The Old Man and the C-file - First Move Chess -First Move Chess

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Ernest Hemingway’s fabled 1951 novella, The Old Man and the Sea, tells of the epic struggle of an elderly Cuban fisherman landing the greatest catch of his life. In stark contrast to the heroic exploits of Santiago, sometimes age and experience can make chess look relatively simple in comparison to catching a giant marlin  – especially when that ‘old man’ happens to be five-time ex-World Champion Vishy Anand!

After a two-year-plus pandemic-induced hiatus from chess, and coming off a strong showing in the Superbet Warsaw leg (winning the rapid and finishing just half a point behind overall winner Jan-Krzysztof Duda) of the Grand Chess Tour, the 52 -year-old Indian continues to defy the generation game at the 10th Chess Norway Tournament in Stavanger, as he power-housed his way to an impressive first round win over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to pick up the full 3 points.

MVL, who recently also impressed by winning the Superbet Classic in Bucharest, found himself being steadily outplayed by the old fox, with the Frenchman forced into jettisoning a pawn in search of dynamic play, which was easily dealt with by Anand. And with the win, Anand leapfrogs MVL and up to No 11 on the unofficial live rating list, and possibly on the cusp of returning once again to the Top-10.

Anand shares the early lead on 3/3 with US champion Wesley So, who beat Candidates wildcard Teimour Radjabov, to be the only other player in the 10-player field to take maximum points with a classical win. As is the tradition in Norway Chess, if the standard time control game ends in a draw, then there’s an Armageddon game to produce a decisive result – and those winning Armageddon-playoffs were: Magnus Carlsen, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Anish Giri.

There’s full live coverage of Chess Norway each round over on Chess24, with commentary from GM Jan Gustafsson and IM Jovanka Houska. Play starts at 11AM ET | 5PM CEST.

Standings:
1-2. Wesley So (USA), Vishy Anand (India) 3/3; 3-5. Magnus Carlsen (Norway), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan), Anish Giri (Netherlands) 1½/3.5; 6-8. Wang Hao (China), Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria), Aryan Tari (Norway) 1/3.5; 9-10. Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France) 0/3.

Photo: The ever-smiling Anand makes it all look so easy | © Lennart Ootes / Norway Chess

GM Viswanathan Anand – GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
Norway Chess Tournament, (1)
Sicilian Defence, Moscow Variation
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.c4 It was, I believe, that great Soviet chess free-thinker, David Bronstein, who first played this way with a view to transposing into a Maroczy Bind set-up – his big idea was that after 5…Qg4 simultaneously attacking g2 and e4, White can play 6.0-0! and now 6…Qxe4 7.d4 gives White a dangerous attacking initiative. 5…Nf6 6.Nc3 Nc6 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 And we have a Maroczy Bind set-up, the only difference being that the light-squared bishops have been traded. 8…g6 9.f3 Bg7 10.Be3 0-0 11.0-0 a6 12.Nb3 White has to play with care. If you go on ‘automatic-pilot’ with 12.Qd2 then simply 12…Nxd4 13.Bxd4 Rac8 14.b3 b5! 15.cxb5 axb5 and Black has no worries with a free and easy game. 12…e6 13.Qe2 Everything now is going to revolve around the d-file and the weak pawn on d6. 13…Qe7 14.Rfd1 Rfd8 15.Rac1 Rac8 16.Nd4 Nd7 17.b3 b5 18.cxb5 Nxd4 19.Bxd4 Bxd4+ 20.Rxd4 axb5 21.Qd2! There’s a big difference now between this and the note above where Black successfully gets …b5 in – here there are two weak pawns on b5 and d6 that White can easily target. 21…Rb8 MVL is resigned to the fact he’s losing the d-pawn – but he’s hoping he can generate dynamic play to compensate for the loss of the pawn. 22.Rxd6 b4 23.Ne2 Ne5 24.Rd1 Anand’s has total domination of the d-file proves that sees the game coming under his complete control. 24…Nc6 25.e5! This move all but seals MVL’s fate – Black simply has no play for the pawn and now he’s left desperately clinging on to the wreckage of his bad position, in the vain hope of finding a game-saving trick. 25…Qa7+ 26.Kh1 Qf2 27.Rc1! Anand’s sudden switch to the c-file sees him reeling in his catch with little or no effort, as MVL is forced to trade rooks that he didn’t want to – and with it the rest of the game becomes a formality for Anand, as he expertly transposes down to an easily won ending. 27…Rxd6 28.exd6 Ne5 29.h3 Just in case, Anand makes sure there will be no back-rank tricks to worry about. 29…Rb5 30.f4 Anand relentlessly pushes MVL back, even before he can find some fiendish trick to miraculously save the game. 30…Nd7 No better was 30…Rd5 as 31.Qb2! wins the knight due to the back-rank mate 31…Nd7 32.Rc8+ Nf8 33.Rxf8+ Kxf8 34.Qh8#. 31.Qd4! [see diagram] The c-file is the killer that now forces MVL into the trade of queens. 31…Qxd4 Once again, the alternative led to a mate on h8 after 31…Qxe2 32.Rc8+ Nf8 33.Rxf8+! Kxf8 34.Qh8# etc. 32.Nxd4 Rd5 If MVL thought he could limit the damage to just one pawn to try to save the ending, but alas Anand has other ideas, as he has the ending all figured out. 33.Nc6! The two passed queenside pawns are winners. 33…Rxd6 34.Nxb4 e5 35.fxe5 Nxe5 36.Rc5 Rd1+ 37.Kh2 f6 38.a4 Rb1 39.Rc3 Ra1 40.Rc7 1-0 MVL resigns before Nd5 comes that will either win the h-pawn or see the knights traded with a Nd5-f6-d7, otherwise Nc5 will free the b-pawn to run up the board.

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