... fxe5 27. dxe5 ♖dc6 28. ♘d4! The most critical move. 28... ♕xg5 29. ♕xg5+ (29. ♕d3⁇ ♗f5! 30. ♘xf5 ♘xf5 and it's impossible to take on f5 as the c1-rook will be hanging - Black is winning.) 29... hxg5
b) 30. ♘xc6 ♖xc6 31. ♗f5! ♖b6 (31... ♗xf5 32. ♖xc6 ♘xc6 33. ♖xf5 is definitely uncomfortable for Black.) 32. ♗xe6+ ♖xe6 Kramnik showed all the way up to here in the press conference, but he couldn't see how to proceed. Actually he had a very nice line to keep up the pressure: 33. ♖f6! ♖xf6 (33... ♖xe5 34. h6! A beautiful position in which the white rooks, with the help of the pawn, dominate Black's minor pieces. There's no way to prevent Rcf1 and the fall of the f8-bishop.) 34. exf6 ♘f5 35. ♔f2 with good winning chances due to the difficulties Black will have defending his queenside while also taking care of his king.
29. ♕f3 , followed by Nf4, was a more aggressive option.
34... ♗d7 Keeping the bishop pair and once again leaving the outcome of the game wide open.
38. ♘c7+ is the machine's recommendation, and a move that Kramnik admitted he was simply too tired to calculate: 38... ♔d6 39. d5! ♔xc7 (39... ♗xd5? loses a piece after 40. ♘xd5 ♔xd5 41. ♖xf8 ) 40. ♖f7+! (40. dxc6 ♗c5+ poses no problems.) 40... ♔b6 41. ♖f6! White will capture on c6 with the rook - a line that's humanly almost impossible to see, even if you have a lot of time!
38... ♗g7 39. ♘gf5 ♗h8 40. h6 ♗e4 41. d5+ ♔d7 Both sides have made the time control and can pause for thought. White's well-coordinated pieces can pose problems, although initially Topalov defends with precision.
42... ♗b1 was a better option, trying to take the a-pawn with the bishop.
43. ♖f7+ ♔e8 44. ♖f3 ♖xa2 45. ♘ef5 ♖d2? Topalov decides to keep the bishop pair, but this is a losing error. Kramnik was surprised: "A primitive win - I don’t know what he missed. He allowed my main idea in the position!"
50... ♗xf5⁇ Topalov lets his last chance slip! The drawing line was pretty, although Kramnik said he was in a "cold sweat" when he realised he'd allowed it:
50... ♔c7! 51. h7 b2 52. ♖b8 ♔xb8 53. h8Q+ ♔b7 and White can't avoid the black pawn queening or keep the two knights alive after capturing the rook on d2, as we'll see: 54. ♘d6+ ♔c6! Maintaining the attack on the knight. 55. ♕c3+ ♔d7 (55... ♔xd6⁇ 56. ♘e4+! and White captures on d2 with check - you always need to stay alert!) 56. ♕xd2 b1Q+ 57. ♔h2 ♔xd6 and a draw.
Curiously that game "catapults" Kramnik into second place on tiebreaks above the four other "50%ers", but of course only first place really matters!
Still, we can assume those behind Anand will still fight for their honour and a decent prize fund in Sunday's final round!
Our live Round 14 broadcast here on chess24 is the last chance to catch our commentary team in action at this event! To get an idea of what awaits, why not replay some of the moments from today's games below. GM Jan Gustafsson and IM Lawrence Trent were joined in our Gibraltar studio by English GM Stuart Conquest!