A Match of Heavyweights

A Match of Heavyweights‎

WIM energia
12 | Strategy

The big match Anand- Topalov is underway. There is plenty of coverage of the games on chess.com as well as other chess websites. Naturally, talking about something else in chess, when everyone seems to talk about the match does not make much sense for me. My Skype conversations do not start with “hi, how are you?” anymore, instead I get “have you seen THAT?” and immediately know that it refers to something that happened during today’s match game. Waking up earlier than usual to listen to live commentary online is part of my daily routine already. So far we have seen great games, the players changed strategies from going all-in as Anand did in the first game to playing more solidly in the following games. Topalov seems to struggle under the positional pressure that Anand inflicted in a couple of games. While it probably took a lot of effort for Anand to recover from the horrible loss in the first game. So far, the strategy of giving up a pawn in the opening for initiative payed off for Anand as he managed to win both of the games where he did so.

Seeing the fourth game of the match reminded me of the win that Anand had a few years ago in Sofia. There a similar strategical situation occurred: a break through in the centre followed by a kingside attack. First, I would like to present the game from 2006 and then the game from the match.

This is a typical Anti-Marshall structure in the Ruy Lopez opening. Usually, the white knight maneuvers from f1 to g3 but here it stands on b3 which puts extra pressure on black queenside. Black has to be careful with the weakness on f7, since the bishop on a2 is aiming at it. Overall, the position is about equal, white would aim at playing d4 sometime, while black has to be ready to react. Anand implements a standard but very strong plan here – transferring Bb7 to e6, where it will according to Anand “neutralize Ba2”. As you go over the game I would like to point out how Anand went for some complications and avoided others. There was a moment at move 20, where black could get two bishops and strong centre but a weak king and some chances for white to attack. Anand did not go for that continuation: everyone knows how good Topalov is at using even very small attacking chances.

Anand built up his position in the centre and only then used the fact that the black pieces were far away from the king to attack it. It is a common strategy but it is startling to me to see almost a repetition of all the ideas that happened above in the following game four of the match. Probably everyone is familiar with the position as it was played on Wednesday and is still fresh in their memory. Black is up a pawn but he is underdeveloped and white is all ready to break through. Anand has all his pieces mobilized and there is no way he can improve the position dramatically. With the d5 break white opens his bishop, eliminates the c6 pawn, which is a base for the important b5, thus activating the knight on a3. Only after pushing the black pieces to the queenside white starts a plan with a kingside attack. Anand is undoubtedly a true master of keeping pressure in the centre and holding on to the initiative, while not allowing the opponent a slight chance at taking it back.

A fantastic performance by Anand that puts him ahead in the match with 2.5-1.5. On Friday Topalov will have the white pieces and will try to avenge this loss. Will he choose an aggressive strategy? or try to slowly progress? Maybe, there would be a radical switch in gears towards 1.e4. As for the black games for Topalov, it seems that two games is enough to lose in a 12 game match to move away from the Catalan. I am looking forward towards the next exciting games and to the live commentary here, on chess.com TV.

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