Vishy Anand finally won a match in the chess24 Legends of Chess in Round 7 as he defeated his 2012 World Championship challenger Boris Gelfand. The leaders kept on winning, with Magnus Carlsen extending his lead by defeating Peter Svidler 2.5:1.5 while Ian Nepomniachtchi needed Armageddon to overcome Peter Leko. Nepo could still leapfrog Magnus since they play in the penultimate round. Elsewhere Anish Giri defeated Ding Liren with a game to spare while Vasyl Ivanchuk beat Vladimir Kramnik 3:1 in a match where all four games were decisive.
You can replay all the games from the chess24 Legends of Chess preliminary stage using the selector below:
Once again there were 3 points for a win in rapid chess, while the points are split 2:1 if Armageddon is required:
For the last time the commentary team was Tania Sachdev, Jan Gustafsson, Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Alexander Grischuk, with Judit Polgar, the greatest female chess player of all time, replacing Rustam for Round 8.
The greatest anomaly of the tournament so far had been the disappointing results of Vishy Anand, for many years the undisputed speed king of world chess. He’d lost all six previous matches, though that doesn’t tell the whole story. Against Svidler and Carlsen in the opening rounds he’d played well until blundering in the final game, while against Kramnik in Round 3 the first game was a spoilt masterpiece for Vishy. Then came three more losses in a row, but only in Armageddon. As the 5-time World Champion summed up:
Obviously it’s not been quite so disastrous the last three days as the first three, but definitely it’s nice to pull in a win and I was probably in trouble in both my black games, but in the end I managed to survive.
The repeat of the 2012 World Championship was played at a fitting level, with Boris Gelfand seizing the initiative with a near novelty in the spirit of the age!
Just when it seemed Boris was about to power to victory, however, Vishy found a piece sacrifice to keep the game going:
22…Nxa4! 23.Qxa4 Nxe4 24.Bxe4 Rxe4 25.Nc3 Qxa4 26.Nxa4 b5! left Black down material, but with three connected passed pawns. White may still have been better, but Vishy’s pawns won the day!
That seemed to be the spark Anand needed as he suddenly took over in a complicated endgame in the next game before weaving a mating net to take a 2:0 lead.
In a must-win situation Boris did well in the opening, but once again Vishy handled a complicated position well and went on to draw the 3rd game and win the match. He was in top form in the post-game interview as well. What did he think of the Armageddon games that had torpedoed his previous three matches?
Essentially the Armageddon is flipped. Normally this tournament is, let’s say, a chess game where the clock can intervene. The Armageddon is the opposite. It’s a clock-banging session where the chess can intervene!
How is Vishy finding playing online in general? Is he glad to be sparring with his lifetime rivals again?
The score overshadows everything, but we’re not in the same room. I’m getting fed up with the Zoom world, to be honest. I really hope we can see each other’s faces again, because it feels surreal. I’m sitting here alone, I’m sitting at home, my son wanders in once in a while - it just doesn’t feel real. On top of that, for me personally, 7:30pm is a very unpleasant time, because normally we don’t have a game that starts that late.
So Vishy is looking forward to the return of over-the-board chess?
I’m looking forward to the return of over-the-board life! It’s not only the chess. Like I said, I’ve had more Zoom than I ever want to remember.
This was the day after the day before for Magnus, whose Fantasy Premier League hopes had gone down in flames as he dropped from 4th place to end in 11th (out of 7.5 million players).
Our commentators speculated that we might see “angry Magnus” in this match, but first of all it was inventive Magnus, as he played a very rare 5th move:
Peter was duly surprised and by move 14 things had gone wrong for the 8-time Russian Champion:
Magnus would later sum up:
Let’s be clear, he’s done a lot wrong to get to this position! He’s made a number of mistakes, he hasn’t castled, his pieces are all over the board, it’s simply not a good position for him. Perhaps 14…Bb4+ was a case of cashing in prematurely.
The move doesn’t seem bad at all, but later on Peter managed to reach a knight ending which proved to be more or less equal. It was a narrow escape for Svidler, and a scenario that would be repeated in the next game. As Magnus put it:
Obviously I should have won at least one of the first two games, but he fought well with his back against the wall and made it difficult for me, so it wasn’t easy by any means.
2-time Canadian Champion Pascal Charbonneau felt that draw was spectacular enough to merit being considered the Game of the Day:
The third game was more or less equal, but Carlsen finally broke through in the fourth rapid game. Once again it was a fantastically complicated game, but just when Peter seemed to be over the worst, Magnus switched on endgame grind mode and smoothly took home the full point.
Tania asked a usually unspoken question, “how are you so good at this?” Magnus:
I honestly don’t know. It’s a difficult question to answer, and I think realistically me talking too much about it would just sound a bit weird. All I can say is that I don’t have obvious weaknesses in my play that they can try and exploit.
Up next for Magnus will be Ian Nepomniachtchi in the penultimate round:
Obviously the match tomorrow is going to be huge in that respect. I want to get the no. 1 seed [for the semi-finals].
Nepo is within 2 points, since he’s also won all his matches, just with two more of those wins requiring an Armageddon game.
This match once more proved that Peter Leko’s class has gone nowhere, as he battled on equal terms with the world no. 4 for the first four games, all of which ended in draws. Game 4, however, could have had a different outcome.
Our commentators were shocked that Nepo, a phenomenally fast calculator who had 12 minutes on the clock, here played 31.Bg3? instead of the trick 31.Bxb6! Nxb6 32.Nc5+, picking up a crucial pawn.
That miss meant we got Armageddon, where Nepo also missed something.
Simply 18.Nxf6+ is winning here for White, while the computer gives 18.Rh6! as best. Instead Nepo went for another “win”, 18.Bxd5? exd5 19.Nxf6+, seemingly overlooking that after 19…Bxf6 20.Bxf6 Black regains the material with an excellent position with 20…Qc6+ and taking on f6 next. It didn’t matter, though, as Nepo merely switched to Plan B of playing faster than his opponent. In the end the result was never in doubt, as Leko lost on time.
Anish Giri, who still has Ivanchuk and Svidler to play, has one foot in the semi-finals after beating Ding Liren. The Chinese no. 1 is now in bottom place and relying on Magnus Carlsen winning the whole event to give him a place in the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Grand Final - Hikaru Nakamura's place is already secure. It’s not just that Ding is playing below his usual strength, but he’s suffering from technical issues connecting from beyond the Great Firewall of China. He lost the first game on time after disconnecting in a tricky but by no means resignable position.
Ding almost hit back straightaway, however, finding a nice tactical shot in the middlegame and then coming very close to the full point in an endgame that stretched to move 94.
78…Qd1! 79.Bg3 Bd5!! is zugzwang and mate-in-7, though after finding the queen move there are also more prosaic ways to win.
Ding’s winning attempts in the next game backfired badly, allowing Giri to wrap up match victory with a game to spare. Perhaps the only thing that had gone right for Ding was that he now has a new theme song!
Giri is on course for the semi-finals and another potential meeting with Magnus. The World Champion says he’s no longer rooting for Anish anymore, however.
Last but by no means least is this clash between two players who first met 27 years ago in Linares 1993. Vasyl often seems more motivated than usual against Kramnik, and he started powerfully, weaving an endgame win seemingly out of nowhere.
Game 2 saw Vasyl extend his lead in brilliant fashion.
34…Nd5! cuts off the queen’s defence of the b7-rook. 35.Rxb8 Rxb8+ with Qc3+ to follow is a way to get mated quickly, while Vladimir’s 35.Qxd5 Qxd5 36.Rxd5 Rxb7+ 37.Kc2 Rdxd7 left him without his passed pawn and any hopes of saving the position.
Trailing 0:2 and playing Black is no fun, but the next game was a brilliant example from Kramnik of how to keep things tight and tense in a must-win situation and then seize your opportunity when it arises.
42…Rxg2! provoked resignation, since after 43.Kxg2 h1=Q+ 44.Rxh1 Rxh1! the b-pawn will queen.
It was to be Vasyl Ivanchuk’s day, however, as the Ukrainian then came straight back again to win the match with a win in the next game. Vlad pushed too hard and not for the first time could lament Ivanchuk spoiling his qualification chances – even if this was nothing compared to the final round of the 2013 Candidates Tournament, when Kramnik lost the last game to Vasyl only for it afterwards to turn out that a draw would have earned him a World Championship replay against Vishy Anand.
So the standings with two rounds to go are as follows:
As we mentioned already, the big match-up of Round 8 will be Carlsen-Nepo, a clash of the leaders. Kramnik-Svidler, Giri-Ivanchuk, Anand-Ding and Leko-Gelfand also aren’t bad matches!
Judit Polgar will join for commentary of the penultimate preliminary round, so don’t miss the chess24 Legends of Chess from 15:30 CEST.
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