Game 7: Passive Anand holds Carlsen in a marathon

Published - November 18, 2014 03:13 am IST

Norway's Magnus Carlsen, currently the top ranked chess player in the world, right,  makes a move as he plays against India's former World Champion Vishwanathan Anand at the FIDE World Chess Championship Match in Sochi, Russia, Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Artur Lebedev)

Norway's Magnus Carlsen, currently the top ranked chess player in the world, right, makes a move as he plays against India's former World Champion Vishwanathan Anand at the FIDE World Chess Championship Match in Sochi, Russia, Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Artur Lebedev)

In a cerebral discipline like chess, bravado sometimes serves as a surprise weapon. If the rival happens to be the game’s strongest player in a World title-match, there is always a strong likelihood of the ploy backfiring.

Trailing by a point and needing to at least hold Magnus Carlsen to a draw in Game 7, Anand boldly chose an opening that had backfired in Chennai last year. Anand looked fine into the middle game but Carlsen pushed him hard for the next five hours.

Anand eventually found the drawing continuation on the 70th move. Carlsen, however, kept the challenger busy by searching for more options. Anand, with less time on the clock, held firm.

Fabiano Caruana, the World No.2, seemed to have read it early; he tweeted: “Seems like people are overestimating white’s chances. The ending looks pretty drawish to me.” But it needed precise continuation from Anand to survive.

After suffering a loss with black pieces on Saturday, Anand was expected to prepare a suitable response to Carlsen for the crucial game.

Anand’s choice, if executed correctly, usually leads to a draw. Given Anand’s abilities to defend and Carlsen’s end-game skills, the game was fought for 122 moves though the result became clear much earlier. Eventually only the two kings and Carlsen’s knight were left on the board.

Carlsen would have been somewhat pleased with Anand choosing to repeat the Ruy Lopez Berlin seen in Game 2. After ending up losing that game, Anand was not expected to invite Carlsen to play the position again. But Anand seemed to back himself to get into Carlsen’s territory and come out unhurt; pulling it off would earn him a psychological point under the given circumstances.

When talking about his approach against Carlsen last year, Anand had said: “I made a decision not to avoid long games; well, not to be scared of them. If a long game happens, I should be ready to face a long battle, and if I make my point and confront him there, at his strongest point admittedly; if I can play a good long game and defend well, then it takes the pressure off me for everything else.”

Perhaps, Anand entered Monday’s game in a similar mindset. The fact that both players reeled off the first 23 moves rapidly, needing less than a minute per move, showed they were still in their home-preparation.

Until Anand’s 24th move, the position was identical to the one seen between Anish Giri and Teimour Radjabov this year in Tashkent. That game ended in a 52-move draw.

For the second successive day, the early queen-exchange dislodged Anand’s king. It did not matter since Anand looked prepared and was ready to get into the laborious Berlin endgame, with fewer pieces.

The first signs of worry for Anand came to the fore when he took nearly 28 minutes to respond to Carlsen’s knight move on the 28th turn. In comparison, by this time, Carlsen had consumed only 25 minutes.

In fact, Anand’s chosen move — bringing his knight to the centre of the board — only made things fractionally better for Carlsen. With plenty of time on his hands, Carlsen spent nearly 25 minutes to respond.

Thereafter, Anand did play with an extra pawn in the middle game but never really held any advantage. Once Carlsen exerted pressure from the kingside, Anand sensed trouble and sacrificed his bishop for a pawn.

Though white looked objectively better placed to win, Anand forced a position of his choice and, with it, kept the interest in the contest alive.

Game 7 Moves:

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.O-O Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.h3 Ke8 10.Nc3h5 11.Bf4 Be7 12.Rad1 Be6 13.Ng5 Rh6 14.g3Bxg5 15.Bxg5 Rg6 16.h4f6 17.exf6 gxf6 18.Bf4 Nxh4 19.f3 Rd8 20.Kf2Rxd1 21.Nxd1 Nf522.Rh1 Bxa2 23.Rxh5 Be6 24.g4 Nd6 25.Rh7 Nf7 26.Ne3Kd8 27.Nf5 c5 28.Ng3 Ne5 29.Rh8+ Rg8 30.Bxe5 fxe5 31.Rh5 Bxg4 32.fxg4Rxg433.Rxe5 b6 34.Ne4 Rh4 35.Ke2 Rh6 36.b3 Kd7 37.Kd2 Kc6 38.Nc3a639.Re4 Rh2+ 40.Kc1 Rh1+ 41.Kb2 Rh6 42.Nd1 Rg6 43.Ne3 Rh6 44.Re7 Rh245.Re6+ Kb7 46.Kc3 Rh4 47.Kb2 Rh2 48.Nd5 Rd2 49.Nf6 Rf2 50.Kc3 Rf451.Ne4 Rh4 52.Nf2 Rh2 53.Rf6 Rh7 54.Nd3 Rh3 55.Kd2 Rh2+ 56.Rf2 Rh457.c4 Rh3 58.Kc2 Rh7 59.Nb2 Rh5 60.Re2 Rg5 61.Nd1 b5 62.Nc3 c6 63.Ne4Rh5 64.Nf6 Rg5 65.Re7+Kb6 66.Nd7+ Ka5 67.Re4 Rg2+ 68.Kc1 Rg1+ 69.Kd2Rg2+ 70.Ke1

bxc4 71.Rxc4 Rg3 72.Nxc5 Kb5 73.Rc2 a5 74.Kf2 Rh3 75.Rc1 Kb4 76.Ke2Rc3 77.Nd3+ Kxb3 78.Ra1 Kc4 79.Nf2 Kb5 80.Rb1+ Kc4 81.Ne4 Ra3 82.Nd2+Kd5 83.Rh1 a4 84.Rh5+ Kd4 85.Rh4+ Kc5 86.Kd1 Kb5 87.Kc2 Rg3 88.Ne4Rg2+ 89.Kd3 a3 90.Nc3+ Kb6 91.Ra4 a2 92.Nxa2 Rg3+ 93.Kc2 Rg2+ 94.Kb3Rg3+ 95.Nc3 Rh3 96.Rb4+ Kc7 97.Rg4 Rh7 98.Kc4 Rf7 99.Rg5 Kb6 100.Na4+Kc7 101.Kc5 Kd7 102.Kb6 Rf1 103.Nc5+ Ke7 104.Kxc6 Rd1105.Rg6 Kf7106.Rh6 Rg1 107.Kd5 Rg5+ 108.Kd4 Rg6 109.Rh1 Rg2 110.Ne4 Ra2 111.Rf1+Ke7 112.Nc3 Rh2 113.Nd5+ Kd6 114.Rf6+ Kd7115.Nf4 Rh1 116.Rg6 Rd1+117.Nd3 Ke7 118.Ra6 Kd7 119.Ke4 Ke7 120.Rc6 Kd7 121.Rc1 Rxc1 122.Nxc1 Draw agreed .

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