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Vintage Vishy - Why do we call him that?

by Sagar Shah - 14/02/2019

Recently at the Tata Steel Masters 2019 in Wijk Aan Zee, Netherlands Vishy Anand played some scintillating games. His most striking victory was against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Anand played the opening in a logical manner, and this was followed up by some extremely energetic play to blow Shakh off the board. Even a player of the Shakh's calibre, who was rated 2817 couldn't sustain the "Vintage Vishy." How does Anand do it? V. Saravanan, in this article shares with us some secrets of Vishy's combinative play. This he does by not only showing Anand-Mamedyarov from 2019, but also Anand-Ninov from 1987! It's over three decades since Vishy is India number one. How does he do it over and over again? Read on to know more! 

In the Tata Steel Grandmasters Chess Tournament at Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands held recently during January 2019, Vishy Anand played Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan in the 8th round. At that point, Mamedyarov was rated a whopping 2817, occupying third place in world rankings, while Anand was rated 2773, ranked 8th.


Mamedyarov with his killer look. In the background you can see Vishy! 

This game turned out to be a memorable encounter for Anand, who played his characteristic chess, going for tactical action logically evolving on the soundness of his position:

Anand vs Mamedyarov


Position where Anand threw the first bombshell 20.c4!

 A perfect strike at Black’s solid looking centre! The obvious capture 20...dxc4? is not possible as White can capture 21.Rxd7 gaining black’s bishop. So, Mamedyarov was forced to play 20...Rxc4, when came 21.Rxd5!

Once again, 21...exd5 is not possible, as White plays 22.Qxd5 and captures the black rook on c4 next, thus gaining a pawn in the process and creating a near won position with his dominant pieces. The game developed into a fascinating struggle, till Anand finished off with another strike at the same square!


It’s raining blows on the d5 today! With the same Rook, Anand lands the second blow at the same square, and now black’s position crumbles. After the forced 29...exd5 30.Qxd5, Mamedyarov resigned, as his position is untenable. Simply, white can win the black bishop on d7 after 30...Kh8 31.Rd1 here.


And before you leave, take a look at White’s pieces: the rook on d5 is the perpetrator of the entire crime, on a dominant central square. It is supported by the queen, which is again ready to spring towards the centre. The knights on f3 and c2 are beautifully holding White’s position and restricting black’s rooks, both watching the centre intensely. The only White piece which doesn’t seem to be doing much is the rook on a1, but as you saw in the above variation, it is ready to spring towards the centre and win the game. White’s pawn on e5 is an important presence, occupying squares, and giving a dynamic edge to White’s position. White’s pawn on g4 is the only ‘eyesore’ but right now tactically relevant enough to smother the black rooks and win the game.

Analysis by 12-year-old Aditya Mittal:

A classic Vishy finish, where White’s pieces are perfectly placed in harmony, but without any misplacement - an important element of common sense in chess! ‘Vintage Vishy’ was the immediate and favourite description of Anand’s play from chess lovers who were fascinated with his logical brilliance in this game. Honestly, the term is too cliched, as it has been repeatedly used in recent years hence got tiresome for our ears by now. Why?


Let's look at the game, Anand - Ninov from World Junior Championship, Baguio 1987. This was the event where Anand announced his arrival at the world stage, winning the world junior and getting closer to becoming the first Grandmaster of India. And the crucial moment came on the 21st move:


Once again, a strong centre for White and well placed pieces, lead to a beautiful combination. The forced 21...Kxh7 was met with the beautiful finish 22.g6! and Black resigned after a couple of moves. Also, observe white’s pieces here. Having castled on the queenside in a typical Sicilian, he has pushed his pawns on the kingside, thus creating mutual dynamic activity. His knight is in the centre (where else!?), rooks are occupying prominent files, the queen is poised for action, the bishop is already (!) in action. Again, there is a cramper of a pawn on e5, strengthening white’s position and restricting black’s pieces… 

Once again, perfect harmony and logical dynamism. Just like today, three decades ago.


Vishy Anand after winning the World Juniors in 1987 

Seeing that Anand continues to treat his fans with such delightful chess based on strong foundations, is why the (uninformed) pundits use the unsuitable adage ‘vintage’ to describe Anand’s contemporary tactical victories. But the point we would like to make is that, ‘vintage’ refers to instances when a performer executes maneuvers and ‘shots’ which he no more performs on a routine basis. Feats he was doing effortlessly earlier in his career, but which he shows only in ‘flashes’ currently…


But herein lies the hitch: Anand never in his career was short of such delights! He continues conducting his symphonies, continues finding his harmonies...He conducts tactical masterpieces with the same force today too, but against opposition which is simply the best in the world!


So, how does he do it!? How does he retain the same force? Catch you at the PYC Hindu Gymkhana Club, Pune on Feb 16th and 17th. We are gearing up to ask these questions - and more! - to the maestro himself…

Pune is getting ready with huge banners of Vishy Anand

All roads lead to PYC Gymkhana!



Read more about ChampCoach by Vishy Anand:

Introductory article about the camp

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Last 8 spots left for the Vishy Anand. Register now.

About the author

Venkatachalam Saravanan is from Chennai, the southern-most state of Tamil Nadu, India. As with most of the Tamilian names, Venkatachalam is his father’s name, Saravanan is what friends and colleagues call him. He is an International Master and has been an active chess player in the Indian circuit, and has been consistently writing on chess since late 1980s. He turned complete chess professional in 2012, actively playing and being a second to a handful of Indian players. He reports on chess tournaments, occasionally being a correspondent to national newspapers and news channels. Apart from chess, he is also interested in Tamil and English literature, music and photography.

The Krishna Prabhakar Scholarship:

Krishna Prabhakar had instituted a scholarship of one free entry to the Vishy Anand camp for a deserving youngster. Read more about the scholarship here.

We received many applications. The winner decided was 11-year-old Om Kadam.

Om Kadam won the Asian under-10 championships in 2018 and is one of the most promising youngsters of Indian chess. We hope that this opportunity provided by Prabhakar Krishna would be useful for improvement in his chess career.

Read about Om and his family's financial struggles

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