Magnus Carlsen consolidated his position with an easy draw on Tuesday in the eighth game. It saw a well prepared Carlsen choosing the King Pawn opening – something he hadn't done in this contest so far.
As expected, Anand replied with the Berlin Defence of the Ruy Lopez Spanish
game, a solid defence the players had used against each other eight times before the meeting in Chennai.
Carlsen used a rare option of attacking the black knight with a rook on the fifth move, the move chosen by him against Anand twice before - in 2010. Anand deviated from their previous game on the seventh move but the significant strategic change came on move 8 when Carlsen chose to transfer his queenside knight to the kingside.
Carlsen played very fast in this game, making the first 22 moves in just 11 minutes. It left Anand guessing as to what the challenger was up to - an unambitious middlegame or some hidden weapon under the disguise of a dull opening.
Therefore, Anand took his time in the opening and found the most accurate equalising moves, exchanging a rook and both bishops. But as he did, the position became extremely simple and both sides were left with only a queen, a rook, a knight and seven pawns each after a mere 21 moves.
On move 23, Carlsen attacked Anand's queen, intending to play a simplifying combination involving a temporary queen sacrifice, thereby eliminating all the pieces left on the board.
Of course, there was a hidden tactical trap laid by the challenger as well but Anand easily saw through it and got his queen back to the correct square, thereby permitting the simplification intended by Carlsen. When the smoke cleared by move 28, the players were left with just the king and seven pawns each.
They settled for a draw on the 33rd move, after playing five insignificant moves in a "dead drawn". The total time consumed by the challenger for the entire game was just 20 minutes.
The ninth game will be played on Thursday, after a rest day, where the defending champion will have white. Trailing 3-5, Anand will have to win at least two games in order to get into a tie-break while just three more draws are enough for Carlsen to win the most prestigious crown in the field of chess.
The writer is India's third GM and has been playing chess for 42 years
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