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John Henderson
By John Henderson

According to revered chess historian Edward Winter, the Swiss Gambit (1.f4 f5 2.e4 fxe4 3.Nc3), an obscure and unsound offshoot of the Bird’s Opening, claimed to have been invented by the theoretician Alexander Wagner (1868-1942), “is a misnomer resulting from a misunderstanding.”  But in modern tournament parlance, there’s no such misunderstanding about the more common “Swiss Gambit”, seen as being the backdoor to the winner’s circle.

It’s the term coined for an early loss in a Swiss open that puts a player in the “losers’ grouping”, often being pitted against a lower-rated and lower-scoring opponents, while their top rivals slug it out against each other. The idea is to have momentum at the end with a surge of comeback wins by overpowering weaker opponents.

That’s the theory anyway, but when it comes to the $430,000 FIDE/Chess.com Grand Swiss in the Isle of Man, the field is so strong that there’s no such thing as a lower-rated nor lower-scoring opponent, and where everyone could well be a top rival! But the spirit of the notorious Swiss Gambit perceivers nevertheless, and India’s Vishy Anand has been tagged by punters, pundits and commentators alike as having “played the gambit”, with the five-time ex-world champion staging a remarkable recovery following his shock opening-round upset result.

But with his round 8 defeat of rising young Russian Vladimir Fedoseev, Anand, 49, has dramatically bounced back into contention for the candidates spot with four wins after his early mishap, and he’s now fought his way back into what’s now become an expanded and very formidable chasing pack, that includes the reigning world champion, an ex-champion and two former title-challengers!

The US world #2, Fabiano Caruana, is still undefeated at the top, but he’s now joined by new co-leaders Levon Aronian, who beat the former co-leader, Wang Hao, in round 7, and the big surprise performer of the tournament in David Anton Guijarro, the relatively unknown young Spanish outsider, world-ranked #52, who caused the big of round 8 by crushing top Russian Alexander Grischuk in just 24 moves, thus severely denting the Muscovite’s chances of reaching the candidates.

Only half a point separates the leading group from the chasing pack as the tournament now heads into the home stretch – and with Magnus Carlsen and Caruana acting as ‘spoilers’ with having no need to qualify for the candidates, we’re now set for what could well be very intriguing and fierce battle over the remaining final three rounds for that coveted qualifying spot into next year’s Candidates Tournament in Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Standings:
1-3. F. Caruana (USA), D. Anton Guijarro (Spain), L. Aronian (Armenia) 6/8; 4-13. Wang Hao (China), K. Alekseenko (Russia), P. Maghsoodloo (Iran), V. Kovalev (Belarus), M. Carlsen (Norway), N. Vitiugov (Russia), S. Karjakin (Russia), H. Nakamura (USA), V. Anand (India), B. Gelfand (Israel) 5½.

Photo: Can veteran Vishy Anand keep the run going for yet another candidates appearance? | © John Saunders / Chess.com

GM Vishy Anand – GM Vladimir Fedoseev
Chess.com/FIDE Grand Swiss, (8)
Sicilian Grivas/Scheveningen
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Qb6!? This one of the more modern – and less investigated – offbeat lines in the Sicilian, the Grivas variation, popularised by the Greek GM Efstratios Grivas, who spent more than 20 years perfecting and honing the system that now bears his name. 5.Nb3 e6 The critical test for the Grivas Sicilian used to run 5…Nf6 6.Nc3 e6 7.Qe2!? threatening to push on with e5, and leaving Black having to decide whether to play 7…d6 and a Scheveningen approach, or more independent ways with 7…Bb4 – and this is one of the reasons why Black players play 5…e6 first in preference to 5…Nf6. 6.Nc3 Qc7 7.f4 d6 In reality, the Grivas Sicilian generally leads to positions akin to the Scheveningen, but with some subtle differences. 8.Be3 Nf6 9.Bd3 Be7 10.Qf3 One of those “subtle” differences is that Black has avoided the big crunch-lines in the Scheveningen, namely the Keres Attack, with an early g4 – but this set-up is also quite aggressive for White, and the attack comes almost on automatic pilot. 10…Nb4 11.0-0 Bd7 12.a3 Nxd3 You are damned if you do and you are damned if you don’t – If Fedoseev doesn’t take the bishop, then White has a very strong kingside attack brewing; and if he does take the bishop, then White still has a strong attack brewing, just this time without the bishop-pair! 13.cxd3 Black may well have gained the bishop-pair, but White’s center is now secure and Anand can play aggressively by launching an attack with g4. 13…Qc6?! This all looks a little artificial to me, as it just wastes valuable time. Better was proceeding in the standard Sicilian way with 13…Rc8 and if 14.Rac1 Qb8 15.g4 0-0 and take your chances here. 14.Rac1 Qa6 This is all a bit too slow – Anand is not in the least bit interested in defending d3 at all. 15.g4! Anand cuts straight to the chase. 15…Bc6?! Again too slow – Black really had to run with the bulls and try 15…h6 16.g5 Nh7!? and to open up weaknesses in White’s position with those extended pawns, that could well offer excellent counter-attacking chances. 16.g5 Nd7 17.d4 As was noted by the GM pundits following the online live coverage, Anand missed 17.Nd4! that looks very stronger. 17…Bb5 18.Rf2 0-0 19.f5! Ready or not, here I come! 19…Bd8 20.Nd2 Many of the pundits just wanted to push on with the attack with 20.f6!? g6 21.Qh3 h5 22.gxh6 Nxf6 23.e5! as now 23…dxe5 24.Nc5 Qc6 25.dxe5 Nh7 26.Qg3 Bb6 27.b4 does seem to leave Black in a precarious position. 20…Bd3 21.fxe6?! Releasing the tension only helps Black. Correct was the better option of 21.Qg4! and let Black sweat over how to respond to the coming attack. 21…fxe6 22.Qg4 Rxf2 23.Kxf2 Nf8 24.d5 e5 Amazingly, Fedoseev is the one now on the offensive. 25.h4 g6 Nothing wrong per se with this, but it was time to act quickly and have Anand on the back-foot, and Fedoseev could have achieved this with the immediate 25…Bb6! where now 26.h5 Bd4! and Anand’s king is equally vulnerable. 26.h5 gxh5 27.Qxh5 Bb6 28.Qh3 Re8 29.Nd1 Be2 Admittedly, on first sight, the position looks great for Fedoseev – but looks can often be deceiving, and the reality is that he is not really threatening anything. 30.Ke1! A wise move, as Anand just moves the king a little out of the way of the action. 30…Bd4 31.Nf2 With his opponent getting short of time, Anand wisely decides to keep some extra pieces on the board, and so avoids 31.Bxd4 Bxd1 32.Kxd1 Qa4+ 33.Rc2 Qxd4 which does look less demanding and very drawish. 31…Re7? Fedoseev panics at just the wrong moment. If he could have held his nerve, he surely would have found the better 31…Bxe3 32.Qxe3 Bh5! 33.Qd3 Qxd3 34.Nxd3 Re7 and White is a little better, but Black should be able to hold this position safely enough. 32.Bxd4 exd4 33.Rc8! The problem with Fedoseev’s error with 31…Re7? is that Anand can now exploit his back-rank vulnerability. 33…Rf7 The only way to protect the back-rank threats, but unfortunately for Fedoseev…. 34.e5! [see diagram] Anand has it all figured out, as now there are major threats of Nfe4-f6+ and even the possibility of pushing d6. 34…dxe5 35.Nfe4 There’s no stopping Nf6+ now. And also winning easily was 35.d6! and just how does Black stop the double whammy of pushing on with d7 or even Qe6!, without the …Be2 hanging? 35…h5 Black is just lost. If 35…Qd3 36.Nf6+ Rxf6 37.Qxd3 Bxd3 38.gxf6 is convincing enough. 36.gxh6 Rf4 37.Qe6+ Qxe6 38.dxe6 1-0

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