Monday, November 24, 2014

Chess: Carlsen crowned world champion, Anand vows return

In the eleventh game of the World Chess Championship, Viswanathan Anand playing with black pieces lost to Magnus Carlsen. With this win Carlsen successfully defended his World Champion title. 


Both the players were under tremendous pressure coming into this game. The championship was precariously balanced with only a point's difference between Anand and Carlsen. A small error on the part of either of them had the power to change the course of the championship dramatically.

Before the match, chess Grandmaster and commentator Susan Polgar tweeted "99.99% of the fans at home can't understand the amount of pressure Carlsen and Anand are going through right now. Very intense! I can tell you from experience playing in WC match. So much pressure at this stage, no matter if you're leading/trailing by 1."

Berlin defence was played in game 11. Learn about Ruy Lopez-Berlin defence here

As usual Carlsen forced a queen trade-off as early as move 8 in the game. This is the sixth time in this championship that Carlsen has pulled off this manouvre, and he did it in style. As he only needed a draw he was intent on taking the queen off the board to minimise danger.

In move 15, Carlsen placed his Knight in 'D5' which was a powerful move as he gained control at the center. But even uptil this point, the game was open.
From move 18 to 23, Anand managed to place his bishops in better squares and for some time the chess engines showed a slight advantage for Anand. It looked like he had created a comfortable position for black and was all set for a long fight.

Carlsen recounted this in the post-match press conference, "Perhaps I didn't move accurately from 18 to 23 moves. It was tight."

When the game was in move 26....

.... all the chess experts gave Anand a clear advantage. Many chess observers felt that if Anand moves 'Be7' then it would be very difficult for Carlsen to take advantage.
At this point, Indian Chess Grand Master Ramesh tweeted, "Anand in driver seat!"
Polgar tweeted, "3 reasonable choices: Be7, Bg7 or Rab8. Strongest is Be7."
Anand went with 'Rab8'. What came next surprised everyone.

Move 27 - The bad gamble

When the whole world was expecting Anand to put his bishop to good use (Be7) and push Carlsen to his limits, he sacrificed his Rook!


This turned the match upside down. Carlsen saw a chance to end this championship in game 11 and went for the kill.

In his live commentary, Anand's former trainer GM Praveen Thipsay wrote, "Vishy has lost the initiative exchanging that powerful rook, being Rb3 very obvious, but anything was determined. It was a great sacrifice anyways."
Polgar sent in a series of tweets after this move, "Anand went crazy! Bad choice by Anand. 

Now he is in trouble. 3 straight inaccuracies by Anand. First by moving Rdb8, then Rb4, and cxb4.The match may be over today. For whatever reason, Anand lost patience and self destructed. He completely misevaluated the position. I am still stunned of Anand's series of decision to play Rdb8, Rb4 then cxb4 instead of the Be7 idea.

Later, Anand recounted move 27 as a 'bad gamble' in the press conference, "It was a bad gamble. Move 27 was probably a nervous decision. I wasn't thinking very clearly at this point."

Carlsen was also of the opinion that this move was a blunder, he said, "I dont think the sacrifice was justified."

The plan behind the rook sacrifice was to start pushing his pawns down the flank and convert them. But it gloriously failed once Carlsen started checking Anand's king. There were too many pieces left in the game to try the sacrifice tactic. It backfired.

GM Thipsay commented, "Anand has fallen to the powerful calculation of Magnus Carlsen before. Anand's age has been a decisive factor along the tournament; we have watched games in which Anand has fallen several times in tactical fallacies."


After move 27 there was nothing much left to play. Magnus started exchaging pieces and at the same time walked his pawns down to the last file. Thus leaving no time for Anand to convert his pawn.
Carlsen became the World Champion once again beating Viswanathan Anand.
Move 26 in game six and move 27 in game eleven are the two blunders that stopped Vishy in his pursuit for the World Championship.


A not-so-sad Anand said in the press conference, "His nerves held up better, he was at the end superior."

A reporter asked the all important question which many Indians were eagerly waiting for to be answered.

Reporter : Are you considering leaving chess?

Anand: NO!

This was followed by a huge round of applause from the crowd which had gathered for the press conference.

Whether he will play again in the candidates tournament to come back as a challenger next year, only time will tell.

But he is not finished yet! Vishy vows a return.  

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Chess game 9: Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen share honours again

Carlsen Anand Game 8 OTB


Anand started with Berlin defence - 1.e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6, 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 - in game 9. Learn more about Berlin defence here.

Anand was very well prepared in this game, that much was evident. Forcing Carlsen for a quick draw that too when he is playing white, is not easy. Carlsen is not the kind of player who will go for a draw if he is ahead in a championship.

Susan Polgar, famous chess commentator, tweeted, "It's very very very unusual for Magnus to take such a quick draw with white. Anand and team have to be ecstatic."

The interesting fact is that, it was Carlsen who forced the draw. In fact he took so much time thinking in this game after every Anand move; it looked like he didn't expect this position. Seeing Anand's better position and also his preparation level Carlsen avoided a long battle forcing a draw.

Polgar continued to tweet, "Anand spent 15 mins for 19 moves and easy draw. Magnus spent 49 minutes. This shows good prep by Anand and his team."
Carlsen later recounted in the press conference, "Well, he was better prepared. I didn't quite see what to do."

The queens were off the board in the game as early as move 8.
Then Anand brought his bishops to play. He placed both his bishops pointing at Carlsen's knights. The Indian Grand Master also connected his rooks by moving his king one square up.

So everything was set for Anand to start a full-fledged attack. The Indian Grand Master had quick replies for every move Carlsen managed.

Carlsen gave it a thought and went for a forced repetition in move 17. Anand may have played on by breaking the repetition but that would have resulted in a small positional disadvantage for him as he would have to move his king back and disconnect his rooks.

So he played along Carlsen's repetition plan and the game was well over in just one hour and under 20 moves.     

There are three games left in the championship. Out of which, Anand has two white games, while Carlsen has one. Game 10 will be played tomorrow. Carlsen is leading in the championship 5-4.

Previous games
Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3 | Game 4 Game 5 | Game 6 | Game 7 | Game 8

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

WCCM Game 8: Draw


Game 8

The eighth game of the Carlsen-Anand Match ended in a draw. 

The overall score after the eighth game is Carlsen 4.5 - Anand 3.5.

Anand Set Up A Beautiful Checkmate In Game 8 Of The World Chess Championship But Couldn’t Pull It Off

Carlsen Anand Game 8 OTB
On Tuesday, Magnus Carlsen and Vishy Anand played to a draw in Game 8 of the World Chess Championship in Sochi, Russia.

The score now stands at 4.5-3.5 in Carlsen’s favor. There are only four games left to play.

On its face, Game 8 wasn’t all that exciting: it lacked the fireworks of earlier games, the blunders of Game 6, and the sheer length of Game 7 (122 moves! Just two shy of the longest WCC game ever!). But Game 8 contained at least one amazing moment, of particular appeal to amateur players. 

For more serious players, Game 8 also pointed to a new direction in one of chess’ most famous and popular opening at the Grandmaster level.


Playing white, Anand once again opened with the move 1. d4, a “Queen’s Pawn” game. I’ve covered this first move in previous recaps, of Games 1 and 3. Anand won Game 3 in crushing fashion, after losing in equally crushing fashion to Carlsen in Game 2. 

Game 1 ended in a draw. The opening in the game was the Grunfeld Defense, but in Games 3 and Game 8, 1. d4 led to the Queen’s Gambit Declined, an incredibly important opening at the elite level of the game.

I’m not a big fan of 1. d4 openings as white personally — I find it confusing, disorienting, and almost disturbing to do battle on the queenside. As black, I’m okay with 1. d4, but I generally try to the play the Grunfeld, rather than the QGD or its sister opening, the Queen’s Gambit Accepted.

However, watching Anand weave a lovely mating attack in the QGD really made me appreciate what I think is actually one of the coolest things about the opening: it’s capacity to seem like all the action is on the queenside, then suddenly morph into a checkmate opportunity on the kingside. The mates are beautiful and otherworldly — unlike the more direct mates that can arise from kingside attacks.

Anyway, GMs never get mated on the board — they always resign first, when they see it coming, or when they know that their position is lost.

For amateurs, however, and especially players rated below 1500 (Anand and Carlsen are both above 2700), mates routinely occur, so it’s good to know how to set them up and deliver them out of different openings.

Obviously, Anand didn’t mate Carlsen. But for a very brief sequence of moves, it was in the air.


Queens and bishops like to work together, at certain points of the game. The key is to have long, open diagonals on the board, so that both pieces can exploit their ability to move diagonally as many spaces as they want. I’ll try to explain why Carlsen as black refuted Anand’s attacking chances with some innovative ideas, but let’s enjoy Anand’s smooth setup for a moment.

Anand has placed his queen on the c2 square and maneuvered his bishop to b1. That’s a lot of power on what’s called the b1-h7 diagonal. Uncontested by black (and in this position it’s black’s move), the queen can come all the way across the board in one move and check the black king by landing on h7 (the black king can’t capture the white queen because the bishop backs up the attack).

Black’s king runs to the g8 square, and white delivers mate with the queen by moving to h8. The black king has no escape.

But of course black is contesting the h7 square, with the knight on f6. This is an absolutely classic checkmating problem for white against a castled black king, defended by a knight on f6: How to get rid of the knight?

And look at the position! Anand can take out the knight by capturing it with the bishop on g4. He did do this, but when Carlsen took back with his own bishop, the flaw in the white checkmating formulation is revealed: the black king can now get to the e7 square and evade mate.

Anand then attacked the black bishop by bringing his knight to e4, compelling the bishop to retreat. But in the process he blocked his queen’s access to the h7 square.


It’s wasn’t out of the question for something crazy to happen at the board: both Carlsen and Anand were probably very tired after their marathon Game 7, and in fact Carlsen actually looked at one point like he was sleeping (he wasn’t, but his manner can sometimes be so languid and seemingly disengaged that he looks like he’s snoozing). 

But the type of mating combinations I’ve outlined are rare in GM play — the best players generally see them coming, and besides, the QGD has been so deeply studied that even though it can lead to a position like the one we saw in Game 8, black’s setup is designed to defuse the threat.

Note that Carlsen has a rook on e8, giving his king some breathing room, and a bishop on e7, which allows Carlsen to maintain control of the critical f6 square. Carlsen used the opening to locate these pieces accordingly, specifically to counter the mating threat on h7 and h8.

This type of approach, undertaken in the opening phase of the game, is why chess players obsess over “opening theory.” If Carlsen’s rook and bishop were elsewhere, the position could be much better for white. The arrangement proves that, contrary to received wisdom, Carlsen is working on a better grasp of thorny opening theory — he’s becoming far more than a player who just plays an established opening, gets a relatively equal position, and then tries to nurse small advantages through to a grueling endgame.

In Game 8, Anand’s attack ran out of resources and concluded uneventfully after both players completely evened out their strength on the board. 


Wednesday is a rest day. On Thursday, Carlsen and Anand will be back at the board, and Anand will have the black pieces this time.

If you want a prediction, I think that Anand will aim for another draw and throw himself into his next chance with white. Earlier in the match, I said that Anand needed to go for wins with white and black, but he’s tried that twice now as black with the aggressive Sicilian Defense and he hasn’t succeeded. 

Ultimately, he could use an easy draw in Game 9, to enable him to preserve enough energy at this point to press hard for a win with white in Game 10, even the match, and set the stage for two final games in which he could play for a draw as black in Game 11 and pull out all the stops for Game 12 with white.

Carlsen, clearly, will simply need to hang on to his current 1-point margin to retain the title.

This has been an amazing World Championship Match so far. And now it’s come down to the final stages, when strategies about how to win, or how not to lose, will become very important.