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Linares r7-8: Up, Down, and Up with Aronian

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Levon Aronian is rarely boring on or off the board. He alternates between high-class hackery to filigreed Catalans and is always looking to provoke and entertain in person and in interviews. The winner of the 2006 edition of Linares started out strong this year. A wild sacrificial attack unexpectedly (for everyone but him) paid off against Anand. Then he ground out a steady Catalan win over Dominguez that wouldn't have shamed Kramnik. In round seven he went pawn grabbing against Ivanchuk's King's Indian and got spanked. Today in round eight he had to switch hats in the middle of the game against Carlsen, going from an ultra-sharp theoretical opening line to a technical endgame before bagging the full point when Carlsen blundered on move 84.

(I was complaining about the lack of increment in the final control when someone pointed out the ICC Linares info listing says there is. The official site has nil on boring things like rules and regulations. The first news item from the Spaniards didn't mention increment and listed the control as 40/2, 20/1, g/20. But I just got a response from Mr. Linares Journo extraordinaire, Leontxo Garcia, who confirms that the control is actually 40/2, 20/1, g/15'+30". So there IS increment in Linares this year. That also shows how tricky this endgame was. I'm against increment in the first controls -- time management should matter -- but allowing our top players to finish a long game like humans and not piece-flinging chimpanzees is possible now thanks to digital clocks. I'm glad all the top tournaments are coming around at last.)

That was the only decisive game in another day of hard-fought battles and endgames in Linares. Grischuk-Dominguez was an old line of the Grunfeld that looks very dangerous for Black. They followed Jussupow-Timman from 1983, way back when White was still a Soviet and his name still written as "Yusupov" in the non-Russian chess world. Tournament leader Grischuk looked like he might run out to a nigh-unassailable +4 score as his d-pawn gathered momentum. Dominguez's 16..Re8 looked riskier than Timman's 16..Rd8 but when Grischuk mistimed his Bd5, suddenly, in the habit of the Grunfeld, White's passed pawn was gone and Black was playing for the win. 19.Bd5 doesn't look like much of an improvement but it disturbs Black's defensive setup just enough for White to keep up the pressure. Black would likely sac the exchange, again in Grunfeld style, with 19..Be6. In the game, Dominguez won a pawn and looked to have decent winning chances, especially considering Grischuk's habitual time trouble. It's hard to say exactly where Black went wrong, perhaps allowing hxg6 splitting his pawns. Another tough draw by Grischuk, who has been pushed hard in his last two games. In round seven Anand got some pressure on him from a deep King's Indian Saemisch but the Russian held nicely.

Speaking of Anand, he got the better of another sharp Semi-Slav against Radjabov from the black side. He lost to the Azerbaijani another line of it at Corus last year. Anand played an interesting sac of his h-pawn to mobilize his pieces against the white king, which turned directly into a pawn-up four-rook endgame. (26..Qf6, keeping the g8 rook in action on the back rank where it can go to b8, might have been a slight improvement.) Radjabov held the endgame without much trouble. Ivanchuk-Wang Yue continued the day's pattern of white defending inferior rook endgames. The Chinese pressed for a while but Ivanchuk's hyper-active defense held just as well as the commonly prescribed method of the king hanging out behind the pawns. Poor Carlsen, down to seconds in the last control, was the only one who couldn't hold. He finally slipped into just about the last possible trap in the position. 84.Kf2 draws, Carlsen's move didn't. Aronian still had plenty of time to wrap up the win with precise play.

So Grischuk still leads by a point, now over Ivanchuk and Aronian. Not to jinx it, but this has been one of the hardest-fought tournaments, round for round, pound for pound, I can remember. Round 9: Ivanchuk-Radjabov, Wang Yue-Grischuk, Dominguez-Carlsen, Aronian-Anand. Maybe Ivanchuk and Radjabov can continue their King's Indian discussion, which has carried on even with colors reversed. On with Larry Christiansen for the live show at 10am EST. Macauley Peterson chimed in from Sofia before heading off to Linares tomorrow. He played a clip from his interview with Kamsky and should have a video interview with Topalov up at the ICC Blog. Good stuff.


In the Carlsen - Aronian game, 78.Ra2! looks interesting. There is only 78... Rf5 (Rxa2??, possible Re5) and 79.Ra8! and that looks much better for white's chances of drawing than 78 Rg1.

Carlsen will be included in the infamous Tragiccomedies sections of Dvoretsky's next release Endgame Manual :-))

Interestingly, had Carlsen played 84 Kf2 (instead of 84 Rf1 ??) he could still have drawn the game even without the h-pawn.

Trying to find a quality move in time pressure is as frustrating as trying to pick up a turd by the clean end...

The 30 seconds increment is good because you can play endgames according to the position on the board, and not according to when your clock runs out. But exactly this reason leads to a new kind of endgame strategy: With a small advantage, you can squeeze indefinitely. You doesn't have to proof you can win it, but the defender has to be able to hold it forever with 30 seconds per move. A lot of theoretically drawn endings are worth a try with these time limits.

I prefer to increase the total time of play but to have no more than 2 secs of increment per move.

Now it's up, down, up with Carlsen.

Someone tell the guys that made the videos at europe echecs that they have two soundtracks at the same time in the titles.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on March 1, 2009 2:47 AM.

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