A Single File Please … !

It goes without saying that the chess elite are so great to learn from, because they are capable of playing such great chess, and showing the rest of us how it’s done. However, that is really only half the story. The other half, is that when they get things wrong, they can really get things wrong. Not only that, but the consequences tend to be amplified all the greater. This is because they are usually playing another elite player, who is ever poised to grab them by the jugular — figuratively speaking, of course (in most cases).

The following game is a case in point. It was played at the recent London Chess Classic, by Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik, both former World Chess Champions. It must first be said, that this was a blitz game, but that rarely makes huge differences at the top levels. Of course, it varies from player to player, but the two involved in this game are both very accomplished blitz players. Therefore, the game should be judged accordingly.

The opening is a Reti. It is not unusual for players to opt for less common openings, steering the game away from theoretical lines. This way, they lessen the risk of being caught out or wasting their preparation. The games often quickly become a straight middlegame fight. The players both play the opening reasonably well. In a position of opposite-side-castling, White obtains an initiative on the Kingside, while Black endeavours to create counter-play on the Queenside. Good, fighting, exciting chess.

The outcome of this game is largely a result of inaccuracies made by White, it has to be said. First, his 20.Qa6? posts his Queen away from his theatre of operation. Not only that, but it offered Black the opportunity (albeit missed) to take the initiative with 20…Bxd4!. White’s fatal error, however, would have to be refusing 24.dxc5 in favour of 24.d5?? A move very much unworthy of a player of Anand’s calibre. This is because the chosen move hands his opponent the b6-square (and thus the b-file) on a platter, whereas the refused move would have guarded the b6-square and actually seems very good for White. The move is a clanger, it must be said.

Vladimir Kramnik is clinical, seizing control of the game via the b-file. He wraps things up powerfully and renders his opponent’s attempts at defence futile.

John Lee Shaw