The biggest concern for Vishwanathan Anand, after his heroic defense in game 7, was that he might wear down mentally and physically from the constant pressure from Topalov. That’s exactly what GM Sergei Shipov talks about in his introduction to game 8, and it’s exactly what seems to have happened.
Anand played a very ugly and passive variation of the Slav Defense — one might say Kramnikian, because it reminds me of the Berlin Defense to the Ruy Lopez, which Vladimir Kramnik played against Garry Kasparov in their championship match in 2000. The same early trade of queens, the king stuck in the center, a similarly ugly piece setup. Black has absolutely no ambitions to win, but the opening seems just solid enough to keep from losing. Is this Kramnik’s legacy to chess?
It would have all been worth it for Anand, of course, if he had been able to hold the draw, and it seemed as if he was going to. But then he made a horrific blunder in a dead-drawn bishops of opposite color endgame, one that “even a first-grader could understand” (in Shipov’s perhaps overly distraught assessment). Now it’s a brand-new match: tied 4-4, but with the psychological advantage clearly on Topalov’s side. Who would have thought?
As usual, I will translate the highlights of Shipov’s commentary, which is infinitely wittier and more informative than anything I could write. I notice more and more references to Kasparov — now they are clearly going over variations together — and when you combine that with Shipov’s uncanny ability to sense what Anand is thinking, you have commentary that is pretty hard to beat!
Enjoy the game, as well as the discussion! — DM
Hello, dear friends. Grandmaster Sergei Shipov submits for your attention the next meeting in the world championship match. I think that I am not the only one to notice that Topalov has begun to take over the initiative in the match. He played two games as Black very actively, and in some places even overdid it. Anand for the time being has held up like a trouper, but it is hard to hold up under many tons of pressure forever…
Today I expect a serious attack by Topalov, who has to catch up — and cannot afford to leave this extremely important task to the final games. By the way, it’s no secret to anyone that the world champion plays much more easily and objectively stronger at rapid chess and blitz than the challenger, so the Bulgarian grandmaster has to show his colors in the main phase of the match. Now in every game, no matter what color he has and no matter what the position is, he will play for victory. And risk, perhaps, a little bit more than usual.
What should we expect today in the opening? Everything depends on the ongoing results of the analysis of the Slav Defense variations we have already seen twice in the match. If Anand’s camp has reached the conclusion that Black holds, and if the Topalov camp has found new problems for Black, then we could see the variation for the third and, I hope, the last time. But I (and I am far from alone) would very much like to see a full-scale battle in a truly interesting opening. For example, the Meran variation or the anti-Moscow gambit — those are two provinces of the chess version of Shambhala, an enchanting country where life is actually interesting, and where the springs of creativity and analytical discovery have not run dry. Of course, there is no harm in dreaming, but we have to take into account the fact that the players in Sofia are playing for a result. And only if the “wellsprings” in Anand’s camp give birth to some truly life-giving novelty (a new direction in the development of the variation) — only then will he risk checking the preparation of his menacing opponent. Incidentally, so far the quality of Topalov’s home preparation has been superior. The first and seventh games are obvious evidence. As for the quality of play … well, I’ve already talked about that. Let’s look at the eighth game!
1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dc
We are treading the same path as before …
5. a4 Bf6 6. Ne5 e6 7. f3 c5 8. e4 Bg6
Remarkable stubbornness, don’t you think? From both sides! The argument is so principled that for both of the combatants it is difficult to give way. You don’t want to admit that your choice was unsuccessful… The results so far are in Anand’s favor. But the character of battle in the previous games, one has to admit, was quite troubling for him. Nevertheless, the prime consideration is the score on the board.
9. Be3 cd 10. Qxd4 Qxd4 11. Bxd4 Nfd7 12. Nxd7 Nxd7 13. Bxc4 Rc8
Here is a new nuance! Anand returns to the source — this is exactly how Vassily Vassilievich Smyslov played in his game with Pia Cramling in 1999. In the previous two games, Vishy played 13. … a6 here.
14. Bb5 …
The most aggressive move. Dmitry Bocharov was the first to play this move, in 2007 (by today’s standards, a long time ago!) In the source game, Black didn’t experience any problems after 14. Ba2 a6 [I'll skip the rest of the variation -- DM] and the position was equal in Cramling, P. – Smyslov, V. / Marbella 1999.
14. … a6
There is no reason to put up with the pin.
15. Bxd7+ Kxd7 16. Ke2 f6 17. Rhd1 Ke8
Now this move I don’t like. The king takes the square which was intended for the passive bishop on g6. But that is all theory! Since I am looking at the position with fresh eyes, I have the right to come to a new conclusion …
A very instructive mistake for Black would come about in the variation 17. … Kc7 18. e5 f5? (18. … Be7!) 19. Nb5+! ab 20. Rac1+ Kb8 21. Ba7+! Kxa7 22. Rxc8 and White will end up with an extra exchange because of the pin on the 8th rank.
18. a5 Be7
After long doubts, Anand chooses an ultra-careful move.
Let me show you on the board [Translator's note: At www.crestbook.com Shipov's notes are accompanied by a Java script chessboard, so you can play along with them. -- DM] the idea I had: 18. … Bb4!? 19. Na4 (or 19. Rac1 Ke7!, or 19. Bb6 Ke7) 19. … Ke7! (worse is 19. … Bxa5 20. Nc5!) 20. Rac1 Be8! and on 21. Rxc8 would follow 21. … Bb5+ (the king on e2 is Black’s best friend) 22. Kf2 Rxc8 with heavenly play for Black. This is, of course, only a sketch. It would be interesting to find out what Anand didn’t like about this line.
On the other hand, Kasparov here proposed the move 18. … Rc6 with the idea of bringing the bishop out to d6 immediately. Here is a first draft: 19. Na4 Bd6 20. Rac1 Rxc1 21. Rxc1 Ke7 22. Bc5 Be8 23. Bxd6+ Kxd6 and Black is coming to his senses. But, of course, one should study the position more thoroughly.
18. Bb6 …
How can Black develop now? His pieces are getting in each other’s way. His king is in the way of the bishop at g6, and his bishop on e7 is in the way of the king. He can’t play 19. … Kf7 because of the penetration of White’s rook on d7.
19. … Rf8
The game of rearrangement begins. What is the minimal number of moves needed to bring the rook from h8 through the crowd of his own pieces to d7? Black’s plan is Rf8-f7, Be7-f8, and Rf7-d7. But of course White is hardly going to stand there and wait …
Stop! There is another interesting idea! To play f6-f5 and trade pawns in order to free up the sleeping pieces. And if White answers e4-e5, there is the interesting possibility f5-f4!, and the square f5 will become a decent transfer point for Black’s pieces. This is original and promising! In other words, to answer the obvious doubling of rooks 20. Rd2 with 20. … f5!?
20. Rac1 …
It seems as if this hinders the idea I have just pointed out. After 20. … f5 21. e5 f4? 22. Ne4! Black cannot prevent the penetration of the White rooks along the c-file. So one must find another solution.
20. … f5
Anyway! The bishop at g6, with the help of its pawn axe, cuts open a window … I want to say “to Europe.” But it would be more correct to say “a window to the center of the board.” So … The idea of the world champion becomes clear. In case of 21. e5 he most likely will play 21. … Bg5, using the position of White’s rook on c1 to his advantage. The bishop plans to go to f4, with a simultaneous attack on two White pawns. And if the bishops are traded on e3, now the pawn prick f5-f4 will work! It seems as if everything is working out for Black. Don’t pay attention to the clocks: 1:37 – 1:16. The game could still be following home analysis. It’s simply that the opponents are re-checking it at the board. And trying to be a little clever, throwing dust in each other’s eyes.
[Translator's note: "Cutting a window to Europe" is another famous phrase by Alexander Pushkin. In his poem "The Bronze Horseman," (1833), Pushkin wrote about Peter the Great and the bronze statue in his honor in St. Petersburg, which even to this day is one of the most striking landmarks in that landmark-rich city. Tsar Peter I decided to build his capital city in the middle of what had been a swamp, in order to "cut a window to Europe." (St. Petersburg is much closer to Europe than Moscow is.) Peter I's bold vision set off a centuries-long tug-of-war in Russia, between people who wanted to make the country more European and the people who wanted it to remain true to its Slavic roots. That tug-of-war still goes on today. -- DM]
21. e5 …
A test of the idea. White closes the gate in the face of the newly crowned “tsar Peter.” If 21. Na4 Rxc1 22. Rxc1 he would have successfully broken through by means of 22. … fe! and all the previously dangerous penetrations of White’s pieces are no longer dangerous.
21. … Bg5 22. Be3 f4?!
What? Why? Has Vishy pulled himself down? Did he forget about the preparatory trade of bishops on e3? Why has he left himself with the strange bishop on g5? And now isn’t the bold attack 23. Nb5! dangerous, with an intermediate check on d6 in case of … Rxc1?
Clearly steadier was 22. … Bxe3 23. Kxe3 f4+ 24. Kd4! (the only way to fight for an advantage) 24. … Ke7 25. Ne4 Bxe4 26. Kxe4 g5 and Black holds the defense. But maybe Anand wasn’t sure of this evaluation? [Shipov analyzes a little farther and concludes that Black is fine. -- DM]
23. Ne4 …
The same idea, only from the opposite direction. The knight in either case goes to d6.
23. … Rxc1 24. Nd6+ Kd7 25. Bxc1 …
Threatens a discovered check. But, incidentally, how strong is the threat?
25. … Kc6
Anand decides not to inquire after the details. He did have at his disposal the clever move 25. … Be7!? with the idea 26. Nxb7+ Kc6 27. Nd6 Rb8! and Black has some decent counterplay for his pawn. [Shipov also looks at the discovery 26. Nf5+ with the idea of sacrificing the knight on g7, but reaches no clear conclusion. -- DM]
26. Bd2 …
[Shipov suggests that 26. Rd4 might have been better. -- DM]
26. … Be7
A precise answer. Now the idea of g2-g3 has been in principle removed, and the spectre of drawish “opposite colors” has appeared on the horizon. A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of opposite colors! Something today is drawing me irresistibly to the classic of Marxism-Leninism. School, perhaps … But for now, it’s only a mirage. The passivity of the rook does not allow Black to battle on even ground.
[Translator's note: From 1703, when Peter the Great founded St. Petersburg, we have now jumped forward to 1848, when Marx and Engels penned the opening line to the Communist Manifesto: "A spectre is haunting Europe -- the spectre of Communism." -- DM]
27. Rc1+ Kd7
A reasonable refusal. After 27. … Kd5 28. Rc7 Bxd6 29. ed Kxd6 30. Rxb7 we have gotten a completely different sort of opposite-colors position than Black dreamed about. To put it plainly, a lost one!
You can do with me what you want, but it seems to me that Topalov is gradually losing his advantage.
28. Bc3 …
One more inaccuracy! Clearly stronger was 28. Bb4!, which Kasparov underscored when he was discussing the position. The idea is that after 28. … Bxd6 he will play 29. Rd1! and it is still not clear who is going to take on d6. After 29. … Rc8 30. Rxd6+ Kc7 31. Rd4! White wins a pawn and retains chances for a victory.
28. … Bd6 29. Rd1 …
This is no longer what it could have been. Garry Kimovich suggests here the cold-blooded 29. … Bf5, strengthening the pawn on e6. He sees farther than me. Although 29. … Ke7 is also not bad — this precise move would not have been possible with the White bishop on b4.
29. … Bf5
Vishy listens to the advice of his older comrade on the champion’s throne! The idea is that Black thinks three times before deciding where to retreat the king to. For example, now on 30. Rxd6+ the move 30. … Kc7! seems solid.
30. h4 …
Veselin tries to surround the pawn at f4, not allowing the move g7-g5. But these are already dances on a handkerchief — an attempt to recover what has already been lost.
[Translator's note: I'm afraid I don't understand quite what he means by "dances on a handkerchief." -- DM]
30. … g6
A move that surprised me considerably. Why? [Shipov recommends 30. ... Kc7! -- DM]
31. Rxd6+ Kc8Â 32. Bd2 Rd8 33. Bxf4 Rxd6 34. ed …
Kasparov was initially skeptical about Black’s defensive possibilities in this endgame. But in our joint analysis we started to see some methods of defense for Black.
34. … Kd7 35. Ke3 Bc2! 36. Kd4 …
This looks dangerous. But it hardly is in reality.
We were worried most about the line 36. Be5, planning to run the king to h6. And here is what we found: 36. … Ke8 37. Kf4 Kf7!? 38. Kg5 Ba4 39. Kh6 Kg8 and if immediately 40. h5 gh 41. Kxh5, the idea is to play Kh5-h6, g2-g4-g5, Be5-g7!! and g5-g6, breaking through with the king to e7. Therefore, at this exact moment Black once again switches the functions of his pieces: 41. … Kf7 42. Kh6 Bc2! — the king goes to d7 and we have a dead standoff. Can White somehow break this line of defense by means of maneuvers and zugzwangs? This is a question for an unhurried analysis.
[Translator's note: Remember this comment! It's basically a forecast of the rest of the game.]
36. … Ke8! 37. Ke5 Kf7 38. Be3 Ba4 39. Kf4 …
The king is heading to h6, in order to bring to life that long variation in my last … no, already I should say our last note. But Black does have alternatives. Can he play … h7-h6? But this pawn will become the object of attack by the bishop. Or simply play … h7-h5? There is even an interesting sacrifice of a second pawn with 39. … Kf6 40. Bd4+ e5!? 41. Bxe5 Ke6. The richness of choice provides indirect evidence that Black should have enough defensive resources to save the game.
39. … Bb5
Vishy, like a certain historical personage (the first of May has had such an effect on me!), goes his own way. However, the threat of bringing the bishop to f1 is imaginary. Black is not up to that!
[Translator's note: Shipov has posed another riddle. What historical personage? I am sure any Russian would know, but I'm not quite sure. The reference to May Day (the biggest holiday of the former Soviet Union) would suggest someone connected to that event. Lenin comes to mind first, but then why did Shipov call him "a certain historical personage"? This reminds me of the circumlocutions that were applied (in the Soviet era) to disgraced figures whom you were not supposed to speak of in public. As a very outside possibility, could he mean ... Leon Trotsky? I found a quote on the Internet attributed to Trotsky: "Art must make its own way and by its own means." But I think this is a stretch. My guess is still Lenin. -- DM]
40. Bc5 Kf6 41. Bd4+ Kf7
He could not decide to play 41. … e5+. Personally, I think that if this move holds a draw, then it is the right decision. That is, if Vishy DOES NOT SEE the obvious danger, then why not keep the pawn?
[Shipov goes on to analyze the second pawn sacrifice, 41. ... e5+, and challenges readers to find a win for White if they can. By the way, Shipov's comment about Vishy NOT SEEING the danger turns out to be unbelievably prescient. -- DM]
42. Kg5 Bc6 43. Kh6 Kg8 44. h5 Be8
Correct. Anand, as always, has chosen the simplest and most economical path to his goal. He will save himself.
45. Kg5 Kf7
The armor is secure. And no tanks are needed. By the way, our jacks-of-all-trades following my online comments have confirmed that the sacrifice of a second pawn with 41. … e5+ would really have allowed Black to build an unbreakable fortress. The weight has been lifted from my shoulders! For a change I have managed to come to a correct conclusion in my analysis.Â
46. Kh6 Kg8 47. Bc5 gh 48. Kg5! Kg7 49. Bd4+ Kf7
Everything is in order. If White takes immediately on h5, then the blow 50. … e5!? might discombobulate him. And if 50. Be5, Garry Kimovich recommends a deflection with 50. … h4, with the idea of moving the king to g6. Also, the transfer Be8-b5-d3 does not look bad. In general, there is no win visible for White.
50. Be5 h4
How far the proverbial brotherhood of champions extends! How similar their reflexes are over the chessboard. They have spent so much time in battles with one another that they have learned to think almost identically. And of course play devilishly strong moves, needless to say.
51. Kxh4 …
Otherwise Black would play … h4-h3, destroying all of White’s chances of playing for a win.
51. … Kg6 52. Kg4 Bb5 53. Kf4 Kf7 54. Kg5 …
Apparently Vishy has decided to do me a little favor. The Black bishop will soon find itself on the b1-h7 diagonal! Black is right to cynically place the king on d7. The formation of a new passed pawn on f5 does not give White even a single chance — the attacking front is too narrow.
54. … Bc6??
What? Oh, horrors! Anand commits a decisive mistake at the very moment when the draw had become obvious!
Here it is, the drawing line: 54. … Ke8 55. f4 Kd7 56. g4 Bd3 57. f5 ef 58. gf h6+! 59. Kg6 Bc2 — and Black’s pieces simply stay in place and laugh!
55. Kh6 …
Now the Black bishop does not have time to defend the pawn on h7.
55. … Kg8 56. g4! …
Take a look at our annotation to White’s 36th move. Everything was written there! White wins by placing his bishop on g7!
BLACK RESIGNS. The game could have continued 56. … Be8 57. g5 Bc6 58. Bg7! Be8 59. f4 … (Black is in zugzwang) 59. … Bc6 60. g6! hg 61. Kxg6. The king will break through to e7 [after the preparatory moves Kf6 and Bh6 -- DM] and White will win the bishop and the game …
And so my worst forebodings were justified. The world champion did not have enough energy to maintain his concentration for the entire length of the game. Everything began with the transition out of the opening, when he made the strange mistake on the 22nd move and doomed himself to a difficult defense. But then Vishy stubbornly held his ground and, for all practical purposes, saved the position. But at that very moment, when all he had to do was play simple moves (understandable even to a first-grader) and form an unbreakable fortress, he switched his brain off and allowed his opponent to carry out his only possible attacking idea.
A tragedy for Anand!
I thank Garry Kimovich Kasparov for his valuable evaluations and the variations that he suggested in the process of discussing the positions. I think that this strengthening of our online brigade will improve the quality of the commentary.
And so, Topalov has won and evened the score in the match: 4-4! Now the initiative is on his side. We await the continuation of events! Tomorrow the contestants (and we too) will take a break. On Thursday, the ninth game will begin. This report has been provided to you, dear readers, by grandmaster Sergei Shipov. Best wishes!
One more comment from me (Dana): I think that Shipov, in the aftermath of Anand’s debacle, was perhaps a little bit too harsh on him. Anand had to realize two things to come to the right decision. First, he had to see White’s winning idea with Bg7 — which, remember, was unexpected enough that Shipov gave it two exclamation points when he first encountered it in his analysis. And second, Anand had to figure out that clever drawing variation in the annotation to Black’s 54th move. Neither of those realizations is routine (and definitely they are not easy enough for a first-grader!). If Black overlooked Bg7, then he wouldn’t even have had any reason to look for another way of holding the draw.
By the way, I also think that the endgame is very instructive for anybody who thinks that “bishops of opposite color are an automatic draw.” There’s always a chance to win, especially when you have a far-advanced passed pawn like the one on d6, which forces the defending bishop and/or king to cling to the very last blockading square (d7) like a life preserver.
See you Thursday!Â — DM