Monday, August 15, 2016

Vachier-Lagrave vs Anand, Sinquefeld 2016

The Sinquefeld Cup has drawn to a close, with GM Wesley So winning his first ever super-tournament. However, today we will be looking back at a game from Round 2, between Anand and Vachier-Lagrave.

Anand (left) vs Vachier-Lagrave (Image from chess.com)

In this crazy game, MVL had a prospective attack after Anand misplayed the opening. Then, the Frenchman played a miscalculated sacrifice that turned the tables and gave his opponent the better endgame. Anand's victory put an end to Vachier-Lagrave's unbeaten streak in 2016.

Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime vs Anand, Viswanathan
Sinquefeld Cup 2016, Round 2

1. e4 c6
2. Nf3 d5
3. Nc3 Nf6
4. e5 Ne4
5. Ne2

5. Nxe4 dxe4 White must lose tempo moving the knight.

5... Qb6
6. d4 e6
7. Nfg1?!

Surprising to see such a move in high-level play. While the motive is to play f3 kicking the knight, there is a better alternative suggested by Youtube user thechesswebsite: 7. Ng3 and if Black takes 7... Nxg3 8. hxg3 White is not worse off at all.

7... f6
8. f3 Ng5
9. exf6 gxf6
10. f4?!

The knight just goes back to e4.

10... Ne4
11. Ng3 Bd7
12. Nxe4 dxe4
13. c3 (D)

Position after 13. c3

Strengthening d4 and denying Black's bishop the b4 square. Here, White has a better pawn structure but is far behind in development.

13... Na6

Preparing to castle queenside. GM Robert Hess suggests a better line: 13... c5 (Attacking the centre to exploit White's lag in development.) 14. d5 Na6 15. Qh5+ Kd8 16. dxe6 Qxe6 17. Ne2 Bd6

14. Qh5+

Development with threat helps White regain his lost tempo.

14... Kd8
15. Bc4 Kc7
16. a4

Since Black is running his king to the queenside, White creates trouble on that wing. The threat is 17. a5 trapping the queen.

16... c5

Hitting the centre and giving his own queen some space.

17. Ne2 Rd8
18. Be3 (D)

Position after 18. Be3

Things are looking dangerous for Anand. Just a few moments ago MVL was the one behind in development, but he has fought back. Although White has yet to castle, his king is definitely less exposed than Black's.

18. f5 is strong; cxd4 19. fxe6 dxc3 20. Nxc3 Bxe6 21. Bf4+ White has unleashed almost all his pieces
into a strong attack.

18... f5

A good defensive resource, protecting e4 and cutting White's queen off from the queenside.

18... Qxb2? 19. O-O the threat is Rfb1 trapping the queen; Black must lose even more tempo to parry that.

19. O-O Kb8
20. Qf7 Nc7
21. a5

Black mighty have brought his king to safety but White has prepared a good queenside attack.

21... Qc6

Once again 21... Qxb2? 22. Rfb1 traps the queen.

22. Qf6 Bd6
23. dxc5 Bxc5
24. Nd4

We see tension building up around e6.

24... Qd6
25. b4 Qe7
26. Qh6 Bd6 (D)

Position after 26... Bd6

"I didn't see a win against ... Bd6, so I'm just going to hold my breath and play it"- Anand

27. Rad1

27. a6 was also a good move, weakening the light squares around Black's queenside after b6

27... Rhf8

Preparing a rook lift to f6 driving away the queen.

28. Bf2

The danger is Bh4 winning an exchange.

28... Rf6
29. Qh4

29. Qh3 was better since White still has the possibility of Bh4

29... Nd5 (D)

Position after 29... Nd5

30. Nxe6?

"Losing on the spot' - GM Robert Hess. White miscalculates an exchange sacrifice. He would have been alright after 30. Bxd5 exd5 31. Qh3 with Bh4 still being a powerful threat.

30... Bxe6
31. Bxd5 e3!

This powerful zwischenzug was what MVL missed. His bishop is forced into a discovered attack.

31... Bxd5 32. Rxd5 e3 33. Bg3 was probably what MVL had in mind, since he is now up a pawn. Still, Black's passed pawn is a force to be reckoned with.

32. Bxe3

32. Bg3? e2 winning.

32... Bxd5

Now White cannot capture on d5 since his bishop is under attack. He is forced to enter the endgame down the exchange.

33. Bxa7+ Kxa7
34. Qf2+ Bc5! (D)

Position after 34... Bc5

Forcing a queen exchange. With more pieces off the board, Black's material advantage is significant.

35. Qxc5+ Qxc5+
36. bxc5 Rd7
37. Rfe1 h6
38. Kf2 Kb8

38... Ka6 {centralizing the king in the endgame was better.

39. c4 Bc6
40. Rxd7 Bxd7
41. Rb1 Ra6
42. Rb6 Rxa5
43. Rxh6 Rxc5
44. h4 Rxc4
45. g3 Kc7
46. h5 b5 (D)
0-1

Position after 46... h5

46... b5 47. Ra6 b4 48. h6 b3 49. h7 Rc2+! The key move; Black skewers the king to the h2 square. 50. Kf3 (50. Kg1 b2 with mate to follow.) 50... Rh2 picking up the pawn and winning.

Sources:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJxBUyfpFL8
https://www.chess.com/news/view/anand-ends-vachier-lagrave-s-streak-leads-sinquefield-with-three-others-7900

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