Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz: Viswanathan Anand's poor show a result of exhaustion, pressure of time

Fatigue of playing the Sinquefield Cup in classical time control followed by a rapid chess event seemed to have taken its toll on Viswanathan Anand, as the former world champion finished the first leg of the double round all-play-all blitz event with seven draws and two losses on Thursday. His losses came against Levon Aronian and Sergey Karjakin.

Viswanathan Anand and Garry Kasparov, clash of the champions. Lennart Ootes

Viswanathan Anand and Garry Kasparov, clash of the champions. Lennart Ootes

Though he remained solid in his defence in almost all the games, he was also the only player who could not score a victory. It underlies the fact that the exhaustion of more than two weeks of playing chess at Saint Louis has resulted in Anand unable to maintain the creative energy necessary to play sharp games enabling him to score wins.

Quicker the time control, more the dramatic turns and tragic blunders on the board in a chess game. To his credit, Anand did not suffer any catastrophes, but three of his games had their share of drama.

Against Ian Nepomniachtchi, Anand repeated moves and settled for a draw in a position which was objectively winning for him. After outplaying David Navara and being ahead an exchange, Anand missed a beautiful tactical trick which could have won the game instantly for him.

But the biggest mishap happened in the final round, when Anand was defending a rook ending where he was a pawn less. Once again, short on time and under pressure in the position, Anand claimed a draw by a technical condition.

In chess, if any position is about to be repeated three times on the board, the player who has the turn to make the move can stop the chess clock, summon the arbiter and claim a draw, after spelling out to the arbiter his decided move for the next turn. However, he technically cannot claim a draw if the move gets executed already on the board even if the thrice repeated position is readily present. And the following position occurred in Anand’s game against Karjakin:

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Here, instead of stopping the clock and making his claim to the Arbiter, Anand executed the move 57...Ra4 on the board and claimed a draw, as the position already got repeated thrice. However, his claim was rejected by the arbiter as Anand had already completed the move and thus ineligible to claim for threefold repetition. Karjakin continued with 58.Kb3 after which too, Anand had another opportunity for threefold repetition as the position after 58...Ra1 too would have been repeated thrice and thus was still a draw.

A dejected Anand varied with 58...Rxh4? after which Karjakin’s passed pawn at the ‘a5’ square proved to be the pivotal factor of the position. Anand lost the game in five more moves.

In tournaments conducted in the US, the time control differs slightly from the rest of the world in terms of the time gained after each move. For example, in blitz chess, it is common practice to have games where both the players are given five minutes each for the whole game, and an additional three seconds are added to the clock after each move. Thus, for example, after making 10 moves on the board, the players would have utilised not only the initial five minutes, but also a cumulative gain of 30 seconds which get added to their clock.

But in the current event, instead of addition of three seconds, there is a time delay of three seconds after each move. Which means, after a player makes a move, his opponent’s clock doesn’t start immediately but only after the first three seconds run out.

This makes the event more interesting but makes it very difficult for players to keep track of the time, as it is virtually impossible to maintain an internal clock which can measure up three seconds for each move and execute the move accordingly. And when a player plays every move fast, it doesn’t mean that he saves time and it gets added on his clock. Rather, it means he doesn’t make his moves judiciously by utilising all the three seconds available for him for each move.

The other ex-world champion, Garry Kasparov too continued a difficult tournament and scored 3.5 points, identical as Anand.

Karjakin was the winner of the first leg of the blitz event with eight points out of nine games, but Aronian continued to lead the overall standings where the score from the rapid event also get combined. One more round-robin league of blitz remain to be played on Friday.

Leading scores from the blitz event (one point for a win, half point for a draw and zero point for a loss):

1. Karjakin - 8 points out of a possible 9
2. Aronian - 6.5
3. Nakamura - 5.5
4. Nepomniachtchi - 5
5. Le - 4
6- 8: Kasparov, Caruana and Anand - 3.5 each
9. Dominguez Perez - 3
10. Navara - 2.5

Combined standings after nine rounds of rapid event and nine rounds of blitz (rapid scoring - two points for a win, one for a draw and zero for a loss added to the blitz scores):

1. Aronian - 18.5 (out of a maximum 27)
2. Nakamura - 16.5
3. Karjakin - 16
4. Nepomniachtchi - 15
5. Caruana - 14.5
6 - 7. Dominguez Perez & Le - 12 each
8 -9. Anand and Kasparov - 10.5 each
10. Navara - 9.5


Published Date: Aug 18, 2017 04:10 pm | Updated Date: Aug 18, 2017 04:17 pm