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Corus Wijk aan Zee 2008

Last edited: Sunday January 27, 2008 10:38 PM

Steve Giddins

Steve Giddins reports on the 70th Corus Wijk aan Zee tournament for BCM
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Round 13 - Sunday 27 January 2008
"Carlsen, Aronian tie for first"

After a hard day’s play in the final round of the 2008 Corus Wijk aan Zee tournament, the top group ended in a tie for first place between Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian. Both drew their final games, after hard fights. The game Polgar-Aronian showed once again just how deeply the Marshall Attack has been analysed by the top players. Both players rattled out 27 moves of opening theory in barely half an hour between them, resulting already in an endgame with R+B v R+N. The GMs watching in the Press Room all thought White was a little better, but soon it was Polgar who was on the defensive, as Black’s well-coordinated army supported the passed c-pawn more effectively than White’s scattered pieces could do for the a-pawn. However, Polgar kept her cool, and although she shed a pawn, the resulting rook ending was a dead draw.

Carlsen avoided a theoretical battle against Radjabov, by playing the Torre versus the Azeri’s King’s Indian. The result was a long and dour positional battle, in which the opposite-coloured bishops eventually became the dominant factor. The draw was finally agreed on move 65.

These two results left Carlsen and Aronian in the clubhouse on 8 points, and it only remained to see if Anand could catch them up by beating Kramnik. Their game was yet another Petroff (Kramnik’s fourth of the tournament), in which Black’s 22nd (!) move was an attempted improvement on the game Svidler-Kramnik, from the Mexico world championship tournament last October. A few moves later, Kramnik rather surprisingly avoided a draw by repetition, and his position soon looked dangerous. In the Press Room, a group headed by Nunn and Seirawan, assisted by Adams, Harikrishna and others, made determined attempts to mate the black king, but it always survived, and the eventual conclusion was that a draw was most likely. The players battled on, with the computer engines showing the advantage swinging back and forth, but to human eyes, a draw always seemed the most likely result. This was indeed finally the case, the agreement coming on move 61.

Corus Chess 2008 Wijk aan Zee (13), 27.01.2008
Anand,Viswanathan (2799) - Kramnik,Vladimir (2799) [C42]

 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Nc3 Nxc3 6.dxc3 Be7 7.Bf4 0–0 8.Qd2 Nd7 9.0–0–0 Nc5 10.Be3 Re8 11.Bc4 Be6 12.Bxe6 Nxe6 13.h4 Qd7 14.Qd5 Qc6 15.Qf5 Qc4 16.Kb1 g6 17.Qh3 h5 18.Nd2 Qe2 19.Rde1 Qg4 20.Qh2 d5 21.f3 Qa4 22.g4 Bd6 23.Qf2

23…hxg4 24.fxg4 Qxg4 25.Reg1 Qh5 26.Nf3 Re7 27.Bg5 Ree8 28.Be3 Re7 29.Bg5 Rd7 30.Nd4 Nxd4 31.Qxd4 Bf8 32.Qe3 c6 33.Qh3 Rd6 34.Bf4 Re6 35.Rg5 Qh8 36.h5 Rae8 37.Bd2 Bc5 38.Rg3 Re2 39.Kc1 Qg7 40.a3 Bd6 41.Rgg1 Bc5 42.Rg3 Bd6 43.Rg4 R8e6

44.hxg6 Rxg6 45.Rxg6 fxg6 46.Be3 Qe5 47.Qh7+ Kf8 48.Bd2 Qf6 49.Qxb7 Rh2 50.Re1 Qf2 51.Kb1 Qxd2 52.Rf1+ Kg8 53.Qf7+ Kh8 54.Qxg6 Qg2 55.Qe8+ Qg8 56.Qxc6 Bf8 57.Qa8 Bc5 58.Qxg8+ Kxg8 59.Rf5 Rd2 60.c4 Kg7 61.b4 Be7 ½–½

In the other games, Gelfand beat Eljanov, and Leko beat Mamedyarov, whilst the remainder were drawn.

Thus, Aronian repeats his shared first place of last year, whilst Carlsen has taken another step forward in his meteoric progress towards the top. One has continually to remind oneself that he is still only just turned 17!

In the other sections, Movsesian won Group B, and thus qualifies for next year’s A Group. Britain’s Nigel Short had one of his best results for a long time, finishing equal second with Bacrot. In the C Group, it was the 15-year old Italian champion Fabio Caruana who took first place. He is also a great talent, and in most years, his result would be a sensation. But as it is, it pales almost into insignificance alongside Magnus Carlsen’s achievement. In a tournament which will always be remembered as the event, during which we heard of Bobby Fischer’s death, it seems Caissa has provided us with another potentially great champion.

And with that, I say goodbye from a windy North Sea coast. I hope you have enjoyed these reports from Wijk aan Zee. (And many thanks to Steve Giddins for some excellent reporting - ed)


Round 12 - Saturday 26 January 2008
"Fischer fear"

The premises where the Corus tournament are played, the de Moriaan centre, is always packed to overflowing with players and journalists. As a result, for the past few years, the organisation has erected a large marquee tent across the road from the de Moriaan, in which various spectator events are held each day. The main feature is the live commentaries on the games. These are done each day by a different tandem. Regular performers include Hans Ree, Genna Sosonko, and Lex Jongsma. The latter, a veteran Dutch IM, is a particular favourite with the Dutch crowds, and always seems to be particularly entertaining. Sadly, my Dutch is not good enough to understand most of his jokes, but he certainly seems to have them rolling in the aisles most days. Genna Sosonko is much more serious, and is always instructive to listen to, although he too works solely in Dutch.

There are also many other guest commentators. Ivan Sokolov did a couple of days, bringing a very high-class understanding to the games. But my personal favourite is the wonderful Vlastimil Hort, who is always such a delight to see at chess events. “Vlasty”, as he is know, celebrated his 64th birthday earlier this month, and came to Wijk last weekend, to do commentaries with Lex Jongsma for a day. Vlasty does not speak Dutch, and instead does his commentaries in a mixture of English and German – often mixed within the same sentence, I might add! He is never short of an anecdote, and although one might not always learn too much about the positions when he is commentating, one cannot fail to enjoy his numerous stories of the many players and tournaments he has encountered.

Last weekend, over a cup of coffee, he told me about the famous unofficial world blitz championship, held in Herceg Novi, Yugoslavia, in 1970. As is well-known, Bobby Fischer won the event with a massive 19/22, some 4.5 points ahead of Tal, with Korchnoi, Petrosian and Bronstein further back. He only lost one game (against Korchnoi) and conceded four draws, one of which was against Vlasty Hort himself. The interesting thing was the journey to Herceg Novi, which is in the mountains in the then state of Yugoslavia. The flight there was made in very bad weather, on rather a small plane, and was an extremely bumpy ride for all concerned. Vlasty recalled that Fischer was terrified, but that, in characteristic fashion, he coped with his fear by burying his head in his pocket chess set, and analysing furiously, as the plane lurched from side to side! Chess was indeed Fischer’s refuge from all of life’s problems.

[NB. Memo to British chess organisers: next time you have a budget for an international tournament, rather than spending it all on inviting several dozen anonymous 20-year old GMs, most of whose names seem to end in –enko, try inviting 3-4 chess legends instead. It will make your tournament infinitely more interesting and enjoyable for all concerned. And make sure Vlastimil Hort is top of your list.]

Today the Corus tournament reached the penultimate round. Probably the biggest clash of the day was that between Kramnik and Carlsen. The latter reacted badly when he lost to Leko three rounds ago, and all eyes were on how he would fare today, after yesterday’s rather unlucky defeat against Anand.
Kramnik,Vladimir (2799) - Carlsen,Magnus (2733)
Corus Chess 2008 Wijk aan Zee (12), 26.01.2008

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.g3 b6 5.Bg2 Bb7 6.0–0 Be7 7.d4 cxd4 8.Qxd4 d6

The Hedgehog is a somewhat risky choice against Kramnik, who plays such quiet manoeuvering positions so well.

9.Rd1 a6 10.Ng5 Bxg2 11.Kxg2 Nc6 12.Qf4 0–0 13.Nce4 Ne8 14.b3 Ra7 15.Bb2 Rd7 16.Rac1 Nc7 17.Nf3 f5 18.Nc3

Here, Carlsen decided that he had been passive for long enough, and launched an interesting bid for counterplay.

18…g5!? 19.Qd2 g4 20.Ne1 Bg5 21.e3 Rff7 22.Kg1 Ne8 23.Ne2 Nf6 24.Nf4

Here, John Nunn felt that White was definitely better, and that Black’s position was beginning to creak. However, it proves not to be so easy to crack the defence.
24…Qe8 25.Qc3 Rg7 26.b4 Ne4 27.Qb3 Rge7 28.Qa4?

This grab of the a-pawn rebounds badly, but it is not clear what other targets White can find.

28…Ne5 29.Qxa6 Ra7


After the game, it was revealed that Kramnik had missed the simple point that he cannot play 30.Qxb6, because of 30…Rgb7 31.Qd4 Bf6. He actually offered a draw ith the text move, but Carlsen was having none of it.

30…Qxb5 31.cxb5 Rxa2

Suddenly, Black is better!

32.Rc8+ Kf7 33.Nfd3 Bf6 34.Nxe5+ dxe5 35.Rc2 Rea7 36.Kg2 Ng5 37.Rd6 e4

And now it is all over. With his hopelessly passive pieces and seriously-endangered king, White is helpless.

38.Bxf6 Kxf6 39.Kf1 Ra1 40.Ke2 Rb1 41.Rd1 Rxb4 42.Ng2 Rxb5 43.Nf4 Rc5 44.Rb2 b5 45.Kf1 Rac7 46.Rbb1 Rb7 47.Rb4 Rc4 48.Rb2 b4 49.Rdb1 Nf3 50.Kg2 Rd7 51.h3 e5 52.Ne2 Rd2 53.hxg4 fxg4 54.Rxd2 Nxd2 55.Rb2 Nf3 56.Kf1 b3 57.Kg2 Rc2 0–1

The game Eljanov-Topalov was even stranger:

Corus Chess 2008 Wijk aan Zee (12), 26.01.2008
Eljanov,Pavel (2692) - Topalov,Veselin (2780) [A62]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.d5 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.Nf3 g6 7.g3 Bg7 8.Bg2 0–0 9.0–0 Re8 10.Bf4 Bg4 11.Nd2 Nh5 12.Be3

Black’s last two moves have left his minor pieces in some trouble on the kingside. John Nunn and I were now half-expecting the typically Topalovesque exchange sacrifice 12…Rxe3. Instead, he chose to sacrifice material in another way.

12…Nd7!? 13.h3 Bxh3 14.Bxh3 Nxg3 15.fxg3 Rxe3

Black has two pawns, but the sacrifice does not look at all convincing, and Eljanov gradually realized his material advantage.

16.Rf3 Bd4 17.Rxe3 Bxe3+ 18.Kh1 Ne5 19.Nf1 Bh6 20.e4 a6 21.a4 Qb6 22.Qe2 c4 23.Nh2 Bg7 24.Rf1 Rf8 25.Ng4 Nxg4 26.Bxg4 Qc5 27.Kg2 Re8 28.Qf2 Qc7 29.Be2 Re7 30.Rc1 h5 31.Rc2 Re5 32.Bf3 Qe7 33.a5 Bf6 34.Kf1 Kg7 35.Ne2 Rg5 36.Rxc4 Bxb2 37.Nd4 Ba1 38.Ra4 Bc3 39.Qe3 Bb2 40.Rb4 Ba1 41.Rb1 Bxd4 42.Qxd4+ Re5 43.Kg2 h4 44.Rh1 hxg3 45.Qd2 g5 46.Qc3 1–0

Adams had so far been undefeated in this tournament, but today he lost a dispiriting game as White against Polgar. The latter surprisingly adopted the Petroff, and what looked like a small edge for White gradually dissipated, and suddenly Adams found himself defending a lost king and pawn ending.

Anand had a long manoeuvering battle with van Wely, but just before the time control, he overplayed his hand and was lucky not to lose. Had van Wely chosen 40.a5!, he would probably have been winning the ending, but with very little time on his clock, he missed the chance, and was not given another.

Mamedyarov-Gelfand was a fairly quiet and uninteresting draw. Radjabov-Leko had some moments of interest, but once the latter found the excellent move 21…Bf6!, he solved all his problems and a draw was never far off. The other co-leader, Aronan, won a pawn against Ivanchuk, but the latter hung on to draw the rook and pawn ending.

The stage is therefore set for an exciting last round. Carlsen and Aronian share the lead. The latter has Black against Polgar whilst Carlsen has White against Radjabov, who is only half a point behind. Likewise, Vishy Anand is also only half a point off the lead, and he faces Kramnik with White. Tomorrow’s round starts one hour earlier than usual, at 12.30 local time, so if you are planning to follow the games live, don’t forget to tune in a bit earlier.

Round 11 - Friday 25 January 2008

As we approach the climax of the tournament, more and more famous names in the chess world are turning up in Wijk aan Zee, many as special guests of the organisation. A few days ago, Anatoly Karpov arrived, and for most of the afternoon could be seen in the Press Room, eagerly following the games. One of the grandmasters with whom he was exchanging opinions was Ulf Andersson, who won the tournament no less than a quarter of a century ago, in 1983. Two days ago, John Nunn arrived, and will be here for the remainder of the tournament. John is a three-time winner of the event (1986, 1990 and 1991), and last played here in 1995. He was actually invited to this year’s Honorary Group, but has now retired completely from competitive play, so he invited himself (!) as a guest instead. Over dinner on Wednesday evening, he told me an amusing story. Would you believe that he once impersonated Mikhail Tal?

The story occurred during the 1983 Hoogevens tournament. The organisers arranged an exhibition game on the rest day, between local hero Jan Timman, and the legendary ex-world champion. The game was to be played by radio, with Tal in a studio in Riga. Unfortunately, just 3-4 moves into the game, the radio contact was lost and could not be re-established. John was sitting in the bar of the de Moriaan, minding his own business, when one of the tournament officials came to him and asked “Would you mind pretending to be Tal?”. Always happy to oblige his hosts, John agreed, and took the black pieces. Timman allowed the Marshall Attack, misplayed the theory, and John proceeded to mate him, in just the way that the legendary Mischa would have done. After the game, radio listeners all over the world could be heard muttering “Ah, only Tal can play like that”, completely oblivious to the true identity of the black player!

Nowadays, the game can be found in the databases, albeit with the correct player names. For those of you who don’t believe me, here is the evidence:

Wijk radio Wijk aan Zee, 1983
Timman,Jan H (2605) - Nunn,John DM (2570) [C89]

 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0–0 8.c3 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 c6 12.d4 Bd6 13.Re1 Qh4 14.g3 Qh3 15.Be3 Bg4 16.Qd3 Rae8 17.Nd2 f5 18.f4 Kh8 19.Bxd5 cxd5 20.Qf1 Qh5 21.Qg2 Re4 22.a4 bxa4 23.Rxa4 g5

24.Nxe4 fxe4 25.Rxa6 gxf4 26.Rxd6 fxe3 27.Rxe3 Bh3 28.g4 Qxg4 0–1

Turning to the 2007 edition of the tournament, it was almost as if Tal’s spirit had influenced the players, as we had several very exciting games. Even the Petroff Defence in Leko-Kramnik offered a brief spell of sharp play, before settling down to the inevitable draw by perpetual check.

The most attention today was on the clash between Carlsen and Anand. The tournament leader showed no inclination to sit on his tournament lead, instead playing a very direct attack against the world champion’s king. The watching press corps were continually assured by their silicon friends that there was no mate, and so it proved. Anand snatched some pawns, ran his king to safety, and survived the attack.

Corus Chess 2008 Wijk aan Zee (11), 25.01.2008
Carlsen,Magnus (2733) - Anand,Viswanathan (2799) [B85]


Anand had thought 1.d4 “was a much higher probability”.

1…c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 e6 7.a4 Nc6 8.0–0 Be7 9.Be3 0–0 10.f4 Qc7 11.Kh1 Re8 12.Bf3 Rb8 13.Qd2 Bf8?!

Afterwards, Anand thought this was the start of his troubles, and that he should have played 13…Bd7 instead.

14.Qf2 Bd7 15.g4 e5 16.Nf5 exf4 17.Bxf4 Be6 18.Rad1 Ne5 19.Bxe5 dxe5 20.g5 Nd7

21.Nd5 Qc6

Anand rejected the immediate 21...Qc5 because of 22.Qg2.

22.Bg2 Qc5 23.Qh4 Qxc2 24.Rc1 Qxa4 25.b3

Although Anand said that he did not see a forced win during the game, he added that “I would be very surprised if there isn’t one”. At this point, he thought the line 25.Rc3 g6 26.Rh3 h5 27.gxh6 Bxd5 28.h7+ Kh8 29.exd5 Qxh4 30.Nxh4 g5 31.Rxf7 gxh4 32.Rxd7 Re7 33.Rxe7 Bxe7 34.Be4 should offer White good winning chances.

25...Qa5 26.Rc3 g6 27.Rh3 h5 28.Bf3 Bxd5 29.exd5 Bg7


30.Ne3!? may also be strong here.

30...gxf5 31.Bxf7+ Kxf7 32.g6+ Kg8 33.Qh7+??

The losing blunder. 33.Rxf5 should lead to a draw after 33…Qxd5+ 34.Rhf3 Qd1+ 35.Rf1 Qxf1+ 36.Rxf1 Nf8 37.Qc4+ Ne6 38.Qh4, etc. After the text, White is lost.

33...Kf8 34.Rxf5+ Ke7 35.Qxg7+ Kd6 36.Rf7 Qxd5+ 37.Kg1 Rbd8 38.Rh7 Qd4+ 39.Kg2 Qg4+ 40.Kh1 Rg8 41.Rf6+ Kc7 42.Qe7 Qe4+ 0–1

Aronian played the game of the day against the “unloeky” van Wely. A few rounds ago, Aronian had beaten Gelfand on the black side of the Chebanenko Slav, but today he switched colours and was faced with his own novelty 13…Nf5. John Nunn, who was following the game with me, expressed the view that he did not trust the black position, despite Aronian’s previous success with it. His instinct proved correct, as this time it was the black king which came under fire, thanks to some nice tactics from Aronian.

John was also less than impressed by Radjabov’s strange handling of the King’s Indian. For some reason abandoning the usual 7…Nc6 in favour of the rather passive 7…Nbd7 system, he then spent several tempi manoeuvering his knight to the dreadful square g7. By move 20, Nunn offered the opinion that Black was probably positionally lost, but Gelfand had by then used a vast amount of time on the clock, and he rapidly went downhill. He was given a lifeline with 29…Ne8? (29…Nh5 wins), but threw it away with the blunder 35.Qxh7??, allowing forced mate.

Back-marker Eljanov won his first game of the tournament, after beating Polgar with Black. The latter avoided the Berlin Wall ending with 4.d3, but achieved nothing from the opening, and was soon in danger of being mated down the h-file. She failed to find a defence, and Black’s monster bishop on a7 delivered the lethal blow.

In the day’s other games, Topalov and Mamedyarov fought out a hard positional battle in the Petrosian King’s Indian, and the draw was agreed at move 42, with almost all the pieces still on the board. Ivanchuk-Adams was a quiet game, which was always likely to be drawn.



Round 10 - Wednesday 23 January 2008
"Babelian towers"

Chess can claim to be one of the most international of sports/games, being played in almost every country of the world. One of the great things about being at a tournament such as Wijk aan Zee is the truly international feel that the event has. In the Press Room, especially, one can hear many languages being spoken. As well as Dutch and English, one can pick up conversations in Russian, Spanish and German almost the whole time. On top of that, there are periodic bursts of Hungarian, Tamil, Norwegian, Armenian and Italian, to name only those that I am aware of.

This wonderful diversity of language has its downside, of course. In particular, it tends to make us linguistically-challenged English feel rather inferior.  I am better than most of my countrymen, I suppose, since I do at least speak Russian fluently, whilst the unpractised remnants of my schoolboy German just about enable me to make myself understood in most situations. Despite frequent visits to this country, my Dutch expertise is still limited to a few absolutely indispensable phrases, such as “Erwtensoep, abstublieft”, and “Nog een bier”. But I feel positively stupid alongside the Dutch, who all seem to speak better English than most Englishmen, together with equally fluent German, French and occasionally other languages as well. But even most Dutchmen struggle to compete with the remarkable Ljubomir Ljubojevic, when it comes to language skills. The ever-colourful “Ljubo” has trouble himself in knowing exactly how many languages he speaks. The official Corus website says “we stopped counting around 10 or 11, but probably more”. I can testify myself that his English, Russian and Spanish are absolutely fluent, and all delivered at the same machine-gun like pace as his native Serbo-Croat. And the extent of his vocabulary can raise an eyebrow, too - there are few things so funny as watching him pacing up and down, swearing to himself under his breath in at least half a dozen different languages, after he has lost a game!

Today’s round 10 saw two decisive results. Ivanchuk scored his first win at the expense of bottom-marker Eljanov. The former played ambitiously against the Catalan, and soon took the initiative. This eventually yielded an extra outside passed pawn in the endgame, and he went on to win an interesting heavy piece ending.

The other decisive game of the day had potentially great significance for the tournament outcome. In his game against Leko yesterday, Magnus Carlsen had suffered his first defeat of the tournament, and his disappointment was not helped when it transpired immediately afterwards that he had blundered away a draw on the final move (39…Qd4!, instead of 39…Qf3??). Today, it soon became apparent that the youngster had not recovered from this shock. He played casually, extremely quickly, and almost with the attitude of “What the heck! It’s a stupid game anyway!”:

CCT 2008 Wijk aan Zee, 2008
Loek Van Wely - Magnus Carlsen

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5

The Benko Gambit is a rare guest at this level.

4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6

During the afternoon, I was talking with Mickey Adams, who played the Benko himself for a short while around the early 1990s. He commented to me that, in his time, very few players accepted the pawn, "which I was quite pleased about!". Even then, he was far from convinced that Black had full compensation for his material investment, and contemporary theory tends to support him in this view.

5...g6 6.Nc3 Bxa6 7.Nf3 d6 8.g3 Bg7 9.Bg2 Nbd7 10.Rb1

This move is the key to the modern-day treatment of this line. White ensures that he can get in b3, neutralising Black's pressure down the b-file, and preventing his minor pieces jumping into c4.

10...Qa5 11.Bd2 Nb6 12.b3 Qa3

Another GM who offered his opinion of this position was Vladimir Chuchelov, who is Loek's second at the tournament. He said that this queen manoeuvre is not considered good for Black, and he expressed the suspicion that Carlsen had not prepared very thoroughly for this game.

13.0–0 0–0

13...Nbxd5?? loses a piece after 14.Nxd5 Nxd5 15.Bc1.

14.Ne1 Bb7 15.Nc2 Qa6 16.e4 Ne8 17.a4 Nc7 18.Re1 Rae8?!

A very strange move for the Benko, but Black's position is already a mess. The text is presumably designed to prepare e6, a move which is usually a bad sign in such positions. Mark Hebden, another Benko expert, has been known to describe this move as "pushing the panic button!".

19.b4 Nd7 20.Nb5 Rc8 21.Bh3

At this point, Carlsen had used just half an hour on the clock for the entire game, and he is already quite lost. Dutch IM Gert Ligterink was so disappointed with Black's play that he declared that "this is the worst game of the whole A Group so far", and few were prepared to disagree. Carlsen now thought for over 45 minutes, before playing the desperate

21...f5 22.Bg5 Ne5

From this point, White has several overwhelming continuations at every move. Naturally, Van Wely was trying to find the very best and cleanest kill, but this was costing him time on the clock. Carlsen too, was now expending lots of time, and soon both players were down to just a couple of minutes.

23.bxc5 Qxa4 24.Nxc7 Rxc7 25.c6

Here, Ligterink and I agreed that White is only a pawn up, "but it is a very big pawn!".

25...Bc8 26.exf5 Rxf5

Carlsen goes into "swindle mode". There is clearly no hope in just exchanging bishops.

27.f4 Nc4 28.Rb4 Qa7+ 29.Kg2 Qc5 30.Rb8 Nb2 31.Qf3 Qxc2+ 32.Re2 Qb1 33.Bxf5

The computer strongly prefers  33.Bxe7 here, but van Wely's move is also adequate, of course..

33...Qxf5 34.g4 Qf7 35.Bxe7

By now, each player had less than 30 seconds left to reach move 40, and the remaining moves were played instantly.

35...h5 36.Bxd6 hxg4 37.Qe4 Kh7 38.Bxc7 Bf5

Now the great turnaround starts. Here, 39.Qe7 leaves White winning.

39.Qe3? Qxd5+ 40.Kg3?

White is still better after  40.Kg1 but in order to play it, van Wely had to see the line  40...Bd4 41.Rh8+! Kxh8 42.Be5+. With just 2 seconds left on his clock, it is hardly surprising that he didn't spot this trick.

40...Nc4 41.Qf2??

A move which will haunt the Dutchman for a long time to come. Although the time-control had been reached, it seems that neither player was sure about this, and Loek played the text almost immediately. It proves to be the losing blunder, whereas 41.Qb3 is probably still holding. If you check the game with Fritz 11, you will find that the evaluation of the position over the past three moves goes from +6 to -5!


Now Black is winning.

42.Kg2 Be4+ 43.Rxe4 Qxe4+ 44.Kf1 Qd3+ 45.Qe2 Nd2+ 46.Ke1 Nf3+ 47.Kf1 Nxh2+ 48.Ke1 Bc3+ 49.Kf2 g3+ 0–1

A strange game. On the one hand, Carlsen’s play in the first 20 moves was casual to the point of irresponsibility, and suggested that he had totally failed to shake off the disappointment of the day before. On the other hand, as several watching GMs agreed, actually winning the game shows the sort of luck that wins tournaments…

The remaining games were all drawn. The most notable was the game between Radjabov and Topalov, in which the latter had a very lucky escape after being outplayed in the early middlegame and being forced to shed an exchange.

Heading into tomorrow’s final rest day. Carlsen leads outright on 6.5, with Aronian on 6 and a large group on 5.5. However, Carlsen has a very tough run-in, facing Anand, Kramnik and Radjabov in the last three rounds (albeit with White against the first and last-named).

Round 9 - Tuesday 22 January 2008

After all the events of the past 48 hours, which, as had become progressively more apparent, had been a dry run for today’s Topalov-Kramnik meeting, it is refreshing to be able to say that it was events on the board that dominate the headlines. After a frosty non-handshake before the game, the players then served up a great battle, which ended in a spectacular win for the Bulgarian:

Corus Chess 2008 Wijk aan Zee (9), 22.01.2008
Topalov,Veselin (2780) - Kramnik,Vladimir (2799) [D43]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 dxc4

Once again, the Moscow Gambit is the scene of the battlefield.

7.e4 g5 8.Bg3 b5 9.Be2 Bb7 10.0–0 Nbd7 11.Ne5 Bg7


This sacrifice is known in several lines of this variation, but is new in this particular position. Topalov claimed that his second Cheparinov found it three years ago, but that he had been saving it for a “special game”.

12…Kxf7 13.e5 Nd5 14.Ne4 Ke7 15.Nd6 Qb6 16.Bg4 Raf8 17.Qc2 Qxd4?!

Topalov thought this was almost certainly not best, although not surprisingly, he did not elaborate on what Black should play instead.

18.Qg6 Qxg4 19.Qxg7+ Kd8 20.Nxb7+ Kc8 21.a4 b4 22.Rac1 c3 23.bxc3 b3 24.c4 Rfg8 25.Nd6+ Kc7 26.Qf7 Rf8

Already. Kramnik was down to some 15 minutes to reach move 40.


Certainly the move the Press Room were hoping for, but it is always easier to sacrifice someone’s else’s queen! The simple 27.Qg6 was also strong.

27…Rxf7 28.Rxc6+ Kb8 29.Nxf7 Re8?

After this, Black is definitely lost. The only hope was 29…Qe2, which Topalov claimed was still winning for White after 30.Rc3. However, the computer suggests that things may not be entirely clear after 30…b2 31.Rb3+ Ka8 32.Nxh8 Nc5 etc.

30.Nd6 Rh8 31.Rc4 Qe2 32.dxe6 Nb6 33.Rb4 Ka8 34.e7?

Topalov admitted afterwards that this was simply a blunder, and that after the immediate 34.Rxb3, Black would probably not even have survived to the time-control. Fortunately, the position is still winning, even after the front e-pawn goes.

34...Nd5 35.Rxb3 Nxe7 36.Rfb1 Nd5 37.h3 h5 38.Nf7 Rc8 39.e6 a6 40.Nxg5 h4 41.Bd6 Rg8 42.R3b2 Qd3 43.e7 Nf6 44.Be5 Nd7 45.Ne6 1–0

In the other big game of the day, the tournament leader Magnus Carlsen suffered his first defeat of the event, against Peter Leko. Three years ago at Corus, Nigel Short suffered a severe defeat against Leko, and said afterwards “it serves me right for playing the Breyer against a Hungarian!”. Carlsen ignored the warning, and tried Kamsky’s 15…a5, an idea the latter introduced successfully in the World Cup in December 2007. Leko soon stood better, however, and after a tactical sequence in the early middlegame, he reached a position with rook against two minor pieces, where his passed a-pawn ensured a decisive advantage.

Mickey Adams emphasised the value of listening to Nigel Short’s advice. He won his first game of the event, by beating van Wely with an anti-Najdorf line, that Short used to record his sole victory in his world championship match against Kasparov. By move 20, White has a small but stable advantage, and this eventually metamorphosed into an endgame with two connected passed pawns on the queenside.

Radjabov surprised many by repeating his Schliemann Defence against Polgar. After a catastrophic loss to Macieja in the World Cup, most of us had assumed that Radjabov would be forced to give 3…f5 a decent burial, but it seems that rumours of its death have been greatly exaggerated. A sharp tactical sequence soon fizzled out into a perpetual check. Gelfand-Anand was a quiet Catalan draw, whilst Aronian’s English Opening brought nothing against Eljanov.

Ivanchuk outplayed Mamedyarov in a Grunfeld line that the latter had used successfully to draw against van Wely at Hoogeveen last year. However, after reaching a crushing position, he missed several wins between moves 29-35, and the game was drawn shortly after. After having such a great year in 2007, Ivanchuk remains without a win in this tournament, and must be desperately disappointed to have failed to convert such a position today.

Round 8½ - Monday 21 January 2008
“There is a God. And he is not Bulgarian!”

Before coming to today’s round 9 events here at Corus Wijk aan Zee, I must pick up the story of Short-Cheparinov. I left it late on Sunday afternoon, with Silvio Danailov having filed an appeal against the forfeit of Cheparinov. That appeal was heard on Sunday evening, by an Appeals Committee that consisted of Kramnik, Polgar and Krasenkov. Mickey Adams was due to have been the third member, but in view of the potential for perceived national bias, he asked to stand down, and was replaced by Krasenkow. Short was very confident that the appeal would fail, but those of us more cynical about the political realities of the current chess world were much less so. Sure enough, after over an hour’s deliberation, the Committee ruled that, whilst Cheparinov’s actions had been wrong, the arbiter had been incorrect to default him, without giving him a final chance to shake hands. Apparently, therefore, you can insult your opponent as many times as you wish at the start of a game, providing you stop doing so and offer a friendly handshake once the arbiter tells you to! The Committee ruled that Cheparinov had to issue a written apology by 11.00am the next morning (the rest day), and that the game should be replayed, starting at 13.30 that same day.

Short was incandescent with rage, and informed the Committee that he had no intention of replaying the game. He and I left the venue immediately and repaired to a nearby Italian restaurant. I have never seen Nigel so angry. He was literally almost speechless, and being pretty lost for words myself, we hardly exchanged more than 3-4 sentences for almost a whole hour, as we sat in the restaurant. One thing Short did say was “It looks as though I have played my last game in this tournament”. It was impossible to know what to say, or how even to attempt to help him come to terms with such a manifest injustice. The overwhelming feeling was that he had been “stitched up “ – caught in a classic, premeditated sting by the Bulgarians, the latter backed up by an ill-directed Appeals Committee, and now he had nowhere to turn, and nobody to whom he could appeal further. The mood only lightened a little after almost an hour, when the restaurant’s piped music progressed beyond “Santa Lucia” and “O sole mio”, and instead began playing the theme music from The Godfather. At this moment, I caught Nigel’s eye, and said with mock solemnity, “For justice, we must go to Don Corleone!”. We both laughed for the first time since hearing the Appeals Committee ruling.

When I left Nigel later that night, he was still intent on withdrawing from the tournament. The following morning, he was met by one of the Tournament Committee members, who attempted to persuade him to remain and play. At the same time, I was discussing the issue with several friends, including BCM editor John Saunders, who marshalled some persuasive arguments as to why Short should play, despite the egregious manner in which he had been treated. I finally managed to meet up with Nigel at around 11.30 that morning, by which time Cheparinov’s “apology”, as cynical and insincere a document as I have ever read, had duly been handed in, precisely 12 minutes before the required deadline.  I was ready to put to Nigel the case for staying and playing, but the first thing he said to me was “I think I am going to play”. It turned out that several other friends and family members to whom he had spoken overnight had also urged him to remain in the tournament, and he was already as good as convinced.

For the rest, it was just a matter of reassuring him that he was doing the right thing, and hoping that he could get in the mood to play the game. He had not slept, and he had not prepared, but it was clear from his demeanour that at some stage since the previous evening, he had succeeded in converting his anger into that grim determination to win, which so often brings the highest rewards in sport. We lunched, and then went for a walk around the village. When he arrived at the board, a few minutes late, the players shook hands, and Short then proceeded to play one of his best games for a long time, a finely controlled positional game in one of his favourite opening lines, the white side of the 6.Be2 e5 Najdorf. Some six hours and 72 moves later, the Bulgarian resigned, offered the briefest of handshakes, and then sprinted from the playing area at a speed that would have done credit to another “much admired” sportsman, Ben Johnson.

Of course, as his friends had pointed out to him beforehand, Short had scored a huge moral victory the moment he turned up to play, regardless of the result, but winning the game in such fine style completed the triumph. An elated Short walked out of the playing area, to be greeted by a bevy of photographers and journalists, all waiting for a reaction. They were not disappointed. He looked at them, grinned, and then said “There is a God. And he is not Bulgarian!” It brought the house down.

Round 8 - Sunday 20 January 2008

Photo: Nigel Short at the centre of controversy again (photo: Cathy Rogers)As regular readers of these reports will know, I usually try to start with a light-hearted digression. Today, however, I have to report something far more serious, indeed, one of the most extraordinary episodes I have ever heard of, let alone witnessed, at an international chess tournament. It occurred in the B Group, where Britain’s Nigel Short is playing. Today he faced Ivan Cheparinov, with the white pieces. Short came to the board, and with his opponent absent, he played the move 1.e4, and walked away. A few minutes later, Cheparinov came to the board, sat down, and played 1…c5. As Short came over, and held out his hand for the traditional pre-game handshake, Cheparinov pointedly kept his head down over the board and his scoresheet. After a few moments, Short sat down, and waited for Cheparinov to raise his head. When he did so, Short again extended his hand, only for Cheparinov to shake his head in refusal.

Photo: Nigel Short at the centre of controversy again (photo: Cathy Rogers)

Short then stood up and approached the arbiter, pointing out that his opponent’s actions are a breach of FIDE rules, which prescribe an immediate forfeit as the penalty for refusing the handshake. The arbiter was not even aware of this rule, which was announced only in June 2007. The arbiter was asked to check, and after going away to do so, he duly found it on the FIDE website (see http://www.fide.com/news.asp?id=1391). After consulting with Cheparinov, and explaining the situation, the arbiter told Short that Cheparinov was now prepared to shake hands after all. However, given that he had already twice refused to do so, and that Short’s equanimity had by now been totally destroyed, the latter insisted that the offence had already occurred, and that Cheparinov should be forfeited. “It was clearly a calculated insult”, said Short later. The arbiter then informed Cheparinov that he had lost the game by default.

An incredible situation. Short claims that he personally has no issue with Cheparinov at all, but he presumes that the incident arose out of past comments that Short has made to the press, concerning the events of the “Toiletgate” match in Elista, and subsequent cheating allegations made against Topalov. Cheparinov is Topalov’s regular second, and both are managed by Silvio Danailov.  Interestingly, Short told me that when the players gathered for the opening ceremony, just over a week ago, Topalov had shaken hands with him, albeit somewhat perfunctorily. One may well ask why the Bulgarians would shake hands with Short in an informal social setting, when there is no obligation to do so, but then refuse such just days later, in a more formal setting, when required to. Short’s explanation is simple – he believes it was a deliberate provocation, designed to destroy his equanimity at the start of the game. If so, it worked, because he was still shaking almost two hours later.

Since I wrote the above, several hours ago, Danailov has filed a protest. He admits the entire sequence of events outlined above, but claims that the FIDE rule only permits a default, if the player still refuses the handshake, even after being asked to do so by the arbiter. Interestingly, his protest claims that Cheparinov pointed this out to the arbiter at the time! It would seem that the young Bulgarian GM knows the fine points of the FIDE rules even better than he does the Najdorf Sicilian. Unless, of course, he happens to have revisited the subject more recently, perhaps even on the morning of today’s game? I will leave the reader to make up his own mind on this subject, but I will just point out the interesting coincidence that, in the next round of the A Group, Topalov is due to play Kramnik, with whom he has not shaken hands since the early stages of their 2006 “Toiletgate” match in Elista.
The protest is due to be heard this evening, by an Appeals Committee that consists of Polgar, Adams and….Kramnik! If it were April 1st, I know none of you would believe me, but I am not making any of this up!

After such a day, the subject of chess seems sadly anti-climactic, but just in case any of you thought that Wijk aan Zee had something to do with little bits of wood being moved around a chequered board, a brief summary of the day’s play follows.

Kramnik – Polgar reached another rook ending in which the Russian had h- and f-pawns, but this time Black had one on the f-file too, so the draw was agreed at once. Magnus Carlsen also won a pawn against Gelfand, but he too could achieve no more than a drawn 2v1 ending.  Radjabov-Ivanchuk followed a long theoretical line of the Caro-Kann, and ended in a draw by repetition not long after theory ends, whilst Eljanov-Adams was a quiet draw in the Catalan. Van Wely failed to prove to Leko that two bishops are better than bishop and knight, whilst Mamedyarov-Aronian was a balanced Meran QGD.

Anand was the day’s only winner:

Corus Chess 2008 Wijk aan Zee (8), 20.01.2008
Anand,Viswanathan (2799) - Topalov,Veselin (2780) [B90]


1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6

Not difficult to predict”, said Anand after the game.

6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 h5

A Topalov favourite over the last couple of years. Two round ago, he used it to defeat Peter Leko.

9.Nd5 Bxd5 10.exd5 Nbd7 11.Qd2 g6

A new idea. 11...Qc7 is the old move.

12.0–0–0 Nb6 13.Qa5 Bh6 14.Bxh6 Rxh6 15.Kb1 Rc8 16.Qb4


16...Nfxd5 loses to 17.Rxd5 Nxd5 18.Qd2 Qc7 (18...Nf4 19.g3 Qf6±)19.c4.

17.c4 Kg7 18.g3

The whole plan”, said Anand. White will put his bishop on h3.

18...Rh8 19.Rc1 Qc7 20.Bh3 Rce8

20...Rcd8!? was an alternative.

21.Rhd1 Re7 22.a3

Here, Anand wanted to play 22.c5, but could not see what to do after 22…Nbxd5 23.Rxd5 Nxd5 24.Qd2 dxc5 25.Rxc5 Qb6 26.Rxd5 Qg1+ 27.Nc1 h4. After the game, however, Topalov pointed out the even better 24...Qc6! 25.Na5 Qc7 26.Nb3 Qc6, forcing a draw by repetition.

22...Rd8 23.Nd2 Nbd7 24.Qc3 a5

Anand said that he did not understand quite why this was necessary at this point.

25.Bxd7 Nxd7 26.f4 Nf6 27.Rf1 b6 28.h3 Qd7 29.f5

Probably Black is very close to lost already”, was the world champion’s assessment of this position.

29...Rf8 30.Qe3

30.g4 fails to 30…hxg4 31.hxg4 Nxg4 32.Qh3 gxf5 33.Rh1 Rg8–+.

 30...e4 31.g4 hxg4 32.hxg4 Re5 33.Rf4!

An excellent move. 33.Rh1 Nxg4 34.Qh3 Qxf5 35.Qh7+ Kf6 36.Rcf1 Nf2 37.Qh4+ (37.Rxf2 Qxf2 38.Rf1 Qxf1+ 39.Nxf1÷) 37...g5! 38.Qxf2 Qxf2 39.Rxf2+ Ke7 is much less clear.

33...Qd8 34.g5

Now it is just winning.

34…Nh5 35.f6+ Kg8 36.Rxe4 Rfe8 37.Ka2! a4

37...Rxe4 38.Nxe4 Qc8 39.Nxd6, or 37...Qc8 38.Rxe5 Rxe5 39.Qxb6 both win.

38.Rc3 Qc7 39.Qd4 Qc5 40.Qxc5 1–0

In view of 40...bxc5 41.Rce3 Rxe4 42.Rxe4 Kf8 43.Rxe8+ Kxe8 44.Ne4 Kd7 45.b3+-.  

All things considered, it has not been a great day for Bulgarian chess.

Round 7 - Saturday 19 January 2008
" Legends and memories"

As mentioned in yesterday’s report, today sees the Honorary Group begin play. All four of the players were here yesterday, and, like everybody else, were eagerly sought by the press corps, for their reactions to the news of Fischer’s death. One of those whom it was most interesting to speak to was Lajos Portisch. The Hungarian legend is a four-time winner of the main group here at Wijk aan Zee (or Beverwijk, as it was in the 1960s). He knew Fischer quite well during the period in the early 1990s, when the latter was living in Budapest. Fischer was a frequent guest at Portisch’s home, and the two often played blitz games of Fischerrandom chess. “I won a few!”, Portisch modestly stated.

Lajos Portisch at Wijk aan Zee
Lajos Portisch at Wijk aan Zee

I had the chance to speak with Portisch, and to present him with the two latest issues of BCM. I pointed out in particular that the January 2008 issue contains the first part of Mihail Marin’s absorbing article, about his three games against Portisch. When the latter looked at the title, which reads “Portisch 3, Marin 0”, he smiled and said “Oh, I only remember two!”.  It is another sign of Portisch’s modesty and dignity. Most chessplayers have an exceptionally well-developed ability to forget their defeats, but have positively elephantine memories when it comes to their wins!

In today’s seventh round of the main tournament, world champion Vishy Anand finally scored his first win of the event, handing Polgar her second straight defeat. Her quiet treatment of the Najdorf brought little advantage, but her ambitions proved greater than were justified. Her queen sacrifice for two rooks was actually quite bad, as the misplaced knight had trouble emerging from the heart of Black’s position. While she was rescuing it, the rest of her position fell apart, and she resigned at move 53.

The Ivanchuk-Kramnik saw the latter’s Petroff turn out to be fireproof for the third time in the tournament, whilst Gelfand and Leko fought out a tough Catalan, where White never had more than a small edge,. The draw was agreed at move 49.

Tournament leader Magnus Carlsen survived a major test, by holding the surging Topalov with Black. The latter looked to be doing very well in the later middlegame, and the various endings with R+B v R+N seemed highly unpleasant for Black. However, Carlsen defended very well, and held the position, without it being obvious where White missed any major improvement.

Eljanov had a near-heartbreaker against van Wely. He stood much better around move 30-35, but blew it completely in the last few moves up to the time-control. It says much for his strength of character that, despite the battering he has already taken in the first six rounds, he hung on to draw the rook ending two pawns down.

Adams and Mamedyarov had a very tough and obscure struggle. The latter’s favourite Deferred Steinitz Defence to the Lopez left White with more space, but Black very solid. In the complications up to move 40, things at first looked dangerous for White, then vice versa, but in the end, the game simplified to that most drawn of drawn ending, KvK.

Aronian bounced back from yesterday’s gruelling 114-move loss against Kramnik to hand Radjabov his first defeat. Later he demonstrated the game to the press corps, with typical self-deprecating humour. :

Corus Chess 2008 Wijk aan Zee (7), 19.01.2008
Aronian,Levon (2739) - Radjabov,Teimour (2735) [A62]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.g3 c5 5.d5 0–0 6.Bg2 d6 7.Nf3 e6 8.0–0 exd5 9.cxd5 Re8 10.Nd2 b6!?

An unusual and surprising choice, but it has the merit of hampering White’s standard plan of h3 and e4, when Ba6 and Nbd7-e5-d3 would be awkward.

11.Re1 Nbd7 12.h3

12.Nc4 Ne5 is OK for Black; as usual in such positions, the exchange of a pair of knights leaves Black comfortable.

12...Ba6 13.Qa4


This is the most principled. 13...Qc8? 14.Nde4 leaves the d6-pawn in trouble.


Also practically forced, since 14.Nf3 Be4 is again OK for Black.


This in turn is forced, as other moves leave the bishop in trouble.

15.Qd1 Bc4

Aronian commented afterwards that when playing 14.Nf1, he had thought everything was “wonderful, but now he realised that Black has some counterplay

16.Nd2 Nb6 17.Nxc4

17.b3 is adequately met by 17…b4, with some counterplay.


17...bxc4 is simply bad, so the pawn sacrifice is forced.

18.Nxb5 Qa5 19.a4

In this typical Benko Gambit-style structure, Aronian thought he was a little better, but no more. Probably Black should now play  19...a6! 20.Na3 Nxa3 21.Rxa3 Nd7, when White has some advantage, but probably less than in the game.

19...Nd7 20.Bf4 Bxb2 21.Rb1 Be5

21...Bc3 was Radjabov’s post-game suggestion, but it does not solve Black’s problems after 22.Nxc3 Qxc3 23.Qc1 Qxc1 24.Rexc1

22.Qc1 a6

22...Bxf4 23.Qxf4 Nd2 24.Nxd6 is clearly better for White.

23.Qxc4 axb5 24.axb5 Nb6 25.Qc1

Here, Aronian said that “of course White is better, but Black is solid and has a potential threat with c-pawn”. In reality, though, it seems that the counterplay is not enough and White is basically winning here.

25...c4 26.Bxe5 Rxe5 27.e4 Ree8 28.Re3 Qa2

28...Rec8 29.e5 c3 30.e6 c2 31.Rb2 wins

29.h4+- Nd7 30.Rc3 Nb6 31.h5 Re5 32.h6 f5 33.exf5 Rxf5 34.Rc2 Qa3 35.Qd2

“Here, I was still pretending that I wanted to win the game. Of course, almost anything is possible here”.

35…Qc5 36.Bh3 Rf3 37.Rc3 Rf6 38.Be6+ Kh8 39.Re3 Raf8

“Now, though, I showed my real intentions”, joked Aronian after the game.

40.Qb2? Na4 41.Qa3

Aronian’s original intention had been 41.Qa1, but then 41…c3 42.Qxa4 Rxf2 follows, “when White should be able to draw, but this was not really what I wanted!”. Fortunately, White is still able to win with the text.

41...Rxf2 42.Qxc5 dxc5 [42...Nxc5 43.b6 Nb7 44.Rc3 wins.

43.Ra3 Nb6 44.Rd1 R2f6 45.Rda1!

This crucial tempo win is vital. Now White wins by a tempo.

45…g5 46.Ra6 c3 47.Rxb6 c2 48.Rc6 1–0

The point is that 48…c2 49.Rxc5 Rf1+ 50.Rxf1 Rxf1+ 51 Kg2 Rg1+ 52 Kh3 and the king shelters on g4.

Round 6 - Friday 18 January 2008
"Goodbye, Bobby"

This weekend was always going to be a special one for lovers of the chess of 20-30 years ago, as tomorrow sees the start of the Honorary Group. This is a new event for Corus, and involves a four-player, double-cycle event contested by past winners of the tournament. The four players concerned are Korchnoi, Timman, Portisch and Ljubojevic. Today, they were all presented to the audience in the commentary room, at the start of the round, and tomorrow they start play in earnest. But what should have been a day of celebration for the chess of their generation was overshadowed completely by the news of the death of Bobby Fischer.  He died yesterday evening of kidney failure, at the magical chess age of 64. Shortly before Christmas, it was revealed that he had been in hospital several months with kidney problems, but the news had not been reported earlier because his friends knew better than to talk to the press about him. Reports now coming from Reykjavik suggest that a couple of months ago, doctors had declared his condition hopeless.

In recent years, some of his outbursts had attracted notoriety, and it was clear that he was suffering from significant mental illness. But there is little doubt that prior to this, he was the most important single figure in chess history in terms of his impact and the popularisation of the game. The 1972 match with Spassky put chess on the front pages of the newspapers, and inspired a whole generation to take up chess. I was one of them, and still remember playing over the 10th game of the match on my first-ever pocket chess set, barely even knowing how the pieces moved. Little did any of us know that we were already watching one of Fischer’s last-ever appearances at the chessboard. His most devastating performances, in the 1971 Candidates matches, were already behind him, and will never be forgotten as long as chess is played. Rather than the unbalanced individual of recent years, it is surely better that we remember him for his chess. Today’s round here at Corus was prefaced by a minute’s silence, but in reality, as Ljubomir Ljubojevic commented, “the chess world lost Fischer many years ago, when he stopped playing”.

Of course, one of Fischer’s main contributions to chess in recent years was Fischerrandom chess, which was designed to escape from the vast edifice of modern opening preparation. Coincidentally, today the press room was visited by Hans-Walter Schmitt, the organiser of the Mainz chess festival, which features the world’s strongest random chess event. They call it “Chess-960”, one reason being that Fischer refused to let them call it Fischerrandom, because he wanted to copyright the name himself! Anyway, several of today’s A group games featured the kind of massively deep preparation that he was seeking to avoid. Kramnik and Aronian renewed the tournament’s “theme” event in the Moscow Gambit. Both rattled out 15 moves in a few minutes, but Kramnik’s preparation went much further. After 25 moves, he had still used just 10 minutes on his clock, as against Aronian’s one hour. Six moves later, the clock times read Kramnik: 21 minutes, Aronian one hour, 53 minutes. Kramnik eventually reached a four-rook endgame with an extra pawn, but progress was difficult to come by. He managed to reach the notorious ending of R+RP+BP v R…

... (and here the BCM editor takes over commentary temporarily, because Steve left the venue before the marathon game between Kramnik-Aronian finished as he had a dinner date with "a malnourished ex-world title challenger and a German website editor" - hmm, I wonder who he could mean by that?...).
     I think most of the audience assumed that Aronian would know enough to be able to draw this ending. However, play eventually eventually reached this position...

Kramnik - Aronian, Round 6 (Black to Play)

... after White had played 103 Kd5. Black can still draw if he plays 103...Ka5+ as every Russian schoolboy knows, but unfortunately Aronian didn't and played 103...Kf7 and lost after 104 Rh1!! Ra5+ 105 Kc4 Ra4+ 106 Kb5 Ra8 107 h7 Rh8 108 Rh6 Rb8+ 109 Kc6 Rc8+ 110 Kd6 1-0. Well.... of course, I am being facetious and in the process being extremely unfair to poor Aronian. These endgames are desperately hard to defend and the only reason I can tell you where Aronian went wrong is because I looked the position up on a six-piece tablebase (try it for yourself here). But also spare a respectful thought for Vladimir Kramnik, who had the ability to manoeuvre Black into a position where he only had one good move, and then the knowledge to exploit the error when it came. It is a reminder of just how strong and determinded a chessplayer Big Vlad really is, and perhaps the finest tribute of all to the late great Bobby, to play a game of this high calibre on the day after he died. OK, that's all from BCM's editor, I now return you to Steve Giddins...

Veselin Topalov was another who came to the board armed to the teeth. He had used just 10 minutes by move 17, also against an hour for his opponent, Peter Leko. Even so, he only managed to achieve a position typical of the 6.Be2 e5 Najdorf, but with his pawn sticking out on h5, like a sore thumb. Leko’s support team of wife Sophie and trainer/father-in-law Arshak were very optimistic about his position around moves 30-45, but nothing concrete was apparent. Suddenly things swung around completely, and Leko was left defending a difficult bishop ending, which he lost. 

Magnus Carlsen also produced a novelty in the opening. Polgar’s 10…Qf6 is unusual in that position, but she still walked into the opponent’s preparation, beginning 11.f3.

Corus Chess 2008 Wijk aan Zee (6), 18.01.2008
Carlsen,Magnus (2733) - Polgar,Judit (2707) [E37]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 d5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 Ne4 7.Qc2 c5 8.dxc5 Nc6 9.cxd5 exd5 10.e3 10.Nf3 Qf6 was probably what Judit had prepared. After the text move, the usual reply is 10…Bf5, but Judit tries  to transpose back into 10.Nf3 Qf6. 10...Qf6

11.f3! A strong new move. 11…Qh4+ 12.g3 Nxg3 13.Qf2 Nf5 14.Qxh4 Nxh4 15.b4 White is slightly behind in development, but has the bishop pair and the queenside pawn majority. Magnus felt that it should be “nice for White”. 15...a6?! Probably not necessary. 15...Ne5 is a better try for counterplay. 16.Kf2 Ne5 17.Bb2 f6 18.Rd1 Be6 19.Ne2! Bf7 Either capture on f3 is met by 20.Nf4, when d5 drops and b7 remains weak. 20.Rg1 Carlsen’s view was that White is seriously better here. Note that 20.Nd4?! is bad because of Nhxf3 (21.Nxf3 Nxf3 22.Kxf3 Bh5+). 20...Nc4 [20...Nhxf3 21.Rxg7 Nxh2 22.Bxe5 fxe5 23.Bg2 is also winning for White. 2.Nc3 0–0–0 23.e4

23…dxe4? Magnus felt that 23...d4 absolutely had to be tried, although after 24.Nd5 Ne5 25.f4 gxf4 26.Nxf6 White is still clearly better. 24.Rxd8+ Rxd8 24...Kxd8 does not save the f6-pawn, in view of 25.Nxe4 Ke7 26.Nxg5!. 25.Nxe4 Kc7 26.Nxf6 h6 27.f4 Nd2 Forced, since 27...gxf4 28.Rg7 wins.  28.Be2 [28.fxg5 Nxf1 29.gxh6 should also be winning, but there is no need to fish in such murky waters. 28...Nb3 [28...gxf4 29.Rg7] 29.Be3 Nd4 30.Bxd4 [30.fxg5 is also possible, but the text avoids the opposite-coloured bishop position. 30...Rxd4 31.fxg5 Rf4+ After 31...hxg5 Magnus intended 32.Ke1!, rather than (32.Rxg5?Rf4+ 33.Kg3 Rxf6 34.Kxh4 Rf2, which is less clear. 32.Ke1 hxg5 33.Nh7 Bd5 34.Nxg5

Now White simply winning, and the rest requires no comment. 34…Kc6 [34...Ng2+ 35.Rxg2 Bxg2 36.Ne6+] 35.Rf1 Rxf1+ 36.Bxf1 a5 37.Kd2 axb4 38.axb4 b6 39.cxb6 Kxb6 40.Bd3 Bc6 41.Kc3 Bd7 42.Be4 Bg4 43.Nf7 Bf3 44.Bd3 Bc6 45.Ne5 Bd5 46.Ng6 Ng2 47.Kd4 Bb7 48.h4 Bf3 49.Bf1 Ne1 50.Ne5 Nc2+ 51.Kc3 Be4 52.h5 1–0

Van Wely-Gelfand was a fairly short draw. Both players had lost yesterday, and Gelfand in particular was in very bad shape, with just 1/5, so this result was not such a great surprise. Radjabov-Adams went rather longer, but early simplifications from an Exchange Lopez always made a draw the most likely result. Anand-Ivanchuk saw both players take a lot of time in the opening, but then agree a draw with a full board of pieces, in quite an interesting position. I doubt that RJF would have approved!

The result of the play on this momentous day in chess history is that Magnus Carlsen again leads outright. Before the event, he said that “plus 2” would be a satisfactory result. After less than halfway, he already has “plus 3”, although with the strongest players still to come. There is little doubt that, on a day when the chess world learned of the loss of one its greatest champions, another potentially great one is already waiting to replace him.

Round 5 - Thursday 17 January 2008
" The information game"

Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with modern-day chess knows how all-pervasive opening theory has become. In virtually every game here at Corus, one sees the players testing one another with new ideas in the opening, and quite often a tournament will almost come to resemble one of the theme tournaments of old, as a particular opening line gets tested in a whole series of games. There are already some signs that this could happen with the Semi-Slav, Moscow Variation, which has been the theoretical battleground in Radjabov's two white games.

As Gordon Gecko reminded his young protege in the film Wall Street, "the most valuable commodity I know is information", and more than one grandmaster has said that if his house were on fire, and he could only rescue one possession, it would be his laptop. Certainly, most top GMs' openings databases would fetch a good deal of money on the black market, and one suspects that Garry Kasparov could have turned in a very healthy profit, had he offered his database for sale on e-Bay, when he retired from chess. Here in Wijk aan Zee, a successful computer thief could purloin the secrets of most of the world's chess elite, and make himself a fortune. Mind you, he would not make much money out of me. Perhaps it is a sign of my lack of chessplaying ambition, but if I could have my choice of only one piece of top-secret information from this tournament, it would not be Anand's analysis of the Petroff, or Kramnik's Catalan secrets; instead, I would have the recipe for the pea soup here at the de Moriaan, which is the best I have ever tasted!

After yesterday’s rest day, there was hope that the players would return refreshed and we would see some hard fights. Sadly, the key match-up between Aronian and Anand disappointed, as the players agreed a draw in 20 moves, after less than an hour’s play. The game involving the other co-leader, Magnus Carlsen, was drawn shortly after, when Ivanchuk’s Exchange Lopez resulted in mass simplifications and a dead drawn ending. Incidentally, I should correct a mistake that I made in an earlier report, when I described Magnus as being 18 years old. As Jan-Harald Alnes from Norway points out, Magnus was born in November 1990, and is thus only just turned 17. Cynics might suspect that my mistake was not unconnected with my own pending birthday. Yes, in less than a fortnight, I will be forced to confront the unpleasant fact that yet another of the biblical threescore and ten will have slipped inexorably by. It is depressing enough in itself, without the added fact of discovering that Magnus Carlsen is only a couple of months short of a full 30 years younger than myself.

With the two leaders drawing, Radjabov seized the chance to join them, with a decisive victory over Eljanov:

Corus Chess 2008 Wijk aan Zee (5), 17.01.2008
Eljanov,Pavel (2692) - Radjabov,Teimour (2735) [E70]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Bd3 A surprise for Radjabov, whose opponent does not usually play this variation. The Azeri, on the other hand, has previously beaten Topalov on the black side of the variation, so the surprise would not have been an unpleasant one. 5...0–0 6.Nge2 c5 7.d5 e6 8.Bg5 8.h3 is also possible. 8...h6 9.Bf4 Ng4 10.Qd2 Na6 11.a3 Nc7

12.f3 12.h3 is the alternative, although Black should not have any problems after 12…Ne5. 12...Ne5 13.0–0 exd5 14.cxd5 14.exd5!? is also possible. After the game, Radjabov admitted that he was not sure which recapture is best, although he added that 14.cxd5 certainly looks very natural. 14...Nxd3 15.Qxd3 b6 Here, Radjabov spent some time, tryin to decide whether to choose 15...f5 or the text. Afterwards, he claimed that he chose 15…b6 because he thought 15…f5 seemed drawish! 16.Qd2 Kh7 17.Ng3 Ba6 18.Rfe1 Re8 19.a4! An important move, anticipating Black’s plan of exchanging by Nb5. 19…Bc4 20.Nf1

19…Bxf1! An excellent positional decision, which Radjabov was very pleased with. If he does not exchange, the knight comes to e3 and White would be better. 21.Rxf1 a6 22.Bg3 22.b3, followed by Ra2, was better. 22...Qd7 23.Rae1? Missing Black’s follow-up. Once again, 23.b3 was better. Both players were fairly short of time by now, and Eljanov’s position falls apart rapidly. 23...b5 24.f4 b4 25.Nd1 f5! Now the white position is collapsing. 26.exf5 Qxf5 27.Ne3 Rxe3! 27…Bd4 is also good for Black, but the text is the most decisive. 28.Rxe3 Bd4 29.Bf2 Bxe3 30.Bxe3 Nxd5 31.Rd1 Re8

32.Bf2? The final blunder. He had to play the ending after 32.Qxd5 Qxd5 33.Rxd5 Rxe3, although Black should still win. 32...Nxf4 33.Qxd6 Qe4 0–1 In view of 34.Qd7+ Re7 35.Qg4 Ne2+ winning.  

Adams-Kramnik did nothing to break the Petroff’s reputation as the chess equivalent of watching grass grow. After the game, Kramnik commented that 17.h5 would have led to a sharper game, but that after Adams’ choice 17.Bb5, mass exchanges were unavoidable. Needless to say, it was all part of the ex-world champion’s preparation, and in the post-mortem, he rattled out a long and complicated variation after 17.h5, which apparently leads to a forced draw!

However, Topalov showed that it is still possible to defeat the Petroff. Against Gelfand, he obtained a small, but clear edge, and Black was always suffering. His torments came to a sudden end with 26…Qe7??, but even after the superior 26…Qh7, Black’s position would not have been at all pleasant.

Polgar-Leko was another theoretical battle, this time in the Marshall Gambit. Polgar reached an ending with an extra pawn, but Black’ two bishops always made it look as though he would hold without great trouble, as indeed proved to be the case.

By contrast with all this heavyweight opening preparation, Mamedyarov avoided anything resembling a theoretical duel, by opening 1.e4 c5 2.b3 against van Wely. The latter secured a decent position from the opening, but weakened badly around moves 26-30, and was thereafter put to the sword.

Round 4 - Tuesday 15 January 2009
" Elephants and Hawks"

One of the many nice things about Wijk aan Zee is the number of well-known chess figures one can see in the Press Room. On Sunday, Yasser Seirawan could be found, demonstrating his new version of chess to Arshak Petrosian. Yes, Yasser has a new version of chess! Briefly, two extra pieces, which one can put on the board at any point. The Elephant combines the moves of rook and knight, whilst the Hawk combines the moves of bishop and knight. A great idea - you don't need to buy a new chess set, just the extra pieces, which you can use on your existing set, whilst the number of additional possibilities the extra pieces bring is remarkable. Here is just one example of how endgame theory is changed. The position WKa8 + Qh8 v BKg2+Ph2 is a well-known draw. But replace the white queen with an Elephant, and the position is a forced win! Tomorrow is a rest day here at Corus, so to spare you a day with nothing better to do than watch UK Gold for 16 hours, I will leave you to work out for yourself why the elephant succeeds where the queen fails - Arshak certainly didn't take too long to do so! (Let me see if I can do it - 1 Eg6+ Kh3 (1...Kh1 allows 2 Eg3#; 1...Kf1 then 2 Ef4+ Kg1 - other king moves allow Eh4 winning the pawn - 3 Eg4+ wins the pawn because 3...Kh1 allows 4 Eg3# as before; 1...Kf2 2 Eg4+ wins the pawn) 2 Eg5+ Kh4 (only move) 3 Ef3+ and takes the h2 pawn next move - am I right? - ed)

As befits the day before the rest day, this afternoon’s fourth round produced one of the most fighting day’s chess we have seen. The only exception was the all-Azeri battle between Radjabov and Mamedyarov, in which a Grunfeld led to heavy simplifications and draw in just under two hours’ play.

The major clash of the day was the meeting of the two leaders, Carlsen and Aronian, who indulged in a highly complicated and fluctuating struggle. Aronian’s exchange sacrifice was very promising, and he thought he was much better until 30…g6? Then the advantage swung to Carlsen, but he returned the favour with 35.Qg3?, when 35.Rxa6 would have given excellent winning chances.

The biggest story was the second defeat of Topalov, who now languishes at the bottom of the table, on just 1/4. As Black against van Wely, he avoided any preparation by adopting the unusual line 1.d4 e6 2.c4 c5, reaching a kind of Modern Benoni with his knight on e7. It all seemed distinctly malodorous, and he was soon reduced to sacrificing the exchange, just to stay on the board. White should have been winning comfortably, but for the second day running, van Wely struggled to demonstrate the superiority of rook over bishop. However, he gradually made progress, and eventually won the ending in 81 moves.

Anand switched to 1.d4 against Adams, and renewed an old theoretical battle in the Queen’s Indian. Adams adopted a Stonewall-type structure, and made it look very comfortable for Black. He soon had some advantage, and Anand was forced to defend carefully for the entire length of the game. In the end, opposite-coloured bishops save him from defeat, but it was another disappointing result for the world champion, who has not got going at all so far in this tournament.

Against Ivanchuk, Leko missed a couple of golden opportunities to win his first game. Instead of 21.b4, the sacrificial line 21.Ng6+ fxg6 22.Bxf6 g5 23.Qh5 gxf6 24.Rxe6 gives a very strong attack, but Leko felt this was not clear enough and “wanted to wait with Ng6+ until it wins by force!”. He still built up a winning advantage, but with little time on the clock, he later felt he should not have forced things with 32.Rf5. Even though objectively winning, it required too much calculation, and Leo eventually ended up repeating moves – a narrow escape for Ivanchuk.

Kramnik opened his win account in typical style. A quiet opening and early queen exchange led to an ending, in which he did not appear to have a great deal, but his technique was too much for Eljanov. By move 40, the position had simplified to a 3 v 2 ending, with all pawns on one side, but the fact that knights were on the board made it very unpleasant for Black, and he eventually went down.

Gelfand-Polgar was another tremendous battle:

Corus Chess 2008 Wijk aan Zee (4), 15.01.2008
Gelfand,Boris (2737) - Polgar,Judit (2707) [E01]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 c5 4.Nf3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 d5 6.Bg2 e5 7.Nf3 d4 8.0–0 Nc6 9.e3 d3!? A risky choice. 9...Be7 is more usual. 10.Nc3 Bb4 11.Bd2 Another line is 11.Nxe5 Nxe5 12.Qa4+ Nc6 13.Bxc6+ bxc6 14.Qxb4 Bh3 (14...d2?! 15.Bxd2 Qxd2 16.Rad1±) 15.Rd1 Bg4, when Black has compensation. 11...0–0

12.a3 This is the critical move. Instead, 12.Nd5 Nxd5 13.cxd5 Qxd5 14.Nd4 is just equal. 12...Bxc3 13.Bxc3 Ne4 A novelty that Polgar prepared several years ago, but never used. 14.Bxe5 Bg4 15.Bd4 [15.Bf4 g5] 15...Ng5 Another possibility is 15...Nxd4 16.exd4 Ng5, with compensation. (16...Bxf3 17.Qxf3 Nd2 18.Qxd3 is slightly better for White. 16.Bc3 The critical position 16...Rc8 16...Re8!? was another option. 17.b4?! A dubious move. 17.Bd4! is better. 17...Re8 17...d2!? 18.Ra2 Qd3 with compenation, is also possible. 18.h4 Ne4 19.Bb2 Qd7 20.Qc1

20…d2!? A risky choice, as the pawn could be weaker here than on d3. 20...Bh3 should offer compensation, eg. 21.Rd1 Bxg2 22.Kxg2 Rcd8, etc. 21.Qc2 Bf5 21...Bh3 is met by 22.Rfd1. 22.Qb3 Be6 23.Qc2 23.Rad1 Rcd8 is unclear. 23...Bf5 24.Qa4 Qd3?! An error. Both sides were down to about 20 minutes on the clock by now, and Polgar admitted that she became too optimistic about her position. 24...Nd4 25.Qxd7 Nxf3+ 26.Bxf3 Bxd7 27.Bxe4 Rxe4 28.Rad1 Rexc4 29.Rxd2 is equal. 25.b5 Nd8 25...Nc5 26.Qd1! is what she had missed:  26...Na5 27.Nxd2 Rcd8 28.Bd4± 26.Qxa7 Ne6 27.g4 Bxg4 28.Ne5 Qc2 29.Nxg4 Qxb2 30.Bxe4 Rxc4

31.Bf3?? A losing blunder. White had to play 31.Rab1!. Now Polgar’s intended 31…Rc1 is met by 32.Qa4! Qc3 33.Qb4!, when Black seems to have nothing, eg. 33…Qxb4 34.axb4 Rec8 35.f4 Rxb1 36.Bxb1 Rc1 37.Nf2+-. Similarly, 31...Qc3 32.Bf3 h5 33.Nh2 Rxh4 34.Bg2± Ng5 35.Nf3 Nxf3+ 36.Bxf3 Re6 (36...Qe5 37.Rfd1)should also be good for White. Gelfand did actually see 31.Rab1, but rejected it because of 31...d1Q 32.Rfxd1 Qe2 33.Qxb7 Nc5 34.Bf3 Qxd1+ 35.Rxd1 Nxb7 36.Bxb7 Rxg4+ 37.Kf1, when he thought Black has good drawing chances. Instead, he blundered with 31.Bf3?? 31...Rc1 Now the passed pawn costs White the exchange, and the rest is easy for Black. 32.Raxc1 dxc1Q 33.Rxc1 Qxc1+ 34.Kg2 h5 35.Nh2 Nc5 36.Bxb7 Qc2 37.Bd5 Qg6+ 38.Kh1 Nd3 39.Nf3 Nxf2+ 40.Kh2 Ng4+ 0–1

Round 3 - Monday 14 January 2008

When the players arrive for a big event like Corus, one of the first things the assembled press corps start doing is looking at who they have brought with them as seconds. This is more than just a meaningless diversion, since the identity of a player’s second can often provide clues as to likely opening choices. Perhaps for that reason, many of the seconds have been less visible this year than in the past, and thus far, I have only spotted a few definite answers. Veselin Topalov is accompanied as usual by his young compatriot, Ivan Cheparinov, who is also playing in the B Group. The same is true of Gabriel Sargissian, who is Aronian’s second; two years ago in the same event, Sargissian was responsible for a 30-move-long piece of opening preparation, which brought his principal a crushing last-round win over Ivan Sokolov. Peter Leko has his usual wife and father-in-law team of Sophie and Arshak Petrosian, whilst Loek van Wely has his regular second, Vladimir Chuchelov, a Russian-born GM, long resident in Belgium.

The identity of Kramnik’s second was always going to be interesting, since, as mentioned in my round one report, he has recently been working with van Wely, who is playing here. In his place, Kramnik has brought Sergey Rublevsky, a very strong Russian GM, who was part of Kramnik’s team for the 2006 “Toiletgate” match against Topalov. Rublevsky is a slightly odd choice, since his repertoire (1.e4 with White, Kan/Taimanov Sicilian as Black, etc) does not really coincide with Kramnik’s at all, but he is a very strong player and analyst, and clearly has the confidence of the ex-world champion. Thus far, I have not discovered the identities of the other players’ seconds. More news on this will follow later in the week. Those of you who followed my recent coverage of Hastings will understand that I am hoping neither Mamedyarov nor Radjabov have brought their Azeri colleague Mamedov with them…

In today’s third round, Anand drew quickly against Eljanov, as did Kramnik against Mamedyarov, whilst Topalov drew a rather longer, but still balanced game against Polgar. I wonder how many people would have thought before the tournament, that Kramnik, Anand and Topalov would not have won a game between them at this (albeit early) stage of the event?

Meanwhile, joint leader Levon Aronian was again showing the depth of his opening preparation. In the trendy 5.Qc2 gambit against the Queen’s Indian, he produced the novelty 12.Bd2 against Leko. Continuing rapid play soon saw Aronian regain his pawn, with apparent pressure in the resulting queenless middlegame, and a full hour ahead on the clock. However, not for nothing is Peter Leko known as one of the toughest defenders in the world, and his time expenditure proved worthwhile, as he found an accurate sequence to neutralise the pressure and secure a drawn ending. After the game, the players highlighted 20…Nd8! as the star defensive move.

Vasyl Ivanchuk is not only one of the world’s strongest players, he is also one of the most unpredictable. Today, he confirmed his reputation for occasional strange behaviour, by opening 1.c4 e5 2.g3 c6 3.d4 e4, and then thinking for a colossal 55 minutes in this known position! Despite this “Bronsteinesque” time investment, he achieved nothing and the game was drawn in 22 moves. Adams-Carlsen was a fairly balanced Open Lopez, where the opposite-coloured bishops (the fourth pair to arise in today’s seven games!) always made a draw the most likely result.

Van Wely is the last man to duck a challenge, and today, as Black against Radjabov, he took on the Moscow Gambit, in which the latter had defeated Anand in the first round. Despite his success in that game with the novelty 14.Re1, today the young Azeri chose 14.Bh5, and it was van Wely who innovated at move 16. He soon had the advantage, and his additional c-pawn eventually cost White the exchange. However, the result was a fascinating ending, with R+P v B+P. This ending was immortalized by Jan Timman, when he won it against Velimirovic in the 1979 Interzonal. Those were the days of adjournments, and Timman was able to have his second, Ulf Andersson, spend several days and nights analyzing the position to the last detail. In 2008, van Wely had no such luxuries, although he was at least spared the ignominy of having to play the position at FIDE’s ludicrous increment time-control (here at Corus, the control used is a classical one: 40 in 2 hours, 20 in 1 hour, and then 30 minutes to finish the game).

Corus Chess 2008 Wijk aan Zee (3), 14.01.2008
Radjabov,Teimour (2735) - Van Wely,Loek (2681)

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 e6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 dxc4 7.e4 g5 8.Bg3 b5 9.Be2 Bb7 10.0–0 Nbd7 11.Ne5 Bg7 12.Nxd7 Nxd7 13.Bd6 a6

14.Bh5  In round 1, Radjabov chose the novelty 14.Re1 against Anand. 14…Bf8 15.Bxf8 Rxf8 16.d5 cxd5

This appears to be a new idea, 16…Qe7 having been chosen previously.

17.exd5 Nf6 18.dxe6 Qxd1 19.Bxf7+ Ke7 20.Raxd1 Rfd8 21.Ne2 Be4 22.f4 b4 23.fxg5 hxg5 24.Ng3 Rxd1 25.Rxd1 Bh7 26.Nh5 c3 27.Nxf6 Kxf6 28.bxc3 bxc3 29.Rc1 c2 30.Kf2 Rd8 31.Ke2 Rd4 32.h3 Be4


The main point is that 33.g3? loses to 33…Rd1 34.Rxd1 Bf3+!. Radjabov decides to jettison the e6-pawn, in order to get his bishop round ro cover the d1-h5 diagonal, but it is not immediately clear how Black wins after the passive 33.Ke1.
33…Kxe6 34.g3 Ke5 35.h4 gxh4 36.gxh4 Rd5!?

This sets a similar trap to that at move 33, but as it turns out, Black may be in danger of being too clever for his own good. Nigel Short suggested simply 36…Bf5 as a simpler way to win.

37.Bf3 Rd1 38.Bxe4 Rxc1 39.Kd2 Rg1 40.Bxc2 Kd4

Black can pick up the h-pawn, but the resulting ending is extremely hard to win, if indeed, it is possible at all. In such endings, the tablebases make fools of all humankind.

41.Bd3 a5 42.a4 Rh1 43.Bb5 Rh2+ 44.Kd1 Ke3 45.Kc1 Rxh4 46.Kc2 Rh7 47.Ba6

In order to win, Black clearly needs to sacrifice the rook for White’s bishop and pawn. However, given that K+RP v K is a draw, if the white king gets in front of the pawn, Black must execute a multi-stage process:  1. Drive the white king far enough away from the a-pawn. 2. cut him off with the rook. 3. bring his own king over to attack the a-pawn. 4. bring the rook to attack the a-pawn, and capture on a4, at such a moment that the white king does not have enough time to get back and stop black queening. In practice, this means driving the white king to the h-file, which van Wely never succeeds in doing, although it is not for want of trying.

47…Rc7+ 48.Kd1 Rc6 49.Bb5 Rc3 50.Ba6 Ra3 51.Bb5 Ra2 52.Kc1 Kd4 53.Kd1 Kc3 54.Ke1 Rd2 55.Ba6 Rd4 56.Bb5 Kc2 57.Ke2 Re4+ 58.Kf3 Re7 59.Kf2 Kc3 60.Kf3 Kd4 61.Ba6 Re3+ 62.Kf2 Ke4 63.Bb5 Kf4 64.Ba6 Re4 65.Bb5 Re6 66.Bc4 Re4 67.Bb5 Rd4 68.Ke2 Rd6 69.Bd3 Rh6 70.Bb5 Ke4 71.Bd3+ Kd4 72.Bb5 Rh2+ 73.Kf3 Ra2 74.Bd7 Ra3+ 75.Kf2 Kd3 76.Kf3 Kd2+ 77.Kf4 Re3 78.Bb5 Re7 79.Kf3 Kc3 80.Ba6 Kd4 81.Bb5 Re6 82.Kf2 Re5 83.Kf3 Kc5 84.Kf2 Kb6 85.Bd3 Kc5 ½-½

Round 2 - Sunday 13 January 2008
"Counting the cost"

Before we get to today's news, here's a story from yesterday - the world champion can't count up to three! Well, that’s a bit harsh, but the shock news in the Corus Press Room today is that Vishy Anand missed the chance to claim a draw by repetition during yesterday's defeat against Radjabov. However, it was not quite an ordinary repetition, which is why neither player, nor most commentators, noticed it until later:

This was the position after White's 57th move. Play continued 57...Kf6  Note this position well. This is the first time it arises. 58.Rd2 Ke5 59.Re2+ Kf6  Second time. 60.Kf4 Ra3 61.Rd2 Ra5 62.Re2 Ra3 63.Kg3 Now Anand played 63...Ra8??. Two question marks, because 63...Ra7 is the third repetition!

Not your common-or-garden threefold repetition, but they all count. Interestingly, only just over a week ago, at the Hastings Masters, there was a case where a grandmaster disputed a threefold repetition claim on precisely the grounds that it was not the same move that had brought about the repetition of the position. To his disappointment, the arbiter was forced to tell him that it did not matter - providing the same position arises three times, with the same player to move, that is all that is required. How costly will this error be for the world champion, when the final scores are totted up two weeks from today?

After this shock, Anand faced Mamedyarov today with the white pieces. The latter’s favourite Deferred Steinitz Defence to the Lopez followed several of his previous games, until the Azeri introduced the novelty 13…Kh8. Even so, it did not seem to come as a great surprise to his opponent, and the first significant think of the game came after Anand’s 17.Bd1. He seemed to secure some advantage, and after the game, Mamedyarov thought that 22.h3 would have given White serious chances. After Anand’s choice 22.Qc3, Mamedyarov defended well in the ending and secured a draw.

Aronian capitalized on what he described as yesterday’s “present” by defeating Gelfand with Black, thanks in large measure to some good opening preparation:

Corus Chess 2008 Wijk aan Zee (2), 13.01.2008
Gelfand,Boris (2737) - Aronian,Levon (2739) [D15]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 a6 5.Nc3 b5 6.c5 Nbd7 7.Bd3 This could reasonably be called "The Gelfand Variation", since it was introduced by him two years ago. 7...e5 8.Nxe5 Nxe5 9.dxe5 Ng4 10.f4 Bxc5 11.Qf3 Qb6 12.Ke2 Bacrot recently tried 12.Nd1 against Kariakin in a rapid game at the 2007 World Cup, but the text move is the most ambitious. White plans h3 and g4, driving the knight to a bad square.  12...Nh6 13.h3 13.f5 is met by something like 13…Qc7 14.Qf4 Ba7, when the e5 pawn is vulnerable.

13...Nf5 This is Aronian’s novelty, prepared before the Mexico world championship tournament, but never used. In the stem game, Gelfand-Sokolov, Spanish Team Champs 2005, Black chose 13…a5, but lost heavily. 14.g4 Ne7 Aronian commented afterwards that this position is very complicated and rich in possibilities, with White having 7-8 plausible moves. 15.Bd2 0–0 This was still all preparation. 16.Rac1 f6 17.exf6 Rxf6 18.e4 Here Aronian claimed that he forgot his analysis, and spent 45 minutes choosing his next move. After the game, he was still not convinced it was best, 18…Bb7 and 18…Be6 both being possible alternatives. 18...Bd4 19.exd5 cxd5 20.Kd1 20.Nxd5? is tactically impossible, because of 20…Nxd5 21.Qxd5+ Re6+, followed by Bb7. 20...Rf7 21.Re1 Bb7

22.Qe2? Played after a long think, but bad. White needs to get the queen off the long diagonal, and Gelfand did not like 22.f5 because of 22…Ng6, eg.  23.Nxd5 (or 23.Qg3 Bf2 24.Re6 Bxg3 25.Rxb6 Ne5, which is also good for Black) 23... Ne5, when the tactics appear to favour Black. Probably the best move was 22.Bb1 Rd8 23.Qd3 g6, with an objectively unclear position, but one which Aronian felt was easier to play with Black. 22...Ng6 23.Bxg6?! Gelfand was now running into time-trouble, and his position collapses quickly. 23.Qe6 Qxe6 24.Rxe6 Nxf4 was also better for Black, but still better than the game. 23...hxg6 24.Qe6 Now Aronian felt confident that he was winning. The bishop pair destroys White.  24…Rd8 25.Qxb6 Bxb6 26.Re6 Ba7 The d-pawn cannot be stopped from marching through White’s position. 27.Ne2 d4 28.Ng3 d3 29.Rxg6? A blunder, but the position was hopeless anyway. 29…Bf2 30.Ba5 Bxg3 0–1 In view of 31.Bxd8 Bf3+ 32.Kd2 Bxf4+ 33.Kxd3 Rd7+, etc.

Aronian’s win only brought him a share of first place, however. Magnus Carlsen, with White against Eljanov, reached a queenless middlegame with only a small edge, but then determinedly squeezed his opponent “until the pips squeaked”, as a former British Chancellor of the Exchequer famously threatened to do to the nation’s taxpayers (actually, he only threatened the rich taxpayers - the quote was "tax the rich until the pips squeak" - ed). It was a splendidly mature technical performance by the 18-year-old Norwegian, and well worth studying.

Leko-Adams saw the players follow a long line of the Zaitsev Lopez. 24.Red1 was Leko’s attempt to improve on the 24.Bxe6 of his game against Bacrot at Dortmund 2005. Adams thought for some time, and found an interesting breakout attempt, culminating in the pawn sacrifice 27…d5. Once Leko ducked the main line by 28.Rxd5, he did not seem to have anything, but Adams eventually shed a pawn to reach a Q+4 v Q+3 ending, with all pawns on one side. Peter Leko also shows signs of being a fan of Denis Healey (if you didn't know or hadn't guessed, this is the identity of the aforementioned British Chancellor of the Exchequer - ed), and squeezed away relentlessly, leaving the two players as the only pair left in the giant playing hall. It went to 98 moves; although he was pressed hard by the Hungarian, in the end Adams did not have to pay the extra half-point of 'tax' that Leko sought to levy from him.

Topalov and Ivanchuk fought out a balanced struggle in a Modern Benoni. White’s thematic e4-5 break did not lead to any advantage, and the players settled for a repetition at move 36. Polgar, however, had a narrow escape against van Wely. The opening was unclear, but Black should have played 13…f5. After Polgar’s choice, in Loek’s words, “it was all one-way traffic”, but after winning a pawn with what should have been a decisive advantage, van Wely allowed Black too much counterplay towards the end, and half a point slipped through his fingers.

Kramnik is the man who almost single-handedly persuaded Garry Kasparov to give up the King’s Indian, but Radjabov has no such fears, and essayed it against him for the second year in a row. Kramnik forsook his customary Bayonet System in favour of 9.Nd2, and established a promising-looking middlegame position, but Radjabov drummed up counterplay and White could not achieve more than a R+B+2Ps v R+B+P ending, with all pawns on one side. He tried for some time, but could make no progress and the draw was agreed at move 79.

Round 1 - Saturday 12 January 2008
“My home crowd would rather see me commit suicide than make a quiet draw!”

Corus is off and running! The 70th Corus Wijk aan Zee tournament got underway at 1.30pm local time this afternoon, in a damp and windswept Dutch seaside town. As luck would have it, the first-round pairings brought together Kramnik and van Wely, thereby precipitating an interesting question – what happens when two players who have worked together in recent times have to face each other over the board? Over the past year, Loek has been working as Kramnik’s second, including the Mexico world championship and the recent Tal Memorial. So, I asked him after the game, “Does this make your opening preparation for today’s game easier or more difficult? Do you have a list of lines that you are not allowed to play against him?”. Loek confirmed that this is indeed a problem. In particular, he would not play any of the lines where he knows that Kramnik’s repertoire is most vulnerable, since he does not wish to tip off his boss’s rivals as to “where the bodies are buried”. On the other hand, it is not in Loek’s nature to prearrange a draw, and as he put it, “my home crowd would rather see me commit suicide than make a quiet draw!”. The upshot of these conflicting considerations was an offbeat Slav line, in which play soon took a fairly original turn, but without the balance ever being seriously disturbed. Queens disappeared from the board, which is often a bad sign for Kramnik’s opponents, but on this occasion, Black had no problems, and a draw was agreed a few moves later.

Adams-Gelfand saw the Petroff confirm its rock-solid reputation, whilst Ivanchuk-Polgar also produced a relatively short draw. The main point of interest here was whether White could sacrifice the exchange with 17 Be4. The Ukrainian super-GM thought for a long time before rejecting it, explaining after the game that Black does not take on c6 at once, but first flicks in 17…f5!. Then after 18 Bg2 Nxc6 19 Bxc6 Bb4!, White does not manage to get in a quick e4, and his compensation is not entirely convincing.

The other Ukrainian GM in the field is the debutant Pavel Eljanov, who qualified  by winning the B group last year. He opened his account with a solid draw on the white side of a Queen’s Indian, against Peter Leko.

Magnus Carlsen got off to a flying start, with a win as Black over Mamedyarov. The latter drifted downhill from an equal middlegame, and then resigned a position where it seems far from wholly clear that he was lost:

Corus Chess 2008 Wijk aan Zee (1), 12.01.2008
Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar (2760) - Carlsen,Magnus (2733) [B50]

1.e4 Already a surprise, as Mamedyarov usually prefers 1 d4 or 1 c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 g6 Avoiding whatever Mamedyarov had prepared against his usual choice of 3…e6 4 d4 cxd4 5 Nxd4 Nf6 etc. 4.g3 Bg7 5.Bg2 d6 6.0–0 Bg4 One of the best plans in such positions. Black surrenders the bishop pair, but strengthens control of the central dark squares, notably d4. 7.h3 Bxf3 8.Qxf3 Nf6 9.d3 0–0 10.Qd1 “This and f4 is White’s only plan” – Carlsen. 10...Nd7 11.f4 c4! 11...Rb8 was also quite possible, but Carlsen’s move is more energetic. 12.dxc4 Na5 13.Nd5 White cannot hold the pawn, in view of 13.Qd3 Rc8 14.b3 b5!. 13...Nxc4 14.c3 Carlsen considered the position about equal here. 14…Ndb6 15.Qe2 Rc8 15...Nxd5 16.exd5 b5 17.h4 gives White some initiative on the kingside. In general, Black must be careful not to go too passive, else he will start to miss his light-squared bishop. 16.Kh2 e6 17.Nb4 17.Ne3 was also possible. 17...Na4 Threatening 18…Ncxb2! 18.f5 Re8 Now18...Ncxb2 19.fxe6!? fxe6 20.Bxb2 Nxb2 21.Qxb2 Bxc3 22.Qb3 is not so clear, as e6 hangs with check. 19.fxe6 19.Qf2 Nc5 20.f6 Bh8 is not dangerous for Black, since the f6-pawn is hard to defend. 19...fxe6 20.Nd3 Qb6 21.h4 Qa6 22.Rf2 Ne5 23.Nf4 23.Nxe5 Qxe2 24.Rxe2 Bxe5 is equal.23...Nc5 23...Qxe2 24 Rxe2 Nc5 gives White a tempo for 25.Bh3, so Carlsen prefers to have his queenside pawns spoiled. 24.Qxa6 bxa6 25.Re2 h6! He needs to have the possibility of g5, to chase the bishop away from h3. 26.Kh1 [26.Bh3 g5 27.hxg5 hxg5 28.Nh5 Bh8 29.Kg2 Kh7 is fine for Black.  26...a5 27.Be3 a4 28.Rd1 Rc6

29.Bd4?! Starting here, Mamedyarov drifts down to a critical position quite quickly. The text deprives White of his pressure against d6. g5 30.Nh3?! It was better to exchange on g5 first. 30...g4 31.Nf4 Rb6 Now Black is clearly better. 32.Nh5?! Bh8 33.Red2 Reb8 [33...Nc4?! allows 34.Bxc5 dxc5 35.Rd8 with some counterplay. 34.Bxc5 dxc5 35.Rd8+ Kf7 36.Rxb8 Rxb8 37.Rd2 Nc4! This move caused great surprise in the Press Room. The obvious move is 37...Ke7, stopping counterplay, but Carlsen felt it would make things harder if White were given time for Bf1 and Nf4. Instead, he calculated what he believed was a forced win. The point is that Black’s rook will enter and win the g2 bishop in many lines. 38.Rd7+ Ke8 39.Rxa7 Or 39.Rh7 Be5 40.Rxh6 Ke7 winning. 39...Be5 40.Rxa4 Ne3 40...Nxb2? 41.Ra7 is less clear.

Now, to general surprise, Mamedyarov thought for some time and then resigned. Carlsen commented afterwards that he would certainly have played a few moves moves, but that Black was still winning anyway, and he gave the line 41.Ra5 (41.Ra6 Kf7 42.Ra7+ Kg6)41...Rxb2 42.Rxc5 Bb8 (42...Bd6 43.Rc6is less good)43.Rc8+ Kf7, eg. 44.e5 Nxg2 45.Rxb8 Rxb8 46.Kxg2 Kg6 47.Nf4+ Kf5, etc. However, Fritz 11 suggests 41 b3 Rd8 42 Kg1 Rd2 43 Bh1, when, although White looks very passive, it is not entirely clear how Black wins.  0–1

The two biggest stories of the day concerned the defeat of Topalov and defeat of Anand. Aronian’s pawn snatch on c7 cost him the exchange, but once he activated his rook on the 7th, the advantage turned in his favour, and he ground out a long endgame win.

Radjabov and Anand engaged in a theoretical battle in the ultra-sharp Moscow Semi-Slav, which has been the hottest topic in super-GM opening practice, since the Mexico world championship tournament. Radjabov’s 14 Re1 appears to be a novelty, and an extremely unclear position was soon reached. The plan initiated with 27…h5 may have been too slow (27…f6 looks more critical), as White was able to bringb his knight to the excellent square c4. In the run-up to the time-control, Radjabov missed several easier wins, notably 38 Ba4, planning Nd7. He won the exchange, but as Peter Leko was quick to point out to the Press Room crowd, all the while Black retained a rook, it was far from easy to break down his resistance. However, Radjabov defied the experts and won.



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