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Shamkir 2019 Round 3: The Madras Tiger cannot be tamed, beats Mamedyarov!

by Tanmay Srinath - 03/04/2019

Vishy Anand had a couple of tough days at Shamkir Masters 2019. In round one he was well and truly on track to winning his game against Navara, but missed a rook sacrifice that led to a draw. In round two, against Carlsen he was extremely close to a draw, but made three back to back errors and lost the game. In round three, it is natural that Vishy was feeling a bit low. This showed in his moves as he quickly cascaded into a lost position against Mamedyarov. Just when everything seemed to be over, the Madras Tiger roared back into action, playing one strong move after another and beating Mamedyarov in an epic struggle. Magnus Carlsen continued his victorious run and with 2.5/3, is the sole leader of the event. 

Let us first give you a position to solve! It is from the game between Anand and Mamedyarov:

White to play, what would you do here?

Were you able to find the answer? If not, then allow me to give you a small hint. The next position is from the game Petrosian vs Spassky, 1966 - game 10

Petrosian vs Spassky, Game 10

White to play and win the house!

We hope that you found the very pretty Qh8+! which ended the game. Well, now back to Anand's game and see if something similar works! Yes, it does! The only difference is that Petrosian was able to force resignation with that move, while Anand managed to survive and stay in the game! Let's have a look at how Vishy Anand managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat!

Anand- Mamedyarov:

Anand has had the better of Shak recently, winning an absolute gem in the Advance Caro Kann at Wijk Ann Zee 2019. However, we all know that Shak at his best is a 2800+ attacking monster who has also become extremely good at the endgame as well. Both players went for the kill in this game, and what we ended up getting was a topsy turvy encounter between two streetfighters.

An uncompromising battle between two title contenders | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

Anand vs Mamedyarov

No surprises here. Anand goes for the Quiet Italian line with a4 that has given Black a lot of headaches recently

Anand has played the opening a bit slowly, taking time to freeze Black’s queenside and playing the Queen to g2 to target the d5 pawn. All this is logical, but the center is open, so the plan chosen by Mamedyarov here is the best – Re7! and Rae8. Black suddenly takes over, despite no obvious error from Anand.

White has only made a couple of inaccuracies, but Shak’s forceful play started by h5 has pinned the White pieces down. Anand had to display enormous resourcefulness from now on.

After repeating the position once, Shak finds the right plan with h4! White is almost lost here, but as we all know, a game can only be lost by Checkmate and resignation, and not by having a bad position.

Qh4 is a radical attempt by Anand to find some play at any cost, and it worked! Shak must have been in time trouble, and eschewed the easily winning N6h5!, after which White has few options to continue, but resignation is best. Shak instead played Ne4?!, allowing White to favourably exchange a set of minor pieces with Bxe4!, thus bringing Vishy back into the game.

The time control was reached after Nd6 from Anand. The Madras Tiger had found a series of only moves to reach this position, where White already has very real chances of saving the draw. Shak needed to find the unnatural Ne1!! And Nf3 to weave a net around the White King. White will then need to defend extremely precisely to save the half point. However, Shak played the far more natural Bd7?!, which is a little second rate, allowing Vishy to consolidate his position after Nxe4!. Suddenly White has reversed the assessment of the position.

Shak must have felt disheartened by now, having missed out on a spectacular win. This explains his next move, Re1+?!, which is the final mistake that turns his position from extremely worse to lost. He absolutely had to play Bc4! here, and Bd5 on the next move, trying to blockade the White pawns on light squares. Due to the superiority of Rook +Bishop vs Rook+ Knight, he would then retain some practical chances of saving the game. After the game move Anand gave him no further chances.

Anand showed impeccable technique. First, he gives up a pawn, but activates his king to the max. Look at the difference between the two kings! The mark of an excellent endgame player is to subtly change one form of advantage to another. Here Vishy has done exactly that – an advantage of two pawns has been converted to an advantage of one pawn and a clearly superior king. True, Shak wins the h2 pawn, but Anand’s extra piece in attack (The King!) ensures the win easily. It is really instructive to watch the Tiger of Madras at work here.

The brilliance behind Anand’s concept can be seen. The two extra pawns are gone, but so is Black’s activity. Just look at the difference in piece activity here –Black’s pieces are extremely passive, his remaining pawns are fixed weaknesses and his king is a liability. The advantage has been transformed to a more dynamic one now, but the next few moves are extremely easy for white to make here- he just has to improve his king a bit more and advance the passed pawn. The powerful endgame play shown by Vishy reminds me of Alpha Zero’s endgame play. Clearly, the two champions have a lot in common!

The final position shows how well Anand knows his endgames – Rook behind passed pawn- opponent’s king cutoff, opponent’s pawn securely blocked and a super – active king. Shak had seen enough. A brilliant comeback by the Legend!

This comeback is a much needed boost to Vishy’s confidence levels. I see him scoring a lot more wins this tournament!

When you trap the Madras Tiger, you kill him instantly, if you give him a chance, you can be sure that he will wriggle out and spell your doom! | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

Navara- Carlsen:

Magnus has literally returned to his roots, as far as Black openings are concerned, playing the Pelican Sicilian almost everytime against 1.e4. Clearly the World Champion has a lot of preparation left over from his match against Fabi. The latest test in the 7.Nd5 variation was undertaken by both these players today. Navara came up with a new concept, and Carlsen too showed some restraint in building up his kingside attack. 

Magnus’ Pelican is causing a lot of problems at the very top of Chess . Some consider it to be the reason that Alpha Zero doesn’t play 1.e4!

We reach the tabiya of the Nd5 system here. Navara and Caruana favour the move a4 to the more natural c4 here

Having just played a6 and seeing Navara play Na3, Magnus plays his novelty in this position-a5! The move is actually very strong. It not only prevents b4, supporting the c5 break, but also grabs some space on the queenside. Magnus is playing on two fronts here, and his position allows him to do so. The weakening of the b5 square is not the most important factor, as to exploit it Navara has to lose a tempo here.

The culmination of the opening battle. Navara played the creative rook lift Ra3!? here. Objectively speaking, this should give White a small advantage, but fxe5! seems preferable here. This move makes a lot of sense - White is exchanging a set of pawns and making his space advantage more pronounced. This also gives White some additional squares on the kingside. This would be the best attempt to take over the initiative.

Magnus has made use of David’s slow play to nearly equalize chances here. I say nearly, because Navara still had a chance to fight for an advantage with Rg3! here, preventing the game move g5. After this, White with more space and active pieces can certainly count on a small advantage here. Magnus’ suggestion of Rh3 is also almost equally good, with a tough fight on cards (after Rh3, Nxa4 gives Black a very small advantage, but the game remains unclear). David however erred here with Re3, allowing the strong riposte g5!

The decisive moment of the game. David can apparently still maintain approximate equality with the correct exchange sacrifice. He played Rxe7?! In the game, and lost after a long fight. However, after Rg3!!, chances are around equal, according to Stockfish. The main point is that White suddenly activates his queens bishop with Bxb6 and his light square bishop with Bh5, and Black gets pinned to the last rank. White has sufficient compensation to maintain the balance after my suggestion. Now however, we see another endgame masterclass from the World Champion.

After reaching this ending almost by force, this position called for David to play b3! Stabilizing the bishop and the queenside somewhat. Then Magnus would have to show his exemplary endgame technique to bring home the point. Instead David tried to rattle Magnus with g4?! To try and confuse matters, but the world champion was unfazed and refuted this audacious idea easily.

Here there are many ways for Black to win, but Magnus plays the best move Kg6! preparing the advance of the h-pawn. If I ever get a chance to meet the Champ, I will definitely ask him how he hits upon the best plan in nearly every endgame he plays. No wonder he’s an Endgame Virtuoso!

Having played a technical masterclass, Magnus proceeds to destroy Navara’s defences with the Rxd5+!, an accurately calculated sequence. White gets mated as Black’s king is too close.

A terrific endgame conversion by Magnus Carlsen, who now takes over the sole lead in the tournament. | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

When Carlsen switches his gears, it is difficult to stop him! | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

Radjabov-Ding Liren:

This game was a Marshall Attack that followed known theory till move 23, where Ding introduced a new move. Radjabov was obviously well prepared and answered precisely. But nothing much happened in this game. As with all Marshall Attack, Black’s initiative neutralized White’s extra pawn easily and the players played till bare kings appeared on the board. There was only one point which is worth mentioning.

Ding easily neutralised Teimour’s 1.e4 today. Can he beat Caruana’s Rating to become world no 2? | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

Here theory consider Be3 or Bxd5 to be the most critical tries to an advantage, but I assume that with their powerful computers both players have analysed this position to a dead draw. It would be interesting to know why Teimour went in for this line knowing it has already been extensively analysed.

Karjakin- Topalov:

Sergey chose the early d4 in the Guico Piano today, and got a reasonable position out of the opening. Topalov gave up both the bishops and managed to keep the position relatively closed. Not seeing a clear path to an advantage, Sergey took a rather strange 3-fold repetition in the position. There was one interesting moment though.

Here Sergey played the rather peaceful h3?! , literally agreeing to a bloodless draw. However, Ng5! here is more critical. If Topalov plays like in the game, then after Ng5! Nxg5 Bxf5 Nc4 Qb1! White is setting Black some problems. Of course, it can probably be completely neutralized, but this was worth a shot here.

Veselin’s comeback to top level chess has been refreshing, and his choice of openings rather surprising! | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

Grischuk-Giri:

The last game to be summarized is a Ragozin Defense draw on move 22. Grischuk’s novelty on move 10, g4!? caused some flutters, but the game and the engines never left the threshold of equality. Giri was excellently prepared, and managed to find a perpetual on move 19. A draw was agreed soon after. There was one unexplored resource however.

Here Sasha played Nxg5, agreeing to a threefold after Qf5! e4 Qa5+ Kf1 Qb5+. He however had the unexpected resource Rg3!. The point of this move is to force Black to move his queen so that the rook captures on g5 with tempo. True, after Qf5 Rxg5 Qh3 e4 Nc7 white has nothing special. Still, I kind of like this position for white, who at least has an academic advantage of the full e4-d4 center.

Anish Giri is one of the most well-prepared players at the highest level. This means he has tonnes of analysis stored in his head. It takes some time to bring them out on the board! | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

Standings after round 3

 

About the author:

Tanmay Srinath is an 18-year-old chess player from Bangalore, Karnataka, currently pursuing both chess and engineering at BMSCE Bangalore. Tanmay is also a Taekwondo Black Belt, who has represented the country in an International Tournament in Thailand. He is a big fan of Mikhail Tal and Vishy Anand, and sincerely believes in doing his bit to Power Chess in India!