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14..Bb7! mystery solved

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We are indebted to bondegnasker in the comments here with this report on the 14..Bb7 move in the Meran with which Anand won games 3 and 5 of his world championship match against Kramnik. Like many, I wondered at the time if we would ever find out who exactly came up with the idea. Perhaps it was better to ask, "who didn't?"

This just in from the Danish chess federation's magazine "Skakbladet", Peter Heine Nielsen commenting on Anand's 14...Bb7 in game three of the match (my translation):


The move is no novelty, but its reputation is so much poorer than 14...b4 and 14...Ba6 that it apparently came as a total surprise to Kramnik. Up until now everybody was of the conviction that developing the bishop to its most natural square and pretending that Black had an attack was just an unrealistic dream, but Anand shows that it is reality. Who invented it? Well, Kasimjanov prepared it for his meeting with Gelfand, but Anand had also found it. I recall a hint of disappointment at the first training session, when both Kasimjanov and Anand said that they had great ideas in the Meran and it turned out to be the same. But when we started analyzing it, disappointment quickly turned to joy."

Not much to add to that story, really. Great minds think alike! My guess is that Heine may have played a bigger role than he claims!?

Perhaps, since Nielsen has worked with so many top players. I assume the encounter he refers to was Kasimjanov's June 2007 candidates match against Gelfand. Unfortunately for Kasimjanov, who went on to lose that match after epic tiebreaks, and fortunately for Anand, Gelfand played 9.a4 instead of the 9.e4 main Meran line Kramnik went for. (When they met later in 2007 in the world blitz in Moscow, Kasimjanov played the Albin Countergambit against Gelfand. I guess he couldn't convince Vishy to try that one.)

Update: StefanLoeffler in the comments adds that Anand credited Kasimjanov for "most of the work" on the innovation in the interview he did with Anand for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that ran on October 31.


Here is another Anand interview where he talks about who did what:


Another thing that worked for him is that he seems to be a pleasant person, otherwise having to deal with so many seconds might become a liability instead.

Looks like Mig doesn't read Indian newspapers...

In more or less every big one of them you'll find an Anand interview after his victory, where he talks about the story behind Bb7.
There Anand said he found the Bb7 idea, analysed it and said to Kasim (via email): "I've found a interesting idea in the Meran" - Kasim answered: "great, send me your analysis" so Vishy did, just to get an email back on the spot with Kasims own analysis of the same idea, which in fact turned out to be much more precise and way deeper than Vishys!

This might be also some kind of a fairy tale, because Vishy is the master of understatement, but anyway, it is a nice story, isn't it?

Anand already commented about Bb7 (Kasim's and his invention) on the last ICC chess.fm video. How they both found it, etc..

Indeed, nothing really new ... unlike Raffael (!?) I do not read Indian newspapers, but the story about 14.-Lb7 had already appeared on several places on the Internet.

New is only bondegnasker's (patriotic!?) speculation "My guess is that Heine may have played a bigger role than he claims!?" With all due respect for Peter Heine Nielsen's role as a second (he also received lots of praise from Anand in the source quoted by Suresh), his _personal_ contribution to analyzing that very opening variation is, well, unknown.

BTW, the 'final' verdict about 14.-Lb7 is probably still to come ... . Will it be !; !!; !? or even ?! after further practice tests, I don't dare to make any predictions (and it depends on who is willing to pick up the gauntlet again).

In a somewhat similar variation (the Anti-Moscow Gambit), Topalov initially got lots of praise (by Topalov and other people ,:) ) for sacrificng a knight on f7 against Kramnik. I am not a 'database junk', but as far as I remember some further games seem to imply that this novelty is probably playable, but far from crushing.

Maybe for a novelty with the black pieces 'playable' is already good enough, though ... .

Thomas wrote: "In a somewhat similar variation (the Anti-Moscow Gambit), Topalov initially got lots of praise (by Topalov and other people ,:) ) for sacrificng a knight on f7 against Kramnik."

what nonsense is that? Topalov credited Cheparinov with Nf7.

"what nonsense is that? Topalov credited Cheparinov with Nf7."
OK, replace 'Topalov' by 'Topalov and his team' ... . I do not remember Topalov's exact words after the game, but I remember that he was very proud and happy (nothing wrong with that).

And generally it is one thing to find (such) a novelty, and another thing to have the courage to apply it over the board; so Topalov has at least shared copyright for Nf7 even if it wasn't his own creation. (Not that I want to imply that Cheparinov wouldn't have dared to try it himself - maybe it was even a 'second's sacrifice' to keep it secret and leave it for an important game of his boss).

Maybe the objective strength of novelties is less important than whether a player feels comfortable in the resulting positions; in this respect both Nf7 and 14.-Lb7 are 'subjectively' strong novelties - whereas they may be 'weak' or useless for Kramnik (who wouldn't play them in the first place?). However, ! or !? or ?! should be assigned based on the objective value - otherwise (in the WCh match), 1.d4 by Anand could also be given one or two exclamation marks (!!?).

More interesting than the details of the backstory of this particular novelty, are the meta-observations about what determines the value of a novelty, and how top players go about finding them.

Sacrificial ones in particular, are often subject to revaluation after a little practice gets built up. Sometimes the sac actually is later refuted; other times, defenses are found that don't necessarily amount to a refutation, but that show the novelty's value in the initil stem game was more psychological than objective.

Perhaps the most famous and important example ever of a revalued novelty was Fischer's ...Nh5 in the Benoni, from the game 3 of the 1972 WCC match. Of course that was Fischer's first win in the match, and with Black too, at a point when his score was 0-2. So his new move (shocking because it allowed Bxh5 saddling Black with doubled isolated h-pawns) had an enormous influence on the course and outcome of the match.

The reason I mention it is that, while Fischer's ...Nh5 was give a ! by all commentators at the time, I read that the move was later found to be not so good after all. I don't recall whether the final evaluation is !? or ?!, but my source is Dennis Monokroussos, who is a highly reliable authority.

Another interesting example, albeit from a level well below a WCC match, is the following Najdorf sac: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bc4 e6 7.Bb3 Nbd7 8.Qe2 Nc5 9.g4 b5 10.g5 Nfd7 11.Bd5

I believe this made its first appearance in Tate-Yudasin, U.S. Masters 1997 - which ended in a brilliant White win. Yudasin refrained from taking the piece, though. Based on the course of a few later games, when annotating this game in the December 2006 Chess Life, I gave a ? to Yudasin's cautious reply, 11...Bb7. It looked to me like Black is objectively better after capturing on d5. (See for example, Martha Fierro - Lazaro Bruzon, Cienfuegos 1997, and Bryan Smith - Justin Sarkar, Foxwoods 2004.)

The discussion between Anand and Kasimjanov also brought to mind a great article from a couple of years ago, detailing a top GM's thinking about the genesis of novelties. What's especially pertinent is that the author was....Kasimjanov. And the particular novelty he was explaining, was one that he used in a WCC tournament to defeat...Anand! (It was a White improvement in the Najdorf line with 6.Be3 Ng4 7.Bg5. The game was from San Luis 2005, I believe.)

@ Jon Jacob: "The discussion between Anand and Kasimjanov also brought to mind a great article from a couple of years ago, detailing a top GM's thinking about the genesis of novelties."

Sounds interesting- where was the article published?

I have a few of Kasim's ChessBase dvds- they're outstanding.

The game in question (Kasimdzhanov-Anand, indeed from San Luis 2005) is analyzed in detail in Gershon & Nor's tournament book - like all other games from this WCh. They introduce the game saying that "[it] will (or in fact already has) become Kasimdzhanov's visiting card among the elite". But credit for the novelty 18.Lh5 is given to Sakaev ("one of the greatest experts in this line ... who was the first to mention 18.Lh5"). Apparently this refers to Sakaev's notes on his own game with black against Dolmatov, mentioned just before - and of course it does not rule out that Kasimdzhanov found and analyzed the idea independently.

Funnily, Gershon & Nor later comment on white's 33rd move: "For the second time in the game, 33.Lh5 gives White a serious boost. This time it is a win."

I don't recall where I saw Kasimjanov's comments about the process that led to discovery of 18.Bh5 in the Najdorf. But I do recall that he had collaborator(s) - perhaps the aforementioned Sakaev. An engine was involved too, as I recall.

You're probably thinking of Kasimjanov's notes in New in Chess.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on December 5, 2008 11:30 PM.

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