Summary Chess Classic 2009 / Day 6

Anand fails to qualify after dramatic second day

By Johannes Fischer

Will World Champion Vishy Anand strike back? Will he be able to qualify for the final? On the first day of the GRENKELEASING Rapid World Championship Anand, 11 times winner of the Chess Classic Mainz, had only scored 1 point from 3 games and was trailing 1,5 points behind Aronian and Nepomniachtchi. However, everybody knew that an Anand in good shape can work miracles on the chess board.

But the first game of day 2 seemed to indicate that Anand had not yet overcome his bad form. Playing with Black against Aronian Anand opted for the Grünfeld and got an almost equal position after the opening. This, however, developed into an endgame in which Aronian had a passed b-pawn and every right to play for a win and it took Anand a fine defensive effort to draw.

Meanwhile, Arkadi Naiditsch took his revenge for yesterday’s first-round loss by beating Nepomniachtchi. In a Sicilian Najdorf Naiditsch sacrificed a pawn to gain the initiative and this strategy paid off when the young Russian crumbled under the pressure.

The other fifth round game between Nepomniachtchi and Anand was less tactical but no less dramatic. On the black side of a Caro-Kann Anand carefully converted an equal position into a slightly better one. This slight advantage led to a better queen endgame, which in turn led to a queen endgame, in which Anand was two pawns up.

However, his king could find no place to rest. A win would have given Anand three points and every chance to qualify for the final and the World Champion indeed tried hard. But White relentlessly pursued Black’s king all over the board and after 50 moves in which no pawn advanced and no piece was captured, a draw was agreed.

Now, ironically, before the sixth and final round, Anand could only hope that Aronian would help him to qualify for the final by beating Nepomniachtchi.

While a lot of people expected Aronian to agree to a quick draw to avoid playing Anand in the final, the Armenian showed true sportsmanship by playing a real game against Nepomniachtchi. However, after committing an error in the opening he was unable to put any pressure on his opponent and finally had to agree to a draw, which secured Nepomniachtchi a place in the final.

While constantly having an eye on Nepomniachtchi’s game, Anand tried his best to win against Naiditsch – but he also failed to get any tangible advantage. And shortly after Aronian and Nepomniachtchi drew their game Anand and Naiditsch also drew.

11 times Anand won in Mainz, now he failed to qualify for the final. An era came to an end – which might have been the reason for the gloomy atmosphere during the press conference after the games. Here Anand proved to be a fair sportsman and congratulated his opponents: “I think the two people who deserved to qualify, qualified. That’s life. If you play badly you get punished.”

Still, with all the pressure lifted of him, he may come back to form when playing against Naiditsch for third place tomorrow. And hopefully he will be back in Mainz next year and the years to come to play many more wonderful games – and possibly to reclaim his title.

Final standings:

Aronian 4.5

Nepomniachtchi 3.5

Anand 2.5

Naiditsch 1.5

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