THE BLOG
12/19/2014 05:16 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Chess Phoenix Rises Again

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Vishy Anand could be the Phoenix of Chess. Many times down, but never out. Again and again he rises up to snatch another tournament triumph, another world championship.

Last year Anand lost the world title to Magnus Carlsen, but came back this year and won the Candidates to play the Norwegian again. Before the world championship in November, Anand won a strong event in Bilbao, but could not wrest the title back from Carlsen and lost the match. This month he went to England and won the London Classic.

For many world-class players the London Classic is the last chess event of the year. Again, it was a wonderful chess feast, split into three parts this year.

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The top U.S. grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura dominated the Super Rapidplay Open in which other participants were able to mix it up with the six elite players. With an incredible performance, Nakamura finished undefeated with nine wins and only one draw, a full point ahead of the Dutch grandmaster Anish Giri.

The top British grandmaster Mickey Adams won the double-round Elite Blitz on a tiebreak over Nakamura and Anish Giri. The tournament also decided the draw for the main tournament. Blitz play always brings some of the best and worst moments - brilliant moves and unexpected blunders.

Giri,Anish - Nakamura,Hikaru
London Classic Blitz 2014

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The white queen is under attack and the simple retreat 27.Qc3 would have won. But Giri finds an aggressive winning sequence.

27.Ng6+ Kg8 28.Rxf5! Qd3 After 28...Rxe5 29.Rxf8+ Kh7 30.Rh8 mates.
29.Qe6+!! A clincher! After 29...Kh7 30.Nxf8+ Rxf8 31.Qg6+ Kg8 32.Rxf8+ Kxf8 33.Qxd3 and white mates soon. Black resigned.

Anand,Viswanathan - Caruana,Fabiano
London Classic Blitz 2014

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46...Kh6 Black threatens 47...Rf3 mate.
47.Rh8+ A knight sacrifice 47.Nxf5+ exf5 48.Kxf5 would lead to a draw.
47...Kg7 48.Rh7+?? A blunder, running into a double-attack. After 48.Rh5 Kg6 49.Rg5+ Kh6 50.Rxf5 white had a draw at hand.
48...Kg6 Black is threatening the same mate on f3 and the white rook is under attack. Game over. 49.Rxe7 Rf3 mate.

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Vishy Anand clinched the London Classic trophy in the last round, outplaying Adams with the Berlin defense. It was used in London by more players to dissect the Spanish opening.
Anand shared first place with Vladimir Kramnik and Giri, but captured the trophy on a tiebreak - having beaten Adams with the black pieces.

Chaos and Order

Sometimes you wonder what chess books the top players read. I don't think Vishy Anand drinks, but he endorsed an amazing book containing an abundance of alcohol. There is a lot of beer, wine and vodka in the work of two Israeli authors, Noam A. Manella and Zeev Zohar, Play Unconventional Chess and Win, published by Everyman Chess. They present many unusual ideas and give the impression the players created them while drunk.

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Actually, when you imitate most of the examples, you deserve to lose, but reading the work can give you great pleasure. You may even try playing like that - sometimes, not too often; and you should drink something while reading the book.

The authors may be showing how to make an orderly mess in chess, but perhaps the best way is to let order and chaos live together. They quote the Czech writer Milan Kundera from The Farewell Waltz:"The aspiration to order is also the aspiration to death, because life is a constant violation of order."

We don't wonder why the master of chaos, Alexei Shirov, is there, but surprisingly Vassily Ivanchuk appears in the book most often.

There are beautiful fragments of games and chess compositions. In our example we cut straight to the exciting part of Jan Rusinek's study with the queens appearing and disappearing on the chessboard.

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1.Qf1! The queen sacrifice is forced. It diverts the black queen. After 1.Kh2 Qxe5+ 2.Kh1 b1Q+ and black wins.
1...Qxf1+ 2.Kh2 Qf2! The only way to prevent a mate.
3.d8Q Apparently it's all over due to the threat of Qd8-d4+, but Black has not given up yet.
3...Qg1+! 4.Kxg1 b1Q+ 5.Qd1!! Another beautiful queen deflection. After 5.Kh2 Qh1+ 6.Kxh1 black stalemates. Also insufficient is 5.Kf2 Qxc2+ 6.Ke3 Qxg2 drawing.
5...Qxd1+ 6.Kh2 White wins.
Black can't cover 7.Bg3 mate and 7.g3 mate at the same time, and after 6.Kh2 g4 7.Bf6 mates.

The Queen

Judit Polgar, the all-time best woman, reveals that the game with Gelfand from the 2009 World Cup inspired her to write her autobiography. The result is her amazing trilogy Judit Polgar Teaches Chess. The last volume A game of Queens was recently released by Quality Chess. It is from a period of her life when everything clicked: she became the only woman to be rated among the Top Ten in the world, got married and had two children.

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Judit had a lucky hand in presenting her chess career as a teaching manual. In her games, she was known for smooth transitions from the opening to the middlegame where she excelled as one of the world's greatest tacticians. Even world champions such as Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen, became victims of her prowess. Countless other strong players were destroyed by her sharp play.

Short,Nigel - Polgar,Judit
Buenos Aires 2001

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36...Nc5! Suddenly, my knight joins the battle with great effect.
The expression on Nigel's face when seeing this move left little doubt that he had overlooked it and was not happy at all about it. - J. Polgar
37.Kg2 Sadly for white, the knight is taboo due to the unfavorable alignment of his king and queen: 37.dxc5 Bxc5+ 38.Be3 Rxe3! 39.Nxe3 Bxe3+ 40.Kxe3 Qb6+ and I win the queen. - J. Polgar
37...Nd3 Once the knight has transferred to such a fantastic square, white's situation became critical. Nigel resigned only nine moves later. - J. Polgar
38.Bg3 Bd6 39.Bxd6 Qxd6 40.gxf6 Ne1+ 41.Kf2 Nxf3 42.fxg7+ Kxg7 43.Kxf3 Bh5 44.Qh2 Qe7 45.Qf4 Kf7 46.Rg2 Qe1 White resigned.

The Woodpecker

There was a woodpecker next door, I thought. But birds sleep during the night and it was past midnight. The next morning I found out my room next to Bent Larsen's. The legendary Danish grandmaster typed something about chess almost daily, even while competing in tournaments. Away from the chessboard, Bent was first and foremost a chess journalist.

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In the book Bent Larsen's Best Games, published by New In Chess, Larsen not only comments on his games, he gives us an inside look into many tournaments and the secret why he was such a feared competitor and one of the best world-class grandmasters. I was privileged to play against him 30 tournament and match games, and listen to his comments - they were great chess lessons for me.

There are 50 games from his previous work "Larsen's Selected Games of Chess 1948-69" and 74 other games are added from the 2012 Spanish book Bent Larsen: Todas Las Piezas Atacan by Romero Holmes. Although the NIC version ends with 1977 games, there is still more to Bent Larsen's career (for example, he played in the 1986 match between USA and Scandinavia in Reykjavik). There is also a chapter on Bobby Fischer. It is a remarkable book about one of the most original and fierce chess fighters.

In Las Palmas in 1974, Ljubomir Ljubojevic finished the tournament with 11/15. Larsen scored 9.5 points, but the Dane was just one move from winning the tournament.

Ljubojevic,Ljubomir - Larsen,Bent
Las Palmas 1974

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In this position Larsen played 53...Rc3??
(After 53...Ra3! White would not have much of a plan. For example, if 54.b6 (54.Rxa3 doesn't work because of 54...d2-+) 54...d2 55.b7 d1Q 56.b8Q Qh1+ 57.Kg5 Qg2+ 58.Kf5 Rxa1 and Black wins easily.)
...and after 54.Nxd3! Rxd3 55.Kg5! White's passed pawns proved to be more powerful than the piece: 55...Ba3 56.b6 Rb3 57.b7 Rxb7 58.Rxa3 Rg7+ 59.Kf5 Rg2 60.Ra2 f3 61.Ke6 Rg4 62.Kd5 Kh6 63.Ra3 Rf4 64.Ra6 Kxh5 65.Rxd6 Rh4 66.Rf6 Black resigned.

All three books would make nice presents for the holidays.
Happy New Year!

Note that in the replay windows below you can click either on the arrows under the diagram or on the notation to follow the game.


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Images by Ray Morris-Hill