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La lezione del GM Schwartzman: Many people have wondered what exactly does it take to become a world champion?
What is that special something that separates the best grandmasters in the world
from the one world champion? To tell you the truth, I don't think anyone knows.
This game of ours that we love so much, is so darn complicated, and so many things
have to be mastered, that it is almost impossible to say what is that special gift that
world champions have.
Nevertheless, so often in history, there have been instances of famous chess coaches predicting that someone would become world champion, years, or even decades, before that happened. How did they do it? I sincerely don't know. But I guess that following a certain player, and analyzing all his games, are the methods they employed.
Now, Anand unfortunately does not fall under this category. On the contrary, I have spoken with some of the world's greatest coaches, and there seemed to be a form of consensus: none of them believed that Anand could make it to world champion. They all agreed that he is an extraordinary chess player, who even shows signs of genius in some of his games. But they also say that he lacks one very important attribute of a world champion: discipline!
As you probably know, Vishy is known as one of the world's fastest top players. This often allows him to gain an important time advantage during the game, and he even humiliates some of his opponents by beating them so fast! It is probably this speed with which he makes wonderful moves, that has caused some to consider him a genius. But, it is also this speed that many hold responsible for Anand's reputation as the top player who makes the most blunders. Obviously, every top Grandmaster has made at least one such blunder in his career. But generally, they are very few. Anand, unfortunately, has his name associated with more than one...
As you probably realize from this lead-in, it is one of Anand's blunders that we are looking at in this position. The game was played between Kasparov with the white pieces and Anand, in the German city of Dortmund eight years ago, and I have a special recollection of it. The reason? Quite simple: I was there, watching and enjoying it live, and especially interested, since the game was a Slav Defense - one of my favorite openings with black.
By the way, here is how the game had gone up to here:
Kasparov,G (2780) - Anand,V (2670) [D19]
Dortmund (2), 1992
1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 c6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.e3 e6 7.Bxc4 Bb4 8.0-0 0-0 9.Qe2 Nbd7 10.Ne5 Re8 11.Rd1 Qc7 12.Nxd7 Qxd7 13.f3 Nd5 14.Na2 Bf8 15.e4 Bg6 16.Qe1 f5
Anand had not exactly played the best moves after Kasparov's relatively unusual opening setup (at that time). He had already given white the upper hand, and was trying to fight for equality with his last move, 16...f5. The idea of the move is not so complicated: white's main superiority factor is his amazing center, and the fact that he is chasing black's main piece, the knight, away from d5. Furthermore, just imagine how the bishop on g6 would have to feel with the white pawn on e4 sitting right there, stuck in front of his face.
Anand thus hopes to just release a bit of the pressure, by either forcing white's e4 pawn to e5 (which would safeguard the d5 square for the knight) or by at least trading a set of pawns on e4, which would make that pawn a little weaker, and would give black an attack objective - not to mention something to do for his bishop.
Key to this entire strategic concept, of course, is the location of the white queen on the 'e' file controlled from afar by our rook, and that of the bishop on c4, so close to d5. The whole purpose of black's last move is to invite white to capture the knight, so he can then recapture with the 'e' pawn and win the bishop back, in a position where black's biggest problems have been solved.
So, imagine the incredible feeling that everybody experienced when Anand made his last move, Kasparov replied with 17.ed5!, and...
... black resigned!!!
Why? Quite simple: Anand forgot that after 17...ed5, despite the fact that white has both his queen and bishop en prise, he can simply play 18.Be2! which does a magnificent job of defending both. Regardless of what black would want to try afterwards, the material advantage is just too big, especially when facing Kasparov, which is of course, why he resigned.
Again, such blunders can't be completely avoided. A grandmaster will always have one, or a few of those in his career. Even Kasparov and Karpov have had them. But, as I mentioned before, Anand has had a slightly too big percentage of such things happening to him...