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FIDE World Chess Championship Candidates London 2013 (1)

Favourite Carlsen holds rival Aronian on day of draws in Candidates Round 1

Steady start for Magnus Carlsen with easy draw with black. Photo © Ray Morris-Hill

Steady start for Magnus Carlsen with easy draw with black. Photo © Ray Morris-Hill |

The World Chess Championship Candidates started on Friday 15th March in London with four draws. Favourite Magnus Carlsen was very happy to start with a comfortable draw with black against the man he identified as his main rival Levon Aronian. Vladimir Kramnik played the rather strategically risky 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 (maybe not dubious but there has to be a reason it isn't really played much any more by top players except as a surprise weapon) against Peter Svidler. Both players agreed that black couldn't afford any inaccuracies but after 18 moves Svidler no longer liked his position so much and steered to a draw. Vassily Ivanchuk drew with Alexander Grischuk in a highly theoretical line of the Catalan where 20.Bf1!? was the first new move. Even so Ivanchuk was left with only a few seconds for his last five moves and Grischuk 8 seconds for his last. In a field of brilliant chess players one has to wonder if the weak links aren't Ivanchuk and Grischuk and their clock handling. Boris Gelfand against Teimour Radjabov was a Bogo-Indian (according to the broadcast by this move order the Kangaroo) where the players traded to a draw. R2 Sat 16th Mar 2013 2pm GMT: Carlsen-Kramnik, Grischuk-Svidler, Radjabov-Ivanchuk and Aronian-Gelfand.

New Candidates for a new era?

Stage before the start

Stage before the start. Photo © Ray Morris-Hill

The FIDE Candidates started in London with AGON headed by Andrew Paulson and FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in attendence. New chess pieces, chess app and a new amphitheatre like setting were amongst the innovations. I would make the obligatory complaint that their website failed due to traffic but so did mine, indeed it slowed down from about 90 minutes before play started. Official coverage quickly settled down and day 1 went reasonably well. Korchnoi used to talk of "testing the pieces" at the start of his World Title matches with quiet draws. My feeling is that the standard of chess in London is going to be really amazing.

The play in the first round was slightly cautious and the tension was palpable. No-one wants to get singled out as the weak guy in the tournament. +4 could easily win this tournament, that's just two guys to beat twice.



Svidler-Kramnik. Photo © Ray Morris-Hill

Peter Svidler and Vladimir Kramnik are two of the very best at giving press conferences explaining their games. Svidler in particular may not be familiar to English speakers as he has yet to play the London Classic. Svidler was the absolute outsider at the start of play according to Malcolm Pein quoting Ladbrokes: Carlsen 1-2 Aronian 4-1 Kramnik 5-1 Radja 16-1 Grischuk / Ivanchuk 20-1 Gelfand 25-1 Svidler 40-1. Which is total nuts because if Svidler starts scoring he could be very difficult to stop. At 1-2 I'd save my money on Carlsen who isn't in my view favourite over the rest of the field. Svidler looked like he might be in good shape to play well and his odds should be around the same of those of Radjabov.

Svidler,P (2747) - Kramnik,V (2810) [D35]
FIDE Candidates London ENG (1), 15.03.2013

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5

[4...exd5 "I would have been surprised by exd5" - Svidler.]

5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 c5 7.a3

Stopping a check on b4.

7...cxd4 8.cxd4 e5

"Leads to a position not playing to my strengths in so far as I have any." - Svidler.

9.Nf3 exd4 10.Qxd4 Qxd4 11.Nxd4

"I thought white might retain some pressure if he's very, very precise and if black is somewhat imprecise somewhere. But I haven't done any serious work on this position which is perhaps a bit of a mistake." Svidler.

11...Be7 12.Be3 0-0 13.Bc4 Nd7

Vladimir Kramnik


Peter Svidler

Position after 13...Nd7

Now it gets "very, very tactical and very, very concrete because if something goes wrong for black here it will go wrong quite badly." - Svidler.

[13...Bd7 14.Bd5 Nc6 15.Nxc6 bxc6 16.Bc4 and black will at least have to suffer for a while as white's bishops are quite active "White retains some absolutely risk free pressure." according to Svidler. ]


Vladimir Kramnik


Peter Svidler

Position after 14.Ke2

"It gets very tactical. If something goes wrong tactically for black it will go wrong badly." - Svidler.


"Before I played Nb6 I thought for quite a long time" Kramnik who had to be sure this moved worked before playing it.

[14...Ne5 15.Bd5 b6!? was a variation Kramnik wanted to try. (15...Ng4 "A serious option." Kramnik. 16.h3


16.Rhc1 Nf6;


16.Rhb1 Nxe3 forced 17.Kxe3 Rb8 18.Rc1 and Kramnik felt his position was "kind of stuck" meaning that he couldn't really find any useful moves. 18...Bd8! Houdini and it looks to me that black might be OK as it is possible to see some development. (

18...Rd8 19.Rc7 Rd7 20.Rac1 with a serious advantage was the kind of thing Kramnik feared.) 19.a4 Re8 20.f4; 16...Nf6) 16.f4 Houdini seems the only way to try for any kind of advantage for white. (16.a4 Ba6+ 17.Nb5 Rac8 was a side-line that worried Kramnik.; 16.Bxa8 Ba6+ 17.Kd2 Nc4+ 18.Kc2 and white really has an edge. 18...Rxa8 19.Rhc1) 16...Ba6+ 17.Kf2 Ng4+ 18.Kf3 Nxe3 19.Bxa8 Rxa8 20.Kxe3]


"If white is to move here he probably is close to winning." - Svidler.

[15.Bb5 a6 16.Bd3 Na4 17.Rhc1 and black is fine.]


Vladimir Kramnik


Peter Svidler

Position after 15...Bd7

After this Svidler said "unfortunately I'm not in time" to get an advantage.

[15...h6 an example of a move that doesn't address the problems of the position. 16.a4 (16.Rhc1 after which black is in a tremendous amount of trouble.) ]


Vladimir Kramnik


Peter Svidler

Position after 16.Nf5

Svidler thought this must work.

[16.a4 Otherwise Na4 may follow from black. 16...Rac8 (16...Rfc8 "Then I spotted Rfc8 and realised it wasn't any where near as dominating as I initially thought" Svidler explaining his 16.Nf5. 17.Kd3 Be8?! Kramnik (17...Bb4! Svidler seems to equalise. 18.Rhc1 Rxc1 19.Rxc1 Bxa4 Svidler wasn't sure about this but thought it might equalise for black and indeed it seems to. 20.Rc7 Bxb3 21.Nxb3 Rd8+ 22.Ke2 Re8 23.Kd3 Rd8+) 18.a5 Nd7 19.Bd5 Nc5+ 20.Ke2 and white has something.) 17.Nb5 a6 18.Na7!? (18.Bxb6 axb5 19.Rhd1) 18...Rc3 19.Rhb1 "and surprisely this could be better for white" - Svidler. 19...Bf6 (19...Bc5? 20.Bd2; 19...Nc4? 20.Bd4) 20.Bxb6 Rxb3 21.Rxb3 Bxa1 seems to save according to the computer.]

16...Bf6 17.Rab1

[17.Rac1 Was the move Kramnik expected. "If Rc1 is possible then Rc1 just has to be played." Svidler. 17...Na4 18.Rc7 Nc3+ 19.Kf3 Bc6 20.Nd6 Be5 and white isn't better and is indeed the one who has to be accurate. "If white is not better then he is very likely worse." Svidler. 21.Bf4 Forced. 21...Bxd6 22.Bxd6 Bxe4+ 23.Kg3 Nb5 24.Bxf8 Nxc7 25.Bb4 Bd5 26.Rc1 Bxb3 27.Rxc7 is dead level.]


Vladimir Kramnik


Peter Svidler

Position after 17..Rfd8

"Is a very precise move here" - Svidler who suggested that he is very close to getting his ideal setup but that this just saved black.


Svidler admitted afterwards this was really a draw offer.

[18.Rhd1 "The biggest point of the game. What I played is frankly a bit of a draw offer which is regretable." - Svidler. Kramnik thought his position "wasn't so bad" now. 18...Bb5+ 19.Kf3 Rxd1 (19...Bd3 20.Rbc1 Nd7 21.Rc7 (21.Bf4 Ne5+ 22.Bxe5 Bxe5 23.Bd5 (23.Rc5!) ) 21...Ne5+ 22.Kg3 Bxe4 23.Nd6 Bg6 24.f4 Nc6 25.Nxf7 Rxd1 26.Ng5+ Kh8 27.Bxd1) 20.Rxd1 Nc4 "In this position I spent quite some time trying to decide whether I should go for this and whether I'm better here." Svidler. He decided the answer was "No and no." But this position is certainly key and perhaps Svidler should have gone for it. (20...Bc4) 21.Bc1 Rd8 And with black having the queenside Svidler asked himself "Why am I better?"]

18...Bb5+ 19.Kf3 Bd3 20.Bc2 Ba6 21.Bb3

[21.Bxb6 axb6 22.a4 Svidler likes his two bishops too much to try this and he was probably right as black seems better.]

21...Bd3 22.Bc2 Ba6 23.Bb3 1/2-1/2

Aronian - Carlsen


Aronian-Carlsen. Photo © Ray Morris-Hill

Levon Aronian got little from the opening and after 11.Be2?! he missed 15.Na2 wasn't very good. Carlsen played for a draw with black and could hardly have got one more comfortably against one of his main rivals.

Aronian,L (2809) - Carlsen,M (2872) [E11]
FIDE Candidates London ENG (1), 15.03.2013

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Bb4+ 4.Bd2 Bxd2+ 5.Qxd2 d5 6.Nc3 0-0 7.e3 Qe7 8.Rc1 Rd8 9.Qc2 a6 10.a3

[10.cxd5 1/2-1/2 Cvitan,O (2550)-Zavgorodniy,S (2409)/Rijeka CRO 2010/The Week in Chess 802]

10...Nbd7 11.Be2?!

Magnus Carlsen


Levon Aronian

Position after 11.Be2

This seems to allow black to have a slight edge.

[11.cxd5 is maybe better but "it's very, very little" - Carlsen.]

11...dxc4 12.Bxc4 c5 13.Be2 b5 14.dxc5 Qxc5

Best, now white has to be accurate.


[15.Na2 was Aronian's first intention with the idea that he might be better if queens are exchanged but he realised that Carlsen would probably just retreat his queen.]

15...Qe7 16.0-0 Bb7 17.a4

Magnus Carlsen


Levon Aronian

Position after 17.a4

Trading down to a draw.

17...Qxb4 18.axb5 axb5 19.Qb1 Qxb1 20.Rxb1 Bxf3 21.Bxf3 Rab8 22.Nxb5

Now they have to reach move 30 before drawing.

22...Ne5 23.Nd4 Nxf3+ 24.Nxf3 Rxb1 25.Rxb1 h6 26.h3 g5 27.g4 Kg7 28.Kg2 Rd7 29.Rb2 Rc7 30.Nd4 Nd5 31.Rc2 1/2-1/2



Gelfand-Radjabov. Photo © Ray Morris-Hill

Boris Gelfand has shown himself capable of raising his game for the biggest of events. Today saw a rather cautious draw against Teimour Radjabov. Radjabov is from Azerbaijan like the sponsors and in the last Candidates which were matches had clearly prepared amazingly well. Not usually a high scorer in tournaments his 4th favourite tag comes from the possibility he might again raise his game (already at number 4 in the world this is pretty darned high!) Most probably Gelfand won't feature in the final shakeup this time but maybe he won't lose that many games and if things get tight +2 is certainly within his sights.

Gelfand,Boris (2740) - Radjabov,Teimour (2793) [E11]
FIDE Candidates London ENG (1.2), 15.03.2013

1.d4 e6 2.c4 Bb4+ 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.Ngf3 0-0 5.a3 Be7 6.e4 d6 7.Be2 Nbd7 8.b4 e5 9.Bb2 a5 10.0-0 exd4 11.Nxd4 Re8 12.Qc2 Bf8

Teimour Radjabov


Boris Gelfand

Position after 12...Bf8


[13.Nf5 g6 14.Ne3 Bg7 15.Bc3 c6 16.Rad1 Qe7 17.Rfe1 axb4 18.axb4 Qf8 19.Bf1 b6 20.f3 Bb7 21.Qb2 Ra7 22.c5 dxc5 23.bxc5 bxc5 24.Ndc4 Ba6 25.Rd6 Bxc4 26.Nxc4 Nd5 27.Bxg7 Qxg7 28.Qxg7+ Kxg7 29.Rd1 N5b6 30.Nxb6 Nxb6 31.Rxc6 Nd7 32.Bc4 Rb8 33.Rd2 Rbb7 34.Kf2 Rc7 35.Rxc7 Rxc7 36.Ke3 1/2-1/2 Potkin,V (2626)-Tomashevsky,E (2708)/Irkutsk RUS 2010/The Week in Chess 825]

13...axb4 14.axb4 Rxa1 15.Rxa1 c6 16.Bf1 d5 17.exd5 Bxb4 18.dxc6 bxc6 19.Nd4 Qc7 20.N2f3 Bf8 21.g3 Bb7 22.Bg2 Qb6 23.Re1 Rxe1+ 24.Nxe1 c5 25.Nb5 Bc6 26.Qe2 Qb7 27.Bxf6 Nxf6 28.Bxc6 Qxc6 29.Ng2 g6 30.Nc3 h5 31.Nf4 Qe8 32.Kf1 Qxe2+ 33.Kxe2 Nd7 34.Nd3 Nb6 35.Ne4 Nxc4 36.Nexc5 1/2-1/2

Ivanchuk vs Grischuk


Ivanchuk-Grischuk. Photo © Ray Morris-Hill

So many moves of theory so much time trouble. In the end in spite of the players having to bash out the moves on the run up to move 40 they still managed to draw.

Ivanchuk,Vassily (2757) - Grischuk,Alexander (2764) [E06]
FIDE Candidates London ENG (1.3), 15.03.2013

1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.g3 Be7 5.Bg2 0-0 6.0-0 dxc4 7.Qc2 a6 8.Qxc4 b5 9.Qc2 Bb7 10.Bg5 Nbd7 11.Bxf6 Nxf6 12.Nbd2 Rc8 13.Nb3 Be4 14.Qc3 Nd5 15.Qd2 c5 16.Nxc5 Bxc5 17.dxc5 Rxc5 18.Rfc1 Rxc1+ 19.Rxc1 Qa8

Hugely theoretical line in the Catalan.


Alexander Grischuk


Vassily Ivanchuk

Position after 20.Bf1

A novelty. Ivanchuk had already doing quite a bit of thinking. Grischuk not so much but he starts to catch up.

[20.Qd4 Nf6 21.Qc5 h6 22.a3 Rd8 23.h3 Bb7 24.Qb6 Rb8 25.b4 Bd5 26.Qc7 Ne8 27.Qf4 Qb7 28.h4 Rd8 29.Rc5 Nd6 30.g4 Qe7 31.g5 hxg5 32.hxg5 Bxf3 33.Bxf3 Nf5 34.e4 Nd4 35.Bg4 Qd6 36.Qxd6 Rxd6 37.f4 f5 38.gxf6 gxf6 39.Kf2 Kg7 40.Ke3 e5 41.fxe5 fxe5 42.Rxe5 Nc2+ 43.Kf4 Nxa3 44.Re7+ Kf8 45.Ra7 Nc2 46.Ke5 Rh6 47.Be6 Nxb4 48.Rf7+ Kg8 49.Kf5 Nd3 50.Ra7+ Kf8 51.Ra8+ Ke7 52.Ra7+ Kf8 1/2-1/2 Illescas Cordoba,M-Epishin,V/Madrid ESP 1995]

20...Bxf3 21.exf3 Rc8 22.h4 h5

Played after a lot of thought. Grischuk has to be sure this won't end up being a terrible weakness.

23.Bd3 Rxc1+ 24.Qxc1 Qd8 25.a3 g6 26.Be4 Qf6 27.Qd2 Kg7 28.f4 Nb6 29.b3 Nd5 30.Kg2

Black looks to have just about equalised.

30...Qa1 31.Bxd5 exd5 32.Qxd5 Qxa3 33.Qe5+ Kg8 34.Qe8+ Qf8

Now Ivanchuk had only a few seconds left to reach time control.

35.Qc6 Qb4 36.f5 Qxb3 37.fxg6 Qe6 38.gxf7+ Kxf7 39.Qb7+ Kg6 40.Kf3 Qf7+

The ending is drawn whatever.

41.Qxf7+ Kxf7 42.Ke4 a5 43.f3 a4 44.Kd3 a3 1/2-1/2

FIDE Candidates London (ENG), 15 iii-1 iv 2013 cat. XXII (2787)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1. Carlsen, Magnus g NOR 2872 * * . . ½ . . . . . . . . . . . ½ 2809
2. Kramnik, Vladimir g RUS 2810 . . * * . . . . . . . . ½ . . . ½ 2747
3. Aronian, Levon g ARM 2809 ½ . . . * * . . . . . . . . . . ½ 2872
4. Radjabov, Teimour g AZE 2793 . . . . . . * * . . . . . . ½ . ½ 2740
5. Grischuk, Alexander g RUS 2764 . . . . . . . . * * ½ . . . . . ½ 2757
6. Ivanchuk, Vassily g UKR 2757 . . . . . . . . ½ . * * . . . . ½ 2764
7. Svidler, Peter g RUS 2747 . . ½ . . . . . . . . . * * . . ½ 2810
8. Gelfand, Boris g ISR 2740 . . . . . . ½ . . . . . . . * * ½ 2793
Round 1 (March 15, 2013)
Aronian, Levon - Carlsen, Magnus ½-½ 31 E11 Bogo Indian Defence
Ivanchuk, Vassily - Grischuk, Alexander ½-½ 44 E06 Catalan
Svidler, Peter - Kramnik, Vladimir ½-½ 23 D35 QGD Exchange
Gelfand, Boris - Radjabov, Teimour ½-½ 36 E11 Bogo Indian Defence

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