By Sagar Shah
It was a great start for Indian chess maestro Viswanathan Anand at the Candidates' World meet as the five-time World Champion beat Bulgarian number one Veselin Topalov and took sole lead in the event with a score of 1.0/1.
Experts have not given the India Super GM much of a chance of winning the tournament, just like they did in the 2014 edition of the tournament. Anand had then pulled off a stunning victory and going by his early form, looks set for a strong finish this year too.
In a game of chess, the first move often decides the character of the game. Anand moved his king pawn to e4, showing his intention of a full-fledged fight and readiness to face Topalov’s Sicilian Defence.
However, Topalov went for the much more sedate Berlin Defence which is dubbed as one of the most solid openings against 1.e4.
Vishy is famed in chess circles for his deep opening preparation and he didn’t disappoint fans and critics this time too. He unleashed a novelty on the 12th move of the game.
Topalov was up to the task and soon sacrificed a pawn in order to get gain some active possibilities for his pieces. The critical moment of the game was reached after White’s 20th move:
In the above position you can see how active Black forces are. All his pieces are working in harmony, and the moment was ripe in order to unleash a tactical combination. The correct move would have been 20…Bxf2+ with the neat point that after 21.Kxf2 Qh4+! 22.g3 Nxe4+ 23.Rxe4 Qxe4 with a clearly better position for Topalav. The Bulgarian No.1 failed to spot this sacrifice and instead played a poor move that handed over the advantage to Anand.
After this lucky break, the Indian ace made most of the opportunity. He nursed his extra pawn and won the game by launching a mating attack with minimal forces on the black king. He took lead since all the other games of tournament ended in draws.
It is obviously too early to say whether Vishy would repeat his 2014 Candidates success, but he has surely made a good start. In 2014 too, Anand had won his first round against Levon Aronian by essaying the same move 1.e4.
Today, when he was asked whether it felt like déjà vu, Anand replied, “You can always try to link everything. I am not thinking in that direction. I am happy with my today’s result.”
The Candidates event, to be held from 11 to 29 March, is taking place in the Central Telegraph building in Moscow. It is an eight-player double Round-Robin (each player has to play against the other twice) tournament. The winner will earn the right to challenge World Champion Magnus Carlsen for the World title that will be held in New York later this year. The total prize fund of the Candidates is €4,20,000.
The second round to be held today Anand will have the black pieces against Armenian Levon Aronian. The game begins at 5.30 p.m. IST and can be followed live here.
The writer is an International Master and is the founder of Chessbase India.