Vishy Anand finally had something to smile about at the GRENKE Chess Classic after inflicting a 4th consecutive loss on David Baramidze. He wasn’t doing much smiling, though, since the conversion of what looked likely to be the first game of the day to finish dragged on... and on. It was that kind of day. Only the headline performers Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana had a relatively straightforward draw, while Michael Adams and Arkadij Naiditsch let good winning chances slip, but in games where it was fiendishly tough to put a finger on exactly where they went wrong.
GRENKE Classic 2015 Round 6 results (click a result to replay the game with computer analysis)
The first game of the day to finish was a 26-move Berlin Wall draw by repetition, but it’s hard to hold that against the players. In 2014 the two Cs played ten games and conceded only a single draw, with five wins for Carlsen and four for Caruana. You can’t even really blame the opening – up until move 11 they were following the game Fabiano won against Magnus in Shamkir, although that was decided not by the opening but a 24th move blunder.
Carlsen deviated with 11…Ne7 instead of 11…Bd7, and it was this knight that was to go on to have an extraordinary career. Its 7th move back to f8 caught Caruana by surprise:
The Italian said he saw nothing better than his 16.g4, but after 16…h5 Carlsen appeared to have solved all his opening problems, even if his opponent did get to threaten mate-in-1:
Both players executed the moves that followed with
computer-like precision, and Caruana correctly chose not to try and “play for a
win” at the end, since 24.Kg4 was only likely to give slim winning chances to
the World Champion. The knight’s move count in the final position? 12!
Watch the players talk about their game:
What has this imposter done with the real Arkadij Naiditsch? Instead of the usual roller-coaster of emotions for his fans, Naiditsch has eased to +2, with one of his victories coming against the World Champion, and has gone on to play high quality and highly practical chess – usually playing for only a draw or win. That was how things went in this impressive performance against his friend and partner in opening preparation crime Etienne Bacrot. The most impressive person related to this game, though, may have been Magnus Carlsen.
He casually let slip in his post-game interview:
I remember some game Etienne played in the Candidates in 2007, against Kamsky, where they played some kind of Dutch. While there were a lot of operations on the kingside he was stuck with the bishop pair, but a terrible black-squared bishop, and history seems to repeat itself. After 28…Qb4 this is a little unpleasant, because you don’t get out.
Sure enough, this was Bacrot-Kamsky, Candidates 2007 – a Dutch Defence – after 28.Ba1:
And this was today’s game after 28.Nf3:
It just illustrated the kind of incredible pattern recognition and memory Carlsen has to draw on in his games (Nigel Short called it his "vocabulary"). The World Champion's evaluation was also spot on. 28…Qb4! seems to have been the move to keep White tied down, while after 28…Ne4?!, which had just been played, Carlsen said 29.Ne5! “should do the trick.” It did, and Bacrot had no problem holding a draw.
Watch the players’ post-game press conference:
That was the question Nigel Short asked Levon Aronian after a game where he'd struggled not to lose with the white pieces. The response:
Probably in the preparation. Nowadays they don’t play this line – it’s an old line and somehow I forgot to analyse it.
There are few things in life less trustworthy that Aronian’s comments on his opening preparation after a game, but what’s indisputable is that when he played 11.d4 he was repeating what had been a novelty played by Garry Kasparov in Moscow against Vassily Ivanchuk in 1988. Vassily put his knight on e4 and lost a beautiful miniature in only 24 moves.
In 2015 Adams took 7 seconds to play 11…h6 and after 12.cxd5 (14 minutes 35 seconds) 12...Qxd5 (6 seconds) Aronian came up with the offbeat: 13.e3!? (10 minutes 48 seconds):
That had the virtue of getting Mickey out of home preparation. This was to be no miniature, though, but a long and perplexing game in which that was only the first of many curious decisions. Only serious analysis by serious people might hope to get to the bottom of it all, so let’s just take a look at a few snapshots with player/commentator comments:
Sometimes you have to play fantastically ugly moves, and Aronian's 22.Bxe4 is a fantastically ugly move.
After 30.Qf4 I was seriously worried about 30…Bd5. I thought Bd5 was the killer!
At around about this point there was also a dialogue between the commentators:
Gustafsson: What does Adams' advantage consist of?
Short: He can give checkmate to the white king!
And finally 36.g5!?
Even if this is bad for White there is so much joy. Even when you’re losing you’re still enjoying your position because you get to push some pawns.
By around this stage it seems as though the opposite-coloured bishops had definitely switched from being an attacking to a defensive trump, even if Aronian noted that 38…Bxe4 rather than 38…Rxe4 had still had him worried. A draw was eventually agreed on move 56.
Adams was disappointed not to have converted his advantage, but was overly harsh on himself when he commented about his tournament:
In general I don’t play very well - it’s a pretty consistent feature of all my games!
Watch the players' comments in full:
So that left only the final game to finish…
This was a very strange encounter. First David repeated the “lazy” Breyer Ruy Lopez that had got him into so much trouble against Magnus Carlsen the day before. Vishy deviated from (his wording rather than “improved upon”) Magnus’ play with 17.Be3 instead of 17.Bg5, and then only four or five moves later had a winning position. It seems the whole Benoni-like structure adopted by Baramidze was a risky strategy, and 21…Rec8?! mistakenly prepared the losing 22…c3?
Jan Gustafsson said in the commentary that it seemed Baramidze kept trying "to land a lucky punch" rather than play his normal game. This flailing right hook overlooked a simple tactical blow – that 23.bxc3 Nxd5 24.exd5 Bxc3 25.Qd1 Bxa1 26.Qxa1 - so far all this was played in the game – can’t be followed by picking up a piece with 26…Qxc2 due to 27.Bh6 Qc3 and...
...28.Re8+!, winning the queen.
Black could try 27…f6 in that line, but after 28.Re7 it doesn’t work either. Baramidze, who during a 38-minute think on move 26 may have fought the urge to resign on the spot, stumbled on, and by move 31 the position had clarified as follows:
White is clearly winning with two pieces for the rook, but instead of the game ending quickly it dragged on late into the evening, outlasting all the other games. It was 21 moves before another piece was captured and only on move 65 that Baramidze finally threw in the towel, conceding his fourth defeat in a row.
Rather than being relieved at getting his first win in
Baden-Baden, Vishy was annoyed with himself, commenting, “obviously this
position I took way too long to win”. Objectively it was hard to fault the
champion, though, since he’d never let his winning advantage slip for a moment.
Likewise, you can hardly criticise David for fighting on till the last. The main
conclusion was that everyone involved needed to get some dinner and relax!
Watch the final press conference of the day below:
So essentially the balance of power was unaltered by Round 6, and it’s all to play for in Monday’s final round:
The last round pairings see none of the three players in real contention for first place – Carlsen, Naiditsch and Caruana – face each other, so all kinds of scenarios are possible:
Perhaps Naiditsch has the toughest opponent, but Carlsen plays an unbeaten player and although Caruana takes on the struggling Baramidze he has the black pieces. If players are tied for first with the same number of points after the final round we’ll get a rapid play-off, with first two 10 min + 2 sec games, then potentially two 5+2 games and even an Armageddon decider.
Don’t miss the last round at the same time, 15:00 CET, live here on chess24 with commentary by Jan Gustafsson and Nigel Short. Their audience is growing by the day!
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