Is it wrong of me to talk about miracles and coming back from the dead going into the Easter weekend? Well, biblical analogies aside, that’s the scenario on offer in the Moscow Candidates' Tournament, as five-time world champion Vishwanathan “Vishy” Anand defeated tournament co-leader Sergey Karjakin to again comeback from the dead to take the joint lead with just three rounds left to play in this tense title-decider.
After suffering a defeat at the hands of new favourite Fabiano Caruana in the previous round, Anand miraculously came storming right back into contention with yet another python-like squeeze to inflict the first defeat of the tournament frontrunner - and all of this means an even more tense finish for those in contention for a $1m title-shot with Magnus Carlsen going down the homestretch.
While there’s still a big possibility of Anand-Carlsen III, Caruana however is the one who holds all the aces. He’s in the joint lead with Anand on 6.5/11 - but although 46-year-old Anand is the player who has won the most games (four, but also with two defeats) in the tournament, the first tiebreak decider (if there’s a tie at the top at the end) will be individual results against each other, and here the young American has 1.5/2 against the veteran world championship war dog.
However, despite the advantage, Caruana has to be kicking himself for failing to convert a clearly better position against tail-ender Veselin Toapalov, as this would have given him the sole lead to probably wrap-up the contest. The other highlight of the day was former leader and perennial candidates bridesmaid Levon Aronian losing also to Peter Svidler - a result that will at least have given the patriotic Russian crowds something to cheer about.
Photo © | Moscow Candidates Tournament
Anand 1-0 Karjakin
Giri draw Nakamura
Aronian 0-1 Svidler
Topalov draw Caruana
1-2. Fabiano Caruana (USA), Vishy Anand (India) 6.5/11; 3. Sergey Karjakin (Russia) 6; 4-6. Anish Giri (Netherlands), Peter Svidler (Russia), Levon Aronian (Armenia) 5.5; 7. Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 4.5; 8. Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) 4.
GM Viswanathan Anand - GM Sergey Karjakin
FIDE Moscow Candidates, (11)
Ruy Lopez, Anti-Berlin
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3 The Anti-Berlin crusade with this simple little move continues. 4...Bc5 5.c3 0-0 6.0-0 d6 7.h3 Ne7 8.d4 Bb6 9.Bd3 d5 10.Nxe5 Nxe4 11.Nd2 Nd6 12.Nb3 c6 13.Nc5! The knight finds a nice outpost on c5, where along with the other knight on e5, they look a threatening pair. It looks like Karjakin has to cede the bishop pair with ...Bxc5, but not immediately, as his knight lands on awkward squares. 13...Ng6 As mentioned in the previous note, if 13...Bxc5 14.dxc5 Ne4 (If 14...Ndf5 15.Qc2! and now his other knight on e7 and the bishop on c8 are tied to the defence of f5.) 15.Bxe4 dxe4 16.Nc4! and White has an advantage with the knight coming to d6. 14.Qh5 A nice sally from the queen over to the heart of the action on the kingside - but more importantly, it prevents Karjakin from exchanging off the powerful knight on e5 as there's the little matter of a mate on h7. Things are just awkward for now for Karjakin; but not losing. 14...Bxc5 Forced now, otherwise White has a free reign to continue building up the attack, as Black can't complete his development with the bishop stuck on c8. 15.dxc5 Ne4 16.Bxe4 dxe4 17.Rd1 Qe7 18.Nxg6 hxg6 19.Qg5! Anand effortlessly switches gears to take the game into an ending where he has the advantage with the rook dominating the d-file. 19...Qxg5 20.Bxg5 f6 Limiting Anand's dark-square domination of the position. 21.Be3 The game-plan now for Anand is the rook lift to d6 and doubling on the d-file. 21...g5 22.Rd6 Re8 23.Rad1 Be6 24.b3 Kf7 25.R1d4! Not giving Karjakin time to mobilise with ...Kg6 and ...f5 where Black would stand better than he does in the game. 25...Bf5 26.a4 Re7 27.g4 Bh7 28.b4 The squeeze is on. Anand has a free-reign on the queenside, and he can also bring his king into a central position. This game reminds me of Anand's similar squeeze a few rounds earlier of Levon Aronian. 28...Bg8 29.b5 Rc8 30.Rd7 Rce8 Hopeless was 30...cxb5? 31.Rxe7+ Kxe7 32.Rxe4+ Kf7 33.axb5 and White is easily winning this. 31.b6! The breakthrough move; the idea being to use the c7 square for his rook. 31...a6 32.Rc7 Karjakin is in a bind, and the old fox Anand just casually build's up the pressure until something gives. 32...Kf8 There's no easy answers, as taking on c7 will lose quickly: 32...Rxc7 33.bxc7 Rc8 34.Rd7+ Ke8 (Certainly not 34...Kf8? 35.Rd8+ and Black can resign this.) 35.Rxg7 and the rook not only dominates the seventh, but he also still has that big pawn on c7. The End is Nigh, as the placard goes. 33.c4 This helps to tie in Karjakin's bishop; and by now he's almost in zugzwang territory. 33...Be6 Karjakin gives away a pawn in the hope of throwing himself free from his shackles. It's the radical solution, but he's banking on the opposite coloured bishops being his salvation. Instead, if, say 33...Bf7, Anand will just play Kg2-g3 and h4 leaving Karjakin paralysed, waiting for his opponent to carefully workout the winning strategy from here. 34.Rxe4 Kf7 You can see what Karjakin is angling for here: an exchange of rooks will leave Anand forever defending c4 - and with all of Black's pawns on the queenside on white squares, a draw would be easy to engineer. 35.f4 Rxc7 36.bxc7 Rc8 37.f5! Many here would perhaps capture twice on g5, and Karjakin would have loved this as it offered him realistic drawing chances with the opposite bishops. But Anand is having nothing of it: he simply returns the c7 pawn and forces Karjakin to pay the price for it - just look now at the lack of squares Karjakin's bishop will have locked in on d7; and he will spend time getting his rook back into the game. All of this gives Anand the time to re-organise his strangle-hold on the position. 37...Bd7 38.h4! (See diagram) A wonderful follow-up resource to have - the idea is not so much to recapture the pawn with Kh2-h3-xh4, but the deadly threat of Bf4 to keep that menacing pawn on c7. This has been such a masterful squeeze from Anand. 38...g6 Karjakin now realises his only chance is to try and liquidate as many pawns as possible now; and if the worse comes to the worse, hope he can sacrifice his bishop for a possible draw. 38...gxh4 39.Rd4! Ke7 40.Bf4 and White will follow-up with Kh2-h3 etc. 39.Rd4 Rxc7 40.hxg5 fxg5 41.Bxg5 Be8 The snag is that if 41...gxf5? 42.Bf4 Rc8 43.Rxd7+ wins. 42.f6 Kf8 If 42...Rd7 43.Re4 is awkward as Black will soon run out of moves: 43...Kf8 44.Bh6+ Kf7 45.Kf2 and now Black's rook is permanently tied also to defending the seventh. 43.Bf4 Rh7 44.Kg2 Bd7 45.Bg5 Also playable was 45.g5 - but with Bg5, Anand turns the screws and prolongs the agony for his opponent, as it snuffs out his bishop from potentially coming into the game. 45...Be6 46.Rd8+ Kf7 47.Rb8 Bxc4 No better was 47...Bxg4 48.Rxb7+ Kg8 49.Rb8+ Kf7 50.Kg3! Be6 51.Rb7+ Kg8 52.Rb6 Rc7 53.Kf4! and White will have gained a vital tempo for his king to come into the game with Ke5-d6. 48.Rxb7+ Kg8 49.Rb8+ Kf7 50.Kg3 Ke6 51.Re8+ Kf7 Forcing the king back, as after 51...Kd5 52.Re7 will win quickly. 52.Rc8 Bd5 53.Kf4 Ke6 54.Re8+ Kd7 55.Ra8 Ke6 56.Re8+ Kd7 57.Re3! Cutting the king off and keeping the black rook stuck on h7, as it has to stay there to prevent Anand playing Re7+ and f7. 57...a5 58.Kg3 Rf7 59.Kf4 Rh7 60.Re1 Kc8 61.Kg3 Rf7 62.Re8+ Kd7 63.Ra8 Kc7 64.Kf4 Rd7 65.Bh4! Anand vacates g5 to allow his king to come to g5 (and possible slip through the back door to g7). When it gets safely to g5, the final breakthrough can't be prevented. 65...Kb7 66.Re8 Bf7 67.Re4 Bd5 68.Re3 Bf7 69.Kg5! Ka6 Karjakin is in zugzwang now, with all moves losing: 69...Kc8 70.Be1 Rd5+ 71.Kh6 Rd7 72.Bxa5; 69...Bd5 70.Kxg6; 69...Kc7 70.Be1 Rd5+ 71.Kh6 70.Re7 1-0