Rakesh Rao

BONN: Viswanthan Anand chose to walk the tightrope but lost his balance and slipped into a hole before looking like lifting himself out of trouble after 42 moves of the ninth game of the World chess championship match here on Sunday.

Down a pawn for the better part of the game, Anand brought forth all well-known defensive skills into play. Kramnik, who looked like pressing for his first-ever win with black pieces over Anand, did not find the right continuation in mutual time-pressure but still held some advantage. The position was unclear with only Kramnik holding winning chances at the first time control when the players should complete 40 moves within the allotted two hours of thinking time.

Kramnik temporarily sacrificed a bishop and looked like playing an ending a rook-ending win a one-pawn advantage. Kramnik thought of nearly 30 minutes for two moves after the time-control in a desperate bid to find the winning line.

A draw will bring Anand within half-a-point of reaching the magic figure of 6.5 points in the best-of-12 games contest. A decisive result in Kramnik’s favour will make it 5.5-3.5 for Anand who will require one point from the remaining three games to retain the title.

Interesting battle

It turned out to be an interesting battle with Anand, contrary to all expectations, opted for a sharp variation in Semi-Slav Defence. This suited Kramnik as he needed a double-edged position to create chances and bring down Anand’s three-point lead. Anand continued with a line that opened up several tactical possibilities but also gave Kramnik an equal chance to capitalise on errors, in any.

Kramnik took the queenside pawn offered by Anand and continued comfortably without allowing the champion any big compensation. Anand won back the pawn by the 19th move but reached a situation where he needed to tread very carefully. Kramnik’s queen and bishop were in a position to harass Anand’s castled king. Therefore, it did not come as a surprise as the Indian spent a lot of time to play the 20th move.

Eventually, when Anand played a safe king-move, he had only 27 minutes to Kramnik’s 57. This meant Anand far less time left than his rival to complete a total of 40 moves before the first time-control.

It had reached a situation when Kramnik could have gained a decisive advantage with some very accurate continuation. So he took time to find the next piece of the jigsaw puzzle. This time, Kramnik took 23 minutes to make a choice and with Anand showing fine anticipation, and playing quickly, there was not much to choose between the time available for the two players.

Later, the players reeled off moves just in time to meet the first time control.

Russians excited

During the game, the Russians, including Kramnik’s former ‘second’ Evgeny Bareev, were very excited at the prospect of watching their countryman in a promising position. “Looks like Kramnik wants all of us to stay here longer in Bonn,” declared Bareev as he continued to figure out ways leading to possible victory for the challenger.

Kramnik pressed extremely hard for a win but Anand proved equal to the challenge. In spite of remaining uncomfortable throughout the game that entered the fifth hour — something of a rarity in the match so far. A series of exchanges diminished Kramnik’s chances and raised possibilities of a draw that clearly suited Anand.

But once Anand came up with a spirited fightback, the Russians slowly left Kramnik to his fate and left.

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