Levon Aronian and Teimour Radjabov are in shared first place after two rounds at the FIDE World Chess Candidates' Tournament in London. Aronian won against Boris Gelfand, who blundered material. Radjabov outplayed Vassily Ivanchuk, who eventually lost on time in what should be a lost position. Magnus Carlsen got no opening advantage against Vladimir Kramnik and the two quickly drew. Alexander Grischuk and Peter Svidler also split the point, but not before both players had had an advantage in the game. In December Magnus Carlsen of Norway beat Garry Kasparov’s record of the highest ever Elo rating. Being 62 points ahead of Russia’s number one Vladimir Kramnik, the Norwegian is the clear favourite in all the polls. Because of this, and perhaps his temporary side-career as a model for G-Star, on Friday Carlsen was asked by one journalist whether he felt he could make the game “more attractive, more sexy”. The top seed replied: “I drew both of my games in a total of less than three hours and an average of 30.5 moves so… that’s going to change the game a lot!”
According to Kramnik, his opponent made “the wrong opening choice”. “I consider it just harmless. In fact after ten moves there was not much to play for. It happens sometimes in modern chess.” Carlsen: “I guess the opening line in question is not very dangerous for Black but I had had some hopes beforehand that I could be able to press a little bit. Many times also with White against Vladimir I’ve been doing quite badly so at least equality is an improvement for me!”
The following game to finish was the first decisive game of the tournament: Levon Aronian of Armenia versus Boris Gelfand of Israel. It started fairly quietly and Aronian explained it as follows: “This is a well known line and White is slightly better. With precise play it normally ends up as a draw. I thought I just keep the same strategy and play solid.” Gelfand compared the ending that came on the board to the Marshall variation of the Ruy Lopez, which his opponent has often defended successfully to a draw. The Israeli, who blundered a bishop check, expained his loss with a brief sentence: “I didn’t play well I guess.”
The game between Russian GMs Alexander Grischuk and Peter Svidler ended in a draw, but not before either player had had a promising position. Svidler’s plan with 13…Bg4 was unfortunate, and after about fifteen moves he was already quite worried about his position. Luckily for him, his opponent miscalculated with his 20th move. “I quickly got a big advantage but I spoilt it in one move, I was almost winning there,” said Grischuk. To Svidler’s surprise, he even ended up in a better ending but with a precise 30th move White managed to hold the draw.
Levon Aronian could only enjoy his leadership status for about one and a half hours. Teimour Radjabov, who had been pressing from the start in his game with Vassily Ivanchuk, won when his opponent overstepped the time limit at move 34.
In a Leningrad Dutch, the Ukrainian grandmaster played an inaccurate 9th move as he probably missed White’s positionally illogical plan to exchange the e-pawns. White got a strong initiative and wisely declined Black’s exchange sacrifice. Soon Ivanchuk had to give up his queen for rook and bishop, and things weren’t exactly clear but his timetrouble decided the game in White’s favour.
Interestingly, the two winners of the second round were also the two players who attended the SOCAR reception the night before. When asked what happened at that party, Radjabov said: “Nothing really happened there, otherwise we wouldn’t win today, I think!”
At the opening ceremony on Thursday, head of AGON Andrew Paulson mentioned the new design of the playing hall and the ChessCasting software that is being used to transmit the games live to the world. During the round, the spectators in the playing hall are given small interactive tablets which have the software preinstalled. Because the same software is available on the tournament website, the audience present in London and everywhere else in the world can get a more personal experience while following the tournament.
ChessCasting has three main screens. The first shows all four games in progress with diagrams, moves and the total time left. Then there’s the single game view, which shows the advantage for one of the players, the time spent on each move and a combined view of advantage and time. On the third page the user can go even deeper and see the ‘advantage breakdown’: material, king safety, pawn strength and mobility for each player. On top of that, spectators can start a joint analysis at any time and with anyone in what’s callde “the Sandbox”. AGON plans to improve ChessCasting in the future for instance by adding Twittter and Facebook integration.
And so after two rounds the tournament has two leaders: Levon Aronian and Teimour Radjavov. Both are on 1.5 out of 2. Magnus Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik, Peter Svidler and Alexander Grischuk are on 1 out of 2 while Boris Gelfand and Vassily Ivanchuk have 0.5 out of 2. Sunday, March 17th at 14:00 GMT the third round will be played: Gelfand-Carlsen, Ivanchuk-Aronian, Svidler-Radjabov and Kramnik-Grischuk.
The FIDE Candidates' Tournament is taking place March 14th-April 1st, 2013 at IET London, Savoy Place. It is sponsored by the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) and organized by AGON and the World Chess Federation (FIDE). Games and information can be found at http://london2013.fide.com.