Grandmaster Radosław Wojtaszek, one of Viswanathan Anand’s seconds in Sofia, annotated the games from the recent World Championship Match for the Polish “Mat” chess magazine.
Wojtaszek’s annotations appeared alongside the long interview with the Polish chess player which I recently translated. As with the interview, the most interesting part of the annotations is seeing how the Anand team approached and viewed the match, and of course where their home preparation ended. I’ve translated most of the text (the title is also from the Polish magazine), but left out some inessential annotations as well as the first part of the general introduction to the match. The last section of Wojtaszek’s introduction is, however, a good place to start:
It’s worth emphasising the fact that before and during the match we were assisted in our preparation by such wonderful chess players as Magnus Carlsen, Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik. That was a great help and demonstrates above all the great respect that Vishy enjoys in the chess world. Also encouraging is the fact that preparation based on human ideas turned out to be better than preparation based on the use of the BlueGene supercomputer. That enormously powerful computer, located in Bulgaria, was made available to the Topalov team by IBM.
After months of preparation the day of the first game finally arrived. Of course the start of a match is always nervous. People are always asking themselves questions about the form of the players, or the openings they’ve prepared. For the members of our team the games, after many sleepless nights, were above all a time to sleep and rest. It’s interesting, though, that in Bonn I managed to fall asleep during most of the games, while this time round the nerves and stress got the better of me. My own case can serve as an example of how difficult and important the match was for our team.
Veselin Topalov – Vishwanathan Anand: Game 1
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 The Grunfeld Defence is currently very popular among the elite. It’s very hard for white to find any sort of path to an advantage. Before the match we decided that it would be a good choice, also due to the fact that it’s a long time since Vishy played it, so it might be some sort of a surprise.
4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Bc4 c5 8. Ne2 Nc6 9. Be3 0-0 10. 0-0 Na5 11. Bd3 b6 12. Qd2 e5 13. Bh6 cxd4 14. Bxg7 Kxg7 15. cxd4 exd4
16. Rac1!? Up until this point the game was following V. Topalov – G. Kamsky from the first game of their Candidates Match in 2009. Back then Topalov played 16. f4, but black had no great problems equalising.
16…Qd6 In the game Karjakin – Carlsen, Foros 2008, 16…Bb7 was played, but in our preparations we found 16…Qd6 to be a better move, as it gives black the option of putting the bishop on d7.
17. f4 f6 18. f5 White has to quickly use the fact that black has problems with development.
18…Qe5 18…Nc6?! is weak on account of 19. Bb5! and white regains the pawn and keeps the advantage.
19. Nf4 g5 20. Nh5+ Kg8 21. h4 h6 22. hxg5 hxg5 23. Rf3 Up until this moment both sides had played very quickly, altogether using up only a few minutes for their moves…
23…Kf7?? Before the game we’d analysed this position and came to the conclusion that white’s initiative was enough for a draw. Unfortunately Vishy forgot the analysis and mixed up the moves… At this level that’s an unforgivable mistake, especially as the move in the game loses almost immediately. Of course it’s easy to criticise Anand and the whole team, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that the number of variations that were prepared, and which had to be remembered, was huge. It was particularly difficult before the first games when it was totally unclear what Topalov had prepared – 1.e4 or 1. d4. Seeing the move on the broadcast we knew that the match was going to start off at 0-1 for the Bulgarian. Black should have played 23…Bd7! and only after 24. Rg3 should the king escape with 24…Kf7. After many hours of analysis we were convinced that black’s position holds.
[It’s interesting that during and after the game commentators like Sergey Shipov and Malcolm Pein gave 25. Bxc4+! as leading to a white advantage (25. Nxf6 doesn’t work). In any case it was a position only a computer could love, and precisely the opposite of how Shipov, in his match preview, had predicted the match would go. Pointing out how short it was and how high the cost of an opening disaster like Kramnik’s in Bonn could be, he concluded:
As I see it the logical consequence of this sad story will be the players employing a very cautious opening strategy at the start of the current match. It’s unlikely that they’ll immediately launch themselves into the thicket of fashionable, risky and essentially computer variations, where one analytical mistake could be fatal. Or rather, that will only happen if they’re absolutely confident in the results of their analysis. While if there are any doubts – it won’t be unleashed on the opponent immediately.
It’s notable that afterwards Anand switched to quieter lines.]
24. Nxf6! A nice combination, though it’s likely that it had all already been prepared.
24…Kxf6 25. Rh3 Rg8 26. Rh6+ Kf7 27. Rh7+ Ke8 28. Rcc7 Kd8 29. Bb5 Qxe4 30. Rxc8+ and the World Champion laid down his arms.
Of course it wasn’t how we’d imagined the opening of the match. But the most important thing after such a shocking start was to remain calm and prepare for the next game.
Our strategy with white was based, above all, on finding so-called “little ideas”, which were meant to surprise Topalov. It wasn’t even essential that they should guarantee Vishy an advantage – more important was that the character of the position didn’t suit the Bulgarian. Topalov is most comfortable in complicated positions where he has the initiative, while calmer positions aren’t among his strong points.
Viswanathan Anand – Veselin Topalov: Game 2
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Practically at the very beginning of our preparations we decided that the Catalan was an ideal choice. The calm character of the position that usually arises in the opening doesn’t suit the Bulgarian. He has, after all, and probably not by accident, very poor statistics in the opening.
4…dxc4 5. Bg2 a6 6. Ne5 The main move is 6. 0-0, but we judged that 6. Ne5 gave white more chance of an advantage.
6…c5 7. Na3 cxd4 8. Naxc4 Bc5 9. 0-0 0-0 10. Bd2 Nd5 11. Rc1 Nd7 12. Nd3 Ba7 13. Ba5 Qe7 14. Qb3 Rb8 All of this had already been played in the game Gulko – Shulman, Tulsa 2008.
15. Qa3?! Vishy thought for 10 minutes before making this interesting, but not particularly accurate, move. As I already mentioned, the players have a lot of variations to remember, so at times they make inaccuracies by transposing moves or mixing up ideas. In the game mentioned Gulko played 15. Nce5, but white didn’t manage to obtain an advantage. Probably the strongest move was 15. Rfd1!? and only after 15…Re8 would white play 16. Qa3! with excellent compensation.
15…Qxa3 16. bxa3 N7f6?! A poor move. Much stronger was 16…Nc5!, after which black stands better. Topalov would then have had good chances of increasing his lead. It strikes me that it was a very significant moment in the match – from this point on the initiative passed to our side for a number of games.
17. Nce5! Re8 18. Rc2 b6 19. Bd2 Bb7 20. Rfc1 Rbd8
21. f4! A typical move in such structures. White isn’t afraid of weakening the e3 square – the most important thing is tightening control of the e5 point. Objectively white probably doesn’t have an edge, but it was exactly this type of position that we wanted – Topalov makes mistakes while defending.
21…Bb8 22. a4 a5 23. Nc6 Bxc6 24. Rxc6 h5 25. R1c4
26. Bxe3 dxe3 27. Bf3! Also possible was 27. Rxb6, but white doesn’t need to hurry to force events.
27…g6?! 27…Nd7 with the idea of e5 gave black more chances to defend.
28. Rxb6 Ba7 29. Rb3 Rd4 30. Rc7! Bb8 31. Rc5 White already has a very large edge.
31…Bd6 32. Rxa5 Rc8 Topalov is known for his ability to create extreme complications even in difficult situations. It often allows him to avoid defeat, which makes the manner in which Vishy converted his advantage all the more impressive.
34…Ra2 35. Nb4 Bxb4 Of no help is 35. Rxa3 36. Rxa3 Bxb4 37. Ra8+! and white wins easily.
36. axb4 Nd5 37. b5 Raxa4 38. Rxa4 Rxa4 39. Bxd5 exd5 40. b6 It’s curious that for most of the game white had doubled a pawns, while in the end everything’s decided by… the b pawn!
40…Ra8 41. b7 Rb8 42. Kf3 d4 43. Ke4 Black resigned
After two games the score was 1-1. Quickly recovering from the loss was the best thing that could have happened to us. And by perfectly converting his advantage Vishy showed that he was in good form.
Veselin Topalov – Viswanathan Anand: Game 3
1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 The second opening that had been prepared for the match was the Slav Defence. Of course it wasn’t a surprise for our opponent, as Vishy has been playing it for many years.
4. Nc3 A slight surprise, as recently Topalov has preferred 4. e3
4…dxc4 It’s clear that Topalov must have been prepared for 4…e6, which had brought us such joy in the match with Kramnik in Bonn when Vishy won two games in the Meran to almost decide the match.
5. a4 Bf5 6. Ne5 e6 7. f3 c5 8. e4
8…Bg6 9. Be3 cxd4 10. Qxd4 Qxd4 11. Bxd4 Nfd7 12. Nxd7 Nxd7 13. Bxc4 Topalov once more repeats an opening that he’d played before in an important match. Previously he’d used a line that he used against Kamsky, while here he uses the same opening that he used in the match with Kramnik in Elista four years ago. Back then the Russian calmly equalised and Topalov switched to something else. To be honest, we expected exactly the same this time round. However, as it turned out, in Sofia Topalov didn’t run away from the ending and we saw it again in games 5 and 8.
13…a6 14. Rc1 Rg8 Formally a novelty, but the idea is perfectly well-known. Black wants to bring the black-squared bishop to d6, and later to put the white-squared bishop on g6. The question is whether white can do anything concrete on the queenside in the meantime?!
15. h4 h6 16. Ke2 Bd6 17. h5 Bh7
18. a5!? A very interesting idea, which the Bulgarian had probably prepared shortly after the match with Kramnik.
18…Ke7 A very good choice! Surprised by the new idea Anand chooses a calm solution and continues his plan of activating the white-squared bishop. 18…Bb4 jumps out at you, but white has a wide range of interesting options and no doubt the Bulgarian’s team had worked one of them out very precisely. You don’t get much after 19. Nb5?! axb5 20. Bxb5 Rxa5 21. Bxd7+ Kxd7 22. Rhd1 Rb5 23. Be5+ Ke8 24. Rc8+ Ke7 25. Rc7+ and white has nothing more than perpetual check. But after the more interesting 19. Na4 Bxa5 20. Nc5 white gets great compensation for the pawn on account of the lack of coordination among the black pieces.
19. Na4 f6 20. b4! Rgc8 Accepting the sacrifice with 20…Bxb4?! wouldn’t be a very good idea, as after 21. Rb1 Bxa5 22. Rxb7 white has huge compensation.
21. Bc5 Probably stronger was Nc5!? After 21…Bxc5 22. bxc5 black shouldn’t play 22…Nxc5 23. Ba2 Nd7 24. Bb2! when there are still certain problems to solve, but 22…Rc7, which was actually what Vishy said he’d been intending to play after the game. He’d probably have managed to defend that position.
21…Bxc5 22. bxc5 Rc7 23. Nb6 Rd8 24. Nxd7 After the game many commentators pointed out the dramatic 24. Bd5!? but black can calmly defend with the move 24…Nb8, with the idea of Nc6, and it’s hard to find a plan for white.
24…Rdxd7 Black no longer has any problems.
[Wojtaszek goes on to give the remaining moves and mentions that the needless repetition at the end was because Topalov was playing (unilaterally) by Sofia Rules]
The first draw in the match. Topalov managed to gain a certain initiative, but in the end Anand neutralised it without any great difficulty. Sharing the point with black is a good result, particularly in a match.
Viswanathan Anand – Veselin Topalov: Game 4
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 dxc4 5. Bg2 Bb4+
This time Topalov switches, though it can hardly be described as a surprise. He’d already used the move before, in a game with Kramnik from the match in Elista. As you can see, the Bulgarian grandmaster really trusts his “normal” repertoire, once more repeating a line that he’d played quite recently.
6. Bd2 a5 7. Qc2 Bxd2+ 8. Qxd2 c6 9. a4 b5
10. Na3! A novelty which we’d already found in 2009. White doesn’t immediately take the pawn, but maintains a strong initiative. Up until this point all that was played was: 10. axb5 cxb5 11. Qg5 0-0 12. Qxb5 Ba6 13. Qa4 Qb6 14. 0-0 Qxb2 15. Nbd2 Bb5 16. Nxc4 Bxa4 17. Nxb2 Bb5 18. Ne5 Ra7 with a slightly better endgame for white, though in practice black doesn’t have any real problems holding the draw.
[A curiosity is that Aronian was working on his opening preparation in Armenia during the match and also found the move:
Unfortunately we spent a great deal of time on one of the novelties and it was used by Anand in the match with Topalov that just finished. Literally the next day. It happens!
More from the interview, including Aronian’s views on the match, can be found here.]
10…Bd7! The beginning of a series of very strong moves by the Bulgarian, who reacted excellently to the surprise. Black has problems after 10…Ba6?! 11. Ne5 Nd5 12. Nxc6! Nxc6 13. axb5 Bxb5 14. Nxb5 with a white edge.
11. Ne5 Nd5! After 11…Ra6 12. Nxd7 Qxd7 13. axb5 cxb5 14. Qg5! 0-0 15. Qxb5 Qxb5 16. Nxb5 white has the advantage in the endgame.
12. e4 Nb4 13. 0-0 0-0 14. Rfd1 Worse is 14. d5 Be8 and white has nothing better than 15. Rfd1.
14…Be8 15. d5 Qd6! The natural 15…cxd5 leads almost by force to a much worse ending after: 16. exd5 exd5 17. axb5 Nd7 18. Nc6 Nxc6 19. Qxd5! Nde5 20. bxc6 Qxd5 21. Rxd5 Nxc6 22. Nxc4.
16. Ng4 Qc5 17. Ne3 Topalov has made a series of strong moves, but the white position still seems much more pleasant to play.
17…N8a6 18. dxc6 bxa4 19. Naxc4 Bxc6
20. Rac1 It was around about here that our analysis ended – white has strong compensation for the pawn. It’s interesting that after this moment the game was practically decided in three moves! It’s worth adding that by this point Anand had also built up a large advantage on the clock.
20…h6? A move that’s hard to explain, given that white will in any case be attacking on the kingside. The best idea for black was 20…Qe7! after which 21. Nd6 would no doubt follow, with a small white edge.
21. Nd6 Qa7 22. Ng4! Rad8? The losing move. 22…Nc5 didn’t really help on account of 23. Rc4! with a very strong attack (the threat is Nh6, or the simple e5). The only move was 22…f6! though black’s position would remain very dubious.
23. Nxh6+! A very pretty combination! Although the computer immediately displays a white win calculating all the variations to the end isn’t easy.
23…gxh6 24. Qxh6 f6 25. e5! Bxg2 26. exf6!! Rxd6 (26…Qh7 27. Qg5+ Kh8 28. Rc4 is no better)
27. Rxd6 Be4 After 27…Bd5 there would follow 28. Rc4! Bxc4 29. Rd4!
28. Rxe6! Nd3 29. Rc2 Qh7 30. f7+ Qxf7 31. Rxe4 Qf5 32. Re7 1-0
For me this was the World Champion’s best game in the match. Two weak moves by Topalov allowed a spectacular conclusion. The opening games of the match showed what a universal player Anand is. After patiently defending an ending in the previous game, the next day he attacked.
In the fifth and sixth games both players, after fighting but balanced play, shared the points. In the first Topalov again tried to gain an advantage in the same line of the Slav Defence, while in the second Anand played a different variation of the Catalan. In both cases black effectively neutralised his opponent’s play and made a solid draw. The seventh game was much more interesting.