19 July 2012

A Positional Lesson from Gelfand/Rubinstein

Now, Where Was I? Oh, yes, there was that small matter of a World Championship match -- in Moscow, of all places. The July 2012 issue of Europe Echecs featured game seven of the match annotated by GM Gelfand. That was, as we all know, the game he won. There are several positions I could use for instruction, but I chose the position shown in the diagram.

Gelfand - Anand, 2012 Match, g.7

After 15...Qd8-b8

Gelfand gave Anand's last move '!?' and (translating from the French) commented,

A strategically risky solution. After 15...Bf4, Black would have practically equalized. [...] Black has placed White before a complex choice : either attack with 16.Bxf6 leaving Black the Bishop pair and control of the center, or follow a line of play against the 'weak' Queenside Bishop with 16.Bg3. I decided for the second solution which is closer to my chess thinking, much influenced by the examples of Rubinstein, my favorite player from the past.

The Israeli grandmaster chose 16.Bg3, which he also assigned '!?', and discussed 16.Bxf6!? in a note which concluded that 'White keeps a dangerous initiative'. The game continued 16...Rc8 17.Qe2 Bxg3 18.hxg3. Here Gelfand gave a long note without any concrete variations. He wrote,

In this position the engine gives advantage to White. That's why numerous commentators have evaluated it badly. Despite the apparent simplicity, Black must defend with precision against several strategic ideas for White:

- double the Rooks on the c-file;
- introduce the Nf3 on e5;
- attack with the Pawns on the Queenside by a3 and b4;
- attempt to activate the Kingside with the advance of the Pawns f4 and g4-g5.

The Bishop on b7 plays a considerable role in the problems confronting Black. It remains out of play for the entire game, which will lead to defeat! Other than that, playing for the attack by recapturing 18.fxg3 is not convincing because it ruins the structure of the White Pawns, without giving any real chances.

Black played 18...Qd6, where Gelfand gave another long note showing why 18...Rc7 is inadequate. Chess is so much more than the calculation of variations. To play through the complete game, see Boris Gelfand vs Viswanathan Anand, World Chess Championship 2012 (g.7) on Chessgames.com.

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