Anand drew both his games on Day 2, but that was enough to preserve his lead.

Day 2 of the Zurich Chess Challenge began a bit quieter than Day 1, but things heated up in the second round of the day. In the end, Viswanathan Anand of India ended the day where he began — in the lead. 

Though there were three draws in Round 3 of the tournament, all three games were interesting. Anand, who had White, got himself into some trouble against Alexei Shirov of Latvia, but fought back very nicely to salvage a draw and maintain his tournament lead.

In the above position, Shirov was ambitious and chose 9. … Nh5!?, clearly aiming to shove his f pawn down the board. After 10. Nf1 f5 11. Ng3 fxe4, Anand could not recapture 12. dxe4 because of 12. … Bg4!, with a strong pin.

Instead he chose 12. Bb3+ Kh8 13. Ng5, and now Shirov made a strong exchange sacrifice, typical of his aggresive “Fire on Board” style, with 13. … Nf4!, allowing 14. Nf7+ Rxf7 15. Bxf7.

After 15. … Qf8 16. Bb3 exd3 17. Bc4 d5! 18. Bxd3 e4!, Black had a huge initiative for a modest material investment. While objectively the position is around equal, from a human perspective, Black is much more comfortable. Shirov played a fine game and managed to reach a nearly winning position, only to mess it up at the end:

Black would probably win after 41. … Ra5!, cashing in the d3 pawn to win the pawn on a2. This would leave Black with connected passed pawns on the queenside, and one of them should be able to promote in short order. I doubt White could offer much resistance.

Instead, with less than a minute on his clock, Shirov chose 41. … d2?, and after 42. Nf3 Ra5 43. Nxd2 Rxa2 44. Ne4!, White had some counterplay and Black lost a lot of his excellent coordination. Indeed, White was able to hold a draw with no problem.

Another exciting game from Round 3 was between Hikaru Nakamura of the United States and Vladimir Kramnik of Russia.

Nakamura, who had White, has a slightly uncomfortable position, but it’s not a disaster by any stretch and with normal play I would expect a draw. Instead, he blundered badly with 29. Na3?, clearly hoping to consolidate with 30. R5c2. Kramnik jumped at his chance with 29. … Rd2! 30. R5c2 and now 30. … Nxg2!, a move Nakamura probably missed. Black now has an extra pawn and the White kingside is in shambles. Black should be winning, but soon enough Kramnik blundered back:

Kramnik was a bit too hasty and tried to end the game immediately with 35. … f5? It’s an understandable move because Black threatens 36. … f4+ followed by 37. Kh2 Rf2 winning the house. And if White plays 36. exf5?, then 36. … Nxf5+ 37. Kh2 Rb3, would win a lot of material.

But, Nakamura responded with 36. Nc4!, forcing a trade of knights and leaving only rooks on the board. Kramnik tried 36. … f4+ 37. Kh3 Rf2 and now came 38. Nxe5!, a move Kramnik probably missed when he played 36. … f5. Black won the exchange with 38. … Nf1, but after 39. Rxf1 Rxf1 40. Kg2! followed by Ng6, Black could not stop White from winning the f pawn, leaving White with a fortress that Black could not bust.

The second round of the day featured two decisive games, with Levon Aronian of Armenia and Kramnik picking up wins over Shirov and Anish Giri of the Netherlands, respectively. The more important victory was Kramnik’s, as it put him into a tie with Nakamura a half point behind Anand.

The above position is quite unpleasant for Giri, who was Black, because his pieces are less active. Giri should probably just sit and wait, but this is a very hard thing to do in a rapid game and certainly would not have promised success. Instead, he tried 27. … g5?, which seriously compromised his kingside. There followed 28. Qe3 Rc7 29. Qc3 Rdc8 30. Be4!, and Black’s pieces had become even more passive. After 30. … Qd6 31. Bb1!, White was ready to invade with Qd3-h7, and Giri’s position fell apart. It took some time, but Kramnik did end up winning a fine game.

In the final day of competition on Monday, Kramnik will have Black against Anand, with a chance to overtake him for first. After the rapid games, there will be a blitz tournament, in which each game counts half as much as the rapid games. So while Anand leads by half a point, two rivals are right behind him and the tournament is still up for grabs with plenty of games left to play.


Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 7 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He is @GMShanky on Twitter and is also on Facebook.