Home Page Chess Life Online Archives Rogers on Chennai: Carlsen & Anand Tied After Four Draws
|Rogers on Chennai: Carlsen & Anand Tied After Four Draws|
|By GM Ian Rogers|
|November 13, 2013|
Most World Championship matches disappear into the city in which they are held.
Walking around Bonn in 2008, Sofia in 2010 or Moscow in 2012, a non-chessplaying citizen would be unlikely to realize that a million dollar chess match was taking place. (Topalov was featured on posters and buses in Sofia, but promoting a bank, not his match with Anand.)
However traversing the streets of Viswanathan Anand's home town of Chennai, a city of 9 million on the south-east coast of India, it is impossible to miss the fact that the World Chess Championship match is on.
Posters for the match are everywhere, with slogans such as “You always make the right move”, “You are unbeaten king” and “You are always our Champion”.
Yet there is one curious omission on these posters – any images of Anand or Carlsen. Instead it is the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa Jayaram, whose smiling visage dominates the posters.
She is the unbeaten king and it was her decision to allocate $6m of Tamil Nadu's money to bringing the world title match to Chennai.
Some visitors have wondered why Jayalalithaa has chosen to do so, three years before she must stand for election again. (In fact Jayalalithaa's commitment came earlier – Chennai bid unsuccessfully for the 2012 Anand-Gelfand match and were given the 2013 match by FIDE as a consolation.)
However other posters provide a hint of why Jayalalithaa is so prominent – her supporters want the former movie star to move up to become Prime Minister of India. Hosting a world title match which is news around India is a good start.
Certainly for some locals there is a feeling on unreality about the arrival of a World Championship match in India – the first title match to be held outside Europe since the 1995 Kasparov-Anand match in New York and the first competition in India involving Anand since 2000.
The playing hall in the Hyatt Regency ballroom is ideal, with soundproof glass separating the players from an enthusiastic crowd of 400 who have travelled from around India to see Anand and Carlsen in action. Tickets for seats are expensive, starting at around $40, but the organisers have allowed up to 100 to stand at the back of the hall, so the event is not entirely inaccessible to the masses.
Carlsen described his experience in Chennai as “[easily] better than expected. I am treated well everywhere and regardless of the result of the match, this [opinion] will not change.”
The only sour note - one which hardly affected the players - came with a heavy-handed attempt to exclude visiting legend Garry Kasparov from the media centre and the commentary room. The disrespect to Kasparov was pounced on by the local press, leading to a backdown. At a hastily arranged press conference, the FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos offered a straight denial that any such bans had existed, making a move of PR genius by accusing the journalists present of making up stories because the first two games were boring.
Meanwhile Kasparov decided not to embarrass the hosts by attempting to visit the once forbidden places and at game times alternated between sitting in the playing hall and analyzing the games with Indian GM Venkatash in the hotel's business centre. Of course the result was that the worldwide television and internet audience were deprived of a legend's views on the games, though Kasparov did use Twitter to voice his opinions – virtually all praise – about the play.
The praise has definitely been deserved. After two games which barely came out of the opening, the match has opened up with a near-miss for Anand in game three and an incredibly high class battle in game four.
The critical moment in game three – and perhaps Anand's one big chance in the match so far - came in the following position
Position after White's 33rd move
A few moves earlier, Anand had (correctly) refused a proffered pawn by Carlsen in order to play for attack and by now he had 12 minutes to 7 and a chance to launch an attack on either side of the board.
"He played this move immediately," said Kasparov, "but the queen is heading in the wrong direction. he needed to target f2 with 33...Rf8! and after 34.Bxd3 he has to find 34...Qd6! which is a funny sort of double attack - against g3 and on the d-file."
Kasparov had in mind the variation 35.Qg2 Rxf2! 36.Rxf2 Rf8 37.Raf1 Rxf2 38.Rxf2 Bxf2+ 39.Qxf2 Qxd3 when the queen endgame should be a slow but sure win for Black, e.g. 40.Qa7+ Kf6 41.Qf2+ Ke5 42.Qc5+ Ke4 and the Black king easily escapes the checks after which the e pawn can start advancing.
Anand hesitated before he played this capture, pulling his hand back for a minute before taking the pawn.
This was Anand's last chance to play 34...Rf8! 35.Bxd3 Qd6! and return to the variation in the last note. Of course 35...Qd6 is a hard move to see once you have committed your queen to b4.
Anand said that he looked at 35...Rxf2!? 36.Rxf2 Rf8 but decided that White would be fine after 37.Qe4! - "the upside was not clear to me," Anand added.
"I am sure Magnus stopped worrying now," said Kasparov. "He is a player who likes his pieces on healthy squares and he would not need to be asked twice to bring his queen back from h1."
35...Bf6 36.Rxd3 Rxd3 37.Rxd3 Rd8
"I saw 37...Bd4 ," said Anand, "but after 38.Qe2 I didn't see any way to make progress."
38.Rxd8 Bxd8 39.Bd3 Qd4 40.Bxb5 Qf6
Here Anand offered a draw but Carlsen decided to keep going, presumably since this was the best position he had had all game!
41.Qb7+ Be7 42.Kg2 g5 43.hxg5 Qxg5 44.Bc4 h4 45.Qc7 hxg3 46.Qxg3 e5 47.Kf3 Qxg3+ 48.fxg3
"If someone had knocked back a draw against me, I would have played
48...Bh4!," said Kasparov.
49.Ke4 Bd4 50.Kf5 Bf2 51.Kxe5 Bxg3+ Draw Agreed
The fourth game was an epic battle where opinions varied wildly.
Anand, convinced he had misplayed the opening badly believed he was in trouble.
Kasparov – also believing that Anand had misplayed the opening – was much more optimistic about Anand's chances and viewed Carlsen as the player who had to defend well to survive.
Carlsen was sure he was supposed to be better but could not understand how Anand kept finding counterplay.
Meanwhile, all the commentators and other mortals relying on computer analysis had Carlsen at half a pawn up for most of the game and because of the tyranny of the computer suggestions were not always able to appreciate just how accurately the two GMs were playing.
This cost Carlsen 7 minutes (of 43) and it needed a deep understanding of the position to realise that Black's king needs the a6 square urgently – e.g. 30...a6 would lead to difficulties after 31.Rdc1 Bd7 32.e6 fxe6 33.fxe6 Be8 34.Nd4.
Suddenly, with ...a4 stymied – Kasparov was looking forward to the variation 31...a4 32.bxa4 Bxf5 33.Rxc6! - Black has almost run out of moves. After another seven minutes Carlsen took a deep breath and played...
Anand used a quarter of an hour trying to make 32.e6 fxe6 33.fxg6 work but rejected it because of 33...Rh6.
Unwilling to risk Nakamura's tweeted positional exchange sacrifice 32.f6!?! Be6 33.Rxc6! Kxc6 34.Nd4+, Anand settled on a better line.
32...Bd7 33.e6 fxe6 34.fxe6 Be8 35.Ne4!!
White has no time to waste – 35.Kg2 Rh7 followed by 36...Re7 enables Black to consolidate.
This was Kasparov's suggestion but it throws away Carlsen's best winning chance of the game.
36...Rd8! was strong, not fearing discoveries such as 37.Nc5+ bxc5 38.Rxg4 Ne5! when Black has too many threats. Therefore White must try 37.Ke3 but after 37...Rd5 38.Nbc3 Re5! 39.Kf3 Rgxe4! 40.Rxe4 Rxe6! White will struggle to hold any of the resultant endgames.
Kasparov's 37...Rf5 is no better because of 38.Ned6+ followed by capturing on e8 and c6 with a drawn rook ending.
38.Nd4! Nxd4 39.Rxc7+ Ka6 40.Kxd4 Rd8+ 41.Kc3
Heading straight for a drawn 2v1 rook ending which Carlsen toils mightily to avoid before eventually conceding the half point.
41...Rf3+ 42.Kb2 Re3 43.Rc8 Rdd3! 44.Ra8+ Kb7 45.Rxe8 Rxe4 46.e7 Rg3 47.Rc3 Re2+ 48.Rc2 Ree3 49.Ka2 g5 50.Rd2 Re5 51.Rd7+ Kc6 52.Red8 Rge3 53.Rd6+ Kb7 54.R8d7+ Ka6 55.Rd5 Re2+ 56.Ka3 Re6 57.Rd8 g4 58.Rg5 Rxe7 59.Ra8+ Kb7 60.Rag8 a4 61.Rxg4 axb3 62.R8g7 Ka6 63.Rxe7 Rxe7 64.Kxb3 Draw Agreed
So the title match is tied 2-2 and all the pundits who had confidently (or hesitantly) predicted a Carlsen win are now wondering if Anand can, once again, squeak over the line and defend his title successfully for the fourth time.
Both players are struggling to find any advantage with the white pieces but both also seem to be in excellent form. In recent years Carlsen has always been in excellent form – his run of 2800 performances demonstrates that – but an in-form (and fit) Anand has been a much rarer bird of late. Watching Anand at somewhere near his best versus the awesome Carlsen should be a treat over the next fortnight. And even Kasparov, notoriously critical about the 2012 world title match, is likely to concede that the winner deserves to be called the best player in the world.