b1-a3-c4-e5-d7-c5-b7-d6-c8-a7-c6-b4-d5-b6

by admin on May 1, 2010

Today’s game from the Topalov-Anand world championship match is dedicated to all the chess players who have ever been baffled by galloping knights. Anand steered the game into a position where he had two knights against Topalov’s two bishops. As befits their Russian name, “elephants,” the bishops appeared clumsy and heavy next to the wildly dancing White horses. Especially Topalov’s dark-squared bishop looked as if it was being pursued by gnats.

Meanwhile, one of Anand’s knights was visiting squares seldom seen by a White knight. (I have put its itinerary in the title of this post.) c8? a7? In the middlegame? But in the final analysis, all of this fantastic maneuvering led to nothing for Anand; he ended up just trading the knight off for one of Topalov’s bishops, and the position petered out into a draw.

As before, I will translate Sergei Shipov’s delightful notes to the game. This time I will not translate his entire analysis, because that would probably take me until next week! But here are the highlights. Enjoy! — DM

Happy sunny May Day, dear friends!

Summer is coming on fast, and the match for the world championship is going even faster — today we will finish the first half.

Grandmaster Sergei Shipov at your service. Yesterday I couldn’t get to sleep for a long time — I kept analyzing the hidden variations of the fifth game. Everybody was wonderin: could Anand have saved himself after the move 22. Rd1!, which Topalov did not find. The activists of the forum KC (and, by the way, welcome — kasparovchess.crestbook.com) ironed the position out practically to the bare kings — and Anand was saved after all! That is, of course, he himself was slumbering sweetly in Sofia and had no idea that a legion of brains and processors was battling for his survival, never laying down their arms. No matter what you may say, chess is an amazingly complicated and deep game. Sometimes in even relatively simple-appearing positions you can find unbelievable bottomless pits of possibility. And the search for the bottom, the search for the precise evaluation is a very entertaining process.

But let’s return to the present moment! The dark days are beginning for Topalov, when he is facing two games in a row with Black. If he manages to hold out twice, then his chances to save the match will increase sharply. However, if he even loses one time, then the outcome of the battle, in my opinion, will be inevitable. But how can Veselin resist, when so far in his Black portfolio he has zero points in two games? I have already talked, of course, about the necessity of abandoning the Catalan territory. Also about the fact that he needs to try not to give up the initiative and play his trademarked style. What else can I advise? Gather his powers, dig deeper, see more clearly, sense more subtly. And, of course, have some good luck! Without luck, it is hard to win a battle of equal adversaries. Let’s begin…

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 dc 5. Bg2 a6

We return to the variation that we saw in the second game. Apparently the repair crew headed by Cheparinov has completed its work. And now the Black automobile is ready to go quickly.

6. Ne5 c5 7. Na3 …

A pawn sacrifice! All just as before. There is no point in changing a strategy that brings you success.

7. … cd 8. Naxc4 Bc5 9. O-O O-O 10. Bg5 …

But here is a surprise! Anand is true to himself. He constantly varies his variations, but remaining within the framework of the previous opening schemes. He cleverly avoids the specific preparation of his opponent, leaving unchanged the general picture of the battle — which, in my opinion, is an unpleasant one for Topalov. He has to carry out a long and thankless defense, while his soul is pleading for activity. (Game two, a week ago, continued 10. Bd2.)

10. … h6

The most logical answer, played with praiseworthy speed. Apparently Veselin wants to show his opponent in this way that he has prepared for this sortie of the white Bishop as well. Even though it has been ultra-rare in previous practice. In my of course incomplete database there is only one game! I don’t doubt that the keepers of secret databases of correspondence games may find more precedents.

11. Bxf6

Having said A, you must say B. With a pawn on g3, bishops do not retreat to h4.

11. … Qxf6

A novelty. Again played with little hesitation.

12. Nd3 …

The White knights have sowed terror in the hearts of the Black bishops. One of them drives the dark-square bishop back, the other is aiming at b6 or d6. And now Topalov started to ponder. I suspect that his demonstratively quick and assured play was a bluff … I doubt that he seriously and deeply looked at this variation. And only practice, that is today’s game, will show whether he should have done so. Sometimes one can figure out the problems over the board, if the problems are not too serious.

Can you believe what I just said? Like, sometimes grandmasters can actually sometimes understand with their own brains what is happening at the board! In previous centuries, people from small to great played chess independently, without help from computer crutches — and it was no problem! Sometimes they did this absolutely brilliantly. And they didn’t have a complex about the absence of total home preparation. But today is a different era …

12. … Ba7 13. Qa4 …

An instantaneous reply! Vishy sees that his opponent is already forced to work at the board and he continues to stamp out clearly prepared moves, creating even more psychological pressure. Like just you try, brother Veselin, to battle with our analysis! The queen has placed itself under the threat of the fork b7-b5. But the rook on a8 most likely will object to such a decision. On 13. … Nc6 White is probably prepared to take on c6. Of course one usually does not want to trade the proud Catalan bishop for a knight, but in this case there are some concrete advantages to such an exchange. At minimum, White wins back his pawn! …

As a rule, general considerations and all kinds of taboos have in our era faded into the background. A great deal depends on hard-nosed, concrete analysis, especially if the study of the variation takes place at home. Which is, in this case, obvious. Anand is strolling around far from the playing table. Topalov is thinking intensely. The time situation is 1:49 – 1:38.

13…. Nc6

The most principled answer. Now the pawn attack on b5 is seriously threatened. 13. … b5? would have simply lost in view of 14. Qc2 bc 15. Qxc4! Nd7 16. Bxa8 Nb6 17. Qc7! Also, 13. … Bd7 14. Qb3 Bc6 would be unsatisfactory, because after 15. Bxc6 the penetration of White’s queen to b7 would be very dangerous on either Black recapture on c6.

14. Rac1 …

Crossing us up! Anand demonstrates the depth of his preparation. He declines to go into the obvious variation 14. Bxc6 bc 15. Qxc6 Rb8, although here he could have exchanged off the more dangerous of Black’s bishops by 16. Nd6 e5 17. Nxc8!, and there is no capture on c6 because of the fork on e7. However, after 17. … Rfxc8 18. Qe4 Qe6 there is still a chance for White to stabilize the position and gain an advantage, for example by 19. f4! I think you’ll agree that the bishop on a7 is no rival to the knight on d3 … However, I cannot compete with the many-ton home preparation of Anand. What I have looked at for two minutes, he and his comrades have studied as a group for hours! So we will trust him.

14. … e5

The rebellious nature of Topalov craves space! The bishop on c8 will gain a promising diagonal. It’s clear that Anand must win back the pawn by taking on c6 and a5.

If Black had played 14. … b5, White would gain an advantage by 15. Qa3! bc 16. Rxc4 — White wins back the piece and develops pressure.

15. Bxc6 b6!

An outstanding resource! Black opens the game in full.

16. Qc2 …

Vishy was not the least bit perturbed by the brilliant answer of his opponent. Most likely he is still following variations manufactured at home.

The greedy 16. Bxb5 ab 17. Qxb5 e4! would have been extremely dangerous for White, as the Black army becomes wildly active.

16. … Qxc6 17. Ncxe5 …

So the original balance of material has been restored. White will have to prove the advantage of the two knights! There is another pleasant point — Black has not yet finished his development. And a second — the bishop on a7 is passive. And a third! The enticing square c6, where both the knight and the queen can go, for example to transfer the play to an endgame. But one must not overlook one serious flaw for White — the great potential of Black’s bishop on c8. And the weakness of the e2 pawn. In sum, there are a lot of factors to consider!

17. … Qe4 18. Qc6 Bb7 19. Qxe4 Bxe4

Time to seriously delve into the position. The knight on d3 is extremely good. It stabilizes the center and controls many important square. It is important for White to figure out how to make the second knight do something useful. But the first order of business, in my view, is to take over the c-file, in other words to double rooks. Then you can figure out the rest. For Black, he has to figure out something to do with the rooks and try to force the knight on e5 to move elsewhere … The evaluation of the position: about equal. Maybe slightly more pleasant for White. The clocks show 1:32 – 1:22.

20. Qc2 …

As far as I can tell from the video, Anand is not reading my online commentary. Nevertheless, he is taking my advice.

In the variation 20. Nd7 Rfe8 21. Rc7 Bf5 Vishy had a tempting possibility to force a draw by 22. Rfc1 Rxe2 23. Rxa7! Rxa7 24. Rc8+ Kh7 25. Nf8+ Kg8 26. Nd7+. But for the time being he has more honorable intentions.

20. … Rfe8 21. Rfc1 f6

And here is the promised eviction of the knight from e5. Clearly Veselin considered the slight weakening of the white squares to be insignificant.

22. Nd7 Bf5 23. N7c5 Bb6

A demonstration of his aggressive intentions. As if to say, we do not exchange bishops for knights! And also, the worst bishop is better than the best knight. And if you don’t know the difference between a bishop (elephant) and a knight — go to the zoo … I have about a hundred more clichés about bishops and knights in reserve. But the heart of the issue is elsewhere. Topalov is taking a serious risk by declining the trade! Now the attack 24. Nb7 is begging to be played, with a pair of unpleasant ideas … The adversaries are now almost even in time: 1:01 – 1:04.

It’s true that after 23. …Bxc5 24. Rxc5 Black does not have time to eat the e2 pawn because his bishop on f5 is so inconveniently under attack. The rook endgame after 24. … Bxd3 25. ed Re2 26. R5c2 Rae8 27. Kf1! is still a little more pleasant for White, because he has the possibility of penetrating into the Black camp, while Black’s attempts to firm up his rook’s position on the second rank have not succeeded. Objectively speaking, this ending is tenable. [Analysis skipped. — DM]

Nevertheless, this would have required work. And the thing is that Veselin does not want to have to work merely to get a draw! To build up his courage he has to convince himself that he has at least a hypothetical possibility of winning. And the pair of bishops is that one foundation for optimism.

24. Nb7 …

He’s peeking. He’s got to be peeking online! That is, I wanted to say that this move suggests itself not only to your humble servant. It threatens a fork on d6, and also an entry by the White rook on c6. And incidentally, the knight on b7 is fully capable of describing a new, unheard-of itinerary, climbing over the Alps by way of the square … c8! Black is already having problems.

24. … Bd7 25. Nf4 …

Understandable caution. The knight speeds to the aid of the other knight… Over the board, I also would have had trouble believing that after 25. Nd6 Re6 26. Nc8! Bc8 27. Rc5 White has a serious initiative without any risk. After all, the knight on c8 looks bizarre. But in analysis it is very hard for Black to defend. Several apparently reasonable moves lead to disaster, for example 27. … Kf8? 28. Nf4! Re8 29. Nd6 and Black loses the exchange.

25. … Rab8

Topalov’s typical modus operandi. He instinctively avoids exchanges. However, after 25. … Rac8! I do not see any particular problems for Black. For example, 26. Nd6 Rxc2 27. Rxc2 Re5 — and how is White supposed to continue the attack?

26. Nd6 Re5 27. Nc8! …

And the transfer over the Alps happens after all! This knight is just like Suvorov. Now there’s something to think about. It’s extremely difficult to foresee all the pirouettes of the White knights … The clock shows 0:40 – 0:46.

[Translator’s note: Most of us in the Western world are familiar with Hannibal’s march over the Alps, but in Russia general Alexander Suvorov’s similar march, during the campaign against Napoleon in 1799-1800, is equally famous. Another history lesson from Shipov and from Wikipedia!]

27. … Ba5

Making the difficult choice between the squares a5 and d8. After 27. … Bd8 would have followed another brilliant move over the very top of the most inaccessible ridge: 28.Na7!! and the knight inserts itself at c6 to great effect. But after Black’s move this feat is not possible, because Black can transfer the b8 rook to e8 in complete comfort. And after the exchange of pieces on c6 would follow the most unpleasant attack … Ba5-d2!

28. Nd3 Re8 29. Na7 …

Vishy is painting at the board! He has managed to step with his knight onto several squares on the edge of the board where knights just don’t belong. And yet nothing awful came of it.

I believe that White could have retained a certain advantage by playing 29. Nd6 Re6 30. Nf6 Bb6 31. h4! and here the idea of h4-h5 is very realistic.

29. … Bb6 30. Nc6 …

Offering Black a chance to win a pawn.

30. … Rb7

Played without any hesitation! The white-squared bishop is truly a very powerful fighter, and trading it off would be strategically dangerous.

Veselin apparently figured out that after 30. … Bxc6 31. Rxc6 Rxe2 32. Kf1 Rd2 Black is not threatening the knight at all because the rook is trapped after Kf1-e2!

[Translator’s note: So far I have been keeping quiet, but this little interlude really amazed me. Anand had to work this out all the way back when he played Na7, and possibly when he played Nc8. And if I had been Black, I would have taken that pawn in a heartbeat. What could go wrong?! That’s why they’re playing for the world championship and the rest of us aren’t. — DM]

31. Ncb4 a6 32. Nd5 …

What can you say — a fantastically industrious knight! It has crossed impassable rocks and once again enters into battle. It reigns supreme in the center of the board. As before, White stands a little better. I continue to insist that he should move his pawn up to h5. The clocks now show 0:27 – 0:28.

32. … a4 33. Nxb6 …

Anand apparently has become tired from his adventures, and decides to simplify the play. I need not remind you of my eternal recommendation 33. h4. The idea after 33. … Be6 is to play 34. Nef4 Bf7 35. h5! and fight for a win.

33. … Rxb6

And so the journey of our hero has ended: b1-a3-c4-e5-d7-c5-b7-d6-c8-a7-c6-b4-d5-b6!

34. Nc5 Bf5 35. Rd2 Rc6 36. b4 ab 37. ab b4

A precise reaction. Further exchanges are inevitable.

38. Rxd4 Rxe2 39. Rxb4 …

White has won a pawn, but there are certain problems with the king.

39. … Bh3!

Exactly! Now a capture on c5 is threatened.

40. Rbc4 Rd6

The time control has passed without adventures. The initiative of Black is sufficient to save him, but insufficient to win.

41. Re4 Rb2 42. Ree1 Rdd2 43. Ne4 Rd4 44. Nc5 Rdd2 45. Ne4 Rd3 46. Rb1 Rdxb3 47. Nd2 Rb4 48. f3 g5

Now we see Topalov’s “Sofia” threats in action. I think that their essence is to morally and physically wear out Anand.

[Translator’s note: Shipov is talking about the “Sofia rules” that Topalov unilaterally decided to play under, according to which draws are only possible by stalemate, repetition, or by consent of the arbiter. The result, as in game three, is that the players are forced to play out a position that is totally drawn. — DM]

49. Rxb2 Rxb2 50. Rd1 Kf7 51. Kf2 …

With your permission, I will stop talking. I do not see any point in pretending that anything important is going on here. Well, maybe it is, but not in the chess sense …

51. … h5 52. Ke3 Rc2 53. Ra1 Kg6 54. Ra6 Bf5 55. Rd6 Rc3+ 56. Kf2 Rc2 ½-½

And here once again the stupid spectacle took place with the participation of the arbiter. It was necessary for him to come over, look at the participants, accept their approval of a drawn result and fix that result. True, this time the players at least shook hands. I cannot understand — what is the point of this charade? Why not simply propose a draw and agree? It’s all ugly. Very ugly. Basically, IT’S A DRAW!

As for the game itself, it almost proved that two knights are stronger than two bishops. Anand had the advantage, but was not able to capitalize on it. As a whole, the play was of high quality and instructive. The champion continues to lead the match, 3½-2½. Tomorrow we will rest along with you, dear spectators, and on Monday we will meet again for the seventh game. Grandmaster Sergei Shipov has enjoyed spending the time with you. Goodbye!

[And goodbye, too, from non-grandmaster Dana Mackenzie.]

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Phil May 2, 2010 at 5:20 am

Much appreciated. I find Google’s translations of the original hilarious but yours are easier and quicker to read.

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