Round 5: Anand makes his move

The GRENKE Chess Classic reached the mid-way point on Rosenmontag, the highlight of the German Carnival season, and a day when paupers can traditionally trade places with kings. It seemed the same might happen on the stage, as tournament underdogs Georg Meier and Daniel Fridman had Mickey Adams and Fabiano Caruana on the ropes, while Arkadij Naiditsch had a full-blooded game against Vishy Anand. In the end, however, the aristocrats of world chess drew, while the king upheld the social order with a win that saw him move into outright second place.

 

 

The win felt long overdue, though the criticism the World Champion had received in some quarters for his previous four draws (with White only once) was absurdly overblown. It clearly wasn’t for the want of trying, and in round 5 the dam finally burst. Of course that also had a lot to do with his opponent, Arkadij Naiditsch, who continued his record of providing the day’s only decisive game.

The game wasn’t, at least on the surface, about the opening. Anand rejected the Berlin Defence and went for a complex Ruy Lopez that looked playable for both players. He noted afterwards that Naiditsch’s pieces were somewhat tied up on the queenside, but the whole game essentially revolved around Naiditsch’s strange neglect of his kingside cavalry. 25…h5?! was welcomed by Anand as it already left the f4-knight with no squares to which it could retreat. When the World Champion played 27.Nf1 his plans were crystal clear – as he told IM Lawrence Trent afterwards in the post-game interview, he had other options, but “if you see a piece then you want to get it!” Naiditsch attempted to solve his problems with the pseudo-aggressive 27…Bh6?, which may objectively have been the losing move.

 

 

Anand responded with the quiet but deadly 28.Re1!, when not only does the knight have no squares, it’s pinned to the h6-bishop. It was somewhat astonishing, therefore, that Naiditsch almost blitzed out 28…Kh7?. He could have put up more resistance by solving the key problem with his counterplay – that 28…Qc8 immediately runs into the 29.Nxd6! fork – and sure enough the computer recommends three moves that defend d6: 28…Bf8, 28…Ne8, 28…Rd8 (in that order).

The game saw 29.g3 Qc8 30.f3 (Vishy: “a cold-blooded move. I did it with some trepidation, but I couldn’t see a way for him.”) 30…Qh3 31.gxf4 Qxf3

 

 

Here Anand had the luxury of choice and a comfortable 40 minutes on his clock. His first intention was to play the nice 32.b4! to allow the distant a3-rook to control matters on the kingside, but he didn’t like the idea of Black getting some decent squares for his pieces. In the end he ruled out any counterplay based on the g4-square with 32.Qd1! and after 32…Qh3 33.fxe5 Naiditsch’s Rxb3 was little more than desperation, and he resigned on move 38. It was a puzzling sequence of play from the German no. 1, but today was all about the World Champion. You could feel what it meant to him: “I was trying very hard not to screw this one up. I’ve been tossing away too many of these.”

 

Replay the post-game press conference with Viswanathan Anand 

 

 

For much of the round it had seemed more likely we’d see decisive action elsewhere. Georg Meier has been struggling in Baden-Baden and remains in bottom place, but he pulled off the rare feat of leaving Mickey Adams in dire straits by move 12. Adams explained, “I think I was a bit casual in the opening and Black was on the edge for a long time”. He also credited his opponent, however, noting the direct plan with 6.Nc3 is rarer than the quieter 6.Qc2, while Meier said his 7.Bg5 was a novelty. Adams said “I saw it coming” of White’s expansion with e4, but he couldn’t devise a way to stop it, and the return of the bishop with 12.Bd2 provoked the Englishman into desperate measures:

 

 

12…e5!? Adams: “What else could I play? I had to try something.” Suddenly the computers were proclaiming Meier had a close to winning edge, but the chances of an upset were all but extinguished a couple of moves later: 13.a3! Bxc3 14.Bxc3 Qa6

 

 

15.Nxe5? After the game both players agreed that 15.0-0! was the move, with the problem for Black being that his queen is in real danger of getting stuck after the move Adams was planning to play, 15…Qxc4, then 16.dxe5 Nd5 17.Bd4! with Rac1 to follow. Instead they soon reached an ending via 15…Nxe5 16.dxe5 Qxc4 17.Qd4 Qxd4 18.Bxd4 and after the single accurate move 18…Rd8! (Meier was relishing his small edge after 18…Nd5 19.Bxd5 cxd5 with White planting a rook on c7) they were left with a position which Adams quietly noted was drawish after every single alternative proposed. They shook hands after a repetition on move 35.

 

Replay the post-game press conference with Georg Meier and Michael Adams

 

 

At the end of the press conference Adams and Meier were asked about the almost empty board in the latter stages of Caruana – Fridman, and Adams joked: “All three results possible, but one seems more likely than the other two. Under 18 minutes to make 1 move, so it’s in the balance!” What went before, however, was a fascinating struggle that threatened to explode into tactical fireworks. Daniel Fridman played the Petroff, but that opening has by now almost lost its drawish reputation due largely to the variation we saw today where White castles queenside. Sergey Karjakin memorably once crushed Vladimir Kramnik with the white pieces, but on this occasion the German grandmaster knew exactly what he was doing.

Caruana regretted his 17.a4 (instead of 17.a3), but he played it because he hadn’t seen the cunning trap Fridman and his second Konstantin Landa had cooked up on the morning before the game. After 17…Rb8 the natural 18.axb5 was met by a pawn sacrifice:

 

 

18…a4! Actually sacrifice is perhaps the wrong word, as the pawn could hardly be more poisoned – 19.Bxa4 Qa7! and the bishop is lost after 20.b3 cxb5, while 20.Bb3 Ra8! leads to a quick mate. Caruana was on the back foot, but once again the real tension didn’t last long. After the sequence 19.Bc4 cxb5 20.Ba2 b4 21.cxb4 Rxb4 22.Qd6 Black was left with a choice:

 

 

Fridman played the perfectly good 22…Qxd6, but ultimately Caruana’s defence of the ending was painless. Instead the other option was 22…Qb7!? and the board is on fire – a possible line begins 23.Qxe5 (not Houdini’s top move, but the move the players had considered during the game) 23…a3! 24.h5 Bf5! (the queen can’t take the bishop as it’s stopping mate on b2) and it’s hard to fathom what might happen next. The best recommendation is to watch the post-game press conference and marvel at the amount of tactics the players, and especially Caruana, saw throughout the whole game. And some would call it a quiet draw.

 

Replay the post-game press conference with Fabiano Caruana and Daniel Fridman

 

From left to right: Christian Bossert, GM Mikail Ivanov, WGM Vera Nebolsina, Jonas Reimold, Dr. Markus Keller

 

It’s impossible to end this Carnival report without mentioning the 6-round GRENKE Chess Classic Carnival (“Fasching” in German) Tournament that was played over the last three days here in the same venue in Baden-Baden. This time there was a minor overturning of the status quo as WGM Vera Nebolsina beat her male colleagues to the trophy, though admittedly the young Russian was the second seed in the capacity 79-player event. She started with 5 wins then drew her final game against GM Mikhail Ivanov, who took silver. Jonas Reimold took bronze. You can find full details on the Chess-Results website.

So at the half-way stage of the GRENKE Chess Classic Fabiano Caruana continues to lead on 3.5/5, though Viswanathan Anand is back in the running only half a point behind. The full standings are:

1. Caruana: 3.5/5
2. Anand: 3
3. Naiditsch, Fridman: 2.5
5. Adams: 2
6. Meier: 1.5

Tuesday 12 February is the tournament’s only rest day. The pairings for Wednesday's Round 6 are:

Fridman – Naiditsch
Anand – Adams
Meier – Caruana

Follow our live coverage from 15:00 CET

Report: Colin McGourty | Photos: Georgios Souleidis | Videos: Macauley Peterson