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FIDE Candidates Tournament 2014 (8)

Candidates passes the half way mark and many players already look very tired

Viswanthan Anand drew comfortably with Levon Aronian with black as the Candidates enters the second half. Photo ©

Viswanthan Anand drew comfortably with Levon Aronian with black as the Candidates enters the second half. Photo © | http://candidates2014.fide.com

Viswanathan Anand leads on tie-break from Levon Aronian after drawing their round 8 game with black, both have 5 points. Vladimir Kramnik is still half a point further back. The remaining players are on 3.5/5.

Kramnik said after his game "Everyone here is playing too aggressively." and certainly today there seemed a lot of burned out players from the exertions of the days before. Last year in London Magnus Carlsen suddenly started giving lines that were total rubbish after his round 11 game against Grischuk and his chess was not nearly as strong for that and the remaining rounds. If that's the sign to look for then a number of the players are in serious trouble already. Gone are the bright eyed and bushy tailed press conferences with accurate analysis, we're already seeing something very different now. Anand is the only player who has played rather conservatively and preserved some energy. It may be he has gone favourite to win this event. His concern may be the rising pressure that comes with this new status and his age, whilst by no means unfit, he is the oldest in the field and he may become tired too.

The two leaders met and Levon Aronian played an opening he claimed came to him in a dream and one that he most certainly should have left there. Kramnik later said "I also had this idea of 3.Qb3 but it's such nonsense I wouldn't even play it in rapid." and Anand didn't take all that long to play the most critical continuation sacrificing a pawn for huge amounts of play. In fact Aronian was probably in serious trouble after 8.Qb3? (the better 8.Qa4 was only slightly more appetising). The whole opening was a total fiasco and Aronian was lucky that Anand probably was only looking for a draw. They repeated and drew on move 19 ironically in the best position Aronian had had all game but he was a little too traumatised by his close escape to want to continue.

Veselin Topalov and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov drew a sharp Najdorf where black sacrificed a piece. Topalov saw the best move was 20.Qb4 but didn't come close to the exact way this was better in the post-mortem even though it seems he was on the right track. A draw was soon agreed.

Magnus Carlsen comments about Kramnik's analysis apart Kramnik was for a second day in a row so very far from being right about the assessment and play in his game against Dmitry Andreikin. So much so it was close to shocking. Andreikin was given a pawn and against another opponent he may very well have found a way to win, his variations certainly seemed more on the ball than Kramnik's.

Peter Svidler has shown aggression in almost every round, his attitude is that this may be his last Candidates and he certainly isn't going to spend it playing quietly. In round 7 he played a very hard and fascinating game against Anand and today he seemed to have nothing left to give. His unreal over optimism came out time and time again in his analysis of the early part of the game which was so off beam at times it was astonishing, his attack had almost no chance of succeeding and Sergey Karjakin was well on top of the few ways it could succeed. Karjakin himself has had a poor Candidates so far and only an almost death wish from Svidler allowed him to win this, although his calculation in the final phase of the ending was very nice indeed, his general play was not that impressive. Svidler should have saved this game in several places and his 40.Kg5? left him struggling for an explanation. Svidler's bad day was to be completed finally with doping control testing.

We have really missed the Candidates tournament, it's such a superb test of nerve, will, preparation all sorts of things you don't need to survive even at the top of the invitational circuit. I think many players need to take a serious look at their approach for next time, which may mean a much duller event. We'll either see a lot more caution or a lot more blunders before this event is finished.

Round 8 standings: Anand, Aronian 5pts, Kramnik 4.5pts, Andreikin, Topalov, Svidler, Karjakin, Mamedyarov 3.5pts

Round 9 Pairings: Karjakin-Kramnik, Andreikin-Svidler, Anand-Topalov, Mamedyarov-Aronian.

As a post-script to the day I also give a game whose atmosphere couldn't be further removed from this event. Magnus Carlsen (did anyone else think ringer?) turned out for Stavanger in a play-off to help them be promoted to the first division in a match against Nordstrand SK. He beat Vladimir Georgiev in the kind of conditions I've played most of my chess in and at a stress level completely removed from those in the Candidates. But a game by the world champion is always worth a look.

Comments by the players on the games in the PGN file.

FIDE Candidates 2014 Khanty-Mansiysk RUS (RUS), 13-31 iii 2014 cat. XXI (2770)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1. Anand, Viswanathan g IND 2770 * * 1 ½ ½ . ½ . ½ . ½ . ½ . 1 . 5 2872
2. Aronian, Levon g ARM 2830 0 ½ * * ½ . ½ . ½ . 1 . 1 . 1 . 5 2857
3. Kramnik, Vladimir g RUS 2787 ½ . ½ . * * ½ ½ 0 . ½ . 1 . 1 . 2803
4. Andreikin, Dmitry g RUS 2709 ½ . ½ . ½ ½ * * 1 . 0 . ½ . 0 . 2737
5. Topalov, Veselin g BUL 2785 ½ . ½ . 1 . 0 . * * 0 . ½ . ½ ½ 2723
6. Svidler, Peter g RUS 2758 ½ . 0 . ½ . 1 . 1 . * * ½ 0 0 . 2728
7. Karjakin, Sergey g RUS 2766 ½ . 0 . 0 . ½ . ½ . ½ 1 * * ½ . 2726
8. Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar g AZE 2757 0 . 0 . 0 . 1 . ½ ½ 1 . ½ . * * 2730
Round 8 (March 22, 2014)
Aronian, Levon - Anand, Viswanathan ½-½ 19 A11 Reti Opening
Kramnik, Vladimir - Andreikin, Dmitry ½-½ 32 D15 Slav Defence
Topalov, Veselin - Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar ½-½ 32 B90 Sicilian Najdorf Variation
Svidler, Peter - Karjakin, Sergey 0-1 82 A05 Various

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