By Sagar Shah, ChessBase India
What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Vishy Anand has been completely brutal with the white pieces. In his six games with white in this tournament, Anand has won four and drawn two. Anish Giri on the other hand had unbelievably drawn all his twelve games!
It was a must-win game for Anand if he had to have any chances of winning this tournament. And in the World Championship Candidates any place from second to the eighth means nothing much. The fight is for the top spot and the right to challenge the World Champion Magnus Carlsen for the highest title. It will be for the first time since 2008 that Anand will not play for the World Championship title.
Giri is known to have a reputation as a theoretical expert, well versed with the intricacies of the opening systems he plays. Hence, Vishy chose the Guioco Piano, which is less explored than the lines of the Berlin. The players repeated the first eight moves from the game Anand versus Aronian from the ninth round of this tournament. On the ninth move Anand unleashed the novelty. This was exactly what the doctor ordered as Giri was now on his own and had to think over the board.
Anand had a chance to gain an opening advantage, but he made an inaccurate move and suddenly the initiative was with black. Anish played well, slowly but steadily increasing the pressure. There seemed to be no way that Anand was going to win this game. Due to the high pressure situation, both the players were making each move after a lot of thought and by the time they reached the 23rd move, time pressure had started to play an important factor as Anish pointed out in this post-match interview:
After thirteen rounds Anand is on 7.0/13. He is half a point behind Fabiano Caruana and Sergey Karjakin, who are on 7.5/13. The two leaders meet each other in the final round on the 28th of March. Anand on the other hand takes on Peter Svidler with the black pieces. So does Anand still have a chance if he beats Svidler and Caruana against Karjakin ends in a draw? It is true that all the three players would then be on 8.0/14, but as Anand has lost to Caruana in their head to head encounter he has to settle for the third spot.
This is how the standings look after 13 rounds:
- Sergey Karjakin 7.5/13
- Fabiano Caruana 7.5/13
- Viswanathan Anand 7.0/13
- Peter Svidler 6.5/13
- Levon Aronian 6.5/13
- Anish Giri 6.5/13
- Hikaru Nakamura 6.5/13
- Veselin Topalov 4.0/13
For the first time in eight years Anand will not be fighting it out for the World Championship title. It is surely a huge heartbreak for the Indian chess fans. However, the thing to note is how Anand kept up his energy levels and fought back on every single occasion in this long and grueling event. He kept us on the edge of our seats, showcasing some very high level chess. While a player like Topalov at the age of 41 years is lacking motivation, Vishy at 46 years is still going strong. He gave a tough fight to players like Karjakin, Caruana and Giri who are nearly half his age. Beating Peter Svidler in the last round and finishing second or third would be a laudable achievement.