The 30-minute Anish Giri challenge!
At the sixth round of the Shenzhen Masters 2019, Anish Giri played a fine game against Yu Yangyi to score an important victory that helped him win the tournament. But as they say, at the highest level most of the amazing calculations lie beneath the surface! That's what happened in the game. Anish pushed his pawn to d5 on the tenth move. The critical test was to take the pawn but Yu Yangyi ignored it and went for something else! What would have happened if the Chinese player would have taken the pawn. Well, Anish had thought for nearly 30 minutes to figure out the complexities! And so here's you chance to setup the same position, think for 30 minutes and then compare your thinking with a 2787 Elo rated super GM!
After Anish Giri won the Shenzhen Masters 2019, I got the unique opportunity to interview him on a video call. Anish was at his home in Netherlands and I was at the ChessBase India office in Mumbai. Everyone who is serious about chess, would like to know more about one of the best chess players in the world. With an Elo of 2787, Anish is world no.4 and is considered by many as one of the most solid GMs in the world with an excellent sense of danger. My main intention with the interview was to give the viewers of ChessBase India an insight into how a top player thinks. How does he approach a position and how quickly can he solve problems that are set by his opponents. I spent a good amount of time prior to the interview going over Anish's games from the Shenzhen Masters and picked up a few critical positions. One of them was this:
Anish Giri vs Yu Yangyi, Round 6
The most impressive piece of calculation that I found in the entire interview was the above position against Yu Yangyi. White has just pushed his pawn to d5. We are just 10 moves into the game and Anish had already thought for 30 minutes for this decision! What was he thinking? Well, I feel that you can learn a lot from this article if you too put yourself in the same situation as Anish Giri. Going to Shenzhen or getting Yu Yangyi to sit opposite you is going to be difficult, but what you can definitely do, is get a chess board, set up this position and think over it for 30 minutes.
If you have put in some work on the board and are now reading this, you are going to thoroughly enjoy this. Also you will be able to compare your thinking with a 2787 rated GM, something which is never easy to do. So, the most natural question is what happens after 10...exd5 11.cxd5 Nxd5. Black has picked up a pawn and there are no real Bxh7+ ideas in the air. Well, Anish had prepared a strong move here and I hope you too had seen it.
The bishop moves to e4 (12.Be4!) and sets up a deadly pin. Suddenly it seems as if Black is lost. You cannot take on c3 with the knight 12...Nxc3 because after 13. Qxd8 Rxd8 14. Bxb7 White is just winning. So, after 12.Be4 the ball is once again Black's court. What should he do?
A big congratulations if you could find the move 12...Bf6! Once again this is not at all easy but hey, I never promised it was going to be easy! White now takes on d5 with his knight 13.Nxd5 and Black takes 13...Bxb2. White has to play 14.Rb1. We reach another critical position.
Every now and then it is a good idea to keep an eye on the material count. For now White is just a pawn down. But he has a threat. Firstly to play 15.Rxb2 and the other is to go for Nf6+ and pick up the bishop on b7 and subsequently the rook on a8. How can Black deal with both the threats? It is here that many white players would stop their calculations and think that 10.d5! is a good move for White. Well, it turns out that for players like Anish Giri, this is the starting point of their calculations!
Here Anish did something which he likes to do when he is scared. Mind you, this fear is not of an opponent but the fact that he could make a wrong move. The fear is of playing bad chess propels him to give his all! In such situations Anish scans the board and looks at all the possible options. And then he finds the most logical continuation. He did that in this position and found the move...
14...Bc6!! It's really not easy to leave your bishop on b2 hanging. But what Anish figured is that after White takes 15.Rxb2 The knight on d5 is a little wobbly. All you need to do is to get rid of the e4 bishop and the knight would fall. And hence the first move that comes to the mind is 15...f5!? and there is also 15...Re8.
The move 15...Re8 is one of those moves in the calculation which the computer finds extremely easy to refute, but during the game, you have to be quite alert to get the solution. The right idea is quite simple 16.Rd2! Rxe4 and now the backwards move 17.Nc3! This can be easy to miss sometimes. White is just winning.
Coming back to the main move 15...f5!? The bishop is attacked, but White has the final trick under his sleeve 16.Ne7+ Black must take 16...Qxe7 and now 17.Bxc6 Nxc6 and here you have to spot the double attack 18.Qd5+
We are now 8 moves deep into the calculation and there were so many branches on the way. It is quite easy to just end your calculation here because the knight on c6 is hanging. This is also where Anish stopped his calculation. But it turns out that Black has a spectacular resource under his sleeve. First he plays 18...Qf7 and after 19. Qxc6 comes the shocker...
19...Qc4!! Wow! What's happening here?! Well, the queen prevents the white king from castling and threatens a check on c1. And believe it or not White has no way to fight for an advantage! The most natural move is 20. Rd2 because you want to block Qc1+ with Rd1. However, after 20.Rd2 Black now continues 20...Rad8!
Black is an entire piece down, but he is fighting on equal terms. The queen on c6 is somehow out of the game. And there is absolutely no way to stop Black from going for Qc1-c4 perpetual checks. White would do well to find the defensive move starting with 21.Rf1 and then Black goes 21...Qc1+ 22.Ke2 Qc4+ 23.Ke1 Qc1+ and it is a draw!
Giri calls this idea of 18...Qf7 and 19...Qc4 something that is at a completely different level. "I am ok to miss such things!", says Anish in his interview! He gave up his calculations after 18.Qd5+ thinking that White is winning. But turns out that he had to go a couple of moves deeper!
Yet you have to agree that this entire calculation beginning with the move 10.d5! is not at all easy. The final verdict is that the position is equal, but only if you find some brilliant resources from Black's side starting with ...Bf6!, ...Bc6!, ...f5!, ...Qf7! and ....Qc4! Giri found almost four out of these five critical moves and that's the reason why he is 2787. The engine finds all five of them that's why it is rated around 3400!
In the game after 10.d5!? Yu Yangyi went for 10...exd5 11.cxd5 and ...b5?! which was clearly inferior and he soon landed in a worse position. Here's how the game panned out:
Some of the feedback that we received on the video from extremely strong players:
GM Stany GA: So much clarity in thoughts and unbelievable chess knowledge... the guy always inspires.
GM Swayams Mishra: Amazing. Thanks Sagar Shah for recommending this.
IM Nisha Mohota: Anish gives the message "Do more of what makes you happy" and what makes us happy is seeing more of Anish's videos, analysis and interviews...!!
The one thing that has always impressed me more than Anish's chess skills is his willingness to share his knowledge with the chess community. When you are world no.4 you definitely know things which others do not. To speak about chess in such depth means that you surely exposing your thought process or showing the way in which you calculate over the board. But Anish doesn't mind. He shares his heart out and I am sure it has helped thousands of serious players understand what they should be aiming for as they move along the path of chess improvement. Thanks a lot Anish for doing this!