The lowest-ranked player in the Candidates has the experience and the tools to pull off some upsets.
Our series on the players in the Candidates continues with the second Russian and the lowest-seed, though an always dangerous opponent.
If there was ever a tournament where Svidler is a massive underdog, the Candidates is it, which is almost odd given his accomplishments.
He is one of the world’s most decorated and accomplished contemporary players. He has won seven Russian Championships, the 2011 World Cup, and he was the runner-up in the 2015 World Cup. He has also played on 10 Olympiad teams for Russia, which is truly exceptional, given their deep talent pool.
Svidler will have his work cut out for him in Moscow, however, as he is the lowest-ranked player in the field. Nonetheless, I think he has a real chance to shine, particularly if he approaches it as did the 2013 Candidates in London.
Svidler’s talent has never been an issue, but he has always had a reputation, partly promoted by himself, of being a bit lazy. He was never very athletic and always looked a bit overweight. But he evidently took the 2013 Candidates very seriously as he showed up in London in great physical shape. (When I saw pictures of him, I almost wondered if it was an imposter.) He obviously had made getting into shape a priority and it really paid dividends.
His start was not impressive, but he seemed to have more energy at the end than the other competitors, at least judging by the results. He won three very nice games in the second half of the event over Levon Aronian of Armenia, Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine, and Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the current World Champion. All three games were highly complex and I believe his physical fitness give him more energy for those tense battles.
Svidler also came prepared with some interesting opening innovations — my favorite was his f4 move against Boris Gelfand of Israel in the variation of the Grunfeld with Bd2, a game that was one of the reasons that the variation is popular today. If he can show up at the 2016 Candidates with the same kind of physical and opening preparation that he had in London, I think he can compete with anybody.
Stylistically, Svidler is a counter attacker, and that could also work to his advantage, given the composition of the tournament, as many of the other competitors, particularly Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria, Hikaru Nakamura of the United States, and Aronian, are naturally aggressive. Svidler is extremely good at punishing players who have overextended their positions. It is the reason that he often scores more wins with Black than White. That is what happened in the 2011 World Cup, where he drew almost every game he played with White, but brought the hammer down with Black when his opponents went after him.
His preferred openings complement his style beautifully. He plays the Grunfeld and Archangel – openings in which Black allows White to establish a large center, and then counter attacks it and breaks it down. Normally in the Ruy Lopez, taking on d4 is almost never a good idea because the structure after exd4 cxd4 gives White more central space, but Svidler does it all the time to create active play, and he almost never loses. Recently he smashed one of the other Candidates, Anish Giri of the Netherlands, in this manner at the World Cup. And his win over Gata Kamsky of the United States on his way to winning the 2011 World Cup was one for the ages:
Kamsky, Gata vs. Svidler, Peter
FIDE World Cup |Khanty-Mansiysk |Round 4.2 |07 Sep 2011 |ECO: C78 |0-1
1. e4e52. Nf3Nc63. Bb5a64. Ba4Nf65. O-Ob56. Bb3Bc5The Archangel Variation suits Svidler's dynamic counterattacking style perfectly. He recently recorded an excellent video series for Chess24 on it. 7. a4Rb88. axb5axb59. c3d610. d4Bb611. Be3Kamsky chooses a solid setup. He has a big center and if he can support it, he will have an edge. But Svidler is always happy to counterattack.
( 11. Na3This is the main line -- I played it myself last year. )
11... O-O12. Nbd2h6This and h3 are often played as both sides really need to control g5 and g4.
( 12... Ng4This would be ideal but here it fails to Bg5 )
13. h3Otherwise Ng4 or Bg4 could be annoying. 13... Re814. Qc2White's position is picture-perfect, if he can just hold it together for a move or two. Svidler does not allow this.
( 14. Re1In light of how the game proceeded, this would have been better, and has been played more recently. Nonetheless Black should still be fine. )
14... exd4!Generally Black should not do this without a good reason, but Svidler has a good idea in mind. 15. cxd4Na5!Black gains a tempo by attacking the bishop on b3 and he is now ready for Bb7. 16. Ba2Bb7!Gaining more time with more threats. White's center is really coming under siege. But even the computer fails to understand, still thinking White is better. 17. e5Nd518. Bb1g619. Bxh6White has won a pawn, and a critical kingside pawn at that. But watch what happens next.
( 19. Ba2Kg7 )
19... Nc6!Now that Black has provoked the pawn center to move forward, he attacks it. This reminds me a bit of the Grunfeld, something Svidler also plays with a lot of success. 20. exd6
21... Qb422. Ba2Nxd4!The game is becoming more intense, and tactics are beginning to arise everywhere. 23. Nf6+?Technically this is not a bad move, but it was done with the wrong idea in mind. Svidler clearly out-calculated Kamsky in this key game.
( 23. Nxd4Bxd424. Rae1White is more or less okay. )
( 23... Nxf6??24. Qxg6+ )
( 24. Nxd5!Technically this was still fine for White, although it clearly was not Kamsky's idea when he checked on f6. 24... Nxf3+25. gxf3Bxd526. Bxd5Qh427. Qc3+Bd428. Qxc7And White just barely lives
to fight another day. )
Since he is the lowest ranked player, Svidler has the luxury of knowing his opponents will come after him, and I think he will be ready to pounce with his counter attacks. His scores against the other players in the tournament are acceptable, with only Fabiano Caruana of the United States and the former World Champion Viswanathan Anand causing him any consistent problems. Svidler is definitely a longshot to win, but I think his chances are much better than they would seem on paper, and I’m actually rooting for him because I really like his active and dynamic playing style.
Should he confound his ranking and win, Svidler would be even a bigger underdog against Carlsen. Stylistically, I think the matchup would be absolutely fine for Svidler and his results against Carlsen in the past have been excellent, but the basic problem is that Carlsen is just a stronger player. Still, I like to believe rating isn’t everything, so I think Svidler could give Carlsen real problems.
Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 7 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter and is also on Facebook.
FIDE and World Chess announces today that the 2018 World Chess Championship Match will take place in London in November 2018. The world’s most prestigious chess tournament is to be the climax of a season of high-profile activity to extend the sport’s appeal among global audiences – and make 2018 the Year of Chess in the UK.
After 9 days of intense chess battles at the last leg of the World Chess Grand Prix series 2017 in Palma de Mallorca, the two winners of the series were finally determined: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan, overall 340 points in the series) and Alexander Grischuk (Russia, 336,4 points). They qualified for the Candidates Tournament – the next part of the World Chess Championship cycle, which leads up to the Championship match.
The sole leader of the Palma de Mallorca Grand Prix Levon Aronian made a quick draw with Evgeny Tomashevsky today, inviting the group of rivals to join him at the top. But same as in the previous rounds all games on the top boards finished peacefully and not a single player came close to catching up with him.
After seven rounds Aronian is in the lead with 4,5 points. A group of 8 players is half a point behind, including Vachier-Lagrave. In order to qualify for the Candidates, the Frenchman needs to win at least one more game. Boris Gelfand defeated Alexander Riazantsev, Pavel Eljanov won against Jon Ludvig Hammer, while Teimour Rajabov outplayed Li Chao. After the victory the Azerbaijani Grandmaster still hopes to qualify, but in that case has to win both games.
Javier Ochoa, Honorary FIDE Vice President and President of the Spanish Chess Federation, made the first symbolic move to start the fourth round, which turned out to be the most exciting round of the tournament so far, with six decisive games out of nine.
In the Third Round of the FIDE Grand Prix in Palma de Mallorca games between the four leaders, Vachier-Lagrave-Aronian and Rajabov-Giri, finished in a draw. Peter Svidler joined the group of leaders by beating Jon-Ludvig Hammer in the third round.
The world’s best chess players and chess establishment came together in Bellver Castle to celebrate the opening of the final leg of the FIDE 2017 World Chess Grand Prix Palma de Mallorca – a prestigious qualifier for the World Chess Candidates Tournament.
Katerina Lagno, one of the strongest Russian women-grandmasters won the historic Moscow Blitz Tournament, beating her fellow Russian Olympic team members Alexandra Kosteniuk, Valentina Gunina and Olga Girya.
After a draw against Ian Nepomniachtchi, Teimur Rajabov won the tournament. One of the strongest players, Rajabov had not won a major tournament lately, but has shown phenomenal form in Geneva and managed to overpower some of top world’s players