By Sagar Shah, ChessBase India
Moscow: Playing with black pieces, Viswanathan Anand showcased some excellent bit of opening preparation and drew his game against top Armenian grandmaster Levon Aronian in Round 2 of World Candidates Championship.
Anand’s technical brilliance shone through as he signed peace in 31 moves, thereby retaining lead with 1.5 points though he was joined at the top by Sergey Karjakin.
At the highest level, modern chess is dominated these days by computer analysis. Top players of the world have powerful chess engines, running on powerful computers, and a team of seconds that help them to prepare better in the opening phase of the game. But the speed at which top grandmasters like Anand assimilate knowledge and remember the analyses is just mind boggling.
On the surface it might seem to be an uneventful draw in 31 moves, but there were a lot of things going on behind the scenes.
The game began with the Queen’s Gambit Declined Variation employed by top players all over the world since long. Although the opening is safe and solid, Anand decided to play it in an extremely dynamic fashion. He accepted a pawn and was not afraid of entering into wild complications. It was evident that he had done his homework.
Thanks to the internet and information explosion, games of other tournaments are available online and the information flows really quickly in the world of chess.
Just a week ago on 6 March, Boris Gelfand, Israel’s top player, had essayed a new idea with the white pieces in this same line against Boris Grachev at the Aeroflot Open in Moscow. Aronian picked up this new idea and played it against Anand on Saturday. The Indian super GM was well prepared and improved over Grachev’s play to get a very safe and sound opening position.
When the game was in progress at the Central Telegraph building in Moscow, Gelfand, the man who invented this new move -- 8.Nd2 -- for white, was also present at the venue as a spectator.
“Top players always follow each others’ games. Aeroflot Open is a big event, so my guess is that both players (Anand and Aronian) have definitely not missed my game against Grachev”, Gelfand said as the game was in progress.
As it turned out, Anand had not only looked at the game but had also found an improvement on the 13th move. His preparation continued until the 15th move when finally it was time to dig his head into the position and try to figure out the details on the board.
The reason why this was a mind-boggling piece of opening preparation by both players is because the sheer number of possibilities available to both sides on every move. To go into such depth in an opening line that has only been played once before shows how meticulous hard workers both Anand and Aronian are.
As shown in the above diagram, Anand’s main problem is his bishop on a6. It is blocked by its own pawn on c4. Anand realized that if he could find some better occupation for his bishop, his entire position would improve. With this in mind he played the very strong move -- 18…Bb5 -- relocating his bishop to a4.
As soon as Anand had figured out this nice little bishop nuance, Aronian was unable to keep up his slight initiative, and the game ended in a draw. One could say it was a technically correct game as both players played relatively the best moves and didn’t commit any major mistakes. After the game, in the news conference, Anand appeared satisfied with the result, “A draw with the black pieces is nothing to complain about!”
In the other results of the day, Peter Svidler drew his game with Veselin Topalov and Anish Giri had the same result against Fabiano Caruana. The only decisive game was Sergey Karjakin’s victory over Hikaru Nakamura. With this win Sergey moved to 1.5/2 and now shares the lead with Anand.
The Indian maestro will have the white pieces in the third round game against Fabiano Caruana. The game begins on the 13th of March at 3 p.m. local time (5.30 p.m. IST). You can follow the games with live commentary on the official website.
The writer is an International Master and is the founder of Chessbase India.