Viswanathan Anand continued his great start to the Candidates tournament with a comprehensive 31-move win over Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the third round.
The win was opportune, in that Anand won with black pieces, and also timely: all other boards settled for draws, putting the Indian half a point ahead of the field.
The other interesting game of the day was the draw between Vladimir Kramnik and Peter Svidler, who had come into the round level on points with Anand. Kramnik was worse off for long stretches of the game but eventually managed to salvage a very uncomfortable position.
It was interesting in the light of how Mamedyarov played the opening without too much conviction and Anand’s own mastery of it, why Mamedyarov was drawn into playing the Slav against the Indian. As black, the position often combines solid defence with greating attacking prospects. A lot of Anand’s memorable wins come from this opening system, including a few high-profile ones in the Championship matches.
Very few moves into the opening and Mamedyarov may have had second thoughts about his choice. Anand played a novelty which was more a theoretical deviation than anything that conferred an advantage. Still, it already meant that Anand had a better theoretical appreciation of the position, thanks to his preparation, than the opponent.
Mamedyarov did not play a rank bad move except at the very end when everything was already lost, but it was a series of small slips in the opening. How Anand exploited them was sleek. Pieces combined with lethal effeciency: his rook and dark bishop gave him complete control of the e file; pieces were well-positioned: His queen was threatening a diresome check while also holding down key defensive squares and with all the mayhem in the air, there was some housekeeping: in the middle of an attack, Anand still found time to hop the king over to the next square at the other end of the action to unpin a pawn that would join the attack a few moves later. Anand’s major pieces bore down on white’s king and black’s defense was in a tangle with no prospects of a counter attack.
Already facing heavy damage, Mamedyarov blundered his king into a square that allowed Anand to fork his king and rook. The Indian was not, of course, forced to play out the crude move as Mamedyarov resigned immediately after the mistake. “The killing precision of Anand is resembles how i remember him from 2008,” GM Anish Giri tweeted after the win.
With two wins from two games, it couldn’t have been any better for Anand as he went into the rest day on Sunday. He may need the rest, considering he plays Kramnik on Monday, but the prospects of doing much else outside of chess seem bleek in Siberia right about now.
“Yesterday I tried going for a walk in the evening, but the snow was quite heavy, atleast for poor Indian boys,” he said, speaking about his evenings during the tournament so far.
Svidler seemed to have had Kramnik on the ropes in the symmetrical English game but some great counter-attacking late on by Kramnik. He managed to get his queen to pull off perpetual checks with white’s pieces too far up the board in attack to intervene. The draw was signed after 51 moves.
Both other boards (Levon Aronian vs Veselin Topalov and Dmitry Andreikin vs Sergey Karjakin) followed the Spanish opening that developed into balanced positions soon and ended in uncomplicated draws.
Round three results: Anand (1.5) bt Mamedyarov (0.5), Svidler (1.5) drew with Kramnik (1.5), Andreikin (1) drew with Karjakin (1), Topalov (1) drew with Aronian (1).
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