SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
They first leg of the matches began last Wednesday and this afternoon all of the i’s were dotted and t’s crossed as the playoffs were held. Going thru to the 2nd phase are Kamsky, Gelfand, Grischuk and Kramnik. Eliminated were Topalov, Mamedyarov, Aronian and Radjabov. Here is the match schedule:
My readers will recall that I had picked Topalov, Grischuk, Gelfand and Kramnik to go thru to the 2nd phase of this year’s candidates matches. So 3 out of 4 is not perfect, but it is still pretty damn good! Kramnik now will play with Grischuk and Gelfand will play with Kamsky.
Today’s playoffs between Radjabov and Kramnik (left) and Grischuk and Aronian (right)
I picked Topalov as favourite over the American champion. But as Artur Yussupov said in an interview before the matches began, predicting winners in 4-game matches is more roulette than chess! Topalov was better prepared than his opponent and came out of the openings (with White) with better chances. In his 1st White he simply screwed up the move order and went immediately downhill. The experts thought that had Topalov played the right move order then he had excellent winning chances. In his 2nd White he was always better but did not take advantage of the opportunities that came his way: at one point Kamsky even blundered in 1-move but Topalov allowed him to escape!
So congrats to Kamsky! As for Topalov, there werre a number of other factors that might have played significant roles in his loss: he was recently married and was not as focused (dedicated) on the game as he normally is. And perhaps Topalov was thinking too much about a re-match with Anand and taking it for granted that he would defeat the American.
Though he is out of this tournament, this is not the last we will hear from the Bulgarian superstar.
Aronian and Grischuk produced some pretty poor chess in the regular-time games! With White Grischuk did not even try to win, having 2 colourless draws. With Black he threw away a good position in the 1st game and was very lucky not to have lost (Aronian missed several forced wins). And the second game also required some careful play.
The playoffs today saw Grischuk emerge as the overall winner, somewhat of a surprise as Aronian is considered by many to be a better rapid and blitz player than Grischuk.
Call it luck or what ever you want, Aronian no doubt must be hurting right now, especially since the chess press wrote that he was a really big favourite not just to win against the Russian but also to win the overall Candidates cycle.
Will the next world chess champion also be a champion poker player?
As for my view of Grischuk, I had hoped that he would win. I think that Grischuk is the most under-rated player in the world at present. He has been having a personal crisis in recent times and his results have been lack lustre…however, I now declare that Grischuk is the favourite to win the Candidates cycle and become the official challenger for Anand’s world title sometime next year. (However, I am unwilling to bet any money on this!)
Kramnik and Radjabov played very correct and very boring chess in the 4 regulation time games. Neither side took any risks and as a result they had few–if any–chances to win. Today’s playoffs saw a mixed bag of results and there was some controversy in one of the games when the clock malfunctioned! I am awaiting clarification on what exactly happened, but in the end Kramnik qualified by a thread.
This match turned out to be much easier for Gelfand than I had predicted (I thought it would be a boring match decided eventually by the playoffs). Mamedyarov took too many chances with his 2nd White game and allowed Gelfand to show what an amazing tactician he is able to be when provoked. In the 4th game all Gelfand needed was a draw, and he accepted it when he was a pawn up and had every prospect to win. All in all, an easy week for the Israeli superstar.
So the next elimination phase begins on the 12th. Kramnik vs Grischuk and Gelfand vs Kamsky. While I think that Grischuk is the favourite, Kramnik is a very tough opponent for him. I expect Kramnik to take more chances than he did against Radjabov. And I am hoping that the match will be decided in the regular time games than in the playoffs…it seems to me that if chess is to become more popular, we have to move away from casino-style rules and regulations.
And I pick Gelfand as winner over Kamsky. Not only is Gelfand a better opening theoretician than Kamsky (who isn’t at the top?) but Gelfand is not the type of player who lets go unpunished some of the ‘bullshit-style’ positions that Kamsky likes to swim in. By this I mean that Kamsky often tries to imitate the great Lasker by playing 2nd best moves and is willing to go into inferior positions too willingly….but Kamsky is no Lasker, in my opinion. What worked for Lasker probably only is good for Lasker!
However, it will be a tense match. Gelfand 3 vs Kamsky 1
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS