Chess: Pressure could be decisive at the business end

Updated - November 17, 2021 11:06 am IST

Published - November 22, 2014 04:23 pm IST - Sochi (Russia)

Trailing by a full point with just two games remaining, Viswanathan Anand would desperately need a victory to stay afloat against Magnus Carlsen in the World Championship match in Sochi on Sunday.

Trailing by a full point with just two games remaining, Viswanathan Anand would desperately need a victory to stay afloat against Magnus Carlsen in the World Championship match in Sochi on Sunday.

More than the much-talked about opening preparation, pressure could be a factor for Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand as their World chess championship heads for the business end over the next three days.

With two rounds to go, Carlsen cannot take his one-point lead for granted. Anand, on the other hand, needs no reminding that he does not have too many opportunities to assert himself.

In Sunday’s 11th and penultimate game, Carlsen is expected to try harder than ever to finish the match with a round to spare. In the last two games where Carlsen played with white pieces, Anand improved his showing after the loss in Game 6. He battled to a 122-move draw in Game 7 followed by the miniature 20-move peace treaty in Game 9.

Team Carlsen is sure to give it all with white pieces to help the World champion sign off his title-defence in great style.

Anand wouldn’t complain if Carlsen comes aggressively at him. In the past, several players in tournaments have tried to press Anand hard with white pieces but ended up on the losing side. Team Anand will be hoping Carlsen to overreach and give Anand some chances of a counter-attack.

Staying undefeated on Sunday will obviously be paramount for Anand. Besides depending on his defensive skills when sitting behind black pieces, Anand will also have to stay alert right through the game, no matter how long it lasts, to latch on any chance that Carlsen could offer.

Biggest question But the biggest question revolves around Anand’s response to Carlsen’s opening move.

So far, Anand’s opening preparation, in all but one game, has looked sound. But will he try a sharper reply to Carlsen’s much-anticipated king-pawn opening? 

He did try Sicilian Defence twice but the results were not encouraging.

Carlsen, who has expressed his preference for Queen-pawn opening, could also spring a surprise by opting for it on Sunday.

Anand has a good result in Slav and semi-Slav variations from the black side.

Much will depend on Carlsen’s approach during the 11th game. He also holds the option of playing out a draw and leave Anand with a must-win situation on Tuesday in the final game.

More than once during the match in Sochi, Carlsen has spoken about his dissatisfaction over the quality of his play. Though he is leading by a point, Carlsen is looking a little vulnerable by his own standards.

Like in Chennai where Carlsen found the strongest options available on the board with amazing regularity, the past fortnight has seen the him play a notch or two below his best.

Notwithstanding the one-point deficit, Anand has played above expectations if one were to evaluate the players based on the playing strengths, reflected by their current rating.

Interesting statistics For those statistically inclined, Carlsen started the match at a rating of 2863 — 71 points ahead of Anand. But going by the performances of the players in the 10 games played so far, Carlsen has performed at 2828 and Anand at 2827!

On Sunday, a comfortable draw will not be such a bad result for Anand. But if Anand can bring Carlsen under serious pressure, it could also shake the Norwegian’s confidence going into the final game with black pieces. So far, Anand has not been able to improve his position from an equal middle-game. The only time Anand won, in Game 3, he was better from the start. Therefore, Anand’s mindset will be among the key factors when playing with black. Can he afford to invite Carlsen to pursue a double-edged position?

Going by Anand’s track record, he is not expected do anything extravagant in Game 11. He will certainly be looking for Carlsen to lower his guard should the Norwegian adopt an aggressive approach. But given the match-situation, draw appears the most likely outcome on Sunday.

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