The chess spring is underway! Strong tournaments are appearing one after another, even overlapping. Abu Dhabi, St Louis, and now Stavanger. "And Batumi?", as the fighters for emancipation may ask. Yes, there is also the last leg of the Women's Grand Prix in Georgia. In a word, there is plenty to watch and discuss.
Jon Ludwig Hammer would have liked to be playing, but alas, a qualifier is a qualifier. . He is forced to settle for commentating.
But the top event is beyond any doubt - the battle in the Norwegian oil capital. After the blitz, the players got down to the serious business yesterday. And how serious it is...Cliches about rivers of blood are perhaps out of place, but judge for yourself:
Kramnik - Grandelius
The difference between a very top player and a merely very strong GM is not always so obvious. But sometimes one of the elite gives a textbook demonstration and today that was the case here.
Black had been counting on the knight moving away and then an exchange of the active rook (24.Nd3 Rdc8 etc.) with an inferior but defensible position, but suddenly there followed 24.axb6! – lightning from a clear sky! 24… axb6 – Taking the knight is too dangerous: 24…fxe5 25.dxe5 Nb5 26.Ra5 a6 26.Nf3, and it is obvious that the permanent invalid on e8 will not survive long. The surprising thing is not the sacrifice but the fact that the game lasted another 15 moves after it. Black magic! 25.Rxa8 Rxa8 26.Nd7 b5 27.Nc5 Nf7 28.e4 dxe4 29.Ndxe4 Nxe4 30.Nxe4 Ra2 31.Kf3 Rb2 32.Nc5 g5 33.Rb6 gxf4 34.Rb7 Kg6 35.Nxe6
35… Kf5 36.Nc5 Rc2 37.Ne4 Nc7 38.Rb6 Nd5? – Bad, of course, but so was the position... 39.Rd6 Black resigns (1:0).
How much fun the internet jockeys have had over Anish Giri's series of draws! But the ex-Leningrader, sorry, I mean St Petersburger, has his own sense of self-irony and did not react much to the jokes. His style is what it is, and he will not change it, at least not overnight. Victories will come, he feels. And indeed, the tournament is only just beginning.
Giri - Eljanov
Pavel has played somewhat riskily in the Italian Game and after 19.Ng4 (!) – had to give two pieces for a rook and pawn. 19…h5 20.Rxe4 Bxe4 21.Qxd8 Rfxd8 22.Nf6 Kg7 23.Nxe4 f6 24.g4 h4 25.a4 c6 26.Kf1 Kg6 27.Ke2 Rab8 28.Be6 Kg7 29.f3 Re8 30.Bc4 Red8 31.Bd3 Kf7 – and now the ritual dance of the white knight:
32.Nd2 – to the pawn on а5! 32…Ke7 33.Nc4 Rd5? 34.Be4 Rc5? 35.Nd2 – Homeward! 35…b5 36.Bg1 – Black resigns (1:0).
Another unusual thing. Surely Magnus Carlsen does not suffer from the same first round curse as Mikhail Tal?
It was a tough day for the debutants at Stavanger...You have already seen what happened to Nils Grandelius, and what occurred with Pentala Harikrishna against the ruthless Viking you can see here. The French musketeer is also not averse to a bit of newcomer's blood, but Li held firm.
Vachier Lagrave - Li Chao
24…d4! 25.Bxc6 dxc3 26.Qxc3 Bxc3 27.Kxc3 bxc6 – and ten or so moves later the players shook hands. Draw ( ½ : ½ ).
«The third» (Stavanger) round of the Candidates' was opened with the game:
Aronian - Topalov
26…g5 – Unprejudiced! 27.Rc5 g4 28.Ne1 Be7 29.Rxd5 Qxd5 30.Kg1 Bg5 31.Ng2 Re5 32.Nf4 Qd6 33.b5 axb5 34.axb5 cxb5 – It was not enough to win, but Vesko can take confidence from the way he played. Draw on move 46 ( ½ : ½ ). The main loser in teh candidates' appears to have found himself again.
Stavanger Round One. First Blood