Wijk aan Zee round eight annotated

1/21/2008 – Sunday saw only three real fights and just one decisive game. Topalov employed a strategically ambitious, but rather time consuming plan against Anand, who reacted with great precision and Black soon found himself under pressure on both wings. Polgar sacrificed a pawn against Kramnik in order to annihilate White's pressure and get some initiative in exchange. GM Mihail Marin comments.

Wijk aan Zee 2008

GM Mihail Marin in his analysis kitchen at home in Romania

The following express commentary was provided by Romanian grandmaster Mihail Marin, who is the author of a number of very popular ChessBase training CDs and articles for ChessBase Magazine. GM Marin will study the games of the World Championship tournament in much greater detail and provide the full results of his analysis in the next issue of ChessBase Magazine.

Round eight commentary by GM Mihail Marin

Most players seem to have been somewhat tired after the eventful seventh round. We only had three real fights and just one decisive game.

Group A: Round 8 - Sun. Jan. 20nd
Loek van Wely - Peter Leko
Magnus Carlsen - Boris Gelfand
Vishy Anand - Veselin Topalov
Vladimir Kramnik - Judit Polgar
Teimour Radjabov - Vassily Ivanchuk
Shak. Mamedyarov - Levon Aronian
Pavel Eljanov - Michael Adams

Playing with black against Anand, Topalov employed a strategically ambitious, but rather time consuming plan. The World Champion reacted with great precision and Black soon found himself under pressure on both wings. Topalov tried to keep things under control on the queenside, but got under a strong positional attack on the kingside. On the 40th move he resigned in a joyless position.

In Carlsen-Gelfand and Kramnik-Polgar Black sacrificed a pawn in order to annihilate White's pressure and get some initiative in exchange. In both cases, White retained his extra pawn until deep in the endgame, but accurate black defence led to draw after 67 and 49 moves, respectively.

Tournament leader Magnus Carlsen faces Boris Gelfand

The other games ended in "correct", although rather uneventful draws, in the range between the 20th and 28th move.

Kramnik,V (2799) - Polgar,Ju (2707) [A15]
Corus A Wijk aan Zee NED (8), 20.01.2008 [Mihail Marin]

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4

2...b6 3.g3 Bb7 4.Bg2 e6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Nc3 0-0 7.Re1

More than a decade ago, a young rising star named Kramnik started employing this line with great success, causing nightmares to many specialists of the Queen's Indian, including Anatoly Karpov. The mature ex World Champion Kramnik still believes in the merits of White's position... 7...d5 8.cxd5 exd5 9.d4 Nbd7. A more common way to dveelop the knight is 9...Na6 followed by ...c5. One of the main ideas is that in case of dxc5 the d5-pawn is protected and Black can opt for the hanging pawns with ...bxc5 rather than for the isolated pawn with ...Bxc5. As will become clear a couple of moves later, Judit has entirely different plans. She does not wish to weaken the d5-pawn at all and will keep the c-pawn on its initial square, aiming for active piece play. 10.Bf4 Ne4 11.Qc2 Bd6!? Finally abandoning the territory that was familiar to Kramnik from his own games. After 11...c5 12.dxc5! Bxc5 13.Nxe4 dxe4 14.Ng5 Black had problems protecting his central pawn (ex-d5 pawn) in Kramnik-Van Wely, Tilburg 1997. 12.Nxe4 dxe4 13.Ng5 Bxf4 14.gxf4 Nf6 15.Nxe4 Bxe4 16.Bxe4 Nxe4 17.Qxe4

Black has reasonable compensastion for the sacrificed pawn. After the exchange of all the minor pieces the white king's residence has been weakened, while the exposed situation of the white queen will allow Black develop some initiative. 17...Re8 18.Qd3 Qf6 19.e3 Rad8

Black completes her development and threatens to undermine White's centre with ...c5. After an eventual exchange on d4, the chronic structural weaknesses would make White's extra-pawn irrelevant, while after d5 the b2-pawn would be hanging. We can notice a curious reversal of scenario: it is Black now who submits the d4-pawn to strong pressure... From psychological point of view, a partial success for Judit. 20.Qc2 Rd5 21.Rad1

White has prepared against Black's counterplay in the centre in the best possible way. However, his queen is a little too far from the kingside, which allows Black hit from the other side with 21...g5!? 22.Qxc7. 22.fxg5?! Rxg5+ 23.Kf1 Qf3 offers Black excellent attacking chances. Not something one would like to test against Judit. 22...gxf4 23.exf4 Rxe1+ 24.Rxe1 Rxd4

The position has simplified and White's extra-pawn is not too relevant from static point of view. However, the open position of both kings induce certain dynamic elements. 25.Re3 h5 26.Qe5 Qxe5 27.fxe5

White has managed to improve his structure, but the active placement of Black's rook makes a draw look like the most probable result. 27...Rd2 28.Rb3 Kg7 29.Kg2 Kg6 30.Ra3 Rxb2 31.Rxa7 b5 32.Kg3 h4+ 33.Kf3 b4 34.h3 Rc2 35.Ra4 Rb2 36.Ra7 Rc2 37.Rb7 Rb2 38.Kg2 Rxa2 39.Rxb4 Kf5 40.Rxh4 Kxe5

From Black's point of view, the presence of the f7-pawn makes this an improved version of the (basically drawn, but still unpleasant) endgame Aronian had against Kramnik two rounds earlier. 41.Rg4 Kf5 42.Kg3 Ra3+ 43.f3 Ra1 44.Rf4+ Kg6 45.Rb4 Rg1+ 46.Kf2 Rh1 47.Rg4+ Kf6 48.h4 Ra1 49.Kg2 and Kramnik resigned himself to the somewhat surprizing fact that he cannot win any drawn rook ending... 1/2-1/2. [Click to replay]

Vishy Anand plays 1.e4 against Veselin Topalov in round eight

The game proceeds 1...c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 and Topalov plays 3...cxd4

4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 and we reach the position of the first diagram below.

Anand,V (2799) - Topalov,V (2780) [B90]
Corus A Wijk aan Zee NED (8), 20.01.2008 [Mihail Marin]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3

8...h5. This prophylactic move, preventing (or, at lest, slowing down) the standard attack based on g4-g5, becomes incresingly popular. 9.Nd5. Deviating from a game played at an earlier stage of the same tournament, which continued with 9.Qd2 Nbd7 10.a4 Be7 11.Be2 Qc7 12.0-0 0-0 , Leko-Topalov, Wijk aan Zee 2008. After White's short castle, it is not easy to take advantage of the relative weakness of the black kingside. Besides, if we compare to the 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 lines of the Najdorf, ...h5 cannot be considered a loss of time, because White also played the generally unfavourable f3 (this square is usually left available for the bishop, ever since Karpov used the line to defeat Portisch decades ago). Anand's move is logical in a deeper sense. Since Black has spent a tempo on a pawn move which has little to do with the fight for the centre, White is in a favourable position to maintain the advantage of space he obtains after the inevitable exchange on d5. 9...Bxd5 10.exd5 Nbd7 11.Qd2

11...g6 12.0-0-0

12...Nb6!? The start of a very ambitious strategic plan, which, however, will cost Black considerable amount of time. The neutral developing moves 12...Rc8 13.Kb1 Bg7 might have been safer. 13.Qa5. The only way to defend the d5-pawn, but now Black can carry out the strategically favourable exchange of the dark-squared bishops with 13...Bh6 14.Bxh6 Rxh6 15.Kb1 Rc8

From static point of view, Black's position looks great. He has exchanged his potentially "/portals/all/_for_legal_reasons.jpg" bishop. Besides, with the centre blocked, knights are supposed to be stringer than White's light-squared bishop. However, the last operations have caused alarming lack of harmony in Black's camp. The b6-knight needs two tempi to get to the optimal blocking c5-square, while the h6-rook will consume quite some time to get into play, too. 16.Qb4! A very important element in White's regrouping. A small tactical trick (see below) makes the d5-pawn taboo, allowing White prepare the consolidation of his centre with c4. If his queen had remained stuck on a5, his position could have become uncomfortable. 16...Kf8. In case of 16...Nfxd5 White would play 17.Rxd5! Nxd5 18.Qd2! with a double attack, taking full advantage of the awkward placement of the enemy rook. Black cannot avoid losing material, for instance 18...Qc7 19.c4 Nf4 20.g3. 17.c4 Kg7

18.g3! Another strong move, anticipating an eventual activation of the h6-rook by means of ...h4 and ...Rh5 and preparing the activation of the bishop. 18...Rh8. The strategically desirable 18...h4 does not seem to work out too well after 19.g4 . Black's main problem remains that he needs considerable amount of time to take all the available blocking squares (c5, g5, f4) under control. For instance 19...Rh8 20.Rc1 (20.g5 is premature and allows Black regroup in time with 20...Nh5 21.Nd2 Nf4 22.Ne4 Qc7! If allowed one more move, Black would over-defend his d6-pawn with ...Rhd8, while 23.Qxd6 or 23.Nxd6 can be met by 23...Nbxd5! taking advantage of the hanging position of the d1-rook.) 20...Nh7 21.Bd3 Ng5 22.Be4 The weakness of the d6-pawn prevents Black from transferring his other knight to c5 quickly, while the threat c5 is in the air... At the same time, advancing the f-pawn after, say, ...Rf8, would open the king's position too much, while after the more static kingside approach 22...Nh3 23.Rhd1 Nf4 White obtains strong initiative with 24.c5! 19.Rc1 Qc7 20.Bh3 Rce8 21.Rhd1 Re7 22.a3 Rd8 23.Nd2 Nbd7 24.Qc3

Black has finally completed his development, but White's mobilisation of forces looks more threatening. he has advantage of space in the centre and the possibility of starting active operations on both wings. 24...a5. Topalov intends to install his knight on c5 with all the comfort (after...a4), probably underestimating Anand's next move. One of the last chances to maintain the position double edged consisted of 24...Nc5 and if 25.b4 then simply 25...Ncd7 , when the relatively weak position of the white king would offer Black chances for a casual counterplay, although his position remains passive in general. 25.Bxd7! After the elimination of one of the knights, Black will not be able to keep both wings under control. 25...Nxd7?! Black is still dreaming about blockade. However, the temporary lack of defence of his kingside will offer Anand the possibility to launch a strong attack. 26.f4! Nf6 27.Rf1 b6 28.h3 Qd7 29.f5 Rf8 30.Qe3

White threatens to asfixiate his opponent with g4-g5 followed by Ne4. 30...e4!? A desperate attempt to activate his play. 31.g4! hxg4 32.hxg4 Re5 [32...Nxg4? lads to mate after 33.Qg5 Nf6 34.Rh1] 33.Rf4 Qd8 34.g5 Nh5 35.f6+ Kg8 36.Rxe4

White has increased his spatial advantage radically, having won a pawn at the same time. Black's position is helpless. 36...Rfe8 37.Ka2 a4 38.Rc3 Qc7 39.Qd4 Qc5 40.Qxc5

Black's resignation is not premature. White will need some time to convert his huge advantage into a win, but there would never be a doubt about it. Once Anand reached the control, Topalov probably did not feel like torturing himself defending this position. After 40.Qxc5 bxc5 41.Rce3 Black would be forced to trade all rooks (otherwise White would invade through the e-file). In the knight ending, White would get a passed a-pawn, retaining a crushing advantage of space on the whole board, while Black could not activate his pieces easily. Besides, the d6-pawn and both kingside pawns would be a permanent source of worries... Frankly, this is a lot more than a World Champion would need to win a game... 1-0. [Click to replay]

On the rebound: World Champion Vishy Anand

Comeback with hiccups: Veselin Topalov


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