Saturday, 7 June 2014

Chess Reviews: 238

ChessBase Magazine 160
When a Super-Grandmaster and former World Champion battles his way through a Candidates tournament to become the challenger for the title again, it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Yet a surprise is exactly what the chess world got when Vishwanathan Anand - dethroned by Magnus Carlsen in 2013 - somehow managed to regroup and show some of his best chess as he won the Candidates tournament a whole point ahead of the pack. Indeed, his winning margin could have been even greater. After a fabulous start he was more or less content to draw his way to the finishing line.

The latest issue of ChessBase magazine covers the event in impressive depth. Mihail Marin presents a detailed opening survey, which reveals - among other things - that the Berlin Defence to the Spanish Game (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nf6) gave Black a plus score of two wins, four draws and no defeats in this event. The Berlin's rise in popularity since Kramnik revitalised it back in 2000 still shows no sign of slowing down.

Anand provides illuminating annotations to his ninth round win against Topalov. He is not afraid to admit his mistakes, as shown by this snippet.
Anand vs. Topalov
Anand played 30 Kb2? and says 30 Qa7! is better. ''I wanted to play this, but suddenly began to doubt the pawn races at the board. As the comp shows, my doubts were mistaken, White wins easily.'' He then gives a line starting with 30 ...Qb4 31 Qb8+ and ending up with a large advantage for White. It's interesting - and encouraging! - that the top players sometimes have similar over-the-board doubts as the rest of us. Of course, most of the time they play at much higher level. Later in the game, Anand utilised a zugzwang to emphasise his advantage.

Anand vs. Topalov
With careful timing, Anand played 36 c3!! ''A very nice move to be able to make.'' Topalov is rather stuck for choices here. 36 ...Bf5 would run into 37 Qf4, so he tried 36 ...Be4 which allowed 37 c4! when the continuation 37 ...Bf5 38 Qf4 was naturally very strong for White (1-0, 57). The point is that 36 c4 dxc4 isn't quite as bad for Black, whereas in the game 37 ...dxc4 would allow the simple 38 Qxe4 winning a piece.

In addition to the regular annotations, we are treated to Daniel King's excellent ''Game of the Day'' video feature, which certainly brings things to life a whole lot more. The Candidates coverage is undoubtedly the highlight of this issue.

Meanwhile, World Champion Carlsen was back in action and won the Gashimov Memorial tournament, despite losing two games (to Caruana and Radjabov) along the way. Perhaps some players are getting used to Carlsen's unusual style of play and are now more able to successfully fight against what was formerly an almost inevitable slide to defeat. The forthcoming title rematch between Carlsen and Anand may be closer and more interesting than most pundits expect. Anyway, readers can find annotations by both Caruana and Radjabov to their respective victories against the World Champion.

Elsewhere there is the usual selection of features, including the ever-popular opening surveys. My  favourite this time is Krasenkow's analysis of an interesting move order in the Queen's Gambit Accepted, namely 1 d4 d5 2 c4 dxc4 3 Nf3 Nf6 4 e3 e6 5 Bxc4 c5 6 Qe2.

The Queen move replaces the more common 6 0-0. White's idea is to play dxc5 followed by advancing his e-pawn. 6 Qe2 prevents the early Queen exchange, thus giving White more attacking potential in the middlegame. The survey will be continued in the next issue, and I like the look of the examples given this time around.

In all, there 2617 games and by the way, there is at least two examples of White wins against the Berlin Defence:  watch out for Adams vs. both McShane and Buhman in the Bundesliga! Indeed, the Bundesliga is a good place to look for star names and there are plenty of instructive moments to be found, including this one.
Rodshtein vs. Karpov
On the Black side of a Catalan, the former World Champion was able to pick off a pawn with 24 ...Bxd4! as 25 Nxd4?? would allow a snap mate with 25 ...Nf4++ and 26 ...Qg2 checkmate. White avoided that catastrophe but Karpov converted his advantage on move 69.

Just like the Berlin Defence (apart from when Adams has the White pieces), ChessBase Magazine shows no signs of flagging. It remains a top-quality product that every serious chess player should be buying and studying on a very regular basis.

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