Svidler holds Vishy to draw while Levon catches up with win ahead of top-of-table clash today.
Viswanathan Anand blew his chances of staying in sole lead at the Candidates tournament when Peter Svidler salvaged an extremely uncomfortable Berlin Defence middle game for a draw. The result allowed Levon Aronian, half a point behind the Indian at the start of the seventh round, to catch up at the top of the table with a win over Sergey Karjakin.
Vladimir Kramnik too made up some ground, moving to within half a point of the leaders, but was lucky to come away with a win against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. The Russian appeared to have been heading for certain defeat until a few moves of the game getting over when Mamedyarov blundered away a relatively easy win. Veselin Topalov’s challenge more or less completely fell apart after his second loss in three rounds, this time to the lowest ranked player in the fray, Dmitri Andreikin. At the half-way stage, Anand leads with 4.5 points along with Aronian, while Kramnik is second, half a point behind.
Anand had an encouraging start with black, having Svidler go into a deep think as early as in the 15th move of the game. Anand opted for the Berlin Defence once more, and again, came up with an improvement on existing theory. White’s pawns on d4 and f2 were on their way to become permanent weaknesses amd Anand had the chance to pocket a pawn and force home the advantage with a pair of bishops in a position that was opening up.
Anand decided to trade his queen for a rook, a minor piece and a pawn, but Svidler used his knight and shattered king side pawns to protect his king and tie down the lose ends in the meanwhile. The players signed the draw after 38 moves.
This was Anand’s fourth draw in a row and in at least two of these games, the Indian had opportunities to convert his advantage to a win. With one more round of games to go against each player, a slip up now will have Anand looking back at the stretch with a bit of disappointment. Still, Anand, the oldest participant in the tournament at 44 is also the only undefeated player. If he can continue his tournament form to get past Aronian in Saturday’s eighth round game without damage, he will have the time to reassess his strategy for the tournament later on.
Aronian simply outplayed Sergey Karjakin with black in another Spanish, not easing his grip on the game for any stretch of play. Karjakin finally gambled, hoping his queen and rook on the last rank would provide him enough play against Aronian’s king to eke out a draw. Aronian had the variation calculated and knew the danger was minimal. The Armenian’s pawns, by then, were too powerful to stop and Karjakin resigned after 53 moves.
Kramnik’s lucky win
Kramnik played a strange old game against Mamedyarov to be initially ahead in the Ragozin variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined but he worsened his position trying to play aggressively. Mamedyarov, who has turned his tournament form around a bit with two wins in three games after early losses to Anand and Aronian, was holding up well. In a complex middle game, Kramnik had a pawn on c7, a step away from queening, as early as in the 32nd move, but Mamedyarov had enough counter play against the Russian’s exposed king. Soon, Mamedyarov had to defend against two of Kramnik’s pawns on the seventh rank, but he could not spot the right variation that gave him the win. Blundering repeatedly, he allowed Kramnik to promote his pawn and get the win which allowed him to stay in touching distance of the leaders. A loss would have put the Russian a point and a half behind with just seven rounds to make up the difference.
Andreikin came up with interesting moves and maneuvers in the Queen’s Gambit Declined to surprise Topalov who was playing black. An early deviation coupled with trotting his king over to a safe square allowed him to digest a pawn without much difficulty. Topalov resigned in 27 moves.
Round seven results:
Peter Svidler (3.5) drew with Viswanathan Anand (4), Sergey Karjakin (2.5) lost to Levon Aronian (3.5), Dmitri Andreikin (2) bt Veselin Topalov (3), Vladimir Kramnik (3) bt Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (3)
Round eight pairings: Aronian vs Anand, Kramnik vs Andreikin, Svidler vs Karjakin, Topalov vs Mamedyarov.
Standings after round 7: 1-2. Anand, Aronian (4.5), 3. Kramnik (4), 4. Svidler (3.5), 5-7. Topalov, Andreikin, Mamedyarov (3), 8. Karjakin (2.5)