HARD RAIN'S A-GONNA FALL... ROUND 11
At the start of play, my overriding thought was - can there really still be four rounds to play? The tournament is terribly long and starting to take its toll, even of those of us who only have to sit in the press room all day, munching biscuits and drinking tea (and, in my case, having the luxury of sleeping in my own bed at night). If it's tough for us, imagine how hard it must be for the players, thousands of miles from home and loved ones, and having the world's strongest chess opponents to face, day after day.
Today started with a slight accident when Ivanchuk stumbled over the edge of the stage at the back. He laughed it off at first but then asked for some help with the injury (though hopefully it's not too serious). I understand that Radjabov is suffering from a cold - bad news for him, but perhaps good news for his opponent Kramnik who will be desperate to add to his tally of wins and beat a non-Russian at last.
LEADER BOARD AT THE START OF THE ROUND
|First place Carlsen 7/10 - after the round, 7½/11 and still first|
|Second place Aronian 6½/10 - after the round 6½/11 and now down to third|
|Third place Kramnik 6/10 - after the round 7/11 and now up to second place.|
ROUND 11 SUMMARY
We still have the 'big three' but the order has now changed to Carlsen, Kramnik, Aronian. It was a great round for the Russians, with Kramnik beating the tiring Radjabov, Svidler knocking Aronian off his perch, and Grischuk doing well to hold the leader Carlsen to a draw.
GRISCHUK - CARLSEN
|Grischuk starts the game against Carlsen|
A short and inconclusive game between the leader Carlsen and Grischuk but not without interest. Grischuk launched an early and highly unusual h4 against Carlsen's Grunfeld. Black built a reasonably good position, designed to withstand any h-file unpleasantness, but he allowed his d-pawn to become weak with a possibly injudicious e5 move. Carlsen defended actively and effectively but it led to reduced material on the board and, in his judgement, not enough scope to justify playing on for one of his endgame grinds.
This might have endangered his status as leader but, as we shall see, Peter Svidler did him a favour later (though not Teimour Radjabov).
SVIDLER - ARONIAN
|As you might expect from the two most amiable of grandmasters, a friendly word and a smile is exchanged between Peter Svidler and Levon Aronian at the start of the game, before they get down to serious business.|
Peter Svidler was his usual bright and breezy self at the beginning of the round, exchanging pleasantries with Aronian (as you can see above), but of course once play began a hard fight commenced.
Svidler went in for the Sämisch variation of the Nimzo-Indian, something he had not tried in a mjor game before, and Aronian had nothing special prepared. In some ways it was a very smooth performance by Svidler. Though he didn't claim to be better out of the opening, the position around move 21 became critical. Aronian chose to avoid a queen exchange, advance on the kingside with g7-g5 and then on the queenside with b7-b5. It was probably the third of these three decisions which was his undoing, when Svidler advanced c5-c6 and then won a pawn on the opposite flank.
Aronian has the reputation for digging himself out of holes with creative ideas but Svidler's technique was too good for him here and he wrapped the game up in some style.
Aronian has now slipped to a full point behind Carlsen in the lead and half a point behind Kramnik. His 12th round clash with Kramnik (in which he has White) now becomes absolutely critical and he will probably need to win it in order to stand a chance of winning the tournament.
KRAMNIK - RADJABOV
|Teimour Radjabov precision-placing his pieces as usual and Kramnik is about to perform his own pre-game ritual of cleaning his glasses.|
After his seven straight draws in the first cycle, Vladimir Kramnik is now forging ahead with 3½/4 in the second cycle (which might have been 4/4 but for some super-human defending from Magnus Carlsen). Radjabov (whom word has it was suffering from a cold) looked totally out of sorts, spending ages figuring out what was happening in the opening, and later complaining that he was struggling to perform calculations properly. A man with all these problems is unlikely to last long against Kramnik on a roll. The Russian has now come from mid-table mediocrity to become Magnus Carlsen's most realistic challenger for first place. Tomorrow, however, will be a big test for him as he has Black against Aronian, who has by no means abandoned his quest for first place and could stop the Russian steam-roller.
Radjabov's main difficulty in this game was the time he took over his opening, born of his current poor form and indecisiveness. The second difficulty was the relentless subtlety with which Kramnik kept setting him problems to solve. None of them insurmountable in themselves, but the nagging series of questions asked eventually took its toll, more than anything in the time that he needed to use in working them out.
It was a familiar story - just as he seemed to be emerging from difficulties, Radjabov fell into a deadly trap, based on the parlous position of his king and a vulnerable back rank. Kramnik struck hard and after that it was easy.
IVANCHUK - GELFAND
|Ivanchuk and Gelfand at the press conference with Anastasiya Karlovich|
Quickie draw for the elder statesman today. Not really much to talk about. Ivanchuk confirmed that his trip back stage had not done him any damage. He was in light-hearted mood, having pretty much given up on the tournament, which he was now treating as practice for the Russian League coming up. Boris Gelfand was in more serious mood, giving us some helpful background on the line played, which was played in a Kramnik game last year. I asked the players what they thought about the tie-break arrangements; he would have preferred a play-off to decide the finish (and so would I - but the rules from the FIDE website are "If the top two or more players score the same points, the tie will be decided by the following criteria, in order of priority: a) The results of the games between the players involved in the tie. If they are still tied: b) The total number of wins in the tournament of every player involved in the tie. If they are still tied: c) Sonneborn - Berger System.")