With both players having had a chance to ‘test the pieces’, the third game assumes enhanced importance, writes Ian Rogers
Challenger Magnus Carlsen’s self-confidence has never been in doubt, but he had reason to be pleased after Sunday’s draw with World champion Viswanathan Anand.
Not only did Carlsen find an unpopular opening line against which Anand had enjoyed success and neutralise Anand’s efforts without raising a sweat, he was also cocky enough to explain to Anand precisely what he had intended had Anand played for an attack on move 18, the only move where Anand had a critical decision to make.
Such openness — comparable to Anand’s revealing his complete team at the opening press conference — is rare. So rare that it likely presages Carlsen’s intention to play something entirely new the next time he must sit behind the black pieces.
The so-called hit-and-run opening strategy was first employed by Anand himself in his 2010 match against Veselin Topalov — the match where Carlsen had acted as a sparring partner for Anand.
In truth, Anand had little choice but to jump from opening to opening in 2010, because Topalov had destroyed Anand’s key opening plan in the first game.
However, Carlsen would be employing the strategy by choice, leaving Anand’s seconds to waste time trying to find improvements in a line Carlsen may have no intention of repeating.
In doing so, Carlsen can try to turn Anand’s long experience and extensive tournament career into a negative.
Over the years Anand has played many of the model games upon which modern opening theory is based.
So important has Anand’s contribution to opening play been that Russian Grandmaster Alexander Khalifman has written a 14-volume series titled The Openings According to Anand, a work of such academic rigour that many young players treat it as their openings Bible.
For Carlsen, however, the series could also be viewed as a ‘How to beat Anand’ guide.
Carlsen can analyse Anand’s favourite lines, find new ideas, and then set out to prove that the World champion’s favourites are far less dangerous than their reputation.
Anand has played thousands of tournament games in his long career, so Carlsen has a good idea of which way Anand will jump against trendy and unfashionable opening moves alike. Carlsen, in contrast, has risen so quickly that his reactions in many opening positions cannot be predicted.
Carlsen’s plan worked a treat in game 2.
Anand varied from one of his own games from April by playing the moves recommended in Volume 3 of Khalifman’s tome and found that, after Carlsen initiated a series of accurate exchanges, he had nothing.
Then Carlsen saved Anand’s team some time — and rubbed a little salt into the wound — by informing Anand what would have happened had Anand tried a key alternative.
Any hopes raised in the Anand camp by the first game that Carlsen is not well prepared have been abandoned.
So with the score tied at 1-1 and both players having had a chance to ‘test the pieces’, the third game on Tuesday assumes enhanced importance.
Carlsen, playing for the second time with white, will be seeking to put Anand under pressure for the first time, while Anand will be looking for a repeat of his 2008 world title match against Vladimir Kramnik, when a counter-attacking third round win with black gave Anand the momentum to defeat the Russian favourite.
To add a little spice to the third game, legendary World champion Garry Kasparov, who played eight world title matches, will be present at the Hyatt Regency to watch the two chess gladiators in action.
Kasparov has a long history with Anand, being the player who stopped the Indian’s first world title challenge in 1995.
Kasparov also coached Carlsen for almost a year in 2009 — a relationship which ended somewhat abruptly.
Kasparov has made his preference for the Norwegian well known, arguing that generational change will be good for the game.
However, Kasparov’s chess technical knowledge remains outstanding and any comments the Russian makes on Tuesday’s game will be objective and authoritative.
So if Kasparov looks at the game position for more than 10 seconds and says that one player is in trouble, his supporters should be afraid, very afraid.
Australian Grandmaster Ian Rogers is in Chennai