Reign of Error and Norwegian Relentlessness
By R Srinivasa Raghavan
Published: 02nd November 2014 06:04 A

A lack of sting in opening preparation, blunders from drawn positions, and underestimating the strength of his position resulted in Viswanathan Anand’s seven-year reign as world champion coming to an end at the hands of Magnus Carlsen a year ago.

The most disappointing aspect of the home setback was Anand not being able to win a game and going down 3.5-6.5 in the 12-game match. Emmanuel Lasker and Garry Kasparov were the other world champions to lose their titles without winning a game against Jose Raoul Capablanca (1921) and Vladimir Kramnik (2000).

Anand prepared extensively and looked good in the initial phase of the match-up. After two quiet draws, the first opportunity came his way in the third game. The Indian pushed Carlsen back with some dynamic moves but frittered away the advantage with some hesitant play and the Norwegian was relieved to wriggle out with a draw.

The fourth game was the best among all the rounds, with both players raising their level of play. Carlsen boldly grabbed a pawn and was close to consolidating his position when Anand produced a sterling defence to force another draw. Carlsen surged into the lead in the fifth, capitalising on mistakes in a drawn endgame. A demoralised Anand recovered after faltering in the middle game in the sixth but made a costly blunder with draw in sight. Two points down against someone who makes fewer mistakes and battles till the end in every game was a herculean task even for the five-time champion.

Anand stemmed the rot with a few draws before launching an all-out attack in the ninth game, which had the chess world glued to the web. For the first time, he had a position of his liking and Carlsen had to defend a tricky position. The Norwegian defended stoutly but Anand, having missed opportunities to press home the advantage, blundered, looking for more from the position. The series was as good as over with Carlsen needing just one more draw in the last three games.

The 22-year-old was crowned champion after the 10th game ended in yet another hard-fought draw.

Anand couldn’t get any promising positions with white except in the ninth game, which was one of the reasons for Carlsen’s success. He sidestepped Anand’s opening preparation and got positions of his liking, which helped him seize the momentum. Carslen’s ability to apply pressure in innocuous endgame positions also forced his opponent into unexpected mistakes.

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