Sofia WCC: game 6 drawn
The Indian then played very psychologically, at each turn harrassing Topalov’s pieces with his Knights so as to prevent the Bulgarian from thinking of taking the initiative. Although Anand was certainly not risking anything (his position was solid as a rock), this game witnessed the first time in the match that the World Champion played without a concrete plan based on his position.
Game 7 will be held on Monday, tomorrow being a rest day. Topalov will conduct the White pieces for the 4th time in the match and it is expected that he will try very hard to equalize the score. The only question is what line he will play against the Indian’s Slav defence. The last 2 games with the White pieces saw Topalov get very little, and the Indian was able to make clean draws, limiting himself to make correct play.
I think that it will be necessary for the Bulgarian to change this scenario, and try to lure Anand out of his home preparation and force him to solve more problems over the board.
Former World Champion Boris Spassky (1969-72) once said that there are 2 very critical points in a chess struggle: the first one soon after the opening where both players must choose a plan, and the second critical point much later when both plan’s clash and the players must then re-orient their play, both strategically and tactically.
In today’s world, the first critical point rarely occurs because of technology: both players are usually armed to the teeth and exceptionally well prepared , before even stepping on stage to play, with the plan that they intend to play right after the opening.
And it is for this reason that there are so many draws today in top level play: only having to meet and survive one critical point in the game is not much of a drain on the nervous system of either player, and so few unforced errors take place. The players find it easier to remain in their comfort zone today than in the past.
With this in mind, Topalov must force Anand to make more critical decisions in each game, with the hope that the Indian tires and lowers the level of his play. Fischer was exceptionally successful in catching his opponents when they weakened at the later critical points of the game, pouncing on their slightest error with the fury of a lion.
In today’s hi-tech chess scene, most top players use the advantages that technology offers to avoid having to make difficult and complex decisions over the board. For this reason the opening is so studied to death, far into the middlegame (and often into the ending). And it is precisely for this reason that it is becoming so clear to the experts and trainers that it is necessary to not only avoid the home preparation of the opponent, but to also stop being so predictable in the opening!
An example from the recent past will serve to demonstrate my point. In the 1995 PCA world championship final between challenger Anand and world champion Kasparov, the world champion had difficulties with his usual Najdorf/Schevenigen, the Indian being so well prepared. Kasparov then made a risky decision, and decided to take the Indian out of his ‘book’ by playing the Dragon Variation (diagram above). It was a great success! Taken by surprise, the Indian could only score 2 draws out of 4 games.