This report should begin with an apology to our readers. When this tournament commenced, I had planned to give a day-by-day report of the whole event. But as the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray. So a blow-by-blow account is missed. Instead you have the whole story in one piece.
Zürich is a remarkable city with a quaint old world charm. It’s also a centre of international finance and known for its banking network. Aficionados of the game remember it as the historic venue of 1953 Candidates’ Tournament. Two classics have been written on that tournament alone.
The city has also seen other great tournaments, Zürich 1934 and Zürich 1959. If one thinks of those events and makes a comparison, the standard of play in this tournament left something to be desired. It was a mixed bag, alternating from good to bad.
The inaugural blitz event (won by Carlsen) was entertaining and the games from this event are fun to watch (not the following game though, if you are a Carlsen fan )
Fabiano Caruana – Magnus Carlsen, Zürich Chess Challenge 2014, Blitz
The tough part of the business began with the regular event. It was here that Carlsen showed his mastery, outplaying Gelfand, Caruana and Nakamura one after the other. In the game with Gelfand Carlsen introduced a remarkable TN with a pawn sacrifice and followed up with a blend of strategy and tactics. His veteran opponent did miss a chance or two, but the problem lay with the system he had chosen and he was forced to remain on the defensive till the end.
Magnus Carlsen – Boris Gelfand, Zürich Chess Challenge 2014
The most anticipated game was between Carlsen and Nakamura who made no secret of his desire to even his score with the reigning world champion.
Subsequently Carlsen offered a revealing insight on the whole encounter.
“The game against Nakamura Saturday was a real cliffhanger. I made some mistakes early in the game and was strategically busted as his attack seemed unstoppable.”
“Fortunately I tried to hang in and tried to find counterplay. Close to the time control I had pinned my hope on the natural d6 advance that he actually chose. Winning a piece must have looked tempting, but it was all I needed to activate my rook and queen, and after another mistake by Nakamura I could even turn defeat into victory in the end!”
Indeed, Nakamura’s descent began with 37.d6? three moves before time control.
He would have won with the quiet and devastating 37.Rh1!!as pointed out by Carlsen.
Commentators have pointed out other moves, but Carlsen’s move is most impressive
Aronian who came second impressed in his game with Nakamura, an imaginative tactical battle.
Levon Aronian – Hikaru Nakamura, Zürich Chess Challenge 2014
But his loss to Caruana in the last round pushed him back in the standings before the rapid event.
Caruana had been outplayed by Carlsen the day before, but refused to be demoralized. Levon became the victim of his determination…
As for Nakamura, he had put his heart and soul into that one effort against Carlsen. The debacle left him devastated and adversely affected his performance for the rest of the tournament.
Anand had played well in London Chess Classic coming second behind Nakamura. It had cheered his fans who were hoping for his return to form in this tournament. It was not to be. The draw with Carlsen was nothing to write home about. Losses to Aronian and Nakamura brought him down to the lower half of the score table. His only impressive effort was against his old adversary, Gelfand. The latter came last, with a string of draws and two terrible losses to Carlsen and Anand. Few players prepare and work as hard as Gelfand. So this result was something of a disappointment.
The night before the concluding event Carlsen wrote in his blog, “I’ve got 8 points before the rapid, Aronian has 6 after losing to Caruana (5) today, but I’ll try to reset and mentally start from scratch as if the rapid was a separate event.”
But this did not happen. The rapid event began two hours before the previous schedule and he did not have enough sleep and rest.
If you are playing in a tournament, a change of time or place does affect the rhythm of your play. In the present case others coped better than Carlsen. They were also better motivated as they were trailing behind him and this was the last opportunity to improve their standings in the score table.
Consequently Aronian and Caruana both beat Carlsen. Nakamura in turn beat Aronian and settled scores with him for his defeat in the main event. Meanwhile Carlsen recovered well enough to sail through without another accident. He finished second behind Caruana in the rapid event. His one bright moment was the following game:
Boris Gelfand – Magnus Carlsen, Zürich Chess Challenge 2014 Rapid
“Some, you win and some you lose!”
And his performance (+1, -2, =2) was just enough to secure the first place in the final standings.
Like the Bard said, “All’s well that ends well!”
|Final Standings (Classic & Rapid Tournament)|
Credits: Most images shown here were captured by Anastasiya Karlovich for ChessPro.ru.
A few are by Ms Maria Emelianov for the official site.
Note: It provides a rare glimpse of Zürich 1953 and its games. Not to be missed.