Monday, November 10, 2014

Game II Carlsen Anand

Watching Game 2, I was irresistibly reminded of two rules or rather, two heuristics, both of which I learnt some 40 years ago. (A heuristic  can be described as a "rule-of-thumb"- I shall be using "Rule" and "Heuristic" almost interchangeably in the following).
Magnus Carlsen broke one of those rules and Viswanathan Anand ignored the other. The result was a one-sided classic. Carlsen demonstrated yet again, how he can squeeze effortless victories out of a seemingly dull, dry simple position.
In my youth, when I actually played chess instead of waffling about it, we often spoke about a legendary creature, " The Russian Schoolboy". Citizens of the Soviet Union were generally referred to as "Russians' by Anglocentric sepoys like us (Vide Rajiv Malhotra). Being sexist, we also assumed that "Russian girls" didn't play chess.
The "Russians" were taught to play chess in school.  If they had a smidgeon of talent, they ended up in the hands of strong coaches (elderly masters and grandmasters). They played incredibly strong local events. All this meant that the "Russians" quickly acquired a solid knowledge of basic chess technique.
They not only knew more about openings systems by rote. They knew how to play different tabiya or characteristic middlegames arising from popular openings.  They knew what to do in typical middlegames, what to do in typical endgames. Quite as importantly, they knew what not to do.  Much of that knowledge was encapsulated in little sayings ( "Develop knights before bishops", "rook endings are drawn", " The king is a strong piece", "pawn storm against opposite castling", etc.) .  
In India, we learnt such things slowly and painfully, by accumulating zeros on scoresheets. Several Indian players of my time and earlier (the 1970s and 80s) hit master status through sheer talent before they had learnt even basics of technique. This meant that there would be embarrassing losses every so often. Even Anand was disparagingly referred to as a "Coffee house player" circa 1989 by Viktor Korchnoi. Indians playing at international level often displayed gross "ignorance". We turned it into a joke. Every time someone broke some positional or technical heuristic, regardless of the results, he would be told "every Russian schoolboy knows better".  
One of those dictums was that "three attacking pieces equal checkmate". This is a gross over-generalisation of course. Mate can be delivered by just one piece (with the help of self-blocks as in Philidor's Smothered Mate). It is often delivered by two pieces. Sometimes, even three pieces cannot do the job. But it's an useful heuristic: If three pieces can participate in a given attack, the act of aggression has to be taken very seriously.
Every Russian schoolchild (let's drop the sexism) is also taught not to do something ridiculous, best described as the early rook lift. Beginners have a tendency to try and release rooks into action with an early a4/h4 and Ra3/Rh3. This is generally absurd for a variety of reasons. The rook is exposed; it results in pawn weaknesses; it is often a waste of valuable moves when other pieces can be profitably developed.
The standard rules of development suggest that players develop knights before bishops and bishops before rooks. This is because good squares for the Kt are easily determined even in the early opening. ( A Kt on f3 controls 8 squares, versus three controls for a Kt g1).
Bishops have more options and it's often unclear which diagonal, let alone which specific square, a bishop should be parked on. Rook placement can be even more indeterminate. Even with open files, it is often difficult to judge which rook should move where. Obviously concrete opening systems have more concrete development sequences.
Carlsen avoided the super-boring mainline of the Berlin Defence against his Spanish Opening. Anand and Carlsen have played the Berlin umpteen times, with switched colours as well.  The world champion opted for an early, unprovoked Bxc6 and by move 13. d4 Qc7, a close-to-equal position resulted. 
White has a little space edge. There are opposite coloured bishops which could be a destabilising factor with so many pieces on board.  But this is infinitesimal. Most people were probably expecting a draw without too much excitement.
White played 14. Ra3!?. The rook lift that beginners are castigated for. The idea is almost crudely simple. The rook can swing to the king-side, and there, it becomes a temporarily extra piece because black's a8 rook is not so easy to transfer to the kingside. A more subtle factor. White doesn't know where his bishop would be ideally placed. So, he may as well delay the bishop's development. 

Diagram after 18. Nf5 Be6
White now has all his pieces pointed at the black king. Even if Bxf5 is played, the proverbial three pieces will still be pointed at the king. Black had to react actively. Challenging by Qf7 or taking Bxf5 directly, or Rd7 trying to defend g7 and building some sort of battery on the d-file were all possible defences. Machine analysis suggests that white's advantage is slight, if he has an objective edge at all.
But it seems as though Anand just didn't take the build up seriously. His defensive instincts didn't kick in until it was too late.
Diagram after 19. -- Ng6  
White played a terrific move 20 h4. There is an inhuman defence but in practice, this position is already close to lost. The computers were all rooting for 20. Bh6 !? which is also nearly winning. Carlsen thought that was a draw by perpetual. However, 20 Bh6 can lead by force to a situation which might not be totally winning though its clearly good for white.
But 20.h4 sets problems which can only be solved one way. By now, 20.--Rd7 21. Bh6 is very unpleasant for Black. He has to play 20.--Kh8 ! with the trick 21. Rxg6 Qf7 to help dissolve pressure. The opposite bishops and the threats of Rd2 could help black hold. Even so, 20.--Kh8 is no picnic.
After 20.h4 Rd7 21. Bh6! is horrible for Black.
The simplifications of Bxf5 and then Bxf4 lead to a rook and queen endgame where white has a huge bind. Total control of the e-file, a safer king, better pawn structure, you name it. This sort of position tends to be lost in practice.

Diagram  after 28. -- b5
Some complications. Carlsen could probably have played the cool f3 stopping all discoveries but he chose to allow the tactics. A good decision as it turned out because Anand blundered.
Could the position have been held with 34. --Qd2 35. Qxf3 Qxc2 36. Kg2 ? Unlikely but it was black's only chance.
A fantastic victory for Carlsen. He broke the "rules" creatively with that rook lift. Anand's sense of danger deserted him somewhere in the early middle game when he allowed all the white pieces to climb into his kingside.

White: Carlsen,M  Vs Black: Anand,V
WCM  2014 Sochi RUS (2), 09.11.2014

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3 Bc5 5.0–0 d6 6.Re1 0–0 7.Bxc6 bxc6 8.h3 Re8 9.Nbd2 Nd7 10.Nc4 Bb6 11.a4 a5 12.Nxb6 cxb6 13.d4 Qc7 14.Ra3!? Nf8 15.dxe5 dxe5 16.Nh4 Rd8 17.Qh5 f6 18.Nf5 Be6 ?! (18.--Qf7) 19.Rg3 Ng6 [19...Rd7! 20.h4
[20.Bh6!? gxh6 21.Rxg6+ hxg6 22.Qxg6+ Kf8 23.Qxf6+ Qf7 24.Qxh6+ Ke8 25.Qh8+ Kd7 26.Rd1+ Kc7 27.Qxe5+ Kb7 28.Nd6+ Rxd6 29.Rxd6 is a forced long variation. White's better. Is he winning?]

 (The only good defence may be the computer try 20..Kh8 20. Rxg6 Qf7)  
21.exf5 Nf4 22.Bxf4 exf4 23.Rc3! c5 24.Re6! Rab8 25.Rc4 Qd7 26.Kh2 Rf8 Black has to shuffle rooks around. Maybe he can play h6 (stopping back-rank threats). Maybe he can challenge the e-file or double on d-file. But white is always a lot better.

27.Rce4 Rb7 28.Qe2 b5!? [29.Re7! Qd6 30. Rxb7?? f3+ is the defensive idea. Hence, 30.  f3 or even 29. f3 could stop all counter-play]
29.b3 bxa4 30.bxa4 Rb4 31.Re7 Qd6 32.Qf3!
Rxe4 33.Qxe4 f3+ 34.g3 h5?? [ Black is likely lost after 34...Qd2 5.Qxf3 Qxc2 36.Kg2 ) 35.Qb7 1–0


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