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Anand Closes in on World Ttitle Print E-mail
By GM Ian Rogers   
September 25, 2007
Photo Macauley Peterson
Viswanathan Anand overcame the biggest obstacle on his road to the World Championship title by drawing with defending World Champion Vladimir Kramnik in Mexico City on Monday. He is still a full point ahead of the field, with 6.5/10. Boris Gelfand is the only other player with a plus score (5.5/10.)
In a game which was realistically Kramnik's last chance to challenge for first place in the tournament, Kramnik threw everything at his opponent but Anand proved that his opening preparation and renowned ability to stay calm under pressure were both ample to cope with whatever Kramnik threw at him. "Today's game was pretty tough," admitted Anand. "It took quite a lot of energy to calculate everything."

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 10.0-0
Kramnik follows the main line of an opening which has been well tested in Mexico City. He avoids both the 9.Ne5 line, which had brought Aronian disaster against Anand, and the 10.h4 variation, which Grischuk had used against Svidler with rather more success.
10...Nbd7 11.Ne5 Bg7 12.Nxd7 Nxd7 13.Bd6 a6 14.Bh5 Bf8 15.Bxf8 Rxf8 16.e5 Qb6 17.b3!?
A new move, perhaps inspired by Kramnik's second Loek van Wely who, playing the Black side, ran into all sorts of trouble against his countryman Sipke Ernst after 17.Ne4 0-0-0 18.Nd6+ Kb8 19.b3!? (19.Nxf7 Rxf7 20.Bxf7 Nxe5 was fine for Black in a 2006 Radjabov-Anand game.) 19...f6 20.bxc4 fxe5 21.a4!.
17...0-0-0 18.bxc4 Nxe5 19.c5 Qa5 20.Ne4 Qb4! 21.Nd6+ Rxd6 22.cxd6
"[My second] Peter-Heine [Nielsen] noticed that this 17.b3 was possible some time ago," said Anand "but when we found this exchange sacrifice I felt that Black has very good compensation with two pawns."
22...Nd7 23.a4!?
Anand felt that Kramnik may have hurried too much with a4 and axb5 but did not suggest an alternative plan.
23...Qxd6 24.Bf3 Nb6 25.axb5 cxb5 26.Bxb7+ Kxb7 27.Qh5 Nd5 28.Qxh6 Nf4!
"When I found this trick with 28...Nf4 I thought it was quite unpleasant for [Vlad] but I was getting too ambitious," said Anand.
The best move, according to Anand who might have been hoping for 29.Qxg5?? Ne2+ 30.Kh1 Qxh2+ 31.Kxh2 Rh8+ and was also not fearing;
29.g3 Ne2+ 30.Kg2 Qd5+ 31.f3 Rd8.
29...Qd5 30.f3 Rd8 31.Qg7 Rd7 32.Qf8 Ne2

"I thought 32...Ne2 was very strong but completely missed [Vlad's reply]," admitted Anand. "I analyzed 32...Qd6 33.Qg7 Qd5 with a draw and maybe that's what I should have played."
33.Rfe1! Nxd4 34.Red1
"I was very worried about 34.Rad1!," said Anand, "because then I can't play ...e5 and ...f6 and my knight is just loose. I think this would have been very unpleasant."
34...e5 35.Rac1?!
"I just forgot to take the g pawn with 35.Qh6!," admitted Kramnik. "Then my position is very nice, although I don't know how much. I was overoptimistic about my attack."
"Yes, White is better," said Anand. "White's h pawn will be easier to push than my a pawn. But I think I can set up some sort of fortress."
35...Qd6 36.Qg8 f6 37.Rc8 a5! 38.h3 a4 39.Qe8
"If 39.Rdc1 Nb3 and Black is always in time to protect everything," explained Kramnik. "The problem is I couldn't see any mating construction."
39...Kb6! 40.Rb8+ Ka5
"Now I started to get optimistic about ...Ka5-b4," said Anand, "but with two rooks and queens on the board it is almost impossible to queen those [passed queenside] pawns. I saw my king going to b4, but I couldn't see it coming back!"
41.Ra8+ Draw Agreed
If Black is not willing to charge up the board he must go back to b6 and agree to a repetition of moves. Anand also thought 41...Kb4 42.Qg8 Qd5 43.Qf8+ ("I was not even sure about 43.Qc8!?," said Anand) 43...Qd6 would lead to a repetition.
Gelfand maintained his position a point behind the leader with a non-descript draw against Leko.


Gelfand gained some initiative with his Catalan but was unable to do anything with it. Gelfand spent a long time on 20.Bg5, wondering whether to force a draw with 20.Bxg7 Kxg7 21.Nxd7 Qxd7 22.Qg5 but decided to keep pushing. A few moves later he changed his mind and forced the same perpetual check.
Leko said that he had considered trying for more himself with 21...c5 instead 21...h6 but also thought better of the idea.
Yet another questioner at the press conference asked about whether short draws were a cancer on the game - and yet again was told that the players did not agree, this being a very strong tournament, etc, etc.
Aronian moved back up to 50% and a share of third place with an easy win over Alexander Grischuk, who has now lost three of his last four games.


Once again Grischuk ran himself into ridiculous time trouble, taking more than an hour to get to move 8 and having used all but 11 minutes of his allocated 2 hours over the first 20 moves. By then Grischuk's position was already very shaky and seven moves later the Russian could resign.
Commenting on the moves does not make a lot of sense in a game so dominated by the clock. Grischuk's ambitious 7...g5!? led to rough equality in every respect except the clock. Aronian's 15.g4 was an inspired idea, the threat of Nf1-g3 causing a panicky 15...h5 reaction after which Black never regained the pawn.
Peter Svidler and Alexander Morozevich played a game which was, unfortunately, befitting their place in the tournament standings.

Morozevich caught Svidler by surprise by playing a Caro-Kann and White gained nothing from the opening. "It was dangerous but I didn't see anything clear for White," said Morozevich.

However 23.b3 generated some play for White, who then spoiled everything with 29.Be3? - "One of the worst moves of the tournament," said Svidler - when 29.Be5! was playable.

At this point Svidler had 12 minutes to 5 to reach move 40, but he had to invest three of them retracting his 29th move  - "I also considered resigning" - after Morozevich's powerful 29...Rf8!

However Morozevich then returned the favour with 30...a6 (instead of 30...Bc5!) allowing Svidler to fight back with 31.c5!. This induced another mistake from Morozevich (32...Qb6) but despite two minutes thinking Svidler did not see the simple winning combination 33.Bxe6+!! Qxe6 (if 33...Kh8 34.Qxh6 checkmate!) 34.Bxc5! and Black must give up material. "I think we both missed that g7 was hanging [with mate after ...Rxe6]," said Svidler. "Yes, I was planning to take with my rook on e6!" admitted Morozevich.

"I thought that what I played was winning," added Svidler, "but then I realized that after 35.Bxf5 it is Black who is winning after 35...Qxf2+ 36.Kh2 Ng5!."
After then the time scramble left a position only slightly better for White and Morozevich held it without difficulty. "Obviously it is not going according to plan but after nine games it's getting easier; I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, even if it is the D-train," was Svidler's summing up.