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The Madras Tiger's Tenacity! | Legends of Chess Round 7

by Tanmay Srinath - 28/07/2020

Finally! After a disappointing start to the event where he lost his first 6 matches, Vishy Anand roared back into form! He cruised past his 2012 challenger Boris Gelfand 2.5-0.5 to get his first match win of the event! Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi are now through to the semifinal stage after contrasting match wins over Svidler and Leko. The race for the other two spots becomes tighter and tighter, as Vladimir Kramnik suffered a surprising 3-1 loss against Vassily Ivanchuk to hand the Ukrainian Wizard a golden opportunity to fight for qualification. Anish Giri is simply playing like a different player now, as the Dutchman condemned Ding to a 2.5-0.5 loss in what has clearly been the worst tournament in the Chinese No.1's recent career. Tanmay Srinath comes up with a comprehensive report.

Well, all us Vishy fans were patiently waiting, having faith in our star even though it seemed like he was facing difficulties in playing his chess. However, if there was anyone who can make a comeback on demand, it's Vishy Anand. To score 1.5/2 with Black against Gelfand's Catalan clearly speaks volumes about Anand's fighting character, and if this match win is anything to go by India will have an in-form top board for the Online Olympiad!

What a comeback! It takes enormous mental strength to keep fighting after 6 straight match wins, but as they say, Anand is Anand! | Photo: ChessBase India

Anand 2.5-0.5 Gelfand:

Two close friends and rivals are super strong 30 years after their debuts! | Photo: Chess News Blog

This was a match which can be looked at in 2 ways - either Anand defended tenaciously to take his chances and win, or Gelfand missed a lot of chances to lose. So as to not disrespect Boris and keep a positive outlook, I will choose the former. We shall look at the decisive moments from both of Anand's Black games first:


Gelfand-Anand (game 1)

24.Bb6! is surprisingly decisive here, as White begins to activate all his pieces. For example after 24...Re7 25.d6! is a powerful pawn sacrifice. Instead, after 24.Bxe4?! Anand got a chance to get back into the game, and was extremely precise to convert this into a win after Gelfand went further astray later on.

Gelfand-Anand(Game 3)


22.Ra3! is the best way to prevent any potential forks, and Black is condemned to a tough defense. Instead, after 22.Nd2 Anand miraculously found a way back into the game, and even held an advantage before drawing to seal the match.

Game 2 was a tricky affair for both sides, with Anand initially holding an advantage, but Gelfand defending precisely for a long time, till an unfortunate mistake close to move 40 left him in a hopeless position:



37...a5! should hold the balance quite comfortably, as Black creates his own counterplay. Instead, after 37...Nc8? 38.Ngf5+! Black is surprisingly lost due to the weakness of his king.

IM Sagar Shah takes a look at all the games in this instructive video:

Giri 2.5-0.5 Ding:

After a slow start the Giri Train is picking up speed! | Photo: FIDE Candidates 2020

Ding Liren is a super solid player, but in this tournament he has been less than a shadow of himself, losing games in shockingly frequent intervals, sometimes due to disconnections. However, there is always light at the end of the tunnel, and I am sure that the Unbeatable Ding will soon make a beautiful resurgence. After all, if there is one positive, it is that it can't get any worse than this! So having experienced the abyss it can only go upwards from here! 


Game 1 was a surprising result, explained by a poor net connection, as Ding disconnected and lost on time in a position that still seems savable for White. Game 2 however was a big miss from the Chinese superstar, as he missed a forced mate late into the game, a sequence he would have found within seconds had he been playing at his best:



Here either 78...Qd1! or 78...Qe4! forces mate. Instead, after 78...Bd7+? 79.Kg3 White escapes through the skin of his teeth.

Game 3 saw Anish holding his own after a star novelty in the opening. Under pressure to equalise the scores Ding Liren committed a fatal mistake in the endgame:



45.Be3! Holds fort in this difficult position. Instead, after 45.Bb6? White is losing by force after Ra6!, and Giri made no mistakes in wrapping up the game and the match.

Magnus Carlsen couldn't resist a chance to poke at Anish, and both sides didn't hold back in a hilarious exchange:

Ivanchuk 3-1 Kramnik:

Arguably the biggest genius in the chess world - Nothing Vassily does surprises us anymore! | Photo: Sophie Triay

For the first time in the tournament, we had 4 decisive games! Both these fighters from the 90s gave us the most exciting matchup in the tournament! Just like London 2013, Vassily Ivanchuk proved to be Kramnik's wall as he took the match and kept his qualifying hopes alive!


Games 1 and 2 went Ivanchuk's way after he induced mistakes in contrasting positions:



The position looks deceptively simple, but Black is under severe pressure thanks his poorer minor piece combo. However, after 40.Nb6?(a serious error, instead 40.Bc5+ wins comfortably.) Vladimir had a chance to get back into the game with the greedy 40...Nxh2!. Instead, 40...Kc6? was a reciprocal error, and Ivanchuk made no further mistakes after 41.Nd5! and soon won.


Ivanchuk's Dragon has done quite well against Kramnik's 1.e4 after Vladimir either missed or didn't know the critical test against Chucky's sideline early in the opening. He had one last chance to save the game with 32.Qc2!, though black is more comfortable thanks to his better minor piece. Instead, after 32.Rb7 Red8! Chucky outplayed Kramnik in the complications to seal an important win!

Game 3 was an important win for Vladimir, as he came back from a dead lost position to keep his destiny in his hands:



White had to construct the following defense - play g4 and support his bishop with f3. So starting with either 37.f3 Rxd4 38.g4 or 37.g4 Rxd4 38.f3 keeps the game level. Instead, after 37.d5? White is lost, and Kramnik took the point in just 5 more moves.

In the decisive 4th game Kramnik had to win to force an Armageddon, and in his urge to keep chances alive he went decisively wrong:


Kramnik - Ivanchuk

It is hard to believe White can win from here, but the position is still complex enough to continue fighting, and after 28.Reb1! White keeps some element of balance. Instead, after 28.Qf4 Ivanchuk had the better chances, and he used them to seal an important victory.

Carlsen 2.5-1.5 Svidler:

Carlsen takes down a former co-leader to ensure qualification. | Photo: Tata Steel Chess

Peter Svidler is one of the people who boasts of a good score against the World Champion, as he was a very difficult opponent for Carlsen until recently, when Carlsen finally cracked the code. This match saw some riveting action, but Peter cracked in the final game:



Carlsen basically became World Champion winning positions like this, which are objectively drawn but very difficult to hold in practice. Here Peter had to ease his task with h5! preparing g4, fixing the pawns on the colours of his opponent's bishop and creating another diagonal for his dark-squared bishop. Instead, Re5 was fine, but a step in the wrong direction, and Carlsen slowly made his way to another match victory.

Nepo 2*-2 Leko (* - Won the Armageddon):

Nepo ensures qualification with two rounds to spare. | Photo: FIDE Candidates 2020

In a match where Leko held his own against the current Candidates leader, it was fittingly in the Armageddon that the difference in consistency became apparent:



It must have been severe time trouble for Peter, as otherwise he would have played the simple 52...f5!, after which there is no way for White to make progress. Instead, after 52...Kg7 Leko managed to keep up for some more moves, but Nepo finally crashed through to take the game and the match.

Standings after Round 7

Live games from round 7