Indian ace Viswanathan Anand, playing with white pieces, splits a point in the opening game against defending world champion Magnus Carlsen in Sochi
The first round of battle royale between world champion Magnus Carlsen and challenger Viswanathan Anand ended in a draw after a see-saw battle in which Anand had to defend with his back to the wall in the end. However, he did admirably well to hold the world champion to a draw in Sochi on Saturday.
Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand (right) shake hands before the opening match of the World Chess Championship in Sochi on Saturday. Pic/AP/PTI
Anand looked confident with his pet blue shirt and dark jacket, whipping out moves right from the word go. Though he had lost his last game with his Queen pawn opening at Chennai last year, Anand decided to adopt it — maybe on the recommendation from his second — GM Sasikiran, himself a specialist of 1.d4.
Anand selected a rarely-played system against Carlsen's Grunfeld Defence. Anand's 5.Bd2 move was a pet of former challenger Victor Korchnoy 20 years ago. Former world champion Boris Spassky, watching the game in the auditorium must have smiled to himself remembering his win over arch-rival Korchnoy from Black pieces in the same opening.
Positive start from Anand
Anand lived up to his reputation as Lightning Kid as he hammered out first 10 moves within just five minutes while the world champion deliberated laboriously taking his time for each and every move.
Obviously, Anand's fifth move — a Korchnoy favourite had escaped Team Carlsen's attention. The Indian fans were delighted to a see confused Carlsen. However, as the game progressed, Carlsen exhibited his defensive skills and nullified Anand's attack with well-timed movements of his pieces.
As the pieces started coming off the board at regular intervals, the experts realised that the game was heading towards an inevitable peaceful conclusion. The world champion generally thrives on such apparently peaceful positions and he grinds his opponents by patience and perseverance.
However, Anand was mentally and technically well prepared to take on the world champion this time. However, Carlsen is a master of such a position. He started putting on pressure by activating his Queen and Rook. With the clock ticking ominously, Anand started a rearguard action. He took more than 35 minutes on his 41st and 42nd move.
The world champion missed his probable chance on the 42nd move. Anand jumped at the golden opportunity and gave perpetual checks to the Black King and forced a draw after 48 moves. I think the honours are even after the first round. Anand put pressure on Carlsen at the beginning and Carlsen played well to gain advantage. The draw is poetic justice to this great fight.
The author, a former India women's chess champion, is the youngest Padma Shri awardee at 16