Speed Kills

    After watching the Dortmund semifinal and final matches, we all know that Anand is the best rapid/blitz player in the world today. In the Dortmund semifinal match, Anand with white in the first classical game with Leko took a draw after 18 short moves. For most players this is not a wise strategy, but with Anand’s great blitz play, it’s a good strategy. After all Leko is a great defensive player and very difficult to defeat especially in classical time controls.

    Leko was unable to do anything with his classical game with white. So Anand and Leko faced off in a blitz showdown.   Anand was able to blitz Leko off the board at Dortmund in the semifinal in two very exciting games.  Leko handled himself quite well in his first game against Anand. Even though Leko found himself with an exposed king and two rooks and bishop vs. Anand’s queen and bishop. Leko played brilliantly and was able to hold this game. Leko circled the wagons and was able to create a dangerous passed pawn. Anand was forced to create a perpetual check draw. 

   However Leko was blitzed off the board in a tight pawn race against Anand in the last  blitz game. Anand has used his blitz play as a brilliant strategy in the final phases of Dortmund. Anand seems content to draw his games with classical time control and then go all out in the blitz playoff. Kramnik also advanced to the finals by defeating Peter Svidler, the 4 times Russian champion. This was a fitting final between the two best players in the world. Kramnik played Anand for the Dortmund title.

    Kramnik must still be smarting from his Cap d’Agde final’s loss to Anand in late 2003; it cost Kramnik the rapid world title. So I thought Kramnik should have been thinking about avoiding facing off Anand in a blitz tiebreaker. Well in the first game of the final, Kramnik showed some desperation with the black pieces. He forced the play into very dangerous uncharted waters. However like the World Champion that he is, he was able to save the game, by forcing a perpetual check, as Anand was about to queen a pawn.  Kramnik played very aggressively pushing his central pawn mass, 42... d5, then he followed with d4, c4.  Anand was forced to sacrifice the exchange for  two connected offside passed pawns. The silicon beasts did not like Kramnik’s aggressive play. Kramnik was also in serious time pressure.

    I give both players a lot of credit in making this game very exciting, but most of it belongs to Kramnik, because he took it to Anand. Kramnik’s loss looked certain, however Kramnik was able to force things on the kingside by pushing his h pawn and seizing the half open f file. Kramnik attack bust open Anand’s castle king position by sacking his rook for a pawn. During the later phases of this game,  I thought Anand should have made better use of his time. He had a 50-minute time advantage. I believe had Anand switched off his blitz mode, he might have found a better way to reduce Kramnik’s counter play that ultimately forced the draw. Time can be a dangerous weapon, in the hands of a great chess player, great moves and strategies can be found. Time is also money, and Anand might have missed a ½ point by not taking advantage of this precious commodity.

    I think Anand needs to address his chess time management, especially against the World Champion. Crafty seemed to think that Anand should have played  37. Ra3 Rb6 38. Bd2 d5 39. Ba5 Rb7 40. Bc3 d4 41. Bd2 c4 42. Ra6 cxd3 43. Rxe6 with .81 advantage. Crafty also felt Anand should have played 57. Kh2 Qh5 58. Kg1 Ra8 59. Kg2 Qg4 60. Kh2 hxg3+ 61. Qxg3 Qf4 62. Be3 Qxe4 63. Qh3+ Kg6 64. Qxe6+ giving white 1.42 advantage.

    Could Anand have brought home the full point by using his time properly ? Hopefully expert analysis will answer this question in the near future.
This was not Kramnik’s only great save in this tournament. He also saved a tough game against the young and talented Karjakin. In the 2nd classical game of the final, Kramnik was able to win a pawn with the white pieces. However this was not enough to win the game.  

    The final would be decided by two blitz games. Not much can be decided in a two game match, or a two game blitz play off.  Prior to the blitz playoff, I was thinking that  should Anand defeat Kramnik, I will start leaning in the direction that Anand is the best player in the world right now. However If Kramnik wins here, then I will start leaning in Kramnik’s direction. 

   Kasparov is currently rated number one in the world, however he has not played a lot of classical games against humans in the last 2 years. Kramnik also has to be thinking, he needs to build momentum for his title match against Leko in September of 2004. In the first blitz game, Kramnik was unable to do anything with the white pieces and accepted a friendly 19-move draw. Kramnik showed much more heart from the black side of the board. He tried the Najdorf Sicilian defense. Kramnik’s has experimented with this defense before with disastrous results.  This proved to be a very bad decision against Anand. Both players’ castles on opposite wings. Kramnik assault lost its steam and Anand busted open Kramnik kingside with a pawn storm. Kramnik resigned when material loss was unavoidable.

    I have to question Kramnik strategy with the blitz phase of the final. He did nothing with the white pieces. As black, he played and opening he was not familiar with. This was a poor strategy against Anand, the best player in the world. I was thinking Kramnik should be out to put Anand in his place. After all, Kramnik is the World Champion. I would have thought Kramnik would have been out for revenge for losing to Anand in the Cap D’adge final. Also Anand has pushed Kramnik aside in the FIDE rating charts.  Well for Kramnik and Leko it’s on to the World Championship match in late September.  

     For Anand there would be another quick stop for the Indian Express.  Anand challenged Alexi Shirov at Mainz. Anand took Shirov on in an 8 game rapid match. Anand, the Indian Express, defeated Shirov by a score of 6-4 with 2 wins, 6 draws, and 0 losses. I watch all of these games of the match on ICC. I noted another situation in game 5 of this match, where Anand did not make prudent use of his time. Anand had a 12-minute lead in the clock, however he did not used it prudently and missed a winning move.  Anand played 28 …rb5 and missed the winning move 28...Bf8 29.Rfd1 Rdb5 30.Ra1 Bxb4 31.Kf1 Ba5 32.Nd4 Rc5 33.Ne6 Rxc6 with -1.56 advantages for black.

    I read an interesting quote from a book written  by Raymond Keene called "World Chess Championship: Kasparov v Anand."  Anand went on to draw first blood in the match by winning game 9. However, Anand would collapse soon afterwards by losing 4 out of the next 5 games.  I read the  following interesting quote from Anand: “chess is a fathomless, bottomless. So what is the point of trying to work it all out?”

   After watching the Dortmund final and the Mainz matches, I wonder if the Indian Express needs to, at times, stop at a station and stretch his legs. No doubt speed kills, especially when a player apposes Anand in a rapid/blitz game. However, Anand needs to use his time more prudently. A significant lead in time is an advantage. Anand should put it to good use in critical positions of the game. If he does, then maybe this will drive him above the 2800 plateau. Bobby Fischer was the first to approach the 2800 rating. In 1972 after winning the world championship, he retired at 29 years of age with a rating of 2780.

    No doubt Fischer would have broken the 2800 barrier had he continued to play. Kasparov broke the 2800 barrier back in 1991 or 1992 and he remains above the barrier today.  Kramnik also broke the 2800 barrier was well. However since winning the world championship in 2000, Kramnik has recently slipped below it.  Prudent use of a time advantage could be just what Anand needs to break the barrier as well.  I am not sure where the Indian Express stops next, but it is the fastest and best ride in town. I think fans worldwide would love to see  Kasparov take a ride on the Indian Express.  Anand recently shared his thoughts in an interview on www.chessbase.com.