Sofia R6: Draw, Anand leads 3.5-2.5 at halftime

5/1/2010 – Today's game was unlike any other ever seen in World Championship history. It started off as a normal Catalan, with Topalov deviating from the previous line that had led him to disaster in game four. Then Anand produced a novelty that led to a middlegame pitting his knight pair against Black's bishop pair, and spurred off into a unique sequence of thirteen consecutive knight moves! Express report.

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World Chess Championship – Game six

Anand,Viswanathan (2787) - Topalov,Veselin (2805) [E04]
Sofia/Bulgaria Sofia/Bulgaria (6), 01.05.2010

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 a6. Topalov deviates from the previous Catalan line which had led to a nasty defeat. The question now is what Anand would have in store. 6.Ne5 c5 7.Na3 cxd4 8.Naxc4 Bc5 9.0-0 0-0 10.Bg5

 








Though the official novelty only takes place a move later, this can be described as the real novelty and the essence of what the World Champion had prepared. 10...h6 11.Bxf6 Qxf6N 12.Nd3 Ba7 13.Qa4

 








13...Nc6. The enticing fork with 13...b5 falls flat to 14.Qc2 bxc4 15.Qxc4 and the rook on a8 is lost. 14.Rac1 e5 15.Bxc6 b5 16.Qc2 Qxc6 17.Ncxe5 Qe4 18.Qc6 Bb7 19.Qxe4 Bxe4 20.Rc2

 








We now have a very complex fight between the bishop pair and the knight pair. 20...Rfe8 21.Rfc1 f6 22.Nd7. This seemingly innocuous move is in fact the first move in a masterly plan by Anand to regroup his knights. While said somewhat tongue-in-cheek, this does actually begin the longest run of consecutive knight moves ever seen in a World Championship match with no less than thirteen! 22...Bf5 23.N7c5 Bb6 24.Nb7 Bd7 25.Nf4 Rab8 26.Nd6 Re5 27.Nc8 Ba5 28.Nd3 Re8 29.Na7

 








"It seems that with this Vishy has lost his 'faith' in the position. Surprising. I liked it." – GM Yasser Seirawan. 29...Bb6 30.Nc6 Rb7 31.Ncb4 a5 32.Nd5 a4 33.Nxb6 Rxb6 34.Nc5 Bf5 35.Rd2. Finally giving the cavalry a rest.


Record: the thirteen consecutive knight moves executed by Anand in game six

The previous record had been a sequence of six in one of the Karpov-Kasparov matches of yesteryear, but here Anand put on a display worthy of the world-famous Spanish Riding School of Vienna. Did this lead to a unique win for either side? Unfortunately not, but the game was an excellent display of their desire to fight, with unusual mini-swings constantly threatening the game's balance.

Addendum: a number of readers have pointed out that Tal-Botvinnik, World Championship game 10, 1961, had ten consecutive knight moves by White, albeit including a 2½-fold repetition before the time control. You can replay it here (the knight tour starts at move 31).

35...Rc6 36.b4 axb3 37.axb3 b4 38.Rxd4 Rxe2 39.Rxb4 Bh3!

 








Despite being a pawn down, it is now White who must tread carefully with the unpleasant threats around his king. This is all that is needed to neutralize Anand's winning ambitions. 40.Rbc4 Rd6 41.Re4 Rb2. Black could even play 41...Rc2 illustrating the back rank weakness. 42.Rc4 Re2=. 42.Ree1 Rdd2

 








At this point Topalov can be considered the moral victor, since even though he is hardly winning, his position appears preferable. 43.Ne4 Rd4 44.Nc5 Rdd2 45.Ne4 Rd3

 








And by refusing the repetition, he says exactly what he thinks. 46.Rb1 Rdxb3 47.Nd2 Rb4 48.f3. Opening the escape route for the king. 48...g5 49.Rxb2 Rxb2 50.Rd1 Kf7 51.Kf2 h5 52.Ke3 Rc2 53.Ra1 Kg6 54.Ra6 Bf5 55.Rd6 Rc3+ 56.Kf2 Rc2 57.Ke3 Rc3+ 58.Kf2 Rc2

 








Draw. [Click to replay]

Current standing


Photo impressions from Sofia


Before the start of game six in the Military Club in Sofia


The arbiter start the clock...


... and game six is under way


A last photo before the curtain is drawn and the players separated from the audience


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