''…there can certainly be no doubt that in our match Julio Granda was the deserved winner.''
Anish' article on World Cup 2013 with his game annotations.
My first real high level knockout experience was the not-yet finished World Cup in Tromso. In the previous World Cup, I failed to qualify through the tough European Championship, yet this time I was more fortunate and got my spot under the sun, as the first reserve by rating.
As it often is, in knockout tournaments, being a highly seeded player, the opposition grows stronger and stronger with every round. However already from the very start, I was opposed by strong grandmasters and running ahead, it was already the third round that turned out to be fatal for me.
My first opponent was a hope of Arab chess, young and promising grandmaster Salem. While we all had one month to prepare, it was still hard to use this month wisely, as first of all the role of opening preparation can easily be overestimated and secondly it gets hard to guess your eventual opponents from second round onwards. Nevertheless, I came armed with some ideas and was looking forward to the exciting event.
A. R. Saleh Salem - Anish Giri (click arrows to view the annotation)
Through to the next round
In the second game my inexperience in the format was visible, I got a serious advantage, but being very confused, needing only a draw, I quickly wasted almost all of it and offered a draw in a dull endgame where only I could play for a win (most likely without any success though).
One way or the other, I was through to the next round.
Having white in the first game with Li Chao, I saw no reason not to repeat my opening from my previous game with Salem (it was very convenient to prepare the same idea against both players, who have an identical repertoire!). I was very fortunate, as I noticed that my initial analysis on the Nc6 system that my opponent played in g3 Grunfeld were too hectic. Having noticed that well-known grandmaster Nikolic (who, by the way, resides in the Netherlands) has played a dozen of games in this system, I quickly realized that he is the man to follow.
Anish Giri - Chao Li (click arrows to view the annotation)
Before the second game I was feeling somewhat worried, seeing ghosts everywhere during the preparation. Fortunately my second Jan Smeets, who got knocked out in the first round (due to an unfortunate memory fail in the opening), managed to fix the ghostly problems and I more or less confidently arrived to the second game. I didn't have many doubts to sacrifice a pawn in a well known theoretical position. Perhaps Li Chao didn't like the course of the game or on the contrary, overestimated his position, but either way, he very soon blundered and I even managed to win, to convincingly go through to the third round.
Before the encounters I was brought into some confusion, when every person I would meet would tell me legends about my opponent, which perhaps caused my play to be overcautious in this very unfortunate match for me.
In the first game I got outplayed after Julio Granda played a very dubious opening with white. Mostly I indulged it upon myself, getting overambitious in the time trouble of my opponent and making a few dubious moves, creating half-move threats. At the end we both got tired and I blindly went into complications which I thought would give me decent chances to escape with a draw. However, my opponent found the right idea, but went for the wrong execution, and blundered a piece.
Lucky as I was, I was still under the impression that I got outplayed and for some reason, the same happened in the second game. Again my opponent pushed his g-pawn forward somewhat prematurely (g2-g4 in game 1, g6-g5 in game 2), but again it only got me confused. Being under too much tension I tried to stabilize the already stable position and eventually created too many kingside weaknesses. I almost escaped again in my opponents time trouble, but finally when it was time to release the tension, I kept it and at the end my blunder secured a 1-1 score. A tie-break!
The exact same scenario happened in our first tie-break game. Again somewhat premature g4 push, again overcautious play, again the time trouble and again a lucky chance, but this time I didn't use it and lost. In the second tie-break, it was me who pushed the g-pawn to the fourth rank, but it didn't bring me anything and I was never close to a victory.
This loss brought me into confusion, as I felt I was still in a fine shape (confirmed by the way by the 11,5/12 win in the blitz tournament the night after), but one way or the other, the tournament was over for me. Unfortunately I had to witness my nemesis, Julio Granda Zuniga, blundering both games away to Fabiano Caruana in the next, whose play doesn't seem any convincing lately, but there can certainly be no doubt that in our match Julio Granda was the deserved winner.
Now it's time for me to watch the rest of the event from home and have rest, while the valuable experience will certainly prove useful in future. On the agenda there is a Spanish league and after being charged with a new portion of the delicious jamon Iberico I am off to the final stage of Grand Prix in Paris.