Defending champion Viswanathan Anand on Tuesday scared his Norwegian challenger Magnus Carlsen by cornering his queen in mid-game but lost momentum and allowed his challenger to catch up from behind and draw the third game of the World Chess Championship clash in Chennai.
The third game today turned out to be a hard fought affair lasting 51 moves after a rather sedate start that had seen the first two games ending in draws without any real excitement.
Midway into the third game today, Anand appeared to have seized the initiative with some 'spot on' manoeuvres, but world number one Carlsen saved the situation with his counter play.
Later at the post-game conference, Carlsen conceded that he felt "scary" though he averted the danger.
"I was worse, and then I probably made it more worse. I missed some simple things in the middle game, may be I had enough play and it was not a disaster but it was scary," Carlsen said.
After the third draw on the trot, the deadlock continues with none of the two rivals refusing to blink so far, but what happened at the Hyatt today was probably a clear indication that a rough battle is now shaping up.
The scores stand at 1.5 points for both players and the five-time champion Anand will have the advantage of playing with white pieces in the fourth game tomorrow.
Carlsen showed his intentions of a bloody battle when, contrary to the popular belief, repeated the Reti opening.
"I was expecting that Carlsen would jump from one opening to another," said Grandmaster R B Ramesh, who is a part of the live commentary team here.
As is typical of the Reti opening, the changes to several set ups is possible. Carlsen went for a position akin to the English opening that was more of a Sicilian Dragon with colours reversed.
What happened in first two?
The much-hyped World Chess Championship clash between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen started with a whimper with two draws and the third game also followed suit.
Understandably, rival players try to weigh each other in the initial stages of any world championship match and that seemed to be happening between defending champion Anand and young challenger Carlsen also.
If the first game showed five-time champion Anand at his best theoretically, Norwegian Carlsen gave it back in the second. In the third even after cornering carlsen's queen, Anand was not able to take advantage of it.
Maybe, world number one Carlsen was trying to provoke Anand to go for some 'wild complexities' but the vastly experienced Indian ace who has been in similar situations before, avoided any complications.
Anand has been part of many world championship title clashes while Carlsen would have had to train himself to find a fitting shoe.
Against Vladimir Kramnik in 2008, the first two games were drawn like here. Against Boris Gelfand, the first six ended in draws but against Veselin Topalov things were hot right from the start as the Bulgarian won the first game itself. In all these matches Anand won in the end.
In 1995 though, in the match against Garry Kasparov of Russia, Anand faced three different first moves in the first four black games. The fourth one also was a shift as Kasparov went for the Scotch opening from the Ruy Lopez.
Then, Kasparov found a flaw in one of the prepared positions and won the 10th game in great style. Anand's victory in ninth game proved inconsequential in the 20-game match as Kasparov's win had a great psychological impact.
Anand was no match and lost it by the 18th game itself.
Cat and mouse game?
Drawing their first three matches after enjoying a minor edge in each game does not mean world chess champion Viswanathan Anand and the title challenger Magnus Carlsen are playing a cat and mouse game, say chess experts.
They are testing each other's match strategies and nerves -- these are some of the views expressed after the two kings of chess signed peace treaty in their first two outings.
"It is certainly not a cat and mouse game. It is actually a fight between two lions," told chess grandmaster R.B. Ramesh .
According to him, spectators would love a decisive result but the stakes are high for both the players.
"They are inside arena to win the title and not to entertain the spectators. For them the end result - title winner or loser - is important," Ramesh added.
Agreeing with him is grandmaster B. Adhiban told: "There is no cat and mouse game between Anand and Carlsen. I thought Carlsen was playing for a win."
"In the first match Anand wanted to play safe. In the second, Anand could have played for complication, moving his queen to g4 square than exchanging it," Adhiban said.
According to him, Norwegian title contender Carlsen seems to take the game in unchartered territories to unsettle the world champion Anand at his home town.
"Carlsen does not want to engage Anand in opening moves," he added.
On Carlsen making his moves faster than the Anand, who was called the `lighting kid' during is childhood days, Adhiban said: "He is normally fast. Perhaps he is trying to intimidate Anand"
Chess old-timers who have tracked Anand's style of play since his childhood told that the champion had played three styles - aggressive (early days); aggressive and defensive (on his way to the top); and defensive (while at the top).
"He used to be very aggressive during his school days. Of late Anand avoids risks," V. Ravichandran, a former national player. He has seen Anand playing alongside during his junior days.
"Perhaps Anand thinks the title belongs to him and does not want to hand it over by going for risky variations," Adhiban added.
According to grandmaster Saptarshi Roy Chowdhury, who is here to watch the match, Anand and Carlsen may be exchanging information about their strategies with their first two games.
"I think it is going to be a full-fledged battle between the two in the coming days," told Chowdhury.
Well, that is what has brought N. Ramesh, who played chess along with Anand decades, ago here all the way from Dubai.
"I am with an insurance company in Dubai. India may throw up another World Chess Champion. I am not sure whether Chennai would host another event like this. This is a life-time opportunity and I decided to come here," told Ramesh.
Queried about the expense and the opportunity cost involved, he said "the proximate cause of so-called loss" is nothing as compared to the occasion.
The player who scores 6.5 points wins the title.
Who gets what?
If Carlsen wins the tournament, he would herald a new era in world championship. If Anand wins, he would be rated along with Garry Kasparov as the most successful world champion in modern chess.
There will be a rest day after the second, fourth, sixth, eighth, 10th, 11th and 12th games. After the sixth game, the colours will be reversed.
The players are fighting for a purse of $3 million with the winner standing to earn $1.45m and the loser just under $1m. Carlsen has already pocketed $137,000 of the prize fund for agreeing to play on his opponent’s home turf.
The time control for the 12 games will be: 40 moves in two hours for each player, the next 20 moves in one hour and 15 minutes for the rest of the game, with an increment of 30 seconds per move starting after move 61.
If the match goes into tiebreakers after a 6-6 tie in Classical chess, there will be a four 25-minute rapid chess games to break the tie. If that also ends in a tie, blitz chess mini-matches of two games each will be played. If the first set ends in a tie, the second, third and fourth will follow. In all five sets (10 games) will be played to break the tie.
Read More: Not intimidated by Kasparov, his presence doesn't affect the game, says Anand
Even then if the match is tied, the Armageddon (sudden death game) will be applied. In that game, white will get five minutes and black four but black needing only a draw to win the game and match. The rapid, blitz and Armageddon will have separate draw of lots to choose the colour.
The chief arbiter for the championship is, Ashot Vardapetyan from Armenia the same official who was in charge of the Anand-Boris Gelfand World championship match in 2012 in Moscow.