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|Magnus Carlsen World Champion!|
|By GM Ian Rogers|
|November 22, 2013|
After 28 moves of the ninth game of the World Championship match in Chennai, cheers erupted from the Norwegian Lounge, filled to bursting with Magnus Carlsen's countrymen and women – members of the Carlsen team, media and assorted celebrities and fans who had arrived over the previous few days to cheer on their hero. And they were jubilant – titleholder Viswanathan Anand had blundered and was about to lose to the great Carlsen.|
The Norwegians knew that the world title match was as good as decided. Indeed the next day Anand did not try to delay the coronation, offering a repetition on move 21 of game 10. Everyone expected that Carlsen would extend his hand and the match would be over. Everyone except Carlsen himself.
Incredibly, Carlsen decided that he could press without risk – well, all he was risking was the world title and almost half a million dollars! - and he went close to winning after Anand made his third big slip of the title match.
Eventually, as Carlsen explained, “After the time control the variations were getting too complicated so I decided to shut it down and force a draw.” Still Anand had to earn his last half point, the draw finally signed, with almost no pieces on the board after five hours play and 65 moves, Carlsen winning the match 6.5-3.5.
The Norwegian Lounge exploded, but in the adjacent press room, the mood was far more sombre, though most had already come to terms with Anand's defeat the previous day. Most of the journalists were Indian and they were watching their second sporting icon fall in a week, following the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar.
There was plenty of talk of an end of an era. Anand had won three world title matches against players of his own generation – Kramnik, Topalov, and Gelfand – but the fourth title match, against a young and hungry Carlsen, proved a bridge too far.
Despite the final margin, it would be wrong to say that Anand was outclassed. However when the struggle was at its most intense, Carlsen kept his nerves under control far better, Anand making three major blunders. “I would like to think I can take some responsibility for those blunders,” said Carlsen after the match. I just play and people crack under the pressure, even in World Championships.”
Carlsen was correct – as the match progressed his strengths came to the fore and decided the outcome.
A lesser defender than Carlsen might have fallen behind under pressure from Anand in games three and four. “Game 4 gave me a good feeling,” explained Carlsen. “I felt that I had seized the initiative and that he was just as nervous and vulnerable as I was.” (Curiously, Anand also viewed game 4 as very encouraging, but he was soon to be let down.)
A lesser endgame player than Carlsen would certainly not have won games five and six. “Game 5 was the low point for me,” said Anand. “I had a feeling that this match was going to be about execution. I had hoped to match him in long games but I was not able to execute my strategy.”
During the climactic final battle in game nine, when all the pundits were predicting a winning attack for Anand, Carlsen stayed cool, despite admitting being scared “all the time”. The soon-to-be World Champion explained, “I couldn't find a forced mate; I just had to calculate as best I can and go with that.” His reward was Anand's second big blunder of the match and the game on a platter.
Anatomy of a Blunder
Chennai World Championship Game 9
Position after Black's 19th move
With White's kingside attack – f5 and f6 followed by Qf4-h4-h6 – coming quickly, Carlsen has launched a diversion on the queenside, and Anand sat down to think.
“I saw the whole variation [allowing Black a second queen, up to 28.Bf1 Qd1 29.Rh4 Qh5 30.Nxh5 gxh5 31.Bh3 Bxh3 32.Rxh3 Qd7 33.Rxh5 Qf5 34.g6] – it's not so difficult,” said Anand, who saw nothing better than to go for this line despite the final position being a perpetual check for Black.
For hours after the game a discussion ensued between a number of Grandmaster over whether this is the moment when Anand needed to strike immediately with 20.f5!? with the idea that the obvious 20...Nb5 may turn out to be too slow after 21.axb4 axb4 22.Rxa6 Bxa6 23.f6 g6 24.Qf4! - though even here there are some hairy variations. Black probably does better to keep the knight ready for defensive duties on e8, so 20...bxc3 should be tried.
However this may not be Anand's most serious missed chance.
20...axb4 21.Rxa6 Nxa6 22.f5 [1.07] b3 [0.36]
"Here I spent a hell of a lot of time essentially getting into this position," said Anand explaining his 45 minute think over this subtle move, "but [such a use of time] was irresponsible, silly, whatever you want to call it. I was anticipating 23...Kh8 when after 24.f6 g6 25.Qh4 I will play [Qh6 and Rf4] but with the extra resource Qxh7+ [in some lines]. It looks like it should be lost [for Black]."
By now, Anand admitted, he had seen that his original idea does not work because instead of 32...Qd7 Black has 32...Qb6!, intending ...Qb1+ and ...Qg6. But it is too late for White to turn back.
23...Nc7! [0.33] 24.f6?! [0.21]
Played quickly, but this may have been the moment when Anand's world title definitively slipped away. Peter Svidler, later backed up by Kasparov, suggested that 24.Qh4! was a far stronger method of prosecuting the attack, with the idea that after 24...Ne8 White is not obliged to play 25.f6 at once but can improve his position first with a move such as 25.Ne2!?, though here 25...b2 26.Rb1 Bxf5 27.Rxb2 Nc7 doesn't give White much.
Carlsen's last serious think for the game. “I just have to play forced moves all the time,” explained Carlsen, who reminded older observers of the young Anand, using his opponent's thinking time to decide on a move and then blitzing his reply.
25.Qh4 [0.20] Ne8 [0.31] 26.Qh6 [14.13] b2 [0.31]
"Kind of forced," said Anand. "If I play 27.Rb1 he has 27...Qa5!.” However Kasparov suggested; 27.Ne2!? "adding to the tension" as interesting, giving the variation 27...Qa5 28.Nf4 Be6 (Black cannot let the knight get to e7 via d5) 29.Nxe6 fxe6 30.Bh3 though Kasparov believed Black should survive even this.
27...b1Q+ [0.31] 28.Nf1?? [11.11]
Losing immediately, but as Anand explains it his thought processes were perfectly logical.
“Once I had found 32...Qb6 [while thinking about 23.Qf4] I couldn't see a way forward. When I got to this position, I suddenly saw 28.Nf1 Qd1 29.Rh4, Qh5 30.Rh5, gxh5 31.Ne3! and the knight is [headed] to e7 and for a second I got excited. So Black might have to play 31...Be6, 32.Bxd5 Qxd5!The problem is, I missed the knight which was on g3 has just moved [and that 28...Qe1 becomes possible]. As soon as I put the knight on f1 I knew what I had done. What can I say?”
After the game the players discussed the variation 28.Bf1 Qd1 29.Rh4 (Anand saw that 29.Ne2 was refuted by 29...Qd3 30.Rh4 Qe3+ but admitted that if he had also seen the simpler refutation 29...Qe1!, pointed out by Carlsen, he might never have made the blunder which lost the game.) 29...Qh5 30.Nxh5 gxh5 31.Rxh5 (Instead of Anand's original line 31.Bh3.) 31...Bf5 32.Bh3 Bg6 33.e6 Nxf6 34.gxf6 Qxf6 35.Re5 fxe6 36.Qe3 when "White should be able to hold," said Carlsen.
Of course a draw was almost as bad for Anand as a loss, so in searching for something better he blundered into something much worse.
The White rook will now be taken as soon as it appears on h4 so White is bulk material down for nothing.
The final game, with Anand surviving by the skin of his teeth, marked Carlsen out as something special.
To risk first place at the Sinquefeld Cup by declining a draw offer from Aronian is one thing; to take a similar stand with the world title on the line is quite another.
The thought that the chess world might have a maximalist as World Champion, a player like Bobby Fischer who genuinely wants to make the most out of every position, is an enticing one for every chess fan.
Carlsen was generous in his praise of the Indian organizers - “I am so happy with the way I have been treated here - my every wish was granted.”
Certainly the match organizers did all the big things right – from the fine playing hall to the efficient but non-aggressive security people, to pricing the tickets high but allowing 100 spectators to enter the hall for free and stand at the back.
With Anand unlikely to play for the world title again, Tamil Nadu will probably never again spend $4m on a big chess match, but Chennai has certainly shown that the developed world does not have a monopoly on hosting a top World Championship match.
At the final press conference, Anand was asked if he would play in the Candidates tournament in Siberia next March. He asked for time to rest, take stock and reassess his plans.
Having been World Champion in various formats going as far back as 2000, the 43-year-old has little left to prove, and with FIDE accelerating the World Championship cycle, Anand's chess life in recent years has been little more than preparing intensively for one world title match after another.
Whether he wants to go through that work again in order to earn the right to play an ever-improving Carlsen is a moot point. Anand knows that the Carlsen Era has begun and it could be the end of the line for the the world title hopes of his generation.
GM Ian Rogers will also report on the World Championship match for Chess Life Magazine.