By Sagar Shah, ChessBase India
Moscow: Viswanathan Anand played a near-flawless game to get the better of his Armenian opponent Levon Aronian in 66 moves in the ninth round of the World Candidates Chess on Monday. It was an extremely important victory for Anand as Aronian was one of the leaders going into the game and it places him on lead along with Sergey Karjakin on 5.5/9 points.
Anand started with white against Aronian, who has the popularity of a rockstar in his home country. After the two initial moves, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6, it was Anand’s turn to move. From the 369 games that have reached this position in the Indian’s previous encounters, he has played the Ruy Lopez with 3.Bb5 on 356 occasions.
The Guico Piano with 3.Bc4 has only been tried seven times by Anand in nearly 40 years of his chess career. So what motivated the Indian champion to play the Guico Piano today?
The answer is definitely the Berlin Defence! Anand faced the Berlin in his first three games with the white pieces and was unable to take any advantage. A normal game of chess without any theoretical preparation is always welcome in a must-win situation.
This is exactly what Anand got! It was a slow maneuvering struggle where Vishy grabbed more space in the centre and push Aronian on the defensive. Soon the position became advantageous for Anand and he was able to keep pushing his kingside pawns while all that Aronian could do was wait and watch. The Indian super GM continued playing quickly, putting Aronian under severe time pressure. On the 40th move, the Armenian made an important error. The materials on the board were even but the difference lied in king’s activity. Anand’s king had already reached the opponent’s territory while Aronian’s king was stuck to the last rank.
It is here that the India No.1 made some excellent psychological decisions, judging the time left on his opponent’s clock. Anand played the rook endgame with great care, and even though he didn’t convert the position in smoothest possible fashion, a win was never in doubt.
Aronian is a highly creative and artistic player and one who has an excellent understanding of the game and he is hugely revered in Armenia. It would not be an understatement to say that it is impossible for him to walk on the streets without being mobbed. He had qualified for the Candidates via a wild card provided by Tashir, an Armenian company, who is among the sponsors of the tournament. Until the eighth round, Levon had proved that the wild card was not for nothing. He was leading the tournament with 5.0/8. In the ninth round he was paired with Anand.
A few years ago, Anand had said the following words about Aronian: “He’s a very gifted technician and is always looking for various little tricks to solve technical tasks.” But on Monday in Moscow, Levon had no chance to show his tactical prowess, as Vishy kept complete control.
Vishy Anand on his win over Levon Aronian
With this win, Anand is now the joint leader of the tournament along with Sergey Karjakin. This is how the standings look after nine rounds:
Sergey Karjakin 5.5/9
Viswanathan Anand 5.5/9
Fabiano Caruana 5.0/9
Levon Aronian 5.0/9
Anish Giri 4.5/9
Peter Svidler 4.0/9
Hikaru Nakamura 3.5/9
Veselin Topalov 3.0/9
In case of a tie in points at the end of the tournament, the direct encounter result between the players will determine the winner. If that is equal then the player with the maximum wins would have a better tie-break. As of now Anand has three wins, one more than Sergey Karjakin but had lost to the Russian in their first encounter in the fourth round.
The Round 11 game between Anand and Karjakin will take place on the 24 March. Today is a rest day tomorrow, Vishy will face Fabiano Caruana.