MOST of the time I am so busy with my family or with my teaching job that I rarely just sit and watch live chess games, but the final rounds of the FIDE Candidates Tournament in London were so riveting that I made a rare exception and enjoyed some hours of ultra-tense, exciting chess.
I can honestly say that, even before the last round began, I correctly predicted the most shocking results: Carlsen 0-1 Svidler, and Ivanchuk 1-0 Kramnik.
Ivanchuk had been having a disastrous event that included losing five games on time, but make no mistake: he is still an incredible chess genius who is a threat to anyone. He confirmed that by beating Carlsen in a marathon round-12 encounter, and in the final 14th round Ivanchuk played beautiful chess to inflict on Kramnik (in today’s featured game) the only loss that the Russian maestro suffered in the entire tournament. Kramnik thereby finished as runner-up, as he lost out on tie-break to Carlsen even though they both scored 8.5/14.
Though Magnus Carlsen was the youngest in the field and is normally full of energy, even he was completely exhausted by the long, gruelling event, especially after having played a total of 189 moves in his 12th and 13th-round games. Consequently, we certainly did not see Carlsen at his best against Svidler, but I am happy that the Norwegian superstar – the world’s highest-rated player of all time – still won the tournament and will later play a challenge match against India’s Viswanathan Anand, the reigning world champion.
White: V Ivanchuk; Black: V Kramnik Opening: Pirc Defence
1 d4 d6 2 e4 Nf6 3 Nc3 g6 A courageous choice of opening by Kramnik. Ivanchuk quite often plays the Pirc Defence too and, indeed, he even provided the foreword to GM Viktor Moskalenko’s excellent book, The Perfect Pirc-Modern, recently published by New In Chess. 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Be2 0-0 6 0-0 a6 Kramnik keeps the position complicated as he had to play for a win. Under different circumstances, he might choose 6…Bg4, but Ivanchuk now rules out any such possibility. 7 h3 Prophylactic chess. 7…Nc6 8 Bg5 b5 9 a3 h6 10 Be3 e5 11 dxe5 dxe5 12 Qc1 Kh7 13 Bc5 Re8 14 Rd1 Bd7 15 b4 White is in control, and here he tightens his grip on the position. 15…Qc8 16 Qe3 Nd8 17 a4! bxa4 18 Nxa4 Ne6 19 Bc4 Nh5 20 Nc3 Nhf4 21 Nd5 Bb5 22 Bb3 Bc6 23 Ra5 Ivanchuk wisely continues to play in a controlled manner, rather than allowing wild complications with 23 Ne7 Rxe7 24 Bxe7 Nxg2 25 Kxg2 Nf4+. 23…Qb7 24 g3! Bravely sacrificing a pawn in order to improve his overall coordination while also disturbing Black’s best-placed piece. 24…Nxh3+ 25 Kg2 Nhg5 26 Rh1 Threatening 27 Nxg5+ and setting the sneaky trap 26…Nxf3 27 Nf6+! Bxf6 28 Qxh6+ Kg8 29 Qh7 mate.
26…Kg8 27 Nxg5 Nxg5 28 f3 Bxd5 29 Bxd5 c6 30 Bc4 Qc8 31 Qb3 h5 32 Be3 Ne6 33 Rha1 h4 Kramnik tries to unsettle his opponent, but Ivanchuk keeps calm here with just enough time on the clock to reach the time control at move 40 without spoiling White’s winning position. 34 gxh4 Qd8 35 Rxa6 Rc8 36 Rh1 Rc7 37 Bxe6 Rxe7 38 b5 Intending 38…cxb5 39 Rxe6. 38…Rb7 39 b6 c5 40 Rb1 Bf8 41 Qd5 Qb8 Or 41…Rd7 42 Qa8. 42 Rba1! Rd6 43 Ra8! Rxd5 44 Rxb8 Rxb8 45 exd5 Bd6 Or 45…Rxb6 46 Ra8 Kg7 47 Rxf8! Kxf8 48 Bxc5+. 46 Ra6 Rb7 47 Kf1 Black resigned, without waiting to see Ke2-d3-c4.