The Candidates tournament has had a sober start,but it has crested in intensity at pretty much the right time,as the home stretch approaches.
The first round of the tournament saw all four games of the day drawn as players chose to start cautiously. However,Levon Aronian first,and Magnus Carlsen later,amassed the wins to set the pace at one time or the other. But 12 rounds and with just two remaining,neither Carlsen (7.5 pts) nor Aronian (6.5) are the favourites to finish first. Vladimir Kramnik (8),mired in the middle of the table at the half way stage after a feckless stretch of seven draws,is now the odds-on favourite,as the sole leader.
The last round of matches have been especially decisive in determining the current order of the leaderboard. The 37-year old Kramnik has been on a hot-streak since his early passivity,running up four wins in the last five game. Aronian,on the other hand,has begun to fade rapidly. An exasperatingly late collapse which saw the Armenian lose three of his last four games has relegated his status to that of an outsider. World No. 1 Carlsen ought to have been out of sight by then,but he wobbled too.
Against Teimour Radjabov and Kramnik,the 21-year old Carlsen had to resort to his famed resource his endgame knowledge to come out unscathed. However,against Ivanchuk in the last round of games,he uncharacteristically came unstuck in the endgame.
The result of the Aronian-Kramnik game had already come in,and Carlsen would no doubt have known that nothing but a win would keep him in the lead. Such optimism was far removed from the actual position of the game,which had in truth tilted the way of Ivanchuk as early as in the opening. Ivanchuk did not really improve his position a great deal as the game progressed. However,Carlsen repeatedly missed drawing lines,later stating that he was so confident of the rooks-and-extra-pawns ending for black not being a win that he relaxed a touch at this stage. There was enough juice in the game for Ivanchuk to keep his clamp on the game going and as Carlsen floundered,Ivanchuk converted the ending into a standard winning position after around seven hours of play.
There may be just two rounds to go,but Carlsen’s position is far from being hopeless. If he wins one of his two matches and draws the other,and Kramnik is unable to win either of his games,both will end equal and score but Carlsen will go through. If their head-to-head in the tournament doesn’t seperate the deadlock,the number of wins will decide the issue. But if Carlsen is to catch up with Kramnik,he would more likely have to do it with the extra win and that extra win would also break the tie his way.
Kramnik is to face Boris Gelfand (sixth in the standings) with white and Ivanchuk (seventh) with black while Carlsen will Svidler (fourth) with white in the final round and Teimour Radjabov (last place),with black,before that.
Results,round eleven: Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukr) vs with Magnus Carlsen (Nor); Vladimir Kramnik (Rus) drew with Levon Aronian (Arm); Boris Gelfand (Isr) drew with Peter Svidler (Rus); Teimour Radjabov (Aze) vs Alexander Grischuk (Rus).
Standings after round 11: 1. Vladimir Kramnik (8 points); 2. Magnus Carlsen (7.5); 3. Levon Aronian (6.5); 4. Peter Svidler (6); 5-6. Alexander Grischuk,Boris Gelfand (5.5); 7. Vassily Ivanchuk (5); 8. Teimour Radjabov (4)