Magnus Carlsen who had come close to a win in the fourth game, outplayed the formidable world champion in the fifth game on Friday, thereby taking a 3-2 lead in this battle for chess supremacy.
If in Game 4, Carlsen had shown enough indications of understanding and grasping the intricacies of a short match of this type, the confirmation of the same came after 58 moves on Friday in game 5. The chess world and all will now await Anand’s response to this defeat.
Carlsen’s chose of the English Opening was not surprising since it often transposes in regular queen-pawn openings. Anand quickly responded and countered by advancing his king pawn one square, making it clear that he was going to depend on the Meran Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined, which he had successfully used against Kramnik, Topalov and Gelfand.
On move four, Carlsen opted for an uncommon choice, leaving spectators wondering if he was actually going to play the sharp attacking variation with a pawn sacrifice. However, with a positional retreat on the sixth move, Carlsen made it clear that he was, once again, aiming for a slow, solid game.
On move 10, Carlsen developed his queen instead of the queenside rook, making it clear that he was intending to castle on the queenside. Anand replied with precise moves, forcing his young opponent to exchange queens. This resulted in a dynamically balanced queenless middlegame where Anand’s pawn structural weakness was compensated by his pair of bishops against Carlsen’s bishop and knight.
The challenger tried to create a bind on the queenside by advancing his pawns but the champion found the correct simplifying moves exchanging a piece, thereby forcing a draw-type ending with two rooks, a bishop and 5 pawns each.
Carlsen had a slight advantage at that stage and decided to press hard, trying to penetrate Anand’s camp with his rooks. Anand defended in an extremely active and sharp manner rather than the passive option and even got initiative against enemy king. On move 34, Anand played a seemingly aggressive rook move, which was -- in his opinion-- responsible for his loss. This move began a sequence of possibilities with multiple captures and recaptures making the position more complex and battle even more intense.
Carlsen defended extremely well against Anand’s aggressive play and found out precise defensive moves, thereby eliminating a powerfully placed enemy rook. When the smoke cleared by move 50, Anand was two pawns down in a theoretically losing rook-and-pawn ending. Anand gave up the hopeless battle on move 58.
The writer is India’s third GM and has been playing chess for 42 years