Desperate try

The match situation was already so bad that Anand was most desperate. He had a calm approach to the game and dominated it. Carlsen was nervous and edgy. He played very unimpressively for the better part of the game.

Game Nine: White: Viswanathan Anand; Black: Magnus Carlsen

Opening: Nimzo Indian Saemisch

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 (Anand started with the queen-pawn for the first time in the match and straightaway found the approval of those watching) 4.f3 d5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 c5 7.cxd5 exd5 8.e3 c4 9.Ne2 Nc6 10.g4 0–0 11.Bg2 Na5 12.0–0 Nb3 13.Ra2 b5 14.Ng3 a5 15.g5 Ne8 16.e4 Nxc1 (by this time, Anand had almost achieved the dynamic position he had aimed for). 17.Qxc1 Ra6 18.e5 Nc7 19.f4 b4 (this was critical) 20.axb4 [or 20.a4; or 20.f5] 20...axb4 21.Rxa6 Nxa6 22.f5 b3!

Anand took 45 minutes and gave the impression that he was either not sure or had calculated it till checkmate for Carlsen. This also changed the direction of the game.

Carlsen, who was 35 minutes behind Anand on the clock before this move, gained a 10-minute advantage and also calculated that he was in no danger of getting checkmated by force. 23.Qf4 Nc7 24.f6 [24.Nh5 was better] 24...g6 25.Qh4 Ne8 [25...Kh8 26.Qh6 Rg8 27.Rf4] 26.Qh6 b2 27.Rf4 b1Q+ 28.Nf1?? Blunder from Anand. [28.Bf1 Qd1 29.Rh4 Qh5 30.Nxh5 gxh5] 28...Qe1 [28...Qd1 29.Rh4 Qh5 30.Rxh5 gxh5 31.Ne3 Be6 32.Bxd5 Bxd5 33.Nf5] Carlsen wins.

Carlsen later said, “After my 21st move, I didn’t see any way (for Anand) to checkmate me. I was calculating all the forced lines — the line he played amongst many others. It was incredibly dangerous. It holds by only one tempo. But I could not see any mate. I mean, it’s just that I got into a difficult position. I just needed to defend as best as I could.

In fact, this was also one of those rarest of rare games where black won without moving his queen and one of the bishops from their starting squares! Ironically, Carlsen was saved by his second queen that made just one move.

The only other similar instance that comes to mind is when Garry Kasparov, playing black, defeated Veselin Topalov in 1995, without making a single queen-move in the Sicilian game. By sheer coincidence, Kasparov, too, won in 28 moves!

Conclusion

Anand played the opening confidently and quickly. I wonder why he stuck with e4 (king-pawn) till this point (with white pieces), if he had such a repertoire. Probably, Carlsen’s opening choice surprised him. If he had stuck with his plan from the start, he would have probably won this game, or at least had better chances.

Grandmaster Parimarjan Negi