Could Anand have saved the endgame in game eight?

Topalov is now on level terms after yesterday's win, but Anand lost rather quickly in the opposite-coloured bishop ending.
Clearly something went wrong, so I thought that I'd take a closer look at what he could have done instead.

Could Anand have even drawn the opposite bishop endgame?

Maybe he could! Let's see how...

This was the position on the board after White's 54th move.

Veselin Topalov (2805) - Viswanathan Anand (2787)

Sofia WCM (8th round) 04.05.2010

Slav defence (D17)

The game didn't last long...

54...♗c6? 55.♔h6 ♔g8 56.g4!

and Black resigned.

Anand realized that he wasn't going to hold. Here is what I wrote in the news article from yesterday...

"After 56.g4 ♗d7 57.f4 ♗a4 58.♗g7! (58.f5? creates a second passed pawn but this may not be enough as after 58...exf5 59.gxf5 ♗d7 60.f6 ♗e6 Black may be able to blockade the light squares) 58...♗d7 59.g5 ♗e8 60.b3! Zugzwang! this means that Black has to play a move that he would rather not! Any king moves loses the h-pawn (and then White has a second passed pawn in favourable circumstances) and any bishop move that stops d6-d7 such as... 60...♗d7 ...allows... 61.g6! hxg6 62.♔xg6 followed by a decisive king penetration e.g. 62...♗b5 63.♔f6 ♗c6 64.♗h6 and ♔-e7."


Instead of this, Black could certainly have put up better resistance (see the first diagram position) with...


...but the question is: can he draw with best play? Let's look at some plausible lines:

55.♗f6 ♔e8 56.♔h6 ♔d7 57.♗e5 ♗c2 58.g4 ♗d3 59.f4 ♗c2

Or 59...♔e8 60.♔g5 ♔f7 61.♗d4 ♗c2 62.♗b6 ♔e8 63.♔f6 ♔d7 64.♔e5 ♗d3 65.♗f2 ♗c2 66.♗g3 ♗d3 67.f5 exf5 68.gxf5 ♗c2 69.f6 ♗g6 70.♔d4 ♔e6 71.♗e5 ♗e8 72.♔e4 ♗d7 comes to the same thing.

60.♔g7 ♔e8 61.♔f6 ♔d7

Now White can create a second passed pawn, but on the 'd' and 'f' files they are not sufficiently far apart and Black can switch backwards and forwards to stop them becoming too dangerous.


The only serious try.

62...exf5 63.gxf5 ♗b1 64.♗g3 ♗c2 65.♔e5

White is unable to advance his king up the board as he would then simply drop his f-pawn. In order to win he would like to get his king to g7 and pawn on f6, but Black can stop him!

65...♗b1 66.f6 ♗g6 67.♔d4 ♔e6 68.♗e5 ♗e8 69.♔e4

If White plays the cheeky 69.♔e3 Black should not capture the bishop!


The sloppy 69...♗g6+ 70.♔f4 ♗e8 71.♔g5 ♗g6? would allow White to achieve his plan: 72.♔h6 ♔d7 73.♔g7 ♔e6 74.d7 ♔xd7 75.f7 ♗xf7 76.♔xf7 ♔c6 77.♔f6 ♔b5 78.♗c3 with an easy win e.g. 78...b6 79.axb6 ♔xb6 80.♗b4 ♔b5 81.♗a3 ♔c4 82.♔g5 ♔b3 83.♔h6 a5 84.♔xh7 a4 85.♔g6 and Black can do nothing while White comes across and picks off the pawn.

70.♔f4 ♔f7 71.♔g5 ♗d7 72.♔h6 ♗f5

Holding onto the h-pawn for the moment, but White hasn't said his last word!



Black in fact doesn't need the h-pawn, indeed 73...♔f8? 74.♔g5 ♗d7 75.♔f4 ♔f7 76.♔e4 ♔e6 77.♔d4 ♗e8 78.♔c5 ♔d7 79.♔b6 ♔c8 80.d7+ ♔xd7 81.♔xb7 ♔e6 82.♔xa6 wins for White.

74.♔xh7 ♗f5+ 75.♔h6 ♗e6 76.♔g5 ♗d7 77.♔f4 ♔e6 78.♔e4 ♗e8 79.♔d4 ♗f7 80.♔c5 ♔d7 81.♔b6 ♗d5 82.b5

Or 82.f7 ♗xf7 83.♔xb7 ♗c4 and there is no second passed pawn.

82...axb5 83.♔xb5

Another try 83.f7 ♗xf7 84.♔xb7 ♗d5+ 85.♔b8, fails to 85...b4 86.a6 b3 87.a7 b2 88.♗xb2 ♔xd6=.

83...♔c8 84.♔b6

There are three things for Black to watch: the b7 pawn plus the d7 and f7 squares, but he can still draw!

84...♔d7 85.f7 ♗xf7 86.♔xb7 ♗d5+ 87.♔b6

Or 87.♔b8 ♗c4! and White is frustrated.

87...♔c8 88.a6 ♔d7 89.♗f4 ♗e4 90.a7 ♗f3

White can't win as the edge of the board prevents White supporting and then promoting the a-pawn.

Conclusion: Anand could in fact have held the endgame.

On level terms. @ official site

General rule: In order to win opposite bishop endgames it is almost always necessary to create a second passed pawn, but not always sufficient, as we have seen from the present example.

I frequently analyze important games and positions for subscribers in the notable games section. If you have enjoyed the commentated games from the World Championship, and want more then go ahead and subscribe! It won't cost a fortune and you can then access dozens of top level games with my own exclusive notes.

In case you were curious, the match situation so far:

1Veselin TopalovBUL2805Viswanathan AnandIND27871-0Grünfeld defence30
2Viswanathan AnandIND2787Veselin TopalovBUL28051-0Catalan opening43
3Veselin TopalovBUL2805Viswanathan AnandIND27870.5-0.5Slav defence46
4Viswanathan AnandIND2787Veselin TopalovBUL28051-0Catalan opening32
5Veselin TopalovBUL2805Viswanathan AnandIND27870.5-0.5Slav defence44
6Viswanathan AnandIND2787Veselin TopalovBUL28050.5-0.5Catalan opening58
7Viswanathan AnandIND2787Veselin TopalovBUL28050.5-0.5Catalan/Bogoljubov58
8Veselin TopalovBUL2805Viswanathan AnandIND27871-0Slav defence56

There are only four games of classical chess remaining with the score now being Anand 4 Topalov 4.

This means that both players require 2.5 out of 4 to get to 6.5 points in the twelve scheduled games.

Game 9 with Anand having the white pieces is on Thursday.

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