CHENNAI: Viswanathan Anand ended overall second in the 2015 Zurich Chess Challenge after losing to Hikaru Nakamura in the one-game Armageddon play-off in Zurich. The title was decided on a tie-break following a two-way tie between Anand and Nakamura (9 points each) after the rapid section of the event on Thursday. This is only the super tournament which combines the scores of classical and rapid sections to decide the winner.
It was Nakamura’s second straight title of the year after his victory in the Gibraltar Masters. Going into the final day, Anand had a one-point lead (7) over Nakamura, thanks to his victory in the classical format. Former world champion Vladimir Kramnik was the other close pursuer on five points.
The five-game rapid on a single day produced plenty of excitement. Anand kept his lead until Nakamura caught up with the Indian by defeating him in a complicated game with just one round remaining. The final round between Anand and Sergei Karjakin ended in a repetition after 30 moves. A victory over Levon Aronian would have given Nakamura the title but he could only manage a draw resulting in a tie for top spot. Kramnik, who finished overall third, topped the rapid section with 3.5 points, followed in joint second spot by Nakamura and Aronian on three points. Anand and Karjakin shared the fourth spot on two points. World No 2 Fabiano Caruana was completely off-colour, finishing at the bottom of standings with 1.5 points.
Having the white pieces, Anand needed a win in the Armageddon to clinch the title but faltered in the opening as Nakamura wrapped it up after 29 moves.
Barring the play-off game, Anand had a satisfactory tournament, which included finishing first in the classical five-round event. The Indian remained undefeated postwing emphatic wins over Aronian and Nakamura. He also had an impressive performance rating of 2928 and gained nine rating points. In the quicker format, Anand had a mixed performance, winning against Caruana, drawing against Kramnik & Karjakin, besides losing to Aronian and Nakamura.
Coming into the tournament after his below-par show in Baden-Baden, which resulted in him dropping 15 rating points, Anand needed a positive result to bolster his confidence. Showing no ill effects of his performance in the previous tournament, Anand played confidently to inflict a crushing defeat on Aronian in the second round, improving on his play from his drawn game in the World Championship match against Magnus Carlsen. He followed it up by positionally outwitting Nakamura in the fourth round. The only time he was in a spot of bother was against Caruana but he salvaged a draw.
Last minute blow
According to a leading chess website, the organisers informed the players before the last round of the rapid game there will be play-off games in case of a tie for top spot. The earlier rules suggested tie-break scores to decide the winner in case of a tie, which favoured Anand. The change in rules probably affected Anand, who could not produce his best in the decisive game.
Armageddon is a one-game shoot-out to decide the winner in even of a tie-break game. The player with white pieces gets more time (5 minutes) but requires a win to clinch the title. The player with black has less time (4 minutes) but needs only a draw to lift the title.
Classical: 1. V Anand (Ind) 7 points, 2. H Nakamura (USA) 6, 3. V Kramnik (Rus) 5, 4-6: S Karjakin (Rus), F Caruana (Ita), L Aronian (Arm) 4
Rapid: 1. V Kramnik 3.5, 2-3: H Nakamura, L Aronian 3, 4-5: S Karjakin, V Anand 2, 6. F Caruana 1.5 Overall: 1-2: V Anand, H Nakamura 9, 3. V Kramnik 8.5, 4. L Aronian 7,5. S Karjakin 6, F Caruana 5.5
One-game play-off: Nakamura bt Anand 1-0