Could this fantastic match have ended in any other way than with a tremendous tactical slugfest?
The final game of the big chess match took place today, with the score tied and Topalov playing white. Topalov did what Topalov does: he overplayed a slightly better position, allowing Anand to unleash the forces of hell upon him. The game started with one of the stodgiest and most conservative openings, but ended with a breathtaking flurry of tactics. Let’s have a look.
Position after 7. … Nf6-e4
This introduces the Lasker Variation of the Orthodox Queen’s Gambit Declined, an old line in an old opening.
With his last move black guarantees the exchange of two sets of minor pieces, thereby relieving some of the pressure on his cramped position. On the other hand, he is trading his good bishop for white’s bad bishop. Notice that black’s central pawns are on white squares, which hamper his remaining bishop. (Don’t worry, though, that bishop has a glorious future ahead of it.) White’s central pawns are on dark squares, which means they don’t hamper his white-squared bishop.
This is the sort of opening black plays when he is content with a draw. it is a perfect choice against Topalov. White will have more space, but black’s position is very solid. It calls for a patient, positional approach, which is not really Topalov’s forte.
Position after 16. Qd1-c2
Now Anand played the gutsy 16. … Nf6. The knight moves to an active position, but is no longer defending the pawn on c5. This means he will have to suffer with an isolated pawn. Anand is counting on his active pieces to compensate for the pawn weakness.
After 17. dxc5 Nxe4 18. Qxe4 bxc5 19. Qc2 we come to an important position:
Position after 19. Qe4-c2
The battle lines are drawn. Black has a big pawn weakness on c5. White can easily attack it with all of his pieces. The white queen and rooks will pile up on the c-file, while the knight can go to d2 then b3. But black has very active pieces as compensation. His bishop now has tremendous scope on the h1-a8 and f1-a6 diagonals, and his rooks occupy important open files. The queen is also ready to swarm to the kingside. Is black’s activity enough to keep the balance?
Position after 30. e4-e4
Compare this position with the one from ten moves ago. Things have gone terribly wrong for white. He currently has nothing directly attacking the black c-pawn, which now has two defenders. He has weakened his kingside with some silly pawn moves. His pieces are scattered and uncoordinated. Black’s pieces are all on active squares and he is ready to undertake operations on the kingside. White is not yet in big trouble (though he is about to be) but he has clearly handed over the initiative to black.
Time to strike. Anand played 30. … f5!. Topalov completely underestimated the danger by allowing the king side to be opened with 31. exf5 e4! 32. fxe4 Qxe4+. Now white can not move his king to the first rank because of Qh1+. That forces 33. Kh3 Rd4 34. Ne3:
Black to play and win
White’s kingside is in tatters, his king is stuck on the side of the board, black’s pieces are all on excellent squares. Time to find the killshot.
Anand played 34. … Qe8!! Brilliant. Sometimes you have to retreat to attack. The threat is Qh5 mate and white has no really good way to stop it. He has to play 35. g4 and after 35. … h5 36. Kh4 the move 36. … Qd8+ would have been the most efficient finale. But Anand’s choice of 36. … g5+ pretty much leads to the forced win of white’s queen, so it is hard to be too critical.
Position After 43. h2xRg3
A few moves further down the road and, incredibly, white has not been mated. He has not even lost any material. But now Anand stuck in the proverbial fork with 43. … Qg4+ 44. Kg2 Re2+ 45. Kg1 Rg2+ which wins the white queen. After 46. Qxg2 Bxg2 47. Kxg2 Qe2+ the white rook and knight simply do not coordinate well enough to put up any resistance against the roving queen. White’s only conceivable hope is to march his king up the side of the board in the hopes that his king, rook and knight can orchestrate enough tactics to muddy the waters. Anand’s careful play put paid to that idea, and he finished up nicely.
Topalov resigned, thereby conceding the match. Either Anand will pick off one his pieces with a fork, or he will simply queen his c-pawn. White can offer no resistance.
So congratulations to Anand for keeping his title, and congratulations to both players for such a classy and hard-fought match. There was not a single boring game in the entire event!
Hmmmm. Guess this means I have to get back to more normal blogging.