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domenica 31 gennaio 2010

Corus: Report of round 13 (poor prizes...)

Corus: Report of round 13

Magnus Carlsen, the world’s highest rated player, won the 10,000-euro first prize in the 72nd annual Corus Chess Tournament Sunday. Coached by former world champion Gary Kasparov, the 19-year-old Norwegian played attacking chess throughout to collect 8.5 points for a tournament score of five wins, seven draws and one loss. His aggressive style almost came to cost him dearly in his final-round game from a Ruy Lopez against Italy’s Fabiano Caruana but after 56 moves, he managed to salvage a draw.

World champion Viswanathan Anand of India agreed to a draw after 39 moves with black from a Meraner against Loek van Wely to remain the only unbeaten competitor in the tournament’s highest division. But his track record of eleven draws and two victories got him no further than a shared fourth place. ‘Vishy’ tried, of course, but to no avail, and during the post-mortem he was heard to complain about his usually more aggressive opponent: “On the day that Loeky starts playing for a draw, what can a man do?”

The two runners-up at the outset of Sunday’s thirteenth round, Spain’s Alexei Shirov and Russia’s Vladimir Kramnik, remained just that: runners-up. Kramnik was satisfied with a half point after just 21 moves with white from a Queen’s Indian that never really got underway. Shirov’s game with white against Leinier Dominguez, however, was quite a different matter. Some twenty moves into a Najdorf, the Spanish mercenary unleashed a ferocious attack, sacrificing his way through black’s kingside.

The situation remained unclear to the point where even Carlsen, who had come by to see what was happening on the neighbours’ board, was nonplussed. “I couldn’t figure out Shirov’s game,” he said. “But I was concentrating on my own game, of course.” You bet he did. A win for Shirov would mean the Norwegian needed a win himself to stay ahead in the race for an unshared first prize and whatever Carlsen may have thought of Shirov’s chances, he decided to go all out against Caruana regardless. Unfortunately, Carlsen said, “Caruana defended very well, while I miscalculated in the middle game.”

Shirov, a piece down meanwhile, used up almost all of his time to find a win. He came close. Dominguez made a fatal mistake on his 30th but followed it up with a peace proposal. With only two seconds on the clock, Shirov failed to see the rather obvious win and went for the half point.

That meant a draw was enough for Carlsen to finish an unshared first but his ‘miscalculation’ had led to serious trouble, or rather, as he put it himself, “what I thought was a promising position, in fact turned out to be very bad. Fabiano and I both thought black should have excellent winning chances in the knight endgame.” He may have but neither experts nor computers were able to show how. “Surprisingly, I drew,” Carlsen explained, adding: “I had some good games; sometimes I played well and sometimes I played lousy. In the end, I won the tournament with a lot of luck.”

Shirov took half of the 10,500 euros for the combined second and third prize, and received a bonus when he and Dominguez were declared the co-winners of the 500-euro ‘Ymouth Versatile Prize’ for the day’s best performance in the tournament’s top group. Hikaru Nakamura of the U.S. scored the only victory on the last day of Corus A, downing Holland’s Sergei Tiviakov after a grueling 79 moves with white in a Scandinavian game. Vassili Ivanchuk and Peter Leko settled for a draw after 27 uneventful moves in a Meraner, but the way in which Nigel Short and Holland’s Jan Smeets reached the same result had chess fans on the edge of their seats. Both players used up oodles of time in a highly unusual but very entertaining Petroff before agreeing to split the point by repetition on their 14th.

In Group B, the daily prize of 250 euros went to Germany’s Arkadij Naiditsch for his win in 51 moves with white from a French game against Erwin l’Ami. The winner of the 3000-euro first prize in this section of the tournament was Dutch champion Anish Giri, who notched up a tournament total of 9 points after a draw in final-round action. “I’m happy I won,” the 15-year old said, “of course I’m happy but not exceedingly so. Let’s say I’m on cloud eight.” He also won four 250-euro ‘Ymouth Versatile’ prizes but the youngster wasn’t interested in the money. “What I’m most happy about,” he said, “is my place in the A Group next year. No, I’m not afraid to face the super-Elos. I’ll have a year to prepare for them.”

China’s Li Chao finished the winner in Group C. Having secured first place the day before, he ended the tournament with a win over Dutch women’s champion Zhaoqing Peng in 41 moves from a French Opening.

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