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FIDE Candidates 2016 (1)

Anand again starts the Candidates with a win

Viswanathan Anand beat Veselin Topalov in the only decisive game in round one of the FIDE Candidates tournament in Moscow. Anand leads alone after the first round just as he did two years ago when he went on to win.

Anand and Topalov contested a sharp Ruy Lopez. 18.Qxb7 led to sharp play and was about equal, 19.Nc4 was not a good move and should have led to an attacking position suiting Topalov. However Topalov didn't play incisively and was pretty soon just worse with no compensation for the pawn. Anand didn't make the best of this advantage on the run up to first time control and if Topalov had played 37...Bc5 he'd have had saving chances. Instead 37...Bd4?! and 41...f6? led to a quick Anand win.

Pre-event favourites Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana drew a Symmetrical English. Nakamura developed uncomfortable pressure but nothing concrete. 25.Bg4 was inaccurate and led to equality. The game was drawn in 31 moves.

Anish Giri and Levon Aronian drew in a topical line of the 5.Bf4 Queen's Gambit. 7.c5 leads to positions where it's a question of how the queenside pawns will be liquidated, a question so complicated that it's been seen in many elite games in the last few years. Giri made some progress but wasn't quite accurate enough and Aronian escaped with a draw.

Peter Svidler held Sergey Karjakin to a comfortable draw after surprising him with a Slav Defence. Svidler said he spent the morning looking at the opening and Karjakin's 10.Nf3 novelty was a timid reaction that gave up all hope of an advantage. Svidler was if anything a little better after 18...e5 but nothing that special and traded to a draw agreed on move 30.

Round 1 Standings: Anand 1pt, Caruana, Giri, Nakamura, Aronian, Karjakin, Svidler 0.5pts, Topalov 0pts

Round 2 12th March 2016 12pm GMT: Svidler-Topalov, Aronian-Anand, Caruana-Giri, Karjakin-Nakamura

Who is going to win?

Ahead of the Candidates I couldn't pick a winner of the event. I didn't think much of Veselin Topalov's chances, his public comments for the last couple of years suggest he has mentally retired as an elite player. Topalov had some success relying on his old work for a while but it seems likely he lacks the motivation to do well.

On rating Fabiano Caruana, Anish Giri and Hikaru Nakamura are the favourites but none of them have played a Candidates tournament. We'll have to see how they handle the pressure which is unlike anything they will have experienced before.

Viswanathan Anand showed in the last Candidates tournament in 2014 that you underestimate him at your peril, I expect a steady performance, perhaps like last time he'll see everyone else lose their heads. Levon Aronian, Peter Svidler and Sergey Karjakin have also seen it all before and all will have their chances. Keeping calm and maybe picking up points late on will be key. Experience has shown that all sorts of mistakes happen in the final rounds due to players being tired, ambitious, nervous, dispirited or some combination of those. These rounds will almost certainly settle who plays Magnus Carlsen for the title.

The organiser AGON

The main news in the run up to the first round was that the organisers AGON wanted to maintain exclusivity in reporting the moves and to limit discussion of the games on social media. This ahead of greater potential income for the World Championship match later in the year. They sought to do so with a clickwrap agreement to be accepted as a condition of using the official website. I couldn't accept their conditions so I had to follow the games live elsewhere and it turned out there were a lot of choices. It remains to be seen what action AGON will take.

TWIC Updates

I also decided in the first round not to update my website until the end of play, even though I believe there is no legal reason not to do so. There is a discussion to be had in how to make chess elite events more successful for those who organise them but AGON's approach is not right in my opinion.

FIDE Candidates 2016 Moscow (RUS), 10-30 iii 2016 cat. XXII (2778)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1. Anand, Viswanathan g IND 2762 * * . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 . 1
2. Caruana, Fabiano g USA 2794 . . * * . . ½ . . . . . . . . . ½ 2790
3. Giri, Anish g NED 2793 . . . . * * . . ½ . . . . . . . ½ 2786
4. Nakamura, Hikaru g USA 2790 . . ½ . . . * * . . . . . . . . ½ 2794
5. Aronian, Levon g ARM 2786 . . . . ½ . . . * * . . . . . . ½ 2793
6. Karjakin, Sergey g RUS 2760 . . . . . . . . . . * * ½ . . . ½ 2757
7. Svidler, Peter g RUS 2757 . . . . . . . . . . ½ . * * . . ½ 2760
8. Topalov, Veselin g BUL 2780 0 . . . . . . . . . . . . . * * 0
Round 1 (March 11, 2016)
Anand, Viswanathan - Topalov, Veselin 1-0 49 C65 Ruy Lopez Berlin
Giri, Anish - Aronian, Levon ½-½ 65 D37 QGD 5.Bf4
Nakamura, Hikaru - Caruana, Fabiano ½-½ 31 A30 English Symmetrical
Karjakin, Sergey - Svidler, Peter ½-½ 30 D16 Slav Lasker/Smyslov

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