Over the next three weeks, the world shall know whether Viswanathan Anand’s impressive head-to-head record against Magnus Carlsen was just a piece of statistics or a number symbolic of the Indian’s overall superiority over a young man whose time as the World champion was yet to come.
For the statistically-minded, Anand and Carlsen faced-off 70 times across all formats. Importantly, in the 29 times that the two met in classical time-format, Anand has won six, Carlsen three and the rest were draw.
With less than 48 hours to go for their 30th encounter, here is a summary of the nine decisive battles.
19-2-2007: Morelia-Linares Tournament, third round, Carlsen (2690) lost to Anand (2779) in 40 moves. Anand 1, Carlsen 0.
In this Semi-Slav (Meran System) game, Carlsen erred with a rook-move on the 17th turn. With Anand sensing his chances and keeping the pressure, Carlsen panicked on the 27th move with a bishop-move and made it easy for Anand.
4-3-2007: Morelia-Linares Tournament, Anand (2779) beat Carlsen (2690) in 38 moves. Anand 2, Carlsen 0.
In Closed Ruy Lopez, Carlsen’s 12th move surprised Anand who chose to deviate from his usual systems. The bishop-thrust on the 24th move, a knight-move on the 27th turn, ensured Carlsen’s position collapse. Anand rated this as his best win of the event.
25-1-2008: Corus Tournament, Carlsen (2733) lost to Anand (2799) in 42 moves. Anand 3, Carlsen 0.
In this Sicilian Scheveningen game, lasting 42 moves, Carlsen played aggressively against the World champion as though he had nothing to lose. In this battle, Anand withstood the pressure well, secured his position and slowly emerged stronger. Though Carlsen lost, his spirited attack came in for praise.
17-2-2008: Morelia-Linares tournament, Carlsen (2733) lost to Anand (2799) in 59 moves. Anand 4, Carlsen 0.
Carlsen made a rare choice on the 10th move of this Semi-Slav game. Anand slowly gained more space on the kingside. The decisive swing came with Anand’s rook-move on the 34th turn. He denied Carlsen’s king the fortress by the 36th move and ensured victory.
25-2-2009: Linares tournament, Carlsen (2776) beat Anand (2791) in 77 moves. Anand 4, Carlsen 1.
Anand faltered on the 11th move of this Semi-Slave game. Anand’s passive play continued. Though Carlsen allowed Anand some breathing space, the Indian’s scattered pieces could not build a strong defence. Anand’s 57th move cleared the way for Carlsen’s first victory over the World champion.
10-10-2010: Grand Slam Final, Carlsen (2826) lost to Anand (2800) in 45 moves. Anand 5, Carlsen 1.
In this Ruy Lopez game that followed the Steinitz variation, Carlsen played like the World No. 1 for the better part of the game until the erroneous knight manoeuvre on the 33rd move. Anand eventually won with a spare bishop.
10-12-2010: London Chess Classic, Anand (2804) beat Carlsen (2802) in 77 moves. Anand 6, Carlsen 1.
In Breyer variation of Ruy Lopez, Anand enjoys mastery. Carlsen held on well but a “huge oversight” on the 24th move, pushed him back. Anand missed chances to close the game but tortured Carlsen for another two hours and proved superior.
12-10-2012: Final Masters, Carlsen (2843) beat Anand (2780) in 30 moves. Anand 6, Carlsen 2.
By the 19th move of this Sicilian Defence Moscow Variation game, Carlsen had emerged with a clear plan. With Anand’s pieces not well placed to defend the castled king, Carlsen won with ease.
18-6-2013: Tal Memorial, Carlsen (2864) beat Anand (2786) in 29 moves. Anand 6, Carlsen 3.
In this Nimzo Indian battle, Carlsen scored a crushing victory without being even a pawn-up! Anand’s passive approach coupled with the undermining of the consequences Carlsen’s pawn-push on the centre of the board resulted in the most-talked about game between the two. This was also their last meeting before the World-title clash.