The second half of the battle between Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand began amid a strong sense of excitement among the Indian chess lovers. Although Carlsen seems to have taken a formidable lead in the first half, this phase was far from one-sided.
Both players exhibited superb skills in all six games, making one wonder if the score was actually the right reflection of the quality of play.
That is why there is still some optimism among Anand’s fans despite the scoreline. I feel Anand has proved superior in judgment and strategic play in most games but seems to be missing his usual self-confidence. Should he succeed in regaining his self-confidence, he could still retain the crown.
Anand, who started with white in the second straight game, began with his favourite Ruy Lopez Spanish Opening, which was countered by Carlsen with his favourite Berlin Defence, hoping to repeat the position from games four and six.
As early as move 5, Anand chose to exchange a minor piece. It’s an idea of Veselin Topalov which Anand has successfully used against many top players including Vladimir Kramnik. However, Carlsen seemed prepared and chose to vary on move 6, thereby taking the world champion to unknown territory.
Both players castled on the queenside on move 12 making it clear that it was going to be a slow positional game with slight positional pull to white. On moves 14 and 15, Carlsen made apparently queer moves with a pawn and king on the queenside but these precise moves ensured him absolute equality.
Anand’s advantage evaporated with Carlsen’s precise, prophylactic moves. Although Anand continued his plan of pawn advance on kingside, it clearly lacked punch due to Carlsen’s well-placed pieces.
With all his pieces on optimal squares, Carlsen waited for Anand to open up the game on the kingside. When Carlsen forced exchange of all the rooks by move 24, it became obvious that the game was heading towards a dead draw.
The writer is India’s third GM and has been playing chess for 42 years