Tiger bites man

28 May 2022

9:00 AM

28 May 2022

9:00 AM

Viswanathan Anand left the spectators in awe at the Superbet Rapid earlier this month. The ‘Tiger of Madras’, as he is sometimes known, was awarded a wildcard spot to the second leg of the Grand Chess Tour in Warsaw, which began just a couple of days after the first leg ended in Bucharest. At 52, the former world champion was the oldest player by some margin, and at least on paper could not be counted as one of the favourites. And yet Anand devoured the field in the rapid section, winning his first five games in a row, and secured clear first place with 7/9.

It was a joy to watch. But only those with short memories will be truly surprised by his display of ageless ability. Famously mild-mannered, Anand has often seemed to bristle when journalists raised the prospect of retirement. In fact, he has repeatedly shown his determination to remain at the top. In 2013, when he lost the world title to Magnus Carlsen at the age of 43, many expected his motivation to decline. The average age of the world’s top ten is around 30 years old and Kasparov had retired at age 42, back in 2005. (In 2019, Kramnik also retired, at 43.) But Anand made a powerful statement when he took first place in the 2014 Candidates tournament and qualified for a rematch, which proved to be considerably closer. In 2017, he began as the 12th seed, but won a fiercely strong world rapid championship in Riyadh, defeating Carlsen along the way. (And me, as it happens!) It was a result which called to mind the stretch of years in the 2000s when Anand seemed to dominate every rapid event he played in. His exceptional tactical intuition has always seemed a particular asset at fast time controls.

Anand will be back at the board soon at the elite ‘Norway Chess’ tournament which begins on 30 May. He will be joined by another veteran, Veselin Topalov, in a ten-player field headed by Carlsen.

The win below, from Warsaw, has an effortless quality which so often seems a feature of Anand’s best games.

Levon Aronian-Viswanathan Anand

Superbet Rapid, Warsaw, May 2022

1 e4 e5 2 Bc4 Nf6 3 d3 Bc5 4 Nf3 d6 Vladimir Kramnik once played 4…O-O against me in this position, with a neat idea: 5 Nxe5 d5! 6 exd5 Re8 7 d4 runs into 7…Bxd4! 8 Qxd4 Nc6! Black recovers material and keeps the initiative. 5 O-O O-O 6 c3 Bb6 7 Nbd2 c6 8 Bb3 Re8 9 Re1 Be6 10 Bc2 Nbd7 11 d4 Bg4 12 h3 Bh5 13 g4 Bg6 14 dxe5 Nxe5 15 Nxe5 Rxe5 15…dxe5 was also fine, but Anand’s more dynamic move is tempting, in view of White’s weakened kingside. 16 Nc4 (see diagram) A serious error. 16 Kg2 was better, which threatens f2-f4-f5 to trap the bishop on g6. After 16…d5 17 f4 Rxe4 18 Nxe4 Bxe4+ 19 Bxe4 Nxe4 Black has healthy compensation for the exchange. Nxe4 Bold and correct. The idea is that 17 Nxe5 Nxf2! sets up myriad discovered checks. For example, 18 Qe2 Nxg4+ 19 Kg2 Nxe5 would leave Black well ahead. 17 Nxb6 17 Bxe4 would limit the damage. Then 17…Rxe4 18 Rxe4 Bxe4 19 Nxb6 axb6 is bad for White, but not losing by force. Nxf2 Winning by force, since if 18 Kxf2 Qh4+ 19 Kf1 Bxc2 is crushing. 18 Qd2 Qxb6 19 Rxe5 Nxg4+ 20 Kg2 Nxe5 Black has several extra pawns and an ongoing attack, so it’s all over. 21 Bxg6 hxg6 22 Qxd6 Qb5 23 Qd1 Nd3 24 b3 Qd5+ White resigns

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