Carlsen certainly seems to be moving down a gear as the world title comes tantalisingly close, writes IAN ROGERS
Viswanathan Anand has adopted a high-risk strategy in his attempt to retain the World Championship title he has held since 2007.
After losing two five hour games on Friday and Saturday to Norwegian challenger Magnus Carlsen, most pundits expected Anand to come out with all guns blazing in the next two games. Instead, Anand has played two rock-solid draws.
Carlsen seemed more than satisfied with the draws, which brought him to within a point and a half of the world title, and for the first time he appeared completely relaxed at the press conference after Tuesday's game.
To the casual spectator, and perhaps to Carlsen, Anand had just wasted two opportunities to get back into the match, leaving him only four chances to win two games and force the match into tiebreakers.
Anand, however, views matters differently.
After his second consecutive loss in game six, Anand was at a low ebb, knowing that a single further loss would end his title defence.
He could choose to try to recover his losses immediately, as many a gambler would try to recover losses at a casino.
Anand, however, decided to be a smart gambler. He would stop the losses with solid play, give himself a rest day on Wednesday, and return to battle when he felt re-energised and the two defeats were a fading memory.
In doing so, he could hope to lure Carlsen into a false sense that the match was effectively over and that Anand was a beaten man, just going through the motions before handing over the world title.
The risk involved in playing dead in two games is considerable.
Anand is still only one loss away from oblivion and must now win two games out of four against an opponent he has not beaten in their past 19 encounters.
For the plan to succeed, Anand must have the stars aligning in his favour. Not only must the World champion find his best form and convert advantages — an area in which he has faltered earlier in the match — but he must also hope that Carlsen's level drops slightly.
Whether this happens due to over-confidence, or nerves, or just the fact that Carlsen is not superhuman, will not concern Anand — he just needs Carlsen to have a bad day. After all, the Norwegian has lost four tournament games in 2013 — three of them in the part of the game in which he is supposedly strongest, rook endings — so he is not invincible.
Carlsen certainly seems to be moving down a gear as the world title comes tantalisingly close, his game 8 strategy of “hoping to set him a few traps” is not the way Carlsen usually approaches a battle with Anand.
At the post-game press conference, Anand tried not to give Carlsen any cause for concern, talking about having had two relatively easy games and making neutral comments such as “The match situation is fairly clear.”
Perhaps Anand remembers the Rocky boxing movies, where Sylvester Stallone invariably survives a beating to rise up from the canvas and knock out his opponent with one massive punch.
Anand will be hoping that similar come-backs are not reserved for fictional characters and that he can deliver his own knock-out blow to Carlsen. Twice.
Australian Grandmaster IAN ROGERS is in Chennai