2011 Candidates Match in Kazan, Russia: Quarter-Finals Analysis
Gata Kamsky elected to play and win the US Championship in St. Louis, MO just weeks prior to facing the venerable Veselin Topalov in their quarter-finals match. Not so long ago, Kamsky lost to Topalov in a match, after which the Bulgarian Sulper-GM went on to contend for the World Championship Title against Viswanathan Anand. Back to the point, I thought it was interesting that Kamsky chose to play in the US Chmps instead of resting and preparing for his very important match with Topalov. Kamsky played excellently, winning their match with a final score of 2.5 – 1.5. However, the final game definitely brought some drama as Topalov was pressing very hard and nearly won to even the score and take the match to a play-off. Topalov played a series of inaccurate moves, and the steel nerves of Kamsky enabled him to hold the game and progress to the Semi-Finals.
Coming in to the match between Boris Gelfand and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, my favorite was the experienced veteran from Israel due to his ample match experience. However, Mamedyarov has been playing well lately and is capable of toppling any opponent. In their match, the first two games were somewhat peaceful draws. In game 3, Mamedyarov launched a dangerous attack that was proven superficial by a series of defensive sacrifices by Gelfand. Gelfand went on to hold the draw with ease as white in game 4.
My favorite matchup displayed the exceptional creativity of Levon Aronian and the measured aggression of Alexander Grischuk. These are two of my all-time favorite players, as they both very attacking chess. However, they each played cautiously and drew their 1st four games, leading to an exciting rapid playoff. In a truly back-and-forth tactical slugfest, Grischuk managed to outmaneuver the #3 player in the world and move on to the Semi-Finals.
Kramnik has seemed somewhat out of sorts lately, without many top finishes in recent months/events. Radjabov is an extremely dangerous opponent for any player in the world, however he was simply unable to create the kind of dynamic positions he requires to beat extremely solid and technical players like Kramnik. 4 draws in regulation moved the match to overtime, where another 4 consecutive draws ensued. Then things became interesting as Radjabov finally broke through with a win. Kramnik won his next game to stay alive, and then sealed the match with a further 2 wins – showing his class and fighting spirit as a former World Champion.
Extensive Video Analysis of the Quarterfinal matches is available at http://www.onlinechesslessons.net
Semi-Finals starting on May 12th
Gata Kamsky (USA) will face Boris Gelfand (ISR), a very tough match to predict. I believe Kamsky will win with 2.5 – 1.5 in regulation time, grinding Gelfand down in an endgame as black in a Slav Defense to move on to the Finals. On the other side of the Semi-Finals, we will see top Russians Vladimir Kramnik and Alexander Grischuk battle for a spot in the Finals. Although Grischuk must be feeling red-hot after an extremely tough victory against Aronian, I’ve got to pick the ice-cold veins and thorough match experience of former world champ Vladimir Kramnik. I’ve got Kramnik winning the match after 4 draws in regulation, 2 initial draws in tiebreaker followed by a surprising sacrificial victory and solid draw to seal the deal. It will certainly be interesting to watch the Semi-Finals action unfold!