Lasker's Legacy

May 14, 2010, 12:58 PM |

[Event "Anand-Topalov World Chess Championship"]
[Site "0:41:33-0:45:33"]
[Date "2010.05.11"]
[Round "12"]
[White "Veselin Topalov"]
[Black "Viswanathan Anand"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D56"]
[WhiteElo "2805"]
[BlackElo "2787"]
[PlyCount "112"]
[EventDate "2010.04.26"]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4 O-O 7. e3 Ne4 {
With this, Black seeks to create an airtight system against d4 and play with
the draw in hand in the final game in regulation. After all, Anand is one of
the world's best rapid players, so that any tiebreak match would favor him.
Given the result, it is pretty easy to second-guess Topalov's choice of
opening here -- why did he not play 1. e4? After all, these sorts of positions
are right up his alley. However, Anand has played both the Petroff and
Caro-Kann, which would have been likely choices in that event. This line
was played by Yusupov against Karpov and created a lot of problems for the
former world champion before he defeated him on his way to a rematch with
Kasparov. Black seeks to solve his problems through simplification. When
Kramnik played the Berlin Defense successfully against Kasparov, it turned
from a theoretical backwater to one of the main defenses against e4. We could
see this happening with the Lasker Defense. If White wishes to avoid the
simplification in his line, he could do one of the following: --Play 4. g3 on
the fourth move, heading for a Catalan; --Play 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. cxd5, playing
the Exchange Variation, which promises a small but enduring advantage; --Play
5. Bf4, which was the topic of the Karpov-Korchnoi match of 1978; --Play 6.
Bxf6, which Petrosian successfully used against Spassky in their 1969 World
Championship match.} 8. Bxe7 Qxe7 9. Rc1 c6 10. Be2 {The machine is tantalized
by 10. Bd3 -- however, after the book line, Rybka's evaluation tails off
towards equality.} (10. Bd3 Nxc3 11. Rxc3 dxc4 12. Bxc4 Nd7 13. O-O e5) 10...
Nxc3 11. Rxc3 dxc4 12. Bxc4 Nd7 13. O-O b6 {13...e5 was also possible, aiming
for a central break. However, in hindsight, the right decision as the long
diagonal turns out to be critical.} 14. Bd3 c5 15. Be4 Rb8 16. Qc2 {White waste
s no time in getting pressure organized against c5, h7, and the long diagonal.
The alternative 16. Qa4 would not have stopped Black's next move.} (16. Qa4 Nf6
17. Bd3 Bb7 18. Ne5 cxd4) 16... Nf6 17. dxc5?! {White does not sense the
danger against his King -- the long White diagonal is destined to play a
critical role. It was therefore a mistake to exchange the critical defender of
this diagonal. White will have difficulties advancing his King side pawns as
it will simply serve to open lines up against his King. 17. Bc6 would have
preserved his Bishop and would have served to increase the pressure on c5
initiated by his 16th move. To be fair, the move has its strong points -- the
creation of structural weaknesses in Black's camp that will be difficult to
defend should he become careless. But the weakening of the long diagonal means
that it will be much more difficult for White to advance his pawns and squeeze
Black's position should the occasion call for it.} (17. Bc6 Qd6 18. Bb5 Bb7 19.
dxc5 bxc5 20. Rd1 Qb6 21. Rxc5 Be4 22. Qc1 a6 23. Bf1) 17... Nxe4 18. Qxe4 bxc5
19. Qc2 Bb7 20. Nd2 {Now, the first effects of White's 17th move are being
felt. The pawn on c5 is poisoned because of the ensuing pressure against his
exposed King and because of a discovery on b2. White is therefore compelled to
move the Knight away from the defense of his King.} (20. Rxc5 $2 Bxf3 21. gxf3
Rxb2 22. Qxb2 Qxc5 {Now, White's King will be constantly exposed to attack
while Black's King is safe.}) 20... Rfd8 21. f3 Ba6 22. Rf2 {22. Rc1 was
better because White can increase the pressure against c5 and maintain the
balance. The text is too passive. When given a choice between an active move
like 22. Rc1 and a passive move like the text, one should always choose the
active move unless concrete analysis shows otherwise.} Rd7 23. g3 Rbd8 24. Kg2
Bd3 25. Qc1 Ba6 {A tacit draw offer -- Black rightly judges that he has
nothing more out of the position. If he can kill White's first-move advantage
in just 25 moves, then his opening has been a success. But there is a
human factor involved -- Topalov declared before the beginning of the match
that he would not offer or accept draws. The result was that he was able to
keep games going for much longer than normal, well after most players would
have shaken hands. His plan was undoubtedly to wear down his older opponent.
White was right to turn down the draw -- the structural weaknesses in Black's
position mean that there are prospects for a positional squeeze should Black
get careless. But such decisions have to be based on a solid understanding of
the position. And Topalov completely underestimated the danger down the long
diagonal until it was too late.} 26. Ra3 Bb7 27. Nb3 Rc7 28. Na5 {Nothing is
oiled yet -- White brings his Knight to the strong square on c4, where he
hopes that his long-term structural advantages will tell in the end. But
common sense dictates that 28. Rd2 would have been worth consideration --
after all, Black's trump is the long diagonal. The more pieces that get traded,
the less likely he will be able to engineer an attack on White's King.
Topalov's problem was that he was too one-dimensional -- one must be able to
squeeze these sorts of positions out as well as engage in the wild attacking
schemes of Tal or Kasparov or Alekhine. And both Anand and Kramnik were able
to take advantage of it in their matches with him.} Ba8 29. Nc4?! {The cumulat
ion of White's strategy would have been 29. Rc3! White would get his pawn on
c5, Black would get his play on the long diagonal, and a state of dynamic
equality would have resulted. White is battling a light-squared Bishop;
therefore, he has to play on the dark squares. If Black is not careful, White
can even play b4 in some lines with the better game.} (29. Rc3 g5 (29... e5 30.
b4) 30. Nb3 (30. b4 g4) 30... g4 31. e4 gxf3+ 32. Kxf3 f5 33. Nxc5 Rdc8 34.
Rfc2 fxe4+ 35. Ke2) 29... e5 (29... g5 30. e4 Rd4) 30. e4?! {Here, White is
continuing to run into trouble as this was just begging for Black's next move.
Black cannot force open the diagonal by himself -- he needs White's
cooperation. But this brings White closer and closer to the abyss. White could
have played 30. Rd2, trading off a pair of Rooks and neutralizing the danger
of a King side attack.} (30. Rd2 Bd5 31. Nxe5 Qxe5 32. e4 Rcd7 33. exd5 Rxd5
34. Rf2) 30... f5 31. exf5?! {And here is where the old classical writers nod
their heads knowingly and declare that this is a prime example of why one
should not give up the center. They carried their dogmatism too far -- the
Sicilian, French Rubenstein, Queen's Gambit Accepted, and the Slav are all
openings in which Black cheerfully gives up the center, hoping to get it back
later with advantage. But here, the advice is well-merited -- this move simply
opens lines for Black. This brings us to a discussion about opening lines.
Pawn moves have to be made much more carefully than other moves because they
open lines. Before making pawn moves, one must determine whether they open
lines for you or lines for the opponent. One must also determine whether the
opponent can use the adjacent squares that the pawn is no longer guarding.
This is a classic case of opening up lines for the opponent -- in this case,
the long White diagonal that Topalov weakened when he traded his Bishop on
move 17. Even a 1200 player can take full advantage when an opponent opens up
lines for him.} (31. Nd2 fxe4 32. Nxe4 Bxe4 33. fxe4 Rd4 34. Qe3) 31... e4 32.
fxe4! {The last chance for White would have been 32. Rd2 -- White would have
followed with 32...exf3 33. Kf2, blocking the passer and keeping lines as
closed as possible. It took Topalov several moves to spoil this position --
White's position was so solid to begin with that even here, his position was
not lost. Steinitz wrote constantly about the inherent defensibility of each
position, and this was a prime example. He, Lasker, Petrosian, or a Karpov
would have had good chances to hold this position. But Topalov removes the
last defense against the terrible Bishop and mayhem ensues.} (32. Re3 exf3+ 33.
Kf1 Qg5 34. Qc2 Rf7) (32. Rd2 exf3+ 33. Kf2 Rd4 (33... Rcd7 34. Re3 Rxd2+ 35.
Nxd2 Qd7) 34. Re3 Qf7) 32... Qxe4+ 33. Kh3 {
The King is flushed out of the pocket -- everything else loses immediately.}
Rd4 34. Ne3 Qe8 {The best move for Black -- the goal is to constantly make
threats against White's King and force him to make only moves. That way, Black
can improve his position for free.} 35. g4 h5 36. Kh4 g5+?! {Good enough, but
36...Qd8 would have been much better. Common sense dictates in these
situations that the goal is to get pawns out from in front of the King -- not
create a shelter for it. White could not retreat to h3 because the Queen would
simply jump onto the g5 square and mate would be imminent.} (36... Qd8+ 37. f6
(37. Kh3 Qg5) 37... hxg4) 37. fxg6 Qxg6 38. Qf1 {This is White's sole
counterplay. However, the fact that the White King is pinned against the side
of the board means that Black is still winning.} Rxg4+ 39. Kh3 Re7 40. Rf8+ Kg7?! {Another inaccuracy -- this simply puts the King into the Knight's line of
fire. This is the sort of thing that can lead to nasty forks in games between
us mortals.} (40... Kh7 41. Rh8+ Kxh8 42. Qf8+ Qg8 43. Qh6+ Rh7 44. Qf6+ Rhg7
45. Qh6+ Qh7) 41. Nf5+ Kh7 42. Rg3 Rxg3+ 43. hxg3 Qg4+ 44. Kh2 Re2+ 45. Kg1
Rg2+ 46. Qxg2 Bxg2 47. Kxg2 {The computer claims that 47. Rf7+ would have come
close to equality, but it turns out that the following King and Pawn ending is
won for Black despite the even material:} (47. Rf7+ Kg6 48. Rg7+ Kxf5 49. Rxg4
hxg4 50. Kxg2 Ke4 {The White King will eventually be forced away from the
defense of g3 after he runs out of pawn moves.}) 47... Qe2+ 48. Kh3 c4 {
Topalov plays on because there are many different possibilities of the weaker
side setting up a fortress and drawing in Queen versus minor piece endings.
However, Topalov is unable to prevent the loss of the b2 pawn.} 49. a4 a5 50.
Rf6 Kg8 51. Nh6+ Kg7! {A useful manuver to know -- there are many situations
in which the weaker side is giving a series of checks to the King and the King
triangulates to upset the coordination of the opposing pieces. We don't like
it very well when politicians triangulate on the issues, but we approve of
this kind of triangulation.} 52. Rb6 Qe4 53. Kh2 Kh7 54. Rd6 Qe5 55. Nf7 Qxb2+
56. Kh3 Qg7 {There is no defense against either the loss of material or the
advance of the c-pawn.} 0-1