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Challenger Strikes Back: "The Outcome Depends on Anand's Level" Print E-mail
By Leontxo Garcia   
November 13, 2014
Game four, Photo by Anastasia Karlovich http://www.sochi2014.fide.com/photo-galleries/

Viswanathan Anand has achieved a partial success in Sochi: he will be White in the 5th game with a level match score (one victory, one defeat, two draws) and much more confidence than last year in Chennai, where he lost the 5th and 6th games.

In game four, Carlsen found himself in a new situation. He had to recover from a loss as the World Champion. He pressed for five hours, looking for an error which did not occur.


“I thought I played terribly, but it was a draw so that's OK”, said Carlsen after the long fight. Probably no chess amateur in the world thinks the Norwegian played “terribly” that game. Unless you are a genius, like him, what you will see are some inaccuracies here and there, but nothing serious. Later on, he insisted: “My last two games have been pretty bad so I have to improve.” However, when asked to compare the psychological situation now with the Chennai match after four games, he said: “Regardless of what mood you are in, the score is still the most important. Since the score is equal, so far everything is equal.”

I disagree with the last sentence because Anand’s mood is much better now and that could change everything. I will never forget what Vishy told me in Chennai the day after he lost the crown: “My main goal at the beginning of this match was to recover the confidence after my bad results and poor play along the year. But I failed to do so during the first four games, then I terribly lost the fifth one, and I felt destroyed.”

In Sochi, Anand’s victory in Game 3 was the first one over Carlsen since December 2010 in London (not counting Rapid and Blitz games), after 25 games between them! 


This big boost of self-esteem probably explains why he played the Sicilian in Game 4, instead of a more conservative opening.

The lack of ‘killer instinct’ has been one of the weak points of Anand. That might be among the reasons why he could not dethrone Kasparov in New York 1995, where he was leading after eight draws and a victory in Game 9. For him, hating the rival even only during games -as other players do- is almost impossible. But the loss of the title against Carlsen a year ago irritates him enough to feel animosity towards the Norwegian: "The rivalry between us begins to dominate our relationship. In the world of chess, he is not among my friends", Anand told me two months ago in Bilbao after his victory in the Masters Final tournament.

And perhaps Anand needs to feel that resentment to gain confidence. In Sochi, when Carlsen arrives on stage and Anand is already sitting, the Indian never rises to greet his opponent, as Kasparov always did with Karpov. He merely extends his right hand, without even looking at the champion, who then shakes that hand in a very routinely manner, with no smile at all.

The five times champion Anand faces a colossal challenge: regain the throne, beating down one of the best players in history, who is also 21 years younger. Only three days ago, after his humiliating defeat in the second game, many fans left him for dead in social networks. 

Now everything has changed. Alexander Grischuk, now playing the Tal Memorial (Blitz) in Sochi after winning the Petrosian Memorial in Moscow, has a very peculiar opinion: “Carlsen plays always at a very similar level. Anand varies much more. Therefore, the outcome of the match depends on Anand’s level of performance. So far, he is much better than last year”.

The fight continues on Friday at 7 AM EST. For all the best live and post-game viewing options, see GM Ian Rogers' Couch Potato's Guide and read Leonxto Garcia's first report here.