At 44, Vishy Anand continues to raise eyebrows. After he lost the world championship match to Magnus Carlsen last year, his critics were merciless: his play was too timid, he made too many draws, he was too old, he was done, he didn't have a chance, he shouldn't have even tried to play in the Candidates tournament. Anand proved them wrong.
Last Sunday, the Indian grandmaster and former world champion won the double-round robin Candidates tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, convincingly. He clinched the first place undefeated with one round to spare. He will play Carlsen for the world title again in November.
Anand showed a steady hand when other Candidates faltered. He rose up as others went down. Anand's dominance is seen clearly from the final crosstable. Sergey Karjakin sneaked into second place with a last round win. Others could not reach more than 50 percent.
Anand's main rivals collapsed in the second half. First, Russia's Vladimir Kramnik lost two games and was out. Levon Aronian of Armenia dropped the last two games.
Anand scored three victories, mostly outplaying his foes positionally. It was a smooth run. He may not regain the world title, but he now knows what to expect from Carlsen. He can calibrate his play better than last year in Chennai, India, and make the match more exciting.
Anand can still play sharply as he demonstrated in the game against Dmitry Andreikin of Russia. But he admitted he was tired in the end. No wonder: not only were the grandmasters commenting on the game puzzled by the complications; even the computer programs couldn't agree. Perhaps we demand too much from the top players. When computers cannot show what is best, how can a mere human decide where to go?
Anand,Viswanathan - Andreikin,Dmitry
FIDE Candidates, Khanty-Mansiysk 2014
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5
The light bishops are often exchanged in the Capablanca variation of the Caro-Kann and the player who controls the light squares usually gets the upper hand.
5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 e6
The old matadors, such as Capablanca, Flohr, Botvinnik or Petrosian, played 7...Nd7, not allowing the knight leap to e5.
8.Ne5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 Nd7 11.f4
White can now support the advanced knight.
11...Bb4+ 12.c3 Be7 13.Bd2 Ngf6 14.0-0-0 0-0 15.Qf3
More exciting than 15.Ne4 Nxe4 16.Qxe4 Nxe5 17.fxe5 Qd5 Anand-Carlsen, World championship match 2013.
Controlling the light squares, white is ready for any action in the center.
The legendary Bent Larsen would have approved. He played the rook pawn move in similar positions, for example against Karpov in Amsterdam 1980. There are other choices:
A. 16...b5 17.c5 gives white a free attack on the kingside.
B. 16...c5?! the usual counterpunch runs here into Sergei Movsesian's tricky idea: 17.d5! exd5 (17...Nxe5? 18.fxe5 Qxe5 19.Bf4 and the black queen is caught in the middle of the board.)
18.Nf5 and now:
b1)18...Bd8 19.Qg3 Nh5 20.Nxh6+ Kh7 21.Qd3+ f5 22.Nhf7!?Nxe5 23.Nxe5 dxc4 24.Qf3 Nf6 25.Bc3 with powerful attack.
b2)18...Rfe8 19.Qg3 Nh5 20.Nxh6+ Kf8 (20...Kh7 21.Qd3+ Kxh6 22.Ng4#) 21.Qf3 Bf6 22.Qxh5 Nxe5 23.fxe5 Rxe5 24.Nf5 wins.
17.Bc3?! b5!? (17...Bb4 is possible) 18.Qxc6 Qxc6 19.Nxc6 Bd6 20.Ne5 bxc4 is good for black.
17...Rad8 18.Bc1 a4
This novelty was approved by a majority of chess engines. Black wants to establish some squares for his pieces on the kingside. Black still had time to improve his defense: 18...Rfe8 19.Ne2 c5 (19...h5 20.Ng3 c5!?) 20.g4 with sharp play.]
19.Rhe1 a3 20.b3 Bb4 21.Re3 c5!?
It was possible to wait with 21...Rfe8 but Andreikin got tired doing nothing. The game gains speed.
22.d5 exd5 23.cxd5
Vishy makes a practical decision. The computers suggest 23.Nf5 dxc4 (23...d4 24.Re2 Kh7 25.g4±) and now:
A. 24.Rxd7!? Rxd7 25.Qg3 Ne8 26.Nxc4 Qd8 (26...f6 27.Qg6 Qd8 28.Nxh6+ Kh8 29.Nf5 Kg8 30.Nb6! Qxb6 31.Rxe8Â±) 27.Rxe8 Qf6 28.Re5 with white's edge.
B. 24.Nxc4 Kh7 25.Re7 Rde8 and black can hold.
23...Nb6 24.Red3 Qc8?
Too slow. White now has the advantage. Black had better choices.
White gets a small edge after 24...c4 25.bxc4 Nxc4 26.Nxc4 Qxc4 27.Rd4 Qc3 28.d6.
However, the engines show that after 24...Nbxd5 25.Rxd5 Nxd5 26.Rxd5 Rxd5 27.Qxd5 Rd8 black may equalize.
Black is having a hard time. 25...c4? is also pointless: 26.bxc4 Nxc4 (26...Rfe8 27.Rb3 Bc5 28.Rb5+-) 27.Rd4! b5 28.Nc6 wins.
Anand is winning. The black king does not have enough defenders.
Black also has problems after 26...Qf5 27.g4 Qh7 28.Qxb7+-; or 26...Qe6 27.Nxf6+ Qxf6 28.Qxb7+-.
The knight exchange does not spoil the win, but
27.d7! was much stronger, for example:
A. 27...Nbxd7 28.Nxf6+ Rxf6 29.Nxd7+-;
B. 27...Nfxd7 28.Qg4 g6 29.Nxf7! Kxf7 30.f5 Rc6 31.fxg6+ Kg8 (31...Rxg6 32.Rf1+) 32.Qf4 Rxg6 33.Rd6+-;
C. 27...Qc7 28.f5! and now:
c1) 28...Qxe5 29.Re3! wins.
c2) 28...c4 29.Nxc4 Rc6 (29...Nxc4 30.fxe6+-) 30.Bf4+-;
c3) 28...Rxe5 29.Nxf6+ gxf6 (29...Kh8 30.Bxh6! gxh6 31.Qf4 Kg7 32.Nh5+ Kh7 33.Qg3+-) 30.Bxh6, threatening 31.Qg4+.
The pawn has a grip on black's position.
Anand is making it more complicated, since white should win after
29.Ng4! Rc6 (29...Rg6 30.f5 Rxg4 31.Qxg4+-) 30.f5!, for example 30...Qb8 31.f6!; or 30...c4 31.Bf4+-; or 30...Rxd7 31.f6! Rxd3 32.Nxh6+!; or 30...h5 31.Bf4 hxg4 32.Qe4! wins.
The next sequence is rather forced.
29...c4 30.Rg3 g6 31.h5 cxb3 32.Rxb3 Na4 33.hxg6 fxg6 34.Rxb4 Nc3+ 35.Kc2!
Walking into discovered checks is the right solution. After 35.Ka1? Nxd1 36.Rc4 Qd6 37.Qf3 Rxd7! (37...Qxe5+? 38.fxe5 Rxf3 39.Rc8! Rff8 40.Rxd8 Rxd8 41.e6+-) 38.Qb3 Rff7 39.Bxa3 Qd5 the chances are equal.
There is no profitable check, so black takes care of the square c4.
In the heat of battle, Anand was not sure about the following variations:
A. 36.Bd2! Nxa2+ 37.Kb1 Nxb4 (37...Nc3+ 38.Ka1+-) 38.Bxb4 a2+ 39.Kb2+-;
B. 36.Rc4 bxc4 37.Kxc3 Qa5+ 38.Kxc4 Qa4+ 39.Kc3+-
But both lines win.
Again 37.Bd2! was more powerful, for example 37...Nc5+ 38.Kxa3 and now:
A. 38...Nxd7 39.Kb2 Rd6 40.Bc3 Nxe5 41.Bxe5 Rd2+ 42.Rxd2 Rxd2+ 43.Ka1+-
B. 38...Ra6+ 39.Kb2 Nd3+ (39...Qa5 40.a4! Nxa4+ 41.Kc2 Qc7+ (41...Nc5 42.Bc3+-) 42.Kb1 Nc3+ 43.Bxc3 Qxc3 44.Rb2+-) 40.Kb1! wins, but not 40.Nxd3? Rxa2+ 41.Kxa2 Qc2+ 42.Nb2 Ra8+ 43.Ra4 Rxa4 mate.
Vishy is still on the winning path. He could have even sacrificed a rook: 38.Kxa3 Qa5+ 39.Kb2 Qxb4+ 40.Ka1 Ra6 41.Qd5+ Ne6 (41...Kh8 42.Bb2 Nb3+ 43.Kb1+-) 42.Bb2 and white should win.
After 38...Na6+ 39.Kb1 Nxb4 40.Qb3+ wins.
The computers point out a fancy win 39.Rc4! bxc4 but are not sure which choice is the best now:
A. 40.Qxa3! the simplest 40...Nc5 (40...Ra8 41.Qe7 Qd8 42.Ba3+-) 41.Rd5 Nb7 42.Qc3 Nc5 (42...Rd6 43.Rxd6 Nxd6 44.Qg3 Rxd7 (44...g5 45.Qg4!) 45.Nxd7 Qxd7 46.Qxg6+ Kf8 47.Qxh6++-) 43.Ng4+-;
B. 40.Qd5+ Kh7 41.Ng4 Qb6 (41...Rff8 42.Bxa3) 42.Nxf6+ Qxf6 43.Qe5 Qxe5 (43...Qf7 44.Qb5 Nb2 45.Qd5; 43...Qf5+ 44.Qxf5 gxf5 45.Bxa3 Nb6 46.Bc5 Nxd7 47.Be7 Ra8 48.Rxd7 Rxa2+ 49.Kc3 Rxg2 50.Bf8++-) 44.fxe5 Nc5 45.Bxa3+-;
a) 40...Kh7 41.Be7 Qb8 42.Qa3+- Qb7 43.Bxd8 Qe4+ 44.Kc1 Qxf4+ 45.Kb1 Qf5+ 46.Nd3 cxd3 47.Qxa4 (47.Bxf6? d2+ 48.Ka1 Qxf6+ 49.Kb1 Qf5+=) 47...Rd6 48.Ba5 Rxd7 49.Bc3+-;
b) 40...Qb6 41.Qd5+ Kh7 42.Rd4!+-;
c) 40...Re6 41.Qd5 Qb6 42.Qxc4 winning material.
The alternative 39.Kd2 Qd6+ 40.Nd3 is not easy to choose before the time control, but it should win, too:
a) 40...Rf7!? - best - 41.Bxa3 (41.Ke1 Rfxd7 42.Rd2 Qc7±) 41...Rfxd7 42.Rb3 +-
b) 40...Qxd7 41.Bxa3 Nb6 42.Bb2 Rd6 43.Rb3 Nc4+ 44.Kc1+-
c) 40...Rxd7 41.Bxa3 Nb2 42.Rxb2 Qxa3 43.Kc1 Rfd6 44.Nf2+-
39...Nc5+ 40.Kc2 Na4+
The time control is over and all options in move 39 are still available to Anand. But human mind has its limits and a draw suited the Indian GM just fine.
Note that in the replay windows below you can click either on the arrows under the diagram or on the notation to follow the game.
Image by Kiril Merkuriev