SIMPLECHESS

A solid draw keeps things all-square

After his disaster in the Grünfeld in the first game, Anand switches to a rather solid line of the Slav Defence. Topalov maintained a space advantage but Anand patiently coordinated his pieces and simplified to nullify any White advantage.
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Did you recognize where the 'position' in the photograph above comes from? Well it is partially the final position from game 2, with the black king placed on a central light-square to indicate a White win, this is the convention when the board is directly connected to the internet.

Anand chose a sound line of the Slav defence in which Topalov had less opportunity to use his attacking skills. A practical approach even if the resulting game was rather dull. Any early White pressure was gradually eased by cautious defensive play.

Here is the game with my impressions.

Veselin Topalov (2805) -Viswanathan Anand (2787)

Sofia WCM (3rd game) 27.04.2010

Slav Defence (D17)

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.♘f3 ♘f6 4.♘c3 dxc4 5.a4 ♗f5 6.♘e5 e6 7.f3 c5!?

The most common continuation is the piece sacrifice 7...♗b4 8.e4 ♗xe4 9.fxe4 ♘xe4 10.♗d2 ♕xd4 which has at some point been played by all the top players.

8.e4 ♗g6

A few years ago 8...cxd4 was popular but the general consensus now is that the complications favour White. So Anand prefers the solid text move at the cost of a space disadvantage.

9.♗e3 cxd4 10.♕xd4 ♕xd4 11.♗xd4 ♘fd7 12.♘xd7 ♘xd7 13.♗xc4

There is little doubt that White is more active, however Black is not giving White any easy targets. In practise White occasionally wins from this position, but most encounters have been drawn.

13...a6

Keeping any White pieces out of b5.

14.♖c1 ♖g8!?

The idea is to defend g7 in order to develop the bishop. Topalov reacts by increasing his space preponderance on both wings.

15.h4 h6 16.♔e2

With the queens already off the board the king is generally better placed in the centre.

16...♗d6 17.h5 ♗h7 18.a5 ♔e7 19.♘a4 f6

With the e6-pawn defended, this move (which frees the rook from the onerous task of defending g7) becomes possible.

20.b4 ♖gc8

Better than 20...♗xb4? 21.♖b1 ♗xa5 22.♖xb7 which would give White a deadly pin. Anand instead prefers to improve the position of his pieces.

21.♗c5!?

The idea is to seek equality with ...♗g8 and ...e5. Topalov therefore hurries to generate activity as quickly as possible whilst Black's bishop on h7 remains out of play.

21...♗xc5

Capturing with the knight would lead to a hole on b6, however precise analysis shows that it is plausible: 21...♘xc5 22.bxc5 ♗c7 23.♖b1 ♖ab8 24.♘b6 ♗xb6 25.♖xb6 ♖xc5 (25...♗g8 26.♖hb1 ♖xc5 27.♖xb7+ ♖xb7 28.♖xb7+ ♔f8 29.♖b8+ ♔f7 30.♗xa6 (30.♗xe6+ ♔xe6 31.♖xg8 ♔f7 32.♖a8 ♖xa5 33.g4 ♖a3 would probably lead to a draw) 30...♖xa5 31.♗b5 ♖a7! 32.f4! and Black's bishop is so badly placed that he will have problems to defend) 26.♗xe6 ♖xa5 27.♖c1 ♔d8 28.♗d5 ♖b5 29.♖xb5 axb5 30.♖b1 ♔c7 31.♖xb5 ♗g8 and Black should be able to grovel a draw.

22.bxc5 ♖c7 23.♘b6 ♖d8

Anand is getting his forces co-ordinated and seems to have avoided any serious difficulties.

24.♘xd7 ♖dxd7 25.♗d3 ♗g8

Blockading the c-pawn comes into consideration... 25...♖c6 26.♖c3 ♖dc7 27.♖hc1 e5 28.♖b3 ♗g8 29.♖b6 ♗f7 30.♖xc6 ♖xc6 31.g4 ♔d8 and I don't see any feasible breakthroughs for White.

26.c6!?

Exchanging a pair of weaknesses.

26...♖d6 27.cxb7 ♖xb7 28.♖c3 ♗f7

Material is equal, but Black has the most serious weakness on a6, so he has to be the more careful.

Here 28...♖b2+ is tempting but doesn't inconvenience White: 29.♔e3 ♖a2 (in order to eliminate White's remaining queenside pawn, whereas snatching the g-pawn looks playable, but risky: 29...♖xg2 30.♖c7+ ♖d7 (but not 30...♔f8? 31.♖c8+ ♔f7 32.♖b1 and Black is in trouble) 31.♖xd7+ ♔xd7 32.♖a1! and ♗xa6, when White obtains an outside passed pawn, which constitutes a useful trump card) 30.♖b1 ♖xa5 31.♖b7+ ♖d7 32.♖cc7 ♖xc7 33.♖xc7+ ♔f8 34.♖c8+ ♔f7 35.f4 and despite the pawn deficit it is White who is pressing.

29.♔e3 ♗e8

The bishop zigzags its way back into play. The threat is ...♗b5 after which Black would have no particular worries.

30.g4 e5 31.♖hc1 ♗d7 32.♖c5

32...♗b5!

Anand calculates that he can get away with this move, as White's more advanced passed pawn is going nowhere.

33.♗xb5 axb5 34.♖b1 b4 35.♖b3 ♖a6 36.♔d3 ♖ba7

Liquidating the queenside and ensuring half-a-point.

37.♖xb4 ♖xa5 38.♖xa5 ♖xa5 39.♖b7+ ♔f8 40.♔e2 ♖a2+ 41.♔e3 ♖a3+ 42.♔f2 ♖a2+ 43.♔e3 ♖a3+ 44.♔f2 ♖a2+ 45.♔e3 ♖a3+ 46.♔f2

½-½

Tomorrow, Anand will have White: will it be another Catalan?

So many questions. Who will have the best answers?@ www.FIDE.com

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