In the famous Blitz semifinal armageddon in 1994, Anand spends 1:43 minutes (from his 5 minutes available) on move 4, and ends up winning the game.

What exactly was he thinking? Are there any interviews (text, sound or video) available where he elaborates on his thought process?

[Title "Smirin - Anand, 1994"]
[Event "New York PCA/Intel-GP"]
[Site "New York, NY USA"]
[Date "1994.06.??"]
[Result "0-1"]
[White "Ilya Yulyevich Smirin"]
[Black "Viswanathan Anand"]
[ECO "C42"]
[PlyCount "100"]
[fen ""]
[startply "7"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. d4 Nxe4 4. Nxe5 {Here, Anand thinks for 1:43 minutes}
d6 5.Nf3 d5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.O-O
Be7 8.c4 Nb4 9.Be2 Be6 10.Nc3 O-O 11.Be3 Bf5 12.Rc1 dxc4
13.Bxc4 c6 14.Ne5 Nxc3 15.bxc3 Nd5 16.Qb3 f6 17.Qxb7 fxe5
18.Qxc6 Be4 19.dxe5 Kh8 20.Bd4 Rc8 21.Qa6 Nf4 22.f3 Rc6 23.Qa4
Rxc4 24.Qxc4 Bd3 25.Qc6 Ne2+ 26.Kh1 Nxd4 27.cxd4 Bxf1 28.Rxf1
Qxd4 29.f4 Qxe5 30.g3 Qc5 31.Qe4 Bf6 32.Kg2 Rc8 33.Rf2 Qc6
34.Qxc6 Rxc6 35.g4 h6 36.Kf3 Rc3+ 37.Ke4 Kh7 38.Re2 Rc4+
39.Kf5 Rc5+ 40.Ke6 Rc4 41.Rf2 Kg6 42.h3 Rc3 43.Rh2 Rf3 44.f5
Kg5 45.a4 Kh4 46.Kd5 Ra3 47.Kc6 Rxa4 48.Kb7 a5 49.Kb6 Ra3
50.Kb5 Rxh3 0-1

1 Answer 1


From a YouTube comment section dedicated to the game (I did not find the primary source, so it may be untrue):

Anand was asked about this in the interview after. Smirin did not play the opening Anand was expecting. In a finale like this, White must win and so will play something dangerous to avoid Black forcing a simple draw. When Anand saw that Smirin was deviating from his usual opening, he says that he stopped to think what players and tournaments Smirin had been in recently. He was trying to figure out if there was some new trap or opening that had been developed recently using that move. Once he had an idea what Smirin was going for (which could have been ten moves out), he decided what opening he would play to avoid that line.

The plan worked. Anand was able to prevent Smirin from getting any momentum in his attack. He sacrificed a piece to try to get a clear path for his center pawns (to try to queen one of them), but Anand was able to trade away enough pieces that Smirin couldn't keep the position active enough to win.

  • Sounds very plausible, in any case.
    – Annatar
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 12:44

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