Monthly Archives: Nov 2014

Qatar Masters 2014

A big open is being held in Qatar and the main attraction is the participation of none other but a former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik. I think this is the first time a (former) World Champion plays in an open tournament! And perhaps there is a good reason they don’t do it, besides, why should they – playing in luxury hotels with excellent appearance fees (in the region of tens of thousands Euros) and playing conditions, what’s there not to like? On the other hand, we all know how opens look like.

Kramnik started with two draws, against GM Halkias (rated 2519, but in fact much stronger than that) in an Evans Gambit (!) when he was worse, and against Shyam Sundar, rated 2484. I have in fact played Shyam back in 2008, in Benasque, when an interesting game ended in a draw. At least I was black then.

Kramnik was white against Shyam and I was very surprised to read that he considered himself “unlucky” in that game. Does a World Champion rated 300 points more than his opponent, and playing with the white pieces, need luck to beat his opponent? I am a big fan of Kramnik, but sometimes these guys are really way too entitled, expecting everything to come to them, even Lady Luck, when they can’t get the job done by playing good moves. And when this doesn’t happen, they whine about it! A shame, really.

Still, let’s not forget that Kramnik is a strong player. Today he produced a nice attacking effort:


Carlsen-Anand 2014 – Game 11

An abrupt end to the match that seemed to be heading for a final showdown in game 12.

Another Berlin endgame today, both players’ strategy was obvious – Carlsen wanted to apply some safe pressure, Anand wanted to soak it up and survive in order to give himself a last chance in the last game.

Anand used another line in the Berlin today, the line that Kramnik used in his match with Kasparov, 9…Bd7 and they followed along the first game of that match until Anand showed the better understanding theory has provided for these positions in the last 14 years – black doesn’t need to prevent Nd5 as people thought back in 2000. Carlsen didn’t achieve anything as black had the perfect Berlin wall set up, but when he semi-blundered 23…b5 things heated up.

All of a sudden Anand had to give up on his initial plan for this game as now he was given a chance to strike and not wait for game 12. I think this change confused him as he lost his inner calm, he admitted at the press conference that he wasn’t thinking clearly around the moment of his mistake. I’ve experienced similar loss of clarity after a sudden change on the board – when you play a strong opponent and suddenly you’re given a chance to take over the initiative after defending for quite some time (and in Anand’s case defending not only in the game, but in the match as well) the desire to immediately cash in on the given opportunity and get rid of the tension is a very big temptation. And succumbing to it is very often the wrong decision and it was wrong today as well. Anand called it “a bad gamble” and a “nervous decision,” words that I see as confirmation of what I described.

Anand proved a worthy challenger and must feel much better than last year, because he played so much better, but also he must be feeling much worse too because he himself was the reason for today’s loss – nobody forced him to play 27…Rb4, he overreacted and cracked under pressure. He could have drawn this game and play the last one, he could have stuck to his plan and then put Carlsen under the extreme pressure of the last game. But he didn’t and that feeling is gnawing on his soul.

Carlsen generally played well, sub-optimal in my opinion, but his usual standard is so high that even with sub-optimal play he was more than capable to dominate the match and win it. He now has time until 2016 to enjoy chess and improve even more.

Here’s today’s game with some instructional notes on the Berlin endgame, plus download of all the games of the match with my comments.


Carlsen-Anand 2014 – Game 10

Today’s game reminded me of game 10 of the Anand-Topalov match. After essaying the Grunfeld in game 1 (and losing due to forgotten preparation) Anand switched to the Slav for his next 3 black games and returned to the Grunfeld in game 10, only to draw a suspiciously looking position.

Carlsen decided to return to the Grunfeld in a critical moment in the match. There are probably several factors for that, but I think one of the main ones is the factor of surprise. I don’t think Anand considered the return of the Grunfeld probable (I didn’t) as it seemed that Carlsen’s main weapon would be the QGD. But from what I can gather Carlsen relies a lot on the surprise factor in the openings in this match as a way to compensate for Anand’s superior preparation. In addition to this factor, he also prepared a relative sideline (or, rather, a line that used to be popular in Kasparov’s time, but now considered inferior to the line with 7…a6), exactly the same thing he did in the QGD in game 8 (the idea with 9…Re8).
Even though surprised, Anand did find the best moves and put a lot of pressure on Carlsen. Carlsen himself admitted he missed 19 Ng5 after which things are difficult for black. Unfortunately for Anand, he couldn’t keep up the highest level of his moves and the slow 24th move let Carlsen escape.
A rest day tomorrow is followed by game 11, a rest day and game 12 (if necessary). I can’t wait to see if Anand will try to sharpen things up in game 11 (like Kramnik did against Leko in 2004 using the Benoni and almost winning in the penultimate game) or he’ll just try not to lose and pile it all up for the last game. I now somehow seem to lean towards the latter option, but let’s see.
Here’s today’s analysis and a download of all the commented games:


Carlsen-Anand 2014 – Game 9

Another short draw today and quite a surprising at that. Anand decided that it’s still early to sharpen things up with black and went for 1…e5 while Carlsen went for the Berlin endgame again, probably hoping for a pull like in game 7.

But Anand showed his excellent preparation and surprised Carlsen, even though what he played had already been played before. So instead of keeping the tension with 14 b3, Carlsen decided to force a draw.

This should be good news for Anand, getting an easy draw with black and now having 2 whites in the last 3 games. But in case he doesn’t win tomorrow I’m pretty sure he’ll try to sharpen up with black as well. Perhaps he’s trying to make the tension last longer, bearing in mind Carlsen’s breakdown in the London Candidates.

It is a dangerous to give short draws with white because it means you’re not trying and taking your chances and then naturally the trend shifts in your opponent’s favour who’s now given a chance to try and take his chances. It is all debatable if Carlsen is confident he won’t lose another game so he can be relaxed about taking draws, or perhaps he doesn’t believe Anand has the energy/quality to beat him. At this point all I can say is that it’s risky, but whether that risk will be justified we’ll see soon enough.

The game itself didn’t have too many interesting moments, and here’s a link to download all the games so far, including the one from today:


Carlsen-Anand 2014 – Game 8

The QGD returned today and it gave Carlsen an easy draw. An easy draw that was earned with a lot of hard work before the game – Carlsen demonstrated deep preparation in a sideline of the popular line with 5 Bf4 that brought Anand his only win in the match so far.

After yesterday’s marathon it was difficult for Anand to apply pressure, especially in view of Carlsen’s surprise on move 9. He decided not to go for the sharper lines with long castling and went for a more solid approach, but this was heavily prepared by Carlsen. The clock showed the difference – by move 30 Carlsen had spent only around 30 minutes!
The attempt to dry out the game by heavily analysing openings is not something new. Kasparov was the first to analyse openings deeply, but his aim was primarily to win directly from the opening. Kramnik’s approach was different, when playing black he used this method of extremely deep analysis to analyse to a draw (hence the Petroff, Berlin, QGD…). Many followed, as making a draw with black is always a good result in the tournaments these guys play. Carlsen wasn’t one of them, but he now has Peter Heine Nielsen on his team, an exceptional analyst who for many years worked for Anand (one of the best prepared players in the world) and who is very well versed in digging deep. Today we saw some results of this kind of work.
I don’t think Carlsen will stay on this path of trying to draw without playing, but in a match for the title everything is allowed as long as it brings results. And it does bring results, so no wonder the players spend so much time preparing, mainly to try to avoid this kind of “traps”. Anand will have a rest day in order to prepare better for his next white game, as it seems that the QGD is Carlsen’s main defence for this match. Should be interesting!
Here’s today’s game with detailed analysis and a download link for all the commented games:


Carlsen-Anand 2014 – Game 7

Today we learned that Carlsen can also play heavily analysed lines and introduce improvements on move 26.

It was an interesting decision to go down along one of the main lines in the Berlin, at first I thought it should favour Anand who would just bang out his theory and make a draw, but it turned out to be more complicated than that. Carlsen came out with an interesting plan of Ne3-f5-g3-h5 and Anand’s decision to enter a difficult, but drawable endgame is one that shows confidence.

Carlsen put pressure for 122 moves and I’m sure he enjoyed it, as well as knowing that torturing Anand like this also saps his energy for tomorrow’s game when he’ll be white. (As a sidenote: the reason for having 2 whites in a row in the middle of the match is to change the player who has white after the rest day – the victim of having black after the rest day for the duration of the whole match was none other than Kasparov, who in 2000 was suffering as black against Kramnik and then didn’t have the energy to put pressure in his white game the next day. Since then they’ve decided to have this double-white in the middle of the match so as to give the players equal opportunity).

I don’t think Anand will follow this strategy in the second half of the match. His energy will be needed for putting pressure in his white games and I don’t think he can afford playing long games like this one. I expect the return of 1…c5 and more dynamic games when he’s black.

Here’s today’s game with detailed comments:


Carlsen-Anand 2014 – Commented Games Download

Here are all the games I’ve commented so far in cbv format. I will be updating this file after each game.

Games Download


Carlsen-Anand 2014 – Game 6

They say  in every match there are turning points and today we witnessed an obvious one. A huge mutual blunder meant that things went as if it didn’t happen, but that’s very far from the truth.

Anand’s opening choice was very much Chennai-like. A very passive endgame straight from the opening, even more strangely that the opening was an Open Sicilian (it reminded me of game 5 from Chennai, but there at least the position was objectively equal!) His team prepared it at great depth, undoubtedly, and he must have felt confident he can hold it even against Carlsen.

And in fact he even might have, had it not been for the turning point on move 26. It would be ridiculous to call Carlsen’s blunder the winning move, but in fact it did disturb Anand’s inner peace and he couldn’t go on defending like he decided he would when he chose the opening for this game. After his equilibrium was shaken Anand lost pretty quickly, being unable to get a grip of himself (as Kramnik said when asked how you recover from missed opportunities like this one – “you don’t”).

The only thing Carlsen can be happy about is the point he scored. Blunders always take away the confidence you have and doubts start to creep in about your own play. Both players are now disturbed by what happened, but it’s easier to recover with a point scored than with a point lost. A missed opportunity burns you inside and it takes a lot of self-control and discipline not to whip yourself. Anand should be able to do it.

Here’s the game with detailed notes:


Carlsen-Anand 2014 – Game 5

I cannot escape the feeling that today Carlsen bluffed. He went for a rare line in the QID, played almost exclusively by Tiviakov, and hoped to get Anand unprepared and achieve an easy draw.

Anand however turned out to be excellently prepared even for that rare line that he couldn’t have possibly expected! He went for the most principled line and put Carlsen under real pressure. At those moment he must have regretted his bluff. But black’s position was solid enough and even though he suffered, Carlsen managed to draw.
This game shows that Carlsen still has major problems when playing black. I don’t think he’s hoping he’ll be able to hop around using different openings in every game (similar to Leko’s opening strategy in his match with Kramnik). Anand’s excellent preparation doesn’t make it easier for him, but with Peter Heine Nielsen on board he should be able to find a way to a reliable opening choices. This does raise the question what the hell were they working on during the preparation camps before the match, but that’s for them to answer.
Now Carlsen has two whites in a row, so it’s his chance to turn the momentum in his favour.
Here’s today’s game with detailed comments:


Carlsen-Anand 2014 – Game 4

It seemed today that Carlsen was still under the impression of yesterday’s blow. He said he played badly, but objectively that isn’t quite correct. In fact he played decent chess, only to be met by equally decent chess by Anand.

Loss of objectivity is a dangerous thing. Luckily he has a day off tomorrow to pull himself together.

Kasparov would have been appalled to see 3 g3 in a World Championship match. He only considered the most principled lines, where you can pose the most problems to your opponent, to be worthy of a match of this caliber. But things have changed. The Anti-Sicilians are equally important today thanks to Carlsen (remember he gave 3 Bb5+ in the last game in Chennai after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6) and he poses different kinds of problems – he poses practical problems, unlike the theoretical problems Kasparov posed from the get go (who also went on later in the game to pose practical problems as well).

Anand was well-prepared today for the practical problems Carlsen posed. He achieved a position with an IQP and active piece play. Even though the engines suggest white may have had some chances on move 24, I still consider this to be a good game by Anand who drew rather comfortably. Carlsen’s statement that he played badly seems to confirm this.

It will be interesting to see how Carlsen will try to pose problems to Anand in the next games. Today’s game showed that he probably needs a bit more than slightly better technical positions to beat a confident Anand.

Here’s the game with detailed comments:

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