World No. 1 GM Magnus Carlsen of Norway is the leader at the half-post in the FIDE Candidates Tournament now under way in London. Co-leader Levon Aronian suffered his first loss of the event in Monday’s Round 9 against Israel GM Boris Gelfand, leaving Carlsen alone in first by a half-point in the double round-robin event.
With the winner facing a date with world champion Viswanathan Anand later this year, the scoreboard with nine rounds to go reads: Carlsen 6-3; Aronian 5½-3½; Vladimir Kramnik (Russia) 5-4; Gelfand, Alexander Grischuk (Russia) 4½-4½; Peter Svidler (Russia) 4-5; Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukraine) 3½-5½; and Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan) 3-6.As the top seed widely seen as a future world champion, Carlsen came into the tournament with some heavy expectations. But his early play shows no signs of nerves, with grind-it-out wins over Gelfand and Grischuk and a nice takedown of Svidler in Round 5. Against Svidler, Carlsen plays solid moves on the Black side of a Ruy Lopez, and is already better by 19. Nxd5 Rxd5, when White overlooked that his intended 20. d4 exd4 21. Be4 is parried by 21…Rxa5!.Down on the clock and struggling at the board, White goes for a trick but again overlooks a critical Black resource: 32. Rb8+ Kh7 33. Qh5? (threatening the mundane 34. Qxf7 and the sly 34. Rh8+!! Kxh8 35. Qxh6+ and mate next, but there’s a flaw; better was 33. Re8, with some survival chances) Qe4! (White thought 33. Qe6 was forced) 34. Rb2 Rd5 35. Re2 Qb1+ 36. Kh2 f6, and Svidler, about to lose a piece, resigned.
A world-class field, as we have remarked before, doesn’t always produce the most exciting chess, as the competitors are uniformly strong and evenly matched. For a little guilty dessert after the Carlsen main course, we offered up a little bon-bon from a recent open event in Macedonia. Dutch master Rob Schoorl had a 300-point rating edge on Czech expert Vit Zemlicka, and the disparity produced an easy win and a piquant finish.
In a Classical French, White gets the big pawn center and Black the immediate counterattack. But Zemlicka goes astray after 9. 0-0-0 c4 10. f5 b5!? (sacrificing a pawn to open up the b-file, an idea that pay big dividends; the bigger problem for White is that all the play will be on the center and queenside, while his hoped-for kingside attack is stillborn) 11. Nxb5?! (perhaps 11. fxe6 fxe6 12. Nxb5 Rb8 13. Nd6 was the way to go,) Rb8, and already White faces only bad choices; e.g. 12. a4 exf5 13. Bf4 Nb6 14. b3 Bb4 15. Qe3 a6, and 12. Nd6 Bxd6 13. exd6 Nf6 14. Bg5 Qb6 15. c3 Ne4 16. Qc2 e5!.White tries to extricate himself with tactics, but things go badly wrong on 14. Bxc4? dxc4 15. d5 Nb4 16. d6 (see diagram; White is desperately trying to put a cork in Black’s attack) c3! (lethal — 17. Qxc3 Nxa2+ loses a queen and 17. bxc3 Nxa2 mate loses a king) 17. Qd4 Nxa2+ 18. Kb1 Rxb2+ 19. Ka1 Qa5 20. Qxa7 (an x-ray defense of the mate on a2, but…) Nb4+, and White resigns as 21. Qxa5 Nxc2+ is mate.
Congratulations to California GM Sam Shankland, named last week as the latest winner of the Frank R. Samford Jr. Fellowship given to the country’s most-promising young talents to allow them to develop their talents and focus on their game. Shankland, 22, first attracted notice by tying for first in the 2008 World Under-18 Championships, and most recently won individual and team gold for the U.S. at the Pan American Team Championships.
Shankland is the 27th recipient of the one-year fellowship, worth $42,000 annually with the option for a second year of support. Previous winners include GMs Hikaru Nakamura, Gata Kamsky and Maryland-born Alex Sherzer.
Svidler-Carlsen, FIDE Candidates Tournament, March 2013
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. d3 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. a4 b4 9. Nbd2 O-O 10. a5 Be6 11. Nc4 Rb8 12. c3 bxc3 13. bxc3 h6 14. Re1 Qc8 15. Bc2 Rd8 16. Qe2 Bf8 17. Ne3 d5 18. exd5 Nxd5 19. Nxd5 Rxd5 20. h3 Bf5 21. Rd1 Qe6 22. Bb1 Qd7 23. Be3 e4 24. Nd4 Nxd4 25. Bxd4 exd3 26. Bxd3Bxd3 27. Rxd3 c5 28. Be5 Rxd3 29. Bxb8 c4 30. Be5 Bc5 31. Rb1 Qd5 32. Rb8+ Kh7 33. Qh5 Qe4 34. Rb2 Rd5 35. Re2 Qb1+ 36. Kh2 f6 White resigns.
Zemlicka-Schoorl, Karpos Open, Macedonia, March 2013
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 Be7 8. Qd2 O-O 9. O-O-O c4 10. f5 b5 11. Nxb5 Rb8 12. fxe6 Rxb5 13. exd7 Bxd7 14. Bxc4 dxc4 15. d5 Nb4 16. d6 c3 17. Qd4 Nxa2+ 18. Kb1 Rxb2+ 19. Ka1 Qa5 20. Qxa7 Nb4+ White resigns.
• David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at email@example.com.