Reports Mar 16, 2016 | 8:41 AMby Colin McGourty

Moscow Candidates, 4: Karjakin beats Anand

Sergey Karjakin has surged into the 2016 Candidates Tournament lead by winning his first ever classical game against Vishy Anand in Round 4. The remaining three games were once again drawn, with Fabiano Caruana throwing away what looked like a certain victory against Veselin Topalov, explaining his mistake on move 41 as a “hallucination”. Levon Aronian is now in sole second place after holding a tricky position against Peter Svidler.

Sergey Karjakin, who twice won the Norway Chess supertournament ahead of Magnus Carlsen, is currently leading the chase to play the World Champion in New York | photo: World Chess

Moscow Candidates Round 4 results

The first game to finish in Round 4 was, on the face of it, a spectacular fight.

Nakamura ½-½ Giri

As so often with such games at the elite level, though, it turned out to be less of a game and more of a test of whether an opponent had done his opening preparation. 

Catching Anish Giri off-guard in the opening is a big ask | photo: World Chess

Hikaru went for a line against the Slav Defence that Giri himself had used to beat Alexei Shirov, explaining:

I kind of expected him to be ready, but like any opening you kind of just have to prepare and hope your opponent doesn’t know the best continuation. If they’ve prepared everything the whole way out then you’re not going to get anything.

After 20…Bd4! Nakamura said it was already equal and then his last hope came after 24.f5:


The point of the whole line was that I was playing for one trick, on move 24, that maybe Anish would play 24…Kg7, because to a human, at least, if you haven’t looked at the position Kg7 maybe looks more human, but it’s not quite correct because of 25.fxg6 fxg6 26.Rf7+ Kxh6 27.Raf1.

Even there Black might hope to hold, while in the game Giri went for 24…c5! and though after 25.fxg6+ Kxg6 26.Nxf7 the position looks terrifying for Black, it all finished in a draw by repetition only a few moves later.

Team Giri - Sopiko Guramishvili and Vladimir Tukmakov - have no reasons for concern so far | photo: Eteri Kublashvili, Russian Chess Federation

So that’s four draws for Giri, while Nakamura has stabilised after his Round 2 loss to Sergey Karjakin. Watch the post-game press conference in full:  

The other logical draw after both players had done their homework was enough to put Levon Aronian in sole second place.

Svidler ½-½ Aronian

When Peter Svidler was acting as a chess24 commentator on the 2015 Bilbao Masters he took a look at an incredible game where Vishy Anand was lost on move 10 against Anish Giri. Back then he explained that a move earlier Anand had been faced with a position where the black knight could capture any of four pawns:

Check out our full report on that round of the Bilbao Masters here

Vishy opted for “none of the above”, with 9…dxe5. It turns out his instincts were right, but the correct “none of the above” option was 9…Nc5!, as chosen by Levon and given the stamp of approval by Peter.

After his co-leader Karjakin won and Anand lost, Aronian is now in sole second place in Moscow | photo: World Chess

Talking of opening preparation, in an interview with Kramnik just published on our website, the Russian no.1 drew an interesting conclusion from the London Candidates:

Strangely enough, I think Svidler was the best opening player there. I don't think he was better prepared than others, but every idea which he prepared was on the board! And in fact, I was checking carefully, and then I realized that according to the opening positions, he was the best, he was number one there.

That trend seems to be continuing in Moscow, so far, with Svidler stunning Nakamura by being prepared up to move 25 in a sideline in Round 3 and now having had the position on move 17 or 18 against Aronian on his board (or computer screen) at home:

It’s a curious position, with four doubled c-pawns and an extra pawn for Black cancelled out by a lack of development and White’s raking bishops. It was at this point, though, that Svidler was critical of his preparation:

We got to this position in analysis with my seconds and it probably made more sense to spend more time analysing this properly… the computer thinks this is equal and it doesn’t matter really what you play… From here on out I was trying to figure it out over the board, which is somewhat stupid, as I knew this was likely to happen if I played this line.

Aronian claimed he’d been just as “stupid”, with both players agreeing that now after 19.Bd6 Nb6 the worst was over for Black. Instead there was an interesting possibility of 19.Re1 (luring the knight away from the b6-square) 19…Nf6 20.Rb1!, when the pressure on the queenside proves hard to handle. In the game Levon gave up two pawns to untangle his pieces and held what became a rook ending a pawn down with ease.

Watch the players’ press conference:

The day’s other two games should both have ended decisively.

Caruana ½-½ Topalov

This was a game that might have been more normal in Round 13 or 14, when battle-wearied gladiators could no longer withstand the immense pressure of what was at stake. In Round 4, after a rest day, it was difficult to explain, with first Topalov making a crude oversight that should have condemned him to a third loss in only four games, then Caruana returning the favour with an early candidate for the worst move of the Candidates. Perhaps he simply recalled that it was Veselin’s 41st birthday!

Topalov recounts his luck with his manager Silvio Danailov | photo: Eteri Kublashvili, Russian Chess Federation

Jan Gustafsson takes us through a very strange game:

And here's what the players made of it all:

That leaves us with the sensation of the day.

Karjakin 1-0 Anand

After Vishy Anand won in Round 1 in Moscow we had the prospect of a repeat performance of his serene victory in the 2014 Candidates Tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk, where the Indian chess genius went on to score an unbeaten +3. Now, after this game, he may still win the event as a whole, but it’s not going to be so easy!

Karjakin came very close to beating Anand at the end of the last Candidates Tournament - this time he managed | photo: World Chess

The critical moments occurred very early on – Karjakin unleashed a novelty with 9.h4! and Vishy’s 10…f5 already looked questionable before he took a fateful decision on move 12:

Anand's single comment in the post-game press conference was: 

I regret playing 12…exd5. I’d seen 12…Qxd5!, but I was a bit worried about 13.Bc4. I think 12…exd5 just leaves me with a strategically bad position.

The former World Champion ended up with hanging pawns and Karjakin knew the game was going in his favour when his opponent switched to entirely passive defence by exchanging bishops with 18…Ba6:

As Karjakin put it:

I think this is a more or less critical position, not because Black is lost, but because after 18…Ba6 it’s very simple for White to play. I was worried about some waiting move like 18…Kh8.

Passive defence has never been Vishy’s thing, while Sergey’s technique is a formidable weapon and made the outcome look inevitable. Resignation came on move 43, with the d5-pawn set to drop:

The post-game press conference seemed designed not to rub any salt in Vishy Anand's wounds, with a brief, purely chess analysis of what had taken place:

That game proved a significant landmark (though it should be noted this is as much about Harikrishna's brilliant rise - the young star will now play the world's best in Norway Chess next month):

In Khanty-Mansiysk, Sergey Karjakin ended the first half of the tournament on -2, before ultimately storming back with +3 in the second half to finish in second place. This time round he’s already made himself the man to beat, and his rivals – especially the likes of Nakamura and Caruana – may soon feel they have to take some risks to keep up.

In Round 5 Karjakin has a real chance to increase his lead against a shaky Topalov, while Anand-Nakamura and Aronian-Caruana in particular promise exciting chess! Don't miss our coverage on Wednesday, when the action again starts at 13:00 CET.

You can also watch the games in our free mobile apps:  


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