ProChess Diaries: Masterclasses by Anish and Sandipan

by Sundararajan Kidambi
2/15/2023 – Grandmasters Anish Giri and Sandipan Chanda gave master classes on the same day (21 Oct 2022) in ProChess, and I got to witness the interesting chess lessons being discussed in those sessions. Any chess fan would be thrilled with it, and my experience was absolutely fascinating! In this article, I share a few interesting positions and thought processes I encountered from these sessions. | Photo: Shahid Ahmed

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First session: Anish Giri

Anish discussed two of his recent games from the Chennai Olympiad. Interestingly, both games featured the currently popular (and one of my favourites) Catalan Opening. The first example was his game against Nils Grandelius with the black pieces.

I remember seeing a game between the same two people in Doha 2014 from close quarters. It was a wonderful endgame and I believe that ever since, Anish has won quite a few good games against Nils. This Olympiad’s game was also a very good one, from which I will share a few interesting moments.


Here Anish continued with 15...g5!, and as he explained the idea is not to go for mate, but to drive the bishop away from a good diagonal. Personally, I liked the idea of getting a better version of the Stonewall.


Slowly Black took over and Anish outplayed his opponent in technical fashion, winning a pawn on move 29. However, the most interesting moment of the game is yet to come. It appears that Black should win easily being a pawn up, but things did not turn out to be as easy as it meets the eye. We join the position after Black’s 44....Bf8!?


As Anish explained, Nils started shaking his head here and was clearly disappointed with the way the game had turned out and started going downhill from here. The question posed to us was: can White do something to save the game?

I would urge the readers to think about this before reading the explanation further down.

I was considering all the moves, and nothing seemed too satisfactory to the extent that I started thinking about e4 later on. The idea pointed by Anish elicited an expression of utter amazement and showed the beauty and depth hidden in seemingly simple positions. White can actually sacrifice the piece with 49. Qxa6! Bc5 50. Qxb5 Bxb6 51.e3. There is nothing forced after this, but White gets compensation in the way of:

  1. The a-pawn being a diverting tool to keep Black’s pieces at bay.
  2. In order to use the extra piece, Black has to create an attack against White’s King.
  3. To do this, he needs to go for a f4 break sooner or later, but this leaves him with a wrong coloured h-pawn.

But I still find it extremely hard to fathom the idea that only one pawn is enough for the piece when so much more material remains on the board. An endgame well worth deep study, as Capablanca would have put it!

Anish showed his game versus Eric Hansen next, where he had the white pieces. Let us look at some interesting moments from that game.


Position after Black’s 16...Nd5!?. Anish asked us a quick question: “Would you play this or not, yes or no?” Almost all of us answered with a no, clearly disliking the reply 17.Rxc6, but Pragg alone answered with a “I am not sure”, which Anish told us was the right answer! The move was not as bad as it looks at first!

There were several other interesting moments and questions from the game, but I conclude with a position that arose in a variation from the game.


How should White continue here? Anish had planned to play 33.Nh1! here, with the idea of Bc6 followed by Kg2 and Ng3 if required. I hit upon this move pretty easily as I was aware of the Miles vs Makarichev game from 1984, where there was a similar Nh1 idea in an endgame!

Let us move on to the next session.

Second session: Sandipan Chanda

It was a pleasure to listen to my friend Sandipan in his role as a lecturer. From my experience, I know his zeal for In-depth analysis in endgames and compositions. Here is the first position he showed.


Sandipan asked us to evaluate this position. Many of us felt that Black was doing fine because of the wonderful knight on d5. However, this was not the real picture, as we later saw in the game. Here White continued h4!, which was an important move. It is a good idea to fix Black’s structure with a pawn on h5, which will be to White’s advantage in all coming endgames.


Sandipan also posed us conceptual questions, like whether the exchange of light-squared bishops is to White’s or Black’s advantage. Visually it seems that it favours Black, but a deeper look shows that it favours White! For example, let us see this position.


White has the strong plan of g4-f4-f5 and f6 which leads to a winning advantage. The exchange of the light-squared Bishops has helped White’s king to come to the centre really quickly, and this leads to a big advantage.


Sandipan also had a golden piece of observation in such endgames. He mentioned that in open positions, when the knight is defending against the bishop, the presence of an isolated pawn (like the e5 pawn here) is better for defence, as it controls entry squares of the rival’s king!


This was another position that Sandipan gave us to find the plan. The first part of the plan was to bring the bishop to e2 in order to force Black to play g6. But how can this factor be significant?


Later on, White reached this position and exchanged one of the bishops for the opponent’s knight. Black has meanwhile taken his king to the centre to defend the weakness on d6. How to make further progress from here remains to be seen. With the presence of the pawn on g6, White actually decides to prepare and walk his king up the dark squares like Nigel Short!


The position speaks for itself! White used the king as an extra piece, which was the decisive factor in tilting the position in his favour. This is my concluding position, and I thoroughly enjoyed the several interesting endgames that Sandipan showed us from the games of computer engines! I hope this gave the readers enough chess food to munch on.

My thanks to Anish, Sandipan, Ganguly and ProChess. Adios.

Master Class Vol. 12: Viswanathan Anand

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Sundararajan is a chess player, enthusiast and Grandmaster from Chennai, India, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of chess classics.