Missed chances

A day after the disappointing loss in Game Five, Anand returned to the board looking to draw parity with white pieces. In the 2010 World Championship, Anand had lost the opener to Challenger Veselin Topalov but hit back in the second. Again in the 2012 title-clash against Boris Gelfand, Anand lost the sixth but won the seventh. The chess world expected a hat-trick of such immediate comebacks from the champion.

Probably, it could have made sense for him to take a draw with white pieces (since he had to play with white pieces again in the seventh game after the change of colours at the half-way stage of the match) and re-strategise or even pull off a surprise in the opening. But it was not clear whether he wanted to play for a draw to ease the tension a bit or go flat out for an equaliser. His confusion did show up in the manner in which the sixth game unfolded. There were many strange elements in this encounter.

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

Opening: Ruy Lopez Berlin

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3 Bc5 5.c3 0–0 6.0–0 Re8 7.Re1 a6 8.Ba4 b5 9.Bb3 d6

(Strangely, Anand showed no new ideas against the Closed Berlin Defence in the Ruy Lopez game. The chess world expected Anand to show some of his preparation in these lines since Carlsen was not expected to play anything new in Ruy Lopez, considered Anand’s comfort zone. Perhaps, Anand was expecting a new response from Carlsen, who stuck to the already tested lines and still managed to surprise the champion)

10.Bg5 Be6 11.Nbd2 h6 12.Bh4 Bxb3 13.axb3 Nb8 14.h3 Nbd7 15.Nh2 Qe7 16.Ndf1 Bb6 17.Ne3 Qe6 18.b4 a5 19.bxa5 Bxa5 20.Nhg4 Bb6 21.Bxf6 Nxf6 22.Nxf6+ Qxf6 23.Qg4 Bxe3 24.fxe3 (too many exchanges meant white could not improve the position into a winning one. The game appeared to be heading for a draw. With the risk of losing almost removed, Carlsen started playing for advantage and Anand kept drifting in search of a win) 24...Qe7 25.Rf1 c5 26.Kh2 c4 27.d4 Rxa1 28.Rxa1 Qb7 29.Rd1 Qc6 30.Qf5 exd4 31.Rxd4 Re5 (By this time, Carlsen had got a “playable” position and was threatening to take Anand into a slow, long endgame) 32.Qf3 Qc7 33.Kh1 Qe7 34.Qg4 Kh7 35.Qf4 g6 36.Kh2 Kg7 (Anand appeared almost bored and annoyed with the position on the board. He was making random moves assuming that draw was the only result possible and soon decides to sacrifice a pawn) 37.Qf3 Re6 38.Qg3 Rxe4 39.Qxd6 Rxe3 40.Qxe7 Rxe7 41.Rd5 Rb7 42.Rd6 f6 43.h4 Kf7 44.h5 (a move, which Carlsen admitted to have missed) gxh5 45.Rd5 Kg6 (between moves 42 and 45, Carlsen allows Anand to improve the position, leading to a draw) 46.Kg3 Rb6 47.Rc5 f5 48.Kh4 Re6 49.Rxb5 Re4+ 50.Kh3 Kg5 51.Rb8 h4 52.Rg8+ Kh5 53.Rf8 Rf4 54.Rc8 Rg4 55.Rf8 Why? [55.Rc7 just playing Rc8-Rc7 should keep a draw.] 55...Rg3+ 56.Kh2 Kg5 57.Rg8+?? (Rc8 could have kept alive the possibility of a draw)

57...Kf4 58.Rc8 Ke3 59.Rxc4 f4 60.Ra4 h3 61.gxh3 Rg6 62.c4 f3 63.Ra3+ Ke2 64.b4 f2 65.Ra2+ Kf3 66.Ra3+ Kf4 67.Ra8 Rg1 Carlsen wins.


In such a position, one looks for a simple way to draw. Anand missed Rc8 on the 57th move and with it, an opportunity to draw. Perhaps, at some point, Anand realised that the position was not a ‘dead’ draw and Carlsen would keep pushing for a win. Again, Anand tried to force a draw instead of waiting for the position to dictate the pace. Anand was trying to calculate… computer analysis shows a draw following precise moves, not easy for a player to find over the board.

Grandmaster Parimarjan Negi