More than a must-win game, it was a must-not-lose situation for Viswanathan Anand.
The World champion achieved the primary objective of coming out undefeated in 32 moves without ever looking good enough for more in the seventh encounter of the World chess championship match against Magnus Carlsen.
For those expecting more, there was very little to be excited about. Neither player created any serious chances in this otherwise dull draw lasting just over two hours.
For the record, with five games to go, Carlsen leads 4.5-2.5 and needs another two points to dethrone Anand.
During the rest day on Sunday, Team Anand obviously had more on its plate. Though Carlsen chose to go out and play “a bit of football and basketball,” Anand stayed in the hotel room because he “had some work to do.”
Obviously, Anand was looking to get a pleasant result after two successive losses. Though the draw did not hurt either player, Carlsen enjoyed a psychological high after coming out unscathed in his second successive game with black pieces. In the remaining games, Carlsen plays white thrice and black, twice.
On his part, Anand did not see the outcome as an opportunity lost to gain more from the white pieces.
“Obviously, after the last two games, it’s nice to break this result. I was hoping to be able to press him a bit… I did not manage very much, to be honest,” was how the champion described his thoughts at the press conference.
Ahead of Monday’s clash, Carlsen had understood Anand's psychology pretty well. As he observed after the game, “There was no doubt that the outcome of Game Five influenced the next game. You just try to move on as fast as you can. It’s not so easy especially if you have lost, of course”
No wonder, Carlsen resisted the temptation to be aggressive against his rattled rival. He played the position without trying too hard to enhance his prospects.
In fact, once again Carlsen employed the Berlin Defence to counter Anand’s choice of Ruy Lopez. Both players had played this line in the past. As Carlsen described it,
“There were different plans but whatever you play, its quite slow… the game goes on quite slow.”
Indeed, it did.
Anand chose to trade his bishop for a knight early to leave Carlsen with a doubled-pawn on the queenside.
Once the players castled on the queenside, Anand initiated a single-pawn roll on the kingside with an idea of controlling the resultant, vacant extreme-file.
Soon, all four rooks were off the board, making their way out from this file.
Explaining his decision to advance the king-rook pawn, Anand said, “I thought I would be able to press a bit. I know it’s not huge… somehow, I did not make it happen.”
Carlsen, too, looked in control. Assessing his position on the board, Carlsen said, “It’s always going to just be tiny bit more pleasant for white. My pieces are well developed, I’ve no particular weaknesses. I don’t think I should be in any major trouble.”
Before the game ended following repetition of moves, Carlsen created a slight tactical possibility. After 25 moves, Carlsen invited an illusionary pawn-fork for his queen and knight. Anand stayed away from indulging in any exercise that gave rise to artificial excitement.
Carlsen, too, did not show any eagerness to test Anand further in an equal position, like he did with success in the last two games.
Carlsen’s choice of continuation reflected, to a certain extent, the logic behind the decisions he takes.
Though experts consider his ability to calculate as the main reason for his success, it is increasingly clear that his depth of understanding of a given position, or a game, places him among the creamy-layer of the elite players.
As Carlsen aptly summed up, “I thought I was doing fine, (may be) just a bit worse but whatever happened in the game was just drawish. I am fine with that. I have the lead. I won my last game with black, so this suited me fine.”
Game Seven: Viswanathan Anand (India, 2.5) drew with Magnus Carlsen (Norway, 4.5) in 32 moves.