28 Mar

Unlucky For Some

The former world champion, Garry Kasparov, has an absolute respect for the number 13, which he considers the luckiest number in his life and his talisman. And his arguments are very strong: He was born on April 13, and he became the 13th World Champion in the history of chess. This is probably why whenever he traveled, he’d ask his family members and coaches to take their places in the playing hall…on row 13.


And if he were still playing today, Kasparov would have simply revelled at the thought of playing a round 13 at the Moscow Candidates' Tournament, regarding this as being nothing but a good omen for him. But most chess players are fearful that round 13 of a tournament will bring them nothing but bad luck - and indeed, the longer the tension-filled round 13 went on in Moscow, the unluckier it got for the American co-leader, Fabiano Caruana.

After watching his co-leader, Sergey Karjakin, struggling and in a bad way against Levon Aronian, Caruana looked to be coasting to victory against Peter Svidler. But it proved to be a game of cruel fluctuating fortunes for the young American, as the likely win that would have best-placed him to be Magnus Carlsen’s next title challenger, turned into a long technical struggle, as his opponent somehow managed to liquidate the game down to just R+B v R; not easy to win, and more often or not a technical draw.

The game went into overtime and then some - but Caruna was unlucky to overlook a forced winning position that immediately sent the oracle of the Lomonsov Endgame Tablebases, situated  at the Computer Science department of Moscow State University, into a silicon frenzy; and had he found it, Svidler would not have escaped with the 50-move rule (where if a pawn hasn’t been moved and no captures, then the game is automatically declared a draw), because to avoid mate the Russian would have had to give up his rook three moves before he could claim the draw.

Caruana did though manage to get himself back into a won position…but unluckily for him, it was five moves shy of the 50-move rule, so Svidler managed to claim a draw in a lost position on move 116. And through the pain of all this, Caruana also discovered that Karjakin had somehow pulled off a remarkable save to draw with Aronian in 111-moves. Now both face each other in a a tense and dramatic final round tied on 7.5/13 - but Karjakin holds the tiebreak advantage of having the most wins.

Now Caruana needs to win with Black in their final round showdown. However, there is a loophole: the Fide tiebreak rules are somewhat convoluted and confusing, because if the game is a draw, and Viswanathan Anand wins to finish in a three-way tie with Caruana and Karjakin, then Caruana's plus score against Anand then becomes the tiebreak decider, and the American goes forward to play Carlsen.

Confused? Yes, so was I and just about everyone else who attempted to fathom out the exact tiebreak wording - but whatever happens, the round 14 finale is going to be a tense, nerve-wracking affair for both Caruana and Karjakin.

Round 13
Caruana draw Svidler
Anand draw Giri
Aronian draw Karjakin
Topalov 0-1 Nakamura

1-2. Sergey Karjakin (Russia), Fabiano Caruana (USA) 7.5/13; 3. Viswanathan Anand (India) 7; 4-7. Anish Giri (Netherlands), Peter Svidler (Russia), Levon Aronian (Armenia), Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 6.5; 8. Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) 4.


And also unlucky for some is Anish Giri, as the young Dutchman tried his best with some imaginative play against Anand to avoid a remarkable 13th successive draw in the tournament - but this time it certainly wasn’t for want of trying to win. He could well finish with 14 draws in his first Candidates', but he's only 21 and still young, and he's my tip to win the next Candidates'. 

Photo © | Moscow Candidates Tournament


GM Viswanathan Anand - GM Anish Giri
FIDE Moscow Candidates, (13)
Giuoco Piano
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.c3 a6 7.a4 Ba7 8.Na3 The Giuoco Piano is initially very quiet with a slow build-up, but all the pieces remain on the board. 8...Ne7 9.Bg5 Readers may well remember that in round 9, Anand-Aronian continued: 9.Nc2 Ng6 10.Be3 0-0 11.Bxa7 Rxa7 12.Ne3 Ng4 13.Qd2 a5 when there was nothing much in the position, though Aronian followed up with a few inaccuracies that allowed Anand to win a nice game. Rather than face something prepared by Giri that would likely steer the game towards a neutral position, Anand deviates with a different plan. 9...c6 10.Nc2 0-0 11.Nh4 d5! Although some of the moves are different, you may well remember that aforementioned Anand-Aronian encounter, where Aronian played in a similar position ...a5, preventing White first from a space advantage on the queenside. In doing so, Anand immediately hit back in the centre with d4 and gained the advantage - here, Giri eschews ..a5 and instead strikes in the centre himself, and at the same time depriving Anand of using the f5 square for his knight. 12.exd5 Nexd5 13.Nf3 Qd6 14.Re1 Bg4 Giri's strategy has worked out far better than Aronian's - just look how well his pieces are developed. 15.Bh4 Rae8 16.h3 Bh5 17.Bg3 Nf4 18.Bxf4 Forced. Anand may well cede the bishop-pair, but he simply can't allow Giri's knight to stay on f4. 18...exf4 19.d4 c5! Giri want's to keep his dark-squared bishop in the game. 20.Be2 cxd4 21.Ncxd4 Re4! The rook lift builds the pressure on Anand's position - Giri threatens to double rooks on the e-file, and also looks in certain lines for exchanges on d4 perhaps leaving White with an isolated d-pawn. It's all good, solid positional work that we come to expect from Giri. 22.Qc2 Rc8 Giri plays for the tricks on d4, but stronger may well have been 22...Bxd4 23.Nxd4 Qe5! 24.f3 (If 24.Kf1 Re8 and Black has total domination of the e-file.) 24...Re3 25.Red1 Qg5 26.Rd2 Rfe8 and Black is in a strong position. 23.Rad1 Bxf3 24.Nxf3 Bxf2+!? (See Diagram) A very brave and bold move that automatically ought to remove the stigma that Giri simply wants to draw ever game. Here, Anand had something like 8 minutes left on his clock to reach the time control at move 40. And just when he thought he was going to get some quick exchanges to ease his position, Giri hits him hard with complications, and suddenly Anand has to start thinking again to steer a safe course. 25.Kxf2 Qb6+ 26.Kf1 Of course, the point of 22...Rc8 is that Anand now can't play 26.Nd4? as it loses to 26...Rxd4! 27.Rxd4 Qxd4+ 28.Kf1 (28.cxd4? Rxc2 winning.) 28...Qc5 and Black's a pawn to the good and should easily convert this to a win. 26...Nh5 27.g4 Otherwise ...Ng3 is mating. 27...fxg3 28.Bd3 Rxe1+ 29.Rxe1 Nf4 30.Nd4 g6 31.Be4 You can understand Anand's rationale for playing this, as he didn't like to see ideas of ...Qf6 and ...g2+ with the flag on his digital clock metaphorically hanging. However, that said, his best shot was 31.Re3! Qf6 32.Qd2 Qh4 and now 33.Be4! and now after 33...Qxh3+ 34.Bg2 White has everything covered and has his pieces best-placed to take control. 31...Qf6 32.Bf3 Now if 32.Re3? there comes the coup d’état with 32...Nd5+ 33.Rf3 Ne3+! 34.Ke2 Nxc2 35.Rxf6 Nxd4+ 36.cxd4 Re8! 37.Kf3 (37.Rf4? f5!) 37...Rxe4! and White can't recapture the rook as ...g2 is queening. 32...g2+! 33.Bxg2 Nd3+ 34.Nf3 Nxe1 35.Kxe1 b5 36.axb5 axb5 37.Qe4 Rb8 All of this is awkward for Anand to accurately defend against with little or no time left on his clock. 38.Qd4 Qe6+ 39.Kf2 Qb3! Even more so now, but at least he's made making the time control and will have extra time to figure it out. 40.Ne5 Qxb2+ 41.Kg1 Rc8 42.Qf4?! Or perhaps not...Anand had to play 42.Nc6! Qe2 43.Be4 after which the game should end in a draw, as 43...Re8 is met by 44.Ne7+! Kf8 (Also a draw is 44...Rxe7 45.Qd8+ Kg7 46.Qxe7 Qe3+ 47.Kg2 Qe2+) 45.Nd5 Qe1+ 46.Kh2 Qe2+ 47.Kg3 Qe1+ with a draw. 42...Qa2 Defending f7 and allowing the queen to track back with a tempo-saving check on a7, if needed. 43.c4 Qa7+ 44.Kh2 bxc4 45.Bd5 Rf8? It looks bad and it is bad. The rook does nothing on f8 and only allows Anand to escape with an easy draw. Instead, stronger was 45...Rc5! 46.Qd4 Rc7 47.Qf4 Re7 48.Nxc4 Qc7 and Giri has successfully exchanged queens and can try and press an endgame win with his extra pawns on the kingside. In all likelihood even this will probably end in a draw - but Giri can make Anand squirm for it by playing on. 46.Qf6! Much stronger than Ng4 - now Anand has the easy draw at hand with Nxg6 and Qxg6+ followed by Qh6+ etc. And if Giri plays this wrongly, then Ng4 could well be mating. So time to bail out with the inevitable Giri draw - but kudos to the young Dutchman for making a game of it with his enterprising ...Bxf2+. 46...Qa2+ 47.Kg3 Qa7 48.Kg2 Anand still has to be careful, as he can't march his king up the board to escape the checks: 48.Ng4? Qg1+ 49.Kh4? Qe1+ 50.Kg5 h6+!! 51.Kxh6 (After 51.Nxh6+ White loses his bishop after 51...Kh7 52.Ng4 Qd2+ 53.Kh4 Qxd5 winning.) 51...Qc1+ 52.Qg5 Qxg5+ 53.Kxg5 c3 and White will eventually have to give up a piece for the c-pawn. 48...Qa2+ The rest is just a perpetual now. 49.Kf3 Qa3+ 50.Kg4 Qa7 51.Kf3 Qa3+ 52.Kg4 ½-½

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