Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Game Three Anand-Carlsen Sochi 2014

One All.  
Game Three is destined to make it to anthologies of modern classics along with Game Two. Three showcased Anand's strengths in the same way that Two showcased Carlsen's genius. This match could turn into an aesthetic delight as well as a thriller if this quality of play is maintained.
Anand's best efforts fall into a certain pattern
1) A sharp well-prepared opening leads to a chaotically imbalanced position he understands better
2)  When the prep ends, he calculates complex tactics as precisely as a computer engine    
3) A brutal finish obviates the need to play technical endgames.
Game III was a very good example of an "Anand special" as he checked all the boxes.

In one sense, playing two matches versus Carlsen may have forced Anand to somewhat modify his attitude to the game. Whatever the outcome of this match, this could give his career a new lease of life. Anatoly Karpov became a stronger player after he lost the title to Kasparov because Kasparov's uincompromising attitude forced Karpov to try harder. Similarly Carlsen's attitude may force Anand to give full rein to his own strengths.

There has always been a paradoxical disconnect in Anand's playing style versus his approach. Anand has an aggressive repertoire and an active style. But his overall approach has always been very "rational", not to say minimalistic. He has been happy to win matches or tournaments by minimal margins, if he can do so without taking risks or expending calories.

Anand is a tactician par excellence with a talent for navigating chaos. His opening repertoire and his specific middlegame choices reflect his preference for complexity. But he also takes draws much too early. This probably means he is under-rated because he willingly forgoes many half-points.

Look at a recent example. Anand won the 2014 Candidates with  a score of three wins, eleven draws (+3,=11).  As many as six of the eight players in the double-rounder scored three wins each. But Anand was the only unbeaten player and that was enough for him to win in comfort.

Could he have done better? Yes indeed!

Anand took a draw from a completely winning position against Andrekin after playing brilliantly through wild complications. (He had actually seen the winning line in depth). He  took a draw in his other game with Andreikin when he had a superior endgame with zero-risk. He let Svidler off the hook after effortlessly attaining a superior position out of the opening. He agreed to a quick draw against Aronian from a superior position.  In each of these cases, he played aggressively and arguably, brilliantly. In each case, he had much more in the way of winning chances. Quite possibly, he could have racked up at least a couple more wins. All he had to do was play on.

That minimalistic attitude might have contributed to the first match loss against Carlsen. Anand was better early on in the Chennai match. But he took draws from strength in Games 1 and 3 and thus, let Carlsen off the hook.

Carlsen doesn't do early draws. In contrast to Anand, he squeezed wins from flat-equal endgames in Chennai to punish Anand and of course, he has played brilliantly to win Game two in Sochi from another equal position. Coming into the rematch, Anand is very aware of Carlsen's uncompromising attotude and he also knows that Carlsen can outplay him from level, "normal" positions.

Ergo, Anand is being forced to play aggressively without the option of a bailout. That means he is being forced to do things that he is actually very good at doing.

Game III also highlighted another of Anand's strengths, one that he is given far too little credit for.
This is his mental resilience.  
One of the more exhaustive match previews asked a bunch of ten GMs (Including Tkachiev) to rate Carlsen and Anand across a bunch of different criteria.

The always entertaining Vlad Tkachiev summarised the results. On "Mental Resilience", the survey rated Carlsen at 6.7 versus Anand at 4.3 (on an ascending scale of 1-8). This was subjective of course but it's an interesting perception that Carlsen is reckoned mentally much stronger than Anand.

Tkachiev justified it by looking at tournaments where Anand and Carlsen had suffered an early loss  and then collating final results. Carlsen is much more likely to manage an eventual  plus-score and a high placement bouncing from an early loss. This is important  and of course, it indicates mental resilience.

But it ignores two rather important factors.
One is that Carlsen is simply the better player and the better tournament player, by a distance. Carlsen has more plus scores under all circumstances in tournaments, including on the rare occasions when he's started with an early loss.

The second factor is that match-play for high stakes is a very different beast from tournament play. It isn't possible to measure Carlsen's "mental resilience" in match-play. He has very little match experience and he's never been behind in a tight classical match.

But for what it's worth, Anand does have a track record in match play.
Anand has won tie-breakers for the World Title against Gelfand coming from behind.
 He won the final game of a World Title match against Topalov coming from behind.
He has won a Candidates Final against Kamsky coming from behind.
He has just equalised in this match after going behind.
Arguably , Anand has some degree of mental resilience and it might be under-estimated.
Onto the Game and a few critical moments

Diagram  after 7. c5 c6
As to the game, playing c5 in a QGD is one of Levon Aronian's ideas.  Black would ideally like to respond with e5 but this is usually impossible. A popular way to respond is to hit the Bf4 with 8.--Nh5 or a later Nh5. That approach has been tried several times in the Tashir Petrosian Memorial tournament that just concluded. 
Carlsen's move 8--b6 can also be followed by Nh5 at several stages. But he chose a much sharper, more  committal line.

Diagram after 19. f3 Ra5.
So far this is following a game Aronian vs Adams, 2013 where play went 20. Qe2 Qd7 21. fxe4 Rc8!?  and black had the better of a draw.  

White  produced his first new move 20. fxe4 at this stage and this leads by force to the next diagram

Diagram after 22. Qc6 bxa3.

Both sides have dangerous passed pawns. White's passer is more dangerous because it is more advanced and it can be supported with more muscle. Anand was still playing quickly.
 Diagram after  26. Rc6.

Quite amazingly this position has (almost) been reached before. Tomashevsky Vs Riazantsev, 2008 Russian Super Final also ended 1-0. However, in that game White's pawn was on h3, and no
t h2. Anand admitted he knew the game and also pointed out that h3 may be a key difference. There are variations where white would like to have the back-rank threats knocked out and h3 is useful. On the other hand, if black gets a battery with say Bd6-Qe5, white may want to play g3.

This position reminded me of Korchnoi -Spassky Game 7, candidates Final 1977-78. A similar QGD with far-advanced passed pawns and Korchnoi found the unbelievable 30. h3!! to win an incredible game

Diagram after 27. Bg3 Bb4
White finds the ice-cool 28. Ra1!  at this stage. This just kills off chances of some trick with a2 and white can play things like h3 if necessary before he figures out how to crack the blockade.  Carlsen was busted and from here on, he played desperate moves in severe time trouble.

White: Anand  Vs Black: Carlsen  [D37]
Game 3, WCM Sochi 2014

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 0–0 6.e3 Nbd7 7.c5 c6 8.Bd3 b6 9.b4 a5 10.a3 Ba6 11.Bxa6 Rxa6 12.b5 cxb5 13.c6 Qc8 14.c7 b4 15.Nb5 a4 16.Rc1 Ne4 17.Ng5 Ndf6 18.Nxe4 Nxe4 19.f3 Ra5 20.fxe4 Rxb5 21.Qxa4 Ra5 22.Qc6 bxa3 23.exd5 Rxd5 24.Qxb6 Qd7 25.0–0 Rc8 26.Rc6 g5 27.Bg3 Bb4 28.Ra1 Ba5?
[28...g4 29.Be5 Rxe5 30.dxe5 Be7 31.Rac1 also seems hopeless]
29.Qa6 Bxc7 30.Qc4 e5 31.Bxe5 Rxe5 32.dxe5 Qe7 33.e6 Kf8 34.Rc1 -- [34...Bxh2+ 35.Kxh2 Rxc6 36.Qxc6] 1–0


Blogger Haridaspal said...

Enjoyed the article. :)

4:00 AM  

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