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Sponsor Oleg Skvortsov, organizer Christian Issler and grandmasters Levon Aronian, Vladimir Kramnik and Ljubomir Ljubojevic speak about the 2015 Zurich Chess Challenge. Courtesy of Chess.com
Zurich Chess Challenge 2015: A summary
The 4th Zurich Chess Challenge has ended on Thursday with an exciting finish: After 5 rounds of classical and another 5 of rapid chess, the question of the overall winner still had not been decided and the two leaders, Indian Viswanathan Anand and American Hikaru Nakamura, had to sit down for another nerve-racking final match called an 'Armageddon': A blitz game with white having five minutes compared to black's four, but white facing the burden to win the game, while his opponent only needed a draw to secure victory. One can easily imagine how tired and nervous both protagonists must have been when, after 6 days of hard-fought battles, the fate of an entire tournament was reduced to only 9 minutes.
An outcome, that was probably not expected even by the two players themselves. Viswanathan Anand's play in the first half had been so dominant, that his full-point lead after the Classical section seemed almost impossible to overcome by his pursuers. Especially as Anand also managed to beat Nakamura in their direct encounter, where the American's somewhat passive treatment of a Bf4 Queen's Gambit was brilliantly exploitet by the Indian Ex-World Champion, whose pieces set up tremendous pressure on the queenside and, after careful preparations, finally broke in to deliver mate to Nakamura's forsaken king. Anand's second win of the first half, against the Armenian Levon Aronian, also showed the excellent opening preparation of the 'Tiger of Madras': In a complex Grunfeld Indian Opening, Anand played a new move that offered his opponent a tempting manoeuvre with his knight, that seemingly promised excellent chances for him. But as it turned out, all had been analysed beforehand by Anand, who with his precise play showed the downside of Aronian's concept and, when the Armenian made a mistake, converted his advantage with flawless technique.
However, like Anand Nakamura also managed to win two games in the Classical section: In the first round, he beat the Italian Fabiano Caruana using his active bishop pair and in round 3, Russian Sergey Karjakin fell victim to the American's deep opening preparation and, in a maze of variations, didn't remember the correct way out.
Nevertheless, with a full point ahead and the reputation of being an excellent blitz and rapid player, the betting offices probably wouldn't have offered profitable odds on another winner than the Indian world's number 6 when the rapids began on Thursday. But it was as soon as in round 2 that it became evident that maybe the fate of the tournament was not yet decided. The round showed everything that makes chess so fascinating for the spectators: Three decisive games, a formidable mating attack by Aronian vs Anand, a tragic ending in Caruana vs Karjakin, where black had a whole bunch of options to decide the game - and 'chose' to get mated instead and, finally, a dramatic encounter between Nakamura and Kramnik where, with both players being short of time, Kramnik brilliantly outplayed Nakamura from what had been a clearly inferior position.
So all of a sudden, Anand's comfortable lead had not only narrowed to only half a point, but also the Russian Vladimir Kramnik had again chances to win the tournament, especially after he also won against Aronian in round 3, giving him 2,5/3 and a comfortable lead in the Rapid section, but, like Nakamura, still a full point in arrears, as Anand also won against Caruana, who really had an off-day. And things still became more dramatic in round 4: Nakamura had to win against Anand in order to keep up his chances to win the tournament. And the American succeeded brilliantly by pushing his c-pawn deep into Anand's flesh, almost dividing the Indian's army in two. Anand fought like a lion and sacrificed his queen to establish a fortress, but it razed completely by Nakamura's precise play. In the meantime, Karjakin had spoiled his position against Kramnik, who with stubborn defense even managed to get a winning position. Had he found a beautiful temporary rook sacrifice shown instantly by the computers, before the last round all three, Anand, Nakamura and Kramnik, would have had 8,5 points each, but Kramnik missed the winning move, Karjakin got the upper hand and his time didn't let the win slip away again.
Before the final round, the two leaders had 8.5 points and both didn't venture too much - all games ended in a draw with not much battle being fought. According to the regulations, a tiebreak armageddon had to be played to determine the overall winner. A coin was flipped, Anand got the white pieces and, as he had to win in order to win the tournament, picked a very aggressive setup against Nakamura's Queen's Gambit. However, this time the American defended excellently and not only repelled Anand's early attack, but also took over the initiative himself and penetrated the Indian's camp on the queenside. Anand had to give up an exchange to avoid an immediate loss, but still Nakamura's pieces were too active and soon Anand had to resign when his rook became trapped by black's bishops. There has been some confusion before the last round of the Rapids, as not all participants were completely aware of the tiebreak rule. As a consequence and concession, it was decided to share the prize money for 1st place equally. The organisers wish to express their regrets towards Mr Anand and Mr Nakamura and apologize for any inconveniences.
As a summary, the Zurich Chess Challenge 2015 had all a chess tournament needs: Brilliant ideas, deep opening preparations, tragic errors and a highly dramatic final clash with a somewhat lucky, but also worthy winner Hikaru Nakamura. We would be happy if you're with us again next year at the Zurich Chess Challenge 2016. Stay tuned for news and updates on next year's event here and on our facebook site!
Zurich Chess Challenge 2015: Press review
36 hours after the last moves were made, it's time for some quotes from chess sites and other dailies on the tournament. As some sources will be published only on Monday, we will add more articles soon.
Berner Zeitung: Hikaru Nakamuras Prestigesieg
Neue Zürcher Zeitung: Hikaru Nakamura siegt im «Armageddon»-Finale
Chessbase.de: Nakamura gewinnt in Zürich
The Hindu (India): Zurich Chess Classic: Anand second in rapid round
ChessLive Blog: Nakamura vence a Anand en el Armageddon
Messaggero Scacchi: Nakamura in extremis nella Chess Challenge (PDF)
Chess-news.ru: Внезапная жизнь
Zurch Chess Challenge 2015: Games and Photos
All games are online now and can be replayed or downloaded in our gameviewer section
All pictures of the event can be found in our media section. If you need a higher resolution version of the images provided, please contact our photographs, Eteri Kublashvili or Georg Kradolfer (details given below each image). Moreover, a couple of videos of the live broadcast can be viewed in on the video site.
Autograph card raffle - the winners
On our Facebook site, we started a raffle yesterday, giving away three autograph cards signed by all players and with a personal dedication. We're now happy to announce the winners:
Ajit Sharma, Amit H Desai and Giulia Russo
The autographs are (from left to right): Caruana, Aronian, Karjakin, Kramnik, Nakamura and Anand. The photo shows the players and, on the left and right rim, also Nigel Short and Viktor Korchnoi
All winners will be contacted via personal facebook message to get their postal address. If you're one of them, then please check your inbox, also within the folder "Others".