World Championship 2007 Round 2: Kramnik majestically outplays Morozevich, Anand’s novelty overcomes Aronian

Anand wins in a complicated and tactical game against Aronian. Kramnik sacrifices a piece for positional compensation of a mobile pawn phalanx. Morozevich runs into time trouble in a very complicated position and his position unravels allowing Kramnik to claim his first win of the tournament. Svidler confounds Leko with a rare move in the Marshall, and a draw is agreed after a long struggle. Gelfand and Grischuk share a few fireworks and take a draw.

Kramnik crunches Morozevich in a brilliant blend of strategy and tactics, including a superbly calculated piece sacrifice. Morozevich struggled in the monstrously complicated position, and went down in heavy time trouble. Anand chalks up his first win thanks to a Peter Heine Nielsen novelty and a clever manoeuvre to tame Aronian’s fierce counterplay. Svidler unleashes a surprising novelty on the White side of a Marshall Attack, Leko reacts well and both players play well in the difficult semi-endgame. Gelfand and Grischuk were the first to finish in a shortish, but not uneventful draw.

Svidler – Leko

Its a Marshall Gambit, but Svidler opts for the rare line 15. Qe2 which forces Leko to use up a lot of time. The idea is to hold back the White dark-squared bishop which tends to be on e3 and in some lines is left en prise. Leko has a long think but there’s no convincing tactics that lead to an advantage. Leko looks to be in trouble, but he pulls his position together and the game heads into a like-coloured bishop endgame with the queens on, with Svidler a pawn up. Leko defends the endgame stubbornly, and its a draw.

Gelfand – Grischuk

Grischuk plays an unusual Bogo-like line of the Queen’s Indian. Gelfand gets a small advantage, but its whittled away quite quickly. Grischuk embarks on a plan to install a knight on c3, and Gelfand is forced to temporarily ditch the exchange, and a double attack reclaims it. In a balanced position, both players take a draw.

Aronian – Anand

Anand provokes a Moscow variation of the Semi-Slav, something Topalov previously did and paid a heavy price for it. The opening is wild and complicated, thanks to a novelty courtesy of Anand’s second, Peter Heine Nielsen (17… c5). Aronian temporarily sacrifices a piece, but Anand finds a beautiful zwischenzug that entombs Aronian’s powerful dark-squared bishop. Anand takes a strong hold of the position, and Aronian buckles under pressure and blunders, causing his rook to be locked out of the game. Aronian struggles on an exchange down, but Anand is remorseless and clinically finishes.

Kramnik – Morozevich

Morozevich chooses the same line as Carlsen against Kramnik’s Catalan and tries to hold onto the extra pawn. Kramnik applies pressure and forces in a clever e4-pawn break, and sacrifices a knight. Morozevich accepts the gambit and Kramnik creates a powerful pawn phalanx in the centre of a monstrously complicated position. Morozevich tries to fend off the threats with tactics of his own, but fails to find the best defence, allowing Kramnik to regain his sacrificed material and still retain the upper hand. Morozevich has one single chance of saving the game but misses a key resource in desperate time trouble. Morozevich resigns.

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World Championship 2007 Round 1: All draws; Kramnik and Svidler bail out of an interesting position.

The World Championship almost started with a bang with the two friends Kramnik and Svidler bailing out for a draw in a most interesting position. Anand tries to wipe Gelfand with a kingside pawn storm, but Gelfand’s control of the centre is more than sufficient to cause Anand to consider a draw. Morozevich has a go at Aronian, but Aronian has sufficient resource to counter the threats. Leko gets an edge in an Anti-Marshall, but cannot capitalise on it.

So instead of blood being spilt, we got four under-30 move draws. Not grandmaster draws – every game offered something of interest and excitement.

Kramnik – Svidler

Kramnik bypasses Svidler’s Grunfeld as the game heads into a Semi-Slav. Kramnik seizes the centre, but Black has enough resources to balance the game. After completing development, Kramnik starts to put pressure on the Black kingside, while Svidler expands on the queenside. Svidler sacrifices a pawn to free his queenside, and dismantle White’s grip of the centre. Kramnik takes a knight away from the centre, which allows Svidler to complete his freeing operation. But the game is agreed a draw with both sides still having lots of play left.

Morozevich – Aronian

Morozevich gets stuck into a kingside pawn advance inside of a Petrosian/Kasparov Queen’s Indian. Aronian counters with pressure on the centre, compelling Morozevich to swap off his potent light-squared bishop. Aronian’s pincer in the centre brings equality, Morozevich has great piece activity, but Aronian has sufficient resources to deal with it.

Anand – Gelfand

Anand play the in vogue 5. Nc3 against Gelfand’s Petroff and brazenly gets stuck into a kingside pawn storm. This gives Gelfand a free hand to clarify things in the centre. Gelfand has the better position, but he misses a brilliant opportunity 16… c5!!, and instead keeps things solid. Anand can make no headway, so a draw is agreed.

Grischuk – Leko

Grischuk heads into an anti-Marshall Ruy Lopez, and wastes a little time. Leko opens the centre and gradually gains the upper hand with better placed pieces. Leko tries a crafty queen manoeuvre to hinder White’s own queen, but Grischuk finds a natural developing move that balances the position. A draw agreed.

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Candidates Matches 2007: Grischuk – Malakhov, Grischuk capitalises on his chances to edge out Malakhov

This match was played between May 27 and June 3, alongside seven other first round Candidates Matches in Elista, Russia.

Grischuk has been performing well in the SuperGM stratosphere, and it will be interesting how he fairs against fellow Russian Malakhov, who isn’t as well known, but he does have a good record in the Russian Championship, and sometimes second’s Kramnik.

Grischuk outmanoeuvres Malakhov to win the first game with an impressive Queen sortie. Malakhov has the advantage in game 2, forcing Grischuk to work hard to salvage enough to earn a draw. Malakhov again has Grischuk under the hammer in game 3, but fails to capitalise and its another draw.

Game 4 sees a temporary piece sacrifice that throws Malakhov off balance, and Grischuk cashes in. Grischuk controls Game 5 to ensure the necessary draw and books his place in the next round.

Grischuk – Malakhov, Game 1

Out of a Sicilian Richter-Rauzer, Grischuk damages Malakhov’s kingside pawn structure, emerging with a strong advantage thanks to Malakhov’s king clogging up the back rank. Grischuk offers a pawn sacrifice to tempt the Black queen out of the centre, and Malakhov accepts after sacrificing one of his own. Grischuk builds up on the kingside, taking advantage of the stranded Black rook. Malakhov quickly swaps off his dark-squared bishop for White’s knight before it gets entombed on the kingside. And another investment of a pawn completely smashes Black’s kingside pawn structure, leaving Grischuk in complete control of the position. He ties Malakhov down protecting his weak kingside pawns, and then embarks on a queen manoeuvre deep into Black’s desolate queenside. With Black tied down, Grischuk gets a rook on the seventh rank, and its all over.

Malakhov – Grischuk, Game 2

Malakhov emerges from a Double Fianchetto English with a comfortable position. Malakhov’s pressure on both sides of the board allows him to win a pawn, but this lets Grischuk break in the centre which distracts Malakhov from his strongest continuation. Grischuk gradually takes over the initiative, Malakhov blunders under pressure, allowing Grischuk to infiltrate with his queen and regain his pawn. Malakhov manages to extricate himself with an advantage, but the initiative swings from one player to the other. Just after the second time control a spark of tactics simplifies the game into a drawn pawn endgame.

Grischuk – Malakhov, Game 3

Malakhov adopts an unusual continuation from a Berlin Ruy Lopez, capturing White’s light-squared bishop with the b-pawn rather than the standard d-pawn. Malakhov slowly unwinds his position, rerouting his knight back to a central location and forcing exchanges to alleviate the bind on his position. Grischuk finds himself defending weak pawns, but Malakhov doesn’t opt for the strongest continuation and Grischuk temporarily sacrifices a pawn to break through to the backrank forcing the exchange of the major pieces and a draw is agreed.

Malakhov – Grischuk, Game 4

Grischuk takes an aggressive stance in a Semi-Slav. After a flurry of tactics, including a temporary piece sacrifice, Grischuk gains the upperhand and uses it to take over the centre with his two central pawns. With a clever manoeuvre, Grischuk exchanges the central pawns for two passed pawns on the queenside. That is sufficient to force Malakhov’s resignation.

Grischuk – Malakhov, Game 5

Malakhov needs a win to keep the match alive and goes back to the Sicilian Richter-Rauzer. Grischuk deviates concentrating on play in the centre. Grischuk starts a sequence that sees most of the pieces exchanged off leaving an endgame of two rooks and like-squared bishops. Grischuk is content to hold the double rook ending, and takes the repetition of position.

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Candidates Matches 2007: Kamsky – Bacrot, Kamsky’s aggressiveness overwhelms Bacrot

This match was played between May 27 and June 3, alongside seven other first round Candidates Matches in Elista, Russia.

Kamsky has been playing himself back into form after a long layoff from top-flight chess. This will be his first real match since losing the FIDE World Championship to Karpov in 1996, as in fact the first Candidates matches since the last one that took Kamsky right to the top. Ratings wise, Kamsky and Bacrot are about the same strength, but Kamsky has been on a consistent move upwards in the rankings, Bacrot’s performances have been uneven.

Game 1 is a typical tense affair, neither player wanting to overpress, so no surprise it ends as a draw. Game 2 sees Bacrot failing to capitalise on his advantage and Kamsky pressuring Bacrot into an error leading to the first decisive result of the match. Game 3 again shows Kamsky applying pressure on Bacrot forcing a mistake and another Bacrot resignation.

Game 4 sees another uneven performance from Bacrot, and again collapses under Kamsky’s pressure. And so an expected close match turns lop-sided, and its Kamsky through to the next round of Candidates Matches.

Kamsky – Bacrot, Game 1

In a Closed Slav a solid blocked position arises, neither side gaining the upper hand. Kamsky’s queenside expansion is eroded by Bacrot’s queen excursion down the a-file. The queenside pawn structures disappear along with the rooks. Neither side can make progress, so its a draw.

Bacrot – Kamsky, Game 2

Bacrot meets Kamsky’s Leningrad Dutch with an aggressive queenside expansion. As in the first game, the queenside pawn structure disappears. Bacrot has a small edge, but blunders shortly thereafter, handing Kamsky the initiative and forcing Bacrot into a retreat. This allows Kamsky the thematic …e5 break and takes over the position – even exchanging queens fails to halt Kamsky’s advantage. In the tension, both sides miss stronger moves, but Kamsky manages to hold on to his advantage. But Bacrot finally collapses under the pressure, leaving Kamsky to take a lead in the match.

Kamsky – Bacrot, Game 3

Kamsky adopts an Anti-Marshall against Bacrot’s Ruy Lopez, and Bacrot opens the centre with a prepared …d5 break. Kamsky emerges with a better position, and a flurry of exchanges sees him with a good pair of central pawns backed by his two rooks. Bacrot fails to keep a tight grip on the position allowing Kamsky to steam-roller his two central pawns forward, supported by his rooks and well-placed light-squared bishop. Bacrot blunders and allows Kamsky to create an advanced passed-pawn as well as allowing Kamsky’s rook onto the seventh rank, and Bacrot’s resignation ends the game.

Bacrot – Kamsky, Game 4

After a brief foray into the Queen’s Indian, Kamsky decides to adopt a Semi-Slav set-up against Bacrot’s unassuming development. Kamsky then evolves his structure into a Stonewall formation. Bacrot has the opportunity of seizing a large advantage, but instead is content in a quiet buildup, and emerges into the middle game with a small advantage. By rolling his pawns down the queenside, Bacrot builds his advantage. Kamsky reacts by pawn-storming down the kingside. Bacrot blunders by allowing Kamsky to open up the central dark-squares, and Kamsky’s attack is irresistible. Kamsky makes a decisive entry into Bacrot’s position forcing another resignation from Bacrot.

And the match is over after only four games.

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Candidates Matches 2007: Ponomariov – Rublevsky, Rublevsky edges out Ponomariov in a tense match

This match was played between May 27 and June 3, alongside seven other first round Candidates Matches in Elista, Russia.

Ponomariov came into the spotlight after winning the FIDE Knockout championship in 2002, and along with Radjabov and Karjakin is one of the young rising stars of the game. Rublevsky is the experienced big-hitter in the Russian squad in team events, he has a narrow opening repertoire but he knows his lines exceptionally well.

Ponomariov has the edge in the first two games but cannot capitalise. Rublevsky gets the upper hand in game three, but Ponomariov fights back into a better position until Ponomariov blunders handing Rublevsky a dangerous initiative in a queen ending. Rublevsky manages to convert it into the first decisive game of the match.

The two games that follow are full of action, Ponomariov desperate to reclaim a point to even things out, but Rublevsky does enough to hold on for a draw. The last game shows Rublevsky forcing a repetition of position out of the opening to secure his place in the next round.

Another big name falls.

Ponomariov – Rublevsky, Game 1

In a solid Slav, both players follow the Aronian-Kramink game from Corus earlier this year, until Rublevsky deviates on move 13. Ponomariov has an advantage coming out of the opening, but this advantage is gradually whittled away. Draw agreed before the first time control.

Rublevsky – Ponomariov, Game 2

Game 2 sees an aggressive Sicilian Najdorf, Rublevsky emerges with an advantage, but Ponomariov slowly unravels his position to balance the position, and starts to gain the upper hand thanks to the pressure on Rublevsky’s castled king. Ponomariov penetrates White’s position with his queen, with threats of mate and material loss. Ponomariov fails to capitalise on his advantage, and sacrifices a piece to force a perpetual check.

Ponomariov – Rublevsky, Game 3

Ponomariov switches to e4 for game 3 and Rublevsky takes it into a Sicilian Taimanov. Ponomariov has some pressure against the Black king. Rublevsky builds up counterplay on the queenside and takes over the initiative. Ponomariov gives up his ambitions on the kingside to halt Rublevsky’s queenside initiative, and the game heads into an endgame where Rublevsky has a protected passed d-pawn. The exchange of dark-squared bishops leaves Rublevsky vulnerable as Ponomariov creates an outside passed pawn. Ponomariov overplays his position on the queenside and blunders by having his queen to far away from his defenceless king, leaving Rublevsky’s queen to cause havoc. And havoc it is. In the resulting play Rublevsky clears the White pawns out of the centre, and the activity of the Black queen slows down White’s outside passed pawns while allowing Black’s d-pawn to push forward. The ending simplifies down to just Black’s two kingside pawns in the queen ending, and Rublevsky converts.

Rublevsky – Ponomariov, Game 4

Rublevsky uses the Sozin against Ponomariov’s Sicilian Najdorf turns into a balanced middlegame. Ponomariov gains a slight upper hand, but the endgame offers no decisive advantage. Rublevsky temporary sacrifices his b-pawn to trap a Black knight, and Ponomariov returns the favour dragging Rublevsky’s outside passed pawn across towards the centre by returning the sacrificed material. Rublevsky can make no headway in the endgame, so its another draw.

Ponomariov – Rublevsky, Game 5

Ponomariov repeats the Slav from game one, but its Rublevsky who gets his new move in first. Ponomariov holds the advantage out of the opening, and forces a weakening of Black’s queenside pawn structure. But a central manoeuvre by Rublevsky creates counterplay by creating a central passed pawn. Ponomariov rushes his queenside pawns which only hands the initiative to Rublevsky. Once the queenside pawns disappear and Rublevsky’s passed pawn ready to be picked off a draw is agreed.

Rublevsky – Ponomariov, Game 6

In a Larsen Caro-Kann, Rublevsky offers the exchange of queens which Ponomariov avoids, but Rublevsky follows up with a manoeuvre that forces a repetition of position. And with that Rublevsky qualifies for the next round of Candidates Matches.

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Candidates Matches 2007: Gelfand – Kasimdzhanov, Gelfand wins a hard-fought match in rapidplay tiebreak.

This match was played between May 27 and June 3, alongside seven other first round Candidates Matches in Elista, Russia.

Gelfand would be expected to progress to the next round, even though Kasimdzhanov is an ex-FIDE World Champion. As skillful a player Kasimdzhanov is, he’s not completely broken through to the top-echelons of the super grandmasters. Gelfand is a very technical player who is capable of grafting his wins, Kasimdzhanov’s play is more classical and creative. The difference in styles could be quite interesting, but I fear Gelfand will impose his technical prowess on the match.

Gelfand has the upper hand at least twice in Game 1 but fritters away both chances. Both players take a time out with a quick draw in Game 2. Game 3 sees a swashbuckling opening from both sides, with Kasimdzhanov taking the upper hand forcing Gelfand to squeeze a way into another draw.

A rough and tumble in Game 4 shows Kasimzhanov posing problems for Gelfand. In the tension, both players make mistakes as the advantage swings back and fore. Gelfand finally settles it into a draw after Kasimdzhanov misses a winning idea.

In Game 5 Gelfand comes from behind in the opening to a strong advantage in the endgame, but opts to take a draw instead of going for a win. After a short draw in game 6, the match heads into rapid-play tie breakers.

The first game of the tiebreaker saw Gelfand repeat the opening from the previous game and infiltrate White’s position for the first decisive game. Kasimzhanov battles right through a long endgame to gain the point back, but Gelfand manages to hold. In the third game, a blunder from Kasimdzhanov loses a piece, and its Gelfand who goes through to the next round of matches.

Kasimdzhanov fought well and with great creativity. The match could have gone either way, Kasimdzhanov had excellent positions in a number of games. Although all six match games were draws, four of them were tense and hard-fought right to the end. An excellent match, which is a credit to both players.

Gelfand – Kasimdzhanov, Game 1

Kasimdzhanov opts for the Semi-Slav and Gelfand gets a small advantage thanks to his better centre. The battle rages on the queenside, Gelfand steadily countering Kasimdzhanov’s temporary activity and preventing a …c5 break. Gelfand annexes both semi-open files and keeps control of the c5-square, preventing Black from equalising. Kasimdzhanov is in trouble until Gelfand decides to reduce the tension by exchanging the queens, but Gelfand manages to reassert his authority on the game, only to stumble in the endgame and forces the draw.

Kasimdzhanov – Gelfand, Game 2

A not-unexpected Queen’s Indian sees Gelfand equalising reasonably early. Gelfand gets his hanging pawns moving early on, which forces a rapid exchange-off, resulting in a balanced position. Game agreed drawn on move 23.

Gelfand – Kasimdzhanov, Game 3

Gelfand comes out fighting with an aggressive variation against Kasimdzhanov’s Semi-Slav. Kasimdzhanov reacts aggressively in reply, and after a flurry of tactics the game is a rook and bishop endgame with shattered pawn structures all over the board. Kasimdzhanov has a strong advantage, but Gelfand holds the endgame and its another draw.

Kasimdzhanov – Gelfand, Game 4

Kasimdzhanov emerges with compensation for his sacrificed pawn in the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. He forces a permanent weakness in Gelfand’s kingside pawn structure, and piles up pressure against the now-backward e-pawn. The pawn falls leaving Kasimdzhanov with a better position, but he compromises by exchanging into an isolated passed d-pawn, leaving Gelfand with a decent position. Gelfand incautiously exchanges queens and the advantage slides back to Kasimdzhanov. Kasimdzhanov increases his advantage, but misses a key idea which allows Gelfand to re-balance the position.

Gelfand – Kasimdzhanov, Game 5

Another Semi-Slav, this time Gelfand allows a Meran. Kasimdzhanov pincers Gelfand’s centre. Gelfand counters with a risky central expansion, and Kasimdzhanov emerges with a small advantage. Gelfand fights back and gains entry onto Black’s seventh rank. He plays the endgame well, and is still on top when a draw is agreed.

Kasimdzhanov – Gelfand, Game 6

Kasimdzhanov tries a relatively new move in a Queen’s Indian on move 15, but a quick series of exchanges drains the energy in the position, and the players agree to a short draw.

Rapidplay tiebreakers

Gelfand, as Black in the first tiebreaker, diverges from the Queen’s Indian of the previous game and initiates a stonewall-type formation, recently tried by Magnus Carlsen. Gelfand grabs the initiative thanks to White’s awkward queen placement. Gelfand opens the centre and he has the initiative with active pieces. Gelfand breaks through the seventh rank, and the first decisive game of the match goes Gelfand’s way.

In tiebreaker Game 2, another Semi-Slav, Gelfand smashes Black’s kingside pawn structure, and emerging from the middlegame Kasimdzhanov returns the favour leaving a balanced endgame. But Kasimdzhanov grabs the initiative, with a rook on the seventh rank, keeps the pressure on Gelfand, but misses a critical move. Gelfand gives him a second chance which prolongs the endgame to well over 80 moves. The players agree to a draw on move 94.

In the third game, Kasimzhanov switches to e4 and the game heads into a Petroff. Gelfand achieves equality with a fairly solid position. Kasimdzhanov triples up on the e-file with an advantage, which leads to a protected passed d-pawn. Kasimdzhanov concentrates on building on his advantage, and Gelfand trying to get his knight back into play. Kasimdzhanov gets a little too ambitious in playing on both sides of the board, and Gelfand takes an immediate advantage by annexing a pawn. Kasimdzhanov sparks a combination which backfires on him, losing a piece, and with it the match.

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Candidates Matches 2007: Leko – Gurevich, Leko through via semi-endgame manoevring

This match was played between May 27 and June 3, alongside seven other first round Candidates Matches in Elista, Russia.

Peter Leko takes on the oldest participant in the Candidates, 49 year-old Mikhail Gurevich. Leko was expected to win this match comfortably, and the match was over in 4 games.

A typical Leko manoeuvring performance clinches a win in game 2. Game 3 is an excellent display of building an advantage, where Leko takes a semi-endgame and squeezes Black into a zugzwang.

Another manoeuvring game, in game 4, sees Gurevich’s plans thwarted and Leko turning the game around to win a pawn, winning the game and seeing him safely through to the second round of Candidates matches.

Leko – Gurevich, Game 1

Out of a fairly standard Rubinstein French, Leko has a small advantage owing to better piece activity. Leko expands on the queenside and prevents Gurevich from castling his king. Gurevich tries to gain some play by advancing down the h-file to free his kingside rook.

Gurevich offers enough pressure to neutralise the threats of Leko’s queenside majority, and the game drifts into a balanced position. A draw agreed moves later.

Gurevich – Leko, Game 2

In a topical line of the Classical Nimzo-Indian, Gurevich makes a bold decision to castle queenside. Leko doesn’t take immediate action and is content to build his position. Leko’s position is solid, he neatly prevents White’s threatened kingside action by exerting pressure on the f3-pawn which any pawn attack would rely.

Leko starts to get his queenside pawn majority rolling at Gurevich decides to move his king away to free up the back rank. By delaying his kingside ambitions Gurevich cedes the initiative to Leko. Gurevich attempts to drum up some counterplay down the e-file, but Leko has a better prospects because of the queenside majority, and the doubled rooks down the c-file. As the breakthrough occurs, Leko is left with a passed c-pawn, and Gurevich’s pieces are in a disarray – his king blocking his two rooks. In a difficult position Gurevich errs, and loses the exchange in his attempt to get rid of the imposing c-pawn. Leko decimates the White position with his rook and bishop coordination and notches up his first win.

Leko – Gurevich, Game 3

Leko opts for the Classical French heading into an off-beat sideline by exchanging off the dark-squared bishops which lets Gurevich install a knight on e4. Gurevich plays a little quietly, gets the queens and a pair of knights off the board, and cedes the initiative to Leko who opens up operations on the queenside by prising open the a-file. Gurevich is a little hasty to clarify things on the queenside and Leko emerges with an advantage, in space, a better placed king, more active pieces, and the trump-card of an outside passed pawn. Leko ties up Gurevich’s pieces on the queenside, ties down the kingside pawns and creates a threat of a sacrificial breakthrough to tie down the Black king. Black is paralysed. When Leko threatens to install a knight on f6 demolishing Black’s position, Gurevich resigns.

Gurevich – Leko, Game 4

Gurevich repeats the Classical Nimzo-Indian of game 2, but doesn’t repeat his risky queenside castling. Leko wastes no time in prising open the centre while Gurevich’s king remains uncastled. The position is balanced. Gurevich has the opportunity to take a slight advantage, but his queenside expansion is cleverly dealt with by Leko locking Gurevich’s queenside pawns on the same coloured squares as his bishop. Gurevich quickly runs into trouble and loses his e4-pawn. Facing a minor piece ending a pawn down with a bad bishop, Gurevich throws in the towel.

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Candidates Matches 2007: Aronian – Carlsen, Aronian finally wins in blitz tiebreaker

This match was played between May 27 and June 3, alongside seven other first round Candidates Matches in Elista, Russia.

A much anticipated match-up between two young grandmasters both ascending the rankings. Aronian has already made his mark as a super grandmaster, and the teenage Carlsen’s starting to make a serious impact at these high levels.

Aronian takes the lead when Carlsen fails to take an active approach against Aronian’s Ruy. Aronian finds 26… Rf3!? and Carlsen fails to find a safe continuation, allowing Aronian’s queenside pawns to exert a decisive influence to take the first game.

Aronian lets a great position slip against Carlsen’s Benko in game 2, and a short draw is agreed.

In game three Carlsen takes full advantage of a better pawn centre to decisively weaken Aronian’s kingside, and then mops up in the resulting rook endgame. After three games, the match is on.

Carlsen’s quiet play in game four gives the upper hand to Aronian squeezes his opening advantage into a positional win.

Carlsen repeats his game three victory by taking a superior pawn centre and translating it into a kingside pawn attack and a winning rook endgame.

Game 6 is a nervy affair with Carlsen fighting back from what seemed like a losing position to secure a well fought draw.

After 6 games the two superGM’s are locked head to head so the match headed into a rapid-play tiebreak. Aronian wins the first game, and with two further draws Carlsen is against the wall to win the final game to stay in the match.

The tiebreaks seem to swing Aronian’s way with a good win in the first game followed by two hard-fought draws. In the third game Aronian is on the verge of another draw when he blunders allowing Carlsen to even the match scores.

And the match heads into a blitz finish. Game one saw a bait-and-switch as Aronian broke through on the kingside to secure the win. Game two was a fraught tactical play where Carlsen overplayed his position in an attempt to win. Aronian wins material, the game and finally the match.

Carlsen – Aronian, Game 1

Carlsen avoids Aronian’s Marshall with an early deviation from the mainline Ruy Lopez with 6. d3 and into a quiet game. Carlsen manoeuvres his queenside knight to g3 via c3 and e2, and Aronian counters by building up his play on the queenside and in the centre. An exchange of bishops on e6 doubles Aronian’s e-pawns giving him the semi-open f-file and control of the d5-square.

Carlsen’s 17. d4?! gives him some space in the centre, but Aronian’s little centre is sufficient to retain the balance. Carlsen seizes space in the centre but Aronian turns the position around and starts to exert pressure around Aronian’s king after Carlsen opts for a slightly passive continuation with 25. Ne2?!. Aronian has a strong bishop on …e5, and doubled rooks on the f-file.

Carlsen is stunned by Aronian’s unexpected 26… Rf3!? and loses the thread of this position, leaving Aronian with a strong passed pawn on the queenside. Carlsen’s position collapses under Aronian’s queenside pressure.

Aronian can be very happy with his typically stellar approach to the Black side of an anti-Marshall type setups, although it took a blunder from Carlsen to gain the first point.

Aronian – Carlsen, Game 2

Carlsen adopts the Benko Gambit, an opening he’s used a few times before. Its a clever choice because Aronian’s only faced it once before. Aronian seizes the advantage on the queenside, but fails to find the best continuation which allows Carlsen to stem the queenside pressure and regain his sacrificed pawn. A draw agreed in a balanced position.

Carlsen can take some consolation at gaining a draw with the Benko, although he was in trouble at one stage before Aronian let him off.

Carlsen – Aronian, Game 3

Carlsen unveils another surprise, a Symmetrical English. He deviates from a previous Aronian game against Kramnik with 7. Re1 with a position that’s no stranger to grandmaster play this century. Carlsen gets a better foothold in the centre, leaving Aronian with a fairly typical Queen’s Indian/Grunfeld pawn structure. Carlsen works up some kingside pressure forcing Aronian to ditch into a queenless middlegame. But Carlsen ratchets up the pressure with a passed d-pawn and forcing the exchange of knights to reach a very promising rook endgame. Carlsen exploits the weak pawns on the kingside, trapping the Black king on h8, while his d-pawn prevents Aronian’s rook from activating. With a decisive strike, Carlsen conjures up two passed pawns on the kingside forcing Aronian to resign.

A wonderful and confident display by Carlsen to fight his way level in the match.

Aronian – Carlsen, Game 4

Carlsen’s cautious handling of an off-beat Queen’s Indian sees Aronian emerge from the opening with a small advantage. Aronian swops off the light-squared bishops to open up entry points into Black’s position. Aronian creeps forward, tieing up Carlsen’s pieces, and gradually taking over the White squares. He succeeds in pushing Black’s pieces to the back rank and infiltrates Black’s position through the centre. This forces Carlsen into a nasty pin on the seventh rank, and he’s helpless to prevent the loss of his queenside pawns. Carlsen throws in the towel.

A typical Aronian performance.

Carlsen – Aronian, Game 5

From a Kasparov / Petrosian Queen’s Indian Carlsen gets a nice centre in exchange for giving Black space on the queenside. Aronian gets a little carried away on the queenside, losing time to consolidate his position. This gives Carlsen the advantage in the centre to start a kingside attack, which compels Aronian to provoke a crisis on the queenside. Carlsen’s strong 19. Bg5 seizes the initiative and starts a piece attack against Aronian’s king. Carlsen allows Aronian to wriggle off Carlsen’s kingside attack at the cost of a pawn. In the semi-endgame Carlsen smashes through on the kingside, and with a combination of threats wins an exchange and Aronian resigns.

A duplicate of game 3, and another exposition of Carlsen’s excellent technique.

Aronian – Carlsen, Game 6

Aronian grabs the advantage out of a Slav, but Carlsen retains resources. Carlsen’s queenside is tied up and his kingside is non-existent but throws up a dogged defence. Although a pawn up, Aronian misses a string of stronger continuations. Carlsen manages to co-ordinate his pieces nicely on the kingside which propels the game into a draw by repetition.

Aronian betrays some unsteady nerves, and Carlsen shows he is still up for a fight.

Aronian – Carlsen, Rapidplay Tiebreaks

Carlsen comes out fighting in tiebreak game one with an aggressive Modern Benoni, but the position is roughly equal. Aronian takes over the centre with his mobile pawn chain, squeezing Carlsen’s position and crashes through with a pawn advance winning an exchange. He exchanges off into a won endgame.

In game 2, Aronian sparks a tactical frenzy out of a quiet-like English Opening and has to trade his queen off for a knight and rook. Aronian’s piece activity is sufficient to hold back White’s advantage.

Game 3 sees Carlsen again getting an advantage out of an off-beat Modern Benoni. He misses a few chances and his advantage is wiped out in the double rook endgame. Aronian misses one chance to take control of the game (missing 32. Bd5+!) and the game is agreed drawn.

Aronian heads into a hedgehog from a side-line in the Queen’s Indian Defence. After equalising with a …d5 break Aronian heads into complications which nets him a pawn at the cost of dislocating his pieces. Carlsen recoups his pawn and retains an advantage, but when the game reaches a queen ending it is roughly even. Aronian then blunders allowing Carlsen to tighten a mating net around Aronian’s king. And Carlsen wins to equalise the match.

Aronian – Carlsen, Blitz tiebreaks

Aronian quickly locks down Carlsen’s position in an unusual English Opening, and dominates the queenside. He uses his outside passed pawn to divert Carlsen’s pieces to the queenside. An Aronian breakthrough on the kingside wins material and a few moves later the game.

Yet another do or die game for Carlsen in the second blitz game, a Nimzo-Indian Samisch. Aronian regroups his pieces to fend off White’s passed d-pawn and while Carlsen is distracted by a kingside initiative, Aronian’s rooks gain entry to White’s position down the e-file. In the complications Carlsen’s attack is stretched too far causing an immediate loss of material. Aronian’s two extra pieces is enough to secure a win.

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Linares 2007, Round 14: Anand wins Linares, Morozevich superb comeback

Anand secures a draw against Ivanchuk to take sole first place. Morozevich completes an amazing comeback dragging himself from the bottom of the table to second place with a decisive rout of Svidler. Leko’s last position is consoled with a win against Carlsen.

Anand suffered only one defeat – against Aronian. His two smooth wins over Carlsen certainly helped remove the main threat to first place. Morozevich after starting with early two losses, came back strongly in the second half of the tournament. It would have been even better had he converted his tremendous French position against Topalov in Round 7. Carlsen impressed in his second major super GM tournament – leading the tournament for most of the way. His double reverse against Anand is the only blip on his achievement here.

Topalov’s typical second-half storming comeback failed to materialise, he struggled against Morozevich, blundered against Carlsen and Ivanchuk. Since his World Championship match against Kramnik last year, Topalov has been in the doldrums. Perhaps the rest of the field are starting to understand how to play against Topalov?

Ivanchuk – Anand

Both sides get free unhindered development from a Queen’s Indian, but Ivanchuk has a small edge. Ivanchuk focuses in on the d6-hole in Anand’s position. Anand manages to stave off a White knight landing on the weak square, and by completing the hedgehog set-up he has his position solidly under control, and both players agree to a draw.

Svidler – Morozevich

Morozevich’s energetic queenside expansion in the Classical French catches Svidler off guard. Svidler plays into Black’s hands by forcing an exchange of dark-squared bishops which activates Morozevich’s knights. Svidler’s retreat tangles up his pieces. Morozevich sacrifices a pawn to open the d-file and bring his rooks in. Svidler’s king is stuck in the centre. Svidler invests an exchange in an effort to garner some counterplay, but this merely allows Morozevich to demolish Svidler’s kingside. Svidler is busted.

Leko – Carlsen

Leko handles Carlsen’s Queen’s Indian sideline comfortably, and emerges from the opening with an advantage. Through a pin on the Black rooks Leko creates a passed d-pawn for himself. Carlsen creates a neat mating cheapo, but Leko deflects it easily. Leko forces his rook through to the seventh rank with a clever tactical manoeuvre, and simplifies into a winning endgame.

Topalov – Aronian

In a Queen’s Indian position, played by both players earlier in the tournament, Topalov deviates first with 16. cxb6. Players agree to a draw shortly thereafter.

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Morelia/Linares 2007, Round 13: Morozevich downs Topalov in a long knight endgame

Morozevich wins a tough endgame battle against Topalov which relegates the Bulgarian to the half a point from bottom of the tournament standings. Other games are hard-fought draws.

Morozevich – Topalov

Morozevich’s c3 Sicilian sidesteps any Topalov-prepared line. Morozevich plays an active positional game after Topalov allows a doubling of e-pawns. The position is reminiscent of a King’s Indian Attack or a quiet anti-Marshall Ruy Lopez. Instead of seeking activity on the kingside, Topalov seeks to neutralise Morozevich’s c-file pressure. As the queenside lines open, pieces get whittled off quickly leaving each side with two minor pieces. Morozevich’s outside passed pawn offers him a small chance of winning. He embarks on risky play on the kingside, sacrificing his e-pawn. Both sides have two passed pawns – Topalov’s is doubled on the e-file, Morozevich’s are on each wing. His a-pawn does a sterling job of holding up Black’s knight. After the exchange of knights the game spirals into a queen and pawns ending, where White’s second passed-pawn gives him a strong advantage. Morozevich shepards the pawn to promotion even after Topalov sacrifices his own.

Anand – Leko

Anand employs the 7. h3 Anti-Marshall system against Leko’s Ruy Lopez. Anand gains a tiny edge, and uses that to create some threats on the kingside. Leko defuses the threats, but is pushed onto the defensive. Anand allows a small combination which brings the game back to a balanced position, and a draw ensues.

Aronian – Ivanchuk

Aronian’s Classical approach to Ivanchuk’s Queen’s Indian Defence does contain a small drop of poison after an early central pawn advance. Aronian infuses tactical complications forcing Ivanchuk to find his way through the thicket of variations – Aronian misses a winning continuation but reaches a better endgame, Ivanchuk’s kingside pawn structure is shattered, but he defends the ending well earning a draw.

Carlsen – Svidler

Svidler adopts a super-solid Slav Grunfeld and establishes equality. Carlsen plays cautiously, until Svidler provokes him into sacrificing a pawn. After a flurry of exchanges, Carlsen embarks on a queenside advance prior to regaining his sacrificed pawn. This allows him to take control of the long white diagonal a8-h1, at the cost of allowing Svidler to develop his rooks. Svidler sparks off another tactical sequence, including Carlsen trading his queen for the two black rooks. The precarious position of Black’s knight allows Carlsen to force a draw by repetition.

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