Sunday, 22 April 2012

The 2012 Zurich Chess Challenge - Kramnik vs Aronian

Yesterday (this morning AEST), the world No 2 ranked chess player, GM Levon Aronian, played the first game in a 6-games match with the world No 3 ranked chess player and former world champion, GM Vladimir Kramnik, in Zurich, Switzerland. The excellent website is here.

If you are in Zurich, entry as spectator is free (and Shaun Press blogged that there is a lucky Australian in Zurich ......), otherwise, you can watch the game (chess moves) live here or watch the game live (the players) here with commentary by IM Werner Hug and GM Yannick Pelletier. The whole organisation for online chess fans is really good.

But for the creme de la creme of online chess commentary, I would recommend the exceedingly excellent commentary by GM Sergey Shipov on Crestbook (if you read russian) otherwise head over to Chessvibes and read the live translation into English by Colin McGourtry:  Round 1 here. I really enjoyed playing through the game this morning over breakfast and learned a lot.

Alternatively, Chessdom with its Chessbomb live game analysis by GM Arkadij Naiditsch of the Chess Evolution team also has great live commentary: see here.

And the result this morning? Aronian landed the first significant blow winning with Black. I suggest heading over to Chessvibes to see the story/commentary. But a few interesting bits:
  1. The game ended following a game by the current European Woman Chess Champion Valentina Gunina vs Anna Muzychuk, Gaziantep 2012. It seems that this is the only game with the position after 16 Nd5. Anna Muzychuk played 16...Qd6 and went on to lose.
  2. According to Shipov, from the live video, it seems Kramnik did not expect Aronian's 12 move reply, i.e. 12...Qe6. Perhaps I might check it out on the video.
  3. According to Naiditsch, their publication, the Chess Evolution Weekly Newsletter (CEWN), analysed the Gunina-Muzychuk game in Issue 4 and suggested 16...Qd6 as improvement over Muzychuk's 12...Qe6 in the game. Hmmmmm ...... does this mean that someone should get Kramnik a subscription to CEWN? :) :) :)
FM Dennis Monokroussos has also analysed the game (see here) but added the following on move 16...Qe6 (I think from the press conference after the game which I have not watched):
and the all-knowing commentators assumed that when Aronian played 16...Qe6 rather than Muzychuk's 16...Qd6 both players were still early in their preparation.
Surprisingly, this assumption was false. Aronian, who played the novelty, was unaware of the game and hadn't spent too much time on 11.Re1 lines in general. Kramnik did know the game, but in a big lapse had not investigated it too seriously or with an engine (but I repeat myself?) and was on his own after Aronian's new move.
Interestingly, everyone assumed that the players were still early in their preparation, but this was not so. Aronian had barely worked on 11.Re1, while Kramnik had seen the Gunina-Muzychuk game but for some reason hadn't bothered to look carefully at it, either on his own or with an engine. As a result, he went into a deep think here, realizing that he was already slightly worse and trying to decide which slightly worse position to defend.
This is also borne out by TWIC (also analysis by Mark Crowther): see here.

Also interesting from the press conference (I think) are Aronian's thoughts of his strategy, e.g. as reported by Mark Crowther:
Aronian was concentrating on getting an ending with the queens off which he thought was favourable to him
Aronian kept setting Kramnik problems and avoided exchanging into a technical ending (of which he wasn't that confident)

But kudos to both Kramnik and Aronian for playing original interesting chess and not boring drawing chess in the very first game.

What can we learn from this game? I think for club players like me, at least the following:
  1. The game is a window int how top players prepare for their games and the openings and the specific lines within the openings they choose and analyse in preparation.
  2. Even the greatest chess players is only human and can make mistakes in home analysis.
  3. If following Shipov's commentary, we can also learn how top players will try to defend, either by setting up defensive walls or by complicating the games. For me this was really interesting and Shipov's commentary brought this out in a very clear manner. His explanations of Kramnik's subsequent moves were very clear. Eg Shipov's annotation to Kramnik's 24th move:
24. g5 
A very tough move by a courageous player. Volodya understands the strategic risk of his position perfectly well and is striving to generate complications at all costs. He's clearly afraid of being strangled without counterchances. The difficulty of the move is that it leads to the destruction of White's pawn structure. Personally I wouldn't be able to decide on something like that. But the computer confirms Kramnik's choice is correct. Well, they both know better.
I am really looking forward to more fighting chess from both players now.

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