Image by Rustam Kalimullin / Kortchnoi Zurich Chess Classic
Oleg Skvortsov, the main sponsor of the Kortchnoi Zurich Chess Challenge, played an exhibition game before the tournament began against Viswanathan Anand. The result was a game from another era.
The Kortchnoi Zurich Chess Challenge started Thursday, but before the main event, there was an exhibition game between Oleg Skvortsov, the event’s sponsor, and Viswanathan Anand, the former World Champion from India. Skvortsov is a Russian businessman, not a chess professional, but he is a strong amateur – perhaps around FIDE master strength. Against Anand he was playing quite well, but when Anand uncorked a spectacular and speculative queen sacrifice, Skvortsov was unable to keep up with his great opponent. Anand went on to win a beautiful game that received praise even from elite grandmasters.
Fans sometimes wonder why there are not so many brilliancies and swashbuckling games in contemporary competitions, but a game like the one between Anand and Skvortsov is a salutary lesson that today’s greats can attack with the best players of any era. It’s rare to see such games because the top players almost always play their fellow super-grandmasters. But given the chance to play weaker (though still very decent) opposition, instant classics like this one are possible.
Skvortsov, Oleg vs. Anand, Viswanathan
Anand-Skvortsov 2017 |Zurich SUI |Round 1 |12 Apr 2017 |0-1
1. e4e5This was a rapid game, played with a time handicap. Skvortsov had 30 minutes for the game, Anand 15, with both players receiving a 10 second bonus after each move. 2. Nf3Nc63. Bc4Bc54. c3Nf65. d4The contemporary approach starts with the more patient
( 5. d3, intending further development
before beginning active, committal play in the center. )
5... exd46. b4!?An unusual move, no doubt intended as a surprise for the former world champion.
And it succeeded, as Anand stopped and thought for a while here.
( 6. cxd4is the obvious, ancient move, which promises White nothing after 6... Bb4+7. Bd2Bxd2+8. Nbxd2d59. exd5Nxd5; indeed, this is sometimes played by White when he
wants a day off: 10. Qb3Na511. Qa4+Nc612. Qb3Na5with a draw (after as
many repetitions as the players see fit) has occurred in hundreds if not
thousands of games. )
( 6. e5has enjoyed some popularity lately, thanks in
part to its adoption by Baadur Jobava. 6... d57. Bb5Ne48. cxd4Bb6and here
almost everyone plays 9.Nc3, but Jobava has preferred 9. h3instead. Play
typically continues 9... O-O10. O-Of611. Bxc6bxc612. Be3, with a position
that deserves further analysis. Jobvaa's opponents generally played 12...fxe5,
but 12...c5 and 12... f5also merit attention. )
6... Bb6Better than
( 6... Be7, which has also been played. )
7. e5d5The thematic counter-blow in such
positions. 8. exf6dxc49. Qe2+The immediate
( 9. b5has been more common,
though there don't seem to have been any GM-GM games in this line. 9... Na510. Qe2+Be611. fxg7Rg8is still slightly in Black's favor, but White is better
off than in the game with Black's knight on a5. 12. Nxd4Rxg713. Nxe6fxe614. O-OQd515. g3O-O-O )
9... Be610. b5Here Black can play 10...Na5,
transposing into the previous note, but Anand comes up with a wild alternative. 10... Nb4!?Skvortsov is a businessman (and chess sponsor) rather than a
professional chess player, but he is a dedicated, strong amateur who works on
his openings. This move probably took him out of his preparation, though! 11. fxg7It might seem strange to play the immediate
( 11. cxb4, as after 11... Qxf6White has forfeited the opportunity to grab Black's g-pawn. As we'll see
later in the game, however, there's something to be said for White not opening
the g-file. 12. O-OO-O13. a4a6leaves Black with sufficient compensation
for the piece, but perhaps not more. Practically though, Black's position
looks easier to play with his powerful pawn duo and the bishop pair. )
11... Rg812. cxb4Qf613. O-O
( 13. Qe5was safer, but again, Black has full
compensation for the material after 13... Qxe5+14. Nxe5f615. Nf3Rxg7 )
13... Qxg714. g3O-O-O15. a4Now if
( 15. Qe5Black can say "no, thank you" to
the offered queen trade, e.g. 15... Qg416. Qf4Qh5, with the initiative. )
( 15... Qf6is objectively best, but then we wouldn't have seen the
brilliant idea in the game. )
16. Qb2Skvortsov has played very well so far,
and while Black's pawns and bishops look nice, White has a material advantage
and threatens a5 to boot. What has Black got? 16... Qxg3+!!Beautiful! Even more
impressively, it doesn't win; it's a true sacrifice. 17. hxg3Rxg3+18. Kh2Rxf3Black has a grand total of three pawns for the queen; that's it, as far
as material is concerned. But White's king is in obvious trouble - if it were
Black's move he'd force mate with ...Rh3+ followed by ...Rg8+ and (in a move
or two) ...Rxg5#. Another idea is ...Bd4, and still another is to play ...Rg8
first and then ...Rh3#. White needs to find some good moves, and here at last
he falters. 19. Bg5?
( 19. Qg7!is best, aiming to keep Black's rooks off
the g-file. 19... Rh3+20. Kg2Bd421. Qg5f622. Qg7Rd723. Qf8+Rd824. Qxd8+!Kxd825. Ra3Rh526. Re1!Bd5+27. Kg3Be5+28. Rxe5fxe529. Nc3/+/- Black has caught up, materially, but now that the pawns are
blockaded White has a positional advantage. )
( 19. Qe5isn't as good as 19.
Qg7, but it suffices to maintain a tenuous equality after 19... Bd420. Qh5Rf521. Qxf5Bxf522. Ra3c323. Nxc3d224. Bxd2Be5+25. Kg1Rxd2. )
19... Bd4The point is not to grab the rook on a1, but to cut White's queen off
from the defense of the king. 20. Qd2Rg8!
( 20... Bxa1??21. Bxd8Kxd822. Nc3 )
21. Ra3Saving the rook and overprotecting the c3 square so Black
can't push the pawn. Unfortunately for White,
( 21. Rg1Rh3+!22. Kg2h623. Kf1Rxg5!24. Nc3Rhh525. Rxg5Rxg526. Qc1Be5!The idea is to play 27...Bh3+ 28.Ke1
Rg1+ 29.Kd2 Bf4#! 27. f3Bd428. Ke1Rg1+29. Kd2Rg2+!30. Ke1Bf5 )
21... h6!Time for Black to reap the harvest. 22. Rg1
( 22. Bxh6Rh3# )
22... Rh3+23. Kg2Rxg5+Here Skvortsov either resigned or lost on time. He's
getting mated soon in any case.
( 23... Rxg5+24. Kf1Rxg1+25. Kxg1Bd5And there's no defense to ...Rh1# on the next move (except for 26.Qxh6, when
26...Rxh6 and 27...Rh1# will ensue). A great game by Anand, which impressed no
less a player than world #13 Pavel Eljanov, who tweeted that it was "one of
the most attractive and romantic game[s] I've ever seen." )
After the game, Oleg Skvortsov, left, analyzed the game with Viswanathan Anand and Jan Timman, right.
Dennis Monokroussos is a FIDE master who has written about chess on his blog “The Chess Mind,” since 2005. He has been teaching chess for almost 20 years and for the last 10 years has been making instructional chess videos, which can be found at ChessLecture.com. Between 1995 and 2006, he taught philosophy, including a four-year stint at the University of Notre Dame.