I’d like to offer you an analysis of the endgame which occurred in the 8th game of the match. As we remember, Topalov won it but Anand had good chances for a draw some moves before his resignation. I tried to find out the real evaluation of the endgame and to find the key positions of it.
Curiously, chess engines are no help during analysis of such positions, because this type of endgame requires understanding of ideas rather than calculating variations.
First of all, let’s see some key positions and find out their correct evaluations.
Position №1. White to move.
This position occurred in the game. White wins here. The plan is as follows: he moves his g-pawn to g5, then plays Be5-g7 and g5-g6 (after Be8 White can make the bishop leave the e8-square by making pawn moves like f4 or b3). Then White continues Kxg6-Kf6, and his king heads to the d-pawn. By the way, White also wins even without his b-pawn or his f-pawn.
Position №2. Black to move.
White has transferred his king to f6, but the b-pawn has been lost. The verdict is – White wins. Soon White will create the passer on the h-file, and Black will not be able to hold two passed pawns. For example: 1… Bc2 2.Be5 Bd3 3.Kg7 h5 4.g4 Ke8 5.gxh5 gxh5 7.Kh6 Be2 8.Kxh5 Bxf3+ 9.Kg6, winning.
The pawn sacrifice also doesn’t work: 1…e5 2.Bxe5 Bc2 3.g4 Bd1 4.Kg7 Bxf3 5.Kxh7 Bxg4 6.Kxg6 Ke6 7.h5 Bf5+ 8.Kg5 Bc2 9.Bg3 Bd3 10.Kh6 Kf7 11.d7 Ke7 12.Bc7 Kxd7, and here an important move 13.Bb6!, preventing b7-b5. Now the trouble for Black is his own b-pawn. After winning the bishop White pushes off the king on a8, then the b6-bishop makes a move, and Black has to push his b-pawn in view of zugzwang.
It is necessary to note that White also wins easily with the passed pawn on g-file. But the most interesting position arises when White has passers on d- and f-files.
Position №3. Black to move.
Of course, the fact that passed pawns are close to each other is in favour of a defending side. Here Black’s king blocks his colleague successfully, and White has only one idea – penetration to the queenside. Approximate variations are: 1…Ke6 2.Kf4 Bg6 3.Ke3 Bf7 4.Kd4 Kd7 5.Kc5.
White can try to occupy the e5-square by the king – 5.Bg3 – but Black holds his frontiers. 5…Ke6 (Black should escort White’s king) 6.Kc5 Kd7 7.b4 Be6 8.Kd4 Bb3 9.Ke5 Ke8 10.Kf5 Kf7!, and White doesn’t have 11.d7 in view of 11…Be6+.
5…Ba2 6.Kb6 Bd5 7.b4 Kc8.
Black has to play very accurately as his opponent has some ideas. For example, after 8.Bg3 the right move is 8…Kd7, and 8…Bb3? loses in view of 9.b5! axb5 10. a6 bxa6 11.Kc6. However, If Black doesn’t make mistakes, I don’t see a win for White.
Position №4. White to move.
et another position which occurred in the game, but this time it’s a draw. White has been trying to make Black play gxh5, transposing to Position#1, but Black holds the g6-pawn successfully so far. Nevertheless, White can force gxh5 (like in the game), but it will give Black time for regrouping – his king approaches to the d-pawn, and the bishop defends the h7-pawn. The dream for White will be position #3, but as we know it is also a draw.
After analyzing these important positions let’s return to the game. Now we will be able to understand where the opponents made mistakes.
34…Kd7? I think it is a blunder which changes the evaluation of position. As we already know, Black has to transfer his bishop to the a4-e8 diagonal, and the black king should escort his white colleague on both sides. In this case, the position #4 would arise. But now White has a great idea.
White missed the very strong 35.Kd2! The idea behind it is to play Kc3 and b2-b3!, followed by the king’s march to f6. The point is that Black can’t transfer his bishop to the a4-e8 diagonal. For example: 35…Bb1 36.Kc3 Ke8 37.b3! e5.
The best try. In case of passive defense, White gets an improved version of the position #2, keeping his b-pawn alive: 37…Kd7 38.Kd4 Bc2 39.b4.
Now two extra pawns seem to be enough for a win, for example: 38.Bxe5 Kd7 39.Kd4 Bc2 40.b4 Ke6 41.Kc5 Ba4 42.f4 Kd7 43.Kb6 Bc6 44.g4 Be4 45.b5 axb5 46.Kxb5 Kc8 47.Kb6. The idea is to create the passed f-pawn. Compared to the position #3, this position has a big difference – the h-pawns are on the board and White wins easily. The winning plan is as follows: 1) Exchanging the f-pawn for the b-pawn; 2) Putting the a-pawn to a7; 3) Directing the king towards the h-pawn; 4) Exchanging the a-pawn for the h-pawn (a8=Q and Kxh7, or Kxh5). In case of 47…Bf3 White wins by 48.f5 Bxg4 49.f6 Be6 50.a6! bxa6 51.Kc6 Bd7+ 52.Kd5.
The further play by the opponents was logical until move 54:
35…Bc2 36.Kd4 Ke8 37.Ke5 Kf7 38.Be3 Ba4 39.Kf4 Bb5 40.Bc5 Kf6 41.Bd4+ Kf7 42.Kg5 Bc6 43.Kh6 Kg8 44.h5 Be8 45.Kg5 Kf7 46.Kh6 Kg8 47.Bc5 gxh5 48.Kg5 Kg7 49.Bd4+ Kf7 50.Be5 h4 51.Kxh4 Kg6 52.Kg4 Bb5 53.Kf4 Kf7 54.Kg5
54…Bc6?? This mistake deserves even two question marks, because now White wins easily. As we remember Black has to transfer his bishop to the b1-h7 diagonal, defending the h7-pawn, and the black king has to hold the d-pawn: 54…Ke8 55.g4 Kd7 56.f4 Bd3 57. f5 (what else?) 57…exf5 58.gxf5, and now both 58…h6 and 58…Ke8 are possible, getting position #3 where Black makes a draw even without his h-pawn.
The game ended very quickly: 55.Kh6 Kg8 56.g4. The winning method for White here was shown in the beginning of the article. The World Champion decided not to check his opponent’s technique…
Actually position №3 is won for White, as was correctly pointed out by a thoughtful reader at Crestbook.com. The plan is as follows: White plays b5, axb5, Kxb5, then moves his king to b8 and transfers the bishop to c7 in an accurate way. Then Black loses because of zugzwang; he really misses his h-pawn. If Black tries to prevent this setup by playing Kc8 on Ka7, then White wins by d6-d7 (preceded by a waiting move in case the Black bishop is on d5).
Of course this fact doesn’t change the evaluation of the position №4 where Black keeps his h-pawn. Thus, we see the importance of keeping the h-pawn alive.