- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 7, 2011

World champion Viswanathan Anand won a tournament and sent a message last week with his 4 1/2-1 1/2 rapid-match triumph over Spanish GM Alexei Shirov in the 24th annual Masters Tournament in the Spanish city of Leon.

The Indian champion, a multiple winner at Leon, learned late last month that he will face Israeli GM Boris Gelfand in a title defense match next year. His convincing win over Shirov, a former world-champion candidate himself, demonstrated that Anand will not easily surrender the crown he won in 2007.

In winning three and drawing three against the outclassed Shirov, Anand showed both good preparation and good over-the-board technique. (One opening novelty on Move 5 of the Caro-Kann Advanced variation netted Anand a stunning win in just 17 moves in Black.) Shirov, one of the most imaginative and aggressive grandmasters on the circuit, tried to mix it up from the beginning, only to be severely punished for his presumption.

Anand’s first win came in Game 2, when Black chose one of the most provocative lines in the Queen’s Gambit. But after 12. d5 Nxg3 13. hxg3 Qb6?! (cxd5 was better) 14. dxe6 fxe6 15. Nxg5! Bc5 16. Bh5+, it is White who has both the extra pawn and the stronger attack. Anand snatches another pawn with 16…Ne7 17. Nxe6!, because 17…Kxe6? loses outright in lines like 18. Bg4+ Kf6 19. e5+ Nxe5 20. Qf5+ Kg7 21. Qxe5+ Kg8 22. Be6+ Kh7 23. Qf5+ Kg7 24. Qf7 mate.


On 19. Be2 Raf8 20. 0-0 Rhg8, it looks as if Black has at least gotten all of his pieces into prime spots for a possible attack, but once again it is White who manages to strike first: 21. b4! Qxb4 22. Qd2! (a clever double attack, hitting not only the pawn on h6, but also threatening to win the Black queen with 23. Nd5+ cxd5 24. Qxb4+) Qc5 23. Qxh6 Bc8 24. Qh4+, and the Black king is caught in the cross hairs.

Anand-Shirov after 31...Rf6.
Anand-Shirov after 31…Rf6. more >

After a few more probing checks, White finds his way to victory lane with 27. Qh4+ Ke6 28. Nd5! (Anand’s ability to continually find star moves at the accelerated time controls is particularly impressive in this game) cxd5 29. Rxd5 Qb6 30. Qh5 Qb8? (Nd7 was the last chance to stave off a quick defeat, though Black’s game is probably already beyond salvation) 31. Rfd1 Rf6 (see diagram; on passive moves such as 31…a6, White wins with 32. f4 Nd3 33. f5+ Ke7 34. Qh7+ Kf6 35. e5+ Nxe5 36. Rd6+ Kg5 37. Qh5 mate) 32. Rxe5+!

After 32…Qxe5 33. Bg4+, 33…Rf5 34. Bxf5+ Kf6 35. Qh6+ Ke7 36. Bxc8 Rxc8 37. Qh7+ Ke6 38. Qd7+ wins easily. Black evidently prefers a quicker end to his suffering, walking into a checkmate on 33…Rxg4 34. Qe8 mate.

Give credit to Shirov for his readiness to mix it up with the champion. Based on his careful play in winning last month’s candidates matches, Gelfand will not be making the same mistake.

The French Team Championships that concluded Sunday in Mulhouse, France, attracted wide attention for three players who were not there: GMs Sebastien Feller and Arnaud Hauchard and IM Cyril Marzolo, who are facing lengthy playing bans following the computer-aided cheating scandal that rocked the French Olympiad team in the fall. An appeal by the players of their penalties last month only resulted in longer bans being imposed.

Still, Mulhouse boasted a number of very strong teams, with an international corps of grandmasters supplementing the local talent. Young Czech GM David Navara scored a point with a fine positional win over Ukrainian GM Alex Moiseenko, exploiting the backward d-pawn in Black’s Sicilian Pelikan setup to excellent effect.

The point of many Sicilian positions is that the d-pawn is not as weak as it first appears, but White here manages to arrange the position in a way that Moiseenko is tied up supporting the backward pawn. When Black tries to change the positional dynamic, White is ready to pounce.

Thus: 22. Rd2 b5!? (a risky break to avoid slow suffocation) 23. cxb5 Na7 24. fxe5! (complicating the play in White’s favor; less clear-cut was 24. b6!? Rxc3 25. bxa7 Rxf3 26. Rxd6 Ra8) Rxc3 25. exf6 Rxf3 26. Nd4, putting the Black rook on the spot as 26…Rxf6 is insufficient because of 27. e5 dxe5 28. Nxe6+ Rxe6 29. Rxd8+ Ke7 30. Rb8 Nxb5 31. Rb7, and White retains the edge.

The vulnerable Black rook and White’s advanced b-pawn combine to bring home the point for Navara. The finale: 26…Re3 27. b6 Rd7 (Nb5 28. b7 Rxe4 [Nxd4 29. Rxd4 Bg4 30. Rdc4] 29. Nxe6+ Rxe6 30. Rdc2 Na7 31. Rc8 Nxc8 32. b8=Q and wins) 28. Rdc2 Ke8 29. Nxe6 fxe6 30. Rc7 (decisive Black can’t take the rook and he can’t ignore it either) Rxc7 31. Rxc7, and Black resigns facing 31…Nc6 (Nb5 32. Re7+ Kd8 33. b7) 32. Rxc6 Rxe4 33. Rc4 Re1+ 34. Kf2 Re5 35. a4 d5 36. Rc8+ Kf7 37. b7, winning.

Anand-Shirov, Leon, Spain, June 2011

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