Anand fumbles, Carlsen retains crown with a game to spare

Updated - November 17, 2021 11:06 am IST

Published - November 24, 2014 12:48 am IST

Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand of India in action in Game 11 at Sochi on Sunday.

Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand of India in action in Game 11 at Sochi on Sunday.

In the end, indeed, it was pressure that made the decisive difference.

Just when Magnus Carlsen was fighting unexpected stress while sitting behind the white pieces, Viswanathan Anand, in a rare rush of blood, pulled the trigger at the wrong time and shot himself in the foot.

The Indian then staggered to a 45-move defeat that looked imminent from the moment he seriously erred in judgement on Move 27.

The questionable choice of move, described by Anand as a “nervous decision,” of trading his rook for a bishop backfired in quick time and Game 11 saw Carlsen keep the world chess title 6.5-4.5 with a game to spare in Sochi, Russia.

In just one move, Anand slipped from a promising position to defending a lost cause. Carlsen accepted the Indian’s generous offer and tightened the grip on the game, and world title.

Bad gamble

Explaining his decision that turned the game, Anand said, “I evaluated the position as equal (till that time). I can’t say why I went for the sacrifice. It was a bad gamble and I was punished.”

Till the middle-game of this dramatic encounter, that saw Anand play the Berlin Wall Defence in the Hermet variation of Ruy Lopez without allowing Carlsen any leeway, the Norwegian was finding it tough.

After Carlsen’s 23rd move, Anand was ahead on the clock and the position was equal. Then the Indian made his move from the queen-side that suddenly injected a fresh dose of excitement into this crucial encounter.

Anand temporarily offered a queen-side pawn for more active play for one of the rooks. It was Carlsen’s defensive bishop move that slightly tilted the scales in favour of Anand. An exchange of pawns followed and Anand’s king moved to a more strategic square.

Carlsen’s sense of danger alerted him and he quickly fell on the defensive. It was quite a strange position, with the two kings moving towards the centre of the board even though the players had the rook pair, three minor pieces and five pawns each!

It was clear that Anand had managed to worry Carlsen. By the time the Indian was required to make the 26th move, the clock showed 46 minutes for Anand for 25 moves, while Carlsen had 30 minutes for 24.

Trouble was brewing for Carlsen. Anand took 22 minutes — the most for a single move in the game — to find a fairly-strong continuation.

The position needed precise calculation from the players. For the first time, Anand fell behind on the clock but the pressure was still on Carlsen. Then came Anand’s decision to sacrifice his rook for a bishop to establish a queen-side pawn.

At this point, the computer evaluation heavily favoured Carlsen. Commentators like Russian Grandmaster Peter Svidler were quick to point out that the timing of Anand’s bold decision was questionable. Anand had no real immediate threat but Carlsen could push for victory.

Real struggle

“Perhaps, I didn’t play the best, say from Move 18 to 23. All of a sudden, this move (Anand’s 26th), created a lot of counter-play. I am very happy with the way I pulled myself together. After he gave up the exchange (rook for bishop), I played quite forcefully. He didn’t have many chances,” said Carlsen.

“I didn’t particularly want to come back for the 12th game with black (pieces). It was a bit more complicated than our previous games in which I had been white.

This day, it was a real struggle. I had the initiative, but he created counter-chances. Eventually, I handled the complications better than him.”

Evaluating his performance, the world champion said, “It’s been inconsistent. It was evidently good enough. I can still improve. I still did something good. For sure, he (Anand) did better than he did last time. He really pushed me till the end.”

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