The battle of wits in the World Chess Championship is just two days old, but the psychological advantage has already swung both ways.
In less than 24 hours of a comfortable draw with black pieces against Magnus Carlsen in the first round, Viswanathan Anand found out how it feels to have the boot on the other foot.
Playing white, Anand was “mildly surprised” by his younger rival’s choice of opening in their 25-move draw. Unable to solve the riddles posed by Carlsen, Anand chose to force a draw by repetition of moves — just the way the Norwegian did on Saturday.
After Anand held no surprise by pushing the king-pawn on the opening move, Carlsen displayed his preparation in Carokann Defence.
The first 13 moves, that followed the time-tested classical variation, saw Anand take 10 minutes. In contrast, Carlsen needed precisely 115 seconds!
By this time, it was clear that Carlsen had worked deep into Anand’s games during his preparations. Having won many battles in this particular variation of Carokann Anand was expected to be comfortable.
But, that was not to be.
Though Anand was never in any serious trouble, it was evident that Carlsen was better prepared for the challenge. When Anand did get a chance to test the young man’s preparations — by avoiding the exchange of queens that Carlsen came for, after 17 moves, the World champion initiated the trading of the strongest piece on the board. This move was an indication that Anand was reconciled to a draw with white.
Later, speaking on Carlsen’s choice of opening, Anand candidly said: “It was a mild surprise. It was not that I didn’t expect to be surprised. But I hadn’t focussed my efforts on Carokann, in this particular variation.”
Clearly influenced by the events of Saturday, Anand said: “Today it’s my turn to tender a small apology. The position we got after, say, move 12, is a very sharp one. I studied it in the past and it’s a very complicated position. And, I hadn’t really expected it. That’s clear.
“So I had to decide whether I wanted to fly blind. It’s clear that he would have been much more into the details than I would have. So I chose this solid line.
“There was nothing very terribly convincing for him but he went straightaway for the queen-exchange. I decided to be a little bit prudent today. Essentially, after the queen-exchange there is nothing much happening.”
Carlsen also agreed that the critical point came after 17 moves. “After the exchange of queens, he closes up the king-side. I close up the queen-side. There is nothing to play for,” he said.
On the two short draws so far, Carlsen said: “I feel, it’s pretty much like my start to (this year’s) Candidates tournament (where he drew the first round with black against Levon Aronian in 31 moves, followed by another draw with white, in 30 moves, against Vladimir Kramnik).
“We’ll see what happens here. As Vishy said, we are just settling in a bit. When you are caught out in preparation, it’s hard to go for sharper lines when you don’t know what you are getting.”
Everything being equal so far, going into the first free day on Monday, Carlsen should be happier than Anand who plays black next.
The result: Game Two: Viswanathan Anand (India, 1) drew with Magnus Carlsen (Norway, 1) in 25 moves.