August 23th – September 3rd, 2014 (St. Louis, USA)
Round #7 – Sunday, 30 August 2015
Aronian dispatches Nakamura and
has a one-point lead!
— Lennart Ootes (@LennartOotes) August 31, 2015
The story of the round is perhaps the loss of Magnus Carlsen to a resurgent Alexander Grischuk. After losing two of the first three rounds, he has scored an undefeated 3/4 including his epic win this round. Carlsen was visibly frustrated in his post-game comments. Perhaps his earlier confession was an omen of what was to come. Carlsen played the 6.Be2 variation against the Najdorf, a more positional choice than the combative 6.Bg5 or 6.Be3.
The game was not unusual, but the world champion made the above comment in the confession booth (see the 1:34:28 mark). The confessional booth has been very revealing in terms of catching the emotion of the players in action. It is like having a microphone on players during a basketball or football match. It also gives fans a connection to players that would not normally exist in chess. It is a stroke of genius.
— chess24.com (@chess24com) August 30, 2015
Carlsen slogged on in the middlegame, but around move 20, the game started to turn on him. Going forward to a crucial position at move, Carlsen had lost a pawn and was struggling to find a defense. Anand weighed in on the position and stated that black had an edge, but felt that Carlsen could work to hold the draw… without trading the minor pieces.
Interestingly enough, Carlsen ran low on time when precise moves were needed. Then came the crucial moment. After 60.Re5 Re6! 61.f4 Bf6 62.Rxe6 fxe6 the Norwegian blundered with 63.Nf2?? instead of the fortress-building 63.Kd2! when black has no way in.
After 63.Nf2?? black sidestepped all of white’s tricks and executed a zugzwang maneuver on 63…Be7! Carlsen was hoping to get a forking tactic after the black pawn promotes, but the after 66…Kc2 had to resign. Black would put his bishop on the a7-g1 diagonal and prevent the knight from stopping the pawn. After the loss, Carlsen slouched in his chair and contorted his face in disgust. With the loss, he drops into a four-way tie for second.
In Nakamura-Aronian, the American player fell behind positionally after getting his pieces tangled on the queenside and tied down to the a-pawn. Aronian slowly increased his space and showed a masterful understanding of the position. What was interesting was his suggestion of 26…Nd4+ 27.Bd4 Bxd4 imprisoning the a2-rook! The defining moment came when Nakamura played 39.Rad1 Rbf8 40.Nxe5? Kxe5 41.Rxd4 Rxf3+. This plan allowed the marauding rooks to dominate the board and begin picking off pawns.
Nakamura seemed to have problems with his prep.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.
In the final position, black was up two pawns and was ready to take a couple more. Very disappointing game by Nakamura, but his showdown against Carlsen could indeed change everything. A win would be good in so many ways. On the other hand, Aronian finished a 3-0 sweep of the American contingent, but has a formidable challenge in the last two rounds facing both Viswanathan Anand and Veselin Topalov.
Anish Giri and his wife Sopiko Guramishvili.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.
Anish Giri faced Veselin Topalov in a battle of the new vs. old generation. Neither side played ambitiously and the game quickly reached equilibrium. Even the engines were not impressed and gave “flatlined” evaluations. This was equivalent to a rest day for Topalov who has broken his mini losing streak. Perhaps a good result as the Bulgarian can make life difficult for Aronian in the last round.
On a side note, it is interesting to note the number of young chess wives accompanying their spouses to tournaments. For a long time Aruna Anand was a fixture besides her husband until she assumed motherly duties of Ahkil Anand. Anish and his newlywed Sopiko Guramishvili appeared to be a doting couple as they strolled down Maryland Avenue hand-in-hand. It appears that chess players continue to prove that they have great success in choosing their wives. Congrats Anish!
Wesley So has had a miserable tournament and there is nothing that can explain his result. His sour expression has been in great contrast to his normally affable nature. The former Webster University student remarked that this tournament is like a “chess university” and he is paying with his rating points! We certainly hope that his returns to form.
In this battle, the five-time champion trotted out the Spanish, but chose a more staid, positional line featuring an exchange of the bishop for knight on c6. The resulting position yielded nothing for white and in fact, Anand later admitted that he was happy with a draw. Sacrificing a pawn for a bit of pressure, Anand later decided to sacrifice the queen for two pieces and a resulting fortress. He noticed that Giri would end up with weakened pawns and could not make progress.
Standings after Round 7:
1st: Levon Aronian, 5; 2nd-5th: Alexander Grischuk, Magnus Carlsen, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Anish Giri, 4; 6th-7th: Veselin Topalov, Hikaru Nakamura, 3½; 8th-9th: Fabiano Caruana, Viswanathan Anand, 2½; 10th: Wesley So, 2.