When I saw the first black move in the Anand-Carlsen
game I immediately thought of another duel of World Champions – the game between Capablanca and Alekhine in Nottingham 1936. When Alekhine beat Capablanca in 1927 he stuck to the Queen’s Gambit and it served him well – he showed respect and he played solid chess, possibly the best chess of his career. Both times when Carlsen beat Anand he played solid openings and good technical chess. However, those were matches.
Tournament play has its own rules, but the Stonewall?!? I cannot know about Capablanca and Anand, but I sense that this choice must have been felt as a sort of an insult. An open provocation if you like. And it’s hard to keep calm and play normal chess when provoked like this. Both Alekhine and Carlsen obtained good positions after the opening, but back in 1936 Alekhine wasn’t a World Champion – his nerves in the period 1935 (when he lost to Euwe) – 1937 (when he regained the title) weren’t very stable (as he wrote himself) and Capablanca’s proved to be better on the day – he got a sweet revenge for the title loss in 1927. Carlsen is a World Champion today and if anything he has a psychological advantage over Anand, so he could rely on his nerves more than Alekhine could. And indeed, some of Anand’s choices looked as if he tried to “punish” Carlsen, but when you try to punish instead of just play you lose objectivity and it’s easy to drift away. I think Anand overestimated his plan of play in the centre (Be1, de5, Rd1, f3, Bh3, e4) and underestimated black’s defensive and counterattacking resources. In a twist of fate, he lost because of a far-advanced passed a-pawn, just like in the 9th game of the match in Chennai.
The German players in the event played a strange game. The usually quiet English Opening led to some wild tactics early on. I played Baramidze in the European Team Championship in 2007 – I managed to catch him in a deep prep and I was winning for a long time, but he fought tirelessly and managed to save the draw. I didn’t get the impression he was a tactical player, but today he really went all out against Naiditsch. I think Aronian’s comment on white’s 23rd move sums the game pretty well. This win kept Naiditsch in the lead and on course of an even more impressive tournament victory than his famous Dortmund win in 2005 (ahead of Topalov, Bacrot, Kramnik Adams, Svidler, Leko, van Wely, Sutovsky and Nielsen).
The other two games were drawn. Caruana obtained an advantage against Adams, who seemed to surprise him with his choice of the Slav, but allowed too much counterplay which he couldn’t contain.
Bacrot and Aronian played a line in the Ragozin which I faced against GM Bartel in the Individual European Chess Championship in 2008. I didn’t react very well and lost rather easily, so I was surprised to see Aronian provoke the c5 advance, something I wanted to avoid.
Tomorrow’s game between Naiditsch and Caruana may well be decisive for the tournament victory – unless, of course, Carlsen wins all his remaining games.