|14th World Champion Alexander Khalifman present|
WILL IT GET BORING?
This time I decided to be as responsible as I could about the task at hand and decided to prepare a "rest day review" from the very start, by taking notes starting with round 5. However, I failed here, too: after the change of scenery that happened in round 8, my preliminary notes stopped making any sense. I had to rewrite it from scratch. Hence the delay.
I am happy that the person-by-person review that I undertook on the last rest day caused such a lively feedback from the readers. As I can see now, a lot of things I managed to get right, and in some things it wasn't the case. However, the craving for predictions didn't get any weaker and I will make more of those.
The First (and the most important) Question.
So: who will win the tournament? We will already get the answer with a large degree of certainty today, after the game Aronian-Topalov. Alas, if Levon doesn't manage to win, one can ascertain another comfortable victory for Veselin. Why the "alas"? Well, nothing personal. I have tremendous respect for Topalov the chess player, but in my opinion, lately there have been too much Danailov in the chess world. There there will be even more after this victory. And I don't like that. Multiple times people have objected [to me] that the situation where the organizers, managers and agents start playing key roles is a good sign as it is an indication that chess becomes commercialized and more professional. I don't know about that... I am not very impressed by such a "face" of the chess world - it is not a face, but rather, ... some kind of anti-face.
My confidence in Topalov's ultimate success is also based on a feeling that with white he will absolutely not allow the kid Carlsen escape easily in round 10. And the rest will be a matter of technique. And I want to close the popular topic that was brought up in the end of 2005 and in the beginning of last year. Yeah, THAT one. And I thank Yury Vasiliev and his camera for the invaluable contribution. All the conspiracy theory buffs, please look at Veselin's eyes on a photograph that was taken right after his victory against Anand. So, there are no Fritzes and Rybkas here. Something else is going on... And as they say, "whatever is not forbidden, is allowed".
Let's go back to the key game. If Levon manages to win (which is a possibility that one should not dismiss), an interesting finish awaits us. There can be all kinds of different and unexpected scenarios, and everything will likely finish with a split of a first place. Between whom will it be split? I don't know, I haven't decided yet.
Taste for Technique.
Up until now, the game of the tournament for me , without a doubt, is Kramnik-Anand. Not just because it was the tournament's first "big game". That could be said about any decisive game between the favorites. Sometimes it doesn't come to that in the tournaments with a mixed field at all, and the titans compete with each other at crushing the underdogs and the games amongst themselves come down to expressing the mutual respect. It is good that it is not the case here.
So, it is not that. The whole game was a model of fantastic technical mastery. One can play through it one time after another and it is still not clear about what Vladimir done that was especially good and what was so especially bad about what Vishi has done. There is no answer. That is what the true technique is.
After that game it appeared that it was the right moment for the "old" Kramnik to come back and to show everybody who is the boss. Alas. After a standard draw with black (albeit a difficult one), Vladimir could not create even an appearance of a fight with white against Carlsen. And that was in a line that was surely a subject of a thorough analysis before the match against Topalov. Well, it means the moment of comeback hasn't come yet. No doubt, Vladimir has a good schedule in the remaining games, and I hope he will be able to consider the result of the first tournament of the year as a relative success. But in all likelihood, he won't get higher than the second place.
Years Fly By.
After a peaceful departure to the category of veterans, I am very interested in watching those with whom I started my chess career. Well, there are no people of exactly the same age in Wijks and Linareses anymore, but there are still those who are a little younger. There is Anand here, for example. Is that Vishi? This balding solid middle-aged Indian and a sunny boy playing series of moves with the speed of a machine gun in "Sport" Hotel in 1987 are the same person?! Hard to believe...
So we get older and chess gets younger. And the relative strength of 40- and 20- year olds is very different from what it used to be. And the shortcomings let themselves be known more and more, and before, it seemed, there were only strengths. And it is not about losing to Kramnik - so, he played a somewhat vain line (I was never impressed by those Ra7, Qa8 tricks). So, his opponent did everything right - things happen! The problem is how Anand started to play after that. First he didn't capitalize on the large advantage he had against Radjabov. Or rather, he didn't even try to convert it. The next day Anand could not be seen at the board at all - he came, made some moves and resigned. It is true that in the past one could always observe some uncertainty in Vishi's play in games following his losses. But it used to be just "some uncertainty", now it looks more like a complete ... collapse, so to say. After the day off Anand will test Van Wely with the white pieces, just like Shirov, who was the most unlucky at the start, had to do after the first rest day. Everyone saw how well it worked out for Shirov. And some 10 years ago the only thing that could be compared with the certainty of Shirov getting a win against Loek with white was the certainty of Anand accomplishing the same task. It seems times have changed. Or maybe not yet?
One could gloat- "Told you so"', but I don't feel like doing that. It is not like I wished Teimur would fail. Nevertheless, one has to acknowledge that Radjabov is not yet ready to win a tournament like this. Not yet. Seemed like he subconsciously understood it himself. Otherwise it is hard to judge his play in the middlegame part of the tournament. There is an impression that Teimur decided not just to win the first place, but also to prove to absolutely everyone that he is the only one that deserved it. That is, to win by a large margin. And that was too much.
What Radjabov was doing in the opening against Navara was something. Black's position was ABSOLUTELY hopeless around move 15. Yes, that's right. However, the trick worked. And Teimur kept taking risks. First, against Anand; as he must have logically figured that the Indian does not feel very well after a loss. And if so, why not get him, even with black?! But this is ANAND himself, so maybe a draw with black is good, especially when one has a 1 point lead. Or maybe I should get him? Well, no, it is better to equalize accurately. It seems like this kind of mental uncertainty was the case with him for a long time and in his familiar Sveshnikov he managed to turn a decent position into a strategically lost one. Then, however, he braced himself and managed to make a draw, with opponent's help.
And the next day something odd happened. In a line that Aronian uses all the time, Radjabov started to lose the thread right in the opening and after some "deep" opening creativity he got himself right into a lost endgame - all of that with white. Strange way to prepare openings, I'll tell you that. The leader has changed.
What's next? I don't know. If Teimur manages to beat the kid Carlsen with black, then he will be a part of the fight for the first place. If not, even 2nd place is in doubt, since his schedule in the end is difficult.
And at the end quick notes about everything else. I am happy for Peter. He is not really in a good shape. First, [he had] a nightmare loss to Anand, then a stupid Class C blunder of an exchange to Aronian, which, however, quite ridiculously, has not affected the result. First black had compensation for the pawns, that was, apparently, enough for a draw. Then white got similar compensation for the exchange. However, when the less skillful opponents who apparently haven't quite learned the difference between a dead lion and a wounded one, one after another decided to use the advantage of the first move, the predator appeared in all his glory. And he explained this difference in a convincing and easy to understand manner. And from a 50% he went to +2. And he will probably get stuck there. Svidler is an artistic person and he will probably not be able to make himself play when he is not in a good form. And his opponents will probably not insist, as Motylev's and Carlsen's examples are too fresh in everybody's mind.
Navara continues to push his luck. Or is it his luck that pushes him? He got several gifts in the first rounds. I wrote about that. In the second part of the tournament, the superpolite young Czech (who is the only person I know who greets people like this: "Hello. Sorry.") decided to return those gifts. Otherwise his interpretation of the completely won positions against Radjabov and Karyakin is difficult to explain. By the way, the game Karyakin-Navara should be looked at, the black played the middlegame brilliantly! So, after these twists of fate, David is at 50% in the respectable company of Anand. But he could be in the lead if he was lucky.
Motylev continues to suffer in time troubles. If he really wants to make a run at 2700, (and he has all the prerequisites for that) he should really work on that. The problem is not just that the person constantly gets into time trouble, but also that the opponents know about it.
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