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Carlsen ‘happy to survive’

Rakesh Rao
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Chess / Third successive draw also tested players’ time-management skills

INSULATED:With the two players battling it out in a sound-proof enclosure, journalists watch challenger Magnus Carlsen take on current champion Viswanathan Anand on a big screen.— Photo: R. Ragu
INSULATED:With the two players battling it out in a sound-proof enclosure, journalists watch challenger Magnus Carlsen take on current champion Viswanathan Anand on a big screen.— Photo: R. Ragu

After two non-violent rounds, Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen were involved in a serious confrontation over the board.

Watched by former World champion Garry Kasparov — a known Carlsen supporter — the silent but serious debate, interspersed with brief stares that reflected their resolve to find a decisive outcome, lasted 51 moves spread over four hours.

There were stages in the game which Anand controlled and raised visions of drawing first blood. It is to Carlsen’s credit that he discovered his resources in time to defend adequately. Eventually, a third successive draw, that also tested the players’ time-management skills, did not separate the two title-aspirants.

But there was good news for Anand’s fans.

For the second time with black pieces, Anand was in control throughout the game. He pushed Carlsen around in the middle game where the Norwegian is known to step up the pace. Anand may not have taken the lead, but he looks confident. He is showing good form and signs of getting even better.

No wonder, Carlsen found his own position in the middle game “scary” and admitted, “I made a couple of misjudgements in the middle-game. My position was worse. I don’t know, I made it even worse. I underestimated the position (after Anand’s 27th move), I didn’t have any idea what was going on. I’m just happy to survive.”

After Carlsen chose to test the Indian for a second time in Reti Opening, the players varied early from the line seen in the first game. In fact, the two followed the opening sequence seen in the Yuri Kuzubov-Parimarjan Negi game of 2011 until Anand deviated with an interesting knight manoeuvre that instantly generated interest among those watching.

It was Carlsen’s 28th move, when he pushed a central-pawn, that gave Anand the initiative. Suddenly, there was a possibility of Anand gaining a queenside-pawn — which he eventually did — but Carlsen’s sense of danger and his timely defence denied the Indian.

Carlsen did well to keep Anand at bay till he extricated his queen from the bottom right-corner of the board. Thereafter, he actively countered Anand’s threats to neutralise the position. There was a possibility of Anand keeping alive his chances of a possible win ensuring the presence of the queens on the board while exchanging the rest of the pieces.

As in cricket, where the advanced technology-aided television replays make umpires look fallible, chess ‘engines’ offering optimum moves in any given position colour the judgement of those using them.

To be fair to the players, certain options filtered out by these ‘engines’ are almost impossible for the human brain to find out over the board in the given time constraints.

One such situation was seen during the game on this day. With both players requiring to hurry in order to complete 40 moves in their stipulated two hours of thinking time, Anand was convinced that his advantage was not enough to deny Carlsen the counter-play.

“Each time I go on a pawn-hunting expedition, he generates enough counter-play. Even when the queen floated around (on the fourth rank), it looked so close, but I didn’t see what I could do.”

Carlsen’s response summed up the day for him. “Maybe, I had enough play. But it was scary.”

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