Gelfand – Anand Game 4: Towers of Babylon

by admin on May 15, 2012

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Here is Grandmaster Sergey Shipov’s analysis of the fourth game of the World Championship match, between Boris Gelfand and Viswanathan Anand. The original Russian text can be found, as always, at (This translation will be posted there as well.)

Without further ado, I’ll turn the podium over to Shipov.

Good day to you, whatever the time of day, dear fans and connoisseurs of chess! Let’s look together at the fourth game of the world championship match, which is taking place in Moscow. Yesterday’s battle left an impression — I have the sense that the two adversaries have gotten into playing form. And it seems as if neither one is going to dominate over the other. That’s good! The suspense will build up interest in the match, raise our adrenaline, make us want to follow the progress of the games again and again.

At this moment I can only guess what opening variations Boris and Vishy will choose in today’s game… There is no doubt about the move 1. d4!, and the Slav Defense is hardly likely to leave the stage, but which variation we will see can only be predicted by reading the coffee grounds. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that even the participants are vacillating over their decisions this morning.

They have no lack of preparation, but which prepared line to play at which moment is a subtle matter. Psychology plays an important role. You have to understand your own condition (if you’re feeling brave you might play a sharp variation, if you’re not sure of yourself it is better to choose a more solid setup), and also you have to guess the condition of your opponent. You have to anticipate the opening strategy of the opposing camp and make an unexpected choice of your own. It’s a whole science!

So let’s see which of our two academics — Anand or Gelfand — is a better scientist. The criteria for determining the truth will be the course of play and, of course, the score on the wall chart …

(3) Gelfand,Boris – Anand,Viswanathan [D45]

2012 World Championship, 15.05.2012

[Shipov, Sergey (translated by Dana Mackenzie)]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6

And so it is. The Slav Defense.

3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Nf3 a6

We are repeating the hybrid variation from the second game of the match. A Meran in the style of Chebanenko. Judging from everything, the champion’s work on this scheme was fundamental, deeply calculated and intended for repeated application.

6.b3 Bb4

I wonder who will be the first to leave the beaten path?

7.Bd2 Nbd7 8.Bd3 0–0 9.0–0

The grandmasters are moving quickly and surely…


The same prophylaxis [as game 2]. Just for kicks, let me show you White’s trick: [9…Re8? 10.Nxd5! Nxd5 (in case of 10…exd5 11.Bxb4 Black will be just a pawn down) 11.cxd5 Bxd2 12.dxc6 and White wins a pawn and seizes the initiative as well.]


Position after 10. Qc2. Black to move.

A local novelty — for this match. [10.Rc1 was played in the second game.]


Vishy’s answer was instantaneous. He and his seconds foresaw the opponent’s choice! Which, to be honest, is no wonder, because after all the queen move to c2 was the main theoretical path and, it appears, will continue to be in the future. Any delay could allow White opening up the center first, or allow him to prepare thoroughly for Black’s attack. Here is a good example from the challenger’s corpus: [10…h6 11.Ne2 Re8 12.Ng3 e5 13.cxd5 Nxd5 14.Rad1 exd4 15.Nxd4 Nb4 16.Bh7+ Kh8 17.Qb1 Nd5 18.Bf5 Qc7 19.Rfe1 N7f6 20.e4 Ne7 21.Bxc8 Raxc8 22.Qc1 c5 23.Nf3 Ng4 24.Ba5 Qxa5 25.Rxd6 Qxa2 26.Re2 Qxb3 27.h3 and here in the game B. Gelfand – A. Sokolov, Wijk aan Zee 2006, it turned out that the knight on g4 has no way back. On 27…Nf6 would have followed 28.Rxf6 gxf6 29.Qxh6+ Kg8 30.Nh5 with decisive threats. To make a long story short, Boris won.]

11.cxd5 cxd5 12.e4

And once again Boris strives for a sharp opening of the game. [12.dxe5 is well known to be harmless for Black, for example, 12…Nxe5 13.Nxe5 Bxe5 14.Rad1 Bg4 15.f3 Bd7 16.Ne2 Rc8 17.Qb1 Qb6 with good chances for Black in A. Brown – N. Vityugov, Kalitea 2008.]

12…exd4 Playing by analogy with the second game would not have worked here: [12…dxe4 13.Nxe4 Nxe4 14.Bxe4 Nf6 15.dxe5 Nxe4 16.Qxe4 and White gets a healthy extra pawn.]

13.Nxd5 Nxd5 14.exd5

The first direct threat to Black’s rear has materialized — the pawn on h7 is under attack.

14…Nf6 15.h3

In this way White prevents the bishop sortie … Bc8-g4. The weak pawns in the center remain alive for the moment. Other moves that have been tried are [15.Rae1; and 15.Rfe1 ; however, 15.Nxd4 is for the moment not a serious threat because of 15…Be5 16.Bc3 Qxd5 with complete equality.]


Playing for development. Black is prepared to sacrifice a pawn. In the game I. Krush – T. Enkhbat, Internet 2005, Black replied in symmetrical fashion: [15…h6 16.Rad1 Nxd5 17.Nxd4 Qf6 18.Be4 Nf4 19.Be3 and here Black lashed out with 19…Bxh3 20.gxh3 Qg5+ 21.Kh1 Qh4 and only survived because White mistakenly failed to play 22.Bf5! Nxh3 23.Kg2]


Position after 16. Rad1. Black to move.

Before retreating to b1 with the queen, it’s a good idea to let the queen rook pass through. The coordination and harmony of the pieces is more important than a pawn. With the text move Boris has created a tower of Babylon on the d-file. An attractive setup, dang it!


The foes have not slowed the pace of their play. It would seem that Anand, after yesterday’s trials and tribulations in time trouble, has decided not to waste time on variations that he is already familiar with. He has been making his choices almost immediately. Now taking the pawn on d4 is a serious possibility. Will Black have enough compensation for the pawn? I’ll also note here that Black’s move is a novelty. It’s no wonder that Gelfand has sunk into thought… Previously Black has played [16…Rc8 17.Qb1 Rc5 18.Bg5 h6 19.Bh4 g5 20.Bg3 Bxg3 21.fxg3 Nxd5 22.Bh7+ Kg7 23.Rxd4 Qb6 with chances for both sides in E. Levin – P. Martynov, St. Petersburg 2012.]


The principled move! There is no sense in further preparations. Now the Black knight cannot immediately win the pawn back on d5 because of the threat on h7.


[The direct 17…Re5 would have led to a very dangerous initiative for White: 18.Bc3 Rxd5 19.Bc4 Rc5 20.Nf3 and as you can see, the villainous rook on d1 is literally mowing down the crowds of innocent bystanders with its attack along the file…]

18.Qb1 h6

Astounding cold-bloodedness! The champion plays as if the pawns were even. Without any hurry he tends his chess garden, plants a few flowers, pulls out some weeds. And he doesn’t trespass on his neighbor. In fact, the pawn on d5 remains weak. As a result of the activity of Black’s pieces it might fall all by itself, like a ripe fruit from a fruit tree. Such an experienced gardener as Anand knows this better than anyone… The time remaining is now 1:18 – 1:51. You’ll agree that this is a serious difference. If I were in Gelfand’s shoes I would think about invading on the square f5. For example, with 19. Nf5 there is a chance to achieve the advantage of the two bishops. It’s not a gold nugget, but at least it’s something.


And so it goes. The other way of taking control over f5 would not have been successful: [19.Bf5 Rc5! 20.Bxd7 Qxd7 21.Nf5 Bb8! and Black wins back the pawn with full equality.]


There is no point in putting up with this jerk on f5.

20.Bxf5 The two bishops are on the board!


Position after 20. ... Rc5. White to move.

Black is close to being able to pluck the fruit from its branch. As a result there will be wide open spaces in the center of the board. A well-mown lawn.


More exchanges are inevitable. White’s problem is to coordinate his pieces, to defuse Black’s activity and then attack… say, either the pawn on b7 or the Black king. [21.Rc1 was worthy of consideration, with the idea of sending the rook to c8. For example, in case of 21…Rxd5 22.Rc8 Qb6 (22…Qe7 23.Re1) 23.Rxe8+ Nxe8 24.Be3 Bc5 25.Bh7+ Kh8 26.Be4 Rd7 27.Bf4 White retains a certain initiative; however, I have a suspicion that after 21.Rc1 Vishy would have played 21…Qb6 , not rushing to win back the pawn.]


Perfect timing. At the moment White does not have any direct threats. Indeed, the most frightening prospect for Black is the possibility that all of the heavy pieces will disappear from the board, the White king will march into the center, and then the advantage of the two bishops will become a very weighty factor — that is, their ability to put pressure across the whole width of the battlefield and on squares of any color. For that reason Black must strive for active counterplay before the aforementioned endgame arises. From the defender’s point of view it would not be a bad idea to trade off a pair of bishops. And if he could trade his knight for a bishop, that would be completely wonderful.


Played after long debate. All four rooks are under attack. Few will survive… It’s unlikely that Black will put up with the pressure of the bishop on c3 for long. The opposing bishop begs to be played to e5. Although, strictly speaking, even an exchange on f6 with the doubling of Black’s pawns might not be that dangerous for Black, if he can in response organize pressure on the f2 pawn… The clocks read 1:05 – 1:30. [Most likely 22.Rxe8+ Qxe8 also came under consideration — here the threat of … Qe8-e5 underscores the unfortunate position of the bishop on f5. The game might continue 23.Bc3 Be5! 24.Rxd5 Nxd5 25.Bd2 Bc3! and Black has achieved the desired exchange of minor pieces.]


Possibly this is one way of illustrating my words about the doubling of pawns on f6. I think that on [22…Be5 Boris would have answered 23.Bb4!?]

23.Rxe1 Bc5

Position after 23. ... Bc5. White to move.

Just so! Black organizes serious counterplay on the dark squares. If White doesn’t take on f6, then the bishop on c3 will be neutralized by … Bc5-d4. Black also has some prospects of playing … g6 (making sure not to overlook the sacrifice on g6) and … Kg7, converting his little garden into an absolutely comfortable place to live. And of course I’m not even mentioning the possible attacks on the f2 pawn…


A solid and refined move, but not aggressive. Indeed, White would not get anything out of [24.Bxf6 gxf6 (of course not 24…Qxf6?? 25.Re8+ Bf8 26.Bh7+ Kh8 27.Rxf8#) 25.Qe4 Rd2 26.Qg4+ Kf8 and the necessity of defending f2 shackles White’s pieces. He will have to play 27.Re2 Qd6 28.Bc2 Rxe2 29.Qxe2 Qf4 and the battlefield turns into a complete wasteland; I also scrutinized the position without dark-squared bishops: 24.b4 Bd4 25.Bxd4 Rxd4 26.Qb3 Visually White’s position appears a bit better, and for the moment Black does not have the advance … g7-g6. But on the other hand, I don’t see any clear plan for White. The game might continue 26…Qd6 27.a3 b5 28.Rc1 g5 29.g3 Kg7 with rough equality.]


Of course. It appears that we will now have one-third as many bishops on the board. The bishop on c3 has nowhere to go. If 25. Bd2? Black will take on f2, and on 25. Bb4 Qb6! is unpleasant. [The naive 24…g6? will not do because of 25.Bxg6 fxg6 26.Qxg6+ Kf8 27.Bxf6 with a win for White.]

25.Bxd4 Rxd4 26.Qc8

Position after 26. Qc8. Black to move.

This is Gelfand’s idea. He plans, in very forthright fashion, with the bluntness of a soldier, to storm the opponent’s queenside. Beginning with the pawn on b7. [I thought that it was more promising to lay siege in a more patient fashion: 26.Qc3 Rd2 (26…g6 27.Bc8! is strong) 27.Bc2 (here, however, 27.Bc8 is no longer good because of 27…Rxa2 28.Bxb7 Qb6!) 27…g6 28.b4 Kg7 29.Bb3 and White retains a certain … psychological pressure.]


Black opens the window and gives his king some more air.


The bishop continues to defend the queen. Its mission is to land on c8.


But alas, it is not meant to be. The trap [27…Nxg4? 28.Re8+! was too obvious.]



28…Rxd8 29.Bf3

I also looked at the poisonous continuation [29.Rd1 Rxd1+ (if 29…Re8 30.Bf3 the answer 30…b6 is unplayable because of 31.Rd6) 30.Bxd1 From here the kings of both players will run to the center, and Black will have to play somewhat precisely, because the pawns on the kingside are vulnerable and it is not so simple for him to control the squares on which White’s king can invade the queenside. But on the other hand, it’s quite possible that I am exaggerating the difficulty — it’s really just wishful thinking.]


Position after 29. ... b6. White to move.

A well-considered reorganization. Black will arrange his pawns and pieces in such a way that they all defend one another, and there will be nothing for White’s bishop to do. White cannot prevent the move … a6-a5 because of tyhe penetration of Black’s rook.


With the threat of invading on c6.


Played very rapidly. But is it the right move? [I think it might have been worth choosing a more active method: 30…Rd2 31.a4 (31.Rc6 Nd7) 31…a5 32.Rc6 Nd7 Here the activity of black’s pieces will most likely lead to a further reduction in the number of pawns.]


Even though Black’s defenses are strong, White still has some chances for success.


All of the soldiers are defended now.


Position after 32. Ke2. Black to move.

Apparently Boris is planning an exchange of rooks, reducing matters to a king race. After Ke2-e3 he can play Rc1–c6, opening up the road for his king. I suspect that Vishy is already regretting the fact that he didn’t put his rook on d2. Now there’s no getting there… The champion continues to ponder, and his time advantage is melting away: 0:30 – 0:56. The battle continues.


Realizing that a passive tactic could lead to serious problems, Anand — albeit belatedly — strives for counterplay. Oh well, better late than never! The knight aims for b4 or f4. One also has to work out whether Black can hold the rook endgame after an exchange on d5 followed by Rc1–c6. [If 32…Kf8 33.Ke3 Ke7 34.Rc7+ Ke6 35.Rb7 Black has fallen into the wrestling pit. White has quite a few resources for improving his position (for example, a2-a3, g2-g3, Bf3-e2-c4) while Black has nothing, aside from the desperate attack … g6-g5-g4. And, of course, the knight jump to d5 again.]


Technical prophylaxis. [If 33.Bxd5 Rxd5 34.Rc6 Black is saved by the activity of his rook. For example: 34…Re5+ 35.Kd3 Rd5+ 36.Kc4 (36.Kc3 b5 37.Ra6 b4+ 38.Kc4 Rg5 39.g3 h4! 40.g4 Re5=) 36…Rd2 37.a4 Rxf2 38.Rxb6 Rxg2 39.b4 axb4 40.a5 Ra2 41.Kxb4 g5 42.Rb5 f6 43.Kb3 (43.Kc5 g4=) 43…Ra1 44.Kb2 Ra4 45.Kb3 Ra1 with a draw by repetition.]


The knight makes an interesting whirligig. Apparently it is planning to go to d4 via f5. The clocks show 0:19 – 0:49. [In my analysis I did not find any serious problems with the calmer 33…Kg7 . For example, 34.a3 Ne7! and the knight descends on d4 with even greater effect.]


Cutting off the cavalry’s raid. After [34.Rc7 Nf5 35.Be4 Re6! 36.Kd3 Rd6+ 37.Kc3 Nd4! we have arrived at a rather strange position, which I find personally surprising, in which for the time being White’s three pieces are unable to overcome Black’s two.]


Position after 34. ... Kg7. White to move.

All as it should be. Without the collaboration of all of his pieces Black can hardly expect a positive outcome. It’s best not to count on study-like miracles. You need a certain reserve of solidity in your position…

And suddenly… What? WHY A DRAW? I have to admit that I completely fail to understand Gelfand’s decision [to accept a draw]. There was no risk of any kind for White, and no matter what happens he will retain a small advantage. You might say that he didn’t like the time situation? I think that in such a simple position it would not be a problem to quickly make six moves. From the competitive viewpoint the challenger is categorically wrong. One must never let the champion off the hook so easily! If you have any kind of advantage — press on, keep playing, keep trying! If you give him presents like this you can hardly hope to win the match.

Oh well, Boris is his own boss. It’s his decision…

Thank you for your attention, dear readers. I, grandmaster Sergey Shipov, bid you farewell until the day after tomorrow, when the fifth game will take place. Best wishes.





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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

anonymous coward May 15, 2012 at 11:00 am

Might you put this up in .pgn? Thanks!


admin May 15, 2012 at 11:21 am

Hi Anon,
Here you go: anand 4.pgn.
In the future I’ll do this with the post.



admin May 15, 2012 at 11:25 am

Hi Anon,
Sorry, the spaces in the file name messed me up. One more time!
Click on for the PGN. If it doesn’t work, let me know.



Ashish May 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Based on their performance ratings after four games, I’d have to say that Boris Abramovich is increasingly favored.


Horatio May 15, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Thanks Dana for your wonderful translation of perhaps the best WCC live commentator.


anonymous coward May 15, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Brilliant! Many thanks!


anonymous coward May 15, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Just FYI – there are three versions of the game in the pgn file.


Ashish May 15, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Are post-game interview videos posted online?


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