An enduring memory of a world championship opening idea is from one of my favourite players, Surya Sekhar Ganguly, for one of our common favourite players, a certain Viswanathan Anand. Ganguly produced one of the most ‘abnormal’ ideas for Anand during the second game of the tiebreaks against Boris Gelfand during the Moscow 2012 match:
From the anlaysis of a position which could have occurred in the game, Ganguly had just shown the 10.Kd2 and 11.Kc3! idea when Anand inquired about the answer to 11...c4!? Ganguly and Rustam Kasimdzhanov cooked up the following breathtaking analysis:
12.Kxc4! Qa5 [preventing the king from running to c3-b2] 13.Kd3 [Now aiming to run back in a different direction and another hideaway. Gulp.]
13...Ba6+ 14.c4 d5 15.Ke2! dxc4 16.Kf1!!
Since the white king was prevented from hiding at b2, Ganguly and Kasimdzhanov had decided to hide it way back at g1!!
16...cxb3+ 17.Kg1! and the white king is SAFE!
Preposterous! This was one of the most incredible piece of analysis Ganguly probably ever produced in his career. Of course, ‘normal’ for him... And the brave Anand had decided to digest the whole idea and was willing to play it.
Ganguly says, “While the game was being played, I was watching it while running on the treadmill. And I was literally getting a heart attack when it was all played out - what if all this happens and what if we had missed something!? Luckily everything went well, Anand got a huge time advantage and subsequently won the game”.
Thankfully, for the sake of Ganguly’s well-being and Indian Chess, Gelfand did not enter this whole variation.
What do we say?! Typical Ganguly, doing Ganguly things!
Ganguly doing normal Ganguly things
When Ding Liren produced 4.h3 in the second game of the ongoing world championship match and went on to lose a subsequently poorly played game, the idea was attributed to his second Richard Rapport. The idea and the man were taken to the cleaners by all and sundry in the cyberspace, many with rather harsh words. But when Ding drew his third game with a routine encounter from the black side of a QGD Carlsbad structure, all seemed well, and his play was perceived to be ‘normal’ once again, grudgingly.
How did he overcome his emotions, which seemed to be all over the place in the first two games? “...My friends helped me to deal with my emotional problems. Now I feel more comfortable on the stage, instead of hiding in the rest (area)!”, he proclaimed in the press conference.
He had earlier talked about the role of Rapport in the match, “I like his creative playing style; secondly I can speak English with him and that helps me get familiar with the English-speaking environment. I think there's something different, I also change my playing style a bit by speaking English”.
And there were even more surprises. What kinda music did he listen along with his second? ‘Blowing in the wind’! Bob Dylan!
Fascinating, of course. Seriously.
Just when some rational sense of understanding about his second got restored and the fourth game started, the shadow of Rapport fell on the board once again, alarmingly. The game reached the following position:
When it was found that this position had already been reached in Rapport – Zaragatski, Bundesliga 2013 and continued with 11.h4 (what else?), the second-baiting cybercitizens were once again ready to cry ‘abnormal!’ Ding thankfully deviated with 11.0-0.
He continued playing the sensible chess that has enabled him to reach the world championship match in his impressive career. He first sacrificed a pawn to keep Nepo’s knight on the rim for a long time, and further produced a beautiful exchange sacrifice with 29.Rxd4! followed by the galloping horse sortie Nd2-b3-d4-f5-d6xe8 and won in 47 moves.
[By the way, students of the game - do you know that young Ding Liren was a brilliant practitioner of the exchange sacrifice!? Check it out].
So, all seem to be well in the ‘Second’ front and we have a match in our hands. As Bob Dylan pronounced,
‘How many roads must a man walk down,
Before you call him a man?
...How many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they're forever banned?’
Pic courtesy: Anna Shtourman / FIDE