Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen played out a cautious draw that appeared more comfortable for those watching.
A few tricks were tried out in Game Eight but they did not succeed in hoodwinking the one it was meant for.
After 33 moves, under 75 minutes, Carlsen and Anand were pleased to gain a “bonus evening” ahead of the rest day on Wednesday in their World chess championship clash.
Given the situation of the match, Carlsen looked happy to retain his two-point lead. The score of 5-3 after eight games means the Norwegian needs another 1.5 points from the remaining four clashes.
“Well, the match situation speaks for itself and it is my job to liven it up. I guess, I’ll try in the next,” assured Anand.
Carlsen, too, was categorical. “I didn't particularly mind a draw, as was evident from my play today.”
Not too desperate
Objectively, after two peaceful draws following an equal number of painful defeats, Anand did not look too desperate. Perhaps, on this day, it was part of his strategy to avoid a grinding, energy-sapping encounter.
A draw with black pieces is never considered a bad result. Anand, too, can take heart from this fact. However, for those expecting the champion to try harder for a win, the wait continues.
After Carlsen pushed his king-pawn to the fourth square to start the game, Anand took around a minute to respond. Never before in this match, a player consumed so much time for his first move. Was Anand looking to opt a sharp line, like the Siclian Defence, that creates more decisive possibilities? Or was he surprised by Carlsen’s choice of the first move?
“In general, in a match, you should not be surprised. Well, I had not prioritised e4 (the opening move played by Carlsen),” admitted Anand and continued, “I didn’t really know what his intentions were. Even in Sicilian, if you want to play a dry system, they are available. So it is not that there are clear options. I thought a little bit and decided to go for this.”
Soon, the game followed the opening sequence of the oft-repeated Ruy Lopez but not the same lines as seen previously this week.
The initial moves matched the ones seen in their drawn third-round clash of the 2010 Nanjing Pearl Spring tournament.
For 16 moves, the players belted out previously-played moves until Carlsen’s rook-move on the 17th provided an exciting change. In fact, Carlsen looked as comfortable till 22 moves as he was with the first 16, needing an average of just 30 seconds per move.
In contrast, Anand was spending much more time. In fact, the champion took over 30 minutes to decide on moving his rook on the 23rd turn.
It is not often that a game played on tested lines leaves the players with a king and seven pawns each before the 29th move!
Avoids the trap
There was a little trap that Anand laid, with his 24th move, to checkmate Carlsen. The Norwegian came out unscathed and forced another series of exchanges before draw was agreed.
Interestingly, Anand took 55 minutes to Carlsen’s 20 in the game for making the moves.
When questioned Carlsen responded, “With the line I chose, there was not too much to think about. The moves, pretty much, suggest themselves. They were played before so there was not too much think about. And I was in no mood to think either. And that influenced my decision (to draw).”
Game Eight: Magnus Carlsen (Norway, 5) drew with Viswanathan Anand (India, 3) in 33 moves.