Understand The Position 7: “Even World Champions Make Mistakes.”
Position captured in the diagram went down in history. This is the position of the eighth game of the World Championship match between Anand and Topalov, which was played last spring in Sofia. Indian player was in one point lead before this eighth game; Veselin therefore really needed to win so as to get back to the match. Topalov – Anand, after Black’s 34th move.
Translated by: Dusan Turcer
The opposite colored bishops ending had arisen on board, in which Bulgarian had a strong passed pawn on d6 extra. Is White winning, or Black can build a fortress? There doesn’t exist an easy answer to this question; let’s try to look at the position closer first.
You will not get very far by calculating various lines in static endgames like this one; what really counts here is thinking in patterns. White will not win this position with the only threat (d6-d7-d8Q). It is therefore very important for the result of this game, if he manages to create another threat somewhere else, ideally the second passed pawn. Obviously, it is not possible on the queenside because the black king on c8 covers both squares b7 and d7 at the same time. White will therefore need to give it a try on the kingside, where the weak h7-pawn is located. So White will try to bring the king closer to this pawn.
What should Black do? According to the theorem of Dvorecky, famous Russian coach, similar positions are a trivial draws if Black is able to cover all his pawns with the bishop and the king will remain free to take care of the passed pawn. (This is also the reason why a weaker side is placing the pawns on the squares of the bishop in the opposite colored bishops endings, while in the opposite colored bishops middlegames as well as in same colored bishop endings it is other way round.) So, can Black play … h7-h5, cover the g6-pawn and wait?
It seems that it is not possible. White would place the king on g5 and play g2-g4. He would force the exchange h5xg4 and create a passed pawn on the h-file. The overly passive e8-square is the only one, from which the black bishop can cover the squares g6 and h5. However, if Anand had transferred his bishop to this square, he would have been in zugzwang after Kg5-f6.
Black therefore has to keep his h-pawn on h7. But since the bishop cannot cover it on this square, black king will need to take care of this task. Roles will be switched then: the bishop will be preventing a pawn from further advance, king will be defending the pawns on the kingside. It is no longer a secure draw defense. White may find a way to create the second passed pawn, but as we shall see later, it matters on which file this passed pawn will be created. While on the files g and h this pawn would have guaranteed a victory (because it is far enough from the d-file), the passed f-pawn would have allowed Black to defend the position successfully.
White can create the second passed pawn “by force” and for the price of sacrifices:
The game continued:
Fatal mistake. So far, Anand’s defence was excellent, however, at this moment he didn’t realize that the pawn exchange on the kingside allows him to arrange the defensive position of Dvorecky, where the pawns are covered by the bishop and the king is taking care of the passed d-pawn. This line would lead to a draw:
55.Kh6 Kg8 56.g4
Anand now realized how serious the mistake was and resigned.
However, we will not miss the instructive winning line for White:
It is interesting that Topalov didn’t need the second passed pawn to win this game in the end. Instead, he made the opponent’s king passive so perfectly, that his own king got to d7.
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