You don't dig repetition
You don't love repetition - Mark E Smith
Here's the crucial position - allegedly - in Anand's win over Morozevich in the eleventh round on Tuesday.
In his commentary on Chessbase Mihail Marin gets very excited about this:
An important moment in modern chess history. Anand's most dangerous trailers, Kramnik and Gelfand, had finished their games hours earlier and a draw would have maintained his comfortable lead in the tournament. The ambitious decision to play on will lead to a slightly irrational position, without any safety net for White. Therefore, Anand deserves the highest praise for the way he chose to climb up to the highest peak of the chess pyramide (sic). This is the kind of World Champion the public needs.
Now I don't know if I detect a dig at Kramnik in that last line, and maybe if I didn't disagree with what Jonathan wrote yesterday I wouldn't trouble myself with it, but I wonder if there's not a certain amount of humbug involved here. (Also, a pyramid can only have one peak, but we'll leave that point, ho ho, aside.)
Oddly, annotating in the daily e-newsletter, Chess Today, IM Max Notkin makes no mention of this "important moment" at all. It's not available online (you have to pay to receive it and I recommend you do) so you'll have to take my word for it. But it's strange, if it's so important, that a player of master rank should apparently overlook the possibility of a repetition. Particularly as the last two moves have been 30...Rh4-h5 31.Qg2-f1 Rh5-h4 32.Qf1-g2 Rh4-h5. Instead Notkin merely notes that 31... Bg5 would have been undesirable (32.Nxa6 Bf4 33.Qg1 Rxh3 34.Qxb5 "with an edge to White") and 32.Nxa6? an outright error (32...Rxe4).
I wonder why? Could it be that he doesn't think that a repetition was actually on the cards? That it never occurred to him that Anand would take it? Because rather than taking a serious risk Anand was simply preferring to play on in a position where he considered himself rather better? He could have taken a draw, for sure, but why not take a look first, see what Morozevich wants to do and then play on? At best it was surely a calculated risk rather than some leap into the unknown. He was going to have a safer king and a giant knight on d5. With those positional advantages was he really running much risk of defeat? Perhaps it wasn't a praiseworthy decision so much as a pragmatic one.
I wrote in the last Kingpin that in the chess world, as elsewhere, there is a certain tendency to interpret the facts according to a preconceived narrative and I'm not sure that this is an exception. Anand - who is probably going to win the tournament - is to be praised as courageous. Kramnik - who is probably not - is to be damned as cautious (and never mind that he won, and twice retained, the title by playing in the style that suits him best). Meanwhile Gelfand, who actually had the best chance of overhauling Anand and passed it up despite having the White pieces, is ignored. (Kramnik, by contrast, in a similar situation two rounds later, made a hard and complex fight of it.)
It's funny, though, this early-draw thing. I mean what are we to say about the player who took a 21-move draw in round six and then a 20-move draw in round eight? And then followed it up by agreeing, with the White pieces, a 21-move draw in round nine?
Nothing at all, I should think. Because our apparently draw-addicted subject wasn't Vladimir Kramnik. It was Viswanathan Anand.