When Hikaru Nakamura took a draw against Wang Hao all eyes turned to Nepomniachtchi-Anand – could the World Champion find a win to snatch tournament victory? Despite the computer evaluations in his favour the answer turned out to be no, but Sergey Shipov’s live commentary captured the tension perfectly.
Shipov’s original commentary in Russian can be found at Crestbook.
GM Sergey Shipov’s live commentary on:
Tata Steel Chess 2011, Rd 13
IAN NEPOMNIACHTCHI – VISWANATHAN ANAND
1. e4 c5 The Sicilian Defence. An ideal opening for a real battle.
2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 Of course, the Najdorf Variation. The players use it regularly with both colours.
6. Be3 An aggressive move. White’s future plans include f2-f3, Qd1-d2, O-O-O and g2-g4!
6…e5 Nowadays no-one puts the pawn on e6. A pity.
7. Nf3 The first small surprise.
[It’s more common to encounter 7. Nb3]
7…Be7 8. Bc4 O-O 9. O-O
A starting position for investigation. White is the first to have taken control of the d5-point, but Black will still fight for that dominating vantage point.
9…Qc7 A solid continuation. Anand has played it before (for example, against Ivanchuk in 2008), so Nepomniachtchi should have prepared for it… But quite a delay has followed. I’m curious whether Ian’s recalling something, or has he simply started to play on his own? I really hope it’s the former.
[The principled move here is
9…Be6, but then there follows
10.Bxe6 fxe6 11.Na4! with sharp play. For example, in the game E. Inarkiev – A. Morozevich, Moscow 2008, there followed
12.Qd3 Nc6 13.Qb3 Rf6 14.Bg5 Na5 15.Qb6 Rf7 16.Bxe7 Rxe7 17.b3 Rc8 18.Qxd8+ Rxd8 19.Rad1 b5 20.Nc5 Nc6 21.Nd3 Nf6 and Black equalised.]
10. Nd5 A creative approach. The Russian Champion has made a rare move which in the past only led to disappointment for White…
[Here’s how that battle of the titans mentioned above went:
10.Bb3 Be6 11.Qd2 Rc8 12.Ng5 Bc4! 13.f4! Nbd7 14.fxe5 dxe5 15.Rf5
15…Bb4 16.Rd1 Rd8 17.Qe1 h6 18.Nf3 Be6 19.Qg3 Bxf5 20.exf5 Bc5 and White didn’t get serious compensation for the exchange, V. Ivanchuk, V. Anand, Leon 2008.]
[Of course it was bad to play
10…Qxc4? if only because of
11.Nxe7+ Kh8 12.Qxd6 and the threat of the white knight jumping to g6 forces Black to play
12…Nbd7, on which there follows
13.Nd2! Qxc2 14.Rac1 Qxb2 15.Nc4 Qxa2 16.Qd3 with the threat of trapping the black queen and the knight getting to d6.]
11. Bxd5 Now Vishy has started to think. He probably didn’t prepare for this particular sideline. That seems to have been what Ian was counting on.
11…Nd7 Objectively speaking Black shouldn’t have any problems. Changing the knight guard on f6 will allow him to control the d5-point and put pressure on the c4-pawn.
12. c4 A reasonable idea that’s clearly been brought from his home laboratory. White seals up the trouble spot, not worried by the exchange of his strong bishop. It’s a novelty!
[The predecessor games here don’t look convincing. Firstly, B. Socko – J. Sprenger, Germany 2005:
12.Qd3 Nf6 13.Bb3 Bd7 14.a4 b5 15.Bg5 Rab8 16.a5 Rfd8 17.Bxf6 Bxf6 18.Bd5 b4! with approximate equality (though Black won).]
[Secondly, I. Bukavshin – D. Naroditsky, Kemer 2007:
12.Nd2 Nf6 13.Bb3 b5 14.Bg5 Bb7 15.Bxf6 Bxf6 16.Qe2 a5! 17.Qxb5 Ba6 18.Qa4 Bxf1 19.Nxf1 Bg5! – the white knight didn’t make it to d5, and although White has some compensation for the exchange, he lost this encounter.]
12…Nf6 Black will exchange the d5-bishop when necessary. For now he’s making way for the c8-bishop. Let’s say, to go to g4.
13. Qb3 Getting out of a possible pin and putting pressure on the b7-pawn.
If Black carelessly carries out an exchange in the centre immediately then White will quickly create pressure along the c-file. The clocks show that in the opening Nepomniachtchi has managed to seriously surprise and even disturb his fearsome opponent: 1:34 – 1:20. I called the exchange on d5 careless. But on the other hand, what else can Black do? First you should check whether White really is capable of taking the b7-pawn after the bold 13…Bg4. It needs calculating…
13…Nxd5 The Champion isn’t inclined to be cautious.
[It turned out that
13…Bg4 was perfectly possible. Taking on b7 would bring White no joy:
(it was very bad to play
14…Nxd5! 15.Qxd5 Be6 16.Qd1 Qxc4 17.Nd2 Qd3 and Black has the better of things due to his pair of powerful bishops.]
14. cxd5 b5 In this manner Black liberates his queenside. You couldn’t allow White to establish a block on b6. The opened up c6-square is unlikely to provide a home for the white rooks, as the light-squared bishop will come to d7. Although… You immediately have tempting ideas connected to sacrificing the exchange!
15. Rfc1 Qb8
Black’s set-up appears very modest, but it’s promising. In future he’s planning on carrying out the f7-f5 break. But not now, as it would be impossible to miss the blow Nf3xe5 with the d5-d6+ discovered check to follow. In order to find a plan for White you need to dream. And the best move from the realm of dreams would be Nf3-c6! From which there flows the idea Nf3-e1-d3-b4-c6. But that’s probably too slow… You need to think, and luckily there’s a great supply of seconds: 1:25 – 1:13.
16. Qc3 Unexpected. It seems that Ian’s intending to put the queen on c7? Perhaps he’s also thinking about a2-a4. Yes, bringing the a1-rook into play like that would be useful.
[It wasn’t dangerous for Black to play
16.Rc6 Bd7 17.Rb6 Qe8 and it’s not entirely clear what the rook’s doing on b6.]
[It’s unlikely that you’d get anything from the academic doubling of rooks:
17.Rac1 Rc8 and so on.]
[Leading to dull and almost guaranteed equality was
16.a4 Bd7 17.axb5 Qxb5 18.Qxb5 Bxb5 19.Nd2 … But personally I’d play like that as White. Perhaps out of excessive respect for Anand. But that’s not one of Nepomniachtchi’s flaws.]
16…f5! An almost instant reply! There’s the drawback to White’s manoeuvre. His queen left the fighting b3-g8 diagonal, and therefore there’s no longer that blow on e5. As a consequence Black has managed to open up a second front, where he is, of course, stronger.
17. Qc7 Having started out on this path White had to continue.
[You couldn’t stabilise the centre with
17…f4! White would lose a piece.]
[The move 17.exf5 gave Black too much freedom –
[The move which initially struck me as promising
17.Bg5 didn’t stand up to analysis:
17…Bxg5 18.Nxg5 h6! 19.Ne6 Bxe6 20.dxe6 fxe4 – the computer here radiates optimism for Black, though I still think that White does have a certain initiative for the pawn.]
A subtle response, which you might easily miss in your preliminary calculations. Black strengthens his rearguard and maintains the pressure. It’s already become clear that Black had, and has, no real problems after the opening. He’s got two promising bishops and decent counterplay against White’s centre. Let’s glance at the clocks, which have evened out: 1:13 – 1:08.
18. Nd2 An ambitious move. Nepomniachtchi isn’t intending to give Black any relief. He’s ready for an exchange on e4 and not worried by the f5-f4 clamp – in that case the bishop would emigrate to b6.
[White could only count on equality after
18.exf5 Bxf5 19.Qxb8+ Rxb8 20.Nd2 with f2-f3 and Nd2-e4 to follow. We’re the only ones who play like that – veterans and blitz players.]
18…Qxc7 Yes. It’s time to defuse the situation.
19. Rxc7 After the coming 19…Bd8 White will have a wide and very difficult choice of continuations. Though I can guess which the fearless Ian will choose…
19…Bd8 So then… You can exchange the rook, return it to its base or sacrifice it for a bishop and pawn – on d6. I bet on the third option!
20. Rc6 For now that seems to be justified.
[Only White can be worse after
20.Rxf7 Kxf7 21.f3 f4! 22.Bf2 Bd7 23.Rc1 g5! – the Black attack on the kingside will be unpleasant…]
Posing the question bluntly. To boldly capture, or to beat an inglorious retreat? Times: 1:03 – 0:54. However, you shouldn’t even consider the retreat of the rook because of the f5-f4 threat. That means there’s no way back.
21. Rxd6 Bc7 The rook’s been caught, but it won’t die in vain. 22. Bc5 is asking to be played in order to attack the e5-pawn from behind.
22. Rxd7 No, Ian’s played more straightforwardly.
[After 22.Bc5 Bxd6 23.Bxd6 it would be good to play
23…fxe4! 24.Nxe4 Bf5 25.Nc3 Rd7! with the idea of completely emptying the centre with 26.Bxe5
(more circumspect is
26…b4 and, by the way, after
27.Na4 you don’t have to return the exchange to White. It’s better to play
27…Re8! and only then does Black take on d5.]
22…Rxd7 23. f3
Let’s have a think. For the exchange White has a powerful pawn on d5 and the chance to seize the c-file once more. The a6-pawn is potentially weak and the white knight is capable of carrying out a raid to c5 via b3 (and not only that). In general, the visual impression is that White’s compensation is very serious. But you still need to calculate the variations… And it immediately becomes clear that it was wishful thinking! With 23…Bd6 24. Rc1 Rc7! Black eliminates the dangerous white rook. Not good… Was the move 23. f3 correct? Perhaps it was worth looking at a more energetic continuation.
[For example, the 23. a4!? break. After all, in that case the clamping 23…f4 was playing into White’s hands: 24. Bc5!]
23…f4 A solid approach. Anand simply doesn’t want to calculate unnecessary variations.
[I have in mind
23…Bd6 24.exf5 Bf8 25.Ne4 Rxd5 and so on. The knight on e4 looks good, but… an exchange is an exchange.]
24. Bc5 An attempt to put a seal on c5.
[After the modest 24. Bf2 there would definitely follow 24…Bd6!]
24…Bd6 Vishy is trying to break it open.
[It seems Black would have got a noticeable advantage after
24…Rc8! The essential point is:
25.b4 a5 26.a3 a4! – now the knight’s not capable of supporting the bishop. Black will play Bc7-d6 and take over the critical artery.]
[If 25. b4 there’s the unpleasant 25…a5!]
For now the critical file is empty, but unfortunately White only has one rook… On 26. Rc1 there would follow 26…Rdd8! with the idea of 27…Rdc8. That means you have to look for other opportunities. There’s the tempting idea of moving the knight via b3 and a5 to c6.
26. Nb3 Yes, that’s precisely the way in which Nepomniachtchi deciphered the position. I’ll note the speed and decisiveness of the heroes of this live commentary – they’re playing without any long doubts: 0:56 – 0:44. It seems they no longer have the energy to get into things in great depth. They’re afraid that if they get lost in thought they’ll play something significantly worse than what they see immediately.
26…Rc8 27. Rf1 But was this caution necessary?
[After 27.Na5 Rc2 28.Nc6 Rxb2 29.Nxe5 the struggle would have become much sharper. Perhaps that was a chance for Ian.]
27…Kf7 A reasonable choice. There’s not yet any need to exchange rooks on the second rank. It’s more useful to centralise your king and perhaps advance the pawns on the kingside.
28. Na5 The knight’s heading for c6… where Black can return the exchange. It’s also possible to ignore the knight on c6, as the e5-pawn will be defended by the king.
28…Rc2 High time, before the roadblock on c6 has been established.
29. Rf2 Anand’s spending a long time studying the position. He no doubt knows that Nakamura has already taken a draw against Wang Hao, which means a win for the champion would allow him to catch the leader!
[After 29.Nc6, I’m sure there would have followed
29…Kf6! 30.Rf2 Rc1+ 31.Rf1 Rc4!?]
29…Rc1+ 30. Rf1 Vishy’s doubts are continuing. Clocks: 0:52 – 0:21. Though Black’s winning plan suggests itself…
In essence the position is extremely simple: in order to win Black needs the rook to break through into White’s rearguard. That won’t be possible along the c-file. Therefore you have to open up another file – via g7-g5-g4. And then in a struggle on two flanks Black will probably manage to stretch and destroy White’s defence. White’s counterplay on the queenside (in my dreams the white king, you won’t believe it, takes on a6!) is unlikely to work.
31…g5 Anand is quickly getting down to carrying out the obvious plan.
32. Nc6 Kf6 You have to hold on to the e5-pawn, and activate the rook along the 7th rank.
33. b4 An attempt to defend everything in advance.
[Here I looked at the attempt to block the kingside with
33.g4 There would probably follow
33…fxg3 34.hxg3 h5 35.Kg2 Rd7 36.b4 Rg7 37.Kf2 g4 38.Kg2 and… how can you win? There’s the impression that there should be a win. I hope my readers will find a clear path.]
33…Rd7 34. h3 It’s unlikely leaving the pawn on h2 would have helped. In that case Black would push his outside pawn to h3.
34…h5 35. Kf2 Rg7 36. Kf1
Ian can only stand and wait.
36…g4 37. hxg4 hxg4 38. Kf2 The king is controlling the potential invasion squares. How can you win? Even if Black, let’s say, brings his king to d6 using zugzwangs. What next? If White’s king has to stay rooted to the spot, then the knight can switch from c6 to a5, and back again. One thing’s clear – Anand needs to get past the time control and only then look for a way to win in comfort. To the scent of coffee and the taste of chocolate!
38…g3+ Strange. People don’t usually take such critical decisions just before the time control. Or has Vishy found a clear solution?
[38…gxf3 39.gxf3 Rh7 40.Kg2 Rh8 41.Na5 Rc8 42.Nc6 Rh8 43.Na5 and so on promised nothing.]
No! The World Champion has simply convinced himself that White’s fortress is unassailable, and offered a DRAW, which was accepted. There might have followed:
39. Kg1 Rh7 40. Na5 Ke7 41. Nc6+ Kd6 42. Na5
And, as you can see, Black can’t break through. So… well done, Ian – he held a difficult position. And Hikaru Nakamura is the sole winner of the Wijk-aan-Zee 2011 super-tournament. Bravo! That’s the greatest achievement of the fearless samurai’s career. Let’s hope that his example will inspire chess youngsters and sponsors in America. It’s time for the USA to hold top-level tournaments – they’re fortunate to have finally found their own chess hero. Nakamura’s play in this tournament was the most enterprising and energetic. It’s precisely in his colossal energy and will to win that I see the cause of his success. And a +5 result is a Kasparov-like achievement. In recent years the winners of Wijk-aan-Zee haven’t managed to achieve those heights. Anand, in second place, played more soundly and cleanly than the winner, but he didn’t have enough thrust. Carlsen was feverish and Aronian was lacking a little in the home straight. Kramnik was good, but he was broken by his heavy defeat in the key battle with Carlsen. I’d particularly like to note the bright start in super-tournaments for Anish Giri. Both the result and the play of the youngster met the demands of the elite. I see in him the future of world chess! Nepomniachtchi’s play was uneven. It seems as though he wasn’t in the best physical condition. Well, the tournament was a success overall – there were lots of interesting games and an attractive sporting struggle. This is me, Grandmaster Sergey Shipov, thanking readers (and listeners) for your interest in my work. Until we meet again!
1/2 – 1/2
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