Anand's victory in four key games
It is probably no longer a surprise for you when I tell you it was indeed Vishy Anand who won the 2014 Candidates tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk. The key to his tournament victory can in my view be described in one word: control. Vishy was in control from start to finish, running away early in the tournament with 2,5 out of 3, picking up one more win along the way and already after the penultimate round against Sergey Karjakin having a decisive lead. His play was also very much controlled, not taking excessive risks -draw being no disaster- but striking hard when given the opportunity!
In this blogpost I'd like to go over four key games that greatly helped towards tournament victory. You can play through the games using the gameviewer (see up), by reading the text, or viewing the four videos.
(Photo: courtesy of FIDE)
Well begun is halve done is a well known saying that surely applies here! Facing the man he had never beaten before with the white pieces Anand breaks the pattern and beats Levon Aronian in great technical style.
Anand, V. - Aronian, L.
FIDE Candidates 2014 2014.03.13
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 O-O 8.h3 Bb7 9.d3 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nbd2 Qd7 12.Nxe5 Nxe5 13.Rxe5 Nf6
The element of luck is important in an event like this. Here Vishy's preparation was -to put it mildly- modest and I was a bit surprised that Aronian was already in unfamiliar terrirtory. Had he prepared this properly then surely 13...Nf4! 14.Nf3 Nxg2! would have followed. The point is that 15.Kxg2 is met with the amazing 15... a5!! threatening to win the piece back with a5-a4 and, surely not less important preparing a rook lift. Black has terrific compensation, for instance: 16.a4 Ra6! 17.d4 Rg6+ 18.Kh2 Bd6 and White can hardly move! As I said, luck is an important element. If Aronian had prepared this line properly the whole tournament may have taken a completely different turn! As it happened Aronian had to take a huge blow and Anand got of to a flying start.
14.Re1 Rae8 15.Nf3 Bd6 16.Be3 Re7 17.d4 Rfe8 18.c3 h6
Another defining moment in the game. White is a pawn up but Black's pieces are excellently placed so it doesn't seem like a 'full' pawn just yet. Instead of sitting on the pawn Anand now transform his advantage in highly instructive fashion!
19... Bxe5 20.dxe5 Rxe5 21.Qxd7 Nxd7
Black has his pawn back but White's bishop-pair garantuees him a slight but stable advantage.
22.Red1 Nf6 ( Taking of one of the bishops with Nc5 23.Bxc5 Rxc5 would generaly be desireable but here it allows 24.Rd7 when White's advantage is clear.)
23... c6 ( Or 23... bxc4 24.Bxc4 Nd5 25.Bd2 when Black managed to get the knight to d5 but at the cost of his queenside pawnstructure.)
24.Rac1 R5e7 25.a4 bxc4 26.Bxc4 Nd5 27.Bc5 Re4 28.f3 R4e5 29.Kf2
White's advantage is huge and Anand showed superb technique all the way till the end in order to turn in into a point.
29... Bc8 30.Bf1 R5e6 31.Rd3 Nf4 32.Rb3 Rd8 33.Be3 Nd5 34.Bd2 Nf6 35.Ba5 Rde8 36.Rb6 Re5 37.Bc3 Nd5 38.Bxe5 Nxb6 39.Bd4 Nxa4 40.Rxc6 Rd8 41.Rc4 Bd7 42.b3 Bb5 43.Rb4 Nb2 44.Bxb5 axb5 45.Ke3 Re8+ 46.Kd2 Rd8 47.Kc3 1-0
A dream start for Vishy obviously! After solidly drawing the second round it was the dynamic Azeri player Shakhriyar Mamedyarov that Anand had to face.
Mamedyarov, S. - Anand, V.
FIDE Candidates 2014 2014.03.15
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Qc2 dxc4 5.Qxc4 Bg4 6.Nbd2 Nbd7 7.g3 e6 8.Bg2 Be7 9.Ne5 Bh5 10.Nxd7 Nxd7 11.O-O O-O 12.Nb3 a5 13.a4 Bb4 14.e4 e5 15.Be3 exd4 16.Bxd4
Black can be pretty satisfied with his achievements after the opening but things dont yet look that bleak for White.
Out of the a2-g8 diagonal so that f7-f6 becomes available.
17.e5 Re8 18.f4 f6!
Breaking the pawn chain immediately!
19.exf6 ( 19.e6 would run into 19... Nb6! when White can't maintain his centre.)
Suddenly the threat of Be2 turns out to be very difficult to meet!
20.Bf3 ( 20.Rf2 Re7! Threatens to win a piece with Bf7 and besides, the rook on f2 looks a bit clumsly and vulnerable to attack by the black knight on either e4 or g4.)
20... Bxf3 21.Rxf3 Re4 22.Re3 Rxe3 23.Bxe3 Qe8 24.Bb6?
( Now it all goes very fast, better was 24.Bd4 in order to keep the possibity to take on f6 when needed. Mamedyarov agrees as he retreats his bishop on the next move.)
24... Qh5 25.Bd4
Too late. The reason I think this was one of those defining moments for Anand this tournament is the way he executes this game; it is Vishy as we used to know him, fast, precise and lethal.
One of my first coaches always said that in order to have a good party you need to invite all your friends over!
26.Rf1 Ng4 27.Qc2 c5!
With all White's pieces tied up defending it is no surprise that there is a winning tactical stroke.
29.Rd1 Bxc5 30.Bxc5 h6 ( It is never too late to blunder with Rxc5 31.Rd8+! )
After making this move Mamedyarov decided not to wait for 31...Ne3 but resigned directly. And that is how Vishy got to 2,5 out of 3! In this game we see the old Anand: immediately striking when given the chance. Out of the next 10 games the former World Champion drew 9 and won one more game. That win happened in round 9 against another former World Champion:
(Photo: courtesy of FIDE)
Anand, V. - Topalov, V.
FIDE Candidates 2014 2014.03.23
Black also has quite some problems to solve after, say, 31...Be4 32.Qb6 Kf7 33.h5! g6 34.h6 Bf5 35.Bf1 since g5 is always untouchable and White can slowly improve on the queenside, so Topalov's move is understandable. It is, however, also not a solution.
32.gxh6 gxh6 33.Qg4!
33... Kf7 34.h5!
34... Be4 ( It is very important that Black can't play 34... Bf5 35.Qf4 Qg5 as the pawn endgame is lost: 36.Qxg5 hxg5 37.Bxf5 exf5 38.h6 queening either e or h!)
Zugzwang, unable to move queen, king or pawns, bishop moves are all that is left.
35... Bh7 36.c3 Be4 37.c4!
37... Bf5 ( Black could no longer wait with 37... Bh7 because of 38.cxd5 exd5 39.Qf3+ Kg7 40.Qxd5 winning the d-pawn and the game.)
38.Qf4 dxc4 39.Bxf5 exf5 40.Qxf5+ Ke8 41.Qc8+ Kf7 42.Qxc4+ Kg7 43.Qd5
Given White's extra pawn and space advantage the queenendgame is an easy win:
43... Kf8 44.Kc3 Ke8 45.b4 Qc7+ 46.Kd4 Qe7 47.Qg8+ Kd7 48.Kd5 Kc7 49.Qg6 Qh4 50.Qd6+ Kc8 51.Kc5 Qf2+ 52.Qd4 Qf7 53.Qc4 Qg7 54.Kb6+ Kb8 55.Qc5 Qf7 56.Qd6+ Kc8 57.e6 1-0
Highly instructive! Because none of the other participants were particularly shining -both Kramnik and Aronian must be very dissapointed with their play and score- +3 proved easily sufficient for a rematch with Magnus Carlsen. The final obstacle was Karjakin who, with a win in round 13, could come within half a point striking distance. It is interesting to note that for Karjakin the tournament was simply not long enough. That may sound strange given it was a 14-round event but after a mediocre 2,5 out of 7 start he bounced back convingly making 5 out of 7 in 2nd leg!
Karjakin, Sergey - Anand, V.
FIDE Candidates 2014 2014.03.29
It is clear that Anand is in trouble here. Exactly 100 years ago a famous game took place between Capablanca and Lasker, where the material balance was the same but both sides had only 3 king-side pawns. Lasker managed to defend this position but with 4 pawns Black's task should be considerably more difficult. In general White's ideal is to find a target within Black's pawn structure, attack it with both knight and bishop, take the pawn and liquidate into a winning pawn-endgame. Easier said then done though, especially against a very well defending Anand!
Very important, the natural 1...Ke6 allows White to change the structure in a favourable way. 2.f4! Rb1 (2... exf4+ 3.Nxf4+ Kf7 4.Nd5 shows the strength of white's minor pieces when there are targets within Black's camp.) 3.fxe5 fxe5 and although I am not at all sure White can win here, there is at least a target on e5.)
2.hxg5 ( I think 2.Kd2 was a better chance and when the pawns get exchanged on h4 White has to plans; he can bring his knight to f5, but it is difficult to see how to make progress afterwards, but more chances are offered by striving for the f4-push. The game continuation looks very stong, but allows Black to escape by miracle.)
2... fxg5 3.Kf2 Rb5 4.g4 h4 ( Obviously 4...hxg4 5.fxg4 Kf6 6.Ng1! followed by Nf3 and Bd2 would win easily.)
5.Ng1 Rc5 6.Bd2 Rc2 7.Ke2 Ra2 8.Nh3
White has managed to find a target and attacks it twice. Mission completed?
9.Kd3 ( Miraculously the pawnendgame after 9.Nxg5 Rxd2+ 10.Kxd2 Kxg5 11.Ke3 Kf6 is drawn. That means White has no way to make progress here.)
9... Rb2 10.Ke3 Rb3+ 11.Ke2 Rb2 12.Kd1 Rb3 13.Ke2 Rb2 14.Kd3 Ra2 15.Nf2 Ra3+ 16.Bc3 Ra2 17.Ke3 Ra3 18.Kd2 Ra2+ 19.Ke1 Kf6 20.Kf1 Ra3 21.Nd1 Ke6 22.Kg2 Rb3 23.Ba5 Ra3 24.Bb6 Ra2+ 25.Nf2 Kf6 26.Kh3 Ra3 27.Kg2 Ra2 28.Bd8+ Kg6 29.Be7 Rb2 30.Bc5 Rc2 31.Bd6 Kf6 32.Kf1 Rc1+ 33.Kg2 Rc2 34.Bb4 Rb2 35.Ba5 Ra2 36.Bd8+ Kg6 37.Be7 Rb2 38.Bc5 Kf6 39.Kg1 Rb1+ 40.Kh2 Rb3 41.Kg2 Rb2 42.Ba3 Ra2 43.Bb4 Rb2 44.Be1 h3+
Don't provoke the Tiger!
45.Kf1 h2 46.Nh1 Rb1 47.Ke2 1/2-1/2
Draw agreed, which means in November we will see a rematch between Carlsen and Anand. Truth be told, I was not expecting Anand to be fighting for the top spots in this event, so perhaps I should be modest now and not give any prediction on the upcoming match. In any case I wish it to be more exciting then the previous match, which was clearly a one man show!
Once the tournament finished, Anand decided to try his luck at something completely unrelated to chess! I leave it to our dear readers to come up with the best caption :)
(Photo: courtesy of FIDE)
Check out our Game Viewer (see up, blue button) in order to play through the games analysed above! A smaller sample you find underneath.