The best evaluation of the beginning came at the end.
“What matters is what is happening here and so far it’s not been that much,” said Magnus Carlsen on Sunday evening.
Two games, two short draws with Viswanathan Anand and Carlsen still sizing each other up could have left chess fans disappointed but it also possibly means that we are in for a long haul before a champion is crowned.
“This is the hardest. He’s been world champion for many years and he’s beaten my other main opponents,” replied Carlsen when asked if he’s been put through a sterner test, the answer coming faster than his moves on a chess board.
Unbeaten since 2007, having destroyed Vladimir Kramnik, Veselin Topalov and Boris Gelfand, Anand concurred. “Obviously, Magnus’s results over the past few years speak for themselves,” he said. Carlsen’s not lost to Anand in three years.
Preferring prudence to panache, Anand also offered a “slight apology” for the second game taking even less time than the first.
“I think it was on move 12 that it got sharp and complicated. I hadn’t really expected it. He would be more prepared to deal with that, much more into the details. I could have chosen to play blind or choose a solid line...After the queens’ exchange, there was not much happening... Sure there will be a lot of better games than these two,” he said.
Like after Saturday’s opener, Carlsen found a reference point in the candidates’ meet in London earlier this year to describe how his first shot at the world title has gone so far.
“I didn’t really know what to expect. So far, it’s been a little bit similar to the candidates’ tournament where I had an easy draw in black and gave my opponent an easy draw in black. That took off really quickly.
“When you are caught out in preparation, it’s hard to go for sharp lines,” said Carlsen explaining Sunday’s 25-move stalemate and the first game that ended in 16.
“Carlsen’s negated whatever slight disadvantage he had after the first game,” said GM Saptarshi Roy Chowdhury, here to soak in the atmosphere of an event India has never seen before.
Having worked through the weekend means no Monday morning blues for the players. “I am going to relax a bit after some tough games,” said Carlsen drily. It could mean heading to his getaway resort and outdoor sport.
Sunday evening though was likely to be taken up by the Manchester United-Arsenal game.
“Whether we do that by shutting off the computers or do both, I don’t know but will definitely watch the match,” said Anand. “Oh, that! Now that you mention it, maybe I will watch it,” said Carlsen.