London candidates start

Chess Piece
Bobby Ang

Posted on March 22, 2013

THE FIDE World Chess Championship Candidates tournament started in London last March 15 and will continue until April 1, 2013. There are eight players participating who will play a double round-robin, so a total of 14 games each. These players are:

The top three players from the 2011 World Cup:

Peter Svidler RUS 2747

Alexander Grischuk RUS 2764

Vassily Ivanchuk UKR 2757

The loser of the 2012 World Championship Match:

Boris Gelfand ISR 2740

The top three players with the highest average FIDE rating on the July 2011 & January 2012 lists:

Magnus Carlsen NOR 2872

Vladimir Kramnik RUS 2810

Levon Aronian ARM 2809

One nominated player by the organizer:

Teimour Radjabov AZE 2793

You might be wondering why the organizers nominated Teimour Radjabov. After all, the event is being held in London and you would think that the nominated player is the top Englishman, Michael Adams at 2727, ranked no. 23 in the world. If they don’t like Adams they could potentially have chosen Fabiano Caruana, who is setting the world on fire now with his surprising successes, including victory in the just-concluded Zuerich tournament ahead of Kramnik, Gelfand and Anand.

However, I think the decision is completely right:

1. Do you remember the last Candidates’ matches in 2011, where Kramnik and Radjabov were locked in mortal combat in the first round? They fought all the way down to the blitz tiebreakers, where Kramnik lost the first game (of two). With a dead drawn position and 15 seconds left each, and everybody assuming that Radjabov will proceed to the next round, the clock suddenly reset back to zero as if in preparation for the next game. The arbiters restored the clock to the situation before it reset but when they resumed, thirteen minutes later, a flustered Radjabov blundered several times and quickly lost, after which Kramnik took the second blitz match and eliminated Radjabov. To give Radjabov a place in this Candidates’ match can be treated as some sort of consolation prize.

2. In case you didn’t notice, Teimour is ranked no. 4 in the world with a 2793 rating.

3. Finally, and perhaps most important of all, the major sponsor of this event is not the London people but the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR), one of the largest oil companies in the world. The tournament couldn’t be held in Azerbaijan because one of the top favorites, Levon Aronian is from Armenia, a country technically still at war with Azerbaijan because of the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and dispute. Aronian has refused to travel to "enemy territory". As a compromise the tournament was moved to London and SOCAR still agreed to give sponsorship money, but on the condition that they get to choose the nominated player who, of course, will be their top player, Teimour Radjabov.

But I digress.

Time control for the 2013 Candidates tournament is 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 60 minutes for the next 20 moves followed by 15 minutes for the rest of the game, with a 30-second increment added after every move starting move 61.

The prize fund to be shared by the players totals €510,000 (around P27.4 million). In addition to that the winner of the Candidates will become the Challenger to Viswanathan Anand who has reigned as World Champion since 2007.

So who is the favorite? In the Internet Chess Club they are joking that the Candidates Tournament is all about Magnus Carlsen and seven other guys. Well, Magnus’ FIDE rating is 63 points higher than his closest pursuer, Levon Aronian, but there are no weakies here and everyone is really strong. The London bookmakers have set the odds on who will win:

Magnus Carlsen 1.55/1

Lev Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik 6/1

Vassily Ivanchuk 15/1

Alexander Grischuk 18/1

Teimour Radjabov 20/1

Peter Svidler 40/1

Boris Gelfand 50/1

Another telling statistic: Magnus Carlsen over the last two years is +9 -0 =21 against this field in standard time controls. He has not lost a single game to either Aronian, Kramnik, Ivanchuk, Grischuk, Radjabov, Svidler and Gelfand over the last two years.

Wow. I think it is settled who the favorite is. Surprising that Gelfand is last in the list.

The general consensus is that only Aronian and Kramnik have a chance of overtaking Magnus Carlsen for the pole position. I think only Aronian has a chance. To defeat Carlsen you need to keep up the pressure all the way deep into the endgame and Kramnik has shown that his stamina is not the way it used to be.

If Magnus Carlsen manages to win this tournament, he will be the heavy favorite to dethrone reigning world champion Viswanathan Anand later this year. Anand’s stamina is even worse than Kramnik’s.

Let me show you today the first decisive game of the Candidates’ tournament, as Aronian catches Gelfand napping and knocks him out with a surprise blow.

Aronian, Levon (2809) -- Gelfand, Boris (2740) [A04]

FIDE Candidates London ENG (2.1), 16.03.2013

1.Nf3 c5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 g6 4.e3

This is of course a completely logical follow-up to White’s formation. His next target is to play d2-d4-d5.


This move is played to counter White’s plan of advancing his d-pawn. This is not necessarily bad, though, as after 4...Bg7 5.d4 d6 6.d5 Na5 7.e4 Nh6 Obukhov,A (2475)-Annageldyev,O (2458) Alushta 2004 0-1 47. The position has transformed into a typical King’s Indian unbalanced position with lots of tactical possibilities. This is however not the way that Gelfand likes to play.

5.d4 cxd4 6.exd4 d5

Black’s idea when he played 4...Nf6. If you look at the position closely you will realize that we have arrived at the mainline of the Tarrasch Defense, with colors reversed! White is one move ahead so he should at least try to take advantage of this. The English GM John Emms likes to play this from the Black side, but I cannot imagine why.

7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qb3 Nxc3

[8...Nb6 9.d5 with the initiative]


A lot of the people watching the game being played online were impressed by this zwischenzug, or in-between move, but this is still book.


The text is best. If 9...e6 10.bxc3 Bg7 (10...Bd7!? is also interesting.) 11.Ba3 Bf8 12.Bb5 Bd7 13.Bxf8 Kxf8 14.0-0 White can target Black’s week dark squares around the king. This is not much, but at least something to work with.

10.Bxd5 e6 11.Bxc6+ bxc6

White still has a development advantage, but Black has the two bishops ...


"The opening line is considered to be drawsih. White has only a microscopic advantage, normally I seek for more, but in this tournament I want to be solid." Aronian.


The main line is 12...Qd5 but I suppose Gelfand had a reason for wanting to insert the moves 12...Be7 13.Be3 first before playing it.

13.Be3 Qd5 14.Rfc1 Qxb3 15.axb3 Bb7 16.Ne5 0-0 17.Ra4 Rfd8

"I had the feeling in the opening that Rfd8 was a little premature. After 18.Nc4 black is somehow tied up." Aronian.

18.Nc4 Bf6 19.Na5 Rd7 20.Rb4 Ba6 21.Nxc6 Rb7 22.h3 Kg7 23.Rxb7 Bxb7 24.Ne5 Bd8

"I expected 24...Rc8 25.Ra1 a6 and maybe 26.Ra4, a bit unpleasant for Black. After 24...Bd8 I was thinking which move should I play to provoke Rc8" said Aronian after the game.



[25...Bd5 is best, preventing White from advancing the d-pawn. For example, after 25...Bb6?! 26.d5! Bxd5 27.Bxb6 axb6 28.Rc7 Rf8 29.b5 White’s pieces are better than their counterparts]

26.Bh6+! Kg8

After 26...Kxh6 27.Rxc8 Bxc8 28.Nxf7+ Kg7 29.Nxd8 wins another pawn, and 26...Kf6 27.Bg5+ Kxg5 28.Nxf7+ Kf6 29.Rxc8 Bxc8 30.Nxd8 is the same thing.

27.Rxc8 Bxc8 28.Nc6 Bf6

[28...Bb6 is not possible because of 29.Ne7+]


Taking away the squares for the black bishops.

29...Bd7 30.g4! g5 31.h4 gxh4 32.g5 Bxc6 33.bxc6 Bd8 34.Kg2 Bc7 35.Kh3 1-0

Despair. Black’s bishop can never leave its watch on c7 and White’s king will gobble up the h4-pawn and then make its way to the queenside via the white squares.

In the last Candidates’ matches 90% of all the games ended up in draws. I think this year might be a more bloodthirsty event.

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