05 April 2014

Commentary: Candidates 2014 - Round 3

The recent conclusion of the 2014 Candidates was disappointing - but only because I hated to see it end.  Anand showed what it meant to be a world-class competitor, ignoring everyone who declared his winning chances to be nil - which included the majority of the chess world, or at least the pundits - and outplaying everyone over the course of the tournament.

In this game from round 3, Anand plays a solid game in the Slav, but then does not hesitate to unbalance things and seize the initiative once White becomes overly aggressive.  Perhaps Mamedyarov was relying on the continuation from the Ivanchuck-Vallejo Pons game cited in the annotations, but Anand finds a more active pawn break and then shows how central domination can lead to tactical threats which White in the end simply cannot shake.

[Event "FIDE Candidates Tournament 2014"] [Site "Khanty-Mansiysk"] [Date "2014.03.15"] [Round "3"] [White "Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar"] [Black "Anand, Viswanathan"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D23"] [WhiteElo "2757"] [BlackElo "2770"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "61"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [EventCountry "RUS"] [TimeControl "40/7200:20/3600:900+30"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Qc2 dxc4 5. Qxc4 {we now have a position normally classified as belonging to the Queen's Gambit Accepted opening. However, I believe it is a good way for Slav players to meet White's fourth move, staying consistent with the spirit of the defense.} Bg4 (5... Bf5 { is by far the most played here, although the text move scores slightly better and is the "hot" move according to ChessBase. This is consistent with other lines of the Slav, where ...Bg4 is now more often played or at least considered viable.}) 6. Nbd2 Nbd7 7. g3 (7. e3 {at first glance seems the logical follow-up, but the text move's plan of developing the bishop on the long diagonal is the overwhelming favorite. In this variation, White's dark-squared bishop is more cramped, whereas in the game it can go to e3 later. }) 7... e6 8. Bg2 Be7 {Black has pursued standard development and can be considered equal at this point, with a solid position.} 9. Ne5 {very few games have continued this way, with most continuing O-O. The text move only scores 33 percent for White. With the knight sally, White hits the Bg4 (a difference from the Bf5 lines).} Bh5 {moving the bishop to f5 would not make sense, as White could then play e4 with tempo.} 10. Nxd7 (10. Ndf3 {would be my preference, reinforcing the Ne5.}) 10... Nxd7 {with this move, Black chooses to fight for the c5 and e5 squares, with the idea of allowing a pawn break; Anand in fact will play the ...e5 break.} 11. O-O O-O 12. Nb3 {White reinforces the d4 pawn - which otherwise is awkwardly guarded by the queen - and eyes c5, while freeing up the Bc1. Black can immediately challenge the knight's placement, however.} a5 13. a4 {blocking the Black pawn's further advance.} (13. Nc5 {anticipating the Black pawn advance to a4 results in a rather awkward situation for White, largely because of the d-pawn.} Nb6 14. Qd3 Bxc5 15. dxc5 Qxd3 16. exd3 Na4) 13... Bb4 {with the a-pawn no longer a threat, the bishop moves to a more active outpost.} 14. e4 e5 $146 {Anand's novelty, according to the database. White may have been confident in this line due to the result of the following game:} (14... Qe7 15. Be3 Rfd8 16. f4 Kh8 17. Rf2 f6 18. Bd2 e5 19. Bxb4 axb4 20. fxe5 fxe5 21. d5 Rac8 22. Rc1 Nb6 23. Qc5 Qxc5 24. Nxc5 cxd5 25. Bh3 Ra8 26. a5 Nc4 27. Nxb7 Rf8 28. Rxf8+ Rxf8 29. exd5 Nxb2 30. d6 Bf3 31. Rc8 Rxc8 32. Bxc8 Bc6 33. d7 Bxd7 34. Bxd7 Nc4 35. Be6 b3 36. Bxc4 b2 37. Ba2 {1-0 (37) Ivanchuk,V (2769) -Vallejo Pons,F (2697) Istanbul 2012}) 15. Be3 {the bishop finally gets into the game.} exd4 16. Bxd4 Kh8 { a preventive measure, stepping out of the pin on the a2-g8 diagonal.} 17. e5 $6 {overly optimistic, looking to seize space on the kingside. Anand's previous move allows him to combat it with the ...f6 break.} (17. Rac1 {would be an example of a more solid continuation.}) 17... Re8 18. f4 f6 19. exf6 (19. e6 { would eventually lose the pawn.} Nb6 20. Bxb6 Qxb6+ 21. Kh1 Qe3 22. Nd4 Rad8 23. Nc2 Qxe6 $17) 19... Nxf6 $15 {taking stock of the position, Black's pieces look much more active and coordinated. White now attempts to reduce this advantage through an exchange of minor pieces.} 20. Bf3 Bxf3 21. Rxf3 {without the light-squared bishops on the board, Black dominates fewer squares in White's camp, but the absence of White's bishop is now felt in the center, which Black seizes on.} Re4 {Black now takes over the initiative, with play revolving around the pinned bishop.} (21... c5 22. Bc3 Re4 {is a variation on the same idea.} 23. Bxf6 Rxc4 24. Bxd8 Rxd8) 22. Re3 (22. Qd3 {doesn't offer White much relief either.} Qe8 {with similar play.}) 22... Rxe3 23. Bxe3 Qe8 24. Bb6 {given the game continuation, this appears to simply lose a tempo, although the immediate Bd4 also leaves White with problems.} (24. Bd4 Rd8 25. Rc1 c5 26. Bxf6 (26. Be5 Ng4 27. Qe2 h5) 26... gxf6 27. Rc2 Rd1+ 28. Kg2 Qc6+ 29. Kh3 Rd5 {and Black has a comfortable advantage.}) 24... Qh5 {this clears the e8 square for the rook and pressures the h-file, with the threat of ...Ng4 looming.} 25. Bd4 Re8 {in comparison with the previous variation, Black's queen is on h5 and the rook on e8, a significant improvement. Black again has the potential threat of ...Re4 and White has no good way of untangling the queen and bishop in the center.} 26. Rf1 {this precipitates the loss, as both the game continuation and Houdini show, although White was in difficulties anyway.} (26. Qd3 Rd8 27. Qc2 (27. Qc4 Ng4) 27... Ng4 28. Qe2 (28. h4 $2 c5 29. Bc3 c4 30. Nd4 Bc5 31. Qd1 Qg6 32. Qe2 Bxd4+) 28... c5 29. Bc3 c4 30. Nd4 Re8 $19) (26. Be5 Nd7 $17) 26... Ng4 27. Qc2 c5 {a surprisingly powerful move. Black once again can exploit the pinning theme against the bishop and queen.} 28. Nxc5 (28. Be5 c4 29. Nd4 Bc5) (28. Bc3 Bxc3 29. bxc3 Ne3) 28... Rc8 { now White cannot parry the threat of ...b6} 29. Rd1 Bxc5 30. Bxc5 h6 {negating White's potential back-rank threat.} 31. Kh1 {and White resigned, with Black's most obvious win coming after ...Nf2+} 0-1

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