World No. 109 Anton Kovalyov of Canada knocked out V Anand in the second round of World Cup knockout chess in Tbilisi, Georgia, on Thursday.
The defeat was always on the cards after Kovalyov defeated Anand with black pieces on Wednesday. Anand, the former world champion, is struggling with form. The 47-year-old is not known for his prowess with black pieces and must-win games. He had earlier bounced back from difficult situations in the World Championship matches, but those were not the last classical games of the series.
Kovalyov executed his plans to perfection in the return game on Thursday. First, he opted to start the game with c4 and then opted for the queen exchange as early as the 10th move in the English Opening game. The endgame in rooks, opposite-coloured bishops and knight wasn’t too difficult for the Canadian to eke out a draw and get half a point to advance to the third round. In the other action on Thursday, world’s top woman top player and ranked No. 74 overall, Hou Yifan of China, held world No. 4 Levon Aronian of Armenia to another draw in 34 moves of Catalan Opening (Closed variation). Daniil Dubov of Russia upset former World Championship Challenger Sergey Karjakin. The latter, a defence stalwart, lost his bearing in the unforgiving format.
In a bid to protect his pawn in the seventh rank (b7) with knight, Anand saw a potent offensive idea and sacrificed his knight on the 23rd move.
Though he drew Kovalyov’s uncastled king to the centre of the board, Anand could not give finishing touches to the attack. Though Anand was two pawns up (5 vs 3) in rooks vs rooks and bishop ending, he lost his ‘b’ pawn and could not recover his piece. He had to resign.
Anand, who won his first World title in this format in 2001 in the absence of Kasparov, Karpov and Kramnik, had lost to his unfancied opponent in 43 moves of Sicilian Najdorf defence on Wednesday