13 November 2013

Anand -- Carlsen 2013, Game 4

Black has seemed better in every game of the World Championship Match taking place in Chennai, India. In the first two games, White was worse quickly and bailed from a bad position with a draw by repetition. In yesterday's game, Black gained a clear advantage in the middlegame. Viswanathan Anand might have pressed with a line different than he played, but he did not see a clear advantage.

Today, Magnus Carlsen adopted the Berlin Wall variation of the Spanish Opening. It had been Vladimir Kramnik's main drawing weapon as Black when he secured the World Chess Championship title from Garry Kasparov in 2001. During the years since, it has become quite popular at the top levels. It remains a solid drawing weapon, but both sides have chances to play for a win. The pawn structure is imbalanced and frequently a minor piece exchange will present a bishop vs. knight battle.

In today's game, Carlsen's bishop foray managed to gain a pawn, and then the bishop returned to its starting position. Anand's pieces had greater activity, but Carlsen retained a one-pawn advantage into the rook ending, and even to the end of the game. It was another exciting and instructive draw.

Anand,Viswanathan (2775) -- Carlsen,Magnus (2870) [C67]
FWCM 2013 Chennai (4), 13.11.2013

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0–0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8

White to move

Both players have been in this position before. Anand has had the White side more often than Black; Carlsen has had the Black side more often. But, Carlsen has had White and Anand has had Black. It is a theoretically important position. Indeed, no chess player's education is complete before he or she has played out a game from this position. My own chess education, for example, is inadequate because I have been here only in online play. Perhaps my best game was a win on time from the Black side after I had won a pawn late in the middlegame.

Anand and Carlsen have played this position against one another once, as far as I know. It seems reasonable to assume that both players would have included the Berlin Wall in their match preparation.

Reference Game:

Anand,Viswanathan (2817) -- Carlsen,Magnus (2823) [C67]
Grand Slam Final 4th Sao Paulo/Bilbao (1), 26.09.2011

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0–0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.Nc3 h6 10.h3 Ne7 11.Be3 Ke8 12.Rad1 Bd7 13.a3 Rd8 14.Rfe1 a6 15.Ne4 Bf5 16.Nc5 Rxd1 17.Rxd1 Bc8 18.Nd3 Ng6 19.Nf4 Nxf4 20.Bxf4 Be7 21.Nd4 Bc5 22.Be3 Bxd4 23.Rxd4 Ke7 24.f3 Rd8 25.Rxd8 Kxd8 26.g4 h5 27.Kf2 g6 28.Bg5+ Ke8 ½–½


The fourth most popular move made its first appearance, as near as I can discern from ChessBase Online database, in 1978 when played by Nona Gaprindashvili. In that year, she became the first woman awarded the Grandmaster title and also lost the Women's World Championship. She earned the WWCC title in 1962, and defended it successfully several times.

Fabiano Caruana played 9.h3 against Levon Aronian in the final round of the Tata Steel tournament in January, a game that I blogged as it occurred. It finished with many moves of torture in a theoretically drawn ending of rook and bishop vs. rook.

9.Nc3 is overwhelmingly the most popular move, and has usually been Anand's choice. Both Anand and Carlsen have played 9.Rd1+, however, which is the second most popular move. I have neither found games where Anand played 9.h3, nor located any where Carlsen faced this move. ChessBase Online has 169 games in the database with this position and nearly 5000 with 9.Nc3. Both moves are played often enough that changing the move order may transpose into a position that both players have played prior.

9...Bd7 10.Rd1 Be7 11.Nc3 Kc8 12.Bg5 h6 13.Bxe7 Nxe7 14.Rd2 c5

White to move


Anand's move appears to be a novelty. Jakovenko -- Almasi, Khanty-Mansiysk 2007 continued with 15.Ne4 and White won in 102 moves.

15...Be6 16.Ne1

16.Ne2 is an alternative that appears to drop a pawn. However, 16...Bxa2? is unwise. The bishop does not become trapped, as may happen in similar structures without Black's advanced c-pawn. Rather, after some forcing moves, White gets excellent piece play and threats against a vulnerable Black king in exchange for the queenside pawns. 17.b3 c4 18.Nfd4 c5 19.Nb5 cxb3 20.cxb3 Bxb3

White to move
Theoretical Position
16...Ng6 17.Nd3 b6 18.Ne2

My computer likes Rf1.


Perhaps Anand's knight maneuvers were not the best way to build up pressure. The position is strategically complex with occasional tactics. As in my fantasy position above, White's a-pawn dropped, but there is no risk that the bishop becomes trapped. In this case, however, White's compensation for the pawn appears less clear.

White to move

19.b3 c4 20.Ndc1 cxb3 21.cxb3 Bb1 22.f4

Black to move

White has secured his vulnerable e-pawn. Black has a solid pawn majority on the queenside and his light-squared bishop has an escape.

22...Kb7 23.Nc3 

23.Nd3 was the computer's first choice and forces Black to exchange bishop for knight. Anand's plan forces the next few moves.

23...Bf5 24.g4 Bc8

Returning home is the bishop's best square. Does White have compensation for the pawn? From here to move 37, the computer sees an advantage for Black. However, the strategic complexities put the truth of the position beyond the horizon of the silicon beast.

White to move

25.Nd3 h5 26.f5 Ne7 27.Nb5 hxg4 28.hxg4 Rh4

Among my initial experiences of today's game (the game started at 1:30 am my time, and so was well underway when I awoke) was Judit Polgar's comment on Facebook that she did not like Carlsen's Rh4. "Vishy improved his position compared to a move ago," she offered.


Black to move


Polgar noted that 29...a6 makes 30.Nd6+ possible.

30.Rc2 a5 31.Rc4 g6 32.Rdc1

I correctly guessed this move as I was turning on my computer while following the game via the official iPad app, which had an update this morning to correct problems that some users experienced.

29...Bd7 33.e6 fxe6 34.fxe6 Be8 35.Ne4 Rxg4+ 36.Kf2


Was 36...Rd8 more accurate?

If it was not necessary to go to work today, I could spend many hours examining the purpose of every single move. Would any of my readers find comments on every single move (a la Logical Chess: Move by Move) worth reading? Would such annotations be useful teaching young players? Would such an investment into this game strengthen my own strategic understanding?

Alas, I will spend the afternoon teaching classrooms full of third graders how the queen and king move, and how they can efficiently checkmate a lone king through cooperation. Then, I have an after school club where a few elementary tactical possibilities that were avoided in game 2 forms the substance of the lesson.

37.Ke3 Rf8

Stockfish 4 prefers g5, and considers the game drawn after Carlsen's move.

38.Nd4 Nxd4 39.Rxc7+ Ka6 40.Kxd4 Rd8+

White to move


As I was taking my first sips of morning coffee, the players were making the first time control on the other side of the planet.

I was able to enjoy the cute little blunder that Anand might have looked at for a second. 41.Ke5 Rf5#.

41...Rf3+ 42.Kb2

Black to move

I have not watched the official commentary as much as during previous WCC matches, but I did watch Susan Polgar explain one drawing line 42...Re3 43.Rc8 Rxc8 44.Rxc8 Rxe4 45.Rxe8=. By keeping two rooks each on the board, Carlsen increased the odds of finding advantage in the ending.

Of course, the World Champion knows how to play rook endings.

43.Rc8 Rde3 44.Ra8+ Kb7 45.Rxe8 Rxe4 46.e7 Rg3 47.Rc3 Re2+ 48.Rc2 Ree3 49.Ka2 g5 50.Rd2 Re5 51.Rd7+ Kc6 52.Red8 Rge3

White to move

53.Rd6+ appears to be the only move.

53...Kb7 54.R8d7+ Ka6 55.Rd5 Re2+ 56.Ka3 Re6 57.Rd8 g4 58.Rg5 Rxe7

White to move

59.Ra8+ Kb7 60.Rag8 a4 61.Rxg4 axb3 62.R8g7 Ka6 63.Rxe7 Rxe7 64.Kxb3 1/2-1/2

There was plenty of complex strategy, plenty of elementary tactics, and a nice example of how to play a rook ending in today's game. Tomorrow the players rest, or more likely, buckle down with more intense preparation for the next round of games on Friday and Saturday.

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