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    Entries in 2014 World Championship (36)

    Monday
    Nov172014

    World Championship, Game 7: Drawn in 122 Moves

    While Viswanathan Anand's Kan Sicilian is in the shop, he decided to go back to 1...e5 and the Berlin Defense. In game 2 Magnus Carlsen this with 4.d3 and went on to win a nice game, but this time decided to enter the famous ending. The players followed a trendy line, with the first officially new move occurring on move 25. That began the game, and three short moves later Anand found an idea that dictated the game's character for the next 50 moves or so. Anand began a combination that resulted in an ending where Carlsen had a rook, knight and two pawns against Black's rook and four compact pawns, with all the pawns on the queenside.

    White's fundamental idea was to put a pawn on c4, the knight on d5 and put the rook on the 7th rank, and if he could achieve that without Black doing anything special in reply he would most likely win (whether Black went for a rook swap or not), but achieving that setup wasn't at all easy. It took Carlsen a long time to legitimately threaten it, and once he was about ready to put that plan into action Anand started pushing his queenside pawns and advancing his king in search of counterplay. It wasn't easy, but Anand calculated everything correctly and managed to liquidate all of White's pawns by move 77, reaching an ending with rook and two pawns vs. Carlsen's rook and knight. Carlsen wasn't yet ready to call it a day, and while he eventually picked up both of Black's pawns Anand had no trouble holding the resulting ending, which has been known since forever to be a theoretical draw. Carlsen finally gave up the ghost and allowed the rooks to be traded, "unfortunately" finishing the game two moves before tying the old record for world championship games. (The record for moves, that is; the record for time is just about impossible to break under current time controls.)

    Carlsen thus continues to lead the world championship match with a 4-3 score; Anand will have the white pieces tomorrow. Meanwhile, the game, with my brief notes, can be replayed here. (Subscribers to my match coverage will get more detailed coverage later tonight.)

    Saturday
    Nov152014

    Kasparov on Carlsen-Anand, game 6

    In general I'm a pretty decent player, an FM who has repeatedly come close to getting IM norms, but compared to Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand I'm of course a fish - and a small fish at that. So while I hope that what I do know, combined with conscientious work and the judicious use of the computer enables me to say things that are sensible and at least occasionally insightful, there's always the very real danger that the gap between me and them will lead to every so often to comments that are completely off the mark.

    One such comment was about Anand's choice of opening line today; in particular his decision to head for the quasi-endgame with the queen trade. It seemed to me both dubious in its own right and all the more so as a way for him to play against Carlsen. Perhaps I'm the stopped clock that's right twice a day or the blind squirrel who found a nut, but on this occasion I can at least enlist Garry Kasparov in support of my claim. A few minutes ago, he offered these tweets:

    It's even harder to understand Anand's opening choice today than the blunders. I looked at this line for my match vs Kramnik in 2000. Bad.

    I remember looking at Bf4 and this h-pawn push and it's miserable for Black. Especially against Magnus, bizarre blunder today aside.

    It will be very hard for Anand to come back. There was an exchange of terrible openings in g3 & g6 [DM: game 3 and game 6], doubt it will happen again.

    Saturday
    Nov152014

    World Championship, Game 6: Carlsen Wins After Anand Misses A Huge Chance

    When Viswanathan Anand blundered at the end of game 2, it was in a position that was very difficult and possibly lost against best play. Today, however, Magnus Carlsen blundered in a position that was clearly better, and had Anand spotted it the tables would have been turned. As so often happens, Carlsen realized his mistake the instant after he made his move, and unfortunately for Anand it was only after he made his reply that he spotted the missed opportunity. (Carlsen's 26.Kd2?? allowed 26...Nxe5, e.g. 27.Rxg8 Nxc4+ 28.Kd3 Nb2+ 29.Ke2 Rxg8 30.g3 and although White will reclaim one of the two missing pawns Black has excellent winning chances.)

    After the exchange of errors Black's position remained difficult but defensible, but Anand did not make the most of his chances. In particular, ...Ba4 was a good idea, but according to the players it needed to be prefaced by ...Ne7. After 31...Ba4 32.Be4+ Bc6 Black started bleeding pawns left and right, and when he resigned he was on the verge of going five pawns(!) down. In fact Black had an incredible defensive resource - see the PGN file (link below) for the details - but it would have been very difficult to spot.

    Going back to the beginning, the opening was rather a surprise. Anand's decision to repeat the Sicilian with 2...e6 was not a shock--the last game was successful and this was after all the variation I had suggested. Carlsen went for an Open Sicilian - a mild surprise - and one would think that this was just the sort of thing Anand wanted. Here, however, Anand chose a line with an early queen trade and wher Black is passive, immediately going into a two-results position where neither of the results (well, except in the case of a blunder!) is a Black win. If Anand had achieved a position that was (at least) objectively good or really and clearly worked out to a draw out of the opening one could make an argument for this strategy, but that clearly wasn't the case.

    The players have a rest day tomorrow, and game 7 will be on Monday with Carlsen again having the white pieces. Meanwhile, you can replay the game, with my relatively light comments, here. (As usual, subscribers will receive the more detailed annotations and the video later today.)

    Friday
    Nov142014

    World Championship, Game 5: Carlsen Holds Easily With Black

    Game 5 of the world championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen was the first real dud of the series. Anand again opened with 1.d4, and Carlsen switched lines once again, opting this time for the solid Queen's Indian. For once he wasn't surprised and seemed to be the better-prepared player. Anand did achieve a slight edge, but he couldn't figure out what to do with it. After thinking for a while he played 27.Rb7, which was in effect a surrender: the remaining moves were played a tempo and the game was drawn a dozen moves and about five moves later.

    The match is tied 2.5-2.5, but Carlsen will have good chances to seize the match initiative as he gets White in the next two games (first tomorrow and then on Monday). The game, with light notes, is here; subscribers' deeper coverage will be emailed later.

    Wednesday
    Nov122014

    World Championship, Game 4: A Drawn Sicilian

    (Hmm, kind of a mobster-y title there - but at least the Sicilian wasn't then quartered.)

    I think the likelihood that Viswanathan Anand reads my blog is extremely close to zero, and the odds that someone on his team reads it is only infinitesimally greater. But it's still a happy coincidence that he acted in accordance with my advice to scrap the whole Berlin business and try a Sicilian with 2...e6. Magnus Carlsen, as chess fans everywhere surely expected, went for a sideline - in this case 3.g3. Soon Black had an isolated d-pawn, which is, I think, a nice structure for this match, as both players get what they want. The side facing the isolani can hope to positionally massage the opponent until the pawn eventually drops - just the sort of thing Carlsen likes to do (though not the only thing he is adept at, obviously) - while the side with the isolani gets to play actively and to fight for the initiative - the kind of chess Anand thrives on.

    As far as I can recall, this is their first IQP (isolated queen's pawn - the d-pawn) game against each other, at least in a world championship, and it wound up drawn. First Anand was a tiny bit better, and then Carlsen had a slight edge, but ultimately neither player experienced any serious problems before they split the point after 47 moves. Thus this match, like their previous one, was tied 2-2 heading into the second rest day.

    After the game Anand was basically satisfied with his play, except for a late oversight in his calculations that he was able to correct beforehand, while Carlsen seemed fairly disgusted by his own play. Does this mean that Carlsen will head for this line again, thinking he should do better next time? My advice to Anand & co. is that they repeat this. The opening was fine, and a return trip will let them work out the details even more effectively. As White objectively achieved nothing from the variation, and didn't saddle Anand with the kind of position where he must morosely and passively defend forever, there's no obvious reason why he shouldn't go for a second dose of this. And if Carlsen goes for an Open Sicilian, that's definitely playing to Anand's strength. So my prediction is that Carlsen will switch first moves next time, maybe going for the vague world of 1.Nf3.

    The game (with very light annotations) is here; subscribers' material will be sent later.

    Tuesday
    Nov112014

    World Championship, Game 3: Anand Strikes Back to Level the Match

    In last year's world championship match between the same players, the score was likewise 1.5-1.5 after three games, but the feeling is very different this time around. Having been totally outplayed in games 5-10 of last year's match and the first two games of this one, it looked as if Viswanathan Anand might be hopelessly outclassed by Magnus Carlsen. After today's game, there is hope and relief for Anand and his fans, and for everyone who wants to see a competitive match.

    In game 1 Anand tried to complicate the play and succeeded up to a point, and today he was even more successful. Carlsen went into a deeply theoretical line of the Queen's Gambit Declined with Black, but it was soon clear that Anand had done his homework and that Carlsen hadn't. Anand's preparation went up to at least his 22nd move, at which time he had a clear advantage and a huge lead on the clock. Some further precise moves like 26.Rc6! and 28.Ra1! put Carlsen under enormous pressure, and in a difficult position he cracked with 28...Ba5 and 29...Bxc7, losing serious material without achieving any counterplay whatsoever. In a hopeless position and just a few seconds left, Carlsen resigned on his 34th move.

    Carlsen is a very resilient player - one of the most resilient in top-level chess, if not the most resilient, so he will not crumble after this. But Anand needed this win very badly, and now that he should have his confidence up we could be in for a great match! (Those of you who feared a rout may want to take this opportunity to subscribe. The first step is to drop me a note via the "Contact" link on the sidebar.)

    The match site is here, and the game, with my light commentary, is here. (Much more detailed coverage, plus a video, will be sent out to subscribers later.)

    Sunday
    Nov092014

    Carlsen-Anand, Game 2: Carlsen Wins After Anand Blunders in a Bad Position

    This is clearly not the way Viswanathan Anand hoped to start his second world championship match against Magnus Carlsen. The position he reached from the opening, a "Closed" Berlin (4.d3)  was reasonable enough, objectively speaking, but Carlsen found a nice plan to whip up a dangerous kingside initiative - 14.Ra3 was the clear signal, but the previous moves had prepared the plan. Anand defended well for a while, but 20...Bxf5 rather than the tactically clever 20...Kh8 (21.Rxf6 Qf7) was a big concession. Soon the players reached their second straight heavy piece ending, but this time Carlsen entered it with a large positional advantage. Carlsen's technique was not up to its usual incredibly high standard, but he was still in control when Anand played 34...h5??, which lost on the spot. Carlsen played 35.Qb7 and Anand resigned on the move.

    Anand's propensity to make concessions like 20...Bxf5 was part of what ruined his chances last year, and it looks like it's happening again. The trouble is that his keep-it-simple approach, one he has used to the point of cynicism over the years, has worked very effectively against everyone else in the chess world, at least since Garry Kasparov's retirement. Against Carlsen (as against Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov in their primes) it is a disaster. He accepts the concession, then ramps up the tension again until the opponent makes another concession, which he again accepts and starts the process all over again. Most players, even great ones, tend to relax at least a little once they've extracted some gain from their opponents; most, but not Carlsen. Anand must try not to let Carlsen get risk-free positions, where he is simply the best player in the world, and by a significant margin.

    For Anand to choose the Berlin against Carlsen is almost the exact inversion of Kasparov's problem in 2000 against Vladimir Kramnik. Kasparov kept banging his head against the Berlin ending, believing (with some justification, at least at the time) that White simply must be better there and thus sticking to the principled belief that he should keep at it. Had he switched to the less principled 4.d3, he might not have obtained any advantage but would have reached positions where his own natural gifts would be more likely to shine. For Anand, it's the opposite: he is playing the Berlin because he believes (with justification) that Black is doing fine there. That's true (or at least seems to be true at this point in time), but he is thereby heading into the kinds of positions where his opponent's gifts for chess are more likely to shine than his own. Giving Carlsen a position where he can just grind away with no risk at all is a ridiculously bad strategy. It's not that Carlsen can't play in sharper positions - of course he can - but there they can fight on a much more equal footing. So: if Anand has some Sicilian lines ready to go in his preparation, it's time to use them. Make Carlsen take strategic risks!

    The game, with some light annotations, can be replayed here. (Subscribers' coverage is coming later today. For non-subscribers, it's not too late to sign up!)

    Saturday
    Nov082014

    Carlsen-Anand, Game 1: An Eventful Draw

    This year's world championship match got off to a much livelier start than last year's. This began from move 1, with Viswanathan Anand opting for 1.d4 rather than 1.e4. In the previous match his tries with 1.e4 led to nothing against Magnus Carlsen's Berlin, while 1.d4 in game 9 gave Anand his best shot with White in the whole match, notwithstanding the final result of that game.

    In that game from last year Carlsen headed for a Nimzo-Indian, but today he chose a Gruenfeld. After 4.cxd5 Nxd5 Anand opted for Smyslov's system with 5.Bd2, and obtained an active position where Black needed to exercise serious care to avoid concrete problems. So far, so good for the Anand game plan, but when Carlsen rose to the occasion and solved those problems Anand started to drift. Move by move as the time control approached Carlsen gained ground and it looked like he might be on the path towards another trademark boa constrictor victory. After the time control, however, Anand was able to tighten things up and chose an excellent defensive setup that enabled him to hold the game, although I suspect that Carlsen might have missed an opportunity for more.

    Both players have some grounds for satisfaction in the game: Anand was able to get an open fight and then later showed his ability to defend resiliently in his opponent's kind of position, while Carlsen can feel good about neutralizing his opponent's opening surprise with Black without too much trouble and then managing to seize the advantage as well.

    The game is here (with very light notes); game two will be tomorrow. Subscribers: more coverage is coming!

    Friday
    Nov072014

    How Will I Cover the Carlsen-Anand Rematch? You Decide

    [Note: There have been quite a few new posts since I first wrote this; I just keep pushing it to the top for the sake of those who may not have seen it already.]

    A few people have written asking if I will cover the upcoming Magnus Carlsen-Viswanathan Anand rematch in a way similar to what I've done the last two years with the first Anand-Carlsen match in 2013 and the one between Anand and Boris Gelfand on 2012. I covered those matches on the blog to some extent, but worked up some deep analysis and videos for subscribers, sending both to them by email.

    If there is sufficient interest, I'm willing to repeat last year's offer. If you're willing to pay $25 (or more) for the same deal, please drop me a note via the "Contact Me" box in the right sidebar along with your email address, and if enough people have signed up by Friday afternoon ET I'll send out a note requesting that you go ahead and send that amount to me via PayPal. If not enough people are interested, then I won't, and no one will have committed any money. And here's a bonus, at least for those who hadn't signed up last year: If the plan succeeds I'll send the early subscribers last year's Anand-Carlsen videos and analyses as well!

    Order now, operators are standing by...

    Friday
    Nov072014

    Carlsen-Anand Starts In About 8 Hours; Anand Has White in Game 1

    The World Championship rematch between champion Magnus Carlsen and his challenger, ex-champion Viswanathan Anand, starts Saturday at 3 p.m. local time in Sochi, Russia (= 12 noon GMT/7 a.m. ET). Anand drew the white pieces for game 1, which means he'll also have them for game 12 (if it gets that far).

    The players announced their seconds - at least some of them - at a press conference today (Friday). Carlsen confessed to the obvious ones: Peter Heine Nielsen and Jon Ludwig Hammer, while Anand mentioned three: Krishnan Sasikiran, Radoslaw Wojtaszek, and Grzegorz Gajewski. Has Garry Kasparov provided any special help to Carlsen, and has Vladimir Kramnik offered any assistance to Anand? It's possible, but as far as I know and have heard no one outside of the principals themselves and probably their immediate circles knows for sure. Regardless of the strength and brilliance of the players' seconds, however, the results are ultimately up to the players, and unless the novelties are huge they probably won't be enough to decide a game in and of themselves.

    The tournament site is here, and if you're interested in my fullest coverage of the match, have a look at this post and drop me a note.