Legends of Chess: Anand and Ivanchuk strike

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
7/28/2020 – With two rounds to go in the preliminary stage of the ‘Legends of Chess’ online tournament, Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi have already secured their spots in the four-player knockout phase. Anish Giri climbed to third place with a 2½:½ victory over Ding Liren, while, among the veterans, Vishy Anand and Vasyl Ivanchuk played enterprising chess to defeat Boris Gelfand and Vladimir Kramnik respectively. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi in the semis

Two players are still undefeated after seven rounds in the ‘chess24 Legends of Chess’ tournament. Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi won all their matchups so far, with the world champion only playing one Armageddon tiebreaker throughout the event. Anish Giri, Vladimir Kramnik and Peter Svidler will be fighting for the remaining two spots in the coming two days, while Vasyl Ivanchuk still has some outside chances to make it into the semis.

In round 7, Ivanchuk scored a win after having suffered three straight losses. The Ukrainian defeated Kramnik in a match with four decisive games — three of them favouring Ivanchuk. 

It was also a good day for Vishy Anand, who scored his first mini-match victory of the tournament. The former world champion has been having a hard time during this event, but managed to defeat his challenger from the 2012 World Championship match, Boris Gelfand. Anand won the two first games and drew game 3 from a comfortable position.

The key matchups of Tuesday are Giri v Ivanchuk and Kramnik v Svidler, at least in terms of how relevant they are for qualification purposes. The undefeated Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi will also face off, but the result of their matchup is not relevant at this point — perhaps they will even hide some of their preparation, as they are likely to meet in the knockout. 

Legends of Chess 2020

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Anand 2½ : ½ Gelfand

In game 1, Anand had two pawns for a knight, plus had to deal with a passer on the seventh. However, his three connected passed pawns on the kingside were stronger in the end. The Indian was playing black:

 

Gelfand needed to go into somewhat passive defence at this point, with 38.Rc1. The Israeli’s 38.Ra1 attacked the backward pawn, but Anand correctly calculated that this had been a wasted tempo and continued 38...a4 39.Rxa4 c2. After 40.Ra1. The Indian gave up the exchange to get rid of the annoyance on d7 — 40...Rdxd7 41.Nxd7 Rxd7 — and kept pushing his pawns. Resignation came after 42.Rc5 b3 43.Rf1 Rd1 44.Kg2 Rxf1 45.Kxf1 b2.

A win with white and a draw in the third game gave Anand his first match win of the tournament. In the post-game interview, the 50-year-old confessed that he’s not the biggest fan of online chess, or ‘online life’ for that matter. Tania Sachdev asked him if he’s looking forward to the return of over-the-board chess, to which Anand responded:

I’m looking forward to the return of over-the-board life! I’ve had more Zoom than I ever want to remember.

 

Ivanchuk 3 : 1 Kramnik

Like Anand, Ivanchuk kicked off the day with two consecutive wins. Playing with the black pieces in game 2, he got to show his incredible creativity and alertness on move 21:

 

Kramnik’s 21.c4 did not prevent his opponent from placing his bishop on the long diagonal — 21...Bd5. White cannot capture due to the x-ray pin of the queen on the bishop! This good-looking manoeuvre did not give Black a large advantage, but demonstrated that Ivanchuk was having a good day, and very likely enjoying the games — interviewed a few days ago, he confessed that he has never felt that chess was his profession, as he enjoys it so much.

Ivanchuk did not manage to win the match in three games — like Anand — as Kramnik got the full point in game 3. Nevertheless, despite only needing a draw, the Ukrainian won the fourth rapid game of the day and thus received the 3 points granted for a win without tiebreaks.

 

Carlsen 2½ : 1½ Svidler

In a closely contested match, Carlsen won game 4 with the white pieces after having drawn the first three encounters of the round. His good technique allowed him to convert an endgame with rooks and bishops of opposite colours:

 

White had the more active king and an extra pawn once this endgame was reached on move 29. Carlsen steadily made progress until reaching this point, when he even offered his opponent an exchange by playing 55.Kh6. Of course, Svidler did not take the bait, but could not do much against such a dangerous passer. The Russian resigned nine moves later.

 

Giri 2½ : ½ Ding

Besides losing to Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi in rounds 1 and 3, Giri has won the rest of his matchups. His round-7 opponent is not only having a terrible time chess-wise, but luck has not been on his side either — on Monday, he disconnected in an even position during game 1 and lost on time. This is not the first time this happens to the Chinese during this period of online tournaments.

A draw in game 2 was followed by Giri winning game 3 to put an end to the match right there and then. The Dutchman won in 55 moves, but missed a nice chance to trap his opponent’s queen earlier in the game:

 

Giri went 36...Rg5, inviting a queen swap, a natural decision given the match situation. However, he could have ended the game in style with 36...Re7 (the queen cannot capture the rook due to the threat of mate on g2) 37.Qf3 Nxh3 38.Qxh3 Rh5 and White’s queen is lost — note that after 37.Qa8 Black has 37...Rd5.

 

Nepomniachtchi 3 : 2 Leko

Leko has been playing impressive chess, but he has also been missing his chances in crucial positions. He drew all four rapid games against Nepomniachtchi, and went on to lose the Armageddon tiebreaker in what Carlsen called “a nice flagging exhibition”. Leko had the black pieces, which meant he not only had draw odds but also one minute less from the start against one of the fastest players in the circuit!

 

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.
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