16 November 2013

Anand -- Carlsen 2013, Game 6

Today is a heavy blow. I won't pretend otherwise.
Viswanathan Anand, Press Conference

World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand nears the end of his reign. Losing today was a devastating blow, as he acknowledged in the press conference. What can he do now? He can do his best. Asked to elaborate upon the meaning of doing his best, he scolded a reporter.

The game was nearly over by the time that I awoke this morning. My initial impressions are that Magnus Carlsen achieved a position where he could improve, and the champion was forced to play passive defense. After Carlsen won a pawn and the queens were exchanged, it seemed that his moves and ideas were easier to find. Anand had to find precise and difficult defensive moves. He missed something, and then his position was theoretically lost.

Anand,Viswanathan (2775) -- Carlsen,Magnus (2870) [C65]
FWCM 2013 Chennai (6), 16.11.2013

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3

Anand deviates from game 4, effectively avoiding the Berlin Wall. This second most popular move was first played by the man with the most difficult name in chess history. Tassilo von Heydebrand und der Lasa has been called von Heydebrand, von der Lasa (a name he signed with), and other variations of his name. The Prussian king, William I, was alleged to have poked fun at the confusion, stating, "Good morning, dear Heydebrand. How is von der Lasa doing?" His play of this move in 1836 is the oldest recorded in the ChessBase database. Adolf Anderssen who accounts for a large percentage of the first dozen instances played it several times.

Although vastly less popular than 4.O-O, 4.d3 scores slightly better. Anand has played it on at least seventeen prior occasions, including twice against Carlsen. Those games, a blitz and a rapid, were both drawn. Anand has played 4.O-O at least sixteen times prior to game 4 of this match.

4...Bc5 5.c3 0–0 6.0–0 Re8

Carlsen's choice here deviates from the players' rapid game in the 2011 Botvinnik Memorial. Today's game continued to follow Anand -- Aronian from this year's Alekhine Memorial until Anand's move ten.

White to move


Some move order nuances are difficult for me to understand. What difference does it make to play this move before Nbd2, or visa versa? 7.Nbd2 scores better. However chess statistics can be misleading. What do they reveal? What do they conceal? After Nbd2, Re1 will usually be played to permit Nf1. With 7.Re1, does the knight on b1 have other viable options? If it does, is Re1 the more flexible move?

7...a6 8.Ba4 b5 9.Bb3 d6 10.Bg5

Black to move

I was looking through the notation as the contestants were playing out the finish, and this position caught my eye as slightly unusual. Lest I be accused of making things up, my wife will attest that I blurted out, "Bg5 looks unusual." It is the novelty. Was it prepared?

10.Na3 was a possibility. Does that option explain the rationale behind 7.Re1?

Although Bg5 struck me as unusual in this position, I have seen it in many games with the Spanish Opening. In my highest rated tournament win, I played 7.Bg5. In that game, however, Black had played 3...g6. Is Bg5 a thematic move in the Spanish even though it is a novelty in this game?

Reference Game:

Anand,Viswanathan (2783) -- Aronian,Levon (2809) [C65]
Alekhine Memorial Paris/St Petersburg (3), 23.04.2013
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3 Bc5 5.c3 0–0 6.0–0 Re8 7.Re1 a6 8.Ba4 b5 9.Bb3 d6 10.Nbd2 Bb6 11.Nf1 Ne7 12.Ng3 Ng6 13.h3 h6 14.d4 c5 15.dxe5 dxe5 16.Qxd8 Bxd8 17.a4 c4 18.Bc2 Ba5 19.axb5 axb5 20.Be3 Bb7 21.Ra2 Bc7 22.Rea1 Rxa2 23.Rxa2 Ra8 24.Rxa8+ Bxa8 25.Kf1 Ne7 26.Nd2 Kf8 27.Bc5 Nd7 28.Ba3 g6 29.f3 Ke8 30.b3 cxb3 31.Nxb3 Nc8 32.Bd3 Bc6 33.c4 bxc4 34.Bxc4 Ba4 35.Nc5 Nxc5 36.Bxc5 Nb6 37.Bxb6 Bxb6 38.Ne2 Ba5 39.Nc1 Ke7 40.Nd3 Bc3 41.g4 ½–½

10...Be6 11.Nbd2

Was Bxe6 better as suggested by engines. One of the curiosities becoming clear to me through this match is that many average players have great confidence in their ability to comprehend when one side is winning because the engine evaluation exceeds +/-1.00. Although engines are terrific tools that put a lot of information in the hands of even average players, they cannot answer every question. A weak player with a computer may be emboldened to offers arguments that had been the prerogative of masters in an earlier age.*

Knowing how this game developed, I prefer 11.Bxe6 because it shackles Carlsen with the sort of doubled e-pawns that became a defensible weakness in Anand's position a dozen moves later. Anand, however, could not make his decision on the basis of a known outcome. The outcome of the game was not known yet. Results give the analyst an artificial advantage.

Normally, in the Spanish Opening, White likes to keep the light-squared bishop. That might have been a reason to avoid the exchange, but it was not reason enough to prevent Black from making the exchange.

After 11.Bxe6, Black must play 11...fxe6. If 11...Rxe6? 12.d4 exd4 13.cxd4 Bb4 14.Nc3. The tactical ideas that give White a clear advantage after 11...Rxe6 could serve well as instruction for beginning players.

11...h6 12.Bh4 Bxb3 13.axb3 Nb8

White to move

Both players commented on Carlsen's knight maneuvers after the game. Anand said, "Magnus' maneuver with the knight was quite good." Carlsen noted that he had played the Breyer variation a few times, and that maneuver was a common idea.

14.h3 Nbd7 15.Nh2 Qe7 16.Ndf1 Bb6 17.Ne3 Qe6 18.b4 a5 19.bxa5 Bxa5 20.Nhg4 Bb6

White to move

Neither player has a clear advantage and there are no striking imbalances. The position should be well-suited to Anand if he is seeking a draw after losing yesterday. On the other hand, such positions seem to be Carlsen's goal in the opening. Anand, on the other hand, needs a concrete advantage.

21.Bxf6 Nxf6 22.Nxf6+ Qxf6 23.Qg4?!

Black to move

The evaluation of Stockfish 4 drops Anand's position a mere 1/5 of a pawn compared to 23.Qe2, the preferred move. However, the consequence of this move will be a long-term weakness in the doubled pawns on the e-file. Black's incremental advantages do not yet produce a superior position for the challenger, but they do make his position easier to play. Once he finds himself on the defensive, Anand must play precisely. As psychological pressure grows, these moves become more difficult.

23...Bxe3 24.fxe3 Qe7 25.Rf1 c5 26.Kh2 c4 27.d4 Rxa1 28.Rxa1 Qb7 

White to move

Have the players reached an endgame? Most analysts might consider this stage part of the middlegame, but the decisions that each player must make should be grounded in understanding of rook endings and queen endings. Which sort of ending should Anand steer towards here? Is he already playing for a draw?

It seems to me that White has a very difficult job finding anything constructive to do here. Black, on the other hand, seems able to take action to improve his position.


Is 29.d5 better? Anand has a permanent weakness in the doubled e-pawns. Is this weakness fatal?

29...Qc6 30.Qf5 exd4 31.Rxd4

31.exd4 leaves Black a clear pawn ahead. However, the move played leaves the doubled e-pawns isolated as well. Black can apply pressure and improve his position. White must passively defend the weak pawns, or seek exchanges that leave him in a rook or queen ending down a pawn.

31...Re5 32.Qf3 Qc7 33.Kh1 Qe7 34.Qg4 Kh7 35.Qf4 g6 36.Kh2 Kg7 37.Qf3 Re6

White to move


Anand chooses to exchange one weakness for another. Rook endings give the side with a deficit in number of pawns the best chance for a draw. Was it possible for Black to make progress if Anand had continued passively defending the e-pawns?

38...Rxe4 39.Qxd6 Rxe3 40.Qxe7 Rxe7

White to move

41.Rd5 Rb7 42.Rd6

The first move that I would have considered here is 42.Kg3. Activate your weakest piece is advice that I've read in several books, and that I teach to young players. My chess engine's initial evaluation favors 42.Kg3, but the longer the engine thinks, the more it favors Anand's move. Perhaps restraining the opponent's king is more important than activating one's own, especially if a draw is the goal.

42...f6 43.h4

I did not like this move at first. Again, Kg3 suggests itself. Initially, Stockfish 4 agrees with me. But, with deeper analysis, it vindicates Anand's choice.

Then, however, three plys deeper, the engine favors 43.Kg3 by 0.04.

Anand is playing well, but he must bear more pressure because only Carlsen has a chance to win this game.

43..Kf7 44.h5 gxh5 45.Rd5 Kg6 46.Kg3

Black to move

46...Rb6 47.Rc5 f5 48.Kh4

Stockfish 4 prefers 48...Kf6 over Carlsen's move by a whole pawn. Neither player matches the computer perfectly, but for Carlsen, there are no dire consequences to slight inaccuracies.

48...Re6 49.Rxb5 Re4+ 50.Kh3

Is 50.Kg3 better?

50...Kg5 51.Rb8 h4 52.Rg8+ Kh5 53.Rf8 Rf4 54.Rc8 Rg4

According to my engine, this move was another slight inaccuracy without consequences. The game remains tilted ever so slightly in Black's favor. 54...Rf1 was the computer's choice.

White to move

55.Rf8 Rg3+ 56.Kh2 Kg5 57.Rg8+ Kf4

White to move


Anand finds the only move. This one did not seem difficult, however.

58...Ke3 59.Rxc4

Another seemingly obvious only move. The champion is holding on.


White to move


60.b4 was necessary. Was it easy to comprehend that White's b-pawn must begin its run now? In the press conference, Carlsen stated that 60.b4 was too slow. Both players assessed this position as winning for Black. Carlsen waffled a bit with "probably winning" at first. Carlsen suggested that White's pawns get in the way of the rook.

Removing White's two pawns presents a position that Stockfish 4 sees a dead draw. White's drawing idea was illustrated in Gligoric -- Smyslov, Moscow 1947. The analysis can be found in many endgame books, such as Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual, 2nd ed. (2008). Six years earlier, Smyslov had drawn a similar position against Bondarevsky. See "Play Like Smyslov" and "Rook Endgame: Critical Position."

White to move
Theoretical Position
The stronger side cannot make progress as long as White's rook can harass the Black king.

Among the drawing lines in the actual position in the game is at least one that permits White to promote a pawn.

60.b4 h3 61.gxh3 h5 62.b5 Rg6 63.Rc6 Rg5 64.c4 f3 65.c5 Rg2+ 66.Kh1 Rc2 67.b6 Rb2 68.Rf6 h4 69.Rf5 Rb1 70.Kh2 f2 71.Rf6 f1Q 72.Rxf1 Rxf1 73.c6 Rb1 74.c7 Rxb6 75.c8Q Rb2+ and Black will draw by repetition.

White to move
Theoretical Position
There are several other possibilities after 60.b4. In all of them, Black has the freedom to choose, and White must struggle to find the correct move.

60...h3 61.gxh3 Rg6 62.c4 f3 63.Ra3+ Ke2 64.b4 f2 65.Ra2+ Kf3 66.Ra3+ Kf4 67.Ra8 Rg1 0–1

Magnus Carlsen played a solid game. Viswanathan made one serious error. After the game, neither player correctly identified the error that computer enabled commentators discerned.

*Does anyone care what a USCF Class A player says about the World Championship? My annotations will never offer the sort of expert commentary that is available elsewhere. These annotations do serve to hone my thinking process, and document my journey to chess expertise and possibly eventual mastery. If that journey has interest or instructive value to others, then this blog serves that purpose.

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