León 2011: Anand unleashes game-changing novelty

by ChessBase
6/4/2011 – If the first day had already awoken the fans from their slumber, the second day was one to rewrite sections of opening manuals. Although one expects to see novelties in rapid games, they are most often slight permutations in known theory. In game three, a Caro-Kann Advance with 4.g4, Anand played a novelty on move six that changes the way the line will be evaluated. Not to be missed!

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The Anand-Shirov six-game match in León, Spain, is being played under the FIDE Active Chess rules. Each player has 45 minutes per game + 30 seconds increment after each move. Two games are played each day, and all six games will be played, even if the match winner has been already decided. In case of a tie, a pair of five-minute games will be played immediately after the sixth regular normal game. If there is still a tie, and Armageddon will decide the winner: White gets five minutes against four minutes for Black, who will be considered the winner if there is a draw.


Viswanathan Anand
Alexei Shirov

If the first day had already awoken the fans from their slumber, the second day was one to rewrite sections of open manuals. Although one expects to see opening novelties in rapid games, they are most often merely slight permutations in known theory or go for offbeat openings that will never see the light of day in grandmaster play otherwise. The first game of the day was neither. Anand chose the Caro-Kann, knowing full well that Shirov's favorite treatment is 4...g4 line in the Advance variation. It has a somewhat dubious reputation at top echelons, and is usually only played by the more maverick players such as Shirov or Morozevich. Due to its hyper-aggressive character, it is also very popular amongst amateurs, since Black's treatment often involves tip-toeing around a minefield, or barricading himself behind his pawns. In fact, the latter is exactly how Anand's game seemed to be heading until move... six! Yes, on move six, Anand unleashed a simple novelty that completely changed the nature of the position as well as the way both White's and Black's perspectives will be evaluated.

Now, before readers begin protesting their databases show two games with the aforementioned novelty, it is worth noting that one is by players rated under 2000, and frankly that cannot be considered a genuine precedent, and in the other, a game played in 1976, the Black player was lost so quickly, he clearly had no idea what he had in his hands.

In a sense, this reminds one of the famous 8...d5 novelty in Karpov-Kasparov (1985 World Championship - Game 16), in which it was soon discovered that his novelty had in fact been played once by a player in 1965. Kasparov pointedly added that while it was possible, he had had no knowledge of the precedent, and furthermore doubted the previous player had analyzed it or understood it as he did. Finally, and this is a complete digression, Tim Krabbé wrote a lovely short story around that novelty, called Master Jacobson, and can be found at his site.

Shirov greets Anand prior to game three of the match

He could hardly guess that the Indian was about to unleash a monsoon of trouble his way

Shirov,Alexei (2709) - Anand,Viswanathan (2817) [B12]
24th León Masters León ESP (3), 04.06.2011

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.g4. This is by far the most aggressive approach to the Caro-Kann Advance, and has led to many a tactical slugfest. The idea is obviously to gain space and time over the bishop, as well as promote dangerous options if the pawns start rolling forward on the kingside. Though of questionable reputation, it is also a favorite of Shirov's. 4...Bd7 5.c4 e6. This line doesn't see much grandmaster play, and it is hardly surprising considering the awkward bishop on d7 and the unattractive development problems Black will need to solve. 6.Nc3 c5!!N

Astonishing really, and if ever there was an opening novelty deserving of exclamation points, this is it. It isn't so much that Black is winning (he is not), but what it does to the evaluation of the position from both White's and Black's perspective. Instead of the old quiet behind the lines fight expected from Black while White tried to open lines and crack Black's position, now Black's pieces are about to take a very serious life of their own while White's g4 pawn looks like a very questionable weakness. 7.cxd5. Though the engines don't condemn Shirov's choice, they do have a slight preference for 7.Nf3 Still, the question would remain: what the heck is that pawn doing on g4? 7...exd5 8.dxc5 Bxc5

9.Bg2?! Shirov starts to go astray, but one cannot blame him for not wanting to take on d5 and potentially go down in flames. Unfortunately for him, that is exactly what happens. 9.Qxd5 Qb6 10.Bc4 Be6 (10...Bxf2+ is also possible, but leads to nothing decisive after 11.Ke2 Be6 12.Qb5+ Nc6 13.Bxe6 fxe6 14.Nf3) 11.Bb5+ Nc6 12.Bxc6+ bxc6 13.Qf3 protecting f2 and g4, though Black's chances are to be preferred due to the slightly better development and bishop pair. 9...Ne7 10.h3 Qb6 11.Qe2 0-0 12.Nf3? A mistake that allows 12...d4! however the position was probably compromised as it was. 13.Ne4 Bb5 14.Qd2 Nbc6 Threatening Bb4. 15.a3 Ng6 16.b4 Be7 17.Bb2 Rfd8 0-1. [Click to replay]

Anand,Viswanathan (2817) - Shirov,Alexei (2709) [D43]
24th León Masters León ESP (4), 04.06.2011

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bxf6 Qxf6 7.e3 Nd7 8.Bd3 dxc4 9.Bxc4 Bd6 10.0-0 Qe7 11.Ne4 0-0 12.Nxd6 Qxd6 13.Qe2 b6 14.Rfd1 Bb7 15.Ba6 Bxa6 16.Qxa6 Rfd8 17.a3 c5 18.h3 cxd4 19.Rxd4 Qc7 20.Rad1 e5 21.Qc4 Qxc4 22.Rxc4 f6 23.Kf1 1/2-1/2. [Click to replay]

Impressions from León by Vijay Kumar


Thursday, June 2nd Arrival, drawing of lost in Conde Luna Hotel
Friday, June 3rd Games 1 and 2 (16:30), León auditorium
Saturday, June 4th Games 3 and 4 (16:30), León auditorium
Sunday, June 5th Games 5 and 6 (16:30), + Tiebreaks
Monday, June 6th Closing ceremony, Prizegiving (14:30)
Simuls (17:30), León University


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 11 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

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