CANDIDATES' TOURNAMENT ROUND 14: A HAYDN SYMPHONY
The players arrived for the final round in differing moods. To no great surprise, there were quick draws in those games involving players whose dreams and ambitions have had to be postponed to better times; the result of their games was of no overall importance, but they were not willing to lose.
For the ambitious and proud Hikaru (one only has to think of how he reacts to losing in blitz!), the last few rounds have been an advance to the future. After his start sent him into a great depression, the last few games restored him to life, as was obvious just from his outward appearance.
For the Armenian, Moscow 2016 has alas been the latest in a series of disappointments and failures at this level. And whilst his first disappointment came at the start, his real slump was in the second cycle. He and his opponent today ended on the same points tally, but their moods were not the same. neither wanted to spoil his mood
White has made some progress, winning a pawn in the opening, but Black's piece activity is enough to hold. 25.a4 Qb7 26.Qf5 Bb4 27.Bxb4 Qxb4 28.e4 Nxe4 29.Nxe4 Qxe4 30.Qxe4 Rxe4 31.Rxc7 Rxa4 32.Kh2 Rb2 33.Rf3 Draw (½ : ½)
The "king of the draws" and the tournament's main sufferer came to the board in a programmed mood.
Giri - Topalov
26.Rc6 Nd4 27.Rc3 Ne6 28.Rc6 Nd4 29.Rc3 Ne6 Draw (½ : ½)
What can one say? Giri's time (he is the youngest player in the event) has not yet come. Here one can recall what commentator Sergey Shipov said: "He needs to eat more meat, lift some weights and develop a punch!". The Dutchman from St Petersburg should follow the example of a player from over 50 years ago, who was called "iron" and "the unsinkable", but was criticised for his many draws. He found a way at some moment to add the ability to win to his impregnability. Is Aronian really Petrosian's heir? Maybe, but in some ways, Anish Giri reminds one of him. Can he emulate his predecessor and storm the chess olympia? Time will tell.
Veselin has not had a happy tournament. His trainer and friend for many years, Silvio Danailov, said that with some luck (a lot of it), things could have been like in Stavanger! In the qualifying cycle, where the prenium is on cool calculation, playing these becomes harder as one gets older and the last two Candidates' tournaments have confirmed this sad truth. Veselin is still capable, though, as we have seen many times.
The Bulgarian chess hero may be declining, but his rival from the far east is not. Since losing the title, he has won one Candidates' and came extremely close to winning this one too. In the end, only a lack of solidity with Black cost him, and it is one of the younger generation who will play Magnus next. So the final round game was of only limited intrigue:
Svidler - Anand
24.Rbe1 Bxe4 25.Bxc5 Bxc2 26.Bxe7 Rd7 27.Bh4 Rxe1 28.Rxe1 and a draw became inevitable. Draw (½ : ½).
For me personally, one question remains: will we see one more attempt at the title by the great champion, the only man to have won the title in all the different formats, including matches and knockouts? Or will he go over to playing in a less energy-sapping regime, more for his own amusement?
As to his opponent, I will voice a controversial thought. Peter is well-known for his love of all things English, sport, culture, etc. I would suggest that maybe he needs some Eastern philosophy to help him through such events as these. His class is undoubted, but at the critical moments, one can sense the tension and pressure, and watch him change from his normal cheerful self into a world of his own, before the big games. Maybe to advance just that one extra step he needs something extra, but this is a secret which only he (and maybe not even he) knows. But his final lapses occurred at the World Cup and in Khanty Mansysk, and almost again last year in Baku. And now here in Moscow. Maybe he just does not want it enough?
As in Haydn's "Farewell Symphony", no. 45, the other performers leave the stage one by one, leaving the two main protagonists behind.
Karjakin - Caruana
How should one play when the opponent is happy with a draw as White? Not the Berlin, in any event. There only remains the Sicilian. And how to make a draw as White? By defending? 27.bxa4! – No, by waging war! 27…Bxa4 28.Qd3 Bc6 29.Bb3 Rg5
30.е5! – The right road. 30…Rxe5 31.Rc4 Rd5 32.Qe2 Qb6 33.Rh4 Re5 – It is more cautious to exchange, but Fabi fights fire with fire. 34.Qd3 Bg2 35.Rd4 d5 36.Qd2
Time was running short on both clocks: 36…Re4? 37.Rxd5!! – Who remembers the famous rook-desperado in the game Tarrasch - LLasker? This is similar. At the cost of his life, the rook takes stones out of the enemy king's defensive wall and creates a decisive queen + bishop battery. 37…exd5 38.Qxd5
38…Qc7 39.Qf5 Rf7 40.Bxf7 Qe5 41.Rd7 Kf8 42.Rd8 Black resigns (1:0)
Both players played better than everyone else in the event, but only one could be lucky. Fabiano was the king of missed opportunities, and was hurt by just one game against Topalov in the first cycle. Sergey many times showed his true sporting character. Whereas his win in the World Cup final in Baku could be seen as a bit fortunate, here in Moscow he has shown convincingly that he has moved onto a new level. It is highly appropriate that here he has finished ahead of the former world champion and challenger in the last two world championship matches. The forthcoming match in New York looks highly attractive. For almost the first time in chess history, the title will be contested by two contemporaries, both at the height of their form. We await it impatiently!
His manager cannot hide his happiness, the dream is close to realisation!
This is not the end of our discussion of the Candidates' tournament. We will hear from the players, trainers and commentators. See you again soon!
Text: Sergey Kim