Zurich Rd2: Discombobulated!

Detailed analysis of the games on chessbase.com

by Alejandro Ramirez

Kramnik, Vladimir ½-½ Nakamura, Hikaru

Kramnik used a variation of the Catalan/Reti without d4 that he has employed in the past with great success. He played an unusual version of it by quickly taking on d5, relieving a large part of the central tension but allowing him to blast open the center and try to use his superior development.

Nakamura was easily up to the task to defend his position. He cleverly sacrificed his queen for a rook and a bishop, resulting in a position where White's queen simply lacked targets. This, combined with the weak light squares around White's king, resulted in the American holding on to the draw effortlessly.

Anand, Viswanathan 1-0 Aronian, Levon

There is nothing more uncomfortable in the game of chess than to be presented with a nasty surprise. Whether it is a move that you did not expect from you opponent, or a preparation that initially looks unsound, it is always difficult to know how to maneuver yourself in the resulting maze.

Anand came well prepared; a clever piece sacrifice improved on his game against the World Champion in their title match back in November. Aronian won a piece, or rather Anand sacrificed it, and the Indian obtained a dangerous initiative. Black's knight on a6 looked fragile and awkward, while White's passed pawn on d7 created immense pressure. Aronian had too many choices: even after thinking for 20+ minutes on each move starting with 19...Be4, he was unable to find a correct continuation.

When Anand recovered his piece by mounting pressure on the intrepid d7 bishop, which eliminated the passed pawn, it was clear that the game would end in a White victory. The much superior coordination and the Aronian's multiple hanging pieces gave him no chance to survive. Anand won another piece with a simple tactic and the Armenian resigned.

Karjakin, Sergey ½-½ Caruana, Fabiano

The anti-Berlin positions are certainly going to see a surge of popularity now that the Berlin Wall is an opening that White simply keeps crashing into without success. Even if the chance for an opening advantage in these anti-Berlins seems minimal, it at least keeps enough pieces on the board to try to create some interesting games. And interesting was exactly what this fight was!

Caruana decided not to castle, and instead pushed all of his pawns forward on the kingside, creating some weaknesses for his opponent but leaving his own king in a rather awkward position.

However, when everything seemed posed for a perfect fight, somehow the position tactically resolved into many, many trades. The resulting endgame probably favored Black a little since his king felt slightly safer, but it was nothing special. The players agreed to peace in what would have been a draw in the long run regardless.

Today's games

Anand outprepares Aronian to join Nakamura in the lead

by Marc Lang

Today's round saw Indian Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand scoring a convincing win over the Armenian player Levon Aronian to become equal first together with the American Hikaru Nakamura. In a Grunfeld Defense, Anand played a new move including a piece sacrifice that, according to him, he prepared long time ago with an old version of the computer engine "Fritz". The Armenian was familiar with the variation, but a few moves later forgot parts of his own preparation and made an inaccuracy, after which Anand took over the initiative and left Aronian defenseless against the numerous threats.

Kramnik vs Nakamura started as a difficult positonal battle with Kramnik seemingly putting the American into a long and tough defense, but Nakamura found an imaginative queen sacrifice, after which he established a fortress with two rooks and a strong bishop preventing all white's tries to penetrate his position. Kramnik saw no better way than to enter an equal rook endgame that was drawn soon afterwards.

The last game of the day was Karjakin - Caruana, where the Italian grandmaster tried to come back into the tournament after his painful loss to Nakamura yesterday. It first appeared that he had good chances to succeed, when he forced his opponent into an ending with a strong knight and queen being a constant threat to the Russian king, but Karjakin set up a stubborn defense and after they both reached the time control, a draw was agreed.

After this round, Nakamura and Anand lead the tournament both with 3 points, followed by Kramnik and Karjakin with 2 and at the bottom Aronian and Caruana with 1 point:

Classical after Round 2
Anand, Viswanathan (IND)
Nakamura, Hikaru (USA)
Kramnik, Vladimir (RUS)
Karjakin, Sergey (RUS)
Aronian, Levon (ARM)
Caruana, Fabiano (ITA)

Tomorrow's parings:

Round 3 - Mon February 16th
Aronian, Levon
Kramnik, Vladimir
Caruana, Fabiano
Anand, Viswanathan
Nakamura, Hikaru
Karjakin, Sergey

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First pictures from round 2

Round 2 is about to begin

In about half an hour, round 2 of the classical games will start. Today's parings promise exciting clashes:

Kramnik - Nakamura
The Ex-World Champion Vladimir Kramnik meets the American fighter Hikaru Nakamura with the white pieces. Statistics favor Nakamura, who won 5 of their previous duels so far, while Kramnik won only 4. However, the last time they met, in December 2014 at the London Classic, Kramnik literally crushed the American's King's Indian Defence, so one of today's questions will be whether Nakamura will dare to stage this risky opening again or opt for calmer waters.

Karjakin - Caruana
This game's story will be whether Kajakin will be able to beat Caruana for the very first time with the white pieces - so far he has only succeeded in doing this in Blitz and Rapid games. Their last encounter with Karjakin having white ended with a win for the Italian, who outplayed the Russian in a seemingly quiet Bf4-Queen's Gambit.

Anand - Aronian
Much to my surprise, Anand has a clearly negative score against Aronian, both with white and black. Only once he managed to beat the Armenian player when having the first move and their most recent encounter, just two weeks ago at the Grenkeleasing in Baden-Baden, also ended with a victory for Aronian.

The start of the round is at 15:00 CET and as usual, we will have the games broadcasted with live German, English and Russian commentary on our live page. To choose the language, click on the flag below the video stream on the right.