At certain times in competitive chess, no other result than a full point is acceptable. When the top of the standings table is so closely contested, a mere draw can mean finishing out of the glory area. The question of how one should approach such circumstances, has caused much debate in chess, and how one should approach it as black perhaps even more so.
Well, one of the last chess tournaments of 2014 was the London Chess Classic, held between the 6th and 14th of December. In the final round of the event, we saw such a case. The event was won by former World Champion, Viswanathan Anand, who defeated British Grandmaster Michael Adams in the final round to take 1st place. A tie-break of black wins had to be used, however, as 2 other players (Vladimir Kramnik and Anish Giri) also finished with the same total of points as Anand.
Thus, his game against Adams was of vital importance. Any other result than a win in his final game would have been unsatisfactory if Anand sought overall victory.
So, how did he approach the situation? Well, the same as he approaches most other games, to be quite honest. He did not play an obscure or out-of-the-box opening, or any wild moves in an attempt to unsettle his opponent or sharpen things up. I have seen some players do this, and end up shooting themselves in the foot. Anand, the seasoned campaigner that he is, remained himself, and stayed in his comfort zone. He dealt with situations and circumstances as they arose and made good moves — the same as any other game.
Perhaps this is a logical, though. After all, when do we play a game of chess and not need (want) to win it?
To be fair, though, it was a game which Black should not have won. White was seemingly in control throughout, and Black was certainly playing catch-up for most of the game. However, strange things can happen in chess, especially when your opponent may be out of form or out of sorts. Apparently Mickey Adams was fighting a heavy cold and this may explain a couple of his moves being somewhat ‘lethargic’.
In the end, Anand had to do nothing drastic in order to achieve his point than play his natural game. It is true that he was aided slightly by some less-than-optimum moves from his opponent — however, such mistakes need to be taken advantage of, and this Vishy did extremely well.
All the best for the festive season to you and yours.
John Lee Shaw