Magnus Carlsen had to eschew his pride and taste the ‘draw medicine’ forced by Viswanathan Anand. But if the latter doesn’t find enough inspiration in the next two of the remaining three games, the thinking behind this half a point can always be questioned.
Anand, a challenger at 44, trails Carlsen 4-5 in the World Chess Championship match in Sochi. The Indian, who plays with white pieces on Friday, is expected to trouble the reigning champion with sharper and more offensive play.
The ninth game on Thursday was over in just 20 moves lasting just an hour and Carlsen was left explaining how a player who believes in playing over the board much longer even for half a point allowed the Indian challenger gain the ‘black result’ so quickly.
“Considering the match situation, I’m okay with the draw,” said Carlsen.
“I won’t like to get into details about what surprised me.
“Of course, it’s always better to be able to press with white. But on the other hand, every half a point brings me closer to six and a half points needed to win the title. It’s not too bad… not a disaster. It’s a tough match. Right now, it looks like it is going the distance (12th game is on Tuesday).
“It’s more comfortable to play these kind of endgames when you are leading the match. In general, I try to play positions which I consider to be good and suit my style. But he was better prepared today than I was.” When Anand, playing black, opted for the quieter Ruy Lopez as against the generally-sharper Sicilian, it was expected that he had prepared well in the main lines. The queens were exchanged on the eighth move denying a chance to castle for Black.
The Norwegian deviated first from their Game 7 on the 11th turn. Even that didn’t deter Anand much. Soon, it appeared that Carlsen was not ready for the ensuing positional struggle in the middle game. A couple of minor pieces were exchanged quickly. Though Carlsen had some activity in the centre files, he decided not to continue in rooks and knights vs rooks and bishops ending (six pawns each).
The champion went for perpetual checks and attained a draw after a threefold repetition. After getting what he wanted – an easy, no-sweat draw with black pieces – Anand was not ready to let media question his choice. “You have to play the positions you get, the situations you get. I can count, I know the score.”
When asked on the subtleness behind the opening sequence of moves, he said: “This I would rather not explain.”
Is being less prepared than world No. 6 Anand is a huge concern for Carlsen?
“It has also been the opposite a couple of times,” said the world No. 1. “A disappointment of short draw with white pieces is easier to swallow when you are leading the match.” Anand said: “The game was quite reasonable. An easy draw with black. I just need to try harder with white.”
Carlsen was more forthcoming on certain issues about his display. “My play has been quite inconsistent both in terms of preparation and over the board play. But we will see.”