Today's game was a surprisingly short draw, taking just 20 moves and finishing in about an hour. But sometimes that happens, even with such a fighter as Magnus Carlsen; Viswanathan Anand's preparation was very good and Carlsen saw nothing better than to bail out with a repetition. Carlsen is thus half a point closer to retaining his title (he leads 5-4 with three scheduled games remaining), while Anand managed a very easy hold with Black and can look forward to pressing tomorrow with White.
In game three of this world championship match, Viswanathan Anand got a great advantage out of the opening with White in a Queen's Gambit Declined, and in game 5 Magnus Carlsen switched to the Queen's Indian. This time Carlsen switched back, and he showed a very interesting new idea. Varying from the popular 6...Nbd7 line chosen in game three, Carlsen went for the older 6...c5, and after 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.a3 Nc6 9.Qc2 varied from the standard 9...Qa5 with the rare 9...Re8 and met 9.Bg5 with the practically new 9...Be7. It looked provocative, but it was deeply prepared and Anand couldn't find a way to either create real pressure against the d-pawn or to make anything dangerous happen along the b1-h7 diagonal. Black was always in time, and after 21...b4 had completely equalized. Mass exchanges followed, and the players continued speedily to the time control and agreed to a draw. The score, with (up to) four (classical) games remaining, is 4.5-3.5 in Carlsen's favor.
So it's time for another rest day, and the ball is definitely in Anand's court when it comes to the opening. With only two white games left he's going to need something special there, and has a big decision to make with time allocation. Should he choose something else to play - maybe 3.Nc3, inviting the Nimzo-Indian? And if he repeats 3.Nf3, should he and his team devote a great deal of time to Carlsen's new line, or worry mostly about other lines on the grounds that Carlsen always seems to switch from one system to another?
There's also the question of what he'll do with the black pieces. Does he try to hold again, saving more desperate or at least more aggressive and active measures for game 11, or does he look for something more combative straight away. If he again plays something "soft" like the Berlin, there are two problems. First, of course, it gives Carlsen what he wants - the opportunity to make his opponent suffer. Second, Carlsen is liable to play for hours on end, draining the energy Anand will need for his white game the next day. (At least that won't be an issue in the last two games: there is a rest day both before and after game 11.)
As always, time will tell, and in the meantime here is today's game, with relatively light notes.
While Viswanathan Anand's Kan Sicilian is in the shop, he decided to go back to 1...e5 and the Berlin Defense. In game 2 Magnus Carlsen this with 4.d3 and went on to win a nice game, but this time decided to enter the famous ending. The players followed a trendy line, with the first officially new move occurring on move 25. That began the game, and three short moves later Anand found an idea that dictated the game's character for the next 50 moves or so. Anand began a combination that resulted in an ending where Carlsen had a rook, knight and two pawns against Black's rook and four compact pawns, with all the pawns on the queenside.
White's fundamental idea was to put a pawn on c4, the knight on d5 and put the rook on the 7th rank, and if he could achieve that without Black doing anything special in reply he would most likely win (whether Black went for a rook swap or not), but achieving that setup wasn't at all easy. It took Carlsen a long time to legitimately threaten it, and once he was about ready to put that plan into action Anand started pushing his queenside pawns and advancing his king in search of counterplay. It wasn't easy, but Anand calculated everything correctly and managed to liquidate all of White's pawns by move 77, reaching an ending with rook and two pawns vs. Carlsen's rook and knight. Carlsen wasn't yet ready to call it a day, and while he eventually picked up both of Black's pawns Anand had no trouble holding the resulting ending, which has been known since forever to be a theoretical draw. Carlsen finally gave up the ghost and allowed the rooks to be traded, "unfortunately" finishing the game two moves before tying the old record for world championship games. (The record for moves, that is; the record for time is just about impossible to break under current time controls.)
Carlsen thus continues to lead the world championship match with a 4-3 score; Anand will have the white pieces tomorrow. Meanwhile, the game, with my brief notes, can be replayed here. (Subscribers to my match coverage will get more detailed coverage later tonight.)
Losing at home to a 3-6 team is bad (at least for a team that 7-2 and until last week very much in the hunt for the national championship); losing the way they lost is just embarrassing: four turnovers, two missed field goals, a blocked extra point and perhaps the piece de resistance: up 40-29 after scoring a touchdown, the coach decided to go for a two point conversion. The obvious decision is to go for one: it's basically automatic, and after that the team is up by 12, meaning that the other team cannot tie the game with a touchdown and a field goal, but needs two touchdowns or a touchdown and two field goals to avoid a loss - two tasks which are considerably harder to achieve. Conversely, the difference between being up 12 and being up 13 is comparatively minor, as it's only relevant in case the opposition scores a touchdown and two field goals.
One might reply that not everything that's obvious is correct, and I'd agree. But this, shall we say, is obviously obvious! Moreover, the professionals confirm this. Needless to say, Notre Dame failed the two-point conversion, and then Northwestern scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion to close to within three. Notre Dame was running out the clock when a player fumbled, and sure enough Northwestern kicked a field to go to send the game into overtime.
Next loss: Louisville.
In general I'm a pretty decent player, an FM who has repeatedly come close to getting IM norms, but compared to Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand I'm of course a fish - and a small fish at that. So while I hope that what I do know, combined with conscientious work and the judicious use of the computer enables me to say things that are sensible and at least occasionally insightful, there's always the very real danger that the gap between me and them will lead to every so often to comments that are completely off the mark.
One such comment was about Anand's choice of opening line today; in particular his decision to head for the quasi-endgame with the queen trade. It seemed to me both dubious in its own right and all the more so as a way for him to play against Carlsen. Perhaps I'm the stopped clock that's right twice a day or the blind squirrel who found a nut, but on this occasion I can at least enlist Garry Kasparov in support of my claim. A few minutes ago, he offered these tweets:
It's even harder to understand Anand's opening choice today than the blunders. I looked at this line for my match vs Kramnik in 2000. Bad.
I remember looking at Bf4 and this h-pawn push and it's miserable for Black. Especially against Magnus, bizarre blunder today aside.
It will be very hard for Anand to come back. There was an exchange of terrible openings in g3 & g6 [DM: game 3 and game 6], doubt it will happen again.
When Viswanathan Anand blundered at the end of game 2, it was in a position that was very difficult and possibly lost against best play. Today, however, Magnus Carlsen blundered in a position that was clearly better, and had Anand spotted it the tables would have been turned. As so often happens, Carlsen realized his mistake the instant after he made his move, and unfortunately for Anand it was only after he made his reply that he spotted the missed opportunity. (Carlsen's 26.Kd2?? allowed 26...Nxe5, e.g. 27.Rxg8 Nxc4+ 28.Kd3 Nb2+ 29.Ke2 Rxg8 30.g3 and although White will reclaim one of the two missing pawns Black has excellent winning chances.)
After the exchange of errors Black's position remained difficult but defensible, but Anand did not make the most of his chances. In particular, ...Ba4 was a good idea, but according to the players it needed to be prefaced by ...Ne7. After 31...Ba4 32.Be4+ Bc6 Black started bleeding pawns left and right, and when he resigned he was on the verge of going five pawns(!) down. In fact Black had an incredible defensive resource - see the PGN file (link below) for the details - but it would have been very difficult to spot.
Going back to the beginning, the opening was rather a surprise. Anand's decision to repeat the Sicilian with 2...e6 was not a shock--the last game was successful and this was after all the variation I had suggested. Carlsen went for an Open Sicilian - a mild surprise - and one would think that this was just the sort of thing Anand wanted. Here, however, Anand chose a line with an early queen trade and wher Black is passive, immediately going into a two-results position where neither of the results (well, except in the case of a blunder!) is a Black win. If Anand had achieved a position that was (at least) objectively good or really and clearly worked out to a draw out of the opening one could make an argument for this strategy, but that clearly wasn't the case.
The players have a rest day tomorrow, and game 7 will be on Monday with Carlsen again having the white pieces. Meanwhile, you can replay the game, with my relatively light comments, here. (As usual, subscribers will receive the more detailed annotations and the video later today.)
Game 5 of the world championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen was the first real dud of the series. Anand again opened with 1.d4, and Carlsen switched lines once again, opting this time for the solid Queen's Indian. For once he wasn't surprised and seemed to be the better-prepared player. Anand did achieve a slight edge, but he couldn't figure out what to do with it. After thinking for a while he played 27.Rb7, which was in effect a surrender: the remaining moves were played a tempo and the game was drawn a dozen moves and about five moves later.
The match is tied 2.5-2.5, but Carlsen will have good chances to seize the match initiative as he gets White in the next two games (first tomorrow and then on Monday). The game, with light notes, is here; subscribers' deeper coverage will be emailed later.
(Hmm, kind of a mobster-y title there - but at least the Sicilian wasn't then quartered.)
I think the likelihood that Viswanathan Anand reads my blog is extremely close to zero, and the odds that someone on his team reads it is only infinitesimally greater. But it's still a happy coincidence that he acted in accordance with my advice to scrap the whole Berlin business and try a Sicilian with 2...e6. Magnus Carlsen, as chess fans everywhere surely expected, went for a sideline - in this case 3.g3. Soon Black had an isolated d-pawn, which is, I think, a nice structure for this match, as both players get what they want. The side facing the isolani can hope to positionally massage the opponent until the pawn eventually drops - just the sort of thing Carlsen likes to do (though not the only thing he is adept at, obviously) - while the side with the isolani gets to play actively and to fight for the initiative - the kind of chess Anand thrives on.
As far as I can recall, this is their first IQP (isolated queen's pawn - the d-pawn) game against each other, at least in a world championship, and it wound up drawn. First Anand was a tiny bit better, and then Carlsen had a slight edge, but ultimately neither player experienced any serious problems before they split the point after 47 moves. Thus this match, like their previous one, was tied 2-2 heading into the second rest day.
After the game Anand was basically satisfied with his play, except for a late oversight in his calculations that he was able to correct beforehand, while Carlsen seemed fairly disgusted by his own play. Does this mean that Carlsen will head for this line again, thinking he should do better next time? My advice to Anand & co. is that they repeat this. The opening was fine, and a return trip will let them work out the details even more effectively. As White objectively achieved nothing from the variation, and didn't saddle Anand with the kind of position where he must morosely and passively defend forever, there's no obvious reason why he shouldn't go for a second dose of this. And if Carlsen goes for an Open Sicilian, that's definitely playing to Anand's strength. So my prediction is that Carlsen will switch first moves next time, maybe going for the vague world of 1.Nf3.
The game (with very light annotations) is here; subscribers' material will be sent later.
I won't be covering it (some other event seems to be hogging the limelight these days), but the Ukranian Championship may be worth an occasional glance over the next week or two. (If you don't want to mess around with Russian, you'll be able to replay the previous round on TWIC's live page.) Five 2700 and two near-2700 players are participating, including Vassily Ivanchuk, Pavel Eljanov and Ruslan Ponomariov, so some excellent and interesting chess can be expected.
HT: Mark Crowther
In last year's world championship match between the same players, the score was likewise 1.5-1.5 after three games, but the feeling is very different this time around. Having been totally outplayed in games 5-10 of last year's match and the first two games of this one, it looked as if Viswanathan Anand might be hopelessly outclassed by Magnus Carlsen. After today's game, there is hope and relief for Anand and his fans, and for everyone who wants to see a competitive match.
In game 1 Anand tried to complicate the play and succeeded up to a point, and today he was even more successful. Carlsen went into a deeply theoretical line of the Queen's Gambit Declined with Black, but it was soon clear that Anand had done his homework and that Carlsen hadn't. Anand's preparation went up to at least his 22nd move, at which time he had a clear advantage and a huge lead on the clock. Some further precise moves like 26.Rc6! and 28.Ra1! put Carlsen under enormous pressure, and in a difficult position he cracked with 28...Ba5 and 29...Bxc7, losing serious material without achieving any counterplay whatsoever. In a hopeless position and just a few seconds left, Carlsen resigned on his 34th move.
Carlsen is a very resilient player - one of the most resilient in top-level chess, if not the most resilient, so he will not crumble after this. But Anand needed this win very badly, and now that he should have his confidence up we could be in for a great match! (Those of you who feared a rout may want to take this opportunity to subscribe. The first step is to drop me a note via the "Contact" link on the sidebar.)