Legends of Chess highlights: Anand-Ivanchuk game ends in draw; wins for Carlsen, Gelfand

Catch the score, moves, commentary and highlights from Chess24 Legends of Chess, the penultimate event of the million-dollar Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour.

Vladimir Kramnik

Vladimir Kramnik could still qualify for the knockout but only if he beats his former rival Magnus Carlsen while Peter Svidler loses to Anish Giri.   -  Reuters

Hello and welcome to the highlights of Chess24 Legends of Chess, the penultimate event of the million-dollar Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour.

 

Highlights from Wednesday's action:
 


 

Today's pairings:

Boris Gelfand (Israel) vs Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia)

Ding Liren (China) vs Peter Leko (Hungary)

Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukraine) vs Viswanathan Anand (India)

Peter Svidler (Russia) vs Anish Giri (The Netherlands)

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs Vladimir Kramnik (Russia)


WHAT HAPPENED ON TUESDAY?

A day after stopping Boris Gelfand 2.5-0.5 for his first win in the chess24 Legends of Chess, Viswanathan Anand crashed to a stunning defeat, by a similar margin, to an otherwise struggling Ding Liren in the eighth round on Tuesday.

Surprisingly, Anand lost both his games with white pieces rather tamely. In between, he drew with black.

In this battle involving two players out of reckoning for a place in the semifinals, Anand faltered early in the first game with a knight-retreat and soon found his castled-king on the queenside come under fierce attack. Anand saw no way of saving the position and resigned inside 25 minutes of game-time.

WATCH | DAY SIX REVIEW BY RAKESH RAO

 

In the second, where Anand played black, the battle was fought on an even keel. In the third, Anand erred more than once after the opening lines of Sicilian Najdorf. His position fell apart and he lost his queen before resigning.

In the most watched game of the day, leader Magnus Carlsen let second-placed Ian Nepomniachtchi off the hook after gaining a firm grip with black pieces but crushed the Russian in the second. The third game, where Carlsen held a clear advantage, ended in a draw.

In the remaining contests, Vassily Ivanchuk and Peter Leko bounced back from defeats in the second game to draw level with victories in the third, against Anish Giri and Boris Gelfand. Vladimir Kramnik, too, came close to levelling the match at 1.5-1.5 against fellow Russian Peter Svidler but could not convert a sizable advantage into a win in the third game.

With both Russians in contention for two available semifinal spots, the winner of this match will considerably brighten the prospects of reaching the knockout phase of the competition.
 

Eighth round: Game One: Viswanathan Anand lost to Ding Liren (Chn); Ian Nepomniachtchi (Rus) drew with Magnus Carlsen (Nor); Vladimir Kramnik (Rus) lost to Peter Svidler (Rus); Anish Giri (Ned) drew with Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukr); Peter Leko (Hun) drew with Boris Gelfand (Isr).

Game Two: Liren drew with Anand; Carlsen bt Nepomniachtchi; Svidler drew with Kramnik; Ivanchuk lost to Giri; Gelfand bt Leko.

Game Three: Anand lost to Liren; Nepomniachtchi drew with Carlsen; Kramnik drew with Svidler; Giri lost to Ivanchuk; Leko bt Gelfand.

Position after Game Three: Liren bt Anand 2.5-0.5; Carlsen leads Nepomniachtchi 2-1; Svidler leads Kramnik 2-1; Giri level with Ivanchuk 1.5-1.5; Gelfand level with Leko 1.5-1.5.


TOURNAMENT PREVIEW

Without being among the favourites, six seasoned practitioners bring in a fresh flavour to the penultimate event of the million-dollar Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour.

Such being the scenario on the eve of the $150,000 Chess24 Legends of Chess event, the point of interest will be whether at least one of the ‘legends’ deny the four younger players monopolising the semifinal spots.

If Magnus Carlsen (aged 29), Anish Giri (26), Ding Liren (27) and Ian Nepomniachtchi (30) advance following a nine-round preliminary phase, it will be a repeat line-up of the Chessable Master held earlier this month.

Even if one, among Viswanathan Anand (50), Vladimir Kramnik (45), Boris Gelfand (52), Vassily Ivanchuk (51), Peter Svidler (44) and Peter Leko (40) makes it to the semifinals, it will be big news.

This being an online event, the younger players obviously have a distinct comfort-level, having learnt the game by moving more pieces on-screen with the help of a mouse, than physically placing the pieces on the desired squares.

With several players from the pre-computer era around, expect more cases of ‘mouse-slip’ over the next 10 days than the number recorded in the last three events of the Tour.

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On the brighter side, none of the veteran is under any pressure of expectations. Therefore, one can expect them to play more freely and cause a few upsets. However, the four-game format in every encounter tilts the scales in favour of the younger lot.

After many years, Anand will not be the oldest participant in a round-robin event. Moreover, the 2017 World rapid champion has always been a force to reckon with in the shorter time-format. No wonder then, he has a good chance to gatecrash into the semifinals.

In fact, in the Nations Cup in May, Anand stunned Nepomniachtchi in just 17 moves to let the chess world know that he could still recreate some of his old magic.

It is also good for Anand that he starts his campaign against Peter Svidler, against whom he holds a favourable head-to-head record in classical time-format.

Svidler has been commentating in all tournaments so far on the Tour.

That should give him some edge since he has analysed threadbare most those games with several new ideas.

ALSO READ | Legends of Chess: Nepomniachtchi inflicts another defeat on Anand

Kramnik could find it a touch difficult to get past the league phase.

Following his retirement in January 2019, Kramnik has spent most of his time in coaching and being involved in fund-raising activities in Russia in these times of pandemic.

The trio of Gelfand, Ivanchuk and Leko are well equipped to win a few games but going beyond the league appears difficult.

Among the three, Ivanchuk can inject lots of excitement with his style of play. Original and innovative ideas were the hallmarks of his play during his prime. The 2016 World rapid champion has it in him to grab the attention with some truly brilliant play.

On the first day, much of the focus will be on the most-anticipated Carlsen-Giri clash. Besides their form, the other factor that gets them all the attention from the chess world is their much-followed battle of wits on social media. In what promises to reproduce the thrills seen in the final of Chessable Masters earlier this month, a fast-improving Giri will be looking to avenge the loss.

The format

A 10-player round-robin league. Each match will witness the best-of-four rapid games. Each player gets 15 minutes of starting time on the clock and 10 second for every move. If tied 2-2, the tie will be decided by a Armageddon game, where White has five minutes to Black’s four, but a draw means Black wins the match. Three points awarded to a victory without Armageddon.  If the match goes to Armageddon, the winner gets two points and the loser one.

Following the league, the top four will advance to the semi-finals and the final that follows the best-of-three set format. Each set comprises a four-game rapid match. The only difference to the preliminary stage clashes is that if a match is locked at 2-2, there will also be two blitz games (five minutes each for both players plus three-second increment per move) before the Armageddon, if needed.

Schedule: Round 1 to 9 (from July 21 to 29); Semifinals: July 31 to August 2; Final: August 3 to 5.

Prize-money break-up


Winner: $45,000; Runner-up: $30,000; Losing semifinalists: $17,500 each; 5th place: $10,000; 6th place: $8,000; 7th place: $7,000; 8th place: $6,000; 9th place: $5,000; 10th place: $4,000.