Carlsen-Anand after four rounds

Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen in Game 4 which ended in a draw.
Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen in Game 4 which ended in a draw.

NOVEMBER 13 — The World Chess Championship Match which is underway has now reached the fourth game of the 12-game contest.

It has so far been a fascinating affair; as expected, the veteran ex-World Champion and now again Challenger Viswanathan Anand is showing how well prepared he is in the openings while the young Champion Magnus Carlsen has tried to steer play into "playable" middlegames and endgames. No question that this is very much both a clash of styles and philosophy as well as between generations.


Game 1 must have been disappointing for Anand as he got what he wanted in the opening but Carlsen showed all his resourcefulness and over the board improvisation to get away and in the end was even trying to win! A fighting draw was a good way to get the match started.


Then came Game 2 and the hesitant play by Anand which so characterised his game when giving up his title a year ago in Chennai gave Carlsen a chance to break through. This game with notes courtesty of follows:

The Ruy Lopez

1.e4 e5. Why not Najdorf? A possible answer is that Anand's memories about his game vs Carlsen in the Grand Slam final (Bilbao/Sao Paulo 2012) might not be too pleasant, as that time he got simply crushed after the 'calm' 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+, etc.
2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3 (deviating from the Berlin Defence) 4...Bc5 5.0–0 d6 (a brilliant positional player Michael Adams, who is one of the best experts of Ruy Lopez, prefers to avoid weaknesses by 5...Nd4) 6.Re1!

Surprisingly, this quiet move is a very rare one. Probably it isn't the real improvement over usual 6.c3, 6.Nc3, 6.h3 (or 6.Be3 as in Adams-Ponomariov, 2014), but in this particular game 6.Re1 has worked unexpectedly well.
6...0–0 (6...Bd7!?) 7.Bxc6 bxc6 8.h3 Re8 (probably Black wanted to stop 9.d4; another possible move was 8...h6, for example: 9.c3 Bb6 10.d4 exd4 10.cxd4 Re8 11.Nc3 c5 12.d5 Ba5 with complicated play) 9.Nbd2 Nd7 10.Nc4 Bb6 11.a4 a5 (11...a6!?).

12.Nxb6! This transformation of the pawn structure, in connection with the next move, gives White some initiative, although the engines say the position is equal. It looks like Carlsen has already worked out the whole plan of Nh4 and Ra3-g3 before playing 12.Nxb6.
12...cxb6 13.d4 Qc7 14.Ra3! Nf8 15.dxe5!? dxe5 16.Nh4 Rd8 17.Qh5 f6 18.Nf5 Be6?! Too careless. 18...Bxf5 19.exf5 might be a bit better for White, but 18...Qf7, pushing the queen away, looks the safest: 19.Qf3 (19.Qxf7+?! Kxf7 20.Rb3 Rb8 21.Be3 c5 22.Bxc5?? Bxf5 23.Bxf8 Be6) 19...Ne6, etc.
19.Rg3 Ng6 20.h4

20...Bxf5?! An unpleasant surpsise for Black is that 20...Rd7 can be met with 21.Bh6! - the bishop joins the attack straight from the initial square, and Black's position becomes difficult. The main line is 21...Nf4 (otherwise Qg4, h4-h5, etc. is unpleasant) 22.Bxg7! Rxg7 (22...Nxh5 23.Nh6#) 23.Nxg7 Nxh5 24.Nxe6+ Nxg3 25.Nxc7 with advantage for White.
The engines suggest 20...Kh8 21.Rxg6 Qf7 'with equality' but I doubt that's the way one wants to choose against the World Champion. The tactical justification (or one of) is 22.Nxg7 Qxg6 23.Qxg6 hxg6 24.Nxe6 Rd6 25.Nc7 Rc8 with the repetition.
21.exf5 Nf4 (21...Nf8 22.Bh6 Rd7 23.Qg4 is not so pleasant too because of the march by the h-pawn) 22.Bxf4 exf4 23.Rc3. Changing the direction. Now White is much better positionally because his king is safer and the black pawns are more vulnerable. Besides, there is a nice e6-square for his rook.
23...c5 24.Re6 Rab8 25.Rc4 Qd7 26.Kh2 (of course, not 26.Rxf4 Qd1+; now it's not easy to suggest a good plan for Black) 26...Rf8.

27.Rce4!? Many players would just take the f4-pawn heading for the technical stage, but the solution by Magnus turns out to be more efficient.
27...Rb7 28.Qe2 b5 29.b3?!. 29.Re7 Qd6 30.f3! seems more accurate: 30...Rxe7 31.Rxe7 bxa4 32.Qe4! (threatening Qb7 as later in the game) 32...Kh8 33.Re8! with the very strong threat of 34.Qd3!
29...bxa4 30.bxa4 Rb4 31.Re7 Qd6 32.Qf3. 32.f3 was still possible, but, surprisingly enough, Carlsen's move works much quicker. Of course, he couldn't predict the blunder by Anand, but...
32...Rxe4 33.Qxe4 f3+! (getting some counterplay at last) 34.g3.

34...h5?? After 34...Qd2! 35.Qxf3 (or 35.Qc4+ Kh8 36.Qxc5 Rg8, and 37.Ra7? is bad due to 37...Qe2 where 38.Qe3?? Re8 even loses) 35...Qxc2 36.Kg2 Kh8 Black would have kept slight chances to hold because the 4 vs 3rook endgame might be drawn.
35.Qb7 1–0 (Annotated by GM Andrey Deviatkin)


But in the very next Game 3 played after a rest day where the pundits were lamenting Anand's approach, poor form, etc., and offering all sorts of advice, the older man came up with the equaliser. This was a completely crushing win. Carlsen admitted after the game that he never had a chance after being caught in Anand's carefully worked out opening preparation. Again my thanks to for the notes.

Queen's Gambit Declined

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 0–0 6.e3 Nbd7 7.c5. This ambitious line of the QGD had been seen in a few Carlsen's old games, while Anand, it seems, has chosen it for the first time ever.

7...c6. An important crossroads. The alternative line is 7...Nh5 which could be seen thrice in the Petrosian Memorial just a few days ago, twice in the Kramnik's games. Both went 8. Bd3 Nxf4 9. exf4 b6 10. b4 a5 11. a3 c6 12. O-O, and now: 12...Qc7 13.g3 Ba6 14. Bxa6 Rxa6 15. Qe2 Rfa8 with rough equality (Leko - Kramnik, Moscow 2014); 12... Ba6 13. Na4 Bf6 14. Ne5 Bxe5 15. fxe5 Bxd3 16. Qxd3 axb4 17. axb4 bxc5 18. Nxc5 Nxc5 19. bxc5 with some pressure for White (Aronian – Kramnik, Moscow 2014).
(In fact, eliminating the important f4-bishop at once looks more promising for Black than allowing the c7-nail supported by that bishop. After all, cramped positions aren't something unusual for the QGD where Black usually wants just to equalise gradually, so 7...Nh5 seems to be more in the spirit of the opening. Of course, my conclusion might be a bit too emotional, having resulted from this crush – A.D.)
8.Bd3 Note that a position similar to the one in the game also occurs after 8.h3 (another line) 8...b6 9.b4 a5 10.a3 Ba6 11.Bxa6 Rxa6 12.b5. The only small difference is that the white pawn is already on h3, which,paradoxically, can be in Black's favour: 12...cxb5 13.c6 Qc8 14.c7 b4 15.Nb5 a4 16.Rc1 Ne4. If now 17.Ng5 (the main move is 17.Nd2) then 17...Bxg5 18.Bxg5 b3!,

and the game recipe 19.f3 Ra5 20.Qe2? is not working due to 20...Ng3.
8...b6 9.b4 a5 10.a3 (the relatively rare 10.b5 Bb7! had been played in Gelfand - Carlsen, Bazna Kings 2010) 10...Ba6 11.Bxa6. This is much sharper than the usual 11.0–0; the whole line, up to the key 14th move, has been invented by Karpov against Kir. Georgiev in Dubai, 2002.
11...Rxa6 12.b5 cxb5 13.c6 Qc8 14.c7! b4 15.Nb5 a4 16.Rc1 Ne4

18...Nxe4. Maybe 18...dxe4!? is a better way: 19.Nd6 Bxd6 20.Bxd6 b3 21.Bxf8 Kxf8 22.Qd2 Nd5. The evaluation depends on the consequences of 23.f3 exf3 24.gxf3.
19.f3 Ra5?! It seems that Carlsen had to choose between 19...Qd7 20.fxe4 Rc8 21.exd5 exd5 22.0–0 Qxb5 23.Qg4! Qe8 and 19...Nc3 20.Nxc3 bxc3 21.Rxc3, although White keeps the initiative in both lines.
20.fxe4! A serious improvement over Aronian - Adams (Bilbao 2013) which went 20.Qe2? Qd7 21.fxe4 Rc8!, and Black regained the piece and solved his problems.
20...Rxb5 21.Qxa4 Ra5 22.Qc6 bxa3 (or 22...dxe4 23.a4! with serious advantage) 23.exd5 Rxd5 (if 23...exd5!? then 24.0–0!, but not 24.Qxb6?! Ra6!) 24.Qxb6! Elimination the possibility of ...b5. According to Anand himself, that was the end of his home preparation.

White has the upper hand: not only is his c7-pawn closer to being promoted, it's also much better supported than the a3-pawn. At the same time, the position remains complicated and Black is still able to resist.
24...Qd7 25.0–0. 25.Qa6!? might be even better: 25...Qc8 (25...Rc8?! 26.Rb1!) 26.Qc4 (or 26.Qc6 considered by Anand during the game).
25...Rc8 26.Rc6! (depriving Black of ...Bd6) 26...g5 (26...Bb4!?) 27.Bg3 (27.Be5!? was interesting too, with the idea of 27...Bb4 28.Qxb4 Qxc6 29.Qe7 Rxe5 30.Qxf7+ Kh8 31.Qf6+) 27...Bb4 28.Ra1! A useful move. White can't win at once so he just improves his position.

28...Ba5? This attempt to destroy the main enemy doesn't work because Black is ending up under a deadly pin. Curiously enough, the most persistent defence was the policy of wait-and-see: 28...h6 (or 28...h5), and 29.Qa6 could be met by 29...Ra5. Anand was planning to improve his position furthermore by Qb7 at some point, but it's not the clear win yet.
29.Qa6. Now the fight is over. Black doesn't have time to return the bishop to b4 because of 30.Rb6!
29...Bxc7 (giving up the exchange by 29...Rxc7 30.Bxc7 Bxc7 was also hopeless) 30.Qc4 (Carlsen could resign already here) 30...e5 31.Bxe5 Rxe5 32.dxe5 Qe7 33.e6 Kf8 34.Rc1 1–0 (Annotated by GM Mikhail Golubev, translated by GM Andrey Deviatkin)


Everyone's question was what would Carlsen come up with in Game 4. He does not like to lose and often comes back with a vengeance!

The first surprise was that Anand went for the more aggressive Sicilian Defence after Carlsen continued with 1 e4 and of course it was not going to be a theoretical fight. Carlsen opted for a line he has often played with 3 g3 and for a long time the probing got nothing with Anand always finding a safe continuation. Then he forced the position to open up, then finding moves to keep the game going and try as he might there was never quite enough and in the end had to take the draw.

Here we have it — a standoff at 2-2. Perhaps Anand could take more positives in that he had finally managed to win against Carlsen and it is clear that he had the big edge in openings. And yet as frustrated as Carlsen might be at the lack of risk being taken by Anand and his inability so far to push him harder him in the middlegames and endgames he so excels in, he did manage a win too and as the match goes on the older man would be expected to start to tire.