chessbase india logo

Carlsen beats Anand | Legends of Chess Round 2

by Tanmay Srinath - 23/07/2020

The 2nd Day of the Chess24 Legends of Chess was markedly different from the first. All 5 mini matches were decided without an Armageddon, and Nepo didn't even need 4 games - he managed to dismantle Ding Liren's weak play in 3! Magnus Carlsen outlasted Vishy Anand, Anish Giri made a comeback by beating Vladimir Kramnik, though not without fuss. Peter Svidler continued his excellent run by winning bad positions against Peter Leko, and Gelfand's decisive Alpha Zero attack got him a clutch 4th game win against Ivanchuk, ensuring the same 3 players lead after Round 2 - Carlsen, Svidler and Gelfand. A comprehensive report by Tanmay Srinath.

With 7 rounds to go in the Legends of Chess Group phase, it is still too early to call out the 4 qualifiers, but the surprise packages Svidler and Gelfand have certainly made a case for themselves with a strong start. Magnus Carlsen's success is to be expected, given his godly speed chess skills, but Ding's utter collapse in his two matches is a slight cause for concern, given how strong he is as a player. In fact, his fellow Asian Anand seems to be struggling in his 4th games, something that can be attributed to the fact that the last games are played deep in the night in India. One hopes the two superstars recover so as to cause complete mayhem in a level playing field!


As noted journalist Tarjei Svensen explains, this tournament has already had quite a few interesting tales:

With this background, let us move to the chess!

Carlsen 2.5-1.5 Anand:

The Madras Tiger fought with all his might, but made the last mistake to lose by a close margin. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

If one just looks at the scoreline, it might seem that Carlsen had it easy, winning one game and drawing the rest to coast home. However, this was not the case. As the World Champion himself explained:

The endgame Magnus is speaking about is presented below, but before that there is an instructive opening mistake that I would like to point out:



Here Anand played 15...d5?, which goes against a very important principle - never open the position for your opponent's bishops! There were better options for example 15...Be6!? is interesting, and strongest seems to be 15...Qa5!.


This is the sort of position that is technically winning for White despite the material equality, purely because of the following two factors - favourable material imbalance of Rook and Two Bishops vs Rook Bishop and Knight, and the quality of White's pieces, which is far greater than Black's - the less said about the Na2 the better! One would expect the World Champion to convert this in any time control, but Carlsen surprisingly messed up in the following position.

Carlsen's Ba5 was a serious inaccuracy, but after Anand's g6 there was still a chance to keep a winning advantage with Bd2!, rerouting the bishop to a more important diagonal and most importantly dominating the knight. Instead, after the natural g4 as played in the game Magnus lost most of his advantage, and Anand soon escaped with a draw.

Carlsen was definitely not pleased with his play, which can explain his dubious attempt to win with Black in the next. Instead he got into a position where Anand had correctly assessed as better for White, and had to suffer for a long time to gain the half point. The third game was also drawn by Vishy without much fuss. Just when it seemed like the match would be taken to an Armageddon disaster struck for Anand after good opening play:



A clear case of lack of board vision stemming from tiredness. An alert Anand would have immediately gone Qe1 here, defending the knight on d2 and preparing Nf5. Instead, the immediate Nf5 lost a pawn to a surprising tactic Bxa2+! Kxa2 Qa5+ and the knight on d2 hangs. The position still remained tenable for Vishy, but he was forced to defend for a while, forcing the blunder in the following position.

A case of mutual blunders, eerily reminiscent of the infamous 6th game in the 2014 Carlsen Anand Match. Magnus initially missed a forced mate beginning with Qe1+ and instead played Nxg6?. Anand also missed the fact that Black has mating threats in the position, and blundered with Re8?, after which Magnus made no mistake and played Qe1+!, forcing mate in a few moves. Instead of Re8? however, Vishy had Qg1+! protecting the back rank with tempo, with an unpleasant but tenable endgame.

Magnus later explained his strategy for the 4th game, and how he was happy to find Bxa2+!:

Nepo 2.5-0.5 Ding:

Ding Liren has not been himself in 2020. | Photo: Candidates 2020

This tournament has not started well for Ding Liren. Yesterday he lost twice with White, which in itself is an Earthquake inducing shock. Today however it got even worse for the Chinese No.1 - he lost both game 1 and 2, and was dead lost in game 3 when Nepo forced a draw to take the match. 


Game 1 was a Scotch Disaster, not too rare, but still uncommon for a tactical beast like Ding:



The Scotch is one of the toughest openings to play against, mainly because the game becomes extremely sharp and irrational. Considering Ding's poor form, it was a good practical choice by Nepo. Here came the first mistake - Ding should have prioritized development with 12...0-0-0! instead of defending the pawn with d6, after which White is suddenly having a serious advantage.

The next one however was a shocker:



16...cxd5?? is a blunder that simply loses on the spot after 17.Bxf6!, because of the following point - Qxf6 18.Nxd5 Bxd5 19.Bb5+!. Nepo managed to convert from here, though there was one computerish save that was still possible:

People could not believe that Ding is playing this badly:

Here Ding played Qb1+, which loses after Ke2 Bb4 Rd4!. Instead, he had to play Qa1+!, as after Ke2 Bb4 the move Rd4 is no longer available.

Things went from bad to worse in the 2nd game - Nepo played the Leningrad Dutch, got a fantastic position and kept pressing till Ding finally broke down on move 52:



It was essential to prevent Bd4+ by keeping the bishop pinned, so something like Bd5 holds the fort for now. Instead, after the natural Rxc7?, Nepo won by force after Bd4+!, forcing the h-pawn through.

The third game followed the previous two, but this time Nepo simply forced a draw from a winning position, securing the match and ensuring he is within a hair's breadth from the leaders. A solid performance by the Russian No.1.

Giri 2.5-1.5 Kramnik:

Anish was Kramnik's second for the Candidates that took place in 2018! | Photo: Tata Steel Chess

This match was not bereft of chances for both sides, as both Kramnik and Giri went all out to win! In the end Anish triumphed, but in an alternate universe it is not hard to imagine Kramnik winning it with the same margin! The games were full of ups and downs, and both sides missed numerous wins, but at the same time they played the most uncompromising chess, so this is to be expected! One should also commend big Vlad for playing this strongly and staying competitive despite retiring from chess more than a year ago!


Game 1 should have be the first point for Kramnik:



44.Kd5 is the best way to start the conversion process, as with the extra pawn and active king White should win. Instead Kramnik began to go astray with 44.a5, and soon he relinquished all of his advantage to split the point.

Game 2 was the cleanest of the 4, and unsurprisingly decided the match:



If Black just plays Qb4! here he should be fine. Instead, Kramnik went for a faulty plan of putting his rook on c5, and Giri slowly made headway and won.

Game 3 should have decided the match in Giri's favour quite beautifully, but Anish missed a cute tactic:



White has no defense after the brilliant 39...Rxb1! 40.Rxb1 Nxe4, threatening Be7#. Instead Giri played 39...Nb5?, which allowed Kramnik to prolong the game and miraculously save it after further errors from black.

The 4th game went all wrong for Anish. Kramnik essayed a weird KID and was completely winning, until his 38th move completely turned the tables:



Kramnik missed a few chances to end the game then and there, but this was his last chance - 38...Nf6! would essentially force an Armageddon. Instead, 38...Bg7? gives White a winning advantage after 39.Qe6+!, which Anish later used to force a draw and seal the match.

Svidler 2.5-1.5 Leko :

Two old friends played a fantastic match.

Peter Svidler seems to be riding Caissa's deepest blessings, as he is managing to win despite getting really bad positions! As he himself explained after the round:

Svidler played the King's Indian Attack in game 1, but chose an incorrect plan against the Botvinnik Setup that Leko used, and was soon seriously worse. He would have come close to losing had Leko found the correct riposte late into the middlegame:



White has too many holes in his position, but the d3-square is most tempting. Leko would have been close to winning had he found 30...d3! here. Instead in the game he chose to play 30...Qd8, and Svidler managed to hold on quite effectively to seal the half point.

Game 2 was truly a one sided win for Leko, played in a pleasing aggressive style:



The knight is attacked, but Leko didn't care - 25.f4! began a furious assault that ended decisively in White favour on move 38.

Game 3 however showed how quickly momentum can shift. Svidler played the Reversed Accelerated Dragon as White, and objectively was worse out of the opening. However, the position was extremely complex, and the players soon entered a dynamically balanced position where Leko surprisingly allowed a strong Greek Gift:




21...Rfe8?? is a natural move, bringing the last piece into play. Unfortunately, White has a neat tactic beginning with 22.Bxh7+!!, which wins on the spot. Svidler finished the job in a mere 11 moves after this.

Game 4 saw Leko suffer the same fate - in a worse position he fell prey to a sudden attack:



White has 3 pieces on the kingside, so it is no surprise that Ng4+! kills here. Leko resigned in a few more moves.

Gelfand 2.5 - 1.5 Ivanchuk:

Two friends of the same generation still super strong! | Photo: Ritvo Photography

This match was not as exciting as others, but it was still a slug-fest, decided by Gelfand's enterprising play in the final game:



The aggressive h-pawn advance, a revolution initiated by Alpha Zero, was played by Gelfand in this game. It was clear he was going for mate, but he later changed his mind surprisingly.

Here Gelfand missed a straightforward win beginning with 16.d4!, the point being that 16...Qxa2 is met with 17.Qh7+ Kh8 18.0-0!! Qxb1 19.Bh6! with a crushing advantage.

Ivanchuk's last chance to hold the game came here - he had to play 36...Qe5! and White doesn't have a breakthrough. Instead in the game he made two mistakes in the span of 3 moves (time trouble maybe?) and lost.

Standings after Round 2

Replay all the games of round 2