"I am very impressed! He is playing very well," was Viswanathan Anand's compliment for his erstwhile rival Garry Kasparov, after their game ended in a draw. It was a game in which Kasparov had even managed to take the upper hand, though it was not any serious advantage.
As the audience trooped in to witness the sixth round of rapid chess at the Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz between Anand and Kasparov, one couldn't help reminisce that the two former world champions played on American soil last time at the World Trade Centre in New York in 1995.
Twenty-two long years ago, they had fought the Professional Chess Association's World Championship match which was won convincingly by Kasparov. But the game on Tuesday turned out to be a much muted affair. It was a game of Sicilian Defence which ended in a draw in 31 moves.
The end of the game witnessed a mild drama when the arbiter initially refused to accept the result as a draw as the required 30 minimum moves had not been completed, and the players were forced to continue and make a few more token moves before signing off.
There was understandable camaraderie witnessed in the interaction between the two, as Anand joked later that "in the end we chatted like World War-1 veterans". After all, the 54-year-old Kasparov and 47-year-old Anand are way older than the other participants at the event, as the next participant in the order would be Levon Aronian, 13 years younger than Anand at 34 years of age.
In the game itself, in spite of Anand adopting a fringe variation of the Sicilian Defence hoping to steer the game into territories known better to him, Kasparov fought admiringly well using his basic understanding and common sense rather than concrete knowledge. And the Russian's deep understanding of the Sicilian Defence showed brilliantly when he came up with an impressive pseudo pawn sacrifice which even tilted the balance in his favour, though not very significantly:
Here, Kasparov came up with the thematic break 19... d5! Temporarily sacrificing the d-pawn but exposing a certain lack of coordination among white's pieces. After 20.Ncxd5 Nxd5 21.exd5 Bg5, it was clear that the roles were reversed from the earlier part of the game and it was black holding more trumps in the position.
Such fluency of play and confidence are qualities which will be difficult to maintain after a long time away from the game, and it was commendable that Kasparov still possessed them.
In his other games of the day, Anand came up with a better performance than the first day and drew with Ian Nepomniachtchi in the fifth round while defeating David Navara in the sixth round, thus taking his points tally to five points out of a maximum 12 – the same as Kasparov.
Owing to the topsy-turvy nature of competition in the rapid format of the game, the sole leader at the end of the sixth round was Nepomniachtchi, who had collected only eight points at the end of the day. Going into the last day of the rapid format with three more rounds remaining to be played, it is sure that the tournament is going down to the wire and the positions and Grand Prix points are still up for grabs. Anand faces Quang Liem Le, Fabiano Caruana and Sergey Karjakin in the last three games of the rapid part of the event on Wednesday.
Aronian drew with Kasparov
Nakamura drew with Caruana
Nepomniachtchi drew with Anand
Dominguez Perez beat Le
Navara beat Karjakin
Anand beat Navara
Kasparov lost to Nepomniachtchi
Caruana beat Dominguez Perez
Le beat Aronian
Karjakin drew with Nakamura
Anand drew with Kasparov
Aronian beat Caruana
Nepomniachtchi drew with Le
Navara lost to Nakamura
Dominguez Perez drew with Karjakin
Points position after six rounds: (two points for a win, one for a draw and 0 for a loss)
1. Nempomniachtchi – 8 points (out of a maximum 12)
2-5. Le, Aronian, Caruana and Nakamura – 7 each
6. Dominguez Perez – 6
7-9. Anand, Kasparov and Karjakin – 5 each
10. Navara – 3
V Saravanan is an International Master and author for ChessBase India.
Updated Date: Aug 16, 2017 18:46:11 IST