Impressions – day II
With white against Anand on the second day, I played my best game of the tournament. A very convenient timing when you’re facing the World Champion. Anand sacrificed a pawn in the opening, but I managed to keep it while simultaneously kick his queen away from my weakened kingside. With 23.Rab1! I stopped him from coordinating a lethal Bb7+Qc6, and in addition to this defensive task, the rook entered my attack two moves later:
Here I played 24.Bc7! with the idea 24…Rd7 25.Rb6 Qa7 26.Bd6! I am aiming to attack the back rank. Vishy has to play 26…Qxb6 27.Bxf8 and now the bishop is poisoned as 27…Kxf8 28.Qe8 mate would be quite embarrassing. As Vishy pointed out after the game, 27…Rd8 28.Be7! Re8 29.Qa4!! is no solution either, as the rook is trapped on e8! Therefore, he went 27…h6. This is surely a dream position to have against a chess legend, so I took my time to find a knockout blow. White has to be very careful himself as the weakened light squares could prove fatal – as they did in the game – thrice! I found 28.Qe5! forcing 28…f6, and now 29.Qe8 Qc6 30.Bxg7+ Kxg7 31.Re7+ looks very good, but unfortunately, there’s a sting in the tail: 31…Rxe7 32.Qxc6 Bb7! which is winning for black due to mate on e1 next. I’m still much better after 29.Qxc5, but somehow I got demoralized by not finding anything more concrete. Anand played 29…Qa6, and now I drifted with 30.h3. With one final accurate move, 30.Qh5! I would have great chances, but I didn’t want to allow black to set up his battery with 30…Qc6. What I didn’t see is that 31.Bc5 Bb7 32.Re8+ Kh7 33.Qf5+ g6 34.Qxd7+ offers white decent winning chances. In the game I continued drifting, and black missed two instant wins, though he duly won in the end. Truth be told, the position was complicated for the entire time, and Vishy defended very well – while simultaneously keeping the queens on the board – so that doom with follow after any inaccuracies from white. Even so, I’m very proud of the way I played the early middle game, and next time I have a good position against Vishy, I’m not letting him off the hook this easily!
Next up was Magnus, and with half a point after four rounds, things weren’t looking very good. Still, things can shift quickly, and in this game Magnus spent too much time in the opening. He had the best position, but white has a good amount of space, and it’s black who needs to break through, as white’s not up to too much. At one point, I started preparing to push h4-h5 to open up the kingside completely, and this put some pressure on the pride of Norwegian chess. I had started blitzing my moves – and for once it was my opponent who felt that the clock was ticking way too fast. We enter the game at move 40:
Magnus made a rash decision: 40…fxe4? This releases the tension in the center too early. 41.Nxe4 Bxe4 42.fxe4 g5 This was Magnus’ idea. White’s king is not too comfortable, but nor is black’s king. 43.hxg5 Qxe4+ 44.Kg1 Rf8 45.Ng3! The queen is very well centralized on e4, so white tries to kick it away while moving more pieces toward the black king at the same time. By this point Magnus was really short on time, and understandably he wanted to exchange queens. However, his 45…Qd4 had a big flaw: 46.Qc2! “Go ahead Magnus, you may have my bishop!” On 46…Bxf4, white has 47.Qh7 mate. So the only move black has is 46…Nxg5, but now 47.Qg6+ secures white an extra piece. I didn’t want to spoil this against the #1 ranked player in the world, so I took my time to find the right moves. Those minutes were very well invested, and I took my first win in the event!
In my last preliminary game against Polgar, I got off to a pretty bad start, as the Nd5-stuff I allowed looks poor for black. She transferred her knight to f5 and played Qh3, which I thought was inaccurate, and after 14…d5 I felt confident in my position. But on move 20, I didn’t pay enough attention, and missed her Rae1-idea. By sheer happenstance, I had Ra6 to avoid the loss of a piece, but even so, my position looked dire. With 26.Qb5!, white would have gained a big advantage. She returned to this plan later, but this time I had a better version than earlier. When I was allowed to play 33…Nb6!, a draw was a logical result. She should have stopped this plan of getting the knight to c4 via b6 by playing 33.Bc7!
So the finals were as many predicted before the tournament: Anand and Magnus would battle it out for the first place, while Judit and I would face off in the much more important (to me at least! :)) bronze final.