Reports Mar 19, 2014 | 8:10 PMby Colin McGourty

Candidates, Rd 6: Topalov's revenge

Anand is still the sole leader of the Candidates after Aronian let a gilt-edged chance to join him slip in Round 6. The real drama, however, saw Topalov win a one-sided encounter against his arch-enemy Kramnik, while Svidler suffered an inexplicable meltdown against Mamedyarov. That reversal of fortune leaves all four of those players back on 50%.

Viswanathan Anand 1/2 – 1/2 Sergey Karjakin

A fly's perspective on the action in Khanty-Mansiysk. The absence of spectators in the otherwise admirable venue once caused Alexander Grischuk to tell a joke about flies using their own breath to warm up a sports hall... | photo: official website

Anand remains out in front on +2 after failing to knock any holes in Karjakin’s Berlin Wall. It was the first game in Khanty-Mansiysk not to see the Anti-Berlin but the incredibly resilient main line, and its infamous ending. The first 20 moves followed a game of Sergey’s against Grischuk from 2013, but after 21.Rh1 he sank into thought. 

He couldn’t remember his precise plan to equalise and allowed Vishy some visually-appealing play, but no harm was done:

Anand: When we got to this position I realised I need my rook on h8 all the time as it’s killing his rook, but with my rook on h8 I can’t play f4 because the g4-pawn will be lost.

After they drew on move 33 Sergey was asked why he didn’t choose an opening in which he could hope for more than a draw, but he recalled an event that Anand’s confident play here has made seem ancient history:

If you analyse the last match with Vishy against Magnus you see that Black had some chances. Of course, if White played hard for a win I’d have some chances, but if he plays a safe line then there’s nothing I can do.

The young Russian has five draws and one loss to his name.

Veselin Topalov 1 – 0 Vladimir Kramnik

The players look anywhere but at each other... | photo: official website

This grudge encounter was perhaps the most-eagerly awaited match-up of the 2014 Candidates, and it didn’t disappoint – unless, that is, your name is Vladimir Kramnik! It was a vintage Topalov display, where an opening surprise was backed up by moves played with computer-like precision and speed. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as the famous 12.Nxf7!! in Topalov 1-0 Kramnik, Corus/Wijk aan Zee 2008…

…but it was just as effective.

The players didn’t shake hands at the start of the game and later held separate press conferences. Topalov felt he was simply winning as early as move 13 and his explanation of the opening ended with a barbed comment:

The position is really complicated and really deep – maybe for him it was too deep!

IM David Martínez takes a look at the game:

1. d4 ♘f6 2. c4 e6 3. ♘f3 d5 4. ♘c3 ♗e7 5. ♗f4 0-0 6. e3 ♘bd7 Kramnik's usual response to Bf4.

7. c5 ♘h5 8. ♗e5 A big surprise. Topalov: "objectively dubious... but I thought for one game it was interesting."

8... c6

8... ♘xe5 9. dxe5 g6

9. ♗d3 g6 10. h4 Very interesting, both giving the white bishop a retreat square on h2 and preparing a possible kingside attack.

10... f5 A decision based primarily on avoiding White's preparation. Kramnik leaves the bishop on e5 alive and kicking, which he knows can't be good, but tries to quickly get out of Topalov's analysis. We'll take a look at some of the most critical lines... although it's fair to assume Topalov will have looked at them "a little more deeply"!

10... ♘xe5 11. dxe5 The most critical move. (11. ♘xe5 f6 , followed by e5, is good for Black.) 11... f5 (11... f6 12. g4 ♘g7 13. h5 will, sooner or later, be mate. ; 11... ♗xc5 12. g4 ♘g7 13. h5 is the typical kind of position that the machine gives initially as -0.35 but then, a little later, as a decisive advantage for White. They can be fun to try out at home, but I'll just mention that after Qc2 and 0-0-0 Black's position is impossible to defend.) 12. b4 (12. exf6 ♗xf6 13. g4 is a little too forced an attempt to attack since the centre is now open - 13... ♘g7 14. h5 ♗xc3+ 15. bxc3 ♕f6 with an edge for Black.) 12... b6 13. 0-0 would have led to the type of position Kramnik was trying to get in the game, but without a dark-squared bishop for White!

11. ♗h2 b6 As this move can't be followed by a5 it makes little sense.

11... ♗xh4 is once again the typical kind of move Kramnik wanted to avoid to escape computer preparation. Moreover, even with silicon help it looks more dangerous for Black as White has time to prepare g4. Although the attack isn't violent it's as long-lasting and annoying as toothache. Houdini also proposes more positional moves like Kf1 and Kg1 in order to put pressure on the queenside and only make use of the h-file at an appropriate moment. Just observe how subtle the little guy's become!

11... f4 is the most critical move. 12. e4 (12. 0-0 , as in the game, would now be met by 12... e5 because the c5-pawn will be hanging. ; 12. exf4 ♘xf4 13. ♗xf4 ♖xf4 seems dangerous, but after 14. h5 g5 15. ♕c2 ♖f7 16. 0-0-0 ♕f8 , followed by e5, Black can hold the position.) 12... ♘df6! 13. ♘e5 (13. e5 ♘g4 14. ♕c2 ♔g7 is a complete mess, but I prefer Black mainly because he can threaten to take on h4 or break with b6.) 13... ♘d7 A move that isn't going to see the spectators shower the board with gold coins, but it might earn half a point.

12. b4 And Black already has a very difficult position. Topalov in fact went on to say in the press conference that it's already technically won... I'm a much worse player, so I'll wait a few more moves to write that! 

12... f4

12... a5 13. b5 cxb5 14. c6 is crushing.

12... ♗b7 has the idea of playing a5, but 13. ♖b1 prevents that... and once again Black is tied up in knots.

13. 0-0! a5 14. b5 bxc5 15. bxc6 ♘b8 16. ♗b5 ♗a6 17. a4 And White has a technically winning position.

17... ♕c8 18. dxc5 ♘xc6 19. ♘xd5! exd5 20. ♕xd5+ ♔h8 21. ♕xc6 ♕xc6 22. ♗xc6 ♖ac8 23. ♗b5 ♗xb5 24. axb5 ♗xc5 25. ♖xa5 fxe3 26. fxe3 ♗xe3+ 27. ♔h1 After much simplication the b-pawn decides the game... with abundant help from the bishop on h2 that Kramnik spared on move 10!

27... ♖c2 28. ♖b1 ♖fc8 29. ♖aa1 ♗b6 30. ♗e5+ ♔g8 31. ♖a6 ♗e3 32. b6 ♖c1+ 33. ♖xc1 ♖xc1+ 34. ♔h2 ♖b1 35. g4 ♗f4+ 36. ♔g2 ♗xe5 37. ♘xe5 ♘f4+ 38. ♔f3 ♘e6 39. b7 ♖b3+ 40. ♔f2 ♖b2+ 41. ♔e3 A tough blow for Kramnik, whose respect for Topalov's analysis perhaps prevented him from showing his best.


It had, perhaps, been coming. Emil Sutovsky explained what he considered Kramnik’s weak spot as follows (you can read more of his opinions here):

If his opponent chooses an unexpected variation/opening that he hasn’t checked up before the game then as a rule Kramnik leaves the trodden paths and, again as a rule, it ends badly for him.

That weakness didn’t emerge in the games against Andreikin and Anand (where everything went perfectly according to plan), but may have surfaced against Svidler and now Topalov, after they succeeded in surprising him.

The reluctant press-conference participant - the regulations specify the players must face the press regardless of their result, so Vladimir returned at the end of the day's play | photo: official website 

Kramnik himself admitted to trying to dodge preparation in the opening:

I’d slightly underestimated some things in my preparation and I wanted to get away from some very sharp, well-analysed lines by my opponent – to avoid losing to computer analysis. But the position was unpleasant and dangerous – I had almost no chances as my opponent played according to the computer’s first line. I was always about half a tempo short.

In explaining his choice of opening in general he included a small barb of his own (remember the whole antagonism with Topalov surrounds the question of the alleged use of computer assistance…):

Topalov is known for his strong computer analysis and I thought in a more solid line we’d be able to play honestly at the board, but…   

Topalov’s manager and ECU President Silvio Danailov also wasn't letting bygones be bygones:

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 1 – 0 Peter Svidler

Peter Svidler walking to his doom... | photo: official website

For the second day in a row Peter Svidler was involved in a truly weird game, but this time there was no happy ending for the 7-time Russian champion. In fact, it was less Hollywood movie than Shakespearean tragedy. If King Lear or Macbeth had played chess they might have come up with a similar lament to Svidler’s after 24…h6??:

There are no words to describe this! I have no idea what this is. I would very much like to un-see this – make me un-see this!

We recommend Peter doesn’t check out the following analysis…

1. d4 f5 A big surprise from the world-renowned Grünfeld specialist.

2. g3 ♘f6 3. ♗g2 g6 The Leningrad, historically a second-rate defence, has been used with some frequency in recent years by elite players such as Nakamura, Caruana and Ponomariov.

4. ♘f3 ♗g7 5. 0-0 0-0 6. c4 d6 7. ♘c3 ♕e8 The main line, although 7...c6 is more fashionable at the moment.

8. b4 Mamedyarov also springs a surprise - in my database there are 9 more popular moves in this position! After the game he said it wasn't a great move but he "hoped it would be an interesting game". It certainly was!

8... e5 9. dxe5 dxe5 10. ♗a3 e4 11. ♘d4 ♖f7 Peter has reason to be content with his opening choice - he's managed to break in the centre while White has achieved nothing special. Here, however, he could have pushed for more:

11... ♕f7! is a move very typical of the Leningrad when the white knight has abandoned the f3-square and there's no longer any danger of Ng5. 12. ♕b3 (12. ♕c2 ♕xc4 13. ♖fd1 , followed by Rac1, gives White some compensation and may be the most comfortable option, but a pawn is a pawn! ; 12. c5? ♖d8 The pin is very unpleasant.) 12... ♘c6! 13. ♘xc6 bxc6 The black pawn structure on the queenside is ugly but after Be6 and Nd7-e5 that's not going to be a factor.

12. ♕b3 ♘c6 13. ♘xc6 ♕xc6 14. b5 ♕e8 The position remains comfortable for Black mainly because he has a central space advantage without having had to make concessions on the queenside. Mamedyarov now begins to fight against the e4-pawn.

15. f3 ♗e6 16. ♖ad1 a6 And Svidler does the same on the queenside. We're entering a phase of liquidation.

17. bxa6 ♖xa6 18. fxe4 fxe4 19. ♘xe4 ♘xe4 20. ♗xe4 ♖xf1+ 21. ♖xf1 Has White simply won a pawn?

21... b5! No! This extremely strong move regains the pawn and leaves the white bishops somewhat exposed.

22. ♕e3 Svidler was amazed at how quickly he managed to destroy this pleasant position.

Svidler: "After Qe3 I went completely brain dead for 20 minutes" | photo: official website

22... bxc4 Black couldn't take on c4 immediately with the bishop as that would lose the queen to Bd5+, but he could have played the intermezzo

22... ♕d7! , threatening Bd4, and after 23. ♗c5 ♗xc4 he retains a healthy structure with the option of swinging the rook along the third rank. Mamedyarov would have had to defend very well in order to hold the position.

23. ♗c5 ♕c8 A normal move, getting out of the pin, but Qd7 seems more natural.

24. h4 h6? A mistake that's difficult to explain. Svidler has lost the thread in the last two moves and drops a pawn and the game.

25. ♗xg6 ♗d5 26. h5 As well as having an extra pawn White now seizes the intiative.

26... ♕d7 27. ♗d4 ♖e6 28. ♗f7+ ♕xf7 29. ♖xf7 ♖xe3 30. ♖xg7+ ♔f8 31. ♖g5! And Svidler resigned. 

Three passed pawns so far apart are sufficient, even to win an ending with opposite-coloured bishops! A tough loss for Peter after getting such a good position with his new opening.


Levon Aronian 1/2 – 1/2 Dmitry Andreikin

Dmitry Andreikin and Levon Aronian on a day when more than one of the players seemed on the verge of a mental breakdown... | photo: official website

Things didn’t turn out quite as badly for Levon Aronian as they did for Svidler – today’s draw saw him maintain second place alone only half a point behind Anand – but he did have cause to remark during the post-game press conference:

Here, of course, I went completely mad…

Until then everything had gone according to script – sparkling opening preparation, ratcheting up the pressure and catching his opponent out with a trick in time trouble (as accurately foreseen in Jan Gustafsson’s crystal ball during his live commentary for chess24). But it wasn’t to be.

David Martínez looks at a huge missed opportunity:

1. c4 c6 2. ♘f3 d5 3. g3 dxc4 Andreikin is playing pretty solidly with White, but with Black he's going for broke! Again he goes for the most critical lines.

4. ♗g2 ♘d7 5. 0-0 ♘gf6 6. ♕c2 ♘b6 7. ♘a3 ♗e6 8. ♘e5

8. ♘g5 used to be White's favourite move in this position until a nice equalising line was discovered: 8... ♗g4 9. ♘xc4 ♗xe2 10. ♘e5 ♗h5 11. ♖e1 ♘bd7 12. d4 e6 13. ♘exf7 ♗xf7 14. ♕b3 ♗e7 15. ♘xf7 ♔xf7 16. ♖xe6 ♘d5 17. ♗xd5 cxd5 18. ♕xd5 ♘f6 19. ♕b3 ♔g6 and Dziuba - Gajewski, Poland 2013, was drawn.

8... ♕d4 Again the most critical move, but Dmitry soon finds himself on his own.

9. ♘xc6 bxc6 10. ♗xc6+ Andreikin started to think here, although he said he knew a game that reached this position. His sense of danger clearly told him that he might be in trouble!

10... ♔d8 11. ♘b5! This is the move that Andreikin said left him out of book - and it's not really the kind of position in which you want to be all on your own.

11... ♕c5 Played after 15 minutes (replay the game on chess24 for all the move times!).

12. ♗xa8 ♕xb5 And this took 21 minutes of thought. Andreikin said he was contemplating

12... ♘xa8 13. a4 This is again a mess, although after d4 White will probably be better as it's easier for him to annoy the black king. 

Andreikin's own comment after showing a wild line: "If they were giving out bonus points I might have tried it!"

13. ♗g2 ♗d7N The first real novelty of the game, looking to develop the king's bishop. Previously only h5 had been played.

14. b3 Aronian said he tried to defend the black position a number of times a year ago against Armenian coach Arshak Petrosian, but kept losing! 

"Arshak would play a4 and I think it's then just a little better for White. During the game I felt it's too early to go to the endgame. It's more fun to play b3!"

14... e5

14... cxb3 opens lines too quickly, and after 15. axb3 a6 16. ♗b2 , followed by Rfc1, the black king is going to have too many problems to face.

15. ♖b1 Trying to give Black no respite.

15... cxb3 16. ♖xb3 ♕xe2 17. ♗a3 ♗xa3 18. ♖xa3 ♕c4 The worst is over for the black king, but the positional pressure continues. The a-pawn is going to fall and it's not easy to hold this position.

19. ♕b1 ♔e7 20. ♖xa7 ♕d4 21. ♖b7 ♘a4 I think this is the first move of Andreikin's that is objectively deserving of criticism in this game - which is impressive, considering the pressure he was under. 

Perhaps the strange finale of this game can be explained by Anand's Jedi mind tricks? | photo: official website

Aronian: "I felt this was a bit dangerous for Black. I'm not so sure about it now, but at least that’s how it looked. After all, Tarrasch cannot be wrong!" Levon is referring to the dictum: "A knight on the rim is dim!"

21... ♘c8 , with the idea of coming to d6, was much more solid.

22. ♖c1 ♖d8 23. h3 After thinking for 22 minutes Aronian decides to play h3, not clarifying the situation but instead trying to keep pieces on the board and complicate matters for Andreikin in his time trouble.

23... ♔f8

23... ♘c5 and dropping back to e6 was a preferable choice.

24. ♕b3! Preparing to trap the black knight. Aronian felt he was already winning here.

24... e4? The black position is already very difficult and Andreikin eventually succumbs to the pressure.

24... ♕xd2! should, with great difficulty, hold the balance: 25. ♖c4 ♕e1+ 26. ♔h2 ♕a5 27. ♕a3+ ♔g8 28. ♖xd7 ♘xd7 29. ♖xa4 ♕c5! The endgame is similar to the one in the game, but with an extra pawn.

25. ♖c4 ♕d5 26. ♕b4+ ♔g8 27. ♖d4 ♕c6 The most natural move, so that White doesn't capture on e4, but...

28. ♖bxd7

28. ♗xe4! You could still take it! 28... ♘xe4 29. ♖dxd7 and it's game over. Aronian rarely shows such mercy!

28... ♘xd7 29. ♕xa4 ♕xa4 30. ♖xa4 ♘f8 31. ♖xe4 A strange decision by Aronian, or as he put it: "Here I went completely mad…"

31. ♗xe4 ♖xd2 32. ♖a7 is the simplest option, combining the advance of the a-pawn with threats to f7.

31... ♖xd2 32. a4 ♖a2 Now it's no longer so easy to make progress.

33. ♗f3 g6 34. ♔g2 ♘e6 35. ♖c4 ♔g7 36. ♗d5 ♔f6 37. ♖e4 ♖a3 38. ♗xe6? Aronian takes another strange decision which seems equivalent to throwing in the towel. He could have kept the bishop on, brought his king out and subjected Andreikin to a few hours of torture. 

His explanation: "I was so frustrated with my Rxe4 that I just went… I didn't play my best."

38... fxe6 39. ♖f4+ ♔e7 40. h4 h5 The time control has passed and the endgame has become highly technical. The e-pawn doesn't seem to harm Black because it helps to block the white rook's access to the f4-square, from which it defends both the f2 and a4 pawns.

41. ♖e4 ♔f7 42. ♔f1 ♖a2! Targeting f2 is the key to the defence.

43. ♔e1 ♔f6 44. ♔d1

44. ♖f4+ ♔e7 45. ♔d1 e5! demonstrates the idea explained above. It's a simple draw.

44... ♔e7 45. f4 ♖a3 46. ♔c2 ♖xg3 47. ♖d4 ♖e3 48. ♔b2 e5 A great opportunity missed by Aronian. Nerves?


Dmitry Andreikin remains rooted to the bottom of the table, although he could be satisfied with two things. Firstly, of course, the outcome of the day’s play, which he neatly summarised as follows:

By accident I survived until the endgame which I managed to hold.

The other comfort was that his chess vision isn’t impaired:

I see everything, but there’s the problem of choice. I’ve seen everything in this tournament but I still don’t choose the best moves.

The full standings have managed to maintain the perfect symmetry they had after Round 6, but instead of zero players on 50% we now have half the field on 3/6!

The participants have definitely earned tomorrow’s rest day, after which Team Russia has White, so that the tournament leaders and today’s winners all have Black in Round 7 on Friday:

Make sure to tune in to our live broadcast with IM Lawrence Trent here on chess24!

See also:

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