Candidate Matches – Final!

A lot has happened since I wrote about the Candidates matches. I was right that Aronian and Kramnik were the favourites but that doesn’t mean they were guaranteed to progress. Kramnik duly survived scraping through the blitz although Radjabov can count himself unlucky as after going one up in the rapids it looked he was holding the next game but a clock malfunction disrupted them rather and after the restart the Azeri crumbled.

 

Aronian, however, was not so fortunate. His opponent was Grischuk who has employed a rather ugly style for the spectators in this tournament. He has been happy to agree quick draws with White and then survive his Black games and hope to go through in the blitz playoffs. With just four games in the mini-match he had to just survive his two blacks before reaching the quicker time controls. This isn’t to distract anything from the Russian, he’s a blitz expert and it’s his best way to attempt to qualify and as the wildcard filler (in place of Carlsen) coupled with the fact that he’s known to study far less than the other top players, then he cannot be blamed. Instead it’s a very pragmatic choice; it was unlikely he would find any holes in Aronian’s black repertoire and therefore just tried to mend any holes in his own black repertoire. After four draws the rapid saw a win apiece (amusingly they both won with the black pieces) but then Grischuk won the blitz mini-match and the affable Armenian was out.

 

The semi-finals saw Kamsky paired with Gelfand and Kramnik with Grischuk, Unfortunately for the spectators Grischuk wasn’t going to change his winning formula and his White games were less than exciting. Kramnik managed big advantages in both his White’s but Grischuk defended tenaciously and the match went to the rapids. The other semi-final was much more interesting. Kamsky’s openings were less than impressive and the Israeli had good chances to finish the match in longplay but the American is famed for his resilience and thus we reached the rapids without a decisive game in either match.

 

Grischuk showed that rapid still wasn’t fast enough and he wanted blitz – drawing his White games in 14 and 8 moves respectively! Kramnik was actually in trouble with White in the first game but neither side seemed to want to win a game and Grischuk had succeeded in reaching the blitz stage. It looked like the American was going through in the other semi as Gelfand allowed his queen to be trapped with White and thus had to win the final game with Black – a feat he managed with the Grivas Sicilian (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Qb6!?). I’ve added in the game below as it was the most interesting of a frankly dull Semi-final match.

###pgn###[Event “WCh Candidates”] [Site “Kazan RUS”] [Date “2011.05.16”] [Round “2.8”] [White “Kamsky, Gata”] [Black “Gelfand, Boris”] [Result “0-1”] [ECO “B32”] [WhiteElo “2732”] [BlackElo “2733”] [PlyCount “100”] [EventDate “2011.??.??”] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Qb6 5. Nb3 Nf6 6. Nc3 e6 7. Bd3 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. a4 d6 10. Be3 Qc7 11. f4 b6 12. Qf3 Bb7 13. Nb5 Qb8 14. c3 e5 15. f5 a6 16. Na3 d5 17. Nd2 Qd8 18. Bf2 d4 19. Qe2 Re8 20. Nb3 Nd7 21. Kh1 Bxa3 22. Rxa3 Nc5 23. Bc4 Na5 24. Nxa5 bxa5 25. Qh5 Qc7 26. Bd5 Bxd5 27. exd5 Ne4 28. Bg1 Qc4 29. Raa1 Qxd5 30. Rad1 d3 31. Qf3 Rad8 32. Rfe1 Nf6 33. Qxd5 Rxd5 34. c4 Rd7 35. Bb6 e4 36. c5 Rc8 37. h3 h5 38. Kg1 h4 39. Bxa5 Rxc5 40. Bc3 Rc4 41. Bxf6 gxf6 42. b3 Rb4 43. Kf2 Rd5 44. Ke3 Rxf5 45. Rc1 Rg5 46. Rc4 Rxc4 47. bxc4 Rxg2 48. c5 Re2+ 49. Rxe2 dxe2 50. Kxe2 Kf8 0-1%%%pgn%%%

After failing to hold with White Kamsky frankly fell to pieces in the blitz and Gelfand won rather comfortably. Gata’s comeback has been very impressive but his openings still lack the quality of a true World Champion contender. His tenacity is legendary but if you’re always going to have worse positions out of the opening you won’t be able to hold all of them. The other blitz was also quite one-sided. Kramnik was outplayed the White side of a Maroczy Bind Accelerated Dragon position and his attempts to complicate the final game with the 3…a6 Modern only resulted in a terrible position out of the opening and Grischuk simply exchanged into a drawn endgame.

###pgn###[Event “WCh Candidates”] [Site “Kazan RUS”] [Date “2011.05.16”] [Round “2.9”] [White “Kramnik, Vladimir”] [Black “Grischuk, Alexander”] [Result “0-1”] [ECO “A04”] [WhiteElo “2785”] [BlackElo “2747”] [PlyCount “94”] [EventDate “2011.??.??”] 1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 6. e4 g6 7. Be2 Bg7 8. Be3 O-O 9. O-O Bd7 10. Qd2 Nxd4 11. Bxd4 Bc6 12. Bd3 a5 13. Rfe1 a4 14. Nd5 Nd7 15. Bxg7 Kxg7 16. Re3 e5 17. Rh3 h5 18. Ne3 Rh8 19. Rg3 Nc5 20. Rd1 h4 21. Rh3 Bxe4 22. Bf1 Bc6 23. Nd5 Bxd5 24. Qxd5 Ra6 25. Re3 Qf6 26. b4 axb3 27. axb3 Rb6 28. h3 Rxb3 29. Rxb3 Nxb3 30. Qxd6 Qxd6 31. Rxd6 Rc8 32. Rd5 Kf6 33. Rd6+ Ke7 34. Rb6 Nc5 35. g3 hxg3 36. fxg3 Rc6 37. Rb5 f5 38. Kf2 b6 39. Ke3 Rd6 40. h4 Kf6 41. Be2 g5 42. hxg5+ Kxg5 43. Kf3 Rh6 44. Rb1 Ne6 45. Kg2 Nd4 46. Bd1 Rc6 47. Rb5 Nxb5 0-1%%%pgn%%%

Thus the wildcard Grischuk was through to the final defeating the two favourites en-route while the experienced Israeli Boris Gelfand had also bullied his way through. Kudos to both players but it’s hard to believe that either will be a true test of Anand in the true final while sponsors aren’t likely to be interested.

I’m afraid the final of the Candidates hasn’t been too gripping either. With just six games both sides obviously feel that risking too much and possibly overpressing and losing with White would likely lose the match. Gelfand was actually in a lot of trouble in the second game with White (below) but Grischuk seems happy again to gamble in the blitz. The first game saw Grischuk try for 49 moves but rounds three and four have both been agreed drawn barely out of the opening.

###pgn###[Event “WCh Candidates”] [Site “Kazan RUS”] [Date “2011.05.20”] [Round “3.2”] [White “Gelfand, Boris”] [Black “Grischuk, Alexander”] [Result “1/2-1/2”] [ECO “A37”] [WhiteElo “2733”] [BlackElo “2747”] [PlyCount “116”] [EventDate “2011.05.05”] 1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 Nc6 3. Nc3 e5 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. a3 Nge7 7. b4 d5 8. cxd5 Nxd5 9. Ng5 Nc7 10. d3 cxb4 11. axb4 e4 12. Ngxe4 f5 13. Bg5 Bxc3+ 14. Kf1 Qd4 15. Nxc3 Qxc3 16. Bf4 Nb5 17. Rc1 Qf6 18. Rc5 a6 19. Bxc6+ bxc6 20. Be5 Qf8 21. Qc1 Bd7 22. Bxh8 Qxh8 23. Qe3+ Kf7 24. Re5 Qf8 25. h4 h5 26. Qf4 Qd6 27. Kg2 Kf6 28. Re4 Qxf4 29. Rxf4 Be6 30. Rc1 Ke7 31. f3 Kd6 32. Kf2 Rb8 33. e4 Nc7 34. g4 fxg4 35. Rf6 gxf3 36. Rxg6 Rxb4 37. Rh6 a5 38. Rxh5 a4 39. Rhc5 Bd7 40. Kxf3 Ne6 41. R5c4 c5 42. h5 Rb2 43. Rh1 Nd4+ 44. Ke3 Be6 45. e5+ Kxe5 46. Rxc5+ Bd5 47. Rxd5+ Kxd5 48. h6 Re2+ 49. Kf4 Ne6+ 50. Kg3 Nf8 51. h7 Nxh7 52. Rxh7 a3 53. Kf3 Re1 54. Ra7 Ra1 55. Ke3 a2 56. Ra5+ Kc6 57. Kd4 Kb6 58. Ra8 Kb7 1/2-1/2%%%pgn%%%

It seems unlikely that much will change and thus the World Championship finalist will be decided by rapid or even blitz – as some have observed a similar scenario to the US Masters being decided by a hold of pitch and putt… Hopefully FIDE will learn their lesson and revert the Candidates to a serious competition but looking at the history this is unlikely. For some reason they believe shorter matches and rapid/ blitz are more interesting for the spectator, a fallacy that has been highlighted in the past couple of weeks.

 

Stay tuned for my annotations of my game against Vlad Jianu from the Ennis Open. I’ll aim to update that in the next couple of days!

 

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