Anand and Topalov finish joint first with 9/13. Anand takes the title on a tie break. He is the first player to win the event five times. Both played at an amazing level and certainly justified their rankings as the top two players. Karjakin is a big revelation – his performance reminded me of Topalov’s first Linares tournament – losing some brilliancies, but playing all-round excellent chess.
Aronian was slightly disappointing – until the last round annihilation of Sokolov. Michael Adams is a surprise third place finisher. Its always great to see Ivanchuk back in the thick of things – he is such a great character.
Kamsky is probably disappointed with his result. His opening repertoire got smashed to pieces. The tenacity that took him close to two World Championships in the same cycle is still there. Kamsky needs to spend some time catching up with the latest opening theory – perhaps replace the anaemic Sicilian Kan with the Sveshnikov. Kamsky was a formidable opponent eight years ago – it would be awesome if he could reach that playing strength again.
Anand produces a positional gem against Gelfand. Ivanchuk manoeuvres a win out of a two minor piece endgame against Karjakin. Tiviakov finally wins a game – against Kamsky. Aronian uncorks an fantastic improvement in an awesome demolition of Sokolov. Topalov settles for a draw with Leko.
Ivanchuk – Karjakin
The Classical English results in a mass exchange of pieces. Ivanchuk emerges with two bishops and a slight edge. With a minority attack against Black’s queenside pawn Ivanchuk gets a rook to the seventh rank severely constricting Black’s activity. This leads to the win of a pawn. Karjakin forces both rooks to be exchanged, and doggedly defends the endgame a pawn down. Ivanchuk’s creeping moves inexorably gain the advantage, and after a long session of minor piece manoeuvring, Ivanchuk plays the decisive pawn break.
Gelfand gets it a little wrong on the Black side of a Sicilian Najdorf. Anand smashes through with an positional exchange sacrifice that holds the Black king in the centre. Black’s pawn structure is nonexistent, and he struggles to hold his position again. Anand slowly improves his position without conceding to Black any counterplay. In an extraordinary middle-game Anand prepares his position while Gelfand ditches material to get some activity – the game is static until the second time control when Anand makes the final decisive central pawn break. An awesome positional performance by Anand.
Kamsky – Tiviakov
Tiviakov repeats the Scandanavian Defence, and gets a decent position. He pickpockets one of Kamsky’s pawns, and Kamsky struggles to find compensation. Tiviakov consolidates and brushes off Kamsky’s attack.
Aronian – Sokolov
Aronian uncorks a massive improvement on his game against Gelfand – in a brutal variation of the Queen’s Gambit Slav variation (looks to be a Gelfand pet-line). Sacrificing an exchange nets him a very strong passed pawn which constricts Black’s rooks. Aronian coordinates the material threats, queening threats and mating threats into a beautiful position.
Leko – Topalov
Leko play a quiet side-line of the Sicilian Najdorf. Topalov engineers a thematic breakthrough on the queenside, forcing Leko to jettison a pawn. But Leko fights back reducing the game to a bishop and rook endgame and pushes through to a repetition of position.
Adams – Mamedyarov
Adams gets an edge in an Archangel Ruy Lopez, but starts to drift a little, giving Mamedyarov the chance to swop down into a balanced position. Draw agreed.
Bacrot – van Wely
Van Wely equalises in a trench-like Queen’s Gambit. Bacrot engineers a kingside breakthrough, but van Wely has more than enough resources to deflect White’s initiative. After a torturous middlegame peace is finally declared.