Four very interesting match-ups took place in London. Both leaders played with black against very motivated opponents. The players put forth uncompromising chess looking for ways to rise in the standings. However, all the games ended peacefully and the status quo was maintained – Carlsen and Aronian still lead with 3.5/5 points.
Vassily Ivanchuk played with the white pieces against Magnus Carlsen. The Norwegian went for a Gruenfeld Defense, probably expecting a sharp battle where Ivanchuk’s problems with time management might come into play. The variation played favored white, who by move 17 was a pawn up. The endgame that arose was very hard to convert into a full point.
White started to look for ways to use his kingside pawn majority. However, Carlsen used his a-pawn as an effective resource to create counterplay and the players signed the draw after 57 moves.
Vladimir Kramnik used the Reti opening against Levon Aronian. Clearly, the Russian avoided long theoretical lines that might take the game to a drawn position. Instead, Kramnik went for lines that took the battle to the middlegame. After 30 moves, Aronian was a pawn up, but in exchange, the ex-world champion had the bishop pair, a very active rook and a better pawn structure in the center.
Unfortunately for the Russian, the big decisions came during time trouble. The computer gives winning continuations close to move 40 that were wrongly evaluated by the ex-world champion. Anyway, he obtained an opposite-colored bishops endgame with two extra pawns, but these pawns were in the wrong side of the board – the h8 square did not match the color of his bishop. The Russian gave up his winning attempts on move 72.
World Cup winner Peter Svidler arrived to this round in sole third place with +1 and played with white against World Championship’s challenger Boris Gelfand. The Exchange Variation of the Gruenfeld presented itself on the board. Svidler decided to advance his h-pawn quickly to create a direct attack against his opponent’s king. This led to a sharp battle with opposite-side castling.
The Russian seemed to have the upper hand, but was not able to convert his positional advantage as it was very difficult to find the precise moves suggested by the computers. Gelfand found some nice counterattacking moves to get a dynamically balanced position. The players hurried to sign the peace treaty when both had less than 4 minutes to make 9 more moves.
Alexander Grischuk played white against Teimour Radjabov. The Azerbaijani did not use his favorite King’s Indian defense. Grischuk decided to close the center with c5, getting a space advantage on the queenside. Radjabov untangled the position with a bishop sacrifice in exchange of three passed pawns. It seemed that some complications could arise but Grischuk sacrificed his knight just in time to simplify to a drawn rook endgame. This was the last game to finish, after 51 moves.
The 6th round will be played tomorrow, March 21st: Svidler – Carlsen, Kramnik – Ivanchuk, Grischuk – Gelfand and Radjabov – Aronian.
Photos by Anastasiya Karlovich