Home Page Chess Life Online 2007 September Anand on the Brink
|Anand on the Brink|
|By GM Ian Rogers|
|September 29, 2007|
Having been on the brink of defeat in the penultimate round of the World Championship tournament in Mexico City, Viswanathan Anand is now on the brink of taking the FIDE world title for the second time.|
Should Anand draw with Peter Leko in the final round he will become the oldest player to win the World Championship since Mikhail Botvinnik regained the title in 1961 from Mikhail Tal.
However four hours into the 13th round, it seemed that Anand's coronation would be delayed or even overturned. After his main rivals, Vladimir Kramnik and Boris Gelfand had played an uneventful draw; Anand fell into deeper and deeper trouble against Alexander Grischuk. By the first time control Anand found himself in a hopeless rook endgame but Grischuk played hesitantly and allowed the Indian a magical escape.
The first game to finish was the draw between Kramnik and Gelfand.
"I had a very interesting idea," said Gelfand, "a pawn sacrifice for very good compensation for White. But it turned out that Black had analyzed it deeper and found a way to equalize. I wanted to play 21.d5 and spent a lot of time on it but I think then Black will have an excellent position."
Kramnik expressed disappointment that he had no chance to push for a win. "To be honest, [when I played the Semi-Slav] I was hoping for very sharp lines like the pawn sacrifice in the Moscow variation or the 6.Qc2 and 7.g4 line in the Meran which Boris used to play as well. But unfortunately Boris had an idea in another line, which doesn't give Black any real chances to win.
"After my match with Topalov I did some work on this line and found this 14...a5 and 14...Bb4 idea. Boris found an interesting way to set problems with 19.Rab1 and 20.Qxb6 but it seems that Black is in time there also to get an equal position."
Gelfand was not satisfied with his general opening preparation with White. "At least three times in this tournament my opponent with Black spent only half an hour [playing] preparation and I didn't have any chance. I have to work more and I have to work better."
Peter Leko outplayed Alexander Morozevich convincingly but was initially unable to attend the press conference, as he was required to take a drug test.
"I played very badly and lost very convincingly," admitted Morozevich. "My chess understanding is not enough to tell you [where I went wrong]."
"After yesterday I was motivated to put things right," Leko explained when he finally reached the VIP room. "Alexander's choice of opening was not so successful. It is a typical Sicilian position. I remembered my game against Topalov from Morelia last year when I thought for a long time and didn't find a good plan. So I thought that this time I would not think and would just play natural moves.
"I was very happy with the move 12.Nxc6 - I thought it would be my sort of position. If 12...Bxc6 13.Bg5 and I didn't see Black's counterplay and after 12...bxc6 my bishop comes to this [a2-g8] diagonal and it is positionally very bad for Black.
Levon Aronian and Peter Svidler fought each other to a standstill in a game where Svidler's tactical alertness neutralized Aronian's positional pressure.
Svidler released the tension prematurely with 17...bxc4 after which Aronian should have made more of Svidler's weak d pawn. However 21.h4 gave away the key g4 square and Svidler's 25...d5!! equalized completely.
The longest and most dramatic game of the day was the epic Grischuk-Anand battle.
"It is difficult to play a tournament without one bad day," said Anand. "For me today was the day that I chose to play some lousy moves - but not enough [of them]!
"In chess we have a drawing margin, especially rook endings. Not all rook endings are drawn; some are completely lost and I was really scared that I'd stumbled onto one of those."
Opening: Queen's Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 dxc4 7.e4 g5 8.Bg3 b5 9.Be2 Bb7 10.h4 g4 11.Ne5 Rg8 12.Nxg4 Nxg4 13.Bxg4 b4 14.Na4 c5!?
This appeared to come as a surprise to Grischuk, although Paco Vallejo, Anand's former second, tried it in the 2005 World Cup. "As usual I didn't guess the opening," said Grischuk. "However I remembered that White could get a slightly better ending so I went for it."
15.d5 exd5 16.exd5 Qxd5 17.Qxd5 Bxd5 18.0-0-0 Rxg4
So far the players have been following some analysis of Christopher Lutz. Lutz believed that 18...Bxg2 19.Rhe1+ Be7 was playable for Black but Anand goes his own way. By now Anand, who had used only four minutes, was an hour ahead on the clock.
19.Rxd5 Nd7 20.Re1+ Kd8 21.Red1 Rd4 22.R1xd4 cxd4 23.Rxd4 Rc8 24.Bd6 Ke8?!
"Vishy should have played 24...Bxd6 25.Rxd6 Ke7 26.Rxh6 and now either 26...Nf6 or 26...Ne5 and he has some compensation for the pawn," said Grischuk.
"A bit careless," I should have been more alert, played 24...Bxd6 25.Rxd6 Ke7, worked a little bit and found a draw."
25.Re4+ Kd8 26.Bxf8 Nxf8 27.a3!
"[Now Black] has a very difficult endgame," said Grischuk.
27...bxa3 28.bxa3 Rc6 29.Nb2 Rf6 30.Re2 c3 31.Nd1 Ra6 32.Ra2 Ng6?!
Grischuk believed that Anand missed an opportunity to play 32...Rc6 33.Rc2 Ne6 34.Rxc3 Rxc3 35.Nxc3 Nf4 36.g3 Nd3+ "and we get a knight endgame I think it should be drawish but I also keep some chances for a win here," said Grischuk.
33.g3 Rc6 34.Kc2 Ne7
It seems that Black may be just in time to hang onto his c pawn but Grischuk has a surprise in store.
After the game Grischuk believed that he had missed a serious winning chance here with 35.Kb3!? Nd5 36.Rc2 but was underestimating his own chances in the coming rook endgame.
35...Nd5 36.Kd3! Rxc3+
36...Nxc3 37.Rc2 is even worse for Black.
37.Kd4 a5 38.Kxd5 a4 39.Kd4 Rb3 40.Kc4 Kc8
40...Ke7 41.Re2+ Kf6 42.Re3 would be similar. "I'd already missed that ...a5-a4 was not a draw - that he could transfer his rook [from a2]," said Anand. "If my king was on f6 it would be a draw. For some reason I thought that I could just hang on to his king but I missed this 41.Rc2 move."
"Any normal human after blundering [like this] would very quickly get a losing position but Vishy is special," said Grischuk.
41.Rc2! Kd7 42.Rc3 Rb2 43.Rf3 Ke6 44.g4
When told that Josip Dorfman considered this ending to be losing for Black, Anand conceded that it might be true - "These Soviet guys know all their endgames...[However during the game] I didn't see a win for him and I didn't see a draw for me."
44...Ke7 45.Kd5 Rb3 46.Ke4 Rb2 47.Kf5 Rb5+ 48.Kf4 Kf6 49.Rd3 Rb2 50.f3 Ra2 51.Ke4 Rh2 52.Rd4?
This is where Grischuk misses his chance to throw the World Championship tournament wide open. After 52.h5! Ra2 53.Kd5 Kg5 54.Kc4 Black has many tries here but they all seem to fail, e.g. 54...f5 (54...Rb2 55.Rd5+ Kf6 56.Rb5! gives White just enough time to bring his king across to the a pawn, while; 54...Kf4 55.Kb4 Rf2 56.Kxa4 Rxf3 57.Rxf3+ Kxf3 58.g5 ! is just too slow.) 55.Kb4 fxg4 56.fxg4 Kxg4 57.Rd5 and, since 57...Rh2 58.Kxa4 Rxh5 59.Rxh5 Kxh5 60.Kb5 is one tempo too slow, White will win the a pawn without allowing any counterplay on the kingside.
52...Rxh4 53.Rxa4 Rh1!
Correctly avoiding 53...h5 "I need asymmetrical pawns," explained Anand. "If White gets a and f pawn against f pawn then I am losing. So it was very important not to rush [...h5]."
54.Rb4 Ra1 55.a4 Kg6 56.Kd5 Ra3
"It's a typical idea in the endings," said Anand. "You attack one pawn on the kingside and one on the queenside and [this time] it seems to hold."
57.Kc6 Rxf3 58.a5 f5
"Now I knew it was a draw," said Anand.
59.a6 Ra3 60.gxf5+ Kxf5 61.Kb6 h5 62.Rb5+
62.a7 Rxa7 63.Kxa7 Kg5 64.Kb6 h4 65.Kc5 h3 66.Kd4 h2 67.Rb1 Kf4! also draws by a hair.
62...Kg4 63.Ra5 Rf3 64.a7 Rf8 65.a8Q Rxa8 66.Rxa8 h4 67.Kc5 h3 68.Kd4 h2 69.Rh8 Kg3 70.Ke3 Kg2 71.Rg8+ Kf1 72.Rh8 Kg1 73.Rxh2 Kxh2 74.Ke4 ½-½