Monday, September 16, 2013
Kramnik Wins World Cup; Andreikin Qualifies for Candidates
By Edward Scimia, About.com GuideSeptember 3, 2013
One common complaint about the Chess World Cup is that the tournament tends to be a little more exciting in the early rounds, when there are lots of matches to pay attention to, then in the later stages, when the few remaining players play carefully, taking few chances and agreeing to a high percentage of draws in the classical time control games. Whether you subscribe to that view or not is up to you, of course, but it is worth noting that the biggest prizes had already been awarded to players in this year's tournament before the final was even played. Two spots in next year's Candidates Tournament were promised in this event, meaning that both of the finalists -- Vladimir Kramnik, who was virtually assured of being a candidate one way or another, and Dmitry Andreikin, for whom this was almost certainly the only way into the World Championship cycle -- were guaranteed to take those seats.
But there's certainly prestige to be had (and cash, of course) by winning a tournament, and the Chess World Cup is no exception. Kramnik won the first game of the four-game final with the white pieces and was never in much danger of losing that lead, drawing the next three games to win the final 2.5-1.5. The closest the match came to delivering a second decisive result may have come in the final game, when Kramnik held a dominating position at the finish. Of course, he was in no mood to take the slightest of risks with the match in hand, and when Andreikin offered him a draw, he was more than happy to accept.
Kramnik's inclusion in the next Candidates Tournament is no surprise, and allowing him to go through in this manner will just ensure that someone else gets a spot through the other mechanisms for qualification (ratings and one organizer's choice, along with two spots going to the top Grand Prix finishers). Kramnik only lost out on a chance to be in this year's World Championship match because his tiebreaks were slightly worse than Magnus Carlsen's, as the two shared the top spot in the previous Candidates Tournament (after some nervy play saw both contenders lose in the final round). Andreikin will be expected to play spoiler, but these days -- where the difference between #2 (Levon Aronian, who will be the top seed in the Candidates if Carlsen should become World Championship) and #42 (Andreikin) is less than 100 rating points, it's hard to rule anyone out of the running in a single tournament.