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FIDE World Chess Championship Candidates London 2013 (12)

Kramnik leads London Candidates after day of dramatic tension in Round 12

Vladimir Kramnik won an excruciatingly tense round 12 game against Aronian to end his chances and go favourite to qualify. Photo © Ray Morris-Hill

Vladimir Kramnik won an excruciatingly tense round 12 game against Aronian to end his chances and go favourite to qualify. Photo © Ray Morris-Hill |

Vladimir Kramnik emerged as the leader of the FIDE Candidates alone on 8/12 half a point clear of Magnus Carlsen on one of the most extraordinary days play I have ever seen. It was a real pleasure to be commentating alongside David Smerdon on ICC on this round for what turned out to be over 7 hours. This Candidates tournament has reintroduced a kind of tension not found in many places in chess. This started to really tell today. The drama, tension and sheer number of rounds has left the players not in a normal frame of mind and I think all of them are tiring. Playing through this is what top level competition is all about and goodness knows what the final two rounds might bring but now one would have to say Kramnik has gone strong favourite to qualify to play Anand.

Magnus Carlsen pulled no punches about a really dire loss to Vassily Ivanchuk where he had so many opportunities to draw and probably could have pressed in normal form. "First of all you know I think I played absolutely disgracefully from move one." Carlsen lost the opening battle, Ivanchuk then played completely the wrong plan and Carlsen started to play for a win "but I kept on missing more and more stuff." This is what pressure looks like and because of a messy and unsatisfactory World Championship system in recent times this seems to be the first time Carlsen has really experienced anything like the scenario that has building up as we move towards the end of the tournament, at least as favourite. At the start of the round I thought there was a possibility Carlsen might play poorly as I do not think Carlsen played at all well the day before against Grischuk either.

Levon Aronian had lost two of his last three games and was white against Vladimir Kramnik. Kramnik went to war almost immediately with 10...f5!? Aronian was quickly on the back foot, however Aronian almost certainly turned a draw down with 15. Bxb5 f4 16. Bc4 Qe4 17. Bd3 Qd5 18. Bc4 with repetition but his 15.Rac1 was overambitious and left Aronian having to scramble with 18.Qc2 (Aronian apparently thought he was close to winning whereas Kramnik believed he was in fact there seems to be a forced draw somehow). Then it looks like Aronian has just enough until 21.e4 after which 21....Qf4! is nearly just over although Kramnik's 21...Rac8 contained a sting 25...Be4! winning a piece. The ending is tricky and Aronian was in terrible time trouble. 30.c6 seems an error when 30...Rc8 followed by moving the bishop to e8 winning the pawn and game looks hard to stop. Kramnik's move allowed a trade into a drawn ending but it required precision. Aronian almost got the draw before 50.g6?? (50.h6 draw) lost him the game. After the game it seems he hadn't seen this. A tremendous struggle but this loss will surely stay with Aronian for a very long time. Kramnik also seemed on his last legs at the press conference.

Teimour Rajdabov had the better of it against Alexander Grischuk but finally couldn't force a win. Boris Gelfand made pretty close to no headway against Peter Svidler and that game too was drawn.

Short report today. 7 hours broadcasting means I'm tired!

FIDE Candidates Round 12 of 14 Standings: Kramnik 8pts, Carlsen 7.5, Aronian 6.5, Svidler 6, Grischuk, Gelfand 5.5, Ivanchuk 5, Radjabov 4

FIDE Candidates Sat 30th Rest Day. Sun 31st R13 14:00 BST NOT GMT! Radjabov-Carlsen, Grischuk-Aronian, Kramnik-Gelfand, Svidler-Ivanchuk



Carlsen-Ivanchuk. Photo © Ray Morris-Hill

Some Carlsen comments along with some commentary: "First of all you know I think I played absolutely disgracefully from move one." 10.Nb3!? might not be the best (10.Ne2) "13.Bd4 is awful" and after 18.bxc3 black is even slightly better according to Carlsen in commentary Smerdon thought it a little more than slightly. "I don't get the move 18...a5 at all, just seems weakening to me" which also Smerdon thought was completely wrong and Carlsen pretty much equal. "So now I was playing for a win." "24.Nb5 is extremely stupid, I can probably do anything, and probably I'm actually not better but I should never lose it." Later on "There's still not too many problems for me but I kept on missing more and more stuff." "Here I kept on blundering stuff. I didn't predict any of his moves" Later on Carlsen was sure he would draw "which is why I played so carelessly" 71.c6 drew but Carlsen missed 71.Rh6 Kd5! when he is probably lost. Later however he still might have held.

So whilst Ivanchuk played reasonably well it can't be said this was really down to some super performance on the day. Carlsen had a real off day and absolutely no excuses, he just knew it.

FIDE Candidates London (ENG), 15 iii-1 iv 2013 cat. XXII (2787)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1. Kramnik, Vladimir g RUS 2810 * * ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ . ½ . ½ 1 8 2913
2. Carlsen, Magnus g NOR 2872 ½ ½ * * ½ ½ 1 . 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 0 ½ . 2870
3. Aronian, Levon g ARM 2809 ½ 0 ½ ½ * * ½ 0 ½ . 1 0 1 1 1 . 2813
4. Svidler, Peter g RUS 2747 ½ 0 0 . ½ 1 * * ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ . 1 ½ 6 2788
5. Grischuk, Alexander g RUS 2764 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ . ½ ½ * * ½ . ½ 1 ½ ½ 2763
6. Gelfand, Boris g ISR 2740 ½ . 0 0 0 1 ½ ½ ½ . * * ½ ½ ½ 1 2765
7. Ivanchuk, Vassily g UKR 2757 ½ . ½ 1 0 0 ½ . ½ 0 ½ ½ * * 0 1 5 2735
8. Radjabov, Teimour g AZE 2793 ½ 0 ½ . 0 . 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 1 0 * * 4 2651
Round 12 (March 29, 2013)
Carlsen, Magnus - Ivanchuk, Vassily 0-1 90 B48 Sicilian Paulsen
Aronian, Levon - Kramnik, Vladimir 0-1 62 D42 Semi-Tarrasch Defence
Gelfand, Boris - Svidler, Peter ½-½ 41 A15 English counter King's Fianchetto
Radjabov, Teimour - Grischuk, Alexander ½-½ 87 E35 Nimzo Indian 4.Qc2

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