I’ve gotten a bit behind in my chess match coverage. Time to remedy that!
Last we saw Anand had blundered away an easily drawn endgame in Game Eight. This allowed Topalov to tie the match. Undeterred, Anand came out swinging in Game Nine. Topalov decided he had had enough of Anand’s Catalan, and played the Nimzo-Indian Defense instead. Everything proceeded along normal lines until Topalov allowed an endgame with his queen pitted against Anand’s two rooks. If you remember your basic chess arithmetic, rooks are worth five points each, while the queen is nine points. So two rooks count as a small material advantage, other things being equal. Anand steadily outplayed Topalov and reached a completely winning position:
Position after 53. … Ka6-b7
And now 54. Nd5! would have been crushing, since black will be forced to give up his knight to avoid checkmate from white’s roving rooks. Instead Anand played 54. Nc4? which allowed Topalov to keep squirming. Anand missed several other opportunities to put away the game, and eventually Topalov was able to manufacture a perpetual check.
These sorts of highly tactical, open positions with heavy firepower for both sides are incredibly difficult to play, especially with little time left on your clock. Both players made numerous mistakes throughout the game. Personally I find it comforting when the top players miss tactical nuances in positions like these. After all, I overlook such things all the time!
In Game Nine Anand returned to the Grunfeld Defense. He played it much better than in the catastrophe in Game One, but he still found himself on the wrong side of a minor piece endgame. Anand was forced to defend passively while Topalov tried to prove that his two bishops on an open board were a decisive advantage. GM Larry Christiansen was doing audio commentary on Chess FM, and he had all but written Anand’s epitaph.
But then Topalov gave him his chance:
Position after 44. Bg4-e6
Anand was now able to get active with 44. … Nd6+ 45. Kf3 and here Anand noticed that instead of protecting his bishop on g3, he can play 45. … Nc4!. Topalov did want to give up his two bishops, so play continued 46. Bc1 Bd6 47. Ke4 a5 when black’s chances have improved considerably. His knight is active and his queenside pawns are ready to roll. This was enough to hold the balance and the game was a draw.
Game Eleven saw Anand try the English Opening as white, but he had only a minuscule advantage out of the opening. Topalov played well to equalize, and was even slightly better in the endgame. Eventually Anand pitched a pawn for king-side activity, leading to this dramatic position:
Position after 60. … b4-b3
Here Anand played the prettiest move of the game: 61. Rc3!. If black moves his unprotected knight then white just takes the pawn on b3. If black defends the knight with 61. … Rc7 then we get 62. Rxb3! Nxb3 63. Ne6+ with a clever knight fork to recover the rook.
But can’t black just queen his pawn? Indeed he can, but he will quickly regret doing so. For then we have 61. … b2 62. Rxc5 b1Q 63. Ne6+ Kg8 64. Rc8+
and black gets mated on the next move. Nice!
Topalov did not fall for this, of course, an instead played 61 … Rd4. There followed 62. Rxc5 Rxf4 63. Rc7+ Kg8. Now the attempt to get greedy would have led to the embarrassing 64. Kh6 Rh4 mate. Instead Anand’s move 64. Rc7+ leads to an easy perpetual check, and after a few mor perfunctory moves the draw was agreed.
Game Twelve is on Tuesday! The score is all tied up, and Topalov will be playing white. He has had Anand under heavy pressure each of the last two times he played the white pieces, so we will see if Anand has anything left in the tank. If the game is a draw then a series of rapid tiebreaks will be played. Stay tuned!