Monday, December 01, 2014

Sixty Memorable Annotations

#28: Carlsen - Anand, World Championship Match (11) Sochi 2014

27 ... Rb4

" ... that’s probably a move you’d like to make in blitz."

Fabiano Caruana,

A week’s a long time in chess. One challenger goes down - if not entirely out (A Career Bookended by ISEs) - and thoughts immediately turn to the next one. If you were a betting chesser and had to commit your cash now the man who made the 'blitz move' comment about Anand’s game 11 exchange sacrifice would be a popular guy to back in the "Who takes on Carlsen in 2016" market.

Be that as it may, we’ve still got some afters from Sochi to get through. Specifically, the similarities between Anand’s disastrous move and an ISE punted by Alekhine in a game played almost a century ago that has become a staple in the ISE text books.

Black to Play
The ISE that Alekhine Did

Selezniev - Alekhine, Triberg 1921. You may well have seen it before. I found it in the ISE Chapter of John Watson’s Modern Chess Strategy (see From the Books; From the Books II and a comment after last week’s post), but it’s one of those examples that crops up in a whole bunch of places.

Black’s next move is going to be 20 ... Rb4. You can consult MCS (or any of the others) if you want a full explanation as to why. In brief, Watston says the continuation 21 Bxb4 cxb4 justifies giving up the material because Black gets an outpost for the knight on c5, a protected passed pawn, the bishop pair and weak pawns to attack on a4 on c4. Curiously, though, he doesn’t mention the feature of the position that first jumps out at me - Black’s unopposed fianchettoed bishop. Perhaps because it’s one of those positions where the bishop isn’t really strong because White has simply evacuated all the danger squares?

Black to play
The ISE that Anand wishes he didn't

Anyhoo, let’s get back to Sochi. I was watching the moves come in with Angus. When 26 ... Rdb8 popped up on the screen I suddenly had a thought. "Is he going to ISE on b4?", I asked. "Bxb4 axb4 ... a4 will probably drop ... hmmm maybe not ... cxb4 then? Does that help? ... No. Probably nonsense."

It was the memory of the Alekhine position that prompted the thought. Not that I could remember it properly. I wasn’t entirely sure whether White had given up a bishop or a knight for the rook in his game. Nor did I have much sense of what was happening on the rest of the board. I did know it was Black doing an ISE by playing a rook to b4, though.

Would a ... Rb4 ISE work in Carlsen - Anand? I considered and rejected the move in maybe 10 seconds at most. That turned out to be a correct assessment as you know, and when you put the positions side by side it’s not difficult to see that an exchange sac is more likely to succeed in one than the other.

Ironically, though, it was to my advantage that I was only vaguely familiar with the Alekhine game. With a better grasp of the original, I would have been more tempted to punt the ISE on Anand’s behalf in game 11.

Later I discovered Jan Gustafsson’s tweet. It seems at least three of us were remembering Alexander Alekhine whilst Vishy was thinking about his 27th move. Only one of us paid the price though.

A week may be a long time in chess, but, as Selezniev could tell you, sometimes your defeats hang around haunting you for decades. I suspect Anand will have to put up with seeing this pair of ISEs crop up in middlegame text books for many years to come.

2014 ISE Count: 73
TISE Index
SMA Index

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I searched for games containing both a position with White pawns on a4 and c4, Black pawns on a5 and c5 with a Black Rook on b4 and also the same pawns but a White Bishop on b4. There have been a few, a number with wins for White. I would agree with the comment that having a Kings Indian Bishop controlling the diagonal as in the Alekhine game is a factor for the success of the sacrifice.