It just keeps on getting better! A sensational Round 7 saw Aronian find perhaps the move of the Candidates Tournament so far to beat Karjakin. That was enough to join Anand in the lead after fantastic opening play and a queen sac proved insufficient to defeat Svidler. Andreikin upset Topalov while Kramnik won a game against Mamedyarov that descended into sheer mayhem and left both players bewildered.
We wrote in an earlier report that there was a pattern of three games each day proving exciting while one could be skimmed over… well, today there’s no such luxury! All the players went at it hammer and tongs, so let’s look at the games in the order the players stumbled into the press conferences:
The first game to finish was the day’s biggest upset. Andreikin had been winless and struggling in Khanty-Mansiysk, and the writing seemed to be on the wall after Topalov, fresh from his victory against Kramnik, emerged from the opening on top… what happened next is a lesson in never writing anybody – or any position – off!
Our Spanish editor IM David Martinez takes a look at the game:
1. ♘f3 d5 2. d4 ♘f6 3. c4 e6 4. ♗g5 h6 5. ♗xf6 ♕xf6 6. ♘bd2 This variation of the Queen's Gambit remains relatively rare, but it was certainly no surprise for Topalov given that Andreikin used it to beat Kramnik last year in Dortmund.
6... ♗e7 6...g6 was Kramnik's pick and is just as interesting, but Topalov's choice had already been played in a few games and, moreover, is Houdini's recommendation by some margin over other moves... Ok, you shouldn't pay too much attention to the bean counter on move 6, but I'm surprised Andreikin thought for 18 minutes over his following move, giving the impression he hadn't prepared for this turn of events.
10... ♘xc5 is the most solid option, not allowing an isolated pawn and maintaining a slight edge due to the bishop pair.
13. cxb6 is the type of move you intuitively reject (and rightly so) as it opens more lines e.g. 13... ♗b4+ 14. ♘bd2 ♘c5 15. ♗b5 ♗f5 16. ♕d1 ♗d3! 17. ♗xd3 ♘xd3+ 18. ♔e2 ♘c5 and White's position is difficult mainly because there's no good square to put the queen. It's better to keep the c-file closed.
13... ♗b4+ 14. ♔d1 A sad necessity. In these positions 99% of mortals, and even some machines, would be lamenting the opening and thinking "I have to study more", "he's doing to me what I did to Kramnik" or "I don't want to be the first to lose". Andreikin, however, belongs to that group of people who grow in adversity and give their all... Believe me, that's not something you're born with but something you develop through training, trial and error and success occasionally following bitter experience...
It's true that being born in an icy town not so far from Moscow and belonging to the generation of 1990 (Carlsen, Karjakin, Vachier-Lagrave, Nepomniachtchi...) is likely to make you more resilient to failure, but my student Irene Nicolás learned to be resilient and won the decisive game that brought her silver in the World U16 Championship based on learning from experience and overcoming many obstacles... despite living near a beach in Alicante!
15... ♗g4 16. ♗b5 ♘e6 17. ♔c1 ♗c5 , followed by Rac8 and Nd8, was better in order to regain the pawn and keep the other advantages: better coordination, a more secure king and, depending on the line, the bishop pair.
18... g4 may have been Topalov's initial idea, but here you have to take into account 19. hxg4 hxg4 20. ♔b1‼ This knight sacrifice completely refutes Topalov's plan and, although it wasn't played, is the key to the game! 20... gxf3 21. gxf3 Ka2 and Rag1 mate will follow.
19. ♔b1 ♖e8 20. ♔a2 ♖a7 21. ♖ad1 Topalov no longer has any counterplay and is a pawn down with another isolated. He knows he's strategically lost, and now puts up little resistance to the revitalised Andreikin.
21... ♔f8 22. ♖hf1 ♔g7 23. ♔a1 ♗f8 24. ♘e2 ♖d8 25. h4! g4 26. ♘f4 ♔g8 27. ♘xd5 An interesting if unusual game in which Topalov managed to seize the initiative right out of the opening but then pushed too hard to exploit it and only ended up a pawn down with no compensation.
The day’s only draw was anything but a tame affair. Yet more fine preparation from the former World Champion with Black saw Peter Svidler sink into what he described as his “record think for this millennium” on move 15. It says all you need to know about the game that when Anand decided to play things relatively safe at one point he did so by going for a far from obvious queen sacrifice!
David tried valiantly to make sense of the game:
14... ♘hf4 We join the game in a position where Anand has clearly won the opening battle. It looks dangerous for White, but you only fully realise how dangerous when you learn that Peter spent 39 minutes on his move! As he said later: "That's my record for this millenium!"
15... f6! In only 15 minutes Anand has managed to seize the initiative with Black.
20... ♖xf2! A tactical trick exploiting the fact that if you capture with the king the d4-pawn will be pinned and the rook will be hanging. Anand did, of course, look at this line but he felt it could get complicated as it hands White the initiative. With accurate play, however, that initiative could have been neutralised. 21. ♖e3 ♖f8 22. ♘h5 Threatening Re7. 22... ♕f7! The move Vishy had probably missed. 23. ♖e7 ♕f2+ 24. ♔h2 ♗xd4 and everything is under control.
22... g5 is the silicon recommendation, but I doubt Vishy spent a long time before dismissing it. 23. ♗xg5 ♕xf2+ 24. ♔h1 hxg5 25. ♖xg5+ ♔f7 26. ♖g7+ ♔e8 27. ♕d3 is very dangerous for Black, although again, thanks to the machines, we can find a good line for him - 27... ♖f7 28. ♕g6 and now we come to the key to the whole variation (which you had to see before playing 22...g5): 28... ♗xh3‼ 29. ♘f4 (29. gxh3 ♕f3+ and the dark-squared bishop will deliver the finishing blow.) 29... ♗xg2+ 30. ♘xg2 ♗xd4 31. ♖e1+ (31. ♖g8+ ♔d7 32. ♖xa8 ♕f3‼ 33. ♕h6 ♕d3‼ , followed by Rf1 and then Be5, winning! Amazing!) 31... ♕xe1+ 32. ♘xe1 ♗xg7 33. ♘f3 ♖d8 34. ♘g5 ♖d7 and Black will have to suffer as much as White in this position... It seems natural that Anand was unable to calculate all this, don't you think?
24. ♖f3 ♕xf3⁉ 25. gxf3 ♗xh4 The position is difficult to evaluate and the only thing that comes to mind is: "Black can't be worse". The bishop pair and the pressure on the f-file guarantee him a good game, but at the same time nothing more.
Both sides have well-placed pieces and there's no way to dislodge them. Svidler now breaks with b5, which is more an attempt to ensure a quick draw than to seize the advantage.
33. b5 cxb5 34. axb5 ♗xb5 35. ♕xd5 ♖d7 36. ♕e4 ♗c6 37. ♖xc6 bxc6 38. ♕xc6 ♖xd4 A good opening from Anand, who managed to gain a decisive advantage making very normal moves. He would surely have managed to find the required defensive manoeuvres in order to win... if he'd taken the pawn with Rxf2.
After Andreikin’s win Karjakin remains the only player yet
to post a victory in Khanty-Mansiysk, but it wasn’t for the lack of
trying. In Round 7 he chose the Anti-Berlin with 4.d3, saying he wanted to go
for a fight and felt some obligation based on the tournament situation. In the
subtle manoeuvring that followed his Armenian opponent gradually got the upper
hand and then used all his legendary ingenuity to eke out a win.
We bring you a full analysis of the game below, but it’s perhaps first worth singling out one magical moment:
Ignore, if you can, GM Jan Gustafsson’s T-shirt during our live broadcast… This is the position after Karjakin has just played 47.g4. The hordes of chess fans watching the game with computer analysis could see that the position was supposedly equal (0.00) unless Aronian found the move 47…Qc4. After a nerve-wracking 15 minutes he did play it! How good was it? Well, Sergey Karjakin’s second and chess24 contributor Rustam Kasimdzhanov gave us the following reaction from the scene:
Qc4!! I mean wow!! It's at times like this you recognise the greatest. I'd never pull it off, not after 5 hours of play. It was SUCH a difficult move. It just does not occur, not to mortals.
And now the game:
1. e4 e5 2. ♘f3 ♘c6 3. ♗b5 ♘f6 4. d3 ♗c5 5. c3 0-0 6. 0-0 ♖e8 7. ♘bd2 a6 8. ♗xc6 A relative surprise, as the more common Ba4 had already been played by Karjakin against Leko and by Radjabov against Aronian - we're clearly talking about two guys with experience in this line.
16. dxe5 ♗e6 17. ♕c2 ♗xc4 18. ♘xc4 ♘xe5 19. ♘d2 If White manages to consolidate he'll be better - f4 is coming and Black has doubled c-pawns. Aronian needs to look for a break on the queenside, either with a5 or c5. He chose the first.
23... b5 , so that c5 would be a real break, or
23... ♗d6 were the alternatives to keen in mind.
Black has doubled pawns, his bishop is worse than his rival's and c7 is also a target, but he's undoubtedly better! Why? Basically, because his heavy pieces are better. The rook dominates the a-file and the black queen is centralised. He also has a simple plan to improve: g6, Bg7 and then initiate action on the queenside. White, meanwhile, is more limited and Karjakin decides to give up some squares in exchange for activating his queen.
33. ♘b3 would have avoided the knight being left hanging and maintained a more solid position.
36. ♖d3! Karjakin's key idea.
36... ♕c1+ 37. ♔h2 ♘b2 38. ♖d8 ♕xc4 39. ♕a8 ♕xh4+ 40. ♔g1 ♕e1+ 41. ♔h2 ♕xe5+ 42. g3 ♕e2+ 43. ♔h3 ♘d3 44. ♖xf8+ ♔h7 The material imbalance and the position of both kings make the position very difficult.
45. ♖e8 This move can be criticised only with Houdini or if you're playing against Aronian. Otherwise it's a fine move.
45. ♖h8+ ♔g6 46. ♕c6+ ♔g5! 47. ♕d5+ ♔f6 48. ♕c6+ ♕e6+ 49. ♕xe6+ ♔xe6 50. ♔g2 c4 and perhaps White has some complicated line which draws, but the normal approach is to avoid an ending like this at all costs.
45... ♘f2+ 46. ♔h4 ♕xb5 47. g4 Everything seems to work well for White, who's going to put his king on g3 and breathe a little easier. What follows is an amazing demonstration of Levon's calculating ability:
47... ♕c4‼ A beautiful quiet move. The f4-square is the goal and, as we'll see, the queen can also help to defend e6. Levon had to be feeling really good about finding this move.
48... ♕f4 It's over.
That was a hard act to follow, but the last game to finish certainly came close:
Kramnik gave a fair assessment of his win:
The game was crazy. I was very lucky that I won but on the other hand I had a technically winning position, so I don’t know how to assess what happened.
The opening was a strange affair after which Vladimir was well on top, but he admitted to having already “chalked up a point” to himself and his attempt to force matters unleashed pandemonium. Short of time and unsure whether to take a draw or keep fighting for a win he ended up in a lost position, but it was only lost if Azerbaijan’s Mamedyarov found a fantastic sequence of moves. Rustam Kasimdzhanov was stunned that we might get to see the line over-the-board on the same day Aronian had found his killer move, and it seemed we would… but just when Mamedyarov needed to put the finishing touches to his work – with 30 minutes remaining on his clock – he blitzed out a couple of moves that ruined everything:
Mamedyarov: I think I did very well to find a win and kept playing – and I thought this was the last move and he’ll resign… so I played it very quickly. Such a blunder…
Kasimdzhanov: He already did everything right! Just one move without allowing two pawns to queen with check! Is it too much to ask?
Find out what they were talking about as David Martinez takes a look at how Kramnik won a totally crazy game:
1. d4 ♘f6 2. c4 e6 3. ♘f3 d5 4. ♘c3 ♗b4 5. cxd5 exd5 6. ♗g5 ♘bd7 7. ♕c2 c5 8. e3 ♕a5 9. ♗d3 c4 10. ♗f5 0-0 11. 0-0 ♖e8 12. ♘d2 g6 13. ♗xd7 ♘xd7 14. h4 Mamedyarov took 31 minutes to respond to this move. You can't say he didn't know the position as he'd already played it before, admittedly 7 years ago, against Cheparinov. In any case, it's clear he was uncomfortable and decided to abandon his analysis and enter "unknown" territory.
14... ♘b6 is the main move and the one Mamedyarov played before... While Kramnik feared his opponent's preparation the round before here the shoe was on the other foot - his opponent feared his. Things like this make it easy to understand why Magnus flees from theory at the earliest possible moment!
15. a4! A novelty, and a good one. Vladimir only needed 3 minutes for this and the following 3 moves took him 30 seconds. By that I think he was saying: "Shakh, even b5 didn't get you out of my analysis".
18... ♕d6 After 28 minutes Mamedyarov chose to consolidate his position and hope that nothing serious would happen. And it worked, in a fashion!
27... ♔g8 28. ♕f4 ♔f7 All the white pieces are perfectly placed and now it's time to find something more, although that isn't, in fact, so easy. Maybe a5 or h5 would have been the right idea. Kramnik said in the press conference that he was sure he was winning and decided it was time to force matters.
30. ♕e3 , which was mentioned by Kramnik in the press conference, although Mamedyarov also has his pieces well-placed for counterplay. 30... ♘c5‼ A great resource! (30... ♘c7 31. f3 would be more comfortable for White, who could quietly improve his position.)
a) 31. dxc5? d4 32. ♕f4 dxc3 33. ♖b6 c2! It's a close-run thing, but Black is on top. 34. ♖xc6 cxb1Q+ And the white king has nowhere to hide. 35. ♔h2 (35. ♔g2⁇ ♕xe4+ ) 35... ♕b8! with an ending an exchange up, which should be winning.
b) 31. exd5 ♕d7 32. ♕f3 ♘d3 The black pieces are reanimated! 33. ♖e2 ♖xe2 34. ♕xe2 ♗c8 35. f3 White has an extra pawn but the position is full of life. The opposite-coloured bishops guarantee that neither king can breathe easily and the knight on d3, although currently doing nothing in particular, can provide support in any skirmish.
33. ♖b7+ was another interesting sacrifice, and after 33... ♗xb7 34. ♖xb7+ ♔g6 35. ♗g7 we reach a complicated ending where Houdini, with his usual miserliness, gives 0.00, though with humans anything could happen.
33... ♖d6 This bishop is trapped and decides to go out with a bang...
38. ♘b5 This threatens d6, as well as taking on a7 and c8. The position is incredibly complicated and analysing it with precision would mean this report appearing in mid-April, but we'll take a look at a couple of cool lines:
a) 38... ♗xg4 39. ♖xe8 ♔xe8 40. ♘xa7 The black position seems critical as White is about to give check on e1 and then queen a pawn - while still having three more passed pawns in reserve! But the counterplay against the white king comes just in time: 40... ♗h3+ 41. ♔g3 (41. ♔g1⁇ ♘f3+ 42. ♔h1 and now both Rg6 and Rh6 win - what a mating net!) 41... ♖f3+ 42. ♔h4 h6 43. ♖b8+ ♔e7 44. c8Q ♖f4+ 45. ♔h5 ♗xc8 46. ♖xc8 ♔d7 and Black should draw as his pieces, and especially his king, are better prepared to deal with the queenside.
b) 38... ♘e4 39. f3 ♘d6⁉ (39... ♘d2 40. ♖h1 ♘xf3 41. ♖xc8 ♖xc8 42. d6 and the most likely result, among elite players, is that the pawns cost a rook and it ends in a draw... Among everyone else, once again, anything could happen.) 40. ♘xa7 ♖e2+ 41. ♔g1 ♖h6! 42. ♘xc8 ♘xc8 43. ♖xc8 ♖hh2 44. ♖f8+ ♔g7 45. ♖g8+ ♔f7 and a draw!
39... ♘xf3! was the correct way to coordinate the pieces.
40. d6 The safest move was
40. ♖bb8! ♖xc3 (40... ♖ee3 41. ♖xc8 ♖g3+ 42. ♔h2 ♖h3+ 43. ♔g2 ♖hg3+ and a draw) 41. ♖xc8 ♖c2+ 42. ♔g3 ♖c3+ and a draw since the white king can't avoid a perpetual. Going to h4 would be suicide: 43. ♔h4⁇ h6 44. ♖xe8 ♖h3#
41. ♖d8! The idea is to play d7 and go for broke. Black has a couple of tempi to mount an assault on the white king but he doesn't manage to give mate - although it's close! 41... ♗h3+ 42. ♔h1! ♖xc3 43. d7 ♖e2 44. ♖g1! A miraculous defence that saves the game. 44... ♖cc2 45. ♖f8+ ♔xf8
a) 46. d8Q+ It's strange that this move loses, isn't it? 46... ♔f7 47. ♕d6 (47. ♖xg5 ♖c1+ 48. ♖g1 ♗g2+ 49. ♔h2 ♗d5+ 50. ♔h3 ♗e6+ is winning. Spectacular!) 47... ♗f5 and there's no-one to stop the bishop coming to the long diagonal.
48. ♖f8+ ♔xf8⁇ Played after only 8 seconds of "reflection" because, as Mamedyarov explained in the press conference, he thought Kramnik was about to resign! Nothing could be further from the truth and he was in for a great disappointment...
50. ♕b7! And there are no mates! White threatens both to queen with check and the black rook on g2.
So it could have been very different, but at the half-way point of the tournament Kramnik has returned to +1, just half a point behind the new leading duo of Anand and Aronian. Andreikin is off the bottom, while Topalov and Karjakin have sunk the other way.
We now return to the pairings at the start of the tournament with the colours reversed, meaning another mini-Russian Championship is beginning… and Levon Aronian has a chance to gain revenge against co-leader Viswanathan Anand for his loss on the first day of the event!
Make sure to tune in to our live broadcast here on chess24 with GM Jan Gustafsson!
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