Since November 8, 2014 Sochi has been the stage of the chess event of the year: World Champion Magnus Carlsen and his predecessor and challenger Visvanathan Anand are once again battling for the title.
While Magnus Carlsen won all twelve rounds last year and Vishy was hopelessly inferior, this year’s competition is a whole different story and a head-to-head race.
Vishy already had already proven the end of the temporary struggle when impressively prevailing at the Candidates’ Tournament in March, the victory at which qualified him for the World Championship. Back then, there were few skeptical observers who predicted a repetition of the devastating defeat of last year’s tournament and had probably hoped for another player challenging Carlsen.
But during the last few days, the Indian has seriously proven the strength to challenge the current World Champion. On world class level the two are fighting a suspenseful tournament and Vishy has not allowed Carlsen to take the upper hand which is certainly owed to the thorough preparation.
Thus, the two both scored half a point at their draw in Round 1 on November 8. Anand played the White pieces and chose a clever opening, offering opportunities for both players. Carlsen promptly took his chances and maneuvered into a great positioning with the Grunfeld-Indian defense which left Anand stuck in perpetual check.
After opening the tournament with a tie, Carlsen really wanted to score his first full point in Round 2. With a lot of force he carried through with his desire to win and opened with the Spanish Duel while he was frankly unimpressed by Anand’s Berlin defense. Anand, on the other hand, got increasingly nervous and made a fatal mistake in the 34th move. Shortly after, he resigned.
In Round 3, Anand could finally show how extraordinarily detailed and precise his overall preparation was; he played the White pieces again and immediately moved his passed pawn to C7. He created a particularly complex positioning which was hardly manageable if not explicitly prepared for. At the Bilbao Masters, Aronian and Adams played a similar duel which Anand significantly enhanced to confuse Carlsen – with great success. Carlsen resigned and the two were equal in score again (1.5:1.5).
Carlsen played white in the 4th Round. Anand invited to the Sicilian Paulsen Variation and it would have definitely been interesting to see the tricks he had prepared, but Carlsen declined and chose to play an unusual side variation. Probably out of fear to become victim of Anand’s brilliant preparation again. After five hours and perpetual check, the two agreed to a tie.
After Round 5, the two remained equal in score. Anand opened with the Queen’s Pawn – no surprise. The developed a game that, in this very constellation, only Carlsen experienced before. He played quickly and secure calmness, while Anand needed increasingly more thinking time for his moves. Halfway through the match, Anand was slightly ahead through sacrificing his Knight but stood no chance against Carlsen’s excellent training. They agreed to another tie at the 39th move. The result after Round 6: 2.5:2.5.
Right in time for half time, Carlsen finally managed to take the lead. In Round 6 he decided the duel in his own favor, before taking a rest day on Saturday. Especially unfortunate for Anand: Carlsen made a crucial mistake at the 26th move which would have granted him a winning position. Anand simply overlooked this opportunity, and at the 38th move Carlsen had managed to take over and force Anand into resignation.
After six out of twelve duels, the score is now 3.5:2.5 in Magnus Carlsen’s favor. But still, everything is possible for both players – it will certainly remain suspenseful.
You can watch Round 7 live right now at: http://www.sochi2014.fide.com/live-games/
written by Sarah, translated by Birthe