Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Anand-Morozevich 2007 Mexico WCC

Every true sports fan has his or her unforgettable moments, both happy and sad. I am no exception. From Cricket, Soccer, Tennis, Field Hockey, NFL etc and Chess. Yes, chess does that too. I often watch chess games live on the internet, and sometimes get goose bumps when my favorite player is playing an exciting, razor sharp position. Once in a while, there is simply a "Wow" moment, and it's etched in the memory forever.

This is from the Round 11 game of 2007 World Chess Championship in Mexico.Anand won the tournament to become the unified world chess champion. Later he successfully defended that title against Kramnik, Topalov and most recently Gelfand. He was at the height of his chess creativity in those years, which has sadly been absent from his recent play.

Let's first look at the position before the final move.
Morozevich has just played
55. ... Qe4

Position after Black's 55 ... Qe4
What would you do in this position ? White has 3 connected passed pawns that will net him a win easily, as long as the black queen can be neutralized. Right now, the black queen is attacking both the white knight and the e pawn. The pawn needs only 2 moves to become a queen, but just the rook alone is not enough of a support. So giving up the knight to protect the pawn may be risky. Giving up this advanced pawn, means a long hard struggle to queen the other 3 pawns. So what should be done ?

Before we look at Anand's brilliant trick, let's take a few steps back.
During the game following position arose.
Position after Black's 32. ... Rh4-h5

In this position, Morozevich indicated a desire to draw by repetition of moves. It's roughly even but unclear position. Anand could have accepted the draw and still kept a comfortable lead. But he decided to press on. White then went on to capture the queen side pawns, Black captured pawns on the king side.Eventually queens got exchanged. Morozevich had sacrificed his central pawns to gain tempo, and reached a position where he was guaranteed to get the queen. Still White is better.

Position after Black's 50. ...Kh7-h6

At this point Black is willing to sacrifice the bishop to get his queen. Anand played the following move. Later it became clear that he had calculated all the way till the end.
51. Rc4!
Position after White's 51. Rc4!

Game continued ...
51. ...  h3
52. Rxc5 h2
The race is getting closer, and there is nothing to stop black from getting his queen. My heart had started beating faster.

Position after Black's 52. ... h2

53. Ne3! blocks the rook from attacking the pawn
53. ... Ra1+
Position after Black's 53. ... Ra1+

This helps Black get his queen with a check.
54. Kxa1 h1Q+
55. Ka2 Qe4

This is the problem position mentioned earlier. I thought Morozevich's queen could be enough to prevent Anand from winning, and I was on the edge of my seat.
Now comes the knockout punch
56. Re5!

Black resigned.

Whit's e4 pawn is unstoppable now ! Because if
56. ... Qxe5
57. Ng4
forks the king and the queen.

As beautiful as 56. Re5! is, here is why it's great. Anand had seen this when he played 51.Rc4!, meaning he had seen the problem position in his mind, and solved it before even being played. So if you solved the puzzle, ask yourself, can you "see" it in your mind 4 moves before and solve it too ?

Anand played all his last 5-6 moved very fast. And when I saw the last rook move, it was the ultimate wow moment, forever etched in the memory.

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