The world chess championship match between the defending champion Viswanathan Anand and the challenger Magnus Carlsen saw an unexpected twist as early as in the second game, though this too ended in a short draw.
On Saturday, it was the defending champion who had dominated the game from the start, confusing Carlsen with his subtle moves thereby forcing a quick draw. On Sunday, it was Carlsen who stole the show.
As expected, Anand went for his favourite King Pawn Opening, an attacking variation he has successfully deployed to outwit all-time greats such as Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov and many others legendary players. It appeared to be a perfect choice against the young inexperienced challenger who was obviously demoralised and upset after Saturday’s match.
However, Carlsen showed new facets of his personality. In the second game, he appeared to be extremely confident and took on the champion with the Caro-Kann Defence, an opening he had played just six times before.
Certainly, Anand had not expected this opening in this match, since he himself is a great master of this opening with both sides. Carlsen chose a sharp double-edged variation he had never played before. Anand was obviously taken aback by the challenger’s choice.
This particular option of black — the seventh move —became fashionable around 15 years ago but has actually lost popularity over five years ago. While the spectators were wondering what was the challenger up to, Anand continued with the common and obvious moves played before.
With his 11th move, Carlsen showed that he was indeed out for blood by choosing the most complicated line in the variation — which leads to extremely double-edged play — though results show that white has been more successful with it than black.
Clearly Carlsen had something up his sleeve. On move 14, Anand deviated from his recent game against Chinese Grandmaster Ding Liren only to walk into a theoretical novelty (a move never played before) by the challenger.
The challenger had put two options before the champion — to “fly blindly” as Anand put it later or adopt “the prudent course”.
Anand played a safe move, allowing his young opponent to exchange all the knights on the board and even offer exchange of queens.
When Anand chose to exchange queens on the 18th move, it became clear that the game was heading towards an obvious draw.
Rather than drag on fruitlessly, the champion decided to save his energy for the rest of the match. In an absolutely equal and dull endgame, Anand decided to force the matters by a repetition of moves, which leads to a draw as per the rules of the game.
Avoiding repetition would have cost Carlsen a pawn, so the players agreed to a peace treaty on move 25.
Praveen Thipsay is India’s third Grandmaster and has been playing chess for the past 42 years