Tata Steel Chess Round 7: Viswanathan Anand's strategic shortcomings prove costly against Vladimir Kramnik
Viswanathan Anand, who was co-leading the tournament until the conclusion of Round 6, was strategically outplayed by his long-time rival and friend, Vladimir Kramnik.
After seven rounds at the Tata Steel Masters, Azerbaijan’s Shakhriyar Mamedyarov has put himself in a dominating position, one point ahead of his nearest rival. In his seventh round game, he managed to bring down a generally well prepared Wei Yi in an Open Catalan to register his third consecutive win in the tournament. Viswanathan Anand, who was co-leading the tournament until the conclusion of Round 6, was strategically outplayed by his long-time rival and friend, Vladimir Kramnik in an Italian opening. With this loss, Anand has slipped down a spot on the leaderboard and is now on joint third.
Anand seemed to be having an off day from the very start of the game. As Kramnik explained after the game, the newly crowned world rapid champion missed some subtleties in the opening that gave Kramnik the upper hand in the position. Anand tried expanding on the queenside but given that he had also placed his king on that wing maAdd Newde his position all the more difficult to defend. Kramnik simply placed his king on the queenside and came up with some neat maneuvers with his queen and bishop while placing his rooks on the open files that led towards the white king. As play progressed, Anand’s weaknesses all around the board began to tell and by move 36, Kramnik was ready with his pieces to penetrate into the white camp and spell doom. Anand resigned at this point, interestingly, with equal material on the board.
Talking about the game in the post-game interview, Kramnik said, “I don’t know what to say about this game. I wouldn’t say that I did something exceptional. It just went so right for me from the beginning. I didn’t expect to win with black in such a smooth fashion”.
Mamedyarov had a small surprise for Wei Yi in the opening as the Grandmaster from Azerbaijan went for the Open Catalan, an opening he doesn’t play very often. Wei Yi, too, did not shy away from having a complicated game and offered a pawn very early in the game. In the opinion of the computers, the position was still equal after this. However, as Mamedyarov pointed out after the game, black has to play very accurately.
By the 20th move, Mamedyarov already had a clear edge. He quickly exchanged queens and a pair of rooks and began rolling his queen rook pawn down the board. The Chinese Grandmaster was unable to find the best moves at crucial points and went down within just 10 moves, on move 30.
Adhiban Baskaran essayed another enterprising opening in Round 7. With the black pieces against Maxim Matlakov, the Chennai lad answered his opponent’s queen’s pawn opening with the King’s Indian Defence. Matlakov chose the solid fianchetto variation and got an advantage in the middle game after sacrificing an exchange. Adhiban gave back the exchange in time to neutralise white’s pressure. He was still a pawn down, though.
Players soon reached an endgame where white had a bishop and knight against black’s two bishops. When an opportunity arose, Adhiban gave up his dark squared bishop for Matlakov’s knight, going into a pure bishops-of-opposite-colour endgame wherein the players agreed to a draw on the 53rd move.
The Challengers’ group had a rather peaceful round on Saturday evening. Only two out of the seven games of the round ended decisively. Vidit Gujrathi was held to a draw for the third time in a row, this time by the lowest rated player in the field Lucas van Foreest. With the white pieces, Vidit opened with the Flohr-Mikenas system of the English opening. Equalising comfortably out of the opening, the Dutch teenager hardly gave Vidit any chance to fight for an advantage. A lot of exchanges soon followed and on the 36th turn, the players agreed to a draw in an endgame with equal pawns and bishops of opposite colour.
The only Indian lady in the fray, Harika Dronavalli, suffered her second defeat of the tournament at the hands of the German Grandmaster, Matthias Bluebaum. Harika had no problems out of the opening. The middle game and a large part of the endgame, too, went smooth for the Andhra girl. It was time to seal things off in a Rook and knight versus rook and knight endgame with equal pawns when Harika began to crack and make inaccuracies. Bluebaum soon got great activity with his rook and won all of white’s kingside pawns. By move 58, Harika decided to throw in the towel.
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Viswanathan Anand finished ninth in the standings with 7 match points and a solitary win (over Boris Gelfand) on his debut in the Magnus Carlsen Tour.
Legends of Chess: Viswanathan Anand crashes to seventh defeat; Magnus Carlsen overcomes Ian Nepomniachtchi's challenge
Viswanathan Anand lies last in the Legends of Chess table with six points with Ding Liren and Peter Leko.