Carlsen avoided a landmine today, but can he withstand the pressure?
Photo by ChessBase.
Today was a key game of the match and many thought that Viswanathan Anand was going to press for a win against Magnus Carlsen. The Tiger from Madras was definitely on the prowl after facing a Grunfeld Defense in which he faced a rather less contemporary treatment from the world champion. The move 7…Na6 has had some discussion in the past but had fallen out of favor. Did the Carlsen Team come up with a novelty perhaps?
— Jan Gustafsson (@GMJanGustafsson) November 21, 2014
Certainly 7…a6 is the latest, but the text follows Anand-Kasparov, 1999 which would be in the challenger’s terrain. So why would Carlsen go for this? We would soon find out. The battle took on typical Grunfeld characteristics with active black pieces and a central advantage for white. However, black was soon struggling to avoid being caught flat-footed. The game followed another in history and Wojtaszek-Ponomariov, 2012. Anand sharpened his sword with Wojtaszek’s 12.Bg5!? and the Carlsen Team came of with the wrinkle after 12…h6 13.Be3 Bf5 14.Rad1 Ne4!?
but Carlsen kept his cool.
There was a thought that white had a strong advantage to press for the advantage with 19.d6 instead of the text 19.Ng5. Even with this move Carlsen stated that he didn’t think his road to equality would be easy. However, after 19…Bd4! it seemed that black had stifled the strength of the d-pawn a bit. Carlsen also got help from Anand after 26…Be5 27.Bxe5 Rxe5 28.Bxb7? Most were saying that 28.g3 kept the options open because after 28…Rxb7 29.d7 Nc6 30.d8(Q)+ Rxd8 31.Rxd8+ Kg7 32.Rd2 the game was draw quietly. Shipov made this comment about Anand’s form.
Shipov: "He's grown old, our tiger, he's grown old… There's not the same force as before. His teeth are ground down, the leap is gone"
— chess24.com (@chess24com) November 22, 2014
What a pity.
However, there are still two games left and Carlsen has not shown good form and could just as well be down a game. The Anand team will come up with a sharp novelty in an attempt to win in game 11. If Anand wins with black, it would put immense pressure on Carlsen. If they draw, then game 12 will be a tense bout. If Carlsen wins, the match is simply over.
While Anand has proven to be more stable in this match, his play has not translated into winning results. Perhaps we will see him unleash the Sicilian in order to steer the game into favorable complications. Meanwhile, Carlsen will try to close out the match with a win to avoid a tense finale after another rest day.
Video by GM Daniel King.