Carlsen close to ti­tle as Anand cracks un­der endgame pres­sure

The Washington Times Daily - - Life - DAVID R. SANDS

The out­come of the world cham­pi­onship match now just past the half­way point in Chen­nai, In­dia, may have been sealed in Satur­day’s Game 6 in what rates as a truly mul­ti­cul­tural mo­ment: a Nor­we­gian de­feat­ing an In­dian in a Span­ish Game through the use of the Chi­nese wa­ter tor­ture.

Young Nor­we­gian chal­lenger Mag­nus Carlsen, im­per­turbable, in­de­fati­ga­ble. im­pla­ca­ble and ir­re­sistible when he ob­tains the tini­est of ad­van­tages, took a com­mand­ing lead in his sched­uled 12-game match with de­fend­ing cham­pion Viswanathan Anand of In­dia with a sec­ond straight ar­du­ous endgame win. Af­ter Carlsen eas­ily equal­ized in a 32-move draw Mon­day, Anand trails 41/2-21/2 and could soon re­lin­quish the ti­tle he has held for the past six years.

At 22, Carlsen is 21 years younger than the champ, but he plays like an old soul, es­chew­ing flashy open­ing play and per­fectly con­tent to play on in near-life­less po­si­tions in the hopes of grind­ing down his op­po­nents late in the play­ing ses­sion. It’s a style of play that calls for im­mense stamina and con­cen­tra­tion, for even one lapse can let an op­po­nent es­cape.

Af­ter four draws to open the match, Carlsen em­ployed his slow-cooker method to per­fec­tion in Game 5 and 6, earn­ing vic­to­ries when the cham­pion fi­nally cracked un­der re­lent­less pres­sure in two straight dif­fi­cult endgames.

Game 5, played Fri­day found both play­ers with chances in the com­plex mid­dlegame that arose from the sharp Note­boom Vari­a­tion of the QGD.

While Anand was on the de­fen­sive for the most of the game, he found a nice way to ac­ti­vate his pieces with 34. R1f2 Rd4! (Carlsen ad­mit­ted he missed this move) 35. Rh6 Bd1 36. Bb1 Rb5. Even though Black gives up a pawn at the first time con­trol at Move 40, the ac­tiv­ity of his pieces should have let the cham­pion hold the draw af­ter 40. Rxg5 Rxb3+ 41. Rxb3 Bxb3 42. Rxe5+ Kd6 43. Rh5 Rd1 44. e5+ Kd5 45. Bh7 (see di­a­gram), when the post-mortem showed that the game is level af­ter 45...Ra1! 46. Bg8+ (Rg5 Rxa3 47. Bg8+ Ke4 48. Bxb3 Kf4 49. Rh5 Rxb3+ 50. Kc4 Kg4 51. Rh7 Kf5) Kc6 47. Bxb3 Rxa3! 48. Kc4 Rxb3 49. Rh6+ Kd7 50. Kxc5 Rb2, and the rook end­ing is drawn.

In­stead, Anand’s shaky 45...Rc1+? 46. Kb2 Rg1 47. Bg8+ Kc6 48. Rh6+ Kd7? (the fi­nal mis­take; Black should keep the king near the White a-pawn with 48...Kb5 or 48...Kc7) 49. Bxb3 axb3 50. Kxb3 Rxg2 51. Rxh4 Ke6 52. a4 Kxe5 53. a5, and Black can’t re­strain the White pawns on op­po­site edges of the board. Anand soon re­signed.

Psy­cho­log­i­cally, Game 6 proved a sec­ond help­ing of the same dish, with Anand again fail­ing to hold a draw­ish endgame in the face of Carlsen’s con­stant press­ing. Anand as White varies from the tack he took in Game 3, also a Ruy Lopez Ber­lin that ended in an ab­sorb­ing 56-move draw. Black equal­izes rather eas­ily and the po­si­tion ap­peared to be head­ing for a draw, but Carlsen man­aged to sad­dle his op­po­nent with a pair of weak, iso­lated e-pawns and, once again, be­gins ham­mer­ing away at the tar­get.

In what looks to be a good prac­ti­cal de­ci­sion, White gives up a pawn to reach a pawn-down rook end­ing, but one where it ap­pears Black has lit­tle chance of a de­ci­sive break­through: 38. Qg3!? (hard to tell if this was in­spi­ra­tion or panic — White could have hun­kered down for a long time with more pas­sive play) Rxe4 39. Qxd6 Rxe3! (keep­ing alive his one hope for a win; 39...Qxd6+?! 40. Rxd6 Rxe3 41. Rd5 b4 42. cxb4 Rb3 43. b5 Rxb2 43. Rc5 is a dead draw) 40. Qxe7 Rxe7 41. Rd5 Rb7, and Carlsen is in his el­e­ment, free to press for the next 50 moves or so for a win with no dan­ger of a loss.

Anand’s re­al­iza­tion that he was once again in the clutches of a Nordic ana­conda may ex­plain why he once again proves un­equal to the de­fen­sive task. Black suc­ceeds (with Anand’s help on 50. Kh3?!) in pin­ning the White king to the side of the board, and his only win­ning chance is a co­or­di­nated push of the f- and h-pawns in the hopes of ob­tain­ing a win­ning passed pawn.

Black bravely lets his queen­side pawns go by the way­side and the crit­i­cal po­si­tion ap­pears to be 59. Rxc4 f4, when the cold-blooded com­puter move 60. b4!, get­ting White’s own passed pawn in gear, may just hold in lines such as 60...h3 61. gxh3 Rg6 62. b5 f3 63. Rc7. In­stead, Anand’s 60. Ra4? does noth­ing to im­prove his rook’s place­ment while los­ing valu­able time.

In the fi­nale, af­ter h3 61. gxh3 Rg6 62. c4 f3 63. Ra3+ Ke2 64. b4 f2 65. Ra2+ Kf3 66. Ra3+ Kf4 67. Ra8 Rg1, White’s pawns are not far enough down the board af­ter 68. Rf8+ Ke3 69. Re8+ Kd3 70. Rd8+ Kc3 71. Rf8 f1=Q 72. Rxf1 Rxf1 and wins; Anand re­signed.

Game 8, with the chal­lenger hav­ing the ad­van­tage of the White pieces, will be played Tues­day.

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