It was a quiet day at office for Viswanathan Anand as he held Sergey Karjakin to a draw from the black side of a quiet game in the sixth round of the Sinquefield Cup being held at St Louis, USA. With three rounds to go, French Grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave leads the event with four rounds while Anand, Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian are trailing with 3.5 points from six games.
The London system is the ‘fashion’ among the elite of the chess of late, one of the openings which rediscovered its popularity because of Vladimir Kramnik who started employing it even at the elite tournaments in the last couple of years. Though looking unambitious, the London system camouflages a certain venom in the position, the simple method of developing the game with 1.d4 followed by 2.Bf4 sticking to the very elementary of developmental strategies rather than being ambitious about occupying the centre.
But what lies at the bottom of white being able to drum up enough initiative is probably not the positional aspects of the game but the psychology. Lured into playing unconventional positions where the white pieces have been developed in a seemingly unambitious way, black players don't really respond to the white setup with enough caution, which ultimately result in white being able to find a way to apply pressure in the middle game.
Strangely, Anand has faced the London system once with black pieces, ever since the opening’s revival, and it ended in a loss against Alexander Grischuk, in the previous edition of the Sinquefield Cup. On that occasion, Anand adopted an aggressive strategy against the opening by playing in an unconventional way but paid the price for being too ambitious with black pieces, ignoring his development and paying the price for being proactive.
On Tuesday, probably haunted by the memory of that game and sticking to the basic principles of positional chess, Anand adopted a simple strategy against white’s development and initiated exchanging of pieces, even while neutralising the centre from the 11th move onwards. By the 15th move, when he offered exchange of queens, there was almost no play left in the position for both the sides.
For the past decade or so, chess tournaments have been adopted the so-called ‘Sofia’ rule wherein games are not allowed to be drawn by mutual agreement by players before a certain number of moves been played out on the board, 30 moves being the norm at the current Sinquefield cup. Though the rule has encouraged more fighting chess and stops a game ending in a draw due to safe approach by players, it also produces situations where both the players are forced to play out a lot more moves than necessary, even if there is no life left in the position to play. Thus, the Karjakin-Anand was bereft of life by the 23rd move, but another seven had to be played out before being agreed for a draw.
Hikaru Nakamura has been gameful in his pronunciations of his encounters with Carlsen in the past. Thus, he generates an interest whenever he plays the world champion, even while holding a poor individual score in their encounters, with just a solitary win compared to 12 losses so far, not counting the draws. A marathon clash between them was one of the highlights of the day, as Carlsen tried to to squeeze out a win from a rook ending where he had an extra pawn. Nakamura defended patiently to hold out and draw the game after 94 moves and six hours and 10 minutes of play.
Wesley So crashed to his third defeat of the event to Levon Aronian, once again a victim to impetuous play with black pieces, in the only decisive game of the round.
Results: (6th round)
Sergey Karjakin (2.5) 0.5 — 0.5 Viswanathan Anand (3)
Fabiano Caruana (2.5) 0.5 — 0.5 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (3.5)
Magnus Carlsen (3) 0.5 — 0.5 Hikaru Nakamura (2)
Levon Aronian (2.5) 0.5 — 0.5 Wesley So (2)
Ian Nepomniachtchi (2) 0.5 — 0.5 Peter Svidler (2)
Points position after 6 rounds:
1. Vachier-Lagrave (4)
2 - 4 Anand, Carlsen and Aronian (3.5)
5 -6 Caruana and Karjakin (3).
7 - 9 Nakamura, Svidler and Nepomniachtchi (2.5)
10. So 2.
Updated Date: Aug 09, 2017 19:29:13 IST