Corus Heats Up
By Macauley Peterson   
January 25, 2007
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After ten rounds, Topalov is a point ahead of the field. Photo Macauley Peterson

  By Macauley Peterson

Wijk Aan Zee, The Netherlands (Jan.25, 2007)

Before the traditional gong is sounded to start each round, the press room at Corus is awash with journalists and photographers setting up for the day ahead. For the regular Dutch press staff, whose days start early and end late, the hour around game time represents a bit of a lull. It’s not unusual to find them playing blitz before the round, but online Texas Hold’em is definitely preferred once the grandmasters get moving. As we enter the third and final rest day in Wijk aan Zee, it kind of feels like we’re waiting for the river card; the turn was interesting, but it’s not entirely clear yet who’ll take home the chips after this weekend's showdown.

The top six players by rating also top the standings going into Friday’s round 11, comfortably leading the rest of the field in the Corus “A” group. Veselin Topalov extended his lead on Wednesday with a quick win over Magnus Carlsen, who won the “B” in 2006 with a smokin’ 9 out of 13, but now brings up the rear of the much stronger A group, with just 3 points so far.

The early tournament leader, Teimour Radjabov, is a point behind Topalov, and in sole second place, after a long and painful loss to Levon Aronian on Sunday, followed by two short draws to Carlsen and Peter Svidler. “Short” draws, I should note, in terms of their move count and duration, not effort. In a phone interview, Thursday morning, Radjabov called the draw with Svidler, “a practical decision,” stemming from his earlier loss to Aronian. “There I suffered from my fighting spirit,” said Radjabov, “I played the game and saw many drawish variations, against Aronian, but tried very hard for a win.” After losing a pawn, the endgame was simply worse, with few chances for the 19-year-old Azeri, who has been compared to an earlier Beast from Baku [Kasparov]. “Yesterday I just decided to go for a draw [against Svidler] instead of going into a worse position,” he said.


Tuesday’s game with Carlsen was even more of a “fighting draw,” noted Radjabov, adding, “in the opening I just sacrificed all my flank, [and played into] a very unclear position, but he found, probably, the only way, somehow, to equalize the position -- but still it was very fighting chess there. It’s a short draw because the position became drawish quite fast, but it’s not due to some actions especially for a draw – from the black side especially.” [sic]

Radjabov will face World Champion Vladimir Kramnik on Friday, and Topalov on Sunday. The latter two play each other, Saturday, in a heavily anticipated match-up which may be their only tournament meeting in 2007.


Anand (right) prevailed in his round 9 clash with Sergey Karjakin.Photos Macauley Peterson.

Four super GMs share third heading into the weekend, including five-time winner “VishyAnand, Kramnik, Aronian, and Svidler. Anand is coming off a two game winning streak, most recently defeating Sergey Karjakin with the black side of a Najdorf. They followed Karjakin’s game with Peter Leko from Corus 2006 (when Karjakin had black) until move 23, but the game only tipped solidly in Anand’s favor after Karjakin's 30. R1d5?, after which black’s powerful Queen gradually overwhelms white’s restricted Rook and Knight.


After Tuesday’s win over Loek Van Wely, Anand demonstrated the speed of his tactical abilities in the post-mortem, then offered analysis for the press room (video available, courtesy ChessVibes.com).

When asked about his chances to catch Topalov, however, Anand demurred. “Do I have any?” he responded cagily. “I mean – okay – I’ll play. I’d rather play game from game; there’s nothing to think about really…I just want to play some good games.”

Topalov, meanwhile, is optimistic and playing confidently, but also adamant about taking things one day at a time. “It will probably be decided in the last round,” he said Tuesday. Wednesday’s round 10 win against Carlsen was largely the product of home preparation:


Topalov credits his second Ivan Cheparinov with elaborating on an exchange sacrifice idea previously employed only once before in modern times (Kempinski-Mchedlishvili, Dresden 2006). Topalov, who was white against Carlsen, noted in the press conference that, “in fact black won, but the players were not so strong.” After 13.Qa1, Black previously tried 13…Qc7, but Cheparinov and Topalov’s analysis indicates that white has very strong compensation because of an excellent bishop pair and a pawn for the exchange: “A pleasant plus,” said Topalov. Carlsen's 13…Qa4 is “more interesting,” according to the Bulgarian, and “the critical line,” but after Carlsen speculated on a counter-sacrifice, Topalov was able to exchange queens and neutralize Carlsen’s active rooks. (23…Rcc1 is met ably by 24.Kd2.) Magnus resigned just a few moves later, when it became clear that several of his pawns would soon become assailable targets.


Carlsen, with 3/9 is having a tough time in Wijk Aan Zee.

“The tournament is now really looking like it belongs to [Topalov],” said GM Joel, commenting on the Internet Chess Club webcast, adding “Anand is in very good position to take 2nd place.”

One player to watch closely this year in the “C” group is 16-year-old Russian International Master, Ian Nepomniachtchi, who has been red-hot with 8½ after ten rounds. He nailed down his first GM norm two rounds ago after winning four straight games. There’s been some idle speculation that he’s improving so fast he may well skip over the B group entirely in some future Corus tournament.

Nepo” and “Topa” clearly each hold aces. It remains to be seen how strong their kickers will prove to be this weekend.

Corus Wijk Aan Zee "A"
Standings after ten Rounds
1. Veselin Topalov- 7.5
2. T. Radjabov- 6.5
3-6. V.Anand, L.Aronian, P.Svidler and V.Kramnik- 6
7-8. S.Karjakin and R.Ponomariov
9. D.Navara- 4.5
10-11. S.Tiviakov and A.Motylev-4
12. L.Van Wely- 3.5
13-14. A Shirov and M.Carlsen- 3

Macauley Peterson is reporting live from Corus all this week on the Internet Chess Club’s chess.fm webcast. Look for his coverage of the TopalovKramnik game, Sunday, here on uschess.org. He can be reached at www.MacauleyPeterson.com