"In Chennai, the score was 2-2 after four games. Here it's also 2-2, I don't see any difference," Magnus Carlsen had said after the fourth game ended in a draw at Sochi on Wednesday.
Carlsen alluding to his Chennai victory on Wednesday was more an exercise in boosting his confidence than anything else, as even the Norwegian's most ardent followers would agree that Viswanathan Anand has won the first psychological battle in the World Championship clash hands down.
The Indian maestro now has to maintain the good work of the last three days if he has to regain the title he lost 12 months back. The pressure was on Anand when the match started, mainly because of his capitulation in Chennai - from 2-2 after the fourth game, Anand went down 6.5-3.5. His failure to win even a single game out of the 10 was a disappointment not only for his fans but also for the 'Madras Tiger' himself.
The 44-year-old Indian's escape to draw in the opening game in Sochi and defeat in the second raised fears of another Chennai, but the way Anand turned the tables on Carlsen in the last two games has his fans swooning. The third game made it clear that this was not the defensive Anand from Chennai but a tiger on the prowl capable of mauling a player hitherto considered invincible.
But what gladdened the hearts of his fans more was the Indian grandmaster's performance in Game 4 when he held Carlsen in a dry position that the latter thrives on. The problem for Anand against Carlsen so far has been that the Norwegian avoids the most popular opening moves, even if it means choosing moves that are not considered the best.
Carlsen just tries to obtain a position in the opening which gives him possibilities for creative play later on in the game and thus negates one of Anand's core strengths - his opening preparation. In Chennai, the Indian used to get defensive in such situations, play passively and land in trouble in long-drawn battles.
In Game 4 in Sochi, Anand consciously avoided passive play even as Carlsen tried to provoke mistakes by poking here and there. The Indian played aggressive moves and found the right response to his rival's probing forays. His confidence restored after beating Carlsen for the first time since 2010 and holding him on equal terms in a position that the latter enjoys, Anand has wrested the initiative. He can now attack Carlsen in the fifth game on Friday when he plays with white again. Anand should go for another sharp opening and pile on the pressure.