When two outstanding chess players play uncompromising chess without serious mistakes, the result is usually the same: a draw. After the blazing start to this match, we now have had three consecutive draws. But I don’t think that chess fans have anything to complain about, because the games have been complex and interesting. In today’s game, Topalov played a speculative exchange sacrifice and then upped the ante to a piece. He was definitely in his element today, and at one point he was a full hour ahead on the clock. But Anand had nerves of steel, and never let things get completely out of control. In the end, Topalov perhaps overplayed his hand a bit, trying too hard to win, and they got to an endgame where the computer finds some amazing winning chances for Anand. But the world champion is not a computer, and the fireworks fizzled out.
As usual, I will translate some of GM Sergei Shipov’s notes. This time they are full of concrete variations, as this game was played on a much more tactical level than the two previous games, which were more strategic in nature. This game will provide lots of grist for the analytical mill of grandmasters and their computers — I’m sure that the last word has not been said on it.
I now turn it over to Shipov. — DM
Greetings, dear viewers! Grandmaster Sergei Shipov will comment on the seventh game of the world championship match for you. We have gone half of the distance, and we can draw some temporary conclusions. In terms of the quality of play, Anand for the moment seems stronger than Topalov. He has some outstanding creative achievements in his dossier. Garry Kasparov admitted that the fourth game reminded him of the best games of his long-ago duels with Karpov. The same domination, the same knight on d6 (or on d3 with a change of colors), the same massive play on the entire board. And the fact that the essentially losing move 20. … h6? was actually highly recommended by computer programs was also, in Garry’s view, a highlight.
In gneral, Anand seems to look good so far. But Topalov, to all appearances, has survived! At any rate, he played his last game as Black in worthy fashion. It seems to me personally that Topalov needs to change his opening records (both as Black, and as White). But Kasparov thinks the opposite — he thinks Anand needs to change something in the opening! We’ll see whose opinion is more correct … On the other hand, it’s only a difference in scales. Vishy is constantly on the move in his opening variation — that’s his normal strategy. Even when he plays the same opening, up to a certain depth he constantly deviates from the previously played games, in order to avoid his opponent’s preparation. Garry proposes a more cardinal change of direction…
While we are still waiting for the game to begin, I will make a prediction: once again we will have the Catalan Opening! I would very much like to see the variation 5. … a6 (if Topalov plays that way again) answered by the dashing 6. O-O. That would certainly be a change of opening strategy — somewhere between my opinion and that of the 13th world champion. No matter how you look at it, Anand has to win at least one more game — to count on swimming to shore with only draws would be difficult. And risky. On this score I have no disagreement with Kasparov. We’ll see …
First, before the game starts, let me honor the memory of the long-time president of FIDE, Florencio Campomanes, who has just left us at the age of 83 years. May he rest in peace.
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Bb4+
And here is a local surprise, within the framework of the match. Previously Topalov had accepted the pawn sac every time, with 4. … dc.
5. Bd2 Be7
A typical maneuver with the bishop. Black has induced the, let’s say, relatively useless move Bd2. In any event, the bishop now will not go to b2. Also, in many variations it breaks the lines of communication between the White queen and the pawn on d4. In general, this is a very minor nuance — but well-known to theory for a three-digit number of years.
6. Bg2 O-O 7. O-O c6 8. Bf4 dc 9. Ne5 b5
A sharp answer. An exchange sacrifice! The alternative 9. … Nd5 leads to a quieter positional battle, after which Black is able to trade off White’s bishop on f4.
10. Nxc6 …
Anand picks up the gauntlet.
10. … Nxc6 11. Bxc6 Bd7
Now White can munch the Black rook on a8, after which he will have to defend. The move in the game is a new variation of a known idea. In the game Gelfand, B. – Ivanchuk, V. / Nice 2010 Black played 11. … Ba6 12. Bxa8 Qxa8 13. Qc2 Qc6 14. Bg5 Bb7 15. f3 e5 [yada yada yada -- I'll skip the rest of the line -- DM] and Black’s initiative compensated for the minimal material deficit. The game soon ended in a draw.
[This is pretty interesting to me. In an opening where White's whole idea is to make Black uncomfortable by threatening the rook on a8, if Black can simply give up that rook, it really seems to call White's bluff. But I'm sure that the last word has not been spoken on this exchange sac. -- DM]
12. Bxa8 Qxa8 13. f3 Nd5
Topalov plays demonstratively, underscoring the speed of his moves. The clock display speaks for itself: 1:40 – 1:58! At the beginning both sides had two hours exactly …
14. Bd2 e6 15. e4 Bh3
Played instantaneously and decisively! As if to say, for a good man even a knight is a small price to pay. It looks as if Black will get a powerful initiative in all variations. An outstanding discovery by Topalov’s camp! Anand is forced to analyze at great depth and waste a lot of time. It’s now 1:15 – 1:57.
16. ed …
Brave boy, Vishy! This time he does not attempt to deviate in cowardly fashion from the most principled lines. He plays according to the position!
16. … Bxf1
In a certain sense this is an accomplishment for White. The bishop on h3 could have become a thorn in the side of White’s king. Now it has already been eliminated. If Black had played 16. … ed 17. Re1! Bc5 18. Bf4 Qxd5 19. Nd2 and White is successfully getting his pieces out. And he has an extra rook, by the way!
17. Qxf1 ed 18. a4! Qxd5
Topalov continues his intentionally fast play. Maybe he wants to terrify Anand with his Russian roots. Of course, Anand maybe has not read Gogol …
[Translator's note: Alas, I cannot identify Shipov's cultural allusion here. Nikolai Gogol was another in the pantheon of great Russian writers of the 19th century, noted for his satire and his fantastic (in the sense of impossible) stories, for example a famous story where a man's nose leaves his face and takes on a life of its own. He also wrote some horror stories, in an era where this genre did not exist yet. What this has to do with intimidating Anand I can't tell you. -- DM]
19. ab Qxb5 20. Rxa7! …
Run away! To the carriage with you, to the carriage.
I think that 20. Qc1 would have been stonger, with the idea of transferring the rook over to help defend in the center: 20. … a6 21. Ra5! Qc6 22. Re5! Bf6 23. Re4 and now we can already start talking about White’s extra piece.
20. … Re8
Another move of home analysis. In fact, this is even flattering for the world champion! He is playing like a good program on a slow time control. Take a look at the clock: 0:59 – 1:57! There is already a whole hour difference.
[Translator's note: I think Shipov's point here is that as long as Topalov continues to move quickly, Anand knows he has not made a mistake. I have felt the same way myself on occasion when playing an obviously booked-up opponent. -- DM]
21. Kh1 …
[I'll skip over Shipov's long analysis of 21. Kg2, which he prefers, and 21. b3, which Kasparov prefers. -- DM]
21. … Bf8?!
[More long analysis of 21. ... Bd6 and, of course, the obvious 21. ... Qxb2. Shipov gives this fantastic, probably computer-aided line where Black sacrifices a second piece to get a perpetual check: 21. ... Qxb2 22. Qe1 h5 23. Na3 c3 24. Bg5 d3! 25. Rxe7 Rxe7 26. Qxe7 d2 27. Qe8+ Kh7 28. Qe4+ g6 29. Qd5! Kg8 30. Qd8+ Kh7 31. Bf6 Qb8!! 32. Qd5 Qb7!! (Black keeps offering his queen, in order to deflect White's queen so that he can promote his pawn with check.) 33. Qxb7 d1=Q+ and Black draws. Even at the level of world champions it is impossible to analyze this deeply, and so one wonders how Topalov made up his mind here. Probably he sensed the passed pawns were not strong enough yet to win, and so he didn't want to pull the trigger. -- DM]
22. Rc7 d3 23. Bc3 Bd6
Remarkable self-control! How could he not throw his rook to e2? … [Long analysis skipped. -- DM] However, in the discussion of 23. … Re2 Kasparov pointed out the cunning 24. Rc8! and now things are getting tight for Black. If he moves his queen to h5 then he can’t make progress with quiet moves because of White’s counterthreats with Bb4! [Of course, after 24. ... Qh5 White has to defend against mate first with 25. h3, but then of course he does have the threat of Bb4, which stops Black from playing moves like 25. Re3. -- DM]
24. Ra7 h6!
Fantastic play! Veselin puts off the tempting mating attack, inviting his opponent to develop. But, amusingly, the analysis shows that White does not need to bring his knight out to d2! Stronger is 25. Qh3!, throwing the queen towards d7. [More analysis of 24. ... Re2 skipped. -- DM]
25. Nd2 …
Anand plays in human fashion, and, it seems, gives away his advantage — assuming Topalov finds the precise objection 25. … Bb4! The difference in time explains the difference in the depth of calculation: it is now 0:29 – 1:07.
By the way, even after 25. Qh3 a saving line has been discovered [for Black]: 25. … Bb4! 26. Qd7 Qxd7 27. Rxd7 Re2!! Could you have seen something like that at the end of a long line of analysis? …
25. … Bb4!
The command is fulfilled. Now Black is successfully able to fight the blockade that White has constructed. The natural jump 26. Ne4 leads to huge problems after 26. … Bxc3 27. bc f5!! 28. Nd6 Qc5! 29. Nxe8 Qxa7 and it turns out that the mighty passed pawn on d3 is much stronger than the feeble White knight. [Translator's note: I have combined two of Shipov's comments into one here. -- DM] Vishy is thinking very hard. There is no question that he needs to bring the rook back to the first rank. Otherwise things will go badly for him …
26. Ra1! …
Hear, hear! The champion’s sense of danger is working on the highest level! He can smell something burning a kilometer away. Now Black can trade bishops, plant his heavy pieces on the second rank, and after that White can only be saved by escaping with his queen to h3, setting up a perpetual check.
26. … Bxc3 27. bc Re2 28. Rd1 Qa4!
Cleverly done! The queen “attaches itself” to the rook on d1, in order to chain White’s queen down and not allow it to complete the saving escape.
29. Ne4 …
One of the roads leading to “Rome.” (But you must put the letters in this word in reverse order.) [Translator's note: "Rome" in Russian is written "Rim," and "Rim" backwards is "Mir," which means peace, or in this case, a draw. -- DM]
29. … Qc2
“I might as well win a pawn with check!” Veselin thinks.
30. Rc1 …
“Go right ahead,” Anand answers in his thoughts.
30. … Rxh2+ 31. Kg1 Rg2+ 32. Qxg2 …
Anand decides to check out the endgame with an extra piece. A true fighter! I respect him. After 32. Kh1 a repetition of moves would have been inevitable.
32. … Qxc1+ 33. Qf1 Qe3+ 34. Qf2 Qc1+ 35. Qf1 Qe3+ 36. Kg2 …
Anand once again is against agreeing to a draw! He has found strength for a new sally. Even without fortifying himself with a drink…
36. … f5 37. Nf2 …
The last frontier of defense for White is the square d1. But Black still has to get there. That means White still has one and a half tempi to activate his queen. You know, things aren’t quite so simple! It appears that I have already gotten a little bit tired, and subconsciously wanted to take a break. In reality, Black still has to earn it … That is, Topalov still has to prove his right to eat dinner in a good mood! After all, he is still a piece down. And if he pushes the pawn, then … then he will have no appetite.
37. … Kh7
A subtle step to the side. The idea is that the pawn on c4 will not be taken with check. But now the same problem will happen with the f5 pawn.
38. Qb1! …
Correct! I think that Veselin has now had time to repent his overenthusiastic desire to win. Many times he could have forced a draw, but now he has to look for a way to save himself.
38. … Qe6 39. Qb5 g5 40. g4 …
Incredible decisiveness! On the 40th move in time trouble people usually make more solid moves. [I'll skip Shipov's analysis of 40. Qc5, which he liked better but could not findÂ a win. -- DM]
40. … fg
The time control has passed! Now we can drink some coffee. I’ll pour…
41. fg Kg6 42. Qb7 …
I would have played this way too, sheltering the king from checks. And, apparently, I was wrong! The computer demonstrates its fantastically subtle grasp of queen play, not allowing Black to advance his pawn to d2, with 42. Qa4!! Qd5+ 43. Kf1 Qe6 44. Qa2!! (threatening to capture with the knight on d3) 44. … Qd5 (44. … Qc6 45. Qa1! Qd5 46. Qe1!) 45. Qa6+ Kg7 46. Qa7+ Kg6 47. Qe3! and Black is in a bitter situation. White is ready to activate his knight, and … d2 is refuted by Ke2!
42. … d2
Correct! Now Black, it appears, is safe. Anything else would have been hopeless.
43. Qb1+ Kg7 44. Kf1 Qe7
White’s queen is unable to leave the first rank, because Blackis constantly threatening to infiltrate on e1 with check. No, my friends, this is a draw. A standoff!
45. Kg2 Qe6 46. Qd1 Qe3 47. Qf3 Qe6 48. Qb7+ Kg6 49. Qb1+ Kg7
I saw this position somewhere before. Twice, in fact! But Topalov’s pride would not allow him to repeat the position three times. Or maybe he just didn’t notice. Or he is so certain that he is in no danger. And that is correct …
50. Qd1 Qe3 51. Qc2 Qe2 52. Qa4 Kg8 53. Qd7 …
The White queen can do anything it wants, even stand on its head! But it may not let the square d1 out of its sights.
53. … Kf8 54. Qd5 Kg7 55. Kg3 Qe3+ 56. Qf3 Qe5+ 57. Kg2 …
In order not to die of hunger, I will have dinner right at my workplace. I propose to summon the officials and ask them to bring Veselin and Vishy a tasty dish. They are surely getting hungry too. My treat!
57. … Qe6 58. Qd1 Â½-Â½
This was a fantastically complicated and bountiful battle. Topalov demonstrated colossal opening preparation, with brilliant sacrifices, and Anand was able to draw the venom from the attack right at the board. He even managed to seize the initiative back and come a lot closer to a victory than his opponent. Veselin showed a little too much fighting spirit near the time control. He unnecessarily avoided forcing a draw and, apparently, traded into a lost endgame. However, Vishy was not able to find the narrow road to victory — it was beyond human capability … Although his great predecessor not less than two times managed to outcalculate the computer. But, believe me, those are different roles. There is a big difference between tossing in a few comments from the side and baking one’s brain in front of the board for 6 hours. Really, both players are heroes today!
Anand now leads the match 4-3. Your correspondent has been grandmaster Sergei Shipov, who is still alive (barely). Although each successive game casts greater and greater doubt on that fact … Tomorrow game eight awaits us. Goodbye!