Magnus Carlsen has beaten Vishy Anand in their first encounter since the World Championship match last November after a game that was balanced on a knife-edge suddenly ended with a 32nd move blunder. The World Champion joins Fabiano Caruana in second place behind Arkadij Naiditsch, who took advantage of David Baramidze overstepping the mark separating genius from madness.
GRENKE Classic 2015 Round 4 results (click a result to replay the game with computer analysis)
Once again the game of the day by far in Baden-Baden involved the World Champion Magnus Carlsen, so let’s again save that to last and take a quick look at the remaining action.
Watching the mayhem unfolding on other boards Levon Aronian noted, “at least somebody has to be super-solid”. His 9…Nb8 knight retreat looked a little outlandish at first glance, but he confirmed he’d prepared it and Etienne Bacrot failed to find any refutation at the board. An uneventful draw by repetition was soon reached on move 30, which had the bonus of giving us some brilliant stand-in commentators for the other games.
David Baramidze’s impressive start in Baden-Baden is history, after two calamitous losses in a row. Perhaps inspired by events on other boards Arkadij Naiditsch played a “delayed Dutch” with 6…f5 and the game had soon left known theory. Both players were getting creative even before Baramidze opted for 18.f3!?
It soon turned out this wasn’t just offering an exchange sacrifice, since after 18…Nc3 19.Qc2 Bxd4+ 20.Kh1 Nxb1 21.fxe4! Nc3 22.exf5 gxf5 White has given up a whole rook:
Seeing the position around this point for the first time, Aronian was a little confused:
This looks very good for White… wait, he’s a rook down!? If there was a rook somewhere hiding on a1…
But after some more thought he summed it up:
Baramidze’s 18.f3 is a rather brilliant decision, if it works…
Sadly, though, a potentially spectacular game was stopped dead in its tracks by 23.Ng6??, played after 2 minutes and 52 seconds.
It was the second time in two days David had jettisoned a knight for no compensation. After 23…Nxg6 24.Qxf5 White would be doing fine (Black has a lot of pieces that can be picked up with check), if it wasn’t for the retreat 24…Ne7!, which cuts out all the fun. Naiditsch took less than a minute to play that winning move, and the speed with which Baramidze stumbled on for a few more moves made it clear he knew the game was up.
Aronian was asked to explain the knight sacrifice:
It’s too much talent, I guess… I can’t really explain the blunders, because I’m a big fan of them myself!
Watch Arkadij himself try to explain the game that took him to the top of the table:
“It’s hard to say” was Caruana’s first comment when asked what had happened in his game, and as heroically as he, Adams and the commentators tried it was hard to get to the bottom of this encounter:
What’s clear is that Caruana had a huge space advantage out of the opening that caused Adams to resort to desperate measures such as 17…f5!? and then a pawn sacrifice that left us with the position after 24…Rab8:
Caruana was critical of his 25.Bf3 here, but probably unfairly, since it seems it’s simply a difficult advantage to convert into a win – Black's pieces are all poisoned to take up good squares and Adams lived up to his tricky Mickey (or Spiderman, if you prefer!) reputation in the moves that followed. The players repeated on move 43, leaving Adams on 50% and Caruana in second place with Carlsen.
The first encounter between Vishy and Magnus since their match last year didn’t disappoint, or at least not until the very final stages. As Jan Gustafsson noted in the commentary, Carlsen has been repeating his “sins” from Tata Steel, trying 1…g6 and now the Dutch, which he’d lost with against Anand-second Radek Wojtaszek in Wijk aan Zee. This time he went for the Stonewall, explaining:
He hasn’t played it, and his seconds haven’t played it too much either!
He also joked that at least if there was a pawn on f5 he wouldn’t be tempted to try the now infamous #Bxg4WTF any time soon.
In any case, Vishy took the opening “surprise” in his stride, and throughout the game managed to play quickly and apparently confidently. It was a game of double-edged strategic decisions:
1) To take or push the a-pawn
After 11 moves Carlsen has offered up the a-pawn to damage White’s structure. He said afterwards that maybe 12.bxa4 “is not as stupid as it looks” – psychologically it might also have done no harm to remind Carlsen of the way an a-pawn cost both him and Caruana games against Wojtaszek in Wijk aan Zee. Instead Vishy allowed the pawn to live and Magnus pushed it to a3, though he was far from certain it was a great idea, calling it “probably a bit overzealous” and later “ridiculous”, though it would eventually decide the game.
2) Exchanging off the “bad” bishop
Here Anand played 16.Nxd7!? before the bishop could slink off to e8 and h5, which shocked the live commentary team. There were conflicting views on why he’d done it. Carlsen thought it was by analogy with a Salo Flohr game that’s mentioned in John Watson’s “Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy”, where the same idea of following up with c5 works – although he didn’t think it was nearly so effective here. Levon Aronian’s view:
He wanted Magnus to take on c3 later on and he won’t lose the game. This is more of a strategic choice. I generally wouldn’t take on d7 – maybe I’d regret it, but that’s just a matter of style.
3) Pushing h5
This was another loosening move Carlsen was less than convinced about:
I have to say I regretted the move h5 later in the game.
The play that followed seemed logical and good by both players, until things suddenly began to get serious…
4) Going after the white a-pawn
25…Bb2! was perhaps the moment at which it became clear to chess fans watching around the world that Carlsen and Anand were both playing for a win:
As Carlsen himself put it:
There are of course some pretty serious risks involved with playing Bb2.
Carlsen will win the a2-pawn, when suddenly White needs to crash home on the kingside – or at least force a perpetual – since otherwise the black a-pawn will decide matters. At this point, and when playing 29…Ng4, Carlsen, already short on time, couldn’t be sure he’d survive:
I thought for a long time here. It feels like my position should be quite good, but long term… well, there is no long term here, as within a few moves he could get the bishop round to c4. There’s a huge chance I’ll be embarrassingly mated here, but I couldn’t see it.
Carlsen drew a lesson from the day before, when he didn’t think his wild sacrifice had been the problem:
When you play riskily – when you sacrifice material – you should follow it up by playing well.
He regretted not playing 19…Rab8 against Naiditsch:
I just couldn’t believe that there was no mate there… I should have done what I did today – try and calculate it and not see any ghosts.
So against Anand he went for it, allowing a dangerous check on g6, until we reached the moment at which strategic considerations went out of the window:
Anand, who still had significantly more time on the clock, played 32.Rd7?? after only 52 seconds. It took much less than that, 11 seconds, for Carlsen to accept the sacrifice, and after 33.f6 the refutation 33…Qd1+! followed almost as quickly. There was no perpetual check and the a-pawn was unstoppable.
Carlsen admitted he’d been shocked that Anand hadn’t played the only move 32.Re6, when although Black seems objectively to have strong winning chances absolutely anything could happen. Aronian noted that, “this is Vishy’s territory - positions where you have the attack”, and as if to emphasise the point Magnus suggested the move 32…Bf6, when White has 33.Rxf6! Qxf6 34.Rd7+ Rf7 35.Bd4! and although Black may be fine after pushing his a-pawn we’d certainly have a long game ahead.
Don't miss Carlsen's comments in full below:
The most likely explanation seems to be that Anand’s nerves gave way under pressure, as he admitted was a factor during the match in Sochi. You could make a short selection of horror moments from Vishy's games against Magnus. For instance:
Anand-Carlsen, Game 9, Chennai
28…Qe1! Resigns. Rustam Kasimdzhanov commented: “As cold showers go, this one is liquid hydrogen”
Carlsen 1-0 Anand, Game 2, Sochi
Carlsen 1-0 Anand, Game 11, Sochi
Ok, the final example doesn’t count as a game-losing blunder in itself, but the soul-destroying speed with which Carlsen punished his opponent in each case was notable – as if to emphasise how self-evident the mistake was. Anand can take comfort from the fact that he no longer needs to play any matches against the World Champion in the near future, and they won’t even cross swords again in Zurich next week.
For even more on the game in Baden-Baden check out GM Niclas Huschenbeth’s analysis:
So after Round 4 the standings look as follows:
The obvious first thought on looking at the Round 5 pairings is that you wouldn’t want to be David Baramidze!
But sometimes wounded animals are the most dangerous, and in any case the Naiditsch – Caruana clash will also be vital for the tournament. They have some real history, with Caruana winning two epic games – both from a lost position: see here and here – at the 2013 GRENKE Chess Classic. Will Naiditsch be out for revenge?
Watch all the action live on chess24 with commentary by Jan Gustafsson and Nigel Short!
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